Saturday, December 26, 2009

Scent of Danica Patrick: Popular Driver Attached to New Women's Perfume

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter, Boost Mobile, NASCAR, ARCA, JR Motorsports, everyone now wants to be attached to the most significant female in circuit auto racing. Danica Patrick is a branding darling for many companies and organizations. In the recent weeks, concurring evenly with the NASCAR announcement, Patrick has inked another deal for last year. Hitting shelves of major US department stores in 2010, women can harness the scent of IndyCar star Danica Patrick. Entering into an agreement with SA Fragrances, the upcoming Danica Patrick for Her perfume is likely the first-ever fragrance to be designed by a race car driver (in North America at least) Vice president of sales has been quoted as saying in a release "Danica's fragrance will immediately be recognized as the hot new fragrance of 2010".

Scheduled to be priced between $30-60 for sprays ranging from 1 ounce to 3.4 ounces, Danica Patrick for Her perfume is targeted against other products promoted with the likes of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. While promoting their scents, SA Fragrances of Boston are also setting a track record for spotlighting strong, positive female influences. Recently the Boston, Massachusetts fragrance company launched Annika, a perfume on the brand of golfer Annika Sorenstam.

Don't expect the perfume to smell like motor oil or 20 lap-old tires at Indy; For some reason, those aromas have yet to attract favourable attention from perfume creators.

For more information, you can connect to Danica Patrick's official website at

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

On this day, please allow me to express my genuine season's greetings to all of my webpage readers. I also want to send a special seasons greetings to my fellow writers at I send a Merry Christmas to everyone in the context that those words will be accept of a general well-wishing, without the necessity of connecting it religiously. I wish is for all people in all walks of life to enjoy this day , or any other day peacefully. If Merry Christmas is still unwelcomed, I send you a happy holidays without any diminished feelings.

Season's Greetings,

XSL Speed Reporter

Naughty and Nice of Auto Racing 2009: IndyCar Series

(Photo Credit: Shawn Payne/IndyCar)

Clearly, I'm behind my times in providing you with the Naughty and Nice Lists of Auto Racing for 2009. I was consumed by Christmas thoughts through the past few days. Please enjoy my recent list of the 2009 IndyCar series.

Gift: Former Champ Car winners Will Power and Justin Wilson captures IndyCar victories- Though Power and Wilson are not the only drivers who have recorded wins in both the defunct Champ Car series and the IndyCar series, their stories are popular challenges against the established IRL drivers. Justin Wilson's win at Waltkins Glen in 2009 was a great personal victory and the season's underdog story. In Will Power's case, he took advantage of a limited opportunities with a third Roger Penske-owned car through select IndyCar races for 2009. His victory at the Edmonton round came not only as a mild surprise but a reason to add the Australian to the full time season's roster in 2010.

(Photo Credit: Shawn Payne/IndyCar)

Lump of Coal: Two team domination of IndyCar racing- With exception to Justin Wilson's surprise win with a Dale Coyne-owned machine at Watkins Glen, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing were the only teams who succeeded in placing cars in victory lane.

(Photo Credit: Dan Helrigel/IndyCar)

Gift: Return of the Toronto Indy- Please excuse me if I sound prejudice but keep in mind that my mention of the Toronto Honda Indy also accounts as some Canadian patriotism. Returning to the race for the first time in many years, I was surprised by the improvements in access and excitement. On Sunday, the race proved to be a very memorable affair as eventual 2009 champion Dario Franchitti claimed victory following a controversial, well-time pitstop inside the #10 Chip Ganassi car.

(Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter)

Lump of Coal: Canadian Media at the Honda Indy of Toronto- By and large, auto racing is the most neglected sports in the field of athletics. For this reason, it is not surprising, even after 23 runnings on the Lakeshore of Canada's highest populated city, that a event that routinely attracts over 100,000 plus annual paying spectators (almost double the size of the Rogers Center's rarely reached full capacity) for a weekend often takes a backseat in news coverage to Canadian football, baseball, and even tennis tournaments. However, the part that most bugs me is how the sports reporters are more interested in criticizing that fact that race organizers weren't publishing spectator counts. I guess they need to have someone tell them how popular the event is because they're not attending it but will still try to write an informed story, giving the sport more discredit.

(Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter)

Gift: Helio Castroneves turning off-track turmoil into racing gusto- As the 2009 IndyCar season started on the streets of St Petersburg, two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was sidelined due to the most unusual circumstances for a race car driver. Levied with tax evasion charges by the US federal government, Castroneves and his sister faced up to 35 years in prison for what was thought to be income tax fraud. As race did 14 times before in the IndyCar series, Helio Castroneves was triumphant in court. With his innocence reclaimed, Castroneves returned to his #3 Penske Racing Honda at Long Beach to finish 7th and would back it up with a 2nd at Kansas Speedway one week later.

Rolling into the Indianapolis 500, Helio Castroneves found the 2.5 mile historic Brickyard oval wanted to grant the embattled driver the race of his career. Setting fastest time on Pole Day, Helio flew to his 3rd Indy 500 victory.

(Photo Credit: Dana Garrett/IndyCar)

Lump of Coal: The unaccustomed yawner finish of Richmond- place Dario Registering 9 on the snooze meter was the final laps of the late June race at Richmond International Raceway. Though the 3/4 mile oval has been lauded as a highly competitive track for stock car and sprint car racing, the 2009 IndyCar Series visit provided a hum-drum affair between winner Target Chip Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon and 2nd place Franchitti.

Lump of Coal: The Andretti-Green Racing 2009 IndyCar campaign- While many teams suffered with problems finding victory lane in 2009 thanks to Chip Ganassi and Penske Racing dominance, Andretti-Green Racing (just recently changing its name to Andretti Autosport) 2009 season was a horrific off-tone year for their mighty 4-car organization. With a popular team driver lineup consisting of Marco Andretti, Tony Kannan, Danica Patrick and Hideki Mutoh, the 2009 season ended with no new IndyCar series trophies for the conglomerate's trophy display room. At the end of 2009, team owners Michael Andretti and Kim Green were clearly no longer on good terms. As a result, the deterioration in the relationship of the team ownership structure could have easily strained the race teams.

Though winless, drivers Danica Patrick and Tony Kannan were able to persevere to honourable mentions for the season. Patrick posted an career-best 5th overall in the final standings with Kannan finishing close up in 6th place. Hideki Mutoh would be dismissed from the team after the 2009 season after an 11th place points finish. However, what would classify as the largest disappointment in the 2009 Andretti-Green Racing team was the 3rd generation Macro Andretti. In his 4th season in IndyCar, the young Andretti is still struggling to add a second win following his rookie year victory at Infineon Raceway. Marco Andretti could only post a season-best race finish of 4th place throughout the 2009 IndyCar tour.

