Atlanta "News" and Notes

--For the 2nd straight week, I will be unable to participate in the ESPN chat--or do a post-race recap--due to outside events.  I won't tell you much about it, but it involves family, people from Arkansas, and Wayne's World 2.

--I'm guessing that Nascar's decision to allow Tony Stewart to qualify for the Chase (if he wins this weekend or next) was mostly to placate the sponsors.  If he DOES manage to win, however, expect plenty of grousing from people who don't think that a driver should make it in on wins alone.  And yes, these are the same people who said that drivers shouldn't make it in based on points alone if they haven't won.

--I haven't read Matt Kenseth's anti-bullying book, but I'm guessing that the main bully is a muscular blonde guy named "Edward Carls".

--The biggest news to come out of the 2015 schedule release is that Darlington has won back its traditional Labor Day Weekend race date.  That will also be the last race before NBC starts cutting away immediately after the checkers to show Dan Patrick and Bob Costas desperately trying to be relevant. (Oh, it'll happen.  Just you wait.)

--The break-up of Turner-Scott Motorsports, while not completely surprising, has surprised some with its recent ugliness.  The most-visible damage is to Ron Hornaday Jr.'s championship chances, as he's not been entered in this weekend's race in Canada.  You know, the biggest victims of ANY divorce are always the 56-year-old children.

--Milka Duno was not entered in this weekend's Nationwide Series race, which was won in dominating fashion by Kevin Harvick.  Spade Racing correspondent Jay Brent instead spent the weekend trying to learn how to speak Colombian.

Tony Stewart's Return: Questions Going Forward

Yesterday, Tony Stewart made it official that he was returning to the track this weekend.  Then, earlier today, Smoke made his first public appearance since the tragic accident with Kevin Ward, reading a statement at a brief press conference.  Tony's short comments will probably be dissected and digested for days, but again, like after the incident itself, I have more questions than analysis:

1. How will Tony race?  Tony is in a unique situation in that he co-owns his team.  As a result, there might not be the "Buck Stops Here" boss to decide if he is ready to race, other than Stewart himself.  So how will Tony perform on the track?  Obviously, even BEFORE the accident, it had been a disappointing year for Tony.  Will he be able to truly contend for strong finishes?  Will he simply be going through the motions?  I really hope that we get the real deal out on the track.

2. How will Tony react to increased scrutiny from the media?  Now, I'm not talking about the usual Nascar media here.  What I'm talking about is the general sports and general news media that now is likely to follow him around like crazy.  Not even necessarily the traditional media--what if a freelancer for Deadspin or Bleacher Report decides to provoke Tony, hoping that an outburst or a physical altercation will put his name on the map?  And further, it's not like Tony was known for being media-friendly to begin with.

3. What is the status of the investigation?  Tony has much less to do with this, since it's in the authorities' hands at this point.  But will there be any charges filed at all?  If not, will he be completely absolved, or will it be painted as a "results were inconclusive" situation?  This leads into my next question:

4. What is the status of any possible settlement with the Ward family?  Cynically we all look at the situation as costing a certain amount of money to "go away".  It would be highly likely (in my opinion) that Stewart would want the negative attention of a time-consuming civil suit filed against him.  So is there an agreement already?  If not, are the Wards working with him to try and reach a settlement?  And if not, how long will this thing drag on?

In much less-important news, a regular "News" and Notes will be featured tomorrow, although there will not be a race recap due to other engagements on my end.

