Tag:Joey Logano
Posted on: February 26, 2012 6:37 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 6:44 pm
 

Drivers anxious, but don't see delay as big deal

Posted by Brian De Los Santos


It was a soggy day at Daytona International Speedway. (Getty Images)

NASCAR wanted desperately to be able to run the Daytona 500 on Sunday, but the weather would not cooperate, forcing the first postponement in the race's history. Drivers and crew chiefs were in some disagreement about how much the rain will ultimately impact the race when it does get under way.

On postponement

Carl Edwards: “Well, this is one of the toughest things for us drivers and you guys are living it as well. You planned on getting this race in and writing the stories and covering the event. When you put that off for another day, for all of us it is now who can really stay focused. That is not just the drivers; it is the pit crews, crew chiefs and everyone, including the officials. I think we will be just fine. Someone told me this was the first time it was postponed. A couple years ago I remember it was late or something. I think that is a pretty good record for NASCAR. They have been living right to have 53 of these and never have one of them postponed. That is pretty spectacular. We will come race tomorrow and I think everyone is really excited about this race. All the drivers I have spoken with and all the fans. This is going to be a very good Daytona 500 and I think NASCAR is doing the right thing in not dragging this out. Everybody knows we will be racing tomorrow during the day, it will be a good event and hopefully the weather will hold off and we aren’t in the same position tomorrow.”

Greg Biffle: "I just tweeted that I guess I’m gonna have to win the first Monday Daytona 500. As you can tell, I’m still in my uniform because I was optimistic that this weather was gonna get out of here and we were gonna get this thing going, but I’ll just have to save my energy for tomorrow. I got all of the hard work done today. I did all the hospitality and that stuff, so I’m ready to go. I just can’t wait. I guess I’ll have to wait until 12 o’clock tomorrow and take that green flag. I’m just excited. I’m still on the front row. Hopefully, the weather is better tomorrow. I know a lot of race fans are disappointed and a lot of people at home on TV, but we just hope they tune in tomorrow. It’ll be a great race.”

Dave Rogers (Kyle Busch's crew chief): "This has proved to be a historic event -- 54 years and the first time the Daytona 500 has ever been rained out. Everyone wishes we could have raced today. It's an exciting day to be down here in Daytona. The first race of the year and we were real excited to get on the race track and see how strong our Toyota Camry is -- obviously want to duplicate our performance from the Shootout last Saturday, but we're going to have to wait another day. Tomorrow's looking pretty bad too -- 80 percent chance of thunderstorms and then as a race team you start to think about the logistics. Phoenix is next week -- it's a long trip for these transport drivers. If it gets delayed too long, it could have consequences that bleed over into next week's event. Hopefully, Mother Nature will cooperate and we'll get the Daytona 500 in tomorrow afternoon."


How will the rain effect the track?

Carl Edwards: “The only thing is that the rain will make the track a little more abrasive to start. I think NASCAR will have a competition caution and we will get to look at the tires. We didn’t see any trouble in the Gatorade race, the shootout, that is something you worry about at these places because of the speeds. If you get the camber wrong, we have had trouble at these places because too much camber heats up that outside edge of the tire sometimes even on the straightaway. I don’t think anyone will have an issue though.”

Greg Biffle: “I think this race track, because of the grip and the downforce the race cars have, I think that you won’t see a big difference with the track rubbering up. The speeds will be a little bit faster because the track will be green, but I think for that first run the track is gonna get some rubber on it. NASCAR will probably do a competition caution just to make sure that everything is going OK – probably lap 30 or 25 – so I think it’ll be OK. It’ll just be fast at 12 when we start, but then it’ll be the same game after the first pit stop.”

Joey Logano: "It's not going to change the track that much. It's not a big handling race track, so it shouldn't change much. Just another day to be thinking about it -- another day to be getting ready. Go to sleep and go at it again tomorrow at noon."

Dave Rogers (Kyle Busch's crew chief): "It certainly will, but this track still has a lot of grip in it. The pavement is still fresh. I would be more concerned at other tracks than I am here at Daytona. There's definitely some things you have to think about. You can't really do anything about it, but the cooling. We were all excited to race on a cooler day -- low 60s. That means we can get a little more aggressive,we can push on people a little bit more and not have to worry about that water temp as much. If we end up racing in 70, 75, 80 degree weather then obviously the drivers aren't going to be able to push as hard and you're going to have some affects there. The weather is definitely going to affect the way the race plays out, but at this point, as a crew chief there's not much you can do because you can't work on the cars at all. We just have to stay here and play it out."

