Camping World Truck Series test day at Canadian Motorsport Park

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I’ve been so busy over at Wheels.ca that I didn’t get around to posting this here. Of course I actually loaded the pics, I just didn’t get around to adding any words.

So, a couple of weeks ago, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series folks and a gaggle of media types invaded the brand spanking new events centre at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Fresh off his boot to the nuts incident, Nelson Piquet Jr. was on hand as an “impartial” test driver to lay down some baselines for the teams when they arrive on Labour Day weekend.

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Have at it boys!

Few sports are as hotly contested as auto racing, which means that when things don’t go someone’s way, there is always a chance for fisticuffs to break out. Of course the roundy round racers have more of a history of “takin’ it outside” than most other series. The NASCAR circus kept true to that history yesterday when Jeff Gordon got into Clint Bowyer on the last lap of the 3 to last race of the season at Phoenix.

For those of you, who like me, didn’t get to see the race, I’ve got the action for you below.

What do you think: with the absence of the NHL, should the NASCAR boys keep fighting like hockey players?

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Tony Stewart two hand’s Delana Harvick

Ok, so the video below has absolutely nothing to do with racing. I just think it’s pretty funny, because it is something I would do. Of course I probably wouldn’t do it in front of a TV camera, but you get the idea.

Not only does Smoke take hold of Kevin Harvick’s Wife’s butt, he gives both cheeks a good squeeze!
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Ralph Gilles talks about Dodge’s decision to pull out of NASCAR

As many fans try to figure out why the Dodge brand has decided to pull out of NASCAR at the end of the season, Ralph Gilles sits down in front of the camera to explain the reasoning. Put short and sweet, they have not been able to put together a deal with a team like Penske that has a complete package. If a team has to rely on outside help, then it doesn’t make sense for Dodge to go racing with them!

Check out the video after the jump.
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NASCAR – Gordon Wins and Hendrick Scores With All 4 Cars in Rain Shortened Pennsylvania 400 from Pocono

After the season he has had so far this year, Jeff Gordon will take a win anyway he can get it.  Having everything that could possibly go wrong already happen to him so far this season, a little bit of good luck was bound to finally blow his way.  And blow it did, as a major weather system blew in dumping torrential rain in Pocono, effectively ending the Pennsylvania 400 62 laps short of a full race, only 18 laps past the halfway mark, making it a complete race in the books.  Not only was this a win for Gordon on the track, the points race looks a whole lot better from his perspective with this win.  Moving into 13th in points + the win puts him in place for the wild card spot to get into the chase for the 2012 Sprint Cup, a spot he knew he needed a win to get to.

“It’s nice to know that things can still go our way,” Gordon said. “The way our year has gone, we’ll definitely take it like this. I tell you what, with all the things that have gone wrong for us this year, I’m hoping that this is the one that makes up for it all.”

Gordon took the lead when his teammate Jimmie Johnson got loose on the final restart of the race, sliding up the track into Matt Kenseth causing them both to slide back on the track and taking out Denny Hamlin’s #11 car as well.

“I’ve never seen the seas part like that,” said Gordon. “I got a good restart, so I really got up to fifth as we were getting into the braking zone going into 1. I don’t know what happened to the 48. I just saw he got loose, and when he got loose, it took everybody that was in front of us up the race track or into the wall.

“I just made it right to the bottom, stood in the gas and drove out … and we were leading.”

Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne also got the benefit of the wreck moving up into the 2nd spot on the track and as the caution came out they realized that his left rear tie was flat and would need changing should the race go back to green, which of course never happened.

And to make the rain soaked miracle even better, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had been knocked back to 32nd because of a blown transmission and was looking at a loss of 3 positions in the points, retained the top spot as Matt Kenseth slid backwards in the wreck with the 48.  Greg Biffle was also moved backwards allowing Johnson to finish well enough to retain his 4th place standings in the points as well.  All 4 Hendrick teams are now in contention to make the chase because of Jimmie Johnson’s accident.  Funny how things work out like that.

