Ives to move into Cup slot, while Wheeler fills in for Grubb

Wednesday is a crazy day to be a crew chief.

An afternoon press conference with Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and former Jimmie Johnson engineer Greg Ives revealed the crew chief plans for 2015; Ives will replace Steve Letarte on the pit box as the later goes into a broadcasting role at NBC. Ives, who currently crew chiefs for JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, was the lead engineer on the No. 48 car for five of its six championship seasons. This now leaves a spot on the JRM side to be filled.

This move shows that HMS isn’t messing around; Ives was the right-hand man to Chad Knaus and is an intelligent force. With him making the calls, the No. 88 team will be set to upstage the fantastic run they’re having in 2014.

Just after this reveal, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that engineer Mike Wheeler will fill-in for Darian Grubb for the next six weeks. This comes a day after NASCAR announced harsh penalties to Grubb and the No. 11 team following the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Post-race inspection found that the team had messed with block-off plates that are used in rear firewalls.

The violation fell within the definition of a P5-level penalty, which is defined in the rule book as: “Approved parts that fail or are improperly installed to fail in their intended use of great importance (e.g.; rear wheel well panels that fail and allow air evacuation in the trunk area; oil box cover that fails and allows air evacuation in the driver compartment; shifter boot cover that fails and allows air evacuation through the floor pan).

Not only is Grubb suspended for six races, he has been fined $125,000 and is on probation for the next six months. A loss of 75 driver and owner points was also involved.

The turn of events gives Wheeler a great opportunity, and it will be interesting to see what results follow.

For both situations, it seems like a lot of spotlight goes along with the role of being a crew chief. Happy Wednesday.

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Fifth Brickyard 400 victory shows Gordon isn’t winding down

(Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)

(Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Coming into Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon was reminded of his age. Twenty years since his win in the inaugural Brickyard 400. Two decades. If that doesn’t make more gray hairs appear, nothing will.

The gray hair is the only thing people see, it seems. Murmurs of retirement have entered the air following a strong youth movement. A living legend is now a ‘has been’ to some, just finishing his time in the No. 24 before a younger driver slips in.

To anyone who thoroughly believes that: get your head checked.

At the ripe age of 43, Gordon won the 2014 Brickyard 400. It is his 90th career win and fifth Brickyard victory. It came at the expense of teammate Kasey Kahne with 17 laps to go. The restart shoved No. 24 to the outside, yet he slipped past leader Kahne and took off. Kahne would fade, succumbing to fuel mileage miscalculations on the final lap.

The eldest member at Hendrick Motorsports fought and outraced the youthful. That’s pretty good for a so-called ‘has been.’

HMS is shaping up to be prominent force in The Chase, which is only six weeks away. Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Jimmie Johnson all have multiple wins, locking them into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. Kahne is still on the outside looking in, suffering from the dreaded Fourth Car Syndrome. Because of the No. 5’s close call, many fans of the driver are upset about Gordon’s lack of team spirit, so to say. Some went as far as saying they’d rather have Kahne back at Red Bull Racing, his one-season stop before joining the Hendrick organization.

Gordon wasn’t going to give Kahne anything. He had pure desire running through his veins, the word ‘retirement’ echoing in his head. Gordon wanted it, maybe even more than Kahne.

The driver of the No. 24 car may be an old dog, but every dog has his day. The day of the 2014 Brickyard 400 was Gordon’s.

Point Standings after the Brickyard 400 (asterisk denotes number of victories)

1. Jeff Gordon (–)**
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-24)**
3. Brad Keselowski (-51)***
4. Matt Kenseth (-56)
5. Jimmie Johnson (-89)***
6. Kyle Busch (-108)*
7. Ryan Newman (-11)
8. Carl Edwards (-114)**
9. Joey Logano (-126)**
10. Clint Bowyer (-140)
11. Denny Hamlin (-145)*
12. Kevin Harvick (-152)**
13. Kyle Larson (-155)
14. Austin Dillon (-158)
15. Kasey Kahne (-162)
16. Paul Menard (-166)

Hard to Ignore: Dillon celebrates first NNS win by kissing the bricks

At the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ty Dillon became a winner for the first time. He beat NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Busch in the Lilly Diabetes 250. The 22-year-old leaned down to kiss the bricks after the victory lane celebration.