Jason Ratcliff (Joey Logano's crew chief): "It does a little bit. Obviously, with the new surface -- the tire is pretty durable here. Goodyear brought a tire that's really durable because the surface is so new. I don't think it's going to show up as much as maybe another race track that had an older, abrasive surface. It's going to be much cooler outside -- the track is going to be green. It could change dramatically until we get some rubber back on the track. Then as the temperatures start dropping, we may see something that is more similar to what we saw in the Shootout than what we saw in the 150s."

Brian Pattie (Clint Bowyer's crew chief): "I don't know that it changes much here. If we were at an intermediate track, it would probably change the setup somewhat, but we're so wide open here. It actually gains grip, so it wouldn't be a bad thing for us. Definitely cooler weather would help our Toyota run better, I think. I don't know if I would change anything."

Daytona Speedweeks



Posted on: January 25, 2012 12:33 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 3:06 pm
 

Critical year ahead for Joe Gibbs Racing

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Kyle Busch has to win and contend for a title while keeping his emotions in check and controversy to a minimum)


CHARLOTTE - Joe Gibbs has had to go through rebuilding phases before during his NFL career as coach of the Washington Redskins.

But he'll need to apply those skills that built mediocre teams into Super Bowl winners to his NASCAR organization in 2012.

JGR suffered through a frustrating season last year, which might sound strange considering the team did score five Sprint Cup wins and placed two of its drivers in the Chase.

But despite Kyle Busch's four wins and Chase appearance and teammate Denny Hamlin's victory clinching him a wild card berth, overall the Gibbs group would like top put 2011 in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible.

Busch's emotional meltdown that resulted in his controversial truck series race incident with Ron Hornaday and subsequently being parked by NASCAR for the weekend's Sprint Cup race was the major memory for the Gibbs effort last season. Coupled with Hamlin's team and confidence also literally coming apart, it's easy to understand why Gibbs decided to make some changes in the off-season.

Two of the team's three crew chiefs were changed with both Hamlin and Joey Logano entering the new year with different voices calling the shots. Mike Ford was dismissed in favor of Darian Grubb, who found himself on the market when he was let go from Tony Stewart's championship-winning effort, while Jason Ratcliff was elevated from JGR's Nationwide Series program to work with Logano.

Although a competitive lap has not yet been run this season, the shake up has already infused some much-needed enthusiasm into the team.

“I’m really excited to join Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 11 FedEx team,” Grubb said. “We’re having lots of fun, we’re having lots of meetings. We’re kind of setting the course for what we want to do. We want to go out there and be competitive.”

Ratcliff is settling into working with Lagano and trying to fill the shoes of Greg Zipadelli, who left to rejoin friend and former colleague Stewart at SHR.

"(Team president) J.D. (Gibbs) gave me the opportunity about seven years ago to come over and work on the Nationwide program,” said Ratcliff. “It has been great for seven years and I knew it would have to be a really special deal to move beyond that. 

“They’ve given me an opportunity that fits well with a great driver, with great sponsors like Home Depot and Dollar General, and a team that is eager to go out and win races."

After nearly pulling off a championship run in 2010 only to come up just short of derailing the Jimmie Johnson title express, Hamlin found some very rough seas last season.

Although he was able to win and make the Chase, there was never a sense inside the team another championship challenge was possible and the decaying chemistry between Hamlin, Ford and the team finally took its toll.

Hamlin's confidence was shaken and he sought the professional assistance of a sports psychologist to help him return to the competitive level he was accustomed to prior to experiencing the issues.

He believes there is a lesson to be learned from what transpired last year.

"I think you need a season of getting your ass kicked for people to wake up and realize 'Hey, maybe we're not as good as we may think we are,'" Hamlin said. "We just never had the speed to make up for our problems. And when we got to the chase we just didn't have the parts and pieces to be championship caliber. 

"But this year the pieces are there."

Hamlin has already connected with Grubb and feels the support inside the JGR organization is positive enough to make a difference in the coming year.