Dale Jr had what looked to be the fastest car on the track.  Johnson had just taken the lead away from him when his transmission issue happened.

“We had a good run going,” he said. “This Chevrolet was pretty fast. Jimmie [Johnson had] the quickest car out there. But we felt like we might be able to work on ours and get a little better.”

“We put it in [Saturday] and during qualifying it was fine,” said Earnhardt. “When we restarted [on Lap 23], it was kind of aggressive, and then [we experienced] a bit of a vibration. The car was just really out of time, and it just kind of started missing some shifts and [was] difficult to get in gear.

“Finally, in third and fourth [gear] coming out of the tunnel, it didn’t have any fourth. Then I didn’t have third.”

After Jr. lost his transmission, Kahne started feeling vibrations in his gear box as well.  At first he was worried, but his fears were laid to rest when his crew chief talked with Letarte and they advised Kahne it was not the same issue.

“I don’t think I really had much of a problem,” Kahne said. ” I think I was worried because Junior broke one or broke something with the transmission, I’m not sure what. I was struggling with mine a little bit when that happened … so I just quit shifting for a while, and I was a lot slower.

“[Earnhardt's crew chief] Steve Letarte said it wasn’t a big deal. What happened with them was not what I feel was going on with mine. So from that point on, I focused on shifting again and didn’t even have an issue. Once I quit worrying about it, we were flying.”

So it appears that Mother Nature is indeed a fan of racing, and her team of choice is none other than Hendrick Motorsports.  Why else would all of the bad luck the Gordon has experienced all season be wiped out by a single rainstorm just when the timing was perfect?

 

 

NASCAR – And The Pole Winner For Pocono is.. Montoya? – Earnhardt Has The Points Lead – Allmendinger Released From Penske

Juan Montoya has the pole for todays race in Pocono Pennsylvania

Although he has been most well known for fireworks off the track in incidents with other drivers, and for a firey crash at Daytona to start the year, Montoya has been pretty quiet so far this year.  Not having won a pole since Richmond in April of 2011, he surprised even himself with the pole in Pocono for the Pennsylvania 400.  With his last win in NASCAR coming at a road course, Watkins Glen in 2008, Montoya has been working to achieve more consistant results, and being patient for that next win, or any win on an oval, to show that he is more than just an aggressive road course driver.

“We know we’re working in the right direction, we know we’re working hard, we feel the cars are getting a little better,” Montoya said, “but to go out there and get a pole … I just went through the hauler and all the engineers, they’re all happy and laughing. I’m used to long faces, a lot of long faces, a lot of stressful faces. We needed something like this as a company. This is big for us.”

“I think we’re quite a ways away from as a company where we want to get to,” he said. “We want to be able to come every weekend knowing you can beat a Hendrick, beat a Gibbs. That’s our goal.”

Montoya knows he was as unlikely as any driver to win the pole.

“If you told me this morning I was going to be sitting on the pole, I’d say, `pfff,’” he said. “I thought we were going to be OK. I thought we’d be 12-15. And we’re sitting on the pole.”

“I know tomorrow is going to be a reality check,” Montoya said. “I’m really open-minded about tomorrow. But let’s enjoy today.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will Start 8th today and has the points lead for the first time since 2004.

Following on of his most consistent season of his career so far, Dale Earnhardt Jr is atop the leader board this weekend after taking the points lead at the Brickyard.  Running well for the entire race, his points position drastically improved when a late race incident with the 17 of Matt Kenseth ended with a 36 place finish, while Jr. finished in 4th allowing for a 32 point gain and the top of the board.

“I think a lot of people downplay it,” Earnhardt said of being the points leader. “I think it means the same to the other drivers, probably, but they downplay it obviously because the guys that are saying that may find themselves in the points lead or battling for it more often than I have been. It’s been a long time since I was in the points lead. It’s been forever — I can’t even recall the last time we were in the conversation for the championship. These things are really validating the effort and the work we’ve done.”

