The Frontstretch Newsletter : March 6th, 2009

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Mar 6, 2009, 12:16:36 AM3/6/09
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THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER 
Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
March 6th, 2009 
Volume III, Edition XXIX

SPECIAL EDITOR'S NOTE: The Frontstretch LIVE BLOG is back! Join us this Sunday at Frontstretch.com as Doug Turnbull and Bryan Davis Keith lead the discussion LIVE from the race track! Get inside information from pit road, chat with other fans, answer reader polls during commercials, and more! Just go to the main page and look for the link for an all new type of racing experience. Stop listening to the same old coverage and start a new season off right with Frontstretch.com!

EDITOR'S NOTE II: Check out two special editions of the newsletter this weekend with reporters Doug Turnbull and Bryan Davis Keith LIVE at the race track!

Top Story
RCM / No Fear Pushes Back Debut, Will Run At Infineon
by Tom Bowles

This weekend was supposed to be the debut of Sprint Cup’s newest team, the No. 60 Ford for RCM / No Fear Racing driven by Boris Said. But a change in philosophy has pushed back the debut of the organization until Infineon in June.

“I learned an important lesson in this sport that I should have known as a new owner,” said RCM / No Fear CEO Rick Clark. “My enthusiasm to debut the team is a lesson in patience that I should have learned playing college football and in the NFL. I would much rather make mistakes before we get to the track as opposed to on the track, and I don’t want to put Boris in a situation that we were not ready for. So, the decision was made, as much as I was eager, to debut the team at a track where we’re capable of contending for the win.”

“I know there will be speculation as to why we didn’t run, but rather than burn up money I’d rather burn up rubber when the time is right. I’ve been waiting for five years, and I sure as heck can wait three more months to take a chance at Victory Lane.“

Clark said announcements on specific sponsors and programs will be forthcoming for the June event. Said has attempted only one race in 2009 to date, failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 after wrecking out of his Gatorade Duel.  However, he is a road race specialist with a strong history of solid finishes at the California road course. Following Infineon, the team still plans to run a limited schedule of races in ’09 before plans to move up to full-time competition in 2010.

Today's Top News
by Kurt Smith

Atlanta Motor Speedway Offering Free Cancer Screenings This Weekend
The Georgia Chapter of the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance will be conducting free cancer screenings this weekend from 9AM to 1PM Saturday in the vendor area of Atlanta Motor Speedway. Lori Hamilton, widow of the late driver Bobby Hamilton, has urged fans to take advantage of the free screenings. Hamilton passed away of head and neck cancer complications in January 2007.

"It is my honor to continue this effort in his name because we've made so much progress with past years' screenings,” said Mrs. Hamilton. “Bobby would want us to press forward to reach more people with our message. The screening is quick, painless and free, so we are encouraging everyone to take advantage of this opportunity that could save your life.”

People interested in more details about the free screening can contact Edie R. Hapner, PhD CCC-SLP, at 404-686-7798 or eha...@emory.edu.

Kahne Foundation Auctioning Custom Chopper
The Kasey Kahne Foundation in partnership with Speedway Children’s Charities has announced a fundraiser to benefit youth groups in Sonoma County. The winner will receive a custom-built red and white chopper, built by the famous Orange County Choppers.

"I am excited to team up with Infineon Raceway to raffle off this cool chopper to raise money for the Kasey Kahne Foundation and Speedway Children's Charities," Kahne said. "The lucky fan who wins the bike is going to be cruising around on one of the best looking choppers around."

Raffle tickets are $9 each, for Kasey Kahne’s car number. Fans can purchase tickets by calling 1-800-870-RACE. Kahne will draw the winning number at Infineon Raceway June 21st, the day of the Dodge/Save Mart 350 Cup race.

Mrs. Burney Lamar Gives Birth To Baby Girl
Niki Taylor, ex-supermodel and wife of Burney Lamar, Nationwide Series driver, gave birth to a baby girl, Ciel, on Thursday.

Ciel was born at 11:30 AM and weighs 7 lbs., 8 oz.

Have news for the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at ashl...@mail.com with a promising lead or tip.