(Photo Credit: Shawn Payne/IndyCar)

Gift: A thrilling title finish- With 2 races left in the 2009 IndyCar series championship, Ryan Briscoe appeared ready to hold the champion's trophy as rewards for his best ever season in the series. His 3 wins and more impressively 7 second-place finishes put Briscoe 25 points ahead of Scott Dixon as the green flag dropped on the Twin Ring Motegi Indy Japan 300. Briscoe became the heartback kid when he went from locking up the championship to finishing third after a pit road mistake at the Twin-Ring Motegi oval. In prime position to capitalize on the fallen Penske Racing driver in that single race, Chip Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti finished 1-2 in that second to last race of the 2009 IndyCar season. By winning Dixon leapfrogged Briscoe in the points creating a three-way championship battle with Dixon, Franchitti and Briscoe separated by only 8 points.

In the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, all three title contenders ran together knowing that the championship could come down to just one position on the race track. At the end, Dario Franchitti won the race by outlasting his Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon and Penske Racing challenger Ryan Briscoe. This championship for Franchitti, the second for the Scottish driver, was also an ideal welcome back gift after his venture into NASCAR fizzled on sponsorship.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Rules for Sprint Cup Budweiser Shootout at Daytona

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

Presented as an unofficial start to the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the Budweiser Shootout kicks off February 6th at Daytona International Speedway with an all-new eligibility requirements. After experimenting with a manufacturer-based selection process last year, NASCAR has revamped the 2010 Budweiser Shootout eligibility by opening the field under the following requirement:
  • 2009 Chase for the Cup drivers
  • Past NASCAR Sprint Cup champions
  • Past Budweiser Shootout winners
  • Past winners of Daytona 500 and Daytona's July Coke Zero 400 race
  • 2009 rookie of the year

With the race founded in 1979 as the Busch Clash, this non-points race was exclusive to pole winners in the previous Cup series season. After the selection process was left unchanged for 22 runnings, the format radically changed in 2001 when previous event winners were also granted automatic entry. As Toyota gained ground in the series, NASCAR decided after to altered the selection of the Shootout by shining light on the 4 manufacturers in 2009. For the 2009 Budweiser Shootout, the 6th highest (7th if no championship driver is otherwise available) in owner points of each car make filled the field. Not only did this change in eligibility throw out the long-held basis on past season's pole sitters, two drivers who didn't race with their respected teams entered the Budweiser Shootout. The #12 Penske Racing Dodge as well as the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, piloted by Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart, were driven in the race by David Stremme and rookie driver Joey Logano. In fact, if it wasn't for NASCAR's decision to add the past championship provision, Stewart wouldn't even have gotten a chance to run the Busweiser Shootout. Though the race itself wasn't terribly affected, some fans disliked the system since manufacturers like Ford and Dodge, who barely fielded 6 cars in 2009, were promoted into the race by constructor affiliation rather than individual performance.

In an era where NASCAR is leaning further and further towards spec stock cars, using manufacturers standing is far outdated for a series which features race cars that maintain little identity to their stock counterparts. Current economics also made the manufacturer-based selection process problematic. This is reflected heavily in the Dodge Motorsport camp. Losing Richard Petty Motorsports to Ford, Dodge is left with only three steady cars fielded by Penske Racing.

NASCAR's choice to abandoning the highly controversial manufacturer-based selection process for a system rewarding drivers' achievements will be better received by fans. Amongst what would be the most newsworthy addition under the new criteria is NASCAR Sprint Cup's 2009 Most Popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ready to put the 2009 campaign with the AMP/National Guard Chevrolet behind him, Earnhardt's position in the 2010 Budweiser Shootout was earned through past success at Daytona.

The 2010 edition of the Budweiser Shootout running on February 6th will be the finale to an important day at Daytona International Speedway. Starting with Daytona 500 qualifying, these Sprint Cup racing action is sandwiched between the ARCA stock car Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 race.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Michael Schumacher's Back in Formula 1 for 2010 at Mercedes-Benz GP Team

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP Petronas

As Mercedes-Benz bought up controlling stake in the 2009 championship contractor Brawn GP, the newly established Mercedes Grand Prix team (or Mercedes GP Petronas following a recent sponsor addition to the team) started with a clean driver slate for 2010 as both Rubens Barrichello and 2009 F1 Driver's Champion Jenson Button transferred to new teams. Adding Nico Rosberg exactly one month earlier (November 23rd), rumours immediately surrounded who will fill the second seat.

Appearing to be wild speculation at the time, Mercedes Grand Prix was mentioned to be wooing 91-time grand prix winner and 7-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher. Those rumours turned true today for an early Christmas announcement as Michael Schumacher returns to Formula 1 after 3 seasons off from the series. It's with little surprise that the newly commissioned Mercedes Grand Prix team could lure the 7-time World Champion driver from his uneasy retirement. Last season, Schumacher was slated to return last season in a relief effort for Ferrari filling in for their injured driver Felipe Massa. Those plans were derailed only by an incident riding a Superbike.

Completing an all-German driver lineup for a German-owned team, Schumacher's signing with Mercedes GP Petronas also reunites the legendary driver with his former technical director Ross Brawn. Traveling with the Michael Schumacher's landmark move from Benetton to Ferrari, Brawn was behind every victory the driver claimed in Formula 1. Schumacher's move to Mercedes-Benz is also one of nostalgic. In 1990, the Mercedes-Benz factory's revived Silver Arrows effort allowed than unknown German Michael Schumacher to have his first step on the world stage.

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP Petronas

A major score for Mercedes as well as to fans that followed the multiple record-holding F1 driver as he set those marks, Michael Schumacher's return to formula 1 has more than a few fans happy. In an interview on the Formula 1's official website, CEO of Formula One Management Bernie Ecclestone commented "I think it is fantastic for Formula One that he turned into a ‘comeback kid’." shortly following Schumacher's announcement. Other supporters to Schumacher's comeback even included his rival Jacques Villenueve who said in a interview "I don't see any reason why he shouldn't get back to be his old self again".

Turning 41 years old in January 3rd of 2010, Schumacher's reentry into Formula 1 will make him the eldest driver of on the circuit. In spite of modern preconceptions that auto racing is a young person's sport, improved safety and physical fitness regimes have veteran drivers in sports car racing and particularly NASCAR showing that age is only a meaningless number. In fact, Formula 1's past reflects three drivers over the age of 40 winning the World championship title. 40 or older for all five of his championships, the original F1 superstar Juan Manuel Fangio won his final championship at 46 years old. Therefore, it should no be a terrific shock if Michael Schumacher could storm to his 8th Formula 1 championship in 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Road America to Host the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2010

Richard Prince/GM Racing photo

Less than a week after the confirmation that NASCAR would not be sending the Nationwide series to the Milwaukee Mile oval an alternative plan took shape in the form of the series' 3rd road course race for 2010. NASCAR Nationwide Series cars and teams will be unleashed on the picturesque circuit of Road America at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on June 19th.

A 4-mile road course, Road America was created in 1955 as Wisconsin state law forbid auto racing competition to be held on public roads. Well connected to professional sports car racing, the track has been the site of AMA Superbikes and particularly Champ Car racing.

With the NASCAR Nationwide Series completely unaccustomed to the long 14-turn road course, this is not the first time that a NASCAR stock car series has visited Road America. In 1956, NASCAR's Grand National division (which is today now as the Sprint Cup series) ran a 250-mile affair around the 4-mile Elkhart Lake road course. Future motorsport hall of fame driver Tim Flock took a Mercury to win the sole major NASCAR race.

