Tag Archives: Richard Childress Racing

Harrowing Daytona finish highlights safety, sportsmanship

(Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line, Austin Dillon hurled into the catchfence.

Daytona International Speedway—a restrictor plate track—is as prestigious and dangerous as they come. The mix creates an allure one can’t ignore. The high speeds and close racing make for the type of weaving and cutting a skilled seamstress would take pride in.  The historic venue has been a stage for the most prideful moments in the sport of racing.

It’s also been the platform for the fiercest ones as well.

Sunday night was one of those moments.

The start of the Coke Zero 400 was late. Excruciatingly late. Weather shoved the sort into late-night infomercial territory, and many knew that peculiar things tend to happen in that realm. With the green flag waving around 11:45 p.m. ET, the masses settled in for a night full of adrenaline, speed, and nail biting.

In some way, they all hoped this would be worth the all-nighter. Drivers and crews desired a trophy and Chase berth by dawn. Spectators wanted their money’s worth, unsure of what that might entail.

Regardless of all wishful thinking, the festivities began.

Earnhardt was the clear favorite; starting from the pole, the No. 88 shot out front every possibly chance. His fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammates were also fast, yet no one was in the two-time Daytona 500 winner’s zip code. As the race progressed, he leaned on Denny Hamlin to draft him. Hamlin—who made risky moves work all night—obliged, and the two led a six- to seven-car breakaway in the race’s last 50 laps.

Slicing and dicing is a crucial part of restrictor plate racing, and it must be done with precision. A driver has to get it right, or things will get messy. That happened multiple times throughout the night, with two large wrecks taking out various contenders. Smaller incidents paused the action, giving everyone the opportunity to breathe and regroup.

As the laps dwindled away, urgency intensified. Minutes and hours ticked away. Time was running out—for the competitors who wanted to make a move and for the supporters who needed to clock in.

It came down to a green-white-checkered finish. The field restarted side-by-side, and they remained that way until the width expanded. As Earnhardt pulled away, followers scrambled to gain positions.

The white flag waved. At any other track, it was half past “go time,” but this was the moment Daytona—and the GWC rule—was designed to create. Its result, however, was not part of that plan.

Hamlin got loose and spun next to the finish line. The No. 11 came back and tapped Dillon, who proceeded to go airborne. More cars collected underneath the No. 3 as it flew into the catchfence. Debris rained into the stands as the machine bounced back onto the racing surface. Brad Keselowski’s car was skidding sideway down the frontstretch and slammed into Dillon’s side, putting the Richard Childress Racing car on its hood.

The mangled machine stopped at the end of pit road. Earnhardt’s pit crew rushed to the damage, falling to the ground and peering into the cockpit. The entire NASCAR community held their breath as more people flocked to the scene.

The sight of every crew member standing and giving a thumbs up filled every viewer with relief and emotion—and then fear.

Four fans sought treatment in the infield care center, while one went to the hospital in stable condition. There are two reasons no one was injured more seriously—the catchfence and the Daytona rising project. The tall, reinforced barrier did its job, keeping Dillon’s car inside the track. The expensive reconstruction plan pushed the grandstands away from the fence, placing a wide walkway between the fans and the action.

Praise is necessary. So is action.

There will be outrage over the incident; columns about danger will come out of the woodwork, and some mainstream media will broadcast this in a crooked way. A lot of good can come out of this accident if logic prevails.

The image of Earnhardt’s crew members rushing to Dillon’s side is the personification of sportsmanship. While their driver claimed victory, they chose to provide aid. Fellow competitors are thankful he survived such a terrifying accident.

Sunday night serves as a reminder to those who drive and those who observe. This is a dangerous sport. These athletes put their lives on the line to do what they love, and fans seek enjoyment from their risky lifestyle.

There is much to take away from that night, yet one is quite prevalent—there is always room from humanity and improvement in sports.

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Tamper, Tamper: No. 31 team Penalized for Tire Modifications

After rumors of tire tampering, NASCAR handed down penalties to Ryan Newman and his team Tuesday evening.

Tires were evaluated after the race at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, and the No. 31 team’s tires failed the inspection. As a result, NASCAR called it a P5 penalty, the second-highest offense on their transparent scale.

The penalties include the loss of 75 points in both the driver and owner standings, a $125,000 fine for crew chief Luke Lambert, and a six-race suspension for Lambert, team tire technician James Bender, and team engineer Phillip Surgen.

Richard Childress Racing president Torrey Galida made this statement following the announcement: “We understand the seriousness of the penalty. In fact, RCR has been one of the most outspoken opponents against ‘tire bleeding’ since the rumors began to surface last season. Once NASCAR provides us with the specific details of the infraction, we will conduct a further internal investigation and evaluate our options for an appeal.”

The rumors ramped up after NASCAR champion, Jeff Gordon, mentioned the issue after the start of the season. Other tires taken after the race at Auto Club Speedway, including those of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, were found to be untampered. No problems arose from post-race inspection after this past weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway as well.

