Posted on: March 9, 2012 9:26 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2012 9:27 pm

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Brian De Los Santos
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 9, 2012 11:42 am

Hendrick appeal set for Tuesday

By Pete Pistone

NASCAR announced the Hendrick Motorsports appeal for penalties levied in teh aftermath of the No. 48 team failing pre-Daytona 500 inspection will be heard next Tuesday.

Hendrick Motorsports and crew chief Chad Knaus will both get to plead their case before the National Stock Car Racing Commission’s Appeals Board.

Knaus and the team appealed the $100,000 fine and six race suspension for NASCAR's contention that illegally modified c-posts were found on Jimmie Johnson's car during Daytona inspection on February 17.

Hendrick's case states the car was presented to officials in Daytona after running at two restrictor plate races in 2011. The team questions NASCAR's inspection procedure of only a visual inspection and not running the car through the full template inspection process.

Tuesday's appearance will be Knaus’ fourth before the board; he had a 2005 suspension and fine overturned on appeal, but was denied in three other cases.

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Posted on: March 8, 2012 6:18 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 7:34 pm

Brian Vickers to drive Waltrip's No. 55 car

By Pete Pistone

Elliott Sadler's inability to drive Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 55 car for five races has opened the door for Brian Vickers to get an opportunity.

Vickers will pilot the entry in the six events as an addition to the car's schedule for Mark Martin and Waltrip.

Sadler was named as the team's choice to fill the seat last week but withdrew after team owner Richard Childress felt it necessary to have the driver concentrate on his full-time Nationwide Series effort for RCR.

Vickers has been without a ride since the Red Bull Racing team shut its doors at season's end. He'll have an opportunity to drive a car that Martin has gotten off to a good start with this season running competitively at both Daytona and Phoenix.

“I am thrilled to get back behind the wheel of not just a race car, but a very fast race car,” said Vickers. 

“I’m lucky to find a ride of this quality so early in the season. That Toyota won the pole last weekend in Phoenix and you saw it up front throughout the race. I know how good (crew chief) Rodney Childers and team are. I’ve known Rodney since I was eight years old. This car is tied for sixth in points right now. This is going to be fun. I appreciate the opportunity Michael and the entire MWR organization are giving me.” 

Vickers will begin his schedule next Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway and Waltrip is excited to get his new driver behind the wheel.

“Brian Vickers is a veteran driver with almost 10 years experience, but he hasn’t even turned 30 yet,” said Waltrip. 

“He’s shown he can win at this level and we have every confidence he’ll run well with us. I believe in second chances and this is great opportunity for us and Brian. He wants to show the world how good he really is and we believe in the equipment and people we’re putting him with in 2012.”

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Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:53 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 12:55 pm

Behind the Hauler: Greg Biffle

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Biffle has started the year with solid runs in the Daytona 500 and last week at Phoenix - Getty Images)

Greg Biffle
vowed to have a much better season in 2012 than he did a year ago. So far he’s come through on that promise with a pair of third place finishes to start the season at Daytona and Phoenix. 

The Roush Fenway Racing driver shared his expectations for the new year including his relationship with crew chief Matt Puccia when he visited with SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” recently: 

There are some people who are not looking for results from you based on your performance from last season – is that fair and how do you respond to that?

When you go back and look at the stat sheet and it says a guy finished sixteenth, well he led 240 laps and a shifter broke with two laps to go and you finish sixteenth, the thing is the stat sheet doesn’t say that – all it says is that you finished sixteenth. Take Charlotte, the Coca-Cola 600 I had the thing won, had no one in the rear view mirror and a caution comes out when Jimmie Johnson blew up. And then with extra caution laps we couldn’t make it on fuel and so we finished thirteenth. Harvick winds up winning it and he ran like dog all night. That same thing happened all year long…so when you finish thirteen or sixteenth after you’ve been leading all day, you pit for the last stop of the day and caution comes out you got to take the wave around and start twenty-sixth. That happened all year long but you look at the way the car ran, the performance, the pit stops were pretty good. You look at all that and you say that team has the potential to run good and finish good is what I look at. 

Your teammate Carl Edwards lost the championship last year by not winning enough races – what kind of message did that send to you, Matt (Kenseth) and Carl during the off season? 

