- Gordon to F-1……to WATCH: Jeff Gordon is heading off to Barcelona, Spain, planning to catch Sunday’s Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix [Speed Channel 5/9 at 7:30am/et]. Don’t think this is an indication Gordon has plans or intentions to climb behind the wheel of the world’s greatest open-wheel car. "I’m too old to go Formula One and start all over again," said Gordon. "After driving that car for one day, I realized what kind of dedication it would take to start from scratch to learn all new tracks, all new cars, all new people and take my whole life in the U.S. and move to Europe." Gordon swapped cars with F1 racer Juan Pablo Montoya last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gordon drove Montoya’s Williams-BMW car; Montoya drove Gordon’s Dupont #24. "After that test, we started talking about going to the Barcelona race," Gordon said. "Who better to call to get credentials and hospitality passes than Williams and BMW?"(Patriot News)(5-7-2004)
- Pit Crew for Robby Gordon Pockets Third Win of Season: For the second straight week and third time of the season, the pit crew for Robby Gordon claimed top honors in the McDonald’s Drive-Thru Pit Championship fueled by POWERade. Gordon’s crew became the season’s first three-time winner of the competition by scoring the best pit road time at last week’s Auto Club 500 at California Speedway in Fontana. The other wins for the No. 31 crew were the week before in Talladega and March 14 in Atlanta. The three victories have earned Gordon’s crew $60,000. The McDonald’s/POWERade weekly competition pays $20,000 for an event victory and a bonus of $200,000 to the season pit crew champion. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s pit crew continues to lead in the standings with 382 points. Kurt Busch’s crew is second with 360. Gordon’s crew is 10th with 321. Gordon’s Cingular Wireless Chevrolet spent 213.700 seconds on pit road in the California race, edging Joe Nemechek’s U.S. Army Chevrolet by less than a second (214.423). Ken Schrader’s No. 49 Schwan’s Home Service Dodge was third with a time of 215.555. "I knew the Cingular Wireless pit crew had to be in strong contention after having another phenomenal performance in California," said Chris Andrews, crew chief of the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team. "We made two pit stops within the first 60 laps of the race. After that second stop, we had gained 15 positions from where we had started and I know at least eight of the 15 were obtained on pit road." Gordon was equally complimentary of the No. 31 crew. "There are so many factors that affect how a team is going to finish a race and pit performance is one factor that definitely plays a huge role," said Gordon. "Our finishes are finally starting to show what Team Cingular is capable of and I do attribute a lot of that to my guys on pit road." Gordon’s over-the-wall crew consists of: Ira-Jo Hussey (front-tire changer), Kevin Nervegna (front-tire carrier), Timmy Ladyga (rear-tire changer), Matt Kreuter (rear-tire carrier), Ron Liddell (gas man), Mike Moore (jackman) and Coy Hedrick (catch can).(DMD Communications PR), for the top 10 at California and the season standings, see my Pit Crew News page.(5-7-2004)
- Ford sees improvement in Nextel Cup cars: By the numbers, Ford’s fortunes through the first 10 races of the 2004 Nextel Cup season aren’t much different from the start of its frustrating 2003 season. That’s a bad place to look, said Greg Specht, Ford Racing of North America’s operations manager. In this case, Specht said the numbers are fibbing a bit. He said they are not indicative of the way the Tauruses are performing. "Overall," Specht said, "I’m pleased and I’m optimistic." A year ago at this time, three Ford drivers were in the top 10 in points – leader Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler. Between them, they had three victories and four DNFs – races they failed to finish. This year, there are again three Ford drivers in the top 10 – the same three drivers. They have a total of four victories and just two DNFs. Improvement in the Fords is most evident, they say, on bigger tracks such as Daytona International Speedway in Florida and Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Those are the tracks where the aerodynamic shortcomings of the past appear to have been reduced. The 2004 Fords have subtly changed their noses and tails. The most noticeable change is on the grille opening, which has gone from oval to a more rectangular shape. It’s a subtle change, but an apparently effective one. Ford picked up a victory at a superspeedway when Elliott Sadler won at Talladega. And there have been Fords on the poles at both superspeedways- Greg Biffle at Daytona and Ricky Rudd at Talladega. In addition, Sadler started alongside Biffle on the front row at Daytona. There is major optimism in the Ford camp when it comes to engine power. Though there have been some mechanical problems, the collaboration of Robert Yates Racing and Roush Racing in building engines has been a success, Specht said. Engines built in the new Yates-Roush engine shop have won four of the first 10 races. More good news is in the pipeline – though that pipeline appears to be longer than had been hoped. NASCAR granted Ford teams use of a new piston [cylinder] head late last year. It was hoped that the head would be attached to the engines a couple of weeks ago, but it is still in the testing stage. Specht says the philosophy has been to not rush the new piston heads into use.(Kansas City Star)(5-7-2004)