Spade Racing (For The Ladies) Announces Dedicated Reporter to Cover Milka Duno

We* at Spade Racing pride ourselves on being topical, informative, and above all else, original.  That's why we've decided to rip-off a much-more popular website and hire someone to solely follow Nascar's latest female sensation, Milka Duno.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Jay Brent:
Jay Brent at the
premiere of
"Patty! The Patty
Moise Story"
"It's a great honor to join such a prestigious website.  As you can tell by that previous statement, I'm a gifted storyteller.  If a more-popular website has taught us anything, it's that a female driver deserves not only unyielding coverage, but unyielding banal and cloying coverage at that.  I'll do whatever it takes to ask the tough questions, including such investigative reports as 'Is Milka improving?'  'How does Milka relax?' and, 'Will Milka's run of bad luck ever end?'"
Milka, looking much better
in a Citgo firesuit than
Michael Waltrip ever did
This will be the first and most-visible addition to our new affinity website, Spade Racing For The Ladies.  Originally, we were going to call it Spade Racing W, but too many people were pronouncing it "Spaderacingwuh".  Going forward, we're planning to launch more affinity sites, such as "EightThirtyFive", which will focus on the careers of Hut Stricklin, Derrike Cope and Geoff(rey) Bodine, and "Gruntlund", a gathering place for insufferable hipsters.
Jay Brent comes to Spade Racing with an impressive unchecked resume, having covered such athletic luminaries as Anna Kournikova, Jennie Finch, and Heather Mitts.  However, Brent has said that he is happy to move on to a new subject:
"Any time you get the opportunity to cover someone as dynamic as Milka Duno, you jump at that opportunity.  Plus, my restraining order against Hope Solo is still in effect for about another two years, so I have some time on my hands.
"Besides, after failing to qualify for her first race, she has nowhere to go but up!"
Because if the most-popular sports website in the world provides incessant coverage of Danica Patrick in the Cup Series, then a woman competing in the Nationwide Series deserves coverage from a website like this.

*Yeah, it's still just me.  I'm just borderline crazy, and not in a good way.

Bristol "News" and Notes

--The Truck Series race was already held on Thursday morning, as part of Nascar's "Let's Have An Exciting Race When Nobody Can Watch It" program.  The race was originally scheduled for Wednesday night, as part of Nascar's "Let's Have An Exciting Race When Almost Nobody Can Watch It" program.

--There may or may not be a race recap here on Saturday night--if there isn't I'll have something up on Sunday.  I can't go into details, but the reasons for it include coal, Senators, and a makeshift cooler.

--As you've no doubt heard (or guessed) by now, Carl Edwards is officially going to Joe Gibbs Racing next season.  In some actual news that came out of the press conference, the team will run #19 (continuing the legacy of Mike Bliss) with sponsorship from Arris (an internet system company whose name would sound REALLY cool if spoken by a pirate).

--Here's the questions I have coming out of the press conference: 1.) If Arris is sponsoring Daniel Suarez as well, and Arris isn't part of TelMex, then what the heck does Carlos Slim have to do with ANYTHING?  2.) If he opened up a fitness center, would it be the Slim Gym?

--The Nationwide Series welcomes Milka Duno this weekend, as she runs for RAB Racing.  Hmmm, ESPN has someone to constantly report on the woman in the Sprint Cup Series, but who will cover Milka?

SummerSlam, Nascar-Style

In honor of the WWF/E/Whatever SummerSlam event tonight, here's a look at Nascar's SummerSlam (NOTE: Drivers must stay in the ring after being slammed, unless the ring is on fire).

Dark Matches (not televised, aka Fox Sports 2)
Nationwide Series Kyle Busch vs. Truck Series Kyle Busch--Mirror/Mirror match, winner goes home with Samantha
"Texas" Terry Labonte vs. "I'm from Texas too, guys" Bobby Labonte--winner avoids obscurity for another week

Sunday Night Deep Heating (preliminary matches)
"Jumpin'" Jeffrey Earnhardt vs. "Flyin'" Brian Keselowski--forgotten family member match
"Hot Wheels" Kyle Petty vs. "Keystone Light" Wally Dallenbach Jr.--winner doesn't have to dye Rick Allen's hair

