Tony Stewart: Retirement and Racing

Tony Stewart is a rare thing—a real racer. Not just a driver, but a racer. For some people there may be no difference but to those who really love racing—in whose hearts the engines always roar—the difference is obvious and it is paramount. It is what makes the driver they call Smoke,well, Smoke.

As the 2017 season begins, for the first time in a long time, Stewart will find himself somewhere other than the driver’s seat of his Number 14 Ford. The decision, while not taken lightly, has been a good one for Stewart especially after a serious back injury at the beginning of last season. On several occasions Stewart has mentioned that “It will be nice to be at the track and not be sore and not be uncomfortable sitting on the pit box.”

He looks forward to being able to focus on the cars, the team, and the development of both as Stewart Haas Racing enters a new season. The team has been working around the clock to prepare the new Fords after a switch in manufacturers and is optimistic the new cars will be ready to win by the time Daytona rolls around. Clint Bowyer will be taking over the seat for Stewart come February and Stewart is eager to lend his knowledge and expertise wherever he can.

It’s not uncommon for racers to have a challenge when it comes to retiring from racing. The fact that Stewart can’t walk away from NASCAR is not, however, what makes him a a racer. What makes him a racer is the over 80 midgets, sprint cars, and late models. Stewart will still be racing and doing so on what he loves most: dirt tracks. Tony Stewart may be retiring from NASCAR but he’s not retiring from racing—he can’t. What flows through his veins, his heart, is as wild as the dirt cars he drives. He is a racer, he has a need not just for speed, but for actual racing. It is one of the things that make him the racer he is. The guys in his sprint car shop have, along with the Cup team, been working hard to give Stewart the cars he needs to win on small tracks across America, including the ones he has never raced on before. It’s these tracks that Stewart is most excited about racing on.

“I know it sounds like I’m a rookie driver, but I kind of feel like one,” Stewart said. “There’s a bunch of tracks and a bunch of events that I’ve not raced at before that I’m going to finally get to go to.”

That is what makes Stewart a racer, that ready to drive anything that rolls, anywhere, anytime. He has retired from the Big Leagues of NASCAR to run as hard and as fast as he can on every small track—in every car—he possibly can.

The Top 5 Daytona 500s

Every February, in the midst of what is often the coldest part of winter, the first rays of sunshine are delivered with the roar of engines. The Daytona International Speedway opens its gates, brilliantly colored flags snapping crisply in the warm breeze, to fans and race teams alike. It is here that heroes will be made, legacies built, and dreams come true. It is a Speedway like no other, steeped in the rich history of American stock car racing, while offering the first glimpse of the season that lies ahead. As race fans prepare for the 2017 Daytona 500 let’s take a look back at the top five 500 finishes.

1. 1998: Dale Earnhardt finally wins the 500:

After 20 years of what seemed like the worst luck when it came to the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt finally won. For a multitude of years it seemed like everything that could go wrong for Earnhardt did—he had flat tires, wrecks, even a collision with a seagull. He won every other race at Daytona except the 500. He seemed to know how to run every line on the high banks except the one that would win the big race. Finally, on his 20th try, the checkered flag fell on the black No. 3 car and history was made. Every member of every team lined pit lane to congratulate The Intimidator on his way to Victory Lane. It was an epic end to an epic race for an epic Champion.

2. The 1979 Daytona 500—and the fight that followed.

In 1979 NASCAR had its first televised race—that year’s Daytona 500. The race was a wild one and as they neared the finish Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison were rubbing and racing side by side. The two wrecked and slid chaotically onto the grass. Tempers immediately flared and what ensued is one of the most famous—or infamous—events in NASCAR history. Allison and Yarborough threw down and started a fight that would be the envy of any Mixed Martial Artist: fists were swinging, helmets were used as weapons, and tempers rose in crescendo of fury much to the dismay of the broadcasters and the delight of fans everywhere. The fight helped to endear NASCAR in the hearts of Americans everywhere.

3. 1988: An Allison 1-2

In 1988, on the 30th running of the Daytona 500, Bobby Allison came across the line in first. What made the win so special was that his son, Dave Allison, came in right behind him in second. The win was an emotional one for everyone. The Allisons, often affectionately called The Alabama gang, were a beloved institution in NASCAR. On top of that, the win highlighted one of the pillars of the sport: family. Nothing like a father-son finish to make every fan feel like they are part of the NASCAR family.