Photo Credit: Road America Archives

With 3 road courses to be on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule for the first time since 2008, this race promises to be another exhibition for non-regular NASCAR competitors. Described as Road Course Ringers, drivers with sports car racing and open wheel pedigree like Ron Fellows and Boris Said are going to be sought after talents for the event. More than likely, road course ace and Cup regular Marcus Ambrose will seek in opportunity to sink his sharpened race teeth into the long, winding Road America. However, this event's timing of June 19th comes one day prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup road race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. While Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards made a trek to start every race in Cup and Nationwide in 2009, the logistics and driver's will are going to become challenges for this mid-year weekend.

Preserving major stock car touring series race for the state, the departure from a one-mile oval to a four-mile road course is certain to be an entirely different race for not only the drivers and teams but for the race fans. Like a number of closed road courses, spectators are free to view the race from a multitude of areas around the track.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Milwaukee Mile Going Quiet for 2010

Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images for NASCAR

After 107 years of promoting to evolution of the automobile through motor racing, the Milwaukee State Fair property will end their streak of providing at least one auto race a year (excluding years of world war) to the residents of Wisconsin in 2010. Until the approaching racing season, the Milwaukee Mile had been credited for being the oldest running speedway in the world. Last week, NASCAR was forced to provide the unfortunate news that neither the Nationwide or Camping World Truck series racers will return for their annual visit to the Milwaukee Mile. Their announcement follows suit of the IndyCar series will had kept the race off the 2010 Izod IndyCar schedule.

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney/IndyCar

With racing at the Milwaukee Mile appearing to be stalled for 2010 by a contentious battle amongst private and government assemblies as well as a major debtload, the latest attempt for local businessmen Frank and Dominic Giuffre to take over promotion of the racetrack fell apart in mid November.

Significant to open-wheel racing history (most recently the IndyCar series), an event at the one-mile oval were traditionally run on the week following the Indianapolis 500 for many years since first done in 1947. From 2004 to 2006, the Milwaukee Mile also scheduled two event in the year for opwn wheel with IRL IndyCars and the Champ car events. Through multiple events, the Milwaukee Mile played host to some historic moments. In 1963, the track was the scene of Indy car racing's first triumph by an rear-engined race car as Jim Clark drove a Lotus-Ford to victory lane. Among other popular occurrences included the Andretti family of drivers Michael, Mario, and John taking 1-2-3 in the 1991 race. One more moment the one-mile track provided was the scene of the late Greg Moore's first CART series victory holding off Michael Andretti to win the 225 mile event.

Running two races in the 1980s, the NASCAR Nationwide (then Busch Series) possessed a lasting presence in the area from 1993 to 2009. Drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards won races on the storied surface. The NASCAR Camping World Truck also held a race at the Milwaukee Mile since the tour was started in 1995.

Despite the lack of a future suitor, hope surrounds the possibility of major auto racing returning to the Milwaukee Mile in 2011.

Where is the Exhaust Notes for the US F1 racing team?

On the team's official website, the US F1 Team proclaims "America's Formula One Team... On Track in 2010!". However, judging by the amount of information provided into the media, these words have yet to be verified. As committed as the other 3 new teams to the Formula 1 grid for 2010, the US F1 Team appears to be starting later into the session for planning their upcoming grand prix season. Headed by Speed channel F1 journalist/reporter Peter Windsor and a former NASCAR director Ken Anderson, we're assuming that one of the newest Formula 1 racing teams is being assembled behind closed doors.

The US F1 team remains the only team yet to officially declare even one of their drivers for their maiden voyage in 2010. Initially stating intentions of running American drivers (early wild speculation mentioned Danica Patrick and AJ Allmendinger received team courtship), the US F1 Team principal Peter Windsor has said the team will be looking more outside of their country's home base for the driver lineup. 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve and recently long-time F1 racer Alexander Wurz have been linked to the US F1 operations. Argentinian Jose Maria Lopez was reported as being the team's first addition to the US F1 driver roster in late November, but the former Renault F1 test driver's deal is contingent on securing sponsorship (allegedly totaling 8 million dollars).

Though the driver lineup is unsettled as 2009 comes near an end, this situation is not new to Formula 1. While recently F1 teams have been solidifying plans prior to the new year, previous off-seasons had often left spots vacant until late January. As engines supplier were once a massive news-making decision, the new Cosworth spec engine took one major decision out of the typical Formula 1 team building. In other race car-related news, US F1 Team announced the fabricators for their Formula 1 racing machine will be handled by the Advanced Composites Group. "The team faces a tremendous challenge to design and produce the first American-based Formula One car in more than 40 years, and ACG's composites expertise will be critical for us to meet our goals and expectations in 2010 and beyond." co-team principal Ken Anderson was quoted in a recent release.

With FIA approval, efforts of the US F1 Team remains earnest to their inclusion within the 2010 grand prix field.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Naughty and Nice of Auto Racing 2009: Sports Car Racing

Counting down to Christmas, Santa Claus has been checking his list twice assuring that all the good kids (or even kids at heart) will receive at least that one gift. XSL Speed Reporter will use the 'Naughty and Nice' scale to judge this past year in auto racing. Placing events into two categories, the nice and positive movements in motorsports will be granted a 'Gift' rating. Negative moments and disappointing news will be given a 'Lump of Coal' rating.

Starting with the look back to 2009, XSL Speed Reporter will review the transpiration in the North American Sports Car series, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the Grand American Sports Car Series. While both leagues were injured by the recent economic meltdown, they have also been able to gain solidarity in specific classes.

Gift: The ALMS' GT class categories- With Porsche 911, BMW M3, Ferrari F430GT, Panoz and now the Chevrolet Corvette competing in the same GT category by the end of 2009, this all-new eclectic grouping have provided the most captivating competition seen in the sports car series. One of the most memorable on-track battles occurred at the Mosport round where a Corvette C6R edged by and held off a Risi Competizione Ferrari through in the final minutes of the event.

Photo Credit Richard Prince/GM Racing Photo

Lump of Coal: Audi Sport Team Joest- We know that the current economic climate for automakers have left factory auto racing on shoestring budgets, Audi went to all the trouble to build their R15 prototype only to limit its race involvement to 3 major events.

Gift: Pursuit of more environmentally-friendly technology- The American Le Mans series has become a showcase of greener racing through recent years. Started ages ago on the Audi R8 prototypes adoption of gasoline direct injection, latest innovations inside the ALMS field have included diesel powered race engines, e85 fuel, and kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS). Of course, these green initiatives always contains a strong undercurrent of public relations, sports car racing have long since demonstrated its advantages to production cars. With the help of series brass and rewards such as the Michelin Green Challenge, created to spotlight these technological improvements, racing can remain relevant well into the future.

Lump of Coal: The Weather by Road Atlanta during the Petit Le Mans- Completing only 184 laps (less than half of the race's 1,000 mile distance within 10 hours), the 2009 Petit Le Mans was halted by an intense thunderstorm system. With around 3 inches of rainfall accompanying the troubling skies over top of the Road Atlanta, the win was awarded to the Peugeot 908 prototype after a lengthy red flag period. A bad break for the American Le Mans Series competitors, this rainstorm was crushing to the residents within the Georgia area who had been victims of up to 5 inches of precipitation over a 1 week period just a few days earlier.

