The Frontstretch Newsletter - July 31st, 2008

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Jul 31, 2008, 2:59:26 AM7/31/08
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THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
July 31st, 2008
Volume II, Edition CXLIV


Breaking News
by Tony Lumbis

Lawsuit Filed Against Specialty Racing Involving Former Driver, Front Row Motorsports

Frontstretch.com has learned that Kevin Lepage and Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins have filed a lawsuit against Specialty Racing, LLC, freezing the assets of the company while attempting to acquire its owner points, equipment, and money they claim they're owed.

The basis of the suit began in late May, when Specialty Racing informed Lepage that they did not have sufficient funds to run the Nationwide event in Dover, Delaware. In response, Lepage informed Specialty Racing about a proposal that would allow Bob Jenkins from Front Row Motorsports to supply a car, transporter, and engine to run under the No. 61 banner that weekend. The lawsuit states that after speaking to a NASCAR official, Specialty Racing co-owner Charles Shoffner learned that in order for his team to earn owner's points in a Nationwide event, they would have to supply the employees, equipment, transporter, and cars for the entire weekend. Therefore, his team could not earn points under Lepage's proposal.

But even with that limitation, Shoffner states that starting at the June Nashville event and concluding at Daytona, Jenkins did provide equipment to use while Specialty Racing incurred the team expenses. However, when approached in July about signing an agreement that would allow owner's points to be transferred to Front Row Motorsports, Shoffner declined until the paperwork was reviewed by counsel and NASCAR. Jenkins and Lepage then responded by filing the lawsuit at the end of this month.
The plaintiffs assert in their paperwork that they did indeed have a formal agreement with Specialty Racing to obtain the No. 61 team owner points for the events in which Jenkins provided a car for the team earlier this year, and that Shoffner is now reneging on that agreement -- as well as on money supposedly owed Lepage. However, Specialty Racing has claimed in their response that at no time was a formal agreement ever reached, and that Lepage had already been compensated accordingly. Instead, they believe that as a result of these allegations, their future has been irreparably harmed once their assets were frozen in relation to this lawsuit.

Lepage and Jenkins have declined comment at this time, while Shoffner has issued this statement: "Specialty Racing will address all of the allegations by Mr. Lepage and Mr. Jenkins in the court proceedings.  In the meantime, we will continue to field the No. 61 Nationwide car with the outstanding and talented driver Brandon Whitt."

Lepage himself has sat out the last two Nationwide Series events and was officially released by Specialty Racing after Daytona in July. In the meantime, Whitt will move to the No. 62 this weekend at Montreal as the Specialty Racing team will field two cars -- the second for former 1980s Cup driver Stan Barrett.

Today's Top News
by Bryan Davis Keith

Newman Reportedly Agrees in Principle to Drive for Stewart-Haas in 2009

After Joe Gibbs Racing President J.D. Gibbs confirmed that Ryan Newman would likely not be driving for his team in 2009, reports Wednesday from several sources are that the current driver of Penske Racing's No. 12 Dodge has entered into a verbal agreement to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing next year. Newman will purportedly drive a No. 4 Chevrolet as a teammate to Stewart's No. 14 Impala, though no announcement of a car number or sponsor for SHR's second car has yet been made.

Newman, who has been widely speculated as a lock for SHR, apparently reached the agreement after Joe Gibbs Racing was unable to secure sponsorship for a fourth Sprint Cup team in 2009. Newman has been one of the most sought after free agents in the garage area, and has been courted by Gillett Evernham Motorsports, Petty Enterprises, and Richard Childress Racing since announcing he will depart Penske Racing following the 2008 season.

Details of the verbal agreement were not made available, and sources state that it may well take up to a month for such details to surface.

Two-Time Cup Champion Johnson Seeks More Seat Time


Defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson is looking to add wins at Watkins Glen International and the Bristol Motor Speedway to his racing resume as his No. 48 team steams towards the Chase, and as such has announced plans to run lower-level companion races at both race tracks later this season.

Johnson will make a rare appearance in the Nationwide Series when the circuit tackles the Watkins Glen road course, driving a No. 48 Chevrolet out of the JR Motorsports stable. Johnson drove for JR Motorsports earlier this season, posting a tenth place finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

In addition, Johnson will make his Craftsman Truck Series debut in late August, driving the No. 81 Chevrolet Silverado for Randy Moss Motorsports. Kobalt Tools will sponsor the ride.

"Watkins Glen and Bristol are two tracks where I really want a win," said Johnson. "As for the trucks, I am really looking forward to that. I have never run a Truck race, so it should be fun. Heck, my brother Jarit has run more than me... but it's going to be a good time."