4. 1976: Battle of Legends—Pearson Vs. Petty

In 1976 the Daytona 500 had one of its most famous finishes. It a race that had been a battle from the get go, Richard Petty and David Pearson banged their way through the race. As they came to the final lap both cars spun into the infield spewing grass and debris all around them. In the midst of the chaos Pearson managed to get his battered car started again and limp across the finish line as Petty watched helplessly from the wreckage of his mangled car.

5. 1959: The first official 500 and the Disputed Winner

The 1959 Daytona 500 was the first official race at the brand new Speedway. After years of racing on the fabled sands of the beach, now NASCAR had a state of the art facility and they were eager to show it off. The race did not disappoint and Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp fought hard the whole race, battling so closely that as they crossed the finish line it was almost impossible to see who the winner was. In fact, NASCAR named Johnny Beauchamp the winner on the spot and the call would have stood had Lee Petty not called upon reporters and photographers to dispute the decision. After days of pouring over the pictures the decision was reversed and Lee Petty was named the winner.

One thing is for sure, the Daytona 500 always delivers edge-of-the-seat, heart-pounding, engine-roaring excitement. From the very first race to this year’s chapter, the 500 is always history in the making.


Daytona International Speedway

Seven Sundays to the Speedway


In seven Sundays the glorious crescendo of sound the is start of the Daytona 500 will take place. As the countdown to the 2017 season begins there are a few things of note for race fans.

First and foremost, Dale Earnhardt Jr will be back. Yes, the newly we, fully healed, Dale Jr. will be back behind the wheel of his Nationwide 88 car. After a serious concussion that sidelined Junior for most of the season last year, NASCAR’s most popular driver will return to racing in the new season.

Next, the premier series in NASCAR will no longer be called the Sprint Cup series, it will now be known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The change in title sponsor was officially announced in December along with a change in logo that will be revealed in the near future.

Third, Clint Bowyer will be taking over the number 14 car for Tony Stewart. While seeing Bowyer in the car may take a little getting used to, Stewart-Haas racing has gone out of their way to promote Bowyer and present an optimistic view of the upcoming season.

Lastly, on a sentimental note, Richard Childress is heading for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A drivers strike propagated Childress to start his own team back in 1969 and he never looked back. After building an empire alongside Dale Earnhardt Sr. which changed the face of stock car racing, Childress has continued to be a positive force in NASCAR. Congratulations to Richard Childress and team.

As the 2017 looms on the horizon, race fans everywhere can feel the rising tide of excitement that comes with the first roar of the engines and the first rotation of wheels. Hopes, dreams, and expectations all build in a tremendous crescendo that makes every fan’s heart beat just a little faster. No doubt about it-this season should be something to see.

By Tonia Attard -‪@audilvrs7 ‬


Photos Daytona International Speedway

The Draw of Dale Earnhardt Jr.


NASCAR is in the midst of the chase for its championship. It should be, without doubt, the most exciting time of the season, Daytona being the exception of course. The teams are in high gear and the drivers should be shining bright in the glare of the spotlight they are cast into. It is, however, not the drivers racing that hold the public’s interest, but the one driver that is not. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has long been NASCAR’s most popular driver and being sidelined with a serious concussion has done nothing to stem the tide of loyalty and affection fans express for one of the biggest names in the sport.

So what is it about Junior that makes him so popular even though he hasn’t been in a car since early summer? Some may say it’s being the namesake of one of the biggest stars in NASCAR. Dale Earnhardt Sr was more than a driver, more than even a racer, he was an icon of racing, one of the last ties to a history rich in culture and tradition. Dale Sr was one of the last blue collar heroes, learning to race on the dirt tracks of rural North Carolina and at the hands of legends such as his own father, Ralph Earnhardt. This is where Junior comes from, a long line of men who raced hard with success being marked by the amount of dirt on the car on Sunday morning. It would be ridiculous to say that is not part of it, not part of what draws fans to him, endears him to their hearts, and makes them feel like he is part of their family. It is, without question, part of it, especially for the long time fans. He is the last tie to his father and many fans hang onto him like a life preserver, desperate to hang onto a past that racing has long left behind, for better or worse.

Junior is, however, much more than his lineage. Dale Earnhardt Junior is an ambassador for a sport that has in recent years seemed to lose steam in its level of popularity and who is in desperate need of a real champion, and much more than that, a hero. Junior is just the person they need. He is the right combination of the old and new guard. He drives hard but smart and seems to see a much bigger picture in racing and in life. When Junior made the announcement he would be steeping out of his car due to a concussion the response received was a tumultuous one. Some people applauded as he made the commitment to be well and take care of himself, while others grumbled he wasn’t his father, who was infamously tough. Junior held his ground though, bringing much needed attention to concussions, and other head injuries, as he openly shared his concussion struggles with the public. As Junior has made progress with his condition, being sure to take his time, the public has learned a great deal regarding head trauma and the effect it can have on someone’s life. He has made concussions, and recovery, a part of everyday life and brought, not the tragedy of them, but the hope of recovery from them, to his fans and to the public.