Well we know that our cars simply weren’t fast enough and knew our fuel mileage was off some. We’re hoping this fuel injection will level the playing field for us because when we got the FR9 engine we lost a little bit of fuel mileage, a little bit of edge. Our competition could beat us by a hair on fuel mileage and it just kept backing us into a corner constantly. Now when a caution comes out periodically or you get off sequence a little here or there all of a sudden fuel mileage isn’t an issue. But there’s always an underlying, it’s like a demon that has its head poked up. And whether it bites you or not just all depends sometimes. So it’s just a matter of right place sometimes and that’s what I say to critics about how we ran versus Carl versus Matt. Our cars are plenty fast enough – we just got done doing a tire test at Texas – we’re super happy with the speed and how it drove. I feel like we’re gonna start the season out, we’re gonna be really strong those first ten races I think.

Is it imperative – I know everybody wants to but is it important for you to have to get off to a get start this year?

Yes. We have to and I think we will. If we race hard and conservative and don’t take any dumb chances. Look at Vegas last year. I feel personally like I had that race won and we ended up five laps down with not a scratch on the car because we couldn’t get fuel into it. There’s a whole bunch of them. If that doesn’t happen this year – we ran good at Phoenix, ran good at Vegas, Martinsville’s a demon but you have Fontana there are some good opportunities for us to lay down some solid top fives or get some wins.

What do you do to put a bad day behind you and move on to focus to the next race?

It’s always looking at the next race. You can’t dwell on what happened in last week’s race good or bad. Because the longer you dwell on what happened last week if things don’t go well, the more it just drags you down. Take the positive from it. Look at how fast our cars are, how good we ran. There’s nothing anyone can do about that other stuff that either went wrong or was out of our control. Otherwise, it will just eat you up so the best thing to do is just let it go.

How is the relationship and chemistry with (crew chief) Matt Puccia? 

Matt is great and we really have built a solid relationship that really started to come together last year. He’s smart, he communicates very well and the team is behind him every step of the way. That’s another reason why I’m so excited about this coming season seeing what he brings to the table and how this team can work together. Like I said, we have some fast cars and great equipment. The team is together all the way and if we can get some breaks, keep the bad luck to a minimum I’m confident we can have a really good season this year.

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Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:35 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 11:37 am

Audio: Brad Daugherty sounds off on cellphones

Posted by Pete Pistone


Team owner and ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty has concerns about drivers taking their cellphones inside the cockpit of their racecars.

Daugherty explained his views when he visited with SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive" Thursday and said among other things the policy needs to be changed as a precautionary measure of potential data tampering and cheating.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:22 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 8:34 am

Name change coming for Infineon Raceway

By Pete Pistone

Speedway Motorsports Inc. will need to find a replacement title sponsor for Infineon Raceway.

Sports Business Journal reports Infineon Technologies has decided to end its sponsorship of the Sonoma, California road course.

The 10-year deal reportedly worth $34.4 million expires in May and the copany has indicated it will not renew.

Vice president for marketing and communications John Cardinale told the publication that the speedway has several companies interested in assuming the naming rights. "There are three or four companies we're talking to," he said. "I wouldn't say they're ready to sign, but they're certainly interested."

Before the title sponsorship the track was known as Sears Point Raceway, which it will more than likely revert to until a new sponsor is found.

It marks the second SMI property that has lost a title sponsor in recent years with Lowe's ending its naming rights deal with Charlotte Motor Speedway a few years ago.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:09 pm

Regan Smith and Paul Menard uninjured in accident

By Pete Pistone

Regan Smith and Paul Menard were uninjured in a road accident while in Colorado Wednesday morning.

The two Sprint Cup Series drivers, Smith’s wife Megan and a friend were in a Chevy Silverado driving to a ski slope when the accident happened at approximately 8:45 a.m..

The foursome escaped injury after the vehicle being driven by Smith slid through a patch of ice, skidded off the road and into several trees.

Both Smith and Menard will compete in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:44 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:18 am

Idle Thoughts: Pressure already on for some

By Pete Pistone

  Crew Members
(This scene has been all too familiar to Kasey Kahne in the first two weeks of the season - Getty Images)

Two races do not make a season by any means. However there is a group of drivers who come into Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway already in need of a good finish.

