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

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Getting to Know Dale Jr.

I’ve never been the kind of person to watch online video chats (I’d much rather watch TV!), but when I heard about the online chat with Dale Jr. last week at ampupthe88.com, I decided to check it out. I’ve always liked Dale Jr. and thought it was nice that he would take time out of his busy schedule to take questions from fans. Despite some technical hiccups early on, the video chat was really interesting and I learned a lot of new things. Over 12,000 fans logged on to submit questions and hear what Dale Jr. had to say. Here are some of the highlights of the video chat…from my perspective anyway! 

Biggest Obstacle This Season
– overcoming adversity and keeping a positive attitude. Jr.  said he gets easily frustrated, so he’s trying to focus on moving forward when something goes wrong instead of dwelling on it. 

Favorite Race of the Season
– Jr. doesn’t really have a favorite race because that would mean that there would be races he didn’t look forward to as well, but he does like the short track races.

Most Influential People in his Life – his Dad, Mom, and Kelly and Rick Hendrick.  He tries to follow good examples of people around him.

Appearance – he has no tattoos and plans to keep the beard for awhile.

Favorite Car He’s Raced – the Gray Ghost from the All-Star Race.

Favorite Cars – Cameros and Corvettes.

Favorite AMP Flavor – Lightning (yellow can), orange and grape.

Drivers He Seeks Advice From
– Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett.

Favorite Foods – Anything with teriyaki sauce, pizza….but he’s trying to eat healthier these days.

Nicknames – Doesn’t really like the nickname Junebug anymore…but is OK with being called Jr.  Thinks it’s weird when people call him Dale.

Thing He’d Like to Change About the NASCAR Season
– Would like a couple more weeks off during the season to give the crew a chance to refresh and spend time with their friends and families.

Each week, ampupthe88.com will feature live video chats with members of the 88 crew.  This week’s chat will be on 2/24 at 12:30 p.m. ET with Lance McGrew.  I just might check that one out, too!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thoughts on the Daytona 500

What a race! The Daytona 500 is always exciting, and this year’s race was no exception. When I sat down to watch the race at 1:00, I never thought I’d still be watching the same race over 6 hours later! Two things will always stand out in my mind when I think about this year’s Great American Race— the infamous pot hole and the exciting final 2 laps of the race.

The race was stopped twice because of a pothole on the track, causing an over 2 hour delay. As it turns out, it has been over 30 years since the Daytona track was last re-paved, and plans for a total repaving weren’t scheduled to happen until sometime in 2012. 

The long delay gave viewers at home some time to stretch their legs as well as the opportunity to see some great commercials. One of my favorites was from Toyota Racing promoting their “design your own car” contest. It featured Kyle Busch driving a pink Toyota Camry brightly decorated with kittens, rainbows, flowers and “I Love You” written on the spoiler. He even had a pink fire suit to match the car. Very funny! Coca-Cola also debuted its newest commercial featuring several drivers singing the song “I’d Like To Buy the World a Coke”—the same song featured in its famous Hilltop commercial from 1971. The new twist on the old commercial features Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Elliott Sadler and Tony Stewart. 

Although frustrating, the delay may also have helped set up the exciting two lap finish.  NASCAR changed the rules for the green-white-checker finish this season, allowing for three attempts at the finish rather than just one. Who knew we’d get to see the new rules tested in the first race of the season?! In a thrilling finish, Jamie McMurray held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a last lap charge to capture the checkered flag in the green-white-checker finish. Dale Jr. moved up from 10th place into 2nd behind McMurray on the last lap, but McMurray was able to hold him off and capture the victory. Those last two laps had me on the edge of my seat—that’s what racing is all about!

Looking forward to another exciting race next Sunday….

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Danica Patrick's NASCAR Debut

Hi everyone! A few weeks ago, one of our team members wrote a fantastic post about her days racing in the Soap Box Derby.  We liked her story so much, we’ve invited her back to give us more of her insights into racing.  Welcome back Race Girl!  Here are her thoughts on Danica Patrick’s NASCAR debut at the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 this past weekend. Keep checking back for more stories from Race Girl!

Wow, what an exciting day! What started out slow—as I heard from all my relatives up north talking about that white stuff more commonly know as snow—turned into sunshine and blue skies for us.

My husband and I headed to Daytona for Danica Patrick’s first stock car race in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. I have to admit that I had some expectations…expectations of what the crowds would be like to how I would feel when I saw her in her No. 7 Chevrolet Impala. I was not disappointed!

As we waited anxiously for the race to begin, everywhere we went we overheard conversations about Danica. How was she going to do? Would she finish the race? Could she win? As I observed the fans and listened to what they said, I noticed, for the first time in quite a while, more women at the track. They were not wearing Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson shirts, but Danica Patrick Go Daddy shirts.

