Tums Fast Relief 500 - October 30, 2011 - Martinsville Speedway

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Remembering a Legend…My Dad

We're excited to have Racegirl back with us for the start of another exciting NASCAR season!  This week Racegirl shares her thoughts on the tribute to Dale Earnhardt during yesterday's Daytona 500 and pays tribute to an important person in her own life - her dad.

Here's Racegirl:

At the 53rd running of the Daytona 500, fans celebrated Dale Earnhardt’s career by remaining silent during the third lap of the race. Commemorative No. 3 decals were found on all of Richard Childress Racing race cars and trucks, transporters and pit boxes. Fans sported #3 t-shirts, hats, banners and flags recognizing the man we all feel changed the sport of NASCAR.

“All of us at RCR and ECR (Earnhardt-Childress Racing) are honored to pay tribute to Dale on this 10th anniversary,” Childress said. “His legacy is still felt every day at RCR, ECR and throughout the world. We hope all of Dale’s fans appreciate this salute to their hero and ours.”

Everyone that participated in the celebration clearly admired and respected Earnhardt — as a family man, a leader in the garage area and a driver. They honored his role in the sport and celebrated his life — and once more realized just how large of a hole he left — both personally and in NASCAR.

On Friday, Kelley Earnhardt released  photos of her Dad, Dale Jr. and herself on JRM’s website (jrmracing.com). The memories she shared were of her Dad’s life, which racing was only a small part of.

After watching the video and reading all the tribute articles in the various sports publications, I could not help but reflect back to my own memories of my legendary Dad. 

Although my Dad was not a celebrity to the NASCAR Nation, he was my hero and shared similar attributes that Dale Earnhardt displayed in life.

Dale Earnhardt was a larger-than-life figure who won seven Cup championships and 76 races in NASCAR’s foremost series.

My Dad was a larger-than-life figure who built a stone cabin with very little help from technology, a brick home that even a wolf could not blow down, and several Soap Box Derby cars, one going to the winner’s circle.

Dale Earnhardt was the Intimidator. This nickname was given to him because he was the most intensely competitive driver who has ever sat behind the wheel of a race car.  He would do whatever was necessary to win a race, even if it meant knocking an off-the-track friend into the fence.  Earnhardt would always apologize—later. 

My Dad was my Intimidator.  At least he was when you were caught doing something you know you should not have been doing. For example, something as simple as taking the go-cart out on the main road without him in the passenger’s seat would bring out the best in my Intimidator! “But Dad, it was only a short ride,” I would say. Let’s just say I was not lucky enough to ever get an apology.

Dale Earnhardt was a generous man. There are hundreds of stories about Earnhardt helping family, friends, neighbors and strangers in need. Most of those stories have never been told, because Earnhardt wanted it that way. 

My Dad was a generous man. I saw him give our spare set of Soap Box Derby wheel’s to a competitor, during a race, who later went on to beat me in a semi-final heat using our spare wheels!

Dale Earnhardt was the driver who had tears in his eyes when he climbed from his car at Indianapolis in 1996, turning it over to relief driver Mike Skinner. Earnhardt had fractured his sternum and collarbone in a violent wreck at Talladega and could not continue at the Brickyard. After getting out of the car Earnhardt choked out the words, “This is tough—racing’s my life.”

My Dad was in a head-on collision with a dump truck while driving his work truck. His back was broken. He returned to work after a few months of rehabilitation, but never completely recovered from the injury. I remember seeing him sleeping on the hard floor just to give his back some relief.  When he went off to work after only a few hours of sleep, he said, “I have people depending on me doing my job, so they can do their own job and support their families.” He retired from this same job after 40 years of service, rarely missing a day of work.

Dale Earnhardt was slow to trust anyone. When you earned Earnhardt’s trust, however, you earned his friendship, and that was just as unwavering as his desire to win.

My Dad was slow to trust anyone. When you did earn his trust, he never turned his back on you, even if it meant sacrificing his own public image.