In Case You Missed It
by Kurt Smith

Kentucky Speedway Offering “Big Deals” For Nationwide and Truck Series Races
Kentucky Motor Speedway is running a promotion called “Big Deals”, which offers reduced-price ticket packages and other amenities for its “Meijer 300 Presented By Ritz” and “Built Ford Tough 225” races in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, respectively.

Fans can choose from several deals, including the “Affordable Fun Pak” which is four race tickets, four hot dogs and four fountain drinks for a package price between $100 and $145. The tickets for the Fun Pak are all located in Grandstand 5.

Other promotions include “Name A Lap”, “Infield Invaders”, and “Be A Front Row Joe”. Details about the promotions can be found on Kentucky Motor Speedway’s "website.":http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com/promotions/promotions.asp

Tommy Morgan Out At Key Motorsports
Key Motorsports, owner of the No. 40 car driven by Scott Wimmer in the Nationwide Series, announced on Tuesday that crew chief Tommy Morgan would be leaving the team, in what Key termed a “joint conclusion”. Morgan was promoted to crew chief earlier this year after two years as competition director.

"The decision for Key Motorsports and Tommy Morgan to separate was very much a joint conclusion," stated owner Curtis Key. "We will part ways on terms agreeable to both myself and Tommy, and I wish him luck in all future endeavors."

Wimmer has raced in two Nationwide races this season, failing to qualify for the Fontana race. His top finish is 11th.

Talladega Offering Combo Meals at Aaron’s 499
With the economy struggling and racetracks finding new ways to bring the fans out, Talladega Superspeedway announced it will be offering “combo meals” to save fans money at the racetrack. A hamburger, fries and a drink purchased together will offer a 25% savings over the price of each item purchased separately.

“We realize the impact the economy has had on our fans,” said Talladega Superspeedway President Rick Humphrey.  “When our guests told us that food prices were weighing on their decision to attend a race, we knew we had to act.

Talladega Superspeedway has also been offering $40 tickets and reduced concession stand prices in an effort to lighten the financial burden on race fans.

Kurt Smith is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at kurt....@frontstretch.com
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Breaking Through The Bubble: Predicting The Spoilers For This Weekend's Kobalt Tools 500
by Phil Allaway and Mike Ravesi

This spoiler pick competition is being held this season between Frontstretch writers Phil Allaway and Mike Ravesi.  The rules are as follows: 

1. Each writer picks two drivers that are currently outside of the top 25 in owners' points. 
2. As in the actual Sprint Cup Series, owner's points from the 2008 season will be used for the first five races.
3. The writers are free to snipe at each other, but must "keep it friendly." 
4. The winner for each week is determined by the average finish of their two picks. 
5. The winner earns one point for the victory. 
6. If, somehow, the average finishes are tied, then half points will be awarded to both competitors.  This is just like the Ryder Cup in Golf.
7. If a driver that is picked fails to qualify for a race, then a finishing position of 44th will be used in order to calculate the average finish.
8. The writer with the most points at the end of the season wins the competition and all the bragging rights that come with it.  Also, there are undisclosed rewards for winning in the offseason. 

Well, last week's competition wasn't exactly a competition.  Unfortunately, DNQ's happen and both of Mike's choices for Las Vegas failed to qualify.  Under the rules of our competition, that means that Mike averaged a 44th place finish last week.

Last week's picks:

Phil Allaway:
39 Ryan Newman- 25th
44 A.J. Allmendinger- 33rd
Average Finish- 29.0

Mike Ravesi:
36 Scott Riggs- DNQ (44th)
41 Jeremy Mayfield- DNQ (44th)
Average Finish- 44.0

Granted, even though Phil won by default, his choices didn't exactly set the world on fire.  Hopefully, our prognosticators can do better this week.  Here are this weeks' picks:

Phil's Picks:
Marcos Ambrose- I've been impressed by the Tasmanian so far this season. A lot of the credit for the improved form goes to Michael Waltrip Racing, with which JTG Daugherty Racing is affiliated. I think that if he keeps his form from the first three races, he could help me earn another victory this week.