What's Vexing Vito?
Fallout From The Brickyard May Prove NASCAR's Undoing
by Vito Pugliese

Four days following the debacle that was The Allstate 400 at The Brickyard, fingers continue to be pointed, accusations are still being made, and theories espoused as to why NASCAR was unable to put on a race that allowed drivers to run more than five laps without their tires being ground into magic tire dust. As the teams gear up to run this weekend at Pocono (the track that most everyone opted to test at instead of the track that hosts the second largest event of the year), many are still miffed at the sport -- and as well they should be.

But in the midst of all the anger ... guess what? On Tuesday, NASCAR offered up an apology that was supposed to ease the pain.

"I can't say enough how sorry we are, and it's our responsibility being NASCAR that we don't go through this situation again," said Robin Pemberton, Vice President of Competition. "The race didn't come off like we had hoped, the fans didn't get what they exactly wanted, and we'll do everything in our power - it won't happen again, I can tell you that much."

That is nearly an admission of guilt, and as close as you'll hear this sanctioning body come to admitting any wrongdoing.

Still, it is unfathomable how the most prestigious racing organization in North America has managed to, in just a few short years, alienate a fan base it had spent over half a century cultivating and nurturing. Don't believe this is happening?  Check out those vast expanses of shiny aluminum that encompass the track on any given race day this season. Sure, Pocono's grandstand may look a bit more full than the rest of the track's have been this year -- it has seats that line the frontstretch only.  But with the way this past weekend's unmitigated televised disaster shook out, might this be the straw that breaks the camel's back, and turns fans sour for quite some time?

Let's be honest: NASCAR isn't the only show in town. It's rise to popularity and prominence during the 1990s and early 2000 was spurred along by expanded network television coverage, motion picture placement, not to mention a little thing called competition. That was back when the cars actually sort of looked like something you and I might drive down the street, races got underway before 3:00pm, and before gimmicks such as green/white/checker finishes and a convoluted points system was designed to capture the imagination of the "casual fan" -- one more interested in stick & ball games than motorsports. All the while, those hardcore enthusiasts were told that this would be for the best; after all, NASCAR always had a way of making the right decisions. They, as fans, just needed to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Well after this past Sunday, I hope ya'll brought one of those hemorrhoid donuts, because it sure is going to be a bumpy ride. In the last two years, we have seen the level of competition decline to the point where restrictor plate races aren't endured because of the impending 30-car pileup, but revered since they actually foster some sort of excitement. Television coverage has degenerated to the point where the action on the track has taken a backseat to Diggers, Race Buddies, and Hollywood Hotels. A new car, while roundly regarded as a step forward in safety (not that the old car was unsafe) helped contribute to a rather destabilizing and uncomfortable situation last weekend. And a foreign manufacturer that many feared would upset the pecking order has done just that, at a time when American automakers are seriously considering what their role should be in the traveling stock car carnival.

What's worse is that over in the real world, the economy is teetering on brink of collapse, as months of $4.00 per gallon gasoline are finally coming home to roost. Houses are being foreclosed at record numbers, the credit crunch is taking a chomp out of the livelihoods of many, and a series that lives and breathes solely on the dollars of others in the form of sponsorship suddenly hangs in the balance because of it. NASCAR might not be tanking yet... but it is listing worse that the U-Boat in, "Das Boot". No, it will not fold up shop overnight, but what happened this past weekend -- to fans who were paying customers, or merely just paying attention -- may have set the sport back about 15 years. And that's no matter how many apologies get issued, or how this problem gets spun or reconciled.

I'll give you this much: race fans are a generous lot, and quick to forgive should a driver admit their error. This time, however, the preponderance of misdirection, mismanagement, and monarchal way of dictating how things are handled could come full circle and bite NASCAR right in the backside. Call it death by 1,000 paper cuts or reaping of the whirlwind, but the core fan -- the one who has been there through thick and thin -- may have finally had his patience tested one too many times.

A month ago at Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR instructed its drivers to shut up and drive. That's ironic, for after being forced to watch a poor product on the track for much of the season -- and then having the second biggest race of the year being run under a perpetual caution flag -- it's the silent majority in this equation who may have the final say in NASCAR's future.

Every Thursday, find out what's Vexing Vito; and if you've got a comment, an opinion, or even a good topic, Vito can be reached at vito.p...@frontstretch.com.

FRONTSTRETCH LINE OF THE WEEK
The Best Line From A Story You Need to See
From
Talking NASCAR TV: Terrible Tires Overshadow ESPN's 2008 Debut by Doug Turnbull

"It is OK to for the media to publish rumors as what they are, but once rumors are published as facts, things can get ugly. ESPN does a good job at breaking news, but needs to elevate journalism ethics and standards before being labeled the best in show."

IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS, BE A NASCAR RACING EXPERT!
How, you ask? The answer is simple: read up on the teams and drivers you love the most, right here on Frontstretch.com! Every day, Kim DeHaven and her helpers Beth Lunkenheimer and Tony Lumbis post reams of PR from teams across the NASCAR-o-sphere.  Here's just a sample of the race reports for this week's featured races.