The 53rd running of the Daytona 500 was a day of triumphant memories of Dale Earnhardt’s life. This is the way I prefer to remember him. What Earnhardt meant to the sport will always be reflected in the recognition and admiration he created in his rivals as well as his friends and family. 

Although this day is not an ‘anniversary’ of my own Dad’s passing, a day does not go by that I do not give tribute to his life. And although video tapes of his accomplishments won't be playing in the media, I have my own ‘videos’ in my vault, my heart.

This is how I prefer to remember my Dad………

Until next time....Happy Racing!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Repaving the Daytona International Speedway

Hi everyone!  Racegirl is back with us this week to give us an up close look at the repaving project underway at the Daytona International Speedway.  She has some pretty amazing pictures! 

Here’s Racegirl:

I have to admit, of all the times I’ve been to races at the Daytona International Speedway, I never gave much thought to the pavement on the track.  With all the things to see at the race, track pavement was the furthest thing from my mind – until this year’s Daytona 500 that is.  After a pothole on the track gained center stage during the race, I started thinking more about how the track’s pavement can have a huge impact on the outcome of a race.  One small pothole or rough patch on the track can change the race strategy in an instant.

When it was announced that Daytona International Speedway was going to be repaved, I was excited – I was anxious to see what was involved with such a massive project.  And I’ve definitely not been disappointed!  The repaving of the Daytona track is a monumental event – this is only the second time in its 52 year history the track has been repaved!  The project started in July 2010, just after the Coke Zero 400 weekend, and should be completed in January 2011.

The repaving project is no small undertaking – not only is the entire 2.5 mile track being repaved, but also the skid pads, apron and pit road. Before the repaving could begin, all the existing asphalt was also removed leaving the track’s original lime rock base. 

Here are some pictures of the asphalt being removed:

Once all of the old pavement was removed, the actual repaving could begin.  Here are some pictures of the repaving:

50,000 tons of asphalt will be used in the repaving of the track.

50 truck loads of concrete will be used for pit road.

The type of asphalt being used is a high-quality asphalt that can withstand the stress of racing.

According to the Daytona International Speedway website (www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com), there will be no changes to the track other than a new smooth racing surface. The repaving of the track will remain true to Bill France Sr.’s original vision, layout and geometry of the legendary track back in the late 1950s. This should bring a lot of relief to drivers as they develop their strategy for next season’s race – after all, the ultimate goal is to win the “Great American Race”!

Fans can view the progression of the repaving project from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands, which will open free to the public; and track tours are available through attraction admission to Daytona 500 Experience.

I can’t wait to see the track when it’s all finished – a brand new track for a brand new season of racing!  Until next time…

Happy Racing!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

What's Your Favorite Racing Movie?

It’s another off weekend for the Sprint Cup Series, so we thought we’d talk about a different topic this week on our blog – movies – racing movies that is! 

We have a lot of movie buffs in our office and we all have different ideas of what the best racing movies are.  Since we couldn’t agree, we thought we’d search the web to see what other sources had to say...here is a great list we found from sportsinmovies.com:

Top 10 Auto-Racing Movies:
1.   Le Mans (1971)
2.   Days of Thunder (1990)
3.   Fast and the Furious, The (2001)
4.   Grand Prix (1966)
5.   Winning (1969)
6.   Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
7.   Cars (2006)
8.   Speed Racer (2008)
9.   Herbie Fully Loaded (2005)
10. 3 - The Dale Earnhardt Story (2004)

A lot of us were surprised that Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby didn’t make the top 10 – especially since that seems to be the movie we could remember the most lines from!  It almost made the top 10, coming in at number 11.  We were also surprised that Cannonball Run didn’t make the top 10 – it was number 19. 

What do you think of the top 10 list?  What’s your favorite racing movie?