With these consequences in place, Newman falls from sixth to 27th in the standings.

Dillon and Blaney both impress in Xfinity race at Las Vegas

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(Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)

With Kyle Busch out indefinitely, another NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver had the chance to dominate the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Austin Dillon glided to victory, facing some slight interference from Ryan Blaney in the final laps. The 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion started on the pole in the No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. ‘Domination’ is the only word to describe it.

What stuck out in the end was Blaney’s perseverance and maturity. The Team Penske driver, who now runs a partial Cup schedule with Wood Brothers Racing, scuffled with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones with around 30 laps to go. Blaney hit Jones’ left rear tire and caused the No. 20 to get loose and hit the wall. Jones was up front all day until that incident.

In the closing laps, Dillon and Blaney raced with intensity and intelligence. It was a constant battle of roping the No. 33 in, setting up the pass, and then gathering it up all over again when it didn’t work out. The Penske car overdrove the final turn and fell back as Dillon took the checkered flag. The maturity didn’t end there; when interviewed for his runner-up finish, Blaney apologized first and foremost for the accident with Jones.

If there was anything to take away from the NXS event at Las Vegas, it was the dominating performance by Dillon and the smart racing by Blaney. With these two on the rise in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the future can’t look anything but bright.

Him, The Man: Earnhardt’s Legacy

Out of all the things I’ve seen in my life, it’s a moment I didn’t witness that echoes in my head everyday. Familiarizing myself with all the events that occurred doesn’t silence it, either. Instead, it adds fuel to the fire.

I’ve watched television specials. I’ve visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s display. I’ve read pieces written by those who’ve known, interviewed, and raced against him.

Him, The Man.

The legend that seemed larger than life and still does. With a mischievous smile and browbeating stare, why they call him “The Intimidator” is understandable. How he drove was the perfect mix of aggression and intelligence.

I am young. I never saw Earnhardt race.

Over the years, as the world moves farther away from February 18, 2001, NASCAR and its fans hold it close. Every year on this day, candlelight vigils are held at the site of Dale Earnhardt Inc. Tokens of memorabilia once bought, handmade signs, and tears are left outside the team he built. Nothing brings NASCAR people to their knees like that day. You mention his name, and people get nostalgic. You mention the number, and things turn vicious.

A sliver of bone once lodged itself within Earnhardt’s nerves back in 1999. Due to this, his right arm would fall numb. He raced with his left and would rest the sleeping limb. But he still raced. Just like that bone, the memories wash over us from time to time. Despite this, we have to continue on. Continuing on is letting that No. 3 return to its rightful place, on the racetrack. And continuing on is the only choice that we have, that NASCAR has.

I am young. I never saw Earnhardt race. The legacy, however, surges through me because I am a NASCAR fan. That is worth something.

With the No. 3 back on track, the latest generation will now know who glorified that number, why it’s important, and what it represents. Austin Dillon will do everyone proud. Angry seas may now rest. Dillon’s grandfather/car owner and Earnhardt’s best friend Richard Childress wouldn’t tarnish the vestige that still hangs in so many hearts. Acceptance is the next step. It’s the only step.

And what exactly does that slanted numeral embody?

Hard work. Never lifting. Humanity. Racing not only because it’s a skill, but because it’s an essential part of living.

It embodies an everyday hero that drove like he stole it each race.

It embodies him.

Him, The Man.

Dillon wins Daytona 500 pole, shares front row with Truex

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is different from other races, and the Sunday before The Great American Race is the first half of the procedure; a regular, single-car qualifying session takes place, yet the only positions that matter are first and second. The front row is determined, and then two qualifying races set the rest of the field. Those events, the Budweiser Duels, will happen Thursday night and be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1.

In a three-hour TV slot, 49 cars put up times, beginning with NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. The lineup was arranged by random draw, and rookies making first-time attempts were mixed in with seasoned veterans and champions. It’s a great way to start off the season.

Another great way? Having a huge storyline that fuels interest and enthusiasm. NASCAR got that today.

In the number that legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. made iconic, rookie Austin Dillon claimed the pole. When no one could knock him down, fans were split down the middle; half cheered and raved, while some were skeptical and playing conspiracy theorist. No matter the feeling, the No. 3 holding the top spot at Daytona International Speedway brought out emotion in everyone. Car owner and grandfather Richard Childress was visibly thrilled, for seeing his grandson and his old friend’s number come out on top.

That’s not the only feel-good story we’ll have heading into next weekend.