David Gilliland- I had no clue what to expect from TRG in the Cup Series this year. I thought the No. 71 was going to be a one-off for Daytona, but they seem to want to keep going as long as they can. Power to them. Last week was excellent for them, finishing a strong 14th at Las Vegas. I don't think he's going to equal that this week, but here's hoping that he does. I would have picked Todd Bodine in the No. 35 here, but I have no clue about what Germain Racing is going to do with that car (are they actually going to race if they qualify, or will they just use the race as a test session?)

Mike's Picks:
Well seeing as how I am desperately in need of a win, I'm going to start my picks with Mark Martin. Mainly because, well, he's Mark Martin and there's no way Martin in a Hendrick car is going to finish outside the top 40 three weeks in a row.

I'm also going to go with Travis Kvapil. I really think that Travis has proven he's a good driver and that last week was a fluke. I think Robert Yates will have that team amped and ready to go come Friday to qualify and drive themselves into a position to have a top 35 spot come Martinsville on Sunday.

Officially, since we're still in the first five races of 2009, Mike's pick of Mark Martin technically contravenes the rules of this competition (the No. 5 was 21st in Owners' points last season with Casey Mears behind the wheel), but since I want this to be as much of a competition as possible, I'll let it slide.  But only this time.  Hopefully, I'll still find a way to trimuph.

Frontstretch Folio : Kobalt Tools 500
by Kim DeHaven

The Sprint Cup Series heads to Hampton, Georgia this weekend to take on one of the fastest speedways on the circuit.  The Kobalt Tools 500 is the 4th race of the 2009 Sprint Cup season and will be broadcast live on Sunday, March 8th at 2 pm ET on FOX, with radio coverage by PRN affiliates nationwide.  Competitors will make 325 circuits for 500.5 miles around the 1.54-mile quad-oval in their quest for the checkered flag.

Records and Facts

Geoffrey Bodine holds the record for the fastest lap at Atlanta Motor Speedway, posting a qualifying lap with a time of 28.074 seconds and a speed of 197.478 mph to win the pole for the 1997 running of the NAPA 500.

Ryan Newman is tied with Buddy Baker for the record for the most poles recorded at Atlanta with seven apiece.  Jeff Gordon was the pole sitter for last year’s event. 

Dale Earnhardt holds the record for most victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway with nine wins. Carl Edwards won here in the fall.  Kyle Busch won last year’s event.

Dale Earnhardt holds the fastest 500-mile race record time at Atlanta.  He attained the record of 3 hours, 3 minutes, 3 seconds with an average speed of 163.633 mph on November 12, 1995 in the NAPA 500.  Bobby Labonte holds the fastest race record time in the track’s current configuration, attaining an average speed of 159.904 mph in 3 hours, 7 minutes, 48 seconds on November 16, 1997 in the NAPA 500. 

The closest margin of victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway came in 2001 when Kevin Harvick defeated Jeff Gordon by 0.006 second on March 11 in the Cracker Barrel 500.  The greatest margin of victory came in 1986 when Dale Earnhardt defeated Richard Petty by 1 lap, 3 seconds on November 2 in the Atlanta Journal 500.

Track Facts
Track/Race Length: 1.54-mile quad-oval, 325 laps, 500.5 miles
Pit Road Speed: 65 mph
Corners: Banked 24 degrees
Frontstretch: 2,332 feet, banked 5 degrees
Backstretch: 1,800 feet, banked 5 degrees
Grandstand seating: 124,000
Pre-race Schedule
Practice - Friday, March 6,  3 p.m.
Qualifying - Friday, March 6, 6:45 p.m.
Practice - Saturday, March 7,  11 a.m.
Happy Hour Practice - Saturday, March 7, 12:20 p.m.

VIPs
National Anthem: Richie McDonald

Say What!?!?

"Atlanta is going to be kind of like Darlington and the way we used to race Darlington. The track is really old and there’s not a lot of grip and it’s real rough so you’ve got to have a good balanced race car that’s comfortable and where you’re not taking a lot of risk and have a safe event." - Jimmie Johnson

"I think everyone loves Atlanta Motor Speedway and I think if you look at the racing overall the last 10 years it’s got to be one of the best race tracks on an average year after year. I know there are some tracks that may have a closer finish here or there, but on an average the racing in Atlanta does not get any better." - David Ragan
 
Kim DeHaven is Senior Editor and PR Coordinator for The Frontstretch. She can be reached at kim.deha...@frontstretch.com

Blue Smoke And Burnt Rubber
A NASCAR Mystery
Chapter 1, Part III
by S.D. Grady

Reno Raceway
3rd Race of the Season

Chris sighed.  The med-evac chopper rose in a cloud of sand, bearing a disgruntled Preston Colton off to the local trauma center.  Most likely, the rookie had just a mild concussion, but nobody fooled with these things anymore.  His car, on the other hand, that had been put under wraps and was already loaded on the GSCA hauler ready to be taken back to the R&D center for inspection.