Until next week....happy movie watching!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Countdown To The Chase

With just three races left until the Chase field is set, competition will surely be heating up as we head into this weekend’s Sprint Cup race in Bristol.  Kevin Harvick clinched his spot in the Chase with his win in Michigan last weekend and Tony Stewart has moved up to 4th in the points standings, while Mark Martin dropped one place to 13th – just outside of the cut.  Here’s a link to the complete list of the latest standings:


At this point in the season, I always pay closer attention to the standings to see where my favorite drivers rank and to see what their chances are of making the Chase. To me, the end of the race season is always more exciting when my favorite drivers are in the Chase. In our office, we have fans of a variety of drivers – Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kyle Busch just to name a few.  The Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch fans are happy with their drivers’ positions in the standings right now, but the Dale Jr. fans are keeping their fingers crossed for good luck in these next three races, hoping that he will make the Chase.

With all this talk about the Chase, we were wondering – who is your favorite driver (or drivers)?  How do you feel about the last races of the season if your favorite driver isn’t in the Chase? 

Post your comments here or share them with us on our facebook page!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

NASCAR's Ideas For The 2011 Season

I was browsing the NASCAR headlines today and came across several articles about some of the ideas NASCAR officials have tossed around for the 2011 season.  Most of them revolve around 3 main topics – the schedule, the Chase format, and the future of the Nationwide Series.

First, the schedule…

Schedule topics being discussed included shuffling the last 11 races of the season.  This would mean that Chase races would be at different tracks on a revolving basis. Scheduling races so that there would be less traveling back and forth from coast to coast was also brought up.  Six tracks were mentioned as candidates for realignment as well – Kansas Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Kentucky Motor Speedway. Some of the tracks will be vying for a second race, while others risk losing one.  We won’t know where each track stands until the 2011 schedule is announced in September.  Do I hear more races?

The Chase format….

While no specifics were given, it’s clear that NASCAR wants to add some extra drama to the Chase and create a type of system that could add some “Game 7” type excitement to the end of the season. In reference to the Chase, Brian France said "We like the playoff-style format for sure.” France spoke of "having a lot on the line at one moment" in the playoff format. In other sports, elimination comes along with playoff games….does this mean we’ll see the same thing in NASCAR next year?  That could certainly shake things up!

The Nationwide Series….

The Nationwide Series is supposed to be a place for new owners and drivers to get their feet wet and gain some experience in hopes of one day advancing to the Sprint Cup Series.  However, with so many Sprint Cup drivers also regularly driving in the Nationwide Series, it’s becoming harder and harder for new owners and drivers to get the experience they need.  That’s where the changes come in. Brian France’s wish is for the Nationwide Series to evolve into NASCAR’s version of college football – a place where owners and drivers can begin building their identities. According to France, the owners and drivers in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series support keeping the Nationwide series developmental. So next year we could see limitations on how many NNS events Sprint Cup regulars can drive in. Carl Edwards had a few suggestions of his own on improving the series including limiting practice time for Sprint Cup Series regulars that also compete in the NNS and starting Sprint Cup regulars from the back during NNS races.

Who knows which of these proposed changes will actually take place, but they certainly add some excitement to the sport and get everyone talking! 

We want to know, what do you think of the proposed changes?  Which tracks are your favorites?  What do you think of the Chase format?  Post your comments here or on our Twitter or Facebook pages – we’d love to hear what you think!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Look Inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Racegirl is back this week to share some stories of her trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame with us - she also has some great pictures!

As the date of my tour of the NASCR Hall of Fame approached, I thought back to my childhood. There were many days I spent watching my father and brother working on cars in the garage.  It was all about the speed and not so much about safety.  They would always take a car disguised as ordinary on the exterior and turn it into extraordinary when the hood was lifted. 