As we walked through the Sprint Cup drivers’ garages, my husband and I started talking about women drivers in general. It seems so stereotypical for most men to truly say that women do not know how to drive under normal conditions, much less at speeds approaching 200 mph and wind gusts of 30 mph with someone right on your bumper. I reminded my husband that I lived in the Washington D.C. area for many years and that describes a typical day on the beltway! But this is where our conversation started and I found myself quick to defend all women drivers in general. And then the big question…who causes more accidents, men or women? Our marriage may have been saved because over the loud speaker we heard, “Drivers, start your engines!” I was quick to look at him and say “Note the optimal word ‘drivers.’”

It was a slow start with caution flags out on lap 7 sending several drivers to the Infield Care Center. Then a red flag occurred on lap 27. Thankfully, Jill George walked away from what was left of her No. 48 Radon.com Dodge. I have to say the highlight for me was when Danica swapped paint at 200 mph, slid through the grass and saved her Chevrolet from hitting the wall. I found myself shouting “Go Girl” and looked at my husband to say “That’s how a real woman drives.”

Danica Patrick did not win Saturday's ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway, but she kept everyone on their feet and finished a noble 6th in her first race. She will make her Nationwide Series debut in the No. 7 Chevrolet Saturday at Daytona. Meanwhile, I have a debate to finish with my husband on the driving ability of women. Stay tuned….

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Preparing for the Daytona 500 - An In Depth Look

When I heard about the SPEED Channel’s documentary series that chronicles the Joe Gibbs Racing team’s preparation for the Daytona 500, I was excited.  Discovering the inside story of an event or learning about how people came to be where they are today fascinates me.  Two episodes have aired so far, and I am amazed at all of the preparation that takes place for not just the Daytona 500, but for all the races during the season. I’ve been to races before, but never gave much thought about what had to happen to get ready for race day.

It Begins with Travel Plans…
Travel plans begin to take shape about a month before each race. Because not everyone arrives at the race track at the same time, it takes a lot of coordination to get everyone where they need to be, when they need to be there.  Joe Gibbs Racing has its own aviation department and its own planes which help with this effort. The team also has a group of team members that makes sure everyone on the team has their NASCAR license and appropriate paperwork filed for the season.  There are so many little details that need taken care of before each race!

Car Preparation is Ongoing and Intensive
The cars are customized for each driver on the team, and preparing the cars for the race is an ongoing project. The cars are built, assembled and painted in the race shop.  The work on each car is all done in house and Joe Gibbs Racing manufactures about 95% of its own parts.  In 2009 alone, they designed over 3,000 parts and manufactured over 90,000. Adjustments are continually made throughout the season to even the tiniest of parts – nothing goes overlooked. 

Once the car is finished, it’s painted and the decals are hand-applied. Interestingly, much of the color you see around the decals is a type of decal that is actually a wrap, not paint – it gives the car a smoother looking finish. Very cool!

Setting the car for a race takes about 2 days.  The team has a template it sets each car in for inspection to make sure it will pass inspection on race day.  It’s the same one used at the tracks, which makes the job a little easier. Each car is also placed on a simulator that is able to mimic a typical lap at any of the tracks at which the team will be racing. This step is important because it helps the team see how the car will handle at each track (shocks, brakes, etc).  Using what they’ve learned in the simulation, they can make any necessary adjustments before the race. 

Once the car has gone through the in house inspection and simulation process, it goes from the race shop to the truck bay where it’s loaded onto a hauler to be taken to the race.  The haulers themselves are amazing – they contain everything the team would need to rebuild a car if necessary while they’re away from the shop – amazing!

A Good Pit Crew vs. A Great Pit Crew
So far, probably the most interesting part of the documentary for me, and the part I knew the least about, was how the pit crew prepares for each race.  The amount of athletic training the pit crew goes through is incredible!  From cardio to strength training to weights – they do it all.  And for good reason – this 7 member crew can be pivotal to the race outcome – the pit crew can set the team apart in ways the car can’t. A second can make all the difference in the world during a pit stop, and a truly harmonious pit crew can have a real impact on the outcome of a race. The team is often so in sync that it seems as if they can read each other’s minds and anticipate each other’s next move.  This is what makes a good pit crew great.

The pit crew not only has to be physically tough, but mentally tough as well.  They have to be very focused and not let a bad pit stop or other race setback throw them off their game. Their primary focus has to be how to make each pit stop the best one it can be.

It All Comes Down to Teamwork
As I watched each episode, one message was very clear – teamwork is at the heart of the Joe Gibbs organization.  Everyone works together for the common goal of having a winning team and really understands the value each team member adds. From the drivers to the engineers and mechanics in the shop to the people who work in the office to make sure all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed, everyone plays a pivotal role in getting the team ready for race day. 

Can’t wait for the next episode!