After dealing with the pressure of a long drought, Jr finally got the monkey off his back in the June race in Michigan, and he has been showing even more confidence each week since then.  His relationship with Steve Letarte has been under constant watch by the fans who were unsure that it would bring results, but moving forward, Jr has been more consistent than at any other point in his career.

“We worked hard, and we found some speed,” he said. “We’ve been having those type of deals all year long where we’re working hard, and there are some gains that are made. I’ve worked my tail off most of my career for little gains — or, at times, no gains. So this year it’s been awesome to go to the race track on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, and work with Steve, and come away really happy with what happened. … The points lead is sort of the symbolic piece to all that effort. The points lead recognizes all that hard work, for me.”

Knowing that the points lead with shuffle when the chase begins a mere 6 races after this weekend, Jr knows he needs to get at least one more win to take some pressure off his championship hopes for this year.

“We’re running well, but we need to win more races. We need to show up and be the fastest car more often,” he said. “We’ve been quick, but in my opinion we’ve been the fastest guy only once or twice this year, and I don’t know if that’s good enough. I’m going to say it’s not good enough. I know our team would like to win more races, and to be able to contend for the championship, our team needs another 10-15 percent.”

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A.J. Allmendinger will be without a ride after being released by Penske Racing earlier this week.

Finally, after weeks of drama, A.J. Allmendinger was released from Penske racing earlier in the week.  After failing a random drug test administered by NASCAR, and having his B-test fail as well, Allmendinger has entered the road to recovery program provided by NASCAR in hopes of returning to the track as soon as possible.  After his apology to fans and to his sponsors, Roger Penske released him form his contract and has put Sam Hornish Jr in the number 22 for the forseeable future.

“Penske Racing fully supports NASCAR’s substance abuse policy, and we are disappointed with AJ’s positive drug test results,” Roger Penske said. “AJ is a terrific driver, a good person and it is very unfortunate that we have to separate at this time. We have invested greatly in AJ and we were confident in his success with our team. The decision to dismiss him is consistent with how we would treat any other Penske Racing team member under similar circumstances. As AJ begins NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program, we wish him the best and look forward to seeing him compete again in NASCAR.”

A.J. himself made a statement that echo’s the sentiment of his former team.

“Effective today, I have been released from Penske Racing as driver of the No. 22 Dodge Charger,” Allmendinger said in a statement. “I wish to thank Mr. Penske, Penske Racing, their sponsors, and especially all the of the No. 22 team for the opportunity they provided me and for their support in this difficult time. I also, again, would like to thank all the fans that really have been awesome through this. I apologize for the distraction, embarrassment, and difficulties that my current suspension from NASCAR has provided. As I stated last week, I have begun NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program and look forward to using those resources and its completion to compete again in NASCAR in the near future.”

It is going to be interesting to see if Allmendinger is able to return to NASCAR.  While everyone likes a comback story, in this sponsor driven world where image is everything, it may be hard for A.J. to find a ride of the caliber of the one he just lost, which was also the best of his career so far.

 

 

NASCAR – Hamlin Scores The Pole For Indy – Edwards Finds His Stride – Allmendinger Accepts His Fate

Denny Hamlin Set The Pace for the Brickyard.

Toyota is always looking to do something they have not done yet, and Denny Hamlin gave them something just like that this weekend.  Taking his first ever pole at the Brickyard, also a first for Toyota, Hamlin set a pace to take his 11th career pole at 49.244 seconds (182.763 mph) that no one even came close to.  Toyota has still not won a race at the Brickyard so Denny still has some work to do to complete the wish list for NASCAR’s newest manufacturer.

“I think, if you put me out front on the last run, no one’s going to get around me,” Hamlin said. “So it’s all going to be about maintaining track position and maintaining the balance of your race car. I’ve been good here before and not been able to pass.

“There’s always been about two cars, in every single race here, that’s been capable of passing. Everyone else just kind of runs where they’re at. All you can do is hope that you’ve got a fast enough car to be one of those two, where, if you do get set back, you can be one of the cars that can get back to the front.