Dillon was one of four NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers up for the Dash 4 Cash bonus, which has been going on this past month. Chase Elliott, Brian Scott, and Trevor Bayne were the others in the running for the extra $100,000. While Dillon got the check, he’s entered to win the final bonus next weekend at Iowa Speedway. Scott and Bayne are eligible again, and Regan Smith is thrown into the mix.

Both of these facts make it hard to overlook the NNS regulars, and that’s the point; though Cup drivers may come in and take wins, there’s no denying the series has a lot of young talent to offer. It may be easy to complain about Busch stomping off from an ESPN interview after Saturday afternoon’s race, that shouldn’t overshadow what Dillon accomplished. What about the race at Chicagoland Speedway, where Elliott won his third race of the season? The future is here, and it’s worth cherishing.

The addition of the Cup racers just sweetens the wins. Dillon beat Busch, but he also outraced Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, and Joey Logano. That’s a big feat, and it’s an even bigger day for Ty Dillon, the No. 3 team, and owner/grandfather Richard Childress.

Point Standings after the Lilly Diabetes 250

1. Chase Elliott (–)
2. Regan Smith (-4)
3. Elliott Sadler (-11)
4. Ty Dillon (-15)
5. Brian Scott (-42)
6. Trevor Bayne (-47)
7. Chris Buescher (-122)
8. Brendan Gaughan (-127)
9. James Buescher (-163)
10. Ryan Reed (-169)

With a determined spirit, Vincie climbed to the top and reached ultimate goal

Kaitlyn Vincie's story began in a basement, yet her ultimate goal recently became a reality. (Credit: KaitlynVincie.com)

Kaitlyn Vincie’s story began in a basement, yet her ultimate goal recently became a reality. (Credit: KaitlynVincie.com)

Kaitlyn Vincie doesn’t quit.

The pursuit of her dreams began in a basement, where she filmed herself reporting the NASCAR headlines. She worked for famous Langley Speedway and became the face of their TV updates. Once she was recruited by SPEED, she absorbed lessons about social media and being a road warrior. Race Hub gave her more experience with reporting. She jumped into lighthearted Trackside and focused on drivers’ Twitter and Instagram updates. Now the Virginian blonde is delving into the new challenge of garage reporting on Fox Sports 1.

Life doesn’t slow down, and the fact isn’t lost on her.

“There were a lot of changes out of the gate,” Vincie said in a phone interview. “With the switch [from SPEED to Fox Sports 1], they were trying to find out where to place people. I’m now doing garage reporting throughout the season, and it’s helping me work towards my ultimate goal of pit reporting during races. The thing about pit reporting is that you’re there at the racetrack, and that’s what’s best for me.”

As fans see more and more of her work, it opens up the door for more interaction on social media. The mentions that flow in are a mix of positive and negative.

She is acutely aware of both. “Well, the pro is that it gets my name out there more. There are more fans and viewers reaching out on social media, and they do say some bad things, like, ‘Wow, your hair looked bad on Race Hub today.’ I think it comes with the territory. I try to show no negativity [on Twitter], and there were times I considered deleting. That’s not really an option; Twitter opens the opportunity for promotion.”

Another pro? It linked her to @Nascarcasm, a Twitter humorist who specializes in racing comedy. The two were introduced at Texas Motor Speedway. He, along with three other funny account holders, was contacted by the track to attend the race as a special guest. SPEED put the four behind a curtain, and the Trackside crew interviewed them for a segment.

“He has the NASCAR humor down pat. He’s so funny, a hard worker, definitely found his niche. I’ve met him and his wife, and they are amazing people.”