Gift: Daytona Prototype Car Counts- The Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series made some massive noise when the France family-owned sports car decided to phase out the traditional sports car prototype class in the favour of their own. The Daytona Prototype class was created in 2003 on the framework of NASCAR stock car racing to make racing closer betw

een teams and ultimately more affordable. While top teams exist in the Daytona Prototype class such as Chip Ganassi Racing, 11 cars ran a full schedule in 2009 when the American Le Mans top prototype division is fighting to maintain half a dozen cars per race.

Lump of Coal: Canadian Race Promoters- With snow blanketing the Canadian landscape for as much 6 months a year, auto racing has a limited season to make use of national racetracks. This past race season, the American Le Mans Series race at Mosport coincided with the major NASCAR weekend at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, which also featured the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series on the Saturday. As a Canadian motorsport fan, booking two big races on the same weekend cost us either a chance to watch an incredible dice between Ferrari and Corvette at Grand Prix of Mosport or the chance watch Andrew Ranger and Jacques Villeneuve finish strong against NASCAR regulars in the Nationwide series.

Perhaps we should not be surprising as a Canadian sports fan (yes, auto racing is a sport); For almost 40 years in the Canadian Football League (CFL) there were two teams that played under the name Rough Riders.

Gift: Acura's continuing commitment to sports car racing- At one point during 2009, inside sources indicated to the media that Acura may have considered bowing out of the American Le Mans Series after the year wrapped. However, 2009 prototype championship team Patron Highcroft Racing have confirmed they're returning with the Acura ARX-02 for a 2010 title defense. The 2010 season also includes an invitation to the upcoming Le Mans 24-hour race for the Japanese brand's first visit to the event.

Photo Credit: Dan R Boyd/Acura Media

Photo By GM/Pontiac Racing

Lump of Coal: The loss of Pontiac- As a General Motors division since 1926, Pontiac had a long association with motorsports. Competing within the fields of NASCAR, NHRA, as well as sports car racing, Pontiac would never enjoy the immense GM support for the motorsport efforts of Chevrolet. The final triumphs for Pontiac came in the Grand American Rolex Sport Car Series. Pontiac badging adorned GM Racing engines in many of the Daytona Prototype class champions including the 2009 series winning team Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing. As well as involvement in the Daytona Prototype category, Pontiac enlisted GT teams to compete with race cars derived from first the GTO and later the G6. In the final race of 2009 at Homestead Miami Speedway, Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins bought a Pontiac G6 GXP-R to class victory.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Danica Patrick to Make NASCAR Debut at Fontana

Left to Right: Kelly Earnhardt, Danica Patrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kelly Bires
Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

As promised, the press conference at JR Motorsports' Mooresville, North Carolina race shop delivered itself as an early Christmas present to fans of NASCAR. With many of JR Motorsports key people at the conference Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kelly Earnhardt, Danica Patrick, and the team's full-time Nationwide Kelly Bires were the key soundbites through the event.

With Danica Patrick dominating press and fan interests, some minor details were finally provided on the most anticipated debut in the NASCAR Nationwide series. Patrick's first race in the #7 Chevrolet Impala will be at Auto Club Speedway on February 20th. She will then complete the following week at Las Vegas Speedway before rejoining her IZod IndyCar series team in Brazil for the season opening round. With plans to compete in 13 races in 2010, not including the Daytona International Speedway's season opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race on her limited schedule is a definitely apparent

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

Patrick's debut at the Auto Club Speedway has been dealt as somewhat of a curve ball considering the fact her planned stock car entrance will occur in the Daytona ARCA race. Indicating the reason for not running the NASCAR Nationwide Series 300 mile race at Daytona, Patrick responded "The race is basically a Cup race, some 30 odd drivers in Cup run in it. So, is that the right time for me to start or not? You only get one grand opening, so I've heard. We want it to be the right opportunity". It's still a odd decision to take Danica Patrick out of the heat of NASCAR Nationwide's most competitive race. It's conceivable this move might have been more to the pleasure of her sponsorship than her competitive initiation to NASCAR. The Daytona Nationwide Series race, a precursor to the Daytona 500, is also noted for its bulky qualifying lineup which can be pushed up to 50 cars for 43 spots. The Auto Club Speedway race usually features a more streamlined car count. Point being that her chances of running the actual would not be as hindered due to qualifying mishaps or weather which better serves her as well as brass who has brokered a lot on the most popular female racer.

Another distant possibly might circle on Danica Patrick's experience in a stock car. While the ARCA series may welcome her based on 5 years of open-wheel experience, NASCAR may not be completely comfortable putting Patrick into aggressive bump drafting with only one stock car race. However, Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Montoya possessed the same limited experience finding restrictor plate racing quickly with little incident.

Team founder Dale Earnhardt Jr was highly visible at the press event. Planning to drive the #5 JR Motorsports in some Nationwide Series races for 2010, Earnhardt Jr's ownership part in the team, while still valued, involves many of his family enjoying a voice on the operations of the race team. Whether putting JR Motorsports in the hands of his trusted family will improve his performance in the #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet remains to be seen. However, Earnhardt Jr's presence regularly brings out a loyal and devoted following of JR Nation; a group guaranteed to be back for the entire 2010 season.

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

Lost behind the fanfare of Danica Patrick is the JR Motorsports technical #1 driver Kelly Bires. 25 years old, Bires takes over full season campaign inside the #88 Chevrolet. Succeeding Brad Keselowski, Kelly Bires performance is, in reality, more critical than Danica Patrick's. Much like the driver that preceded him, Bires has considerable stock car racing experience but his yet to taste splendors of victory in a major NASCAR touring series.

Renault Firms Up Plans for 2010 F1 Season

Photo Credit: Renault F1 Racing

In the midst of still savage climate in auto racing as auto manufacturers continue to struggle for profitability, Formula 1 has experienced 3 major departures through the past two seasons (Honda, BMW and Toyota). Desiring some stability, the FIA took comfort with French auto maker Renault reaffirming its commitment to the ultra exotic open-wheel series for 2010. However, this renewal by Renault to powering the Formula 1 grid came with a concurring announcement changing the nature of their relationship in the sport.

Renault F1, the French auto maker's factory team, will now be majority-owned by a private investment partner entering into 2010. Genii Capital, a Luxembourg-based group known as specialists of new technologies and brand imaging bought what is called a 'large stake' of the Renault F1 operation as the Renault factory looks to getting the best value for their sponsorship as one of the most expensive sports on earth. Genii Capital may also be remembered from earlier this year when they unsuccessfully attempted to buy assets of the bankrupt camera innovator Polaroid. It's believed that the name of the team will continue to be Renault F1 for 2010. Robert Kubica has already been signed to drive in the upcoming Formula 1 season with a second driver still yet to be named.

Buying out Bennetton in 2002 to stake their corporate name on a Formula 1 team, Renault F1 took back-to-back constructor championships in 2005 and 2006 thanks largely to Fernando Alonso's driver crowns.