Driver Previews!
Truex Looks to Rebound at Pocono
Kelly Bires To Double-Team Montreal In No. 47 Clorox Ford
Red Bull Driver - Scott Speed's Pocono Preview

Even Tums won't give NASCAR and Goodyear relief from the Indy Tire Debacle!
Tire Wear and Tear, Flags at the Brickyard Cause Heartburn and Indigestion for Drivers in the Top 10 TUMS® Moments

Got a foursome? Want to play Golf with the NASCAR pros?
NC Students To Benefit From Motorsports Celebrity Golf Tournament For Workforce Diversity Scholoarship Promgram

It's the great Rick Flair's favorite motorsport organization, WoO!
Maintaining Focus: Two-Time World of Outlaws Champion Donny Schatz Keeps Tony Stewart Racing's Armor All J&J on Torrid Pace

Got NASCAR-related questions or comments?

Send them Matt Taliaferro's way at matt.ta...@frontstretch.com; if you're lucky, you'll get your name in print when he does his weekly column answering back to you – the fans that keep Frontstretch afloat. Fanning The Flames returns next Thursday with a whole new set of Fan Questions and Answers!


Frontstretch On The Radio:

Strap on a set of non-Goodyear tires and join Frontstretch's Tom Bowles and Matt Taliaferro for their weekly version of the Frontstretch.com / Athlon Sports Racing Podcast Powered By Pepsi.  This week, Tom and Matt will be joined by host Patrick Snow as they ponder the future of the sport after the Great Indianapolis Debacle of 2008. Questions abound about who's at fault, why it happened, and most importantly ... what happens from here. We don't promise to have all the answers, but we'll do our best to keep you informed as we look ahead to Pocono and an August in which NASCAR will attempt to salvage its damaged reputation.

Unsure when to tune in for the podcast? Well, the newest version usually comes out by Thursday night and gets archived at racetalkradio.com each Friday. Download us by heading over to http://www.athlonsports.com/racing/inside-racing-powered-by-pepsi, and don't forget to listen in on iTunes each week!! We're under "Athlon Racing Podcast."

And if you're up for it, we're always looking to hear from the fans; be sure to write in and give feedback at inside...@athlonsports.com! Tell us a topic we haven't been chatting about, and we'll be sure to mention it on the air. Of course, the two individual hosts can also be reached at tom.b...@frontstretch.com and matt.ta...@frontstretch.com.


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TODAY ON THE FRONTSTRETCH:

Fanning The Flames : Strong Fan Reaction Makes This A Brickyard Backlash
by Matt Taliaferro

Biggest BSNEWS Scoop Of The Year! One Word: Indianapolis

by Jeff Meyer

Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: How A Smith (Not Bruton) Is Making Life Easy For Race Fans

by Matt McLaughlin

Beyond The Cockpit: The Future Of NASCAR Timing And Scoring

by Tom Bowles

Fantasy Picks 'N' Pans: How To Pick Your Team To Perform At Pocono

by Bryan Davis Keith and Mike Neff

FRONTSTRETCH TRIVIA:
Q. In September 2000, Jeff Burton led every lap in a race at New Hampshire.  Who was the only other driver to lead every lap at a superspeedway (track one mile or larger) event in Cup level competition?

Check back Friday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Wednesday Answer:
Q. He was the first stock car driver featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Who is he?
A.
Curtis Turner was the first stock car driver to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Follow the link to see Curtis on the February 26, 1968 cover of SI.  And while you're there, be sure to check out Frontstretch Managing Editor and SI contributor Tom Bowles' archives.

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!


Tomorrow in the Frontstretch Newsletter:

Frontstretch Folio : Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500
Be sure to check in with Kim this week when she lays out the facts this week from Pocono!
In Case You Missed It : News From The Week That Was 
Kurt Smith looks back at a week full of news that you might not have seen ... but is important nonetheless.

Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:

Driven To The Past
by John Potts
The great thing about John's stories about how things were back in the day is that, unlike Grandpa's, no one has to walk uphill in the snow both ways to school!

Holding A Pretty Wheel
by Amy Henderson
This week, Amy looks into the No. 18's rear-view and sees a blue and silver Lowe's logo looming larger... as the No. 48 team hits their midseason stride just in time to become a formidable Chase challenger.

Happy Hour : The Official Journalist Of NASCAR
by Kurt Allen Smith
This week, Kurt wonders in the midst of the sport's biggest controversy, where is Brian France ... and why is he keeping quiet?

Nuts for Nationwide
by Danny Peters

Our bi-weekly Nationwide Series commentary from our resident British expert.

Rick Crawford's Driver Diary
by Rick Crawford
Rick is back to talk about the latest news on and off the track as the driver of the No. 14 Circle Bar Ford in the Truck Series.
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Talk back to the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Got something to say about an article you've seen in the newsletter? Well, it's as easy as replying directly to this newsletter email, or sending an email to edi...@frontstretch.com. We'll take the best comments and publish them here!

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