"There are a lot of things that are stronger for us this year, and on top of that my confidence is way higher right now than it was at the start of 2011," Hamlin said.

Busch also shares Hamlin's positive outlook and has taken measures to refocus his energy. Gone is Busch's massive racing calendar of Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series events to augment his Sprint Cup schedule replaced by a by comparison limited 13-15 race slate in his own NWS entry at Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Speculation is that Gibbs and Cup sponsor M&M's were instrumental in Busch changing his extra-curricular racing involvement but he says it's not important why he's changing his approach.

“I would think that alleviates some stress and some opportunities for certain things to happen and give you a break from some of that,” Busch said. “It allows you to kind of relax a little bit."

Logano might have the luxury of relaxing as he enters the most pivotal Sprint Cup season of his career. 

The nickname of "Sliced Bread" has gotten stale for many both inside and outside JGR waiting for Logano to finally live up to the lofty expectations he brought to the sport when he came into NASCAR after a stellar short track career.

Although he's scored nine Nationwide wins for Busch as well as a Sprint Cup victory, Logano is on the hot seat as he enters the final year of his contract with the team.

Like Hamlin he's working with s sports psychologist to assist his understandably shaken confidence and hopes working with Ratcliff might be the spark to finally bring him the success so many predicted at NASCAR's highest level.

But Logano downplays whether this is indeed a "do or die" year coming up.

"I think this is a very important year just like any other year,"  Logano said. "You can argue that last year was equally as important as this year. I feel like I have the guys behind me, the team behind me to make that happen. I’d say it’s less pressure for me, I feel like I got what I need: A lot of energy, a lot of confidence in myself and my team this year. I feel like we can do it. I feel like we don’t have any excuses left."

In reality that statement holds true for the entire JGR operation. The excuse bin is running dry.

Logano is on the hot seat, Busch doesn't have any more room for error and Hamlin's career is suddenly at a crossroads.

Coach Gibbs needs to bring out the old football motivational playbook to get his race team on track or at the end of the season he may find himself forced to punt.

 

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Posted on: December 30, 2011 1:59 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2012 3:52 pm
 

2011 Team Review/Preview: Joe Gibbs Racing

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Hamlin's crash at The Glen was another example of a season's worth of frustration for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2011)


Review


It may sound odd to call a season that included five victories and two drivers making the Chase a disappointment but that’s exactly what 2011 was for Joe Gibbs Racing

Despite Kyle Busch winning four times and claiming the number one seed in the Chase and Denny Hamlin’s win earning a wild card berth in the playoffs, last season wasn’t what JGR had hoped for going into the year. 

After Hamlin won eight times in 2010 and went down to the wire in the title race with Jimmie Johnson, he appeared to be poised to make the next step and came into the new campaign as a championship favorite. 

But from nearly the opening green flag of the season, Hamlin and the FedEx No. 11 team struggled. 

A myriad of mechanical problems, engine issues and bad luck plagued Hamlin all season long and even after he made the playoffs as a wild card, he was never able to mount a serious challenge for the crown. 

"For me, I didn't have as much fun as I felt like I should have had," said Hamlin, who finished ninth in the Sprint Cup Series standings. "Just looking at the grand scheme of things and thinking about the position I was in, I was just too worried week in and week out about where I (was) going to finish.

"I was always worried about the outcome instead of just worrying about going out there and performing the best I can that particular lap over and over and over. When you worry too much about outcomes and things like that, you don't seem to perform as well because you start racing defensively. Last year, I was somewhat racing defensively at the end when we had a lead." 

Busch didn’t race defensively at all during the regular season when he went to victory lane a series-leading four times, good enough to give him the top spot when the Chase started. 

He was also dominant in the truck and Nationwide Series adding victories to give him 100 career wins across NASCAR’s top three divisions. 

But as has been the case during Busch’s career, the wheels came off his championship attempt in a big way and after getting off to a bad start things got worse as the season raced to the finish. 

Busch’s truck race incident with Ron Hornaday at Texas in November was the final breaking point for his tumultuous season as NASCAR parked him for the weekend’s Cup race because of his actions. 

But Busch refused to let the controversy cloud his view of what his team did accomplish in 2011. 

"Certainly there were some high points, certainly there were some low points to it," Busch said. "Of course, winning the inaugural race at Kentucky and winning for our first time at Michigan. ... Being pretty dominant on the short tracks, with wins at Bristol and Richmond -- all in all, those were certainly some highs." 