Coinciding with the sale of a major stake in their namesake Formula 1 team, Renault confirmed that Red Bull Racing will continue to run the French powerplants in 2010. Following Red Bull Racing's best grand prix season with 6 victories and a 2nd place in the manufacturer points standings in 2009, this move seemed like a natural. In fact, going into the new Formula 1 season,
the thriving Formula 1 team has retained the final major piece to enter the 2010 season with essentially the same team as the previous year. In fact, with Brawn GP undergoing a massive corporate reshuffling which includes driver changes and the rebranding as Mercedes Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing could theoretically be heading for a banner year on the 2010 Formula 1 circuit. Having existed solely as an engine supplier in the 1990s, the last F1 customer team to grab a constructors championship was Williams F1 in 1997. Disturbingly though, Renault dropped their official engine support of Formula 1 at the end of that season.

Without making firm plans beyond next year, Renault's planning for the grand prix 2010 season could either be viewed most negatively as a gradual step out of F1, making it the third time Renault withdrew from the sport. However, in a more positive mindset, it is possible that Renault reduced funding (coupled with FIA attempts to cut costs in F1) could provide a better long-term plan for seeing the diamond badge on the grand prix tour.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Danica Patrick/JR Motorsports Gifts NASCAR Media with Press Conference

Photo Credit:

After a little more than a week since Danica Patrick's official announcement to joining JR Motorsports for a part-time Nationwide schedule, it is fair to say that Christmas definitely came early for the NASCAR media. Traditionally, the entire month of December would have usually been the dullest time in stock car racing allowing journalists to write holiday gift guides or year in review stories (XSL Speed Reporter has some of those stories prepared to post in the coming days). Thanks to an intense infatuation with Danica Patrick much of the motorsport media shares, December of 2009 will be one of the most active off-season breaks in NASCAR history.

On Thursday, 45 minute press conference has been scheduled at the JR Motorsports shop in Mooresville, North Carolina. Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kelly Earnhardt, Tony Eury Sr and Jr as well as the driver of the #7 Godaddy Chevrolet in the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series tour are slated to entertain the press before Patrick sets out on her first open test piloting an ARCA stock car in Daytona. Attendance at the event will include esteemed members of the press plus 20 JR Nation Fan Club members who can ask the panel questions (Danica Patrick's NASCAR Nationwide schedule for 2010 would probably be a leading question). A simple question and answer period without a significant announcement, live access will be unprecedented. Apart from a regular webstream which will be required on, cable television channel Speed and XM/Sirius satellite radio channels 128 are broadcasting the outreach event. On satellite radio, the press conference will be followed by up to 3 hours of analysis (yikes!).

With such attention drawn onto Danica Patrick, it is mildly disturbing that the appetite for the driver has preceded her stock car racing efforts at the track. As Danica Patrick attends the 3-day test at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the ARCA stock car series' debut, she may be learning more about the NASCAR media than racing a stock car. Of course Patrick has experienced five seasons under the brightest spotlight in IndyCar racing.

With all due respect to the ARCA Remax Series, the Daytona 200 mile event has historically been grounds for major NASCAR teams to run a one-off effort to showcase their latest drivers. Through testing and the race in early February, JR Motorsports will most certainly make use of Hendrick Motorsports cars and expertise putting Patrick several steps ahead even before hitting the track. When Danica Patrick finally gets a chance to leave the motorsport press behind, the first true display of the famous racing female's driving abilities in a full-bodied stock car should provide an intriguing 2010 Nationwide Series season.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lotus F1 Racing Team Announces Driver Lineup for 2010

Photo Credit: Lotus F1

As the Lotus name returns the Formula 1 grid for the first time since 1994, the predecessor to the new team was a driving force of grand prix motorsports. Historic vehicles of Team Lotus are piloted by racing legends Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill, Mario Andretti, Aryton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Mika Häkkinen (all of which won F1 World Championship with or without Team Lotus). With auto racing pedigree of Team Lotus alumni, the motorsport world eagerly conjectured on who will be the team's drivers. Hosted by the Malaysia's Prime Minister Dato' Sri Najib Tun Razak, the awaited driver lineup for the 2010 Lotus F1 Racing team was presented in Kuala Lumpur.

Assembling the team's race day lineup for 2010 is Italy's Jarno Trulli and the Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen. Possessing one grand prix victory a piece, Trulli and Kovalainen both come from top racing teams. Trulli arrives from the now defunct Panasonic Toyota Racing outfit while Kovalainen enters Lotus F1 Racing after driving two seasons as Lewis Hamilton's wingman at McLaren. Jarno Trulli commented on his signing with the team as "a privilege" and expresses a desire to "draw inspiration from the heritage of Lotus for our team". In reality, the Lotus F1 Racing starts 2010 as a brand new Formula 1 race team with only a name to bring itself recognition on the grid. Therefore, it was not surprising that the organization sought the veteran hands for their debut in competition. In fact, Kovalainen made a direct response in relations to the driver lineup by saying "I believe that appointing two drivers with the experience Jarno and I have shows how determined the team is to go racing in a truly competitive way, and our pairing sends out a very strong message to our competitors."

Third Lotus pilot, 27 year old Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy, completes the team's lineup as the test and reserve driver. Fauzy has proven himself in professional karting as well as A1 Grand Prix racing.

One of four new F1 teams for 2010, Lotus F1 Racing is currently well underway on building their 2010 race car which will make use of a spec Cosworth V8 engine and Xtrac transmission designed to reduce competitive costs. It will remain to be seen how well the new car, being primarily campaigned by a veteran driving force, will fare against the seasoned teams of Ferrari and McLaren; two teams that were once taking lessons from Team Lotus.

Monday, December 14, 2009

ACO Plans to Unify Le Mans Prototype with Intercontinental Cup

While the 24 hour of Le Mans has long been the pinnacle event for defining sports car greatness, the organizers of famous day-long French auto race have been working hard to bring unified rules and even cars to across the world. The ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest or Automobile Club of the West of France) has been influential in sanctioning much of the world's sports car racing action. In cooperation with Don Panoz, the American Le Mans Series has enjoyed the ACO's backing since 1998 establishment of the racing calendar. The ACO later formulated a successful European-based tour known simply as the Le Mans Series and are currently engaged in effectively launching an Asian tour under the same rules format.

For 2010, the ACO is undertaking the first step into a bold, new move into establishing a world honour for prototype competitors. Called the Intercontinental Cup, this series within the three Le Mans series will consist of one race from each tour.

2010 Intercontinental Cup for Le Mans Prototypes

Le Mans Series Silverstone 1000 km event- September 13th
American Le Mans Series Petit Le Mans 1000 mile - October 2nd
Asian Le Mans Series Round Circuit Okayama 500 km- November (Rumored)

To be eligible for the Intercontinental Cup, the ACO attached some provisions to guarantee prototype teams will not cherry-pick the 3 races in the tour. Entrants will be required to run 5 races in every of the Le Series sports car series (the Le Mans 24 hour race can not be counted).