Championship Matches
WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP: "Dirty" Danica Patrick vs. Kasey "Kandy" Kahne (although both come into this match with lengthy losing streaks
AUSTRALIAN CHAMPIONSHIP: "Mad" Marcos Ambrose vs. Will "The Thrill" Power--Marcos has Paul Hogan in his corner, while Will has Stone Cold Steve Austin in his
TRUCK SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP: Johnny "God Bless America" Sauter vs. Matt "Menards" Crafton--teammates collide!  Special Guest Referee: Thor
NATIONWIDE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP: "Rebound" Regan Smith vs. Chase "No, that's not a nickname" Elliott vs. Elliott "Not Chase" Sadler--triple-threat match!
TAG-TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: Cup Series Kyle Busch & "Dangerous" Denny Hamlin vs. "Concrete" Carl Edwards & Greg "The Biff" Biffle--will the Roush duo stay together through the end of the match?
ROOKIE CHAMPIONSHIP: "Bullseye" Kyle Larson vs. Austin "The Cowboy" Dillon--well, technically this is a triple threat match, but we're going to assume that Justin Allgaier will get caught in someone's wreck on the way there.
CUP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: "Ol' 4 Time" Jeff Gordon vs. "Six Pack" Jimmie Johnson--Teacher vs. Student!  90's vs. 00's!  Guy people used to hate vs. Guy people hate now!

Good Guy Greg

To keep a bit of positivity going in this otherwise depressing week, here's a focus on one of the true "Good Guys" in the sport: Good Guy Greg.

Finally, Some GOOD News

Good Guy Greg

Lately it seems like there's been nothing but bad news all around, especially in the racing world.  So, in an attempt to cheer us all up, here's 10 pieces of good news:

1. Nascar on TNT really is gone for good.

2. Nobody really starts-and-parks at the Cup level anymore.

3. No matter how much tv ratings decline, they don't affect you one bit (unless you work for Fox).
4. We don't have to deal with "Will Junior finally break his winless streak at Michigan?" this year.

5. There's a chance that Jeff Gordon will mispronounce 3M as "mmm".

6. Nascar is still in much better shape than IndyCar.  Oh, and to everyone who follows IndyCar religiously?  I apologize to both of you.

7. Derrike Cope has not yet retired.

8. We'll get to see Milka Duno in a firesuit in a few weeks.

9. Last week's door-to-door battle at The Glen.

10. This week's tachometer-to-tachometer battle at Michigan.

AJ Allmendinger: Man vs. Nature, The Road To Victory

Just like when they switched to radial tires!

Today AJ Allmendinger completed one of the most-impressive comebacks in Nascar history--little more than two years ago he was suspended for a drug violation, and now he's come back to win a Sprint Cup Series race.  How'd he do it?  Here's a look back:

July 2012: AJ Allmendinger is suspended for a positive drug test hours before the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.  The team frantically searches for an available driver, but when none is found, Sam Hornish Jr. is put in the car.

August 2012: Allmendinger is released from Penske Racing.  Those at Penske have nothing but good things to say about him, most-likely because he was being compared to Kurt Busch.

September 2012: Allmendinger completes Nascar's "Road to Recovery" reinstatement process, causing Jeremy Mayfield's head to explode.

October 2012: Allmendinger returns to racing with Phoenix Racing.  Those at Phoenix Racing have nothing but good things to say about him, most-likely because he was being compared to Kurt Busch.

February 2013: Allmendinger signs to drive a limited Cup schedule with Phoenix Racing, which at that point was on the verge of shutting down due to lack of sponsorship for the 349th time.

March 2013: Allmendinger signs to drive a very limited Nationwide Series and IndyCar Series schedule with Penske Racing.  Somehow, this leads to CART/IRL debates on message boards.
"Look Bobby, you can scowl all you
want, but we're not going to let you
in the car!"

June 2013: Allmendinger runs his first race for JTG-Daugherty Racing as a "test driver", which is slang for "Bobby, we really don't want to have to fire you, so just leave, ok?"

August 2013: Allmendinger scores his second win in the Nationwide Series, at Mid-Ohio despite skipping the previous race at Lo-Ohio and not entering the following race at Hi-Ohio.

September 2013: Allmendinger signs to drive the #47 car full-time in 2014 after being assured that the team would switch alliances to avoid any unnecessary social contact with Michael Waltrip.

March 2014: Allmendinger notches his first top-10 with JTG-D, finishing 8th at California in a race marred by Kyle Busch's victory.

June 2014: Allmendinger is in early contention for a win at Sonoma, but is wrecked by Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Allmendinger is angry with Junior post-race, but avoids a physical confrontation due to fears of whisker burns.