However Busch is very aware of the Chase shortcomings that once again kept him from adding a Sprint Cup title trophy to his collection. 

"It seems like we just can't seem to figure out the Chase thing," Busch said. "In the final ten, I would give ourselves probably a 'D,' we just seem to fail on it every year. It just doesn't seem to come together. It was what it was and we'll move on to 2012." 

Certainly Joey Logano can’t wait to move on to 2012 after the dismal season he endured. 

Logano’s red-hot finish to 2010 led many to believe he was finally ready to breakthrough in the Sprint Cup Series and perhaps land a spot in the Chase. 

Unfortunately Logano never came close to matching that success. He finished twenty fourth in the standings and was mired in mediocrity the whole season. 

"This year is definitely not what we expected it to be," Logano said. "We ended last year really good and we came in with a lot of high expectations. We kind of struggled with some things out of our control at the beginning of the season, motors, getting wrecked on pit road.”

 

Preview 

JGR will have a much different look to its three-car stable in the coming season with crew chief changes on two of the entries. 

While Dave Rogers returns to work with Busch on the No. 18 Toyota, Hamlin and Logano will have different men calling the shots. 

Darian Grubb joins Hamlin’s squad fresh off leading Tony Stewart to the 2011 Sprint Cup title replacing Mike Ford

While Ford and Hamlin were at the top of their game in 2010 when they nearly won the crown, the duo was never able to recapture that magic last season prompting team president J.D. Gibbs and owner Joe Gibbs to make the change. 

“There was never a moment where, ‘OK, we’re past last year. This is what we’ve got this year and we’re starting to move forward.’ We just never had that spot,” Hamlin said.

“It’s not that we never got over last year, we just never had the performance really to back up what we had.”

Grubb is looking forward to working with Hamlin and a crew he believes can return to being more competitive next season. The veteran crew chief doesn’t feel any pressure to follow up what he helped Stewart accomplish in 2011. 

"I really don't feel like I have anything to prove other than I want to work with championship contenders," Grubb said. "I'm not going to do anything for spite, because those are all the wrong reasons. I want to do it, because I want to win a championship with Denny and all these guys.

"Right now, I still have that competitive fire in me that I feel like if I'm not in position at the top of the box being able to make those calls and the seat-of-the-pants type positions, I'd be really missing out on something." 

Logano will also work with someone new atop of pit box with Jason Ratcliff getting the call to replace long-time JGR employee Greg Zipadelli, who left to take the Director of Competition role at Stewart-Haas Racing. 

Ratcliff led JGR’s successful Nationwide effort for years and believes he’s ready to help Logano shake the doldrums that have plagued his recent Sprint Cup Series performance.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to join our Cup operation and work with Joey and everyone on the 20 team,” Ratcliff said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with Joey a few times now on the Nationwide side so there is a familiarity there, but I’m looking forward to getting started full time and working alongside Dave (Rogers) and Darian (Grubb).” 

JGR’s other big change for 2012 will be in its engine program, which will now be more closely aligned with Toyota Racing Development (TRD). Gibb’s in-house engine effort was much-maligned last year after numerous failures and blown motors prompting the organization to create a closer relationship with the manufacturer next season.

 

Outlook

JGR has a lot to prove next season and several challenges to overcome in order for the team to be considered a legitimate championship contender. Hamlin and Grubb need to find a quick chemistry working together and instill confidence in a squad that is still reeling from the near-championship miss of 2010. For the first time in his Cup career, Logano will have someone other than Zipadelli guiding his effort and it remains to be seen whether the fresh voice of Ratcliff will jump start his career. And Busch will once and for all need to harness his emotional outbursts and behavior before he’ll be ready to join the ranks of title favorites. That’s a lot of “ifs” for one organization to deal with and 2012 will be a major test for JGR.


CHECK OUT MORE POSTS FROM OUR 2011 TEAM REVIEW/2012 PREVIEW SERIES 

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 11:12 am
 

2012 Sprint Cup Series crew chief changes

By Pete Pistone

Teams have been changing crew chiefs at a record pace and the line-up for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season already has a very different look to it.