“One thing about it is having the No. 1 pit stall now. That’s going to be an advantage on pit road. I think it’s hard to point to the outfield right now, but we’ve got the bat halfway raised.”

Carl Edwards looked competitive for the first time in a long time out on the track.  Taking the second position along side Hamlin for the start of the race, Edwards is in a position to get a much needed win if he hopes to keep his chase hopes alive.  With changes happening this season with his team and undisclosed health issues for his crew chief Bob Osbourne, Edwards team has been struggling since the start of the season.  Uncertainty seems to remain in the Roush stables about what will happen with the make up of this team, but they remain strong willed and are taking things as they come, and standing strong together.

“Everybody knows that what we’re trying to do right now is make the team better, and to fix any issues we might have,” Edwards said. “… If we don’t do any better here, and Bob’s up to it, we’ll probably put Bob right back in as soon as he’s able. But if this goes well — if Bob’s doing well in his new role and that’s the best thing for him, and Chad’s doing great — we’ll move forward doing this. Nothing is in stone right now. It could be a whole different scenario next week. Everybody knows that. We’re just doing all that we can right now to be as good as we can right now.”

A.J. Allmendinger has been dealing with his own personal scandal now like he faces everything on the track, with determination and confidence.  After both of his test samples came back positive for an illegal substance under NASCAR’s drug and Alcohol policy, Allmendinger will enter a recovery program, while he works with an independent lab to determine how exactly he gave a positive result.  Allmendinger still claims that he at no time knowingly took any drug that is on NASCAR’s list, he is determined to get back to racing whatever the cost.  By entering the recovery program he is taking the correct track in getting back to racing.

Everyone appears to be in Allmendingers corner here as he enters the program and continues to try to clear his name.

“We’re very pleased that A.J. Allmendinger has chosen to participate in the NASCAR Road to Recovery program,” NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said. “It’s designed, as proven, to provide a road map leading to a return to competition, and we wish him the best of luck. As we have with other competitors, we look forward to the day when the program administrator recommends him for reinstatement.”

NASCAR – Busch Finds The Front in Loudon – Stewart Haas Are Counting on Success

Kyle Busch edged Kasey Kahne and teammate Denny Hamlin for the Pole by a mere .003 and .004 of a second.

Kyle Busch came out of the hauler as the fastest car on the track, and he backed it up by taking the pole for today’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  After setting the pace in the first practice, Busch was the last of 44 drivers to run his qualifying lap. Edging Kasey Kahne by .003 seconds and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin by .004, Busch won the pole for today’s race with a lap at 133.417 mph. It was a lucky Friday the 13th for Busch as he was the 13th driver to set the pole time and also the last.  Just happy that he kept it off the wall, Busch had this to say about his run.

“I got in the throttle really early in [Turns] 3 and 4, trying to make speed and was able to finish it,” Busch said. “But the car slipped right at the last second when you get to that older asphalt — it seems like this tire [new from Goodyear for this race] is different from the older tire, where you lose just a pinch of grip — it slid out right to the cushion point, I guess you’d say. But, no, there’s no mark on the car, so it’s a good day.”

Hamlin thought he lost the pole coming to the green on his first qualifying lap.

“Yeah, I thought maybe I could have gotten to the green a little bit better,” Hamlin said. “You know your first lap’s going to be the money lap, so I typically run into Turn 1 — really at all race tracks — a little bit easier and try to make up the ground as I go.

“But with qualifying as tight as it is, you’ve got to maximize everything to get poles, and obviously that was the difference.”

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Stewart Haas Racing loves coming to Loudon.  Ryan Newman won this race in the spring with a 1 – 2 start and a 1 – 2 finish for Stewart Haas racing, then team owner Tony Stewart came back and won the fall race as the team continued to assert their dominance in New Hampshire. With Newman starting 6th and Stewart starting 10th the team is looking like they know which direction they need to go to make their way back to victory lane here in Loudon.

“We’re decent, I think,” said Stewart, the owner-driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet. “We were pretty good here for both races last year, so I’m pretty excited about coming back here.”