August 2014: Allmendinger wins his first Cup race, also the first Cup win for JTG-D racing, showing what a marketing-driven team can do when Armando Fitz isn't their owner.

The Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. Incident: My Questions

As you've most-likely already heard, Tony Stewart was involved in an incident at a sprint-car track in Upstate New York last night, one that culminated in the death of local driver Kevin Ward Jr.  Ward & Stewart had tangled, and while Stewart was able to drive away, Ward was wrecked.  Ward then stepped out of his car, walked over to show his displeasure with Stewart, and was run over by one of Stewart's tires, killing him.

As in any big tragedy such as this, the immediate debate surrounds hearsay, conjecture, and opinion.  There's very little actual insight provided (both from fans and from the media), and honest questions get drowned out by crazy ones.  So here, from my amateur standpoint as a hard-core Nascar fan, are MY questions that I have going forward:

1. What was the intent, if any?  This, to me, is the crux of the incident--and, unfortunately, easily the most-difficult thing to figure out.  Obviously, if Tony Stewart intentionally ran over Kevin Ward Jr, he should be charged with murder and immediately banned from any and all racing for life.  If it was a 100% honest accident, then I think this needs to be written off as a "tragic accident", and we need to move immediately to the safety-aspect of things.  Of course, the truth is probably somewhere in-between.  Did Tony make an honest mistake?  Did Tony just try to "scare him"?  If there WAS a mistake, was it the kind that anybody could make, or the kind that a Sprint Cup champion should be able to avoid?  Honestly, we'll probably never know the truth, and that leads right into my next question.

2. How will law enforcement handle this?  This, to me, is the most-fascinating aspect.  On the one hand, intent could be inferred (see above).  On the other, it WAS a racetrack, where certain risks are inherent--including, unfortunately, death.  Furthermore, Ward stepped out of his car on his own free-will.  If he had been forced-out by a fire or gas leak, that would be a different story.  But, again, he stepped out of his car on his own free-will.  I'd imagine that a lot will also have to do with how the local fans/public respond--if no charges are brought, will it just be looked at as "Millionaire gets off free?".

3. Who made the initial decision to have Tony Stewart race today?  Obviously, things have changed--Greg Zipadelli has since come out and said that Stewart will miss today's race, with Regan Smith running in his place.  But initially, Stewart was said to be racing today.  This, to me, makes absolutely no sense.  First off, it would have been a complete affront to Ward's family.  Second off, from a competition standpoint, how can a person run a high-caliber race less than a day after he's killed another human being?  Third off, from a purely public-relations standpoint, would Nascar really want all the additional attention that would come with having one of its competitors running mere hours after a tragedy?  Would the sponsors?  Would Tony himself?  Even if Tony Stewart is found 100% non-liable in this case, the initial decision to have him race today will likely haunt him for the rest of his career.

4. How will this affect Stewart-Haas Racing going forward?  Now we've moved on to the long-term effects, things that likely don't seem as important right now (and with good reason).  But what will happen to SHR going forward?  The team's co-owner has been involved in an incident in which someone has died--will sponsors want to be involved with someone like that?  The team COULD shift more ownership responsibility to co-owner Gene Haas, but remember, he did time years ago for tax evasion.  Greg Zipadelli could be pushed forward as the new "face" of ownership at SHR, but what if he was the one who made the initial decision to let Stewart race today?  Furthermore, will major sponsors like Mobil 1, Bass Pro Shops, Budweiser, Go Daddy and more stand by SHR through this, reduce their support, or leave all together?  The Stewart-Haas Racing we know today could look VERY different in a few months.

These are the four main questions that I have, and as I said before, we may never know the whole truth.  It is important that we reserve final judgement until we know as much as possible, and remain respectful of Kevin Ward Jr.'s family and memory as we go forward.

"News" and Notes at The Glen

--Pay close attention this weekend, folks--this could be the last chance to see Marcos Ambrose contend for a win before he goes back to Australia.  No more unique, idiosyncratic accents in Nascar, at least until they let Ward Burton work as a track announcer.

--JGR is not going to appeal the penalties put on Denny Hamlin and his team, but its not like they had much of a case to stand on.  I mean, when you start serving the penalty before you've even had a chance to defend yourself, you're kind of saying, "Yeah, just in case you don't buy our lame excuse, we're going to get this out of the way before the Chase starts".