Then, while in New York, Vincie went to a live taping of David Letterman’s show and got an idea: to add the sarcasm to NASCAR reporting. She contacted Nascarcasm and asked him to do the writing, and the pilot was filmed at her house.

“I wasn’t sure of the response it would get from Fox, but then they liked it and put it on the website. [Nascarcasm] deserves eighty percent of the credit. It’s a tough balance with the serious and funny. You just have to hit it right, and that‘s what he does.”

The endeavor, coined The Mock Run, started earlier this year and was met with praise. Due to Vincie’s dive into garage reporting, the Internet show is finding a new host to carry the witty humor along. Focusing on her day job of feature reporting isn’t a picnic, either.

“There are a lot of moving pieces on Race Hub. It’s a grind. It’s hard to put together a daily show. People really rely on it for their NASCAR news. We have a very diverse group, a very great group.”

When asked about her favorite interview, she noted a July feature with Chris Clayton. The former Army sergeant served six tours in Afghanistan before following his dream of becoming a NASCAR pit crew member. Now, he works for Hendrick Motorsports on the No. 88 car.

“It’s a fantastic story,” she said. “It made for this really inspiring piece that caused you to really reevaluate your life. It’s quite the American dream.”

If anyone knows dreams, it’s her. If anyone knows how difficult it is to get into the business, it’s her. Her success is well-earned, and she learned some advice along the way. “Do not give up on your ultimate goal. The right door will open at the right time. I knew I wanted to be in broadcasting. I knocked on a lot of doors. There will be a point where the right person will believe in you. You have to articulate what you want to the person who can make it happen.”

Kaitlyn Vincie doesn’t quit, and it worked out for the best.

Mudsummer Classic builds up excitement, Wallace, and dirt track racing

Races on dirt are the most raw form of the craft, full of unbridled passion and a need for speed. It takes a certain type of racer to excel on the surface, to control the restless beast they’re riding. It takes focus, determination, and fearlessness.

It takes a lack of limitations, and when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Eldora Speedway, all caution is thrown to the wind.

The Mudsummer Classic rocked the tiny town of Rossburg, Ohio Wednesday night, producing a firework show on and off the track. The race was broken into three segments: 60 laps, 50 laps, and a final 40-lap stretch. That was the best decision because if gave drivers and fans alike to catch their breaths.

Action like that seen at Eldora is best seen, not read. It was full of so much awesome that the human heart almost couldn’t take it. Thankfully, it pulled through.

Darrell Wallace Jr. won the prestigious event, adding to Kyle Busch Motorsports’ dominance this season. The young driver fought hard the entire race, but it was Kyle Larson who applied the most pressure. Larson came in with one goal: winning. In the final stretch, he performed a slide job and slammed the wall. He repeated this until five laps to go, when his truck finally gave up.

After that, Wallace had it in the bag. His eyes were exhausted, yet his smile was vibrant. It was like he had conquered the world.

He did.

It takes many things to be successful on dirt, and that’s because the sport takes and takes and takes. One has to give himself completely to reap the benefits. That is needed in all forms of racing, yet it is highlighted when the air is filled with dust, when the whole venue is shaking with excitement.

That’s racing.

Point Standings after the 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic

1. Ryan Blaney (–)
2. Matt Crafton (-4)
3. Johnny Sauter (-10)
4. Ron Hornaday, Jr. (-19)
5. German Quiroga, Jr. (-26)
6. Darrell Wallace, Jr. (-28)
7. Ben Kennedy (-37)
8. Timothy Peters (-42)
9. Joey Coulter (-57)
10. John Wes Townley (-65)
11. Jeb Burton (-73)
12. Bryan Silas (-128)

Elliott, Nationwide Series carry the fire at Chicagoland

With a beauty only true race fans can understand, the NASCAR Nationwide Series group impressed on Saturday night. The event at Chicagoland Speedway was loud and proud, standing alone and carrying the fire. It was time to shine without Sprint Cup Series regulars filling the field; only two entered the race, and they were no match for the strategic, aggressive game these youngsters played.