He turned away from the heli-pad, rubbing the desert from his face.  The jet-dryers still filled the air with their roar, blowing the last of the debris field from the frontstretch.  Chris ignored the chatter between Danny and his crew chief on the headset.  It didn’t matter much.  The No. 74 sat eight laps down with an engine running on seven cylinders.  Harry Garrison had already left the track as well.  His No. 47 blew a tire in the fourth lap.

Scuffing his feet on the uneven asphalt, Chris headed back to pit lane.  He had left the golf cart on the access road behind their pit box, choosing to run to the medical center instead of ride when Preston’s car disintegrated upon impact with the unsecured crossover gate.  His heart still beat a bit too hard.  That was a wreck nobody in the Van Lytton stable would forget anytime soon. 

Even now, the giant screen sitting in Turn One replayed the disaster over and over.  Chris flinched for the ninth time as he watched the white unsponsored car fly up into the catch fence, its sheet metal shredding in multiple direction.

Much like the Van Lytton year…bits and pieces coming apart. 

The atmosphere this morning in the garage area hummed with the determination of three irritated teams.  Last week’s engine failures left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.  And now this…

Chris didn’t believe in curses, but the past month made him wonder what Van Lytton might have done to piss the gods off. 

Cutting down the garage area, he paused when raised voices broke into the subdued murmur of the infield during a red flag.  He slowed down, realizing the two angry men stood just inside the open garage bay previously assigned to the No. 47. 

“Are you sayin’ something, Brad?”

Chris peeked around the doorway.  Chuck Farley stood chest to chest with Brad Van Lytton.  The aging mechanic’s gray hair twisted in awkward snarls, clearly the result of frustrated fingers and another bad day at the track.

“I don’t know, Chuck.  How do you explain this tire?”  The boss man pointed a manicured nail at the shredded remains of Harry’s front right.

“Why are you asking me?”

Brad’s florid features tightened with anger.  “Because I sign the checks around here.”
Chuck’s hesitation stretched.  The older man shifted his weight from foot to foot.  “He must’ve run over something.”

“Harry said he didn’t.  And that doesn’t look like a cut.”

Chris considered the carcass…he didn’t know how anybody could determine what had caused the catastrophic failure.  There wasn’t enough of a tire left.

Apparently Chuck shared that opinion.  “Oh, so now the pretty boy suddenly knows what made it blow?  Are you psychic?”

“I know that the kid you trained on tire set-up told me he saw you doing something before the race to that set of tires.”

The echo of a wrench hitting cement split the silence stretching between Chuck and Brad.  Chris held his breath.

Chuck pulled a much used rag from his back pocket, wiped his brow and then spit.  “You know something, Van Lytton?  I’ve worked in these garages for 28 years.  And never…”  He speared Brad with a look full of venom.  “Never has anybody ever had the balls to even hint that I might’ve tampered with equipment.  I think you need to say you’re sorry.”

The two men continued to take each other’s measure.

“I’ll tell you what, Chuck.  I’ll apologize when you can tell me what caused this tire to fail.”
A dry wind stirred the stink of unburned fuel.  A car missing its front fenders being pushed from a garage bay across the lane to its waiting hauler drew Chris’ attention away for a moment.  When he turned back to the drama unfolding in the garage, he frowned.

Chuck’s normally red cheeks were pale.  He looked stunned.  Brad kicked at the floor.
“You’re holding me responsible for this?”

Brad’s eyebrows rose in question. “Do you want me to have that tire tested?”

For a moment, the mechanic’s eyes shadowed with something that looked like fear.  “I have never left a team mid-season in my career.  I really wish you would think twice about this, Mr. Van Lytton.”