Shortly upon the announcement, Audi Sport Team Joest pledged their pair of R15 prototypes will campaign in quest for the inaugural Intercontinental Cup. 2009 Audi rival and 24-Hour of Le Mans successor Peugeot has yet to express a firm commitment to running their 908 HDi FAP the new prototype Cup for 2010. However, Peugeot does intend to compete once again for the 24-hour of Le Mans podium, defending last year's crown. Besides Audi and Peugeot, it is likely that those two auto makers will be the only 2010 Intercontinental Cup contenders. Though Acura Motorsports had made a dominating stand through the 2009 American Le Mans Series circuit, their commitment to the 2010 schedule was in doubt until Patron Highcroft Racing locked up plans to compete in the 2010 American Le Mans Series. With an Asian round in the Intercontinental Cup, it remains to be seen if this might reinvigorate the Honda-based brand's interest in a future with sport car prototypes. Entrants for the upcoming season must be affirmed by February of 2010.

With the inaugural Intercontinental Cup planned for only 3 races in 2010, the ACO has already mentioned a desire to expand the tour in 2011 and beyond to at least double the events.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kyle Busch Announces New NASCAR Truck Series Team

Photo Credit: Kyle Busch Motorsports

In the final races of 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kyle Busch plainly indicated that he was not returning to his familar part-time ride in the #51 Billy Ballew Motorsports Toyota. Immediately, it was speculated that Busch's plans for the 2010 truck series schedule would exist with his own team. Through acquired equipment from the Xpress Motorsports operations, the formulation of Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series has been officially publicized on Friday. Being an ultimate force in the top three NASCAR touring divisions himself by winning 41 races combined in the past 2 seasons of competition, Kyle Busch endeavour's into car ownership first the first time in a major NASCAR division showing some considerable team building savvy.

Sporting a two-truck operation using Toyota Tundras, Kyle Busch Motorsports will wear Busch's current Sprint Cup number #18 and the #56 through the full 2010 schedule. Much like previous years, Kyle Busch will commit to running a sizable part-time effort in the #18
Miccosukee Resort & Gaming Toyota in races run on companion weekends with his NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. The remaining races on the Truck schedule will allow Brian Ickler to compete in 2010. Having served as the second driver of the #51 Toyota truck at Billy Ballew Motorsports 2009, Ickler proved extremely formidable in the same equipment as Busch in Camping World Truck Series competition.

Driving the #56 Toyota, Kyle Busch lured 20 year old Tayler Malsam from Randy Moss Motorsports following a productive 2009 rookie campaign. Malsam will be planning full-time in the #56 truck which was shown wearing sponsorship of ActivWater. At the press unveiling, Malsam commented
"To team with someone who has won two of the last three series championships is going to be awesome. And I’m proud to continue my relationship with Toyota."

Overseeing the entire Kyle Busch Motorsports is one of the biggest surprises during the NASCAR Truck Series off-season. Rick Ren, 2009 championship-winning crew chief of Ron Hornaday's #33 Kevin Harvick Incorporated Chevrolet, jumped ship for a Director of Competition role with Busch's newly-assembled team.
"There have been great racecar drivers, but Kyle has the opportunity to be one of the all-time greats. Getting the chance to help a guy like that who has a dream of building his own race team is an honor.” Ren commented on his reason for taking the new job for the 2010 truck series season.

2010 Formula 1 Season to Feature Overhauled Points System

With 6 more cars set to compete in the 2010 Formula 1 season over last year, the FIA has devised a plan to improve odds for those new teams to score their maiden points. Starting with the first grand prix of 2010, Formula teams and drivers will be fighting for more point-paying positions at the finish. The top 10 finishers will all score points. While inclusive to the smaller teams, the new points ranking passes some of the largest rewards for podium finishers. The top 3 positions will also be contending for remarkably higher point values which allows a winning driver to gain a maximum 25 points.

The expansion of eligibility to 10 drivers and teams per race represents the first change in the Formula 1 points structure since 2003. From 1950 to 1991, the top 6 cars and drivers in each grand prix race were awarded points in a format that allowed the winning team to be credited with a maximum 9 points. The 10 point incentive for winning a race was added in the 1992 Formula 1 season and continued to be the standard since the end of this past season. Having only rewarded the top-6 since the inception of Formula 1, the FIA increased the eligible positions to 8th spot in 2003 by narrowing the points spread. Back in the 2003 season, the changes could have been motivated by the an attempt to curb the Formula 1 dynasty of Michael Schumacher's and Ferrari's championship dominance (which then existed at 3 straight crowns). The move to expand to 8 points-paying position also an attempt to reward teams, which were considered F1 back-markers, to compete deeper in the constructor points. The addition of 2 more points positions is certainly a measure to allow the 4 new Formula 1 teams an opportunity to overcome the 'goose egg' in the season's final standings.

2010 Formula 1 Points System
  1. 25 Points
  2. 20 Points
  3. 15 Points
  4. 10 Points
  5. 8 Points
  6. 6 Points
  7. 5 Points
  8. 3 Points
  9. 2 Points
  10. 1 Point

Calculating the 2009 Formula 1 results against to 2010 points system, current F1 World Champion Jenson Button would have won handily over Sebestian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello. While the top 6 drivers in 2009 Formula 1 in the points remains unchanged under the 2010 points, driver Kazuki Nakajima (who competed for the entire 2009 F1 campaign but failed to score a single point) would have left with 5 points under the revised standings.

The expansion of eligibility to 10 drivers and teams per race represents the first change in the Formula 1 points structure since 2003. From 1950 to 1991, the top 6 cars and drivers in each grand prix race were awarded points in a format that allowed the winning team to be credited with a maximum 9 points. The 10 point incentive for winning a race was added in the 1992 Formula 1 season and continued to be the standard since the end of this past season. Having only rewarded the top-6 since the inception of Formula 1, the FIA increased the eligible positions to 8th spot in 2003 by narrowing the points spread. Back in the 2003 season, the changes could have been motivated by the an attempt to curb the Formula 1 dynasty of Michael Schumacher's and Ferrari's championship dominance (which then existed at 3 straight crowns). The move to expand to 8 points-paying position also an attempt to reward teams, which were considered F1 back-markers, to compete deeper in the constructor points. The addition of 2 more points positions is certainly a measure to allow the 4 new Formula 1 teams an opportunity to overcome the 'goose egg' in the season's final standings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Danica Patrick to run part time NASCAR for JR Motorsports

On Tuesday, Danica Patrick has announced her intentions of playing with the NASCAR boys in 2010. JR Motorsports has signed the IndyCar series' most popular driver to campaign a part time effort in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. After long speculation by NASCAR insiders, Patrick's official statement was hardly a surprise (in fact, one website had accidentally posted a picture with her wearing the JR Motorsports driving suit).

Starting in 2010, Patrick will be wheeling a #7 Chevrolet Impala sponsored by (a company long associated with Patrick and JR Motorsports). Playing it smart, the young race car driver has slated to run selected races which will not interfere with her continued full season involvement in the Izod IndyCar series with Andretti Autosport. With that said, no announcements on Danica Patrick's specific NASCAR Nationwide schedule has been brought to the media as yet. However, Patrick is planning to run the 200-mile ARCA at Daytona International Speedway as her first chance to evaluate the heavier stock car race vehicle in competition.

