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.

Source: www.nascar.com

www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

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 ‬

Source. NASCAR.com

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

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.” (www.nascar.com)

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.