“I can’t risk my drivers, my cars or my reputation on second chances, Chuck.  I don’t know, yet, what you did.  But I am going to find out and I’d prefer you were not on my payroll when I do.” 

Chris could see the promise of retribution in his boss’ face.

Chuck nodded.  “Well, Boss, you know where you can find me when that tire tests clean.  And then I’ll think about accepting your bullshit apology.”

Chris shrank into the shadows of the neighboring garage bay and waited for Chuck to storm past.  When he deemed it clear, he looked around the corner for Brad.  “Uh, sir?  What was all that about?”

Van Lytton rubbed his face before sharing a tired grimace.  “God, I hope it’s nothing…  Weaver, I need you on top of the hauler.  Danny’s still in the race.  Let’s bring him home in one piece, today.”

“Yes, Boss.”

Chris followed Brad back into the afternoon sun, just as the engines restarted.  Already, the apprehension of a bad wreck and Chuck’s odd dismissal diminished in the anticipation of the green flag.  Still…did Brad really mean it?  Would their own crew member try to sabotage his cars? 

The biggest question would be why.

He reached the top of the hauler and pulled the headset over his ears.  Looking to the flag stand, his heart skipped a beat as the green flag fluttered over the passing field.
The question would have to be answered later.

Think you have what it takes to write for the Frontstretch?
Are you looking for a fast-growing website that can give you an opportunity to not only share your thoughts on racing, but have FUN doing it with a group of laid-back, dedicated personnel?  Well, we have the place for you.  Frontstretch is actively seeking 1-3 additional writers for both our newsletter and website to add to our dedicated staff in 2009.  Follow this link for more information on how you can become a weekly columnist for the site and/or newsletter!

TODAY ON THE FRONTSTRETCH:
 
by Kurt Smith
 
by Amy Henderson
by Scott Speed
 
FRONTSTRETCH TRIVIA:
Q. Which former Cup driver and Georgia native's last qualifying attempt came at the Atlanta Fall race in 2003? Here's a hint: he was driving a Michael Waltrip Racing car.
Check back Monday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Thursday's Answer:
Q.
From 1988 through 2000, Atlanta hosted the season finale to what was then the Winston Cup Series. During that 12-year stint, the point leader going into that final race failed to win the championship just once during that span. What year was it, and who were the two drivers involved (the one that lost the championship, AND the one that won it?)
A. In November, 1992 Davey Allison came into Atlanta with a 30-point championship lead over Alan Kulwicki and 40 points over Bill Elliott. But with less than 75 laps to go, Allison was an innocent victim in a wreck involving Ernie Irvan, costing him the title and eventually handing the trophy to Kulwicki by just 10 points over Elliott.

Frontstretch Trivia Guarantee;  If we mess up, you get the shirt off our backs!  If we've provided an incorrect answer to the Frontstretch Trivia question, be the first to email the corrected trivia answer to tri...@frontstretch.com and we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... FREE!

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Coming Monday in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Kobalt Tools 500: Race Recap by Phil Allaway
-- Big Six: Kobalt Tools 500 
by Amy Henderson
-- Secret Star of the Race AND Stat Of The Week by Tom Bowles
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, Stat of the Week, and more!

Monday on the Frontstretch:
Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud : Kobalt Tools 500 by
 Matt McLaughlin
Before you take that first break mid-morning on Monday, be sure you check out Matt for the best in NASCAR water cooler fodder.

Bowles-Eye View by Tom Bowles
Tom gives his views on the weekend events on SI.com. Want to know what he really thinks? You get that only on the Frontstretch.

Bubble Breakdown: Kobalt Tools 500 by Mike
 Ravesi
Mike sorts out the owner point standings, letting you know who's got it made after the first five races of this season -- and who faces an uphill battle simply to qualify each week.

Points To Ponder by Mike
 Lovecchio
Mike's Points after covering the Kobalt Tools 500 are guaranteed to get you thinking.

Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Kobalt Tools 500 by Tony Lumbis
Tony takes a look at the exciting rookie race between Joey Logano and Scott Speed following the Kobalt Tools 500.

Tracking The Trucks : Atlanta by Beth Lunkenheimer
Our Truck Series expert has the inside scoop on the all the action in Atlanta.

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