The first woman IndyCar race winner's top-notch sponsorship and race winning JR Motorsports equipment will provide the first ever real exhibition of how a qualified female racer matches against the best male competitors of the sport of NASCAR. Guaranteed the receive a bulk of the media attention in the first race she enters, she will not be the first open wheel racer to be baked by the media spotlights. Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve were photographed nonstop through their first outings. Of course, the case of Jacques Villeneuve brings up another critical factor that must be kept in mind as Danica Patrick competes in her first races. Patrick, preparing to make her 6th season in Izod IndyCar racing series for 2010, is starting from a clean slate as a rookie in stock car racing. Although JR Motorsports cars will ease the learning curve, expect to see Danica Patrick grow as a racer this year.

Danica Patrick's position as a race car driver will not be the only strong woman presence within the JR Motorsports team. Kelly Earnhardt (sister of Dale Earnhardt Jr and a respectable former stock car racer in her own right) has since taken an equity stake in JR Motorsports placing her along with Dale Jr, Tony Eury Sr, and Rick Hendrick as team owner.

With a loyal fan base always surrounding Danica Patrick with the IndyCar events, NASCAR and Patrick herself are counting for her trademark racing aggression to translate into the closed-fendered stock cars.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Victory Lap and Kids on a Stage By Cathy Elliott

Photo Credit: David Becker/Getty Images for NASCAR

Guest Column By Cathy Elliott

NASCAR’s decision to move its annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week activities from New York City to Las Vegas was met with little, if any, resistance. Las Vegas, of course, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, and although everyone loves New York, it did seem to be time for a change of scenery.

It has been more than that; it has brought a change of attitude.

There’s a lot going on, including various media gatherings, a private dinner for the champion, sponsor receptions and the like. Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted a big fan event on Tuesday. Stock cars are parked in prominent locations on the famous Las Vegas Strip for photo ops. Tony Stewart did a live radio awards show – his yearly “Stewies” -- from the Rio Hotel. There’s a lot of action, and it isn’t just in the casinos. Las Vegas is a happening place.

Speaking of the Strip, the city shut the whole thing down for an hour so the top 12 drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup could take a Victory Lap, complete with pit stops and a burnout from four-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

The Victory Lap is probably Champion’s Week’s most spectacular event. When you’re standing in front of the MGM Grand Hotel with all the bells and whistles of Vegas behind you, fans are lining the streets as far as the eye can see, and then those stock cars fire up in front of you, you can’t help but think things couldn’t get any better.

But they did. Wayne Newton –- who has probably never before been referred to as the icing on the cake but in this case was –- waved the green flag for the Victory Lap. Yes, he’s real.

On Thursday, December 3, the National Motorsports Press Association and Myers Brothers hosted their awards ceremony. Other than the NASCAR Sprint Cup awards dinner, this is the biggest event of the week. It honors, if not exactly the little guy, then the guys who are slightly less large. Officials and crew members have their moment in the spotlight, and proactive sponsors are recognized for their contributions to NASCAR.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. flew in for the day to pick up the NASCAR NMPA Chex Most Popular Driver Award for the seventh consecutive year. Junior has turned into a pretty good speechmaker. On this day, he talked about his childhood dream –- the dream of so many kids that in this notable case came true –- of growing up to race cars for a living. He thanked the fans, who select the winner of this award, and said, “As long as you keep supporting me, I’ll keep showing up.”

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

Joey Logano, who received Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors, may have delivered the best line of the day. Acknowledging Mark Martin as one of his primary role models, Logano said he only hoped he could measure up to that high standard when he reached Martin’s age –- in the year 2040.

Barney Hall seemed truly nonplussed to be presented with the event’s namesake trophy, the NMPA Myers Brothers Award, but still managed to summon up one of his trademark quips -- “Like the little fish said when he swam into a concrete wall, '… damn.'”

Of course, the top 12 drivers were there, participating in what has become one of my favorite vignettes from Champion’s Week. As they are introduced one by one to open the show, the guys come out in their impeccable designer suits and form a single line on the stage. Basically, it’s just a photo opportunity. Literally, all they have to do is stand there and behave themselves.

They never pull it off. Never. The world’s greatest drivers, who literally live in each other’s faces week in and week out, never seem to know what to do up there in their fancy outfits. They decide they need to stand up there and have a chat. They fidget; they put their hands in their pockets. They whisper jokes that must be pretty funny because there seems to be an awful lot of hilarity going on.

This year was the best. Realizing it was a long line, and they were going to run out of room on the stage before Johnson got out there, Brian Vickers, who was introduced first, tugged on the arm of Carl Edwards to get him to move down.

This started a chain reaction-type deal as the drivers pulled and poked and nudged one another in an attempt to properly rearrange themselves. Think about kids all costumed up as vegetables or farm animals in a second-grade play, trying their hardest to occupy their correct spots on stage, and you get the idea.

Plus, I’m pretty sure Martin was wearing sneakers.

Now, I realize this seems like a small point to make such a big deal out of. But really, it kind of sums up the whole feel of the 2009 Champion’s Week.

The most visible faces of a wildly popular sport are in Las Vegas for a week. At the NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony, they will be honored for their achievements this year. As an added bonus, they will also get paid for those achievements. They got to drive their race cars down the Strip. They got to mess around on stage with their buddies. They’re having fun.

And because of them, so are we.

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dale Earnhardt Wins 2009 Chex Most Popular Driver Award

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR

Through the 2009 tour, 3 of the 4 Hendrick Motorsport drivers have enjoyed the fruits of a fortunate NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Jeff Gordon winning in Texas, Mark Martin regaining his mojo with 5 Cup series victories, and finally Jimmie Johnson taking top honours for the 4th year in a row in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. With those three drive placing their Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets in the top three Sprint Cup points positions in the final seasons, the team's #88 car driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr enjoyed little success through the 36 race schedule. Plagued by plain bad circumstances and an noisy chorus of critics through much of this season, the son of NASCAR's Man in Black has largely been the black sheep of Hendrick Motorsports.

While his struggles were all to present on the track, the fans of JR Nation were always behind their respected driver. During NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions Week in Las Vegas, the legion of Dale Earnhardt Jr supporters demonstrated their vote of confidence.

Proclaimed the winner at the NMPA (National Motorsport Press Association) luncheon on Thursday December 3rd, Earnhardt received the most votes in a year-round ballot polling the fans of NASCAR. The 2009 Chex Most Popular Driver Award honours represented a true test of Dale Earnhardt Jr fans with actually two votes required to seal the #88 driver's victory. With the first vote occurring between February 10 to September 13, the top 10 drivers from that vote transferred on to a new ballot which ran until the late November. In the end, Jr Nation has rallied around the 3rd generation stock driver in both votes allowing Earnhardt to top Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and Matt Kenseth for 2009 Nascar's Most Popular Driver.

His the 7th time in a row taking the Chex Most Popular Driver accolade, Dale Earnhardt Jr 2009 Award places him 4th all-time for total awards behind Bobby Allison with 8, Richard Petty holding 9, and fan favourite Bill Elliott who won 16 times.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Results for the 2009 Tacate SCORE Baja 1000 Off-Road Race

Treading through a 672 mile course in the Northern Baja course, the 2009 running of the SCORE off-road series' Tacate Baja 1000 proceeded into its 42th running in late November.