Those memories remind me of what NASCAR was in the early years.  You'd see a car on the raceway on Sunday and purchase from your local car dealership on Monday.  Even though you hear less and less about the race cars with each evolution of the Car of Tomorrow, much of NASCAR's current allure is tied to the romance of good ol' boys in genuine stock cars with big engines.  Most had even bigger personalities that came out when they were gunning around dirt tracks for the win, and they never contained what they really thought during a race. Those pioneers of the sport have finally been honored with the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As with the speedway, the interior of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame is a full stock car experience.  For me, I felt like I had entered a time machine and gone back to the early years of racing. “Glory Road,” seen from the outside when purchasing your admission ticket is the grand welcoming ambassador of what your day will be like inside the hall.

The view from outside looking into the building:

Glory Road…you can hear the roar of the engines!

Beyond Glory Road lies a comprehensive set of exhibits on the second and third levels. This is the point where the Hall of Fame becomes a museum. You will find a lot of creative and dynamic interactive displays. From the Racing Simulator where you see the race from the driver’s perspective to the Pit Crew Challenge, each display captures your attention and makes you want more racing! 

Here are a few photos of the various areas on these floors:

Racing Simulator where you can try your skills as a driver:

Pit Crew Challenge…watching on television is nothing compared to experiencing it yourself!

The NASCAR Hall of Fame building tells the story of NASCAR’s growth. From the founders of racing who were shade tree mechanics and moonshine running, to the NASCAR of today that has been shaped by corporate interests and commercial opportunities, the track has come to town!

Historic artifacts, interactive features, a cascade of visual images and a sound system so cutting edge you feel like you are in Pit Row during a race - nothing has been left out. About the only sense left unattended is smell. There is no stink of gasoline or burning rubber…..yet!

On level 4, your adventure continues with “the Spotter Ball”, a lot of history lessons and a little color from the help of the M&M racing team.

The Spotter Ball: It just didn’t seem to be this big on the track!

Inside “The Spotter Ball”: As you stand inside the ball, you will hear recordings of real races!

Find out who the most colorful fan is with a little help from Red.My favorite area!

Journey back through over 60 years of exciting NASCAR history!

Overall I felt everyone involved in the birth of the NASCAR Hall of Fame captured the essence of racing. The building offers a sense of movement and speed, with a ribbon made of more than 3,000 stainless steel shingles that partially loops the exterior of the huge building. When lit at night with colored lights, it twists and leaps over the entrance, a bit of drama reproduced on the Hall of Fame logo. The designers used circular movement to organize the interior spaces and curves to make them dynamic.

As my adventure ended and I crossed the finish line, I knew I would go back again.   I have been told by a reliable source that the displays will periodically change out, new artifacts given to the museum on loan will be displayed and most of all, you never known who will drop by on any given day! 

Happy Racing!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

NASCAR Hall of Fame 2010 Induction Ceremony

We're excited to have Racegirl back this week with another exciting post!  She was lucky enough to attend the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and she's here to share her thoughts.  

The Inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held Sunday, May 23 at 1 p.m. in the Charlotte Convention Center Crown Ballroom.  I was excited that I got to attend the ceremony and be there for the induction of the very first class. A great historical moment for a sport we all love!

First Up - Bill France Sr.

Bill France Sr., who organized bootleggers like Junior Johnson in North Carolina and the beach racing folks in Florida to create NASCAR, was the first Hall of Fame inductee. Memories were overflowing as John Cassidy, NASCAR's first legal counsel, gave Bill France Sr.'s induction speech to open the ceremony. A lifelong relationship between he and Big Bill began at the White House and continued all the way through to this historical day of induction into the Nascar Hall of Fame. Cassidy spoke about France's many accomplishments, how he built NASCAR from the beaches of Daytona on up -- including overseeing construction of the first super speedways in Daytona Beach and Talladega. He ended with saying "I prefer to call him a dreamer who was a man of action, someone who turns dreams into reality.”  