--There's some confusion surrounding the National Guard's sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr., specifically that the Guard has said it will end its sponsorship while Hendrick Motorsports claims they'll be back in 2015.  This is just like Junior's first Cup races, when Budweiser had to sponsor him when they really just wanted to sponsor Wally Dallenbach Jr.

--Watkins Glen is one of only three tracks where drivers make a right-hand turn, joining Sonoma and Dover (in order to get around the pothole).

--Nascar is considering adding tire pressure sensors to help stop the recent spate of blown-out tires.  Of course, teams could just maintain the proper inflation on their own...

Miles, Kilometers, or Laps

Bristol's Fall Race, the only one on the Cup circuit that does not advertise its distance (500 laps)

Nascar leaves the advertised distance of its races up to the individual tracks, which have traditionally done so in one of three ways: Miles, Kilometers, or Laps.  Here's how each track does so:

(NOTE: an * asterisk denotes that the advertised race distances are exact, not rounded up)

Daytona: Miles*

Phoenix: Kilometers
500 Laps at Martinsville

Las Vegas: Miles

Bristol: Laps*

California: Miles*

Martinsville: Laps*

Texas: Miles

Darlington: Miles

Richmond: Laps*

Talladega: Miles

Kansas: Miles

Charlotte: Miles

Dover: Miles/Laps*

Pocono: Miles*

Michigan: Miles*

Sonoma: Kilometers

Kentucky: Miles
(Slightly less than) 355 kilometers at
Watkins Glen

New Hampshire: Laps*

Indianapolis: Miles*

Watkins Glen: Kilometers

Atlanta: Miles

Chicagoland: Miles

Homestead: Miles

--The majority of races that are not exactly their advertised length (for instance, Homestead's race is the Ford EcoBoost 400) are 1.5 mile-tracks that are actually 1/2-a-mile longer than advertised (for example, Homestead's race is actually 400.5 miles long).

--Charlotte is the exact length for its 600-mile race, but is actually 501 miles for it's advertised 500-mile race.

--New Hampshire's earlier race is actually a lap longer than the fall race.  This dates back to when Lenox (a tool company) was the sponsor, in which they promoted themselves as "Going The Extra Mile".

--Since Dover International Speedway is exactly 1-mile long, the advertised distance can be read in either miles OR laps.

--Talladega's spring race is known as the Aaron's 499 (stylized as Aaron's 4$99) to promote the number of items available at Aaron's "for 99 dollars".  Despite this, the race is still just slightly over 500 miles in length, same as the fall race which IS advertised as being 500 miles long.

Dale Jr.'s "News" about the Note

Just seconds after capturing the season sweep at Pocono, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s in-car camera captured what appeared to be a detailed, hand-written note on the inside of his car.  What did it say?  Well, a quick investigation has revealed it's contents:

Taken from my TV (I'm that white-trash)
Things to do today

1. Get up

2. Write this list

3. Call up Michael Waltrip, ask for "Mike Hunt"

4. Drive to track

5. Ask Biff what the 3M's stand for

6. Punch giant inflatable bowling pin, see if it falls down and bounces back

7. Drivers' Meeting--check to see if Johnny Sauter still smells like cashews

8. Sign autographs, make sure to disinfect after shaking hands with central Pennsylvania hicks

9. Run race

10. Win--remember to call Mr. H!

The Inaugural Brickyard 400 Starting Field: Where Are They Now? Part 3

NOTE: no News & Notes this week...well, except this one

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

36. Hut Stricklin (23 Smokin' Joe's): A journeyman for his run in Cup, Stricklin was running for Travis Carter at the time.  Stricklin last raced in 2002, and has since opened up Stricklin Automotive, a garage in North Carolina.

Geoff Brabham (#07) getting
passed (and likely lapped)
by Ernie Irvan
37. Harry Gant (33 Skoal Bandit): "Handsome" Harry Gant was the last car running in the 1994 Brickyard 400.  After a successful Cup career with multiple wins, Harry "retired" to his working ranch in North Carolina, where he has also continued to support the Kyle Petty Charity Ride.