Asked why he thinks the SHR teams are so good at New Hampshire, Stewart said: “I wish I knew, but it seems like where we were last year it’s continuing on so far — even though it sounds like we’ve got a little bit of a different tire. I’m pretty happy with it. I mean the car right off the first lap felt like it had really good balance to it. We’ve just got to keep working with it and see if we can keep making it better all weekend.”

Newman said he thought he had a better idea about why he and his boss are tough to contend with at New Hampshire.

“I think our cars are good, there’s no doubt,” Newman said. “I think the Hendrick engines [are strong], and everything’s clicking. I like the track because I think you have to feel the tires and be on the edge.

“I was thinking about it last week. I think it kind of reminds us of our old IRP [Indianapolis Raceway Park] days. This kind of drives like that kind of race track where your car is on top of the race track, and you get everything that you can. There is nothing to really make it go any faster. It’s not like you’re pushing the car on the banking to make it grip better. There’s none of that really to speak of here. I think just a little bit of our past, a little bit of us as far as the way we drive race cars, is what helps us here.”

“It was awesome for us here last year,” Newman said. “It was a time when Stewart was struggling a little bit, too, so to have the one-two start and one-two finish, that was awesome. Then for him to back it up — for us to win the spring race, and him to win the fall race — it was an amazing place for us here, for Stewart-Haas, this race track here in Loudon. We’ll try to do it again. There is no reason that we can’t.”

When asked about the 6 point penalty assessed by NASCAR for the cooling hose violation, Stewart id not even seemed concerned as he weighed it against the possibilities for this weekend.

“It was a mistake on our team’s part and we deserve the penalty for it,” Stewart said. “Luckily it was in qualifying, so it wasn’t something that made us win the race. We didn’t win the race because of that. Like I said, it was just a mistake on our part and we’ve just got to make sure we don’t overlook that again.”

NASCAR – Jimmie Johnson Sets the Pace in Kentucky – A Bumpy Track and a Heat Wave Predicted to be a Factor

Through scorching heat and violent wind storms, Jimmie Johnson showed them all how it was done when he qualified in Kentucky on Friday afternoon. After 42 cars had run their laps Jimmie Johnson waited in the wings to get his run in. Ripping around the 1.5-mile speedway in 29.700 seconds (181.818 mph) was good enough to win the pole for Sunday’s Quaker State 400.

“It was a good lap — qualifying has not been our strong suit in the last couple of years,” Johnson said. “I’m very happy to get this pole today. My Chevy’s bad fast, and I’m looking forward to going racing.

“I’ve had a lot of crashes here over the years. We used to test here a lot back in the day, and Turns 3 and 4 have taken quite a few [No.] 48 race cars from us. To run well last year (third at Kentucky) was really good for me. I came back with a lot of confidence. Conditions earlier today were so slick that it took a while to get the feeling I was looking for, but I think we’re on the right track now.”

Kyle Busch (181.421 mph) qualified second, followed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammateDenny Hamlin (181.147 mph).Kevin Harvick will start fourth after a lap at 180.367 mph, one spot ahead ofRyan Newman (180.337 mph).

Kentucky is best know for the traffic hassles that plagued the race last year but official say they have everything under control this time around.  But no one can do anything about the scorching temperatures.  The only bright side to the heat, is that it will be cooler at race time as the sun goes down into the evening.  Couple the heat with a bumpy race track and there is a volatile mix for frustration and anger to make things even more interesting out on the track.

Kesolowski and Montoya already had issues with each other only 5 minutes into Happy Hour.  Kesolowski’s team decided to go to a back up car while Montoya opted to repair the original car.  After their on track bump and grind session with each other Kesolowski volunteered to go to the Hauler to discuss the situation.

“The bumps are very difficult to navigate here at Kentucky,” said Brad Keselowski. “It produces a race track that, by its very nature, is hard to be consistent to drive because it’s hard to hit the same bump twice, even in a race car as a supposedly professional driver.