So while the Championship Chase continues, while Jimmy Johnson pushes for his seventh championship and Kevin Harvick and the others chase Johnson, it is Dale Jr. that garners the attention and affection of the fans, not because he is his father’s son but because he is him-and the fans love him for it.

Image courtesy of
Charlotte Observer

The Inventor, An Engine, A Love Story & The First Ever Race

If you are passionate about a particular topic then it is only natural that you become interested in the history and pioneers of your chosen subject. Motor racing is full of these pioneers. It is also full of urban myths, legends, dramatic stories and personal opinion.

I was interested to know when the first ever motor race took place and being interested in history (across all manner of subjects) I decided to have a look. Even in this area of motor racing history there is divided opinion, of which the reader really has to make their own mind up. Some say the first ever motor race was the Paris-Rouen race on 27th July 1894. I’ve looked into this a little bit and in my own personal opinion I don’t regard this as a race. Yes, the competitors had a start line and a finish line, but even the official announcement stated that this was “not a race”, but more of a contest or exhibition for manufacturers to showcase their cars.

This brings me to 11th July 1895 and what I regard as The First Ever Motor Race – “The Paris-Bordeaux-Paris Trail”. It had a back-story fit for the silver screen.

In 1886 Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, working independently of each other, invented the automobile. This particular story centres around Daimler.

It would be two years before Gottlieb Daimler would see a breakthrough with his revolutionary invention, with the help of a woman called Louise Sarazin. Sarazin herself was able to promote the Daimler car through Europe with the help of an engine manufacturer called Emile Levassor, who went on to marry Louise Sarazin and then win the first ever motor race. Just that introduction had me nodding my head and thinking, great story. So I did a bit of research….actually a lot of research….and if you’re sitting comfortably, then I shall begin.

Emile Levassor was born in Marolles-en-Hurepoix in the north of France. After graduating from Ecole Centrale Paris he began his career in manufacturing in 1872 with a company which produced wood-working machines and built gas engines. It was whilst working for this company he met and struck up a friendship with Rene Panhard. When the owner of the factory where they worked died, the two friends decided to set up their own company Panhard & Levassor, building engines.

Louise Sarazin was married to Belgian industrialist, Edouard Sarazin and when Daimler began sales in France, Monsieur Sarazin struck up a cordial relationship with Gottlieb Daimler. After some tests and experiments the two agreed, with nothing more than a handshake, that Sarazin would acquire the conditional rights to market all future inventions in the French territory.

In 1886, Panhard and Levassor were by now running one of the largest machine shops in Paris. Edouard Sarazin, who knew the pair from his studying days, visited them and persuaded them to build an engine for Daimler, under the licence that Sarazin had obtained in his agreement. Before the talks could be completed, Edouard Sarazin died from kidney disease later that year.

Louise Sarazin wrote to Gottlieb Daimler, “You will now be looking for a new representative for France,” she wrote in her first letter. “But since I am familiar with all the negotiations that have taken place up to now, and am fully informed about all the details up to the present day, I am completely at your service to help with your work until you find a suitable replacement for my husband.”

Daimler wrote back to Madam Sarazin, “As regards business matters, I am in no hurry to look for a new representative for Paris, and am glad to hear that you are fully acquainted with our business affairs and wish to assist me. I gratefully accept your offer. In addition, I perceive that you believe in my engine, just as Monsieur Sarazin did, and I can well understand that you would not like to see the fruits of your husband’s work pass into other hands. With these few lines, I wish to say that I hope to act as your husband would have wanted when I assure you that you will remain involved in the business, even if I am unable to say exactly how. At any rate, I shall not undertake anything in the near future without first seeking your advice.”

Shortly afterwards, Emile Levassor contacted the widow to ask if he should go ahead and build the engines under the Daimler patent as her husband had ordered. He received the answer to continue, and in February 1888 Louise Sarazin travelled to Cannstatt to take a closer look at Gottlieb Daimler’s invention. She was so impressed by the demonstrations that she concluded binding agreements with the German inventor on the sale of the Daimler automobile in France. She also brought a one-cylinder engine home with her.

One source was quoted as saying “Generally speaking, she travelled home with the conviction that Daimler’s attitude and the state of technology would provide the necessary basis of trust to ensure a successful future. The fact that Daimler clearly recognised the exceptional talents of this woman is an indication of how reliable his instincts were.”