38. Geoff Brabham (07 Kmart): Arguably the most-unique driver to make the race, Brabham was an Australian best-known for his time in the IndyCar series.  Today, he works for the racing division of BMW Group Australia.

39. Geoff Bodine (7 Exide): A legend in the modified world, and a multiple-race winner in the Cup series, Indy was the site of Bodine's infamous spinout at the hands of his younger brother Brett.  Though the "family feud"'s origins are disputed, the two were essentially estranged for two years afterwards.  Geoff (who also went by Geoffrey) currently runs a Honda Powersports dealership in Florida.

40. Dale Jarrett (18 Interstate Batteries): Caught up in the Bodine Brothers' wreck in the 1994 Brickyard 400, Jarrett would go on to win twice at Indy, famously starting the tradition of the winning team "kissing the bricks" post-race.  A former Cup champion, Jarrett now works as an analyst for ESPN.
Dave Marcis pitting at Indy

41. Dave Marcis (71 Terramite): The longtime independent driver was on the downside of his career by the time Nascar made it to Indy.  Retiring after the 2002 Daytona 500, Marcis continues to work in the racing field, recently setting records in a specially-designed drag race stock car.

42. Mike Chase (58 Tyson Foods): Chase qualified for the Brickyard 400 from the Winston West Series--there were concerns that there wouldn't be enough teams attempting to qualify for the race (unfounded, as it turned out), and one provisional spot was reserved for the West series' points leader.  Chase raced for years afterwards, mostly in lower series, and currently works for Penske Racing behind-the-scenes as a fabricator.

43. Jimmy Spencer (27 McDonald's): It was a huge swing in fortunes for Jimmy--after winning the previous race at Daytona, "Mr. Excitement" finished last at Indy.  Spencer has gone on to a career in broadcasting, though he has never officially retired from racing.

DID NOT QUALIFY'S:  A Nascar-record 85 cars entered to run the inaugural Brickyard 400, meaning that 42 drivers--enough to fill an entire field at that time--were sent home.  Most of the field fell into one of three categories: Lowbuck Nascar/ARCA regulars, Winston West teams (remember, this was technically a combined event), and "one off" entries from Indy 500 regulars.  Here's a quick rundown (note--an * means that the driver did not make an official qualifying lap in either round):

Lowbuck Nascar Regulars:
Joe Ruttman
Dick Trickle
Randy LaJoie--currently operates racing seat company "The Joie of Racing"
Jim Sauter
Steve Grissom
Brad Teague's car during
Bob Brevak
Brad Teague
Mike Wallace--still competing in the Nationwide Series
Robert Pressley
Bob Schacht
Jerry O'Neil
Ken Bouchard--operates the "Drive to Victory Lane" racing school
Billy Standridge
Tim Steele
Jerry Hill--father of Timmy Hill
Andy Belmont
H.B. Bailey
Norm Benning--still competes in the Truck Series with his own team
Doug French
James Hylton--recently retired after a racing career spanning 7 decades
Loy Allen, Jr.
*Delma Cowart
*Kerry Teague
*Charlie Glotzbach--runs a truck sales business in Indiana, but arguably better-known in retirement for his horrific crash with Larry Pearson in a Bristol "legends of racing" race
Ben Hess

Logo of the Winston West Series
Winston West Drivers/Teams:
Rick Carelli--spotter for Kurt Busch
John Krebs
Jeff Davis
Ron Hornaday--still racing in the Truck Series, where he is a four-time champion
Scott Gaylord
Rich Woodland Jr.
Hershel McGriff--last race run was in 2012, after having a career that has spanned 8 decades
Wayne Jacks
Steve Sellers
Robert Sprague
Lance Wade
Jack Sellers
*P.J. Jones--the son of Parnelli Jones, the multi-faceted driver was entered in a Winston West car at the time.  Currently he is a part-time competitor in Stadium Super Trucks, as well as owner of PJ's Performance, a UTV dealer
*Butch Gilliland
*Joe Health

Davy Jones
Gary Bettenhausen--passed away in March 2014