Second place goes to Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 for Furniture Row Racing, who also runs Earnhardt-Childress engines like Dillon. Truex raced for Michael Waltrip Racing last year, making The Chase yet affected by the Richmond International Raceway controversy in September. If being pulled from the “playoffs” wasn’t upsetting enough, the negative publicity shoved his main sponsor, NAPA Auto Parts, away from MWR. This resulted in him having to find another ride, but it hasn’t stopped him. The drive put the single-car team on the front row, the organization known for helping Kurt Busch get back on his feet last year. There’s no doubt that Truex is already doing great things to further Furniture Row Racing’s success.

After everything was said and done, I asked fans on Twitter to describe the qualifying session in one word. Here are some of the answers I received: meaningless, ugh, fixed, boring, and annoying. Sounds like people are ready for the new qualifying system, which begins at Phoenix International Raceway.

The Budweiser Duels will begin at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 on Thursday, February 20th.

Monday brings brightness to Newman’s year

Ryan Newman has found a home.

Monday afternoon brought the news that Newman would be joining Richard Childress Racing next season, filling the No. 31 seat the once held Jeff Burton. This comes over a month after the driver was told he would not be back at Stewart-Haas Racing due to money issues. Weeks later, it was revealed Kurt Busch was hired by SHR, making the wound meet salt.

Yet, he had a reason to smile all along: during the week of the Daytona 500, owner Richard Childress spoke with Newman about plans for 2014. Now, everything is falling into place.

The deal is for three years. Luke Lambert will crew chief, while the No. 31 crew stays the same. Caterpillar will return as a sponsor.

As if his Monday couldn’t get any better, that night brought more life-changing news: Martin Truex Jr. was out of The Chase as one of the penalties given to Michael Waltrip Racingafter controversial moves at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night. Truex suffered a 50-point penalty before The Chase reset, which shoved him down to seventeenth in points.

This made the second wild card -and an exclusive Chase berth- fall into Newman’s hands. Clint Bowyer, who’s spin Saturday night somewhat led to the No. 39’s entrance into the playoffs, said that replacing Truex was “the right thing to do.”

The roller coaster summer has finally slowed down, playing in the favor of Newman, who seemed like the unluckiest man at one point. From no job to a new position and a spot in The Chase, happy days are here again.

During Silly Season, when it rains, it pours

When it rains, it pours. Except, in NASCAR, where doesn’t just pour, it monsoons.

News broke late Sunday night that Stewart-Haas Racing has made a formal offer to Kurt Busch for 2014. This means the team would extend to a four-car operation. Must I remind you, co-owner Tony Stewart kicked Ryan Newman to the curb earlier this season, saying there wasn’t enough funding for another ride.

Newman’s back is probably stinging a bit. Either Stewart found some money, or betrayal was involved. Hmm.

Speaking of Stewart, it was revealed Monday afternoon that the three-time champion would be out for the rest of the season due to the leg injury he sustained during a Sprint car wreck at the beginning of August. Austin Dillon filled in for him this past week at Michigan, and he will reprise his role during The Chase, running at Talladega.

As for the other twelve races, Mark Martin will be the substitute. This comes a week after Michael Waltrip Racing announced Brian Vickers will run fulltime in the No. 55, the ride he currently splits with Martin and team owner Waltrip, next season. The deal between Martin and SHR officially breaks the contract he held with MWR.

Vickers will slip into Martin’s old ride for twelve races, letting Waltrip run Talladega as scheduled.

On the NASCAR Nationwide series side of things, Richard Childress Racing is bringing Ty Dillon to the next level, placing him in the No. 3 permanently in 2014. The older Dillon will then jump to the Cup series, and it’s assumed he will bring the No. 3, made iconic by Dale Earnhardt, back into Cup competition. Earnhardt, who ran for Childress and was a close friend, knew the Dillon brothers when they were little kids.

In my eyes, I see Busch at RCR next year. Furniture Row Racing, where he currently takes residence, is a satellite team of Childress’ operation. It would be a good fit. However, the team has had a strong interest in Newman also. If Busch goes to SHR, Newman will either be in the Childress camp, the newly opened No. 42 for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, or even the FRR ride, the No. 78. If Busch picks RCR, the latter two options are open for this year’s Brickyard winner.

Stewart being out the remainder of the season isn’t a surprise, but it could possibly be somewhat of a Godsend. With Martin being in the seat, he can provide amazing feedback that could help the other two teams in the shop. His commentary did wonders for MWR, and maybe this will lead to a mentoring or coaching role at SHR, a position he has expressed interest in.

That move forces Vickers into his future ride earlier than expected, giving his extra time to adjust. How can that be a bad thing? Well, it could take his focus off his run toward a Nationwide championship, but he should do fine.

Ty Dillon’s move into the second-tier NASCAR series seems a bit rushed, but he’ll do fine. The other Dillon, though, is already causing controversy, and the deal hasn’t been officially announced. That’s right, the infamous “No. 3 Debate” is rearing its head again. I see no problem with it, simple as that.

This year’s edition of Musical Chairs has begun a bit earlier than expected. But don’t expect it to stop pounding rain just yet.

This is just a drizzle.