You can keep up with this regularly-updated chart outlining changes as they are announced:

Joe Gibbs Racing – No. 20 Toyota (Joey Logano)

In: Jason Ratcliff gets the call to take over crew chief duties for Joey Logano who enters the 2012 season on the heels of a disappointing year. Ratcliff has had great success in the JGR Nationwide program and has helped guide both Logano and Kyle Busch to multiple victories. He now gets a shot at the Cup series as management promotes from within rather than go outside the organization.

Out: Greg Zipadelli was granted his release and now rejoins Tony Stewart this time as Director of Competition with Stewart-Haas Racing. Zippy was never able to get Logano to the next level of his career despite enjoying tremendous success while serving as Stewart’s crew chief during their time together at JGR. He still had one year left on his contract but rather than keep spinning its wheels, the team decided to allow Zipadelli to leave and give the 20 team a fresh start.

Our Take: Logano enters next season as a make or break year and it was clear he and Zipadelli weren’t on the same page. A new voice in Ratcliff from atop the war wagon can’t hurt but the duo will have their work cut out trying to rebound from a disastrous effort in 2011.


Joe Gibbs Racing – No. 11 Toyota (Denny Hamlin)

In: Darian Grubb didn’t waste any time in finding employment after he parted ways with Stewart-Haas Racing and Tony Stewart’s championship-winning No. 14 team. Rather than return to his roots at Hendrick Motorsports in an engineering role that was offered, Grubb will climb back up on the pit box to call the shots for Hamlin. 

Out: Mike Ford went from eight victories and a whisker of the Sprint Cup champion in 2010 to the unemployment line the following season. When the wheels came off Hamlin’s title run in the second to last race of the year in Phoenix, the No. 11 team was never quite the same and suffered through a miserable follow up campaign. 

Our Take: Grubb has the talent and in a very short crew chief career has scored wins with Jimmie Johnson, including a Daytona 500 victory, and taken a Sprint Cup championship with Stewart. Now he faces the challenge of trying to get Hamlin back to the force he was in 2010 while also dealing with the many issues that plagued JGR’s engine program last season. Grubb will be up for the test but will have his work cut out for him.


Stewart-Haas Racing – No. 14 Chevrolet (Tony Stewart)

In: Steve Addington punched his ticket out of Penske Racing days after the season ended to take the opportunity to work with Stewart on the championship-winning team. Addington has had a successful career despite dealing with the talented and emotional Busch brothers – Kyle, when he was at Joe Gibbs Racing and Kurt last season at Penske. Stewart is also known for his emotions but Addington is well-equipped to deal with it after his recent at-times tumultuous experiences with the Busch boys.

Out: Grubb couldn’t save his job even after helping Stewart win five races in the Chase and the title. The decision to go in a different direction was made well before Stewart eventually won the championship in Homestead and despite the success there was no turning back in the parting of ways. 

Our Take: Addington and Stewart have a relationship from both their days at Gibbs as well as their early short track careers. They’ve remained friends over the years and share a similar connection that should clock together as driver-crew chief pretty quickly. The tools and resources are there for Addington to pick right up where Grubb left off.


Penske Racing – No. 22 Dodge (A.J. Allmendinger)

In: Todd Gordon gets the call from Roger Penske to move over from the team’s successful Nationwide Series program, where he led the No. 22 Dodge to six wins a year ago, to the Sprint Cup effort. Like his counterpart at the Penske No. 2 entry Paul Wolfe, Gordon will get a chance to prove himself after working his way up through the organization. 

Out: Addington was admirable in the way he dealt with the turmoil around the team last year and Busch’s well-publicized emotional outbursts. Despite the controversy, Addington and Busch did win two races and make the Chase proving at times to be a formidable pairing.

Our Take: Gordon is a bright talent and will work well knowing the ins and outs of the “Penske Way.” Now that Allmendinger has been named driver the two can begin working on chemistry and their relationship. Both are young and will more than likely benefit from a fresh start and perspective. The duo take over a ride that won twice last year and made the Chase so expectations will be high and a good start to the season will go a long way in helping build confidence with the entire team.

 

Richard Childress Racing – No. 29 Chevrolet (Kevin Harvick)

In: Shane Wilson comes back to work with Harvick as the duo team up again in their careers. The two won the Nationwide Series together in 2006. Wilson most recently was Clint Bowyer’s crew chief at RCR and after moving into another role inside the team now gets another shot to work in NASCAR’s top division this time with Harvick. 