Although Emile Levassor’s response to Louise Sarazin’s plans was initially somewhat guarded, she eventually managed to infect him with her enthusiasm. In October 1888, they travelled together to Cannstatt and the visit proved a great success. Emile Levassor and Gottlieb Daimler quickly hit it off and over time developed a close friendship based on mutual respect.

On 5 February 1889, Gottlieb Daimler and Louise Sarazin concluded an agreement that finally paved the way for the introduction of the automobile in France. According to this, Daimler would receive 12% of the purchase price for each engine produced under licence, or whose production was authorised, by Madame Sarazin. For her part, the Frenchwoman had assigned the rights to the Daimler patents to the company Panhard & Levassor 20%, leaving herself with 8%.

Daimler’s principal designs were shown at the World Exposition in Paris between May and October 1889 and attracted considerable interest. Subsequently, bicycle manufacturer Peugeot became involved in automotive design, using the Daimler engines from Panhard & Levassor. In the report on the World Exposition published in 1890, the high-speed Daimler vehicle engine was described as a “most remarkable design”.

Other businesspeople were of the same opinion. After the exhibition, other French engineering works offered to utilise the Daimler patents under licence. But Gottlieb Daimler kept his word. On 1st November 1889, he gave Louise Sarazin a written assurance that she alone had the rights to commercialise all French and Belgian patents, on condition that they featured the Daimler name.

After that, the relationship between the businesswoman and the French carmaker deepened. They would be seen out to dinner together often, always appearing at ease with one another. Friends would comment on how happy they were, not only with the business venture going so well. Rumours began to spread that through all the time they had spent together, deeper feelings had surfaced. It had been some time since Edouard Sarazin’s death and friends of Louise hoped that she would find happiness once more. And so on 4 May 1890 Louise Sarazin and Emile Levassor married.

It was a stroke of luck for Gottlieb Daimler that the manufacturers Panhard & Levassor, and Madame Sarazin-Levassor held the Daimler licence in France. The business partners met regularly to exchange ideas. It was actually Emile Levassor who wasted no time in producing the vehicles. He was convinced that the speed of the automobiles would be the best form of advertising for Daimler engines. These proved hugely successful at the contest held between Paris and Rouen in July 1894: of the 21 vehicles in the starting field, 15 successfully reached the finish line, and nine of these were equipped with Panhard-Levassor engines built under the Daimler licence – including a 3-hp Benz Vis-à-Vis.

The First Ever Motor Race

On 11th July 1895, 30 entrants were received for the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris Trail, which would cover a distance of 1,178km. Emile Levassor would be driving the Daimler powered by the engine he and Rene Panhard had built, the 1205cc Panhard & Levassor.

Emile began the race sensibly. He carefully weighed up the opposition and once he was sure of the machinery he had at his disposal he quickly overtook Marquis de Dion, who had stopped to take on water for his steam powered car.

Although he stopped at times to check the components of the car, Levassor arrived in Bordeaux, several hours before any driver had been expected. There was no welcoming committee or people on the streets cheering him on. The streets were quiet and everybody was in bed.

He tried in vain to find his co-driver who would be taking the car back to Paris, but he was asleep and nobody knew which hotel he was in. Levassor then woke the event organisers to prove that he had arrived and what time he had arrived at. Once these details had been recorded he sat down for a sandwich and champagne, as you would in the middle of a race, went for a walk and once refreshed he got back into his car to begin the journey back to Paris.

Whilst travelling back from Bordeaux he came across Baron Rene de Knyff, still driving to Bordeaux, who was so surprised at seeing Levassor and the time he had travelled that he nearly crashed.

After two days and two nights at the wheel, Levassor entered Paris to a much bigger reception. He averaged a speed of 24.5km/h on his journey. After the race he is quoted as saying “Some 50km before Paris I had a rather luxurious snack in a restaurant, which helped me. But I feel a bit tired.”

No podium celebration, no spraying of champagne. Levassor finished the race as calmly as he had began.

It was the engine’s speed, however, that finally also proved fatal for Louise Sarazin-Levassor’s husband. At the Paris–Marseille–Paris race in September 1896, Emile Levassor was thrown from his vehicle near Avignon and seriously injured. He died from his injuries barely six months later, on 14 April 1897, at the age of 54.

Today, Emile Levassor is known in France as the ‘father of the automobile’. However, the contribution made by his later wife to the success of the invention is often ignored. Yet this businesswoman was the first Daimler licensee in France, a woman who believed in the success of the automobile, who convinced sceptics of the value of the revolutionary German invention, and who introduced Emile Levassor to Gottlieb Daimler. Such were her achievements.