- Robby Gordon gets a sponsor for Indy 500 and Busch: Char-Broil, the world’s leader in gas, charcoal and electric grills, has joined race driver Robby Gordon as a sponsor of his Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR Busch Series teams. Char-Broil’s portable grill brand Thermos Grill2Go has prominent identification on the #70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Dallara-Chevrolet that Gordon will race in the May 30th Indy 500. In addition, Thermos Grill2Go has placement on the #55 Fruit of the Loom Chevy that Gordon drives in the NASCAR Busch Series. Char-Broil’s Grilling Team Tour will be trackside at the Indianapolis 500 over Memorial Day weekend, the NASCAR GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 22nd and the NASCAR UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on October 16th in Charlotte. The tour consists of a 40-foot mobile marketing trailer that will travel to races, events and retail locations along the east coast and throughout the midwest for 27 weeks this summer. Fans that visit the trailer on race day may have a chance to meet Gordon, and can enter to win a Thermos Grill2Go Fire & Ice; the portable grill and cooler combination perfect for tailgating. At the trailer fans will participate in interactive games like the washer toss, sample different cuts of pork from tour sponsor Smithfield, and learn about the latest grills, smokers, fireplaces and accessories from Char-Broil.(PR)(5-7-2004)
- Truex Jr. debut could come at NHIS: Martin Truex Jr. will likely make his debut appearance in the Nextel Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in September, said his crew chief Kevin Manion. "Possibly (New Hampshire) might be our first Cup race," said Manion, a native of Boylston who has been working at Dale Earnhardt Inc. since 1997 and has been the Chance 2 Motorsports, a team originally started at DEI by the late seven-time champion in 1997, crew chief since 2002. Even though Truex Jr. won’t test at NHIS for the Busch Series event in July, Manion noted if DEI decides to field an additional car for the September race, testing will be mandatory. "We’ll test up there for sure in a Cup car because it’s a total different series," said Manion.(Boston Herald)(5-7-2004)
- Final California TV Ratings up 15% AND: Fox’s broadcast of last Sunday’s Auto Club 500 at California Speedway earned a 6.1 rating and a 14 share in final Nielsen Media Research figures, a 15.1 percent increase over last year’s 5.3. Fox says that through nine races this season it is averaging a 5.9 rating, up 2 percent from last year’s 5.8. Friday’s Sports Business Daily also will report that final figures for the May 1 Stater Brothers 300 Busch Series race on Fox earned a 1.9/5, down 5.0 percent from a 2.0/5 in 2003 and down 20.8 percent from a 2.4/6 in 2002.(NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter)(5-6-2004)
AND The Auto Club 500, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race held last Sunday at California Speedway, was the second most-watched sporting event of the weekend. The Auto Club 500 also finished as the highest-rated NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event in the speedway’s history. An average of 9,817,000 viewers tuned in the Auto Club 500, a 19% increase over the viewers that tuned in to the 2003 event. An average of 6,577,000 households tuned in to the Auto Club 500, a 17% increase over the households that tuned in to the 2003 event. The Auto Club 500, won by four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, ranked second only to the 130th running of the Kentucky Derby. It out-rated the Los Angeles Lakers-San Antonio Spurs NBA playoff game, which it aired directly against. The Auto Club 500 also aired directly against the PGA, AFL, NHL Playoffs, MLB and LPGA. Several key markets have shown year-to-date household viewing increases in 2004. They are Orlando (39%), Miami (31%), Dallas (28%), Los Angeles (19%), New York (10%), Atlanta (15%) and Seattle (19%). The largest growing demographic viewer groups for the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series are females ages18-24 (a 27% increase over 2003), females ages18 to 34 (20%) and males ages 18-24 (11%).(Figures compiled by Nielsen Media Research.)(NASCAR PR)(5-7-2004)
- Ram Tough Pace Truck To Lead Charter 250: Gateway International Raceway announced that the Viper-powered 2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10 would be the pace truck for the Charter 250 NASCAR Busch Race that will run this Saturday night, May 8 at 7 pm. The ultimate performance pickup, the 2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10 brings a massive dose of Viper power to the performance pickup segment, with a class-demolishing 500 horsepower and 525 lb.-ft. of torque. Topping 150 mph in maximum speed and reaching 60 mph in approximately five seconds, Dodge has recalibrated expectations for truck performance. "The Dodge Ram SRT-10 may be the first halo truck, but trust me, this truck is no angel," said Wolfgang Bernhard, Chief Operating Officer, Chrysler Group. "The Ram SRT-10 is true to the performance ideals that created the original Dodge Viper, keep it simple and make it fast."(GIR PR)(5-7-2004)
- Truck Series Season-Ending Awards Announced: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams will receive record season ending awards of more than $1.9 million following the 2004 season, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) announced today. The figure includes a $1.6 million-plus NASCAR/Craftsman points fund, paid to the top-20 drivers and owners in final series standings, as well as $262,500 in series manufacturer awards – well in excess of the $180,000 paid at the conclusion of the 2003 season. Craftsman Tools has been the sole sponsor of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series through all 220 races and nine-plus seasons since the series’ debut in 1995. The series, in its 10th season, is off to its best-ever start with a record number of viewers – over 1.3 million – tuned into SPEED Channel for February’s season opening race at Daytona International Speedway. SPEED Channel’s household viewership has increased by 58%, according to Nielsen Media Research which compared this year’s three events with the first four of 2003. Competition continues to be a hallmark of the series with three different winners in as many races, an average margin of victory of .278 seconds and fewer than 100 points covering the top-10 drivers in the championship standings. The schedule continues with the sold-out May 16 inaugural UAW/GM Ohio 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway.
Several new sponsors have joined the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for 2004. They include Gillette and its Mach 3 Turbo Award; Sunoco Racing Fuel, NASCAR’s Official Fuel; MSD Ignitions, Toyota Racing Development, and International Truck.(NASCAR PR)(5-7-2004)
- Chris Wimmer Ready for NCTS Debut at Mansfield Despite Martinsville Setback: The plan was for #63-Chris Wimmer to make his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) and MB Motorsports debut at the Kroger 250 in Martinsville last month. Those plans, however, were derailed due to a truck that did not want to grip in the turns, causing Wimmer to miss the show by .02 seconds. The team put that disappointment behind them, however, and are working hard to prepare for their trip to Mansfield, Ohio, May 16th for the Inaugural UAW/GM Ohio 250 NCTS race. "We’re definitely excited about Mansfield," said Wimmer, taking a break from his duties in the MB Motorsports race shop. "I ran that track last year in ASA and had a great race. We started and finished in the top 10 and felt comfortable the entire race. It’s real disappointing to not have made the Martinsville field," Wimmer continued. "I had never run the track before and the truck just was not handling right in the corners, but we’re not making excuses. It was a bad weekend and we’ve moved on. We’re looking forward to getting into the field at Mansfield and hopefully, getting a good finish." MB Motorsports owner and crew chief, Mike Mittler, said the team is prepared for the half-mile short track. "We’ve been working very hard, putting a lot of hours in the shop, making sure this truck will do the job. We’ve also been out testing to get Chris some extra seat time. He’s got a great mind for racing and he’s got tremendous talent…I know we’re going to do well. Chris has had some success at Mansfield in ASA and we’re hoping that will translate to a good finish next weekend," continued Mittler. "Chris is a heckuva driver and we’re expecting some great things from him this year." The primary sponsor for the MB Motorsports #63 Ford will once again be Race Fans for a Cure. "We’re glad to have Race Fans for a Cure on the hood again," said Wimmer. "We hated it that we weren’t able to make the race with them last month, but we’re really happy that they’ve come back with us and we plan on giving them something to be proud of this time."(MB Motorsports PR)(5-7-2004)
- Testing at Texas UPDATE: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers are scheduled to test at Texas Motor Speedway on Thursday, May 6th and Friday, May 7th from 9am to 5pm, include Ultra Motorsports drivers #1-Ted Musgrave and #2-Andy Houston along with Orleans Racing driver #62-Steve Park.(TMS PR)(5-5-2004)
UPDATE: #62-Steve Park has enjoyed success at Texas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series. But it took just six laps around "The Great American Speedway" Wednesday in The Orleans Dodge NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series machine for Park to fall in love and know that Texas and trucks were made for each other. Park was among seven Dodge truck teams that kicked off a two-day test session Wednesday in preparation for the June 11 O’Reilly 400k. Joining Park were #1-Ted Musgrave, Mopar Dodge; #2-Andy Houston, Team ASE/Carquest Dodge; #4-Bobby Hamilton, Square D Dodge; #18-Chad Chaffin, Dickies Dodge; #8-Chase Montgomery, Gladiator Garageworks Dodge and #59-Mark McFarland, Harris Trucking Dodge. "This is the first time I’ve driven a Dodge truck around Texas Motor Speedway," said Park of his experience. "I’m used to the cars here. I took the truck out, shook it down, made a small adjustment and went another three laps. I came off turn four and said, woo hoo, that’s a lot of fun! Trucks in Texas, this is a fast place, in just the six laps on the race track, I was having a ball. Man, this is a lot of fun. The most fun I’ve had here in Texas was doing the first six laps in the truck. We’ve raced cars here a few times and had some decent runs, but I’ll tell you what, the way the truck is handling and the aerodynamics, they’re made for Texas Motor Speedway. The fans are in a for a good show." Park has a tall order to try to fill in the O’Reilly 400k. Brendan Gaughan has won the last four NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races at Texas in The Orleans Dodge before moving to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series this season.
AND Mark McFarland was involved in a fourth-turn incident during the final hours of Wednesday’s Dodge NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series test at Texas Motor Speedway. McFarland, driver of the Harris Trucking Dodge, was transported by ground to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth following the accident as a precautionary measure. McFarland made hard contact with the fourth-turn wall with his truck coming to rest on the apron. McFarland was out of the truck and walking around with safety personnel following the incident.(TMS PR)(5-7-2004)