Out: Gil Martin was able to get Harvick to victory lane multiple times in the last two seasons and made the Chase, nearly winning all the marbles in 2010. But things soured internally with the team last season and Harvick voiced his concerns to team owner Childress who decided to pull the plug on Martin, who will stay with the organization but move into a management role for the time being. 

Our Take: Harvick can be prickly to work with and Martin may have found out the hard way. Wilson has the advantage of previously working with Harvick and tasting success in the Nationwide title run. Pit road miscues doomed the No. 29 team many times last year and that will need to be eradicated by Wilson in a hurry if Harvick is to return to championship contention.

 

Richard Childress Racing – No. 31 Chevrolet (Jeff Burton)

In: Drew Blickensderfer comes to RCR from Roush Fenway Racing, where he had spent his entire NASCAR career. Blickensderfer was a valuable commodity to Roush in both its Nationwide and Sprint Cup programs, most recently working as crew chief for Matt Kenseth and then David Ragan.

Out: Luke Lambert was the interim crew chief for Burton after Todd Berrier was released around mid-season. Lambert and Burton did begin to make significant progress down the stretch of the schedule with several top ten runs to their credit and a near victory at Talladega in October.

Our Take: Blickensderfer is a hot commodity and brings a great deal of enthusiasm to the job. He clicked very well with the relatively young Ragan at RFR, a partnership that resulted in a July Daytona win, but now teams up with the seasoned veteran presence of Burton. It’s an intriguing pair that might be one of the surprises in the coming campaign.

 

Michael Waltrip Racing – No. 15 Toyota (Clint Bowyer)

In: Brian Pattie got shuffled out of the crew chief role for Juan Pablo Montoya about mid-season in favor of Jim Pohlman. Pattie remained inside Earnhardt Ganassi Racing for the balance of the year but jumped at an opportunity to crew chief once again when Waltrip’s team expanded to three cars and brought Bowyer into the fold. 

Out: Pattie steps in to fill the crew chief position for the brand new No. 15 entry. 

Our Take: When Pattie methodically guided Montoya into the 2009 Chase with a carefully calculated regular season game plan he turned a lot of heads in the garage and many applauded his talent. Things didn’t go too well in the two follow-up efforts but Pattie is still regarded as a forward-thinking crew chief who has a chance to make an even bigger name for himself if he can get Bowyer into the Chase in year one.
 

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing – No. 42 Chevrolet (Juan Pablo Montoya)

In: Chris Heroy brings his engineering background to the crew chief position replacing the Brian Pattie/Jim Pohlman combo that split duties for the team last year. 

Out: Team owner Chip Ganassi made it pretty clear he wasn’t going to go into 2012 with the same lineup that was so disappointing last season so moving Pohlman out of the spot didn’t come as much of a surprise. 

Our Take: Heroy is an unknown commodity and steps into a difficult job of trying to right the ship. The entire EGR team including Montoya’s teammate Jamie McMurray endured a miserable season it will take a huge effort all the way around to get back to being competitive on a regular basis.

2012 DRIVER TRACKER

 
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Posted on: December 16, 2011 11:11 am
 

Jason Ratcliff named Joey Logano's crew chief

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (December 16, 2011) – Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) announces today that Jason Ratcliff has been named crew chief for its No. 20 Sprint Cup Series team, replacing Greg Zipadelli who is leaving the organization to pursue an opportunity with Stewart-Haas Racing.

“We appreciate everything Greg has done for us here at Joe Gibbs Racing. He has been a big part of our success, but we felt the timing was right to make this transition for our race team which allows Greg the opportunity to pursue a director of competition position with Tony (Stewart),” said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “We also felt that the timing was right to bring Jason (Ratcliff) to our Cup operation. He is a proven leader with a tremendous track record in our Nationwide program and we think he and Joey will work well together.”