The opening weeks in Daytona and Phoenix have not gone very well for some high profile names most expected to be factors in 2012. While there is certainly time to get things back on track, you wouldn’t blame these drivers for perhaps grabbing that steering wheel a little tighter Sunday in Vegas:


Kasey Kahne

This was supposed to be the breakout year for Kahne who finally made the move to Hendrick Motorsports after his limbo season in 2011 at Red Bull. But so far Kahne has had nothing but trouble and a lot of damaged racecars to show for his effort. A crash-filled Speedweeks rolled into another accident for Kahne early in last Sunday’s Phoenix race knocking him from contention in a race he was considered a favorite to win. The usually calm Kahne was frustrated after his early exit at PIR.

"I've been so excited about it, and I was excited the whole offseason and couldn't wait for the season to get here," Kahne said. "I show up at Phoenix, we're the best car all day Friday, top two cars all day yesterday, would have been the same today. I just need to calm the (blank) down."

Crew chief Kenny Francis will help Kahne do just that and there’s no reason to write this team off just yet. A top ten here and a top five there should be all the No. 5 Hendrick team needs in the coming weeks to shake the disappointment of the early going and begin to fulfill the high preseason expectations.


A.J. Allmendinger

Penske Racing’s newest driver has also endured a crash-filled opening two races of the season and finds himself 25<sup>th</sup> in the standings. That’s not what the former Richard Petty Motorsports driver expected to happen when he got the call to drive for his hero Roger Penske.

"Honestly, it was a bit of a frustrating weekend especially on the heels of Daytona,” Allmendinger said after eventually finishing in position 18 Sunday in Phoenix but not before getting swept up in a multi-car crash earlier in the race. “I've always run well here, so I came in with my goal being a top five or top ten at least.  We just couldn't get the car dialed in from the start.”

What may compound Allmendinger’s issues going forward is Penske’s announcement to switch from Dodge to Ford in 2013. The company is now faced with the task of ramping up for next year only two races into the current campaign while trying to focus on Allmendinger and teammate Brad Keselowski this season. Allmendinger is working on a one year contract as well so the stress level may be on the rise in the No. 22 camp unless things turnaround quickly.

Jamie McMurray

The new season has been a repeat of the dismal campaign of a year ago that team owner Chip Ganassi referred to as pathetic. McMurray has dropped all the way to position 35 in the point standings and suffered through a pair of disappointing outings in Daytona and Phoenix. He survived a lap 134 tangle with Allmendinger and Paul Menard only to have his engine expire in the late stages of the race.

“I don't know the motor blew up again. I don't know what happened there. It started missing and started smoking and just quit running, tough day," McMurray said.

Those engine issues have to be disconcerting to the Ganassi team, which worked so hard in the off season to find more speed and reliability under the hood. If that becomes a trend again for McMurray and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, Ganassi may use a much more negative word to describe 2012.


Jimmie Johnson

The consensus is Johnson will recover from the early season challenge of a 25 point penalty for pre-Daytona 500 inspection infractions and a forty-second place finish in “The Great American Race.” But the reality is the five-time champion comes to Las Vegas 71 points out of the lead. He finished fourth Sunday in Phoenix to prove there’s really nothing wrong with the 48 team on a whole and remains positive about what lies ahead despite the obstacles.

“It is going to make it exciting,” said crew chief Chad Knaus, who awaits to appeal the penalty and six-race suspension handed down by NASCAR. “That is one thing that we typically try to do here with the No. 48 team. We somehow or another we seem to get through adversity pretty well.

“I’m not saying we like a challenge like this, but I’m pretty sure we will rise to the occasion.”

Johnson has a couple of things on his side to rebound – time and the wild card berths available to make the Chase.

“The end result is winning races,” Johnson said. “The worst-case scenario would be fighting for a wild card spot and that boils down to winning races. There’s a lot of racing between now and September in Richmond, the cutoff for the Chase. Right now, we’re focused on doing the best job we can and the most points we possibly can.”

He’s made comebacks before but Johnson has never been in position to have to make one this early in a season.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com