The Frontstretch Newsletter: February 1st, 2010

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THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER
Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
February 1st, 2010
Volume IV, Edition IX
 
Editor's Note:  With Speedweeks now well and truly underway, our Newsletter changes back to its usual Monday-Friday editions for 2010!  As a result, expect five (5) Newsletters in your inbox this week - and all the way through the end of November.  - The Frontstretch Staff
 
Top News
By Phil Allaway

Logano wins the Toyota All-Star Showdown

On Saturday night, NASCAR hosted the seventh annual Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, California.  Last year, Joey Logano crossed the line first, but was stripped of victory by NASCAR due to what was deemed rough driving on the final lap (Logano was credited with 40th).
 
This year, Logano crossed the line first once again; but this time, there would be no controversy - or anybody capable of challenging him up front.
 
Logano, driving a No. 25 Home Depot-sponsored Chevrolet that had Toyota logos on it (likely because of corporate obligations on Logano's part) started from the outside pole and proceeded to dominate the event, leading for 171 laps on the way to his second win in the Toyota All-Star Showdown. 16-year-old Sergio Pena, in his very first K&N Pro Series event, finished second driving the No. 4 Freightliner Chevrolet for Revolution Racing.  Pena was also the only other driver to successfully lead a lap on Saturday night.
 
For Logano, it was all smiles in Victory Lane.
 
"I had a blast," Logano said after exiting his No. 25.  "I have fun every time I come out there to Toyota Speedway [at Irwindale], and obviously these wins make it a lot more fun."
 
Logano also had some nice thoughts about his main adversary, the relatively inexperienced Pena, after the race.
 
"He was really good," Logano said of the 16-year-old Drive for Diversity participant.  "I had to really be methodical in every move I made [in order to keep him behind me]."
 
For Pena, who had to beat three teammates in a challenge on Thursday just to get the opportunity to race in Irwindale, he was happy to settle for second.
 
"We had a really good run at the start, and [a] strong car throughout on both the long runs and the short runs," Pena said after the race.  "This has been a huge learning experience for me, and I enjoyed every lap of that race."
 
Behind Logano and Pena was longtime East Series competitor Matt Kobyluck in third.  Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Matt DiBenedetto, driving for Curb Racing, finished fourth, while Andrew Myers rounded out the top 5.
 
Eric Holmes finished in sixth position, followed by David Mayhew and Eddie MacDonald.  New Jerseyian Paulie Harraka finished ninth while Steve Park, who had significant handling problems early in the race, came back through the field to finish tenth.  There were five lead changes between Logano and Pena, while 15 cautions slowed the race for 72 laps. As a result, the average speed was a pedestrian 54.253 mph.
 
Action Express Racing pulls off the upset at Daytona

When the Rolex Sports Car Series pulled into Daytona International Speedway for this past weekend's Rolex 24, there were a few teams pegged as favorites.  One of those teams was the No. 01 BMW Riley for Ganassi with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Max Papis and Justin Wilson driving.  This team has won three of the last four Rolex 24's.  The No. 02 car with Jamie McMurray, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya driving was also considered a strong contender, while the Gainsco No. 99 Chevrolet Riley, driven by Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Jimmy Vasser, and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the favorites.
 
However, this weekend brought out the Upset Special.  After 20 hours, the No. 02 BMW Riley was already out of the race, having blown an engine while leading in the middle of the night.  The No. 99 was never really in contention for the win, with a litany of small problems that hampered their effort.  Eventually, the engine blew in hour 22, putting the Gainsco team out of the race.
 
The lone remaining favorite, the No. 01, was leading the No. 9 Porsche Riley (Note: Unlike the other Porsche-powered Daytona Prototypes, the No. 9 was powered by a V-8 engine based on the engine in the Porsche Cayenne SUV) for Action Express Racing with four hours to go by just a couple of car lengths when Justin Wilson, who was driving the No. 01 at the time, noticed a loud clunking sound.  At the same time, the car got extremely loose.  Thinking that something was broken, Wilson immediately brought the No. 01 into the garage so that the crew could thrash on it.  Unfortunately, the team never found anything wrong and sent Wilson back out on the track.
 
This put the No. 01 a lap down to the No. 9, and they were never able to make up the difference.  The car, shared by Ryan Dalziel, Terry Borcheller, Joao Barbosa, and Mike Rockenfeller never relinquished the lead.  At the end of the 24 hours, the No. 9 was victorious, covering 755 laps (2687.8 miles).  The final margin of victory over the No. 01 BMW Riley was 52 seconds.  The No. 95 BMW Riley for Level Five Racing with Christophe Bouchut, Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Lucas Luhr, and Richard Westbrook finished third, four laps down.
 
In the GT Class, the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 with Sylvain Tremblay, Jonathan Bomarino, Nick Ham, and David Haskell claimed victory.  Their win, which was also good enough for eighth overall, was by a margin of four laps over the No. 67 TRG/Flying Lizard Porsche GT3 Cup driven by Seth Neiman, Johannes van Overbeek, Jorg Bergmeister, and Patrick Long.  The No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3 Cup of Andy Lally, Wolf Henzler, Ted Ballou, Kelly Collins, and Pat Flanagan finished third in class, 16 laps behind the