Ratcliff spent the previous seven years as crew chief for JGR’s No. 18 Nationwide Series team. No team has been better over the past three seasons as the team won two consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series Owner’s Championships in 2009 and 2010. They narrowly missed out on a third consecutive title this past season finishing just a few points off the pace in second. Over the past three seasons JGR’s No. 18 Nationwide Series team has won an incredible 30 races, with 68 top-five, and 85 top-ten finishes. In addition, they have led an astonishing 6,124 laps over that time.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to join our Cup operation and work with Joey and everyone on the 20 team,” said Ratcliff. “There is a great history with this program and we have two of the best sponsors in the sport with The Home Depot and Dollar General. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Joey a few times now on the Nationwide side so there is a familiarity there, but I’m looking forward to getting started fulltime and working alongside Dave (Rogers) and Darian (Grubb).”

Zipadelli has been the crew chief for JGR’s No. 20 program since the team was formed in 1999. Over the 13-year span he has won 33 total races and two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships with driver Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005). He was also on top of the pit box for Joey Logano’s first career victory in 2009 which made him the youngest driver ever to win on the Cup level. Zipadelli is leaving JGR to pursue an opportunity with Stewart-Haas Racing.
 

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Posted on: December 15, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Logano, Keselowski visit Guantanamo Bay troops

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Dodge for Penske Racing, and Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, brought holiday cheer, smiles and good times to troops and their families on the NASCAR-USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during their NASCAR-USO visit Dec. 12-14.

The tour of Guantanamo Bay was part of an ongoing partnership between NASCAR and the USO to strengthen a connection between the military and motorsports in an effort to help boost the morale of U.S. troops and their families stationed around the world. The partnership also included NASCAR and the USO hosting a group of wounded warriors at the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas.

During the visit, Keselowski and Logano visited hundreds of sailors and coast guardsmen and their families. The pair also dined with troops, visited the U.S. Navy Hospital, signed autographs and patrolled the waters with service members.

This was the first USO tour for Keselowski and Logano, who are avid supporters of the military community. Both have visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center, now known as Walter Reed National Medical Center, and spent quality time with wounded warriors.

“This was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so glad to be a part of it,” said Keselowski. “I hope to go back on another USO Tour. After meeting the men and women in Guantanamo Bay, I cannot imagine the sacrifices and experiences they have to go through during their time there. It was an amazing experience and I am so grateful that I was invited to go.”

“It was awesome to learn more about Guantanamo Bay and what the mission is down there and how it works,” said Logano. “It was great to meet and talk to the troops, and it was one heck of an experience. We get to see a lot of troops at the race track, but to see them in action and doing their jobs…I am so impressed and have such a high amount of respect for each and every one of them and what they do.”

“NASCAR is honored to work with the USO and be a part of bringing this tour to our men and women in Guantanamo Bay,” said NASCAR President Mike Helton. “We hope this tour has lifted the spirits of troops and their families; we are honored to have the opportunity to show our support and show how much our troops mean to NASCAR and its millions of fans around the world.”

"NASCAR and its drivers bring excitement to the track week after week and we are honored to have two of NASCAR's biggest names join us on a USO tour,” said USO President Sloan Gibson. “I can't think of a better, more suitable place for this tour to bring a touch of home than to NASCAR fans stationed in Guantanamo Bay.”
 

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Posted on: December 10, 2011 10:29 am
 

Keselowski, Logano visiting troops for holidays

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, are scheduled to be part of a NASCAR-USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Dec. 12-14.

As part of the NASCAR-USO trip, Logano and Keselowski will share stories of life on the track, sign autographs, pose for photos and spread holiday cheer to hundreds of troops and military families. Logano and Keselowski have participated in charitable races benefiting America's Armed Forces and are avid supporters of the military community.

Both drivers have also visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center, now known as Walter Reed National Medical Center, and spent quality time with wounded warriors. This tour of Guantanamo Bay is part of an ongoing partnership between NASCAR and the USO to strengthen a connection to the military and help boost the morale of U.S. troops and their families stationed around the world.

Joey Logano: "I jump at every chance I get to show my appreciation to our nation's Armed Forces and I look forward to my upcoming USO trip to Guantanamo Bay. Our service men and women and their families are doing an amazing job."

Brad Keselowski: "Traveling with the USO and getting the chance to spend time with our troops is something I wish everyone could do. To see what they do day-in and day-out and hear their stories is an opportunity of a lifetime and something I will never forget." 

 
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Posted on: November 28, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 5:28 pm
 

2011: biggest surprises and disappointments

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Keselowski's Pocono win driving with a broken ankle helped bring the No. 2 team closer together)

The 2011 Sprint Cup Series season is in the rear view mirror and as always there were several surprises along the way both of the good and bad variety.