Overall, Class 22 contender Kendall Norman completed the scenic desert course in the quickest time on-board a Honda motorcycle. Class 22 vehicles took the top 3 finishing positions for the 2009 Baja 1000.

The Trophy Truck class win was grasped by Scott and Andy McMillian driving a Chevrolet-powered off-road vehicle. Teammate and truck owner of Andy McMillin in the event NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Robby Gordon (who became 2009 ) struggled with tire issues that knocked him from competition for the Trophy Truck win. Though Robby Gordon fell short of winning the 2009 event, completion of the Baja 1000 race provided Gordon with not only the 2009 Score Trophy Truck championship, but overall honours amongst four-wheel Score Off-Road series competitors.

As Hummer is destined to fall out of the General Motors fold, their ultimate sport utility vehicles placed strong in the Stock categories of the desert off-road challenge. A Hummer H3 Alpha driven by Rod and Chad Hall took the Full Stock class while Chad Hall, Emily Miller and Mike Winkel took a Hummer H3 to Mini Stock honours. For Rod Hall, this class victory became his 21st in the Baja 1000 event.

Photos Provided by General Motors

Class Winners of Baja 1000

Baja Challenge: NICK BALDWIN
Stock Full: CHAD HALL
Stock Mini: JOSH HALL
Sportsman Truck: RANDY SWINK
Sportsman Buggy: RORY WARD
Sportsman Uty: REID NORDIN
Class 1/2: ERIC DURAN
Class 5 1600: MARCOS NUNEZ
Class 8: JUAN LOPEZ H.
Class 17: ERIC FILAR
Class 20: JESUS RIOS
Class 24: TOM WRIGHT
Class 50: JIM O'NEAL

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mercedes Grand Prix Hires Nico Rosberg; Schumacher in Other Car?

Photo Courtesy of Brawn GP/Mercedes Grand Prix

Buying and rebranding the 2009 Constructor champion Brawn GP, it would have been thought that Mercedes Grand Prix would be a turn-key operation for the 2010 Formula 1 season. The reality is that the reformulated team was in immediate need of two new drivers after Rubens Barrichello and 2009 F1 driver's champ Jenson Button sought other race teams for 2010.

Filling the seat of Mercedes Grand Prix's first silver arrow race car is second-generation F1 driver Nico Rosberg. Having competed 4 seasons with Williams F1, Nico Rosberg's best finish in 70 Formula 1 races came with a 2nd place in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Rosberg's crowning career achievement was winning the GP2 series title in 2005 finishing ahead of Finland's Heikki Kolavainen and American Scott Speed. "I am really happy to be a part of the Silver Arrows re-launch in 2010 as a driver for Mercedes. No other brand in Formula 1 can look back on such a long and successful tradition in motor racing" Rosberg commented with the announcement. A German native with a German-owned F1 operation, the pairing is definitely a pleasing sight to Deutschland nationalists.

Amongst the most popular rumour for the second seat has 7-time Formula 1 Champion Michael Schumacher returning to the circuit. Involved in the Sauber Mercedes-Benz sports car team in 1989 and 1990, the reuniting of the two German motorsport names would certainly for a head turner for the 2010 Formula 1 tour. Schumacher had planned to run races for Ferrari in 2009 to substitute for the injured Felipe Massa but was himself sidelined by a motorcycle accident. Though Schumacher's manager confirmed meeting with Mercedes Grand Prix management, the driver's representative expressed that the chances of Michael Schumacher running for the team is 'highly unlikely'.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 2010 Formula 1 Driver Grid So Far

Since the checkered flag dropped on the 2009 Formula 1 season, the green flag flew to what has been one of the wackiest F1 off-seasons in recent history. Besides the addition of four new teams and the changing hands of the 2009 F1 constructor's championship, the driver's roster for the 2010 F1 circuit is a massive musical chair game including as much as four F1 World Champions. Red Bull Racing has is the only who has committed to the 2010 campaign with the same driver lineup from the 2009 year.

As of November 25th of 2009, the following list is the present complexion of the 2010 Formula one team rosters:

Mercedes Grand Prix (Formerly Brawn GP)

1. Nico Rosberg
2. ? (Michael Schumacher or Nick Heidfeld)

Red Bull Racing

1. Sebestian Vettal
2. Mark Webber


1. Jenson Button
2. Lewis Hamilton


1. Felipe Massa
2. Fernando Alonso


1. Robert Kubica
2. ? (Romain Grosjean or Adam Khan)

Scuderia Toro Rosso

1. Sébastien Buemi
2. ? (Jaime Alguersuari, Daniel Ricciardo or Brendon Hartley are rumoured for the second seat)

Force India

1. ? (Neither Force India seat has been filled for the 2010 F1 season)
2. ?
Test and Reserve Driver Role. (Paul di Resta or JR Hildebrand have been invited by Force India to test for a role with the F1 team)

AT&T Williams F1

1. Rubens Barrichello
2. Nico Hülkenberg

Lotus F1 Team

1. Unknown (Lotus mentioned to have signed driver but name hasn't been revealed. Jacques Villeneuve Alex Yoong, Kobui Kobayashi and Jarno Trulli has been linked)
2. ?

Manor Grand Prix

1. Timo Glock
2. ? (GP2 series Lucas di Grassi is been mentioned)

Team USF1

1. ? (Argentina Touring Car champ Jose Maria Lopez is all but officially confirmed to drive first car. Rumours have also placed Jacques Villeneuve in Team USF1)
2. ?

Campos Meta

1. Bruno Senna
2. ? (Pedro De La Rosa has been courted. Driver of Campos sold GP2 team Vitaly Petrov could be a possibility)

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 F1 Champion Button Driving for McLaren in 2010

Photo Provided by Brawn GP/Mercedes Grand Prix

As the 2009 Formula 1 season ended just under a month ago, some radical off-season deals for the 2010 tour is already set to reform the grand prix starting grid. With the surprising announcement that Brawn GP operation morphing into Mercedes Grand Prix last Monday, indications pointed that the 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button would be housed under the new Silver Arrows banner for 2010. However, two days later, broadcasts proclaimed the reigning Formula 1 champion Button would be driving for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes outfit in 2010. Spending 7 seasons inside the team that evolved from BAR to Honda to Brawn GP in 2009, Jenson Button responded in a in Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' official release by saying “It’s always a difficult decision to leave a team when you’ve been there for so long. But life is all about challenges – and, most important of all, it’s about challenging yourself. So, although I won the World Championship with Brawn GP last year, and I’ll never forget that, I was always adamant that I wanted to continue to set myself fresh challenges."

Teaming up with 2008 F1 champ Lewis Hamilton for an all-British driver lineup, Hamilton has been very complimentary to the entrance of Jenson Button into the McLaren F1 team. In Lewis Hamilton's words, “I already know Jenson, and we get on very well together. We both really want our team to succeed. Although we’ll be pushing each other hard, I’m sure we’ll very quickly establish a great working relationship. He’s an exceptional driver: very controlled and very smooth, and he has a real depth of knowledge and experience."

Considering the timing of Jenson Button's move to McLaren and the intricacy of Formula 1 contracts, it would be safe to believe that the planned to switch teams well before the Mercedes-Benz buy-in to Brawn GP was made official.