The King Takes the Stage

Next up to be inducted was driver Richard Petty.  Dale Inman, his cousin and former crew chief, spoke first about the man known as The King and nearly got choked up before handing it off to Kyle Petty -- Richard's son, television personality and apparent stand-up comedian. Kyle Petty immediately livened up the crowd and lightened the mood with a funny story about his famous father:

"When I was growing up, our house was right next door to the race shop," Kyle explained. "Dad would go to work early in the morning at like 7 or 8 o'clock. He was a fabricator -- and back then, everyone worked on the car including the driver. He would come home for lunch when I was young. Then he would lie down in the middle of the living room floor and sleep until 3 or 4 in the afternoon before getting up and going back to work.”

"I never found that strange until you look at his career and you think the man won 200 races, seven Daytona 500s, seven championships -- while working half-days. I just want you to think about that. That may be the greatest statistic of all time."

Kyle closed by adding: "He feeds off the fans because he is a fan. ... That's who he is for the sport. That's what he's meant for the sport. But for me and for my sisters Sharon, Lisa and Rebecca, he's our father. He's always been our father. We love him more than anything in the world."

Richard Petty kept it relatively short, and definitely sweet, in his own comments before closing by saying, "I guess I'm going to do like Gomer Pyle. I'm just going to say, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.'"  As I listened to Richard’s closing words, I knew one of the many reasons I love this sport – most speak straight from the heart and leave the acting to those who live out in Hollywood.

A Moment of Truth

Bill France Jr. was the third to be inducted. Bill Jr. took over for his father in 1972 and ruled with absolute authority until retiring in 2003. Team owner Rick Hendrick gave the induction speech for the younger France. He did an excellent job of telling stories that illustrated how Bill Jr. was a tough guy with a soft human side.

Rick Hendrick talked about how Big Bill had made his son earn his keep from an early age, having him "sell snow-cones" and escort people out of tracks when they were caught sneaking in without paying. Bill Jr. even ran bulldozers and other heavy equipment during construction of the tracks in Daytona and Talladega.

I didn’t quite understand the inside joke of one story he shared  until reading about it in the newspaper the next morning.  Apparently, Jeff Gordon was having a ‘dispute’ with one of his sponsors prior to racing at Indianapolis. Jeff won that race and when he got out of his car in Victory Lane, he ‘accidently’ knocked sponsor drinks off the roof.  Hendrick shared with us a private phone call he received from Bill Jr. as he stood next to Jeff in Victory Lane:

"You have that little blank, blank, blank Jeff Gordon down here in my office in the morning at 9. If you can't make it and he can't make it, don't you even think about carrying your car to Watkins Glen, you're done." But before Bill Jr. hung up, he had one other message: "but it doesn't affect our fishing trip."

Hendrick also joked that Bill Jr. knew how to stretch a buck. Pointing at the man's 7-foot-tall Hall of Fame spire that was to occupy its proper place in the Hall of Honor, Hendrick noted: "I know Bill was not alive when this was designed. He would have made it so you had to put a quarter in it."

The Last American Hero

Fourth amongst the inductees was former driver and championship car owner Junior Johnson, once described by author Thomas Wolfe as The Last American Hero.

Darrell Waltrip was given the honor of giving the induction speech for Junior Johnson. But before he started with his stories, he looked around the room and made a worthwhile observation. "This room is full of NASCAR royalty," he said. "This [Hall of Fame] truly has become and will become the Mount Rushmore of our sport."

Waltrip also reminisced about when he left Johnson's team to begin driving for Hendrick and told the media, "Shucks, it's like getting off a mule and getting on a thoroughbred." When word of that disparaging comment made its inevitable way back to Johnson, Junior simply replied: "I don't know nothin' about that. But I had a jackass up here and I ran him off."

Robert Johnson, Junior's 16-year-old son did the formal induction presentation for his father. He called Junior a "Hall of Fame dad," and adding an aside "to all of you racers out there who have raced for or with my dad, you know there are two rules to follow when around him. Rule number one, he's always right. Rule number two, if he's ever wrong, refer back to rule number one."