Here’s a look at those who exceeded expectations this past season as well as those who would rather erase their 2011 effort from the memory bank:

Biggest Surprises

Brad Keselowski

The Penske Racing driver enjoyed a banner season that will be remembered as his NASCAR coming out party. Not only did Keselowski excel behind the wheel he also became one of the garage area’s “go to” guys, not afraid to speak his mind and always ready to give a candid assessment of any situation. Granted that philosophy got him into hot water recently when NASCAR fined Keselowski $25,000 for his criticism of the new electronic fuel system, but don’t expect the incident to completely change his ways. His winning performance at Pocono driving to victory lane with a broken ankle and other injuries suffered in a testing crash at Road Atlanta only days earlier cemented the cohesiveness of the "Blue Deuce" squad. Keselowski raced his way into the Chase as a wild card with three wins in the regular season as his ticket and although wasn’t able to mount a serious threat for the championship, proved he belongs in future conversations about title contenders.

Trevor Bayne

His storybook win in the Daytona 500 to start the year is the stuff of legends and Bayne kicked down the door of stardom with his stirring win in “The Great American Race.” Unfortunately he was derailed from following his dream by a mysterious illness that knocked Bayne from the sport for nearly three months and set back his development. But once he returned to the full-time Nationwide Series ride with Roush Fenway Racing as well as his limited Cup Series slate for the Wood Brothers, Bayne once again demonstrated why he’s considered one of the brightest young talents in the sport. His first career Nationwide win at Texas was every bit as impressive as the Daytona victory. However Bayne now faces the challenge of the economic pressures of the sport and how that will impact his 2012 plans in both divisions. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

This time a year ago Earnhardt Jr.’s Sprint Cup career was in a shambles. He had just completed a miserable 2010 season that saw him finish 21<sup>st</sup> in the point standings and score only three top five finishes all season long. But then team owner Rick Hendrick installed Steve Letarte as Junior’s crew chief in a shake up of the Hendrick Motorsports organization and almost instantly the improvement began. Earnhardt started the season running more competitively than since he first joined Hendrick in 2008 and came very close to finally snapping his three-year winless streak. Although he leveled off later in the campaign, Earnhardt made the Chase and finished seventh in the final standings with four top five and twelve top ten finishes to his credit. More importantly was the new sense of enthusiasm and confidence instilled in Earnhardt and the feeling more success was right around the corner.

 

Biggest Disappointments

Kyle Busch

This was supposed to be the year that Busch finally broke to the next level of his Sprint Cup career and not only challenge for a championship but win one. He rattled off a series-leading four wins in the regular season and entered the Chase as the number one seed. And then as has been his pattern in past playoff runs things fell apart only this time they did so in spectacular fashion punctuated by Busch’s Camping World Truck Series altercation with Ron Hornaday in Texas. NASCAR parked Busch for the remainder of the weekend, only the third time in more than a decade the sanctioning body sat a driver out of a Cup race for disciplinary actions, and his promising 2011 season ended in a controversial thud. Despite all of his success and more than 100 career wins across NASCAR’s top three divisions, Busch enters next year at a definite crossroads. 

Jamie McMurray

His three big wins of 2010 put McMurray near the top of many people’s list of drivers to make the Chase this season and perhaps contend for the title. But the entire Earnhardt Ganassi Racing organization including teammate Juan Pablo Montoya seemed completely off its game this year and McMurray finished 27<sup>th</sup> in the final standings. He had only a pair of top five finishes all season long and looked nowhere near the same driver who won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 the previous campaign. 

Joey Logano

The expiration date of waiting for Logano to finally fulfill the lofty promise he brought with him to NASCAR’s top series is closing in. After ending the 2010 season on a torrid pace Logano seemed ready to take it up a notch this year and at least punch a ticket into the Chase lineup. But he got off to a bad start and never was able to recover from a series of disappointments and challenges including the Joe Gibbs Racing team’s engine woes. There was some speculation mid-season that JGR was courting free agent Carl Edwards to join the organization and move Logano either to the Nationwide Series or out completely. In the end Edwards stayed at Roush Fenway and Logano remains in the No. 20 ride – for now.


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