“We can’t hit the same bumps twice, whether it’s passing traffic or tire fall-off that changes the way our car enters the corner. … Each bump you hit changes the way the car drives. So it’s hard to really predict, as a driver, what the car is going to do until it does it when you’re on a bumpy surface. That’s very challenging and requires a more disciplined skill set to drive. It rewards some and obviously doesn’t reward others. It requires a little bit more feel, so I think it rewards some of the more talented drivers, as well.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr was 7th in practice and qualified in 7th as well.  His take on the bumps is very simple, engineers need to listen to the drivers input carefully.

Earnhardt says it’s a fine line drivers face in racing on the bumps at Kentucky.

“With our cars, you’ve got to get them close to the ground to get the best aero platform and downforce that you can get. But, you can’t be on the ground too hard and the bumps really make that a challenge for the engineers,” Earnhardt said. “With a bumpy track the splitter is always banging on the ground, so you have to listen to the driver really when it comes to the bumpy tracks. He’ll tell you the splitter is bothering the car and making it tight. It’s kind of tough. That’s really a challenge.”

The high temperature for Sparta on Saturday is expected to be 100 degrees, and it won’t be much cooler at the race’s scheduled 7:45 p.m. ET start time. During Happy Hour on Friday, an excessive heat warning was in effect. It was 95 degrees when the session began, with an on-track temperature of 139 degrees. It is believed to be the highest temperature for an on-track event at Kentucky, topping the old mark of 130 degrees set in an IRL event in 2005.

“Yeah, it is definitely toasty and I am glad it is a night race and not a day race,”Matt Kenseth said. “Hopefully when the sun gets down and cools off a little it will be nicer not just for us but the fans and crews working down there. Getting rid of the sun will help a little bit but it is going to be the hottest race all year, for sure.”

Michael Waltrip said he hadn’t run at a track like this in a couple of years and the hot temperatures made for a cautious driver.

“I picked a heck of a day to come out of retirement,” quipped Waltrip, who hasn’t made a start on a 1.5-mile track since Homestead in the 2009 season finale. “I was just really careful … didn’t want to make a mistake. It was a struggle, but we tested here in the winter when you had more grip and now it’s hotter than it’s ever been and it’s slippery.”

 

 

 

NASCAR – Ambrose Out to Prove He Is The Fastest Man in Nascar, Takes The Pole in Sonoma

Marcos Ambrose sit on the pole in Sonoma for the Toyota/SaveMart 350

Fastest man in NASCAR since 1987 in Michigan.  Fastest man on the track in Sonoma.  Marcos Ambrose is a man on fire.  While he is well known for his prowess on the road courses and is always expected to run well, Ambrose always steps it up to show his skills earned from his years of running the Aussie V8′s.  ”I don’t know if I got it all, but I got a lot of it,” Ambrose said after his lap, which averaged 95.262 mph.

”We put a lot of effort into this road-course program,” said Ambrose, whose only cup win to date was  last year on the road course at Watkins Glen. ”I’m thrilled for my team and it takes a whole team to qualify on pole two weeks in a row.”

Ambrose knocked Jimmie Johnson off the provisional pole to take the tops spot and then had to wait out the final 6 drivers to see if his time would hold.  Jeff Gordon, who had run the fastest in first practice, was his biggest concern.

Jeff Gordon will Start second in Sonoma today.

”I thought it was a really good lap,” Gordon said. ”Hey, you’ve got to credit where credit is due: Marcos laid down a heck of a lap and we came up just a little bit short. We knew that was going to be a tough lap to beat.”

Gordon will start on the outside of row 1 as his best efforts ended with a second fastest time.

Jimmie Johnson, who starts in third after seeing his time knocked down by Ambrose, feels that he has been struggling with the car all weekend.

Jimmie Johnson's time held for a third place starting position

”We’ve been really struggling on comfort in the car since we unloaded,” Johnson said. ”Clearly the speed is in the car, but the comfort is not quite there. We just worked on qualifying trim and it was on edge the whole lap. I hope that we can get some rear grip in the car and get things to calm down for the race, because I don’t want (to) drive 110 laps the way it drove today.”