Drama occurred early on when Sam Hornish Jr. blew an engine on lap 7, sending the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry to the garage. The machine is usually run by Kyle Busch, who tends to win when behind that wheel. It was more than disappointing for the driver, who won’t get back in the seat for a few more weeks. This was considered notable because of the weirdness of it; the car falls apart when Hornish is racing, but it ends up in victory lane once Busch takes the reigns. This seems odd, but it’s probably Hornish’s bad luck.

The race as a whole was thrilling. There was action, cautions, and true racing. Young guns running side-by-side for glory and money. Even the two Cup regulars blended in; Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne tangled and fought with others, no special privileges.

Chase Elliott won the event, capturing his third win, the seventh for JR Motorsports this season. It shoved him into the points lead, but the margin isn’t something to flaunt; Regan Smith is seven points back, and Elliott Sadler is behind by eight.

If there’s anything to learn from the race at Chicagoland Speedway, it’s that, much like winner Chase Elliott, the NASCAR Nationwide Series is carrying the fire for the sake of the sport. It’s a crucial part of the advancement process, and it must be cherished for all its worth. Stand-alone races like this one make its beauty easy to see.

Point Standings after the EnjoyIllinois.com 300

1. Chase Elliott (–)
2. Regan Smith (-7)
3. Elliott Sadler (-8)
4. Ty Dillon (-30)
5. Brian Scott (-47)
6. Trevor Bayne (-50)
7. Brendan Gaughan (-120)
8. Chris Buescher (-123)
9. James Buescher (-154)
10. Ryan Reed (-161)
11. Landon Cassill (-181)
12. Dylan Kwasniewski (-201)

Kentucky performance shows Keselowski’s championship mindset

The Penske power was strong at Kentucky Speedway, but only one could win.

Polesitter Brad Keselowski presented a dominant performance, knocking the rest of the field on their butts. There were only two cars that could rival his speed, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch. Busch’s car was fast late, but he radioed in that he had nothing once the No. 2 passed him for the final time. He took his runner-up finish with a grain of salt.

Logano was probably the biggest threat to Keselowski, the two swapping the lead multiple times throughout the event. However, it was late in the race when his engine went sour. He salvaged a ninth-place finish, nowhere near as sweet as that possible win. Team Penske now has four wins this season, each driver holding two.

Not only is the organization ready for The Chase, but so is Keselowski. In victory lane, he assured, “I really want another championship,” and no one is doubting him. Once this 2012 Sprint Cup titleholder sets his eyes on something, he doesn’t stop until it’s in his possession. If there’s anything to take away from Saturday night’s race, it’s that Keselowski is ready for another championship, and the other competitors better be on the lookout.

Aside from that, the race was a typically run on a 1.5-mile track. The racing was alright. The attendance was horrible. A few tire issues occurred, claiming Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson early on. The finishing order had a few surprises, such as Ryan Newman in third, Tony Stewart in eleventh, Paul Menard in fifteenth, and Michael Annett in eighteenth.

It was a solid night for Keselowski, and Team Penske was shaping up for a fantastic finish before engine problems plagued the No. 22. However, the No. 2 is stout, and that number may be No. 1 once The Chase comes to a close.

Point Standings after the Quaker State 400 (asterisk denotes number of wins)

1. Jeff Gordon (–)*
2. Jimmie Johnson (-24)***
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-24)**
4. Brad Keselowski (-58)**
5. Matt Kenseth (-63)
6. Carl Edwards (-82)**
7. Joey Logano (-99)**
8. Ryan Newman (-104)
9. Kevin Harvick (-109)**
10. Kyle Busch (-110)*
11. Paul Menard (-130)
12. Kyle Larson (-144)
12. Greg Biffle (-144)
14. Clint Bowyer (-145)
15. Kasey Kahne (-153)
16. Tony Stewart (-158)