Race classifications:

1st – Emile Levassor (FRA) – Panhard & Levassor – 48hrs 48mins
2nd – Louis Rigoulot (FRA) – Peugeot – 54hrs 55mins
3rd – Paul Koechlin (FRA) – Peugeot – 59hrs 48 mins
4th – Auguste Doriot (FRA) – Peugeot – 54hrs 49mins
5th – Hans Thum (GER) – Benz/Roger – 64hrs 30mins
6th – Emile Mayade (FRA) – Panhard & Levassor – 72hrs 14mins
7th – Boulanger (BEL) – Panhard & Levassor – 78hrs 07mins
8th – Emile Roger (FRA) – Roger – 82hrs 48mins
9th – Amedee Bollee (FRA) – Bollee – 90hrs 03mins

Martin Truex Jr Tames the Lady in Black to Win the Southern 500 at Darlington

Martin Truex Jr, with a little help from his pit crew, won a surprise victory at Darlington, SC, after leading all of 28 laps. Darlington, also known as the Lady in Black and the Track too Tough to Tame, due to its attrition on drivers and cars, offered a race that had fans and teams alike on their feet and cheering wildly.

Martin Truex, Jr., whose car has been consistently fast this year, struggled during most of the race. It was his pit crew, on the last stop, that gave Truex the opportunity to drive his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet to victory lane. The crew, who had experienced communications problems at Michigan, along with a run of bad luck, stepped up to the plate at the historic track and gave their driver the chance he needed to win the race. Their flawless performance in the pit got Truex out in the lead and enabled him to make his charge for the checkered flag.

In the meantime, Kevin Harvick, who had led 214 laps of the race and clearly had the fastest car, went through the polar opposite with his team experiencing what has become all too common problems in the pits. In the last pit stop, Harvick lost 17 places and his dominance was decimated, leaving him to struggle futilely to regain places on the track. Harvick had tough words for his crew saying, “I’m over being a cheerleader. Those guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road, and cheerleading hasn’t really been working. You’ve got to get after it on pit road and do your job.” (

Kyle Larson ended up taking third place with Denny Hamlin following him in fourth and Joey Lagano in fifth. The Lady in Black claimed her share of cars again with Kurt Busch hitting the wall hard and Tony Stewart experiencing engine problems that would end his last race at the track. Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer also tangled bringing out a caution late in the race proving Darlington is still the track Too Tough To Tame.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Battles Concussion Woes


Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be vacating the Rick Hendrick 88 car for unforeseeable future. Earnhardt, who on Friday made his first public appearance to discuss his diagnosis, revealed that he will not be returning to racing just yet, but was eager to do so.

“I just want to get better. Nothing else is a priority. Our intentions are to get cleared and get back to racing. I’m not ready to quit.” Earnhardt promised as he discussed his desire to heal completely and return to his car, his team, and to winning.

Earnhardt has missed the last three races, including the Brickyard 400. Former champion and teammate, Jeff Gordan, has been piloting the 88 car while Junior has been recovering from the symptoms that have plagued him on and off since his wreck in Michigan on June 21 where he hit the wall after tangling with A.J. Allmedinger.

During the press conference Junior expressed how much his missed his team and that he was willing to do whatever was needed to get back in the car and be competitive. According to the most popular driver in NASCAR, his doctors are diligently working to further understand his condition and help him to not only recover, but be stronger as a result of the injury.

Junior has been very communicative with his fans via podcast and social media, keeping them updated on any information he is given, as well as helping them to understand the choices that he is making. While at first Junior experienced push back on his decision to step from the car, the importance and ramifications had he chosen not to do so, are now widely accepted and respected. In addition, Junior choosing to address the issue of his concussion and take responsibility for his well-being has had a ripple effect throughout a sport known for their racers pushing through injury to race. In fact, Junior’s father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., was considered to be the strongest, toughest driver around, being called “one tough customer” after he broke his ankle on a Sunday, had an operation on Tuesday, and was back racing the next weekend. His reputation for being tough enough to take anything and race created the slogan for Wrangler jeans, who happened to be Earnhardt Sr.’s sponsor at the time. Earnhardt Sr ignited a revolution, separating mere drivers from real racers and making an era in racing all his own.

Now, however, the sport is looked at differently and Junior’s concussion, and response to it, is a prime example. As Junior takes time to heal, racing experiences a shift in focus and priorities, a revolution of the sport that once again is brought on by an Earnhardt.

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