#3 Legend Lives On

Last, but certainly not least, to officially be entered into the Hall of Fame on Sunday -- as if there is any way on earth to rank these inductees anyway -- was Dale Earnhardt.

Richard Childress spoke first about his former driver, making it through several stories before it appeared he might break down. As I looked around during this time of the ceremony, I saw several fans in the audience openly weeping at the memory of Dale Earnhardt.

Childress recalled one time at Talladega when other drivers were complaining that the speed of the cars on the track was unsafe. Earnhardt, he said, did not want to hear it. He said, 'If you're afraid to go fast, stay the hell home. Don't come here and grumble about going too fast. Drag kerosene-soaked rags around your ankles so the ants won't jump up and bite your candy asses’.

Then Childress grinned at the memory of his own story, adding: "That was a classic Dale Earnhardt."

Next, Teresa Earnhardt and the four Earnhardt children took the stage -- including Dale Jr., Kerry, Kelley and Taylor. This was the most touching part of the ceremony.  As I listened to each family member speak with such raw emotion about Dale the husband, Dale the dad and Dale the legend, I knew this was a historical moment in NASCAR history.

Teresa Earnhardt talked about how her husband "could see the wind" when he was driving, and Dale Jr. offered a funny story about racing against his father once during an exhibition in Japan:

"I was racing for the first time against Cup competitors and my father," Earnhardt Jr. recalled. "It was late in the race. I got some new tires, and only had a few laps to make those work for me. I got up underneath him going through turns 3 and 4. I just needed 2 inches to clear him, but I didn't clear him. I slid across his nose and up into the wall. He carried me all the way down the front straightaway with my back tires up in the air -- all the way off into turn 1.

"That was the day I met the Intimidator."Taylor, Earnhardt’s 21-year-old daughter, seemed to sum it up about her father.  "Everyone always tells us that we all look a little bit like Dad," she said. "I think we all act like him, too. We're determined, driven, and stubborn as a fence post. But Dad gave all four of us something. He gave all his fans something. I think that's what makes him a true champion in everybody's eyes."
D.W. Sums It Up

"I always remember how people looked at us and, quite honestly, made fun of us," said former driver and TV analyst Darrell Waltrip, who helped induct Junior Johnson. "That we were a regional sport with a bunch of rednecks that wore ball caps and uniforms with patches all over them.”

"When I look at what Bill France Sr. and Jr. and Brian and Lesa and everybody have done with this sport, to take it from that to where it is today, it makes me very proud."

Junior Johnson said it "couldn't have been a better day," a significant statement from a driver and owner who has been referred to as the "last American hero."

It was a stupendous day that uniformly surpassed my expectations. I lingered for a long while afterward, hoping to get autographs or simply just basking in the moment, knowing history had just been made and that somehow I had been a part of it. As I watched others leave the room where the best of the best of NASCAR had just been, a few who had begun crying during the Earnhardt presentation, continued to mop up tears before moving on.

Brian France commented later to the media, "It was an emotional day, and I didn't anticipate that. I do a lot of things associated with the sport, but this was different," he said. "Obviously the focus was on the five inductees, but it was about more than that. It was a celebration for everybody on a scope that maybe I didn't expect."

Kerry Earnhardt, who looks and sounds so much like his late father that it's almost eerie at times, added that it was refreshing to be open with a roomful of mostly friends and family.  "I think it was more personal for the fans and for the folks out there watching on TV," he said. "It came from the heart from all of us. When you're sitting there reading a script, it's someone else's words put in your mouth. It can't mean the same as what it is when it comes from the heart."

And with that, each of the spires of the NASCAR Hall of Fame's inaugural class now sit on display in their rightful places in the Hall of Honor. The memories and stories attached to each will be shared with generations of racing fans to come.

Come back next week to see more NASCAR artifacts and treasures showcased on the vast walls of the Hall of Fame. I’ll give you an up-close look at the Hall and share some of the highlights from my tour.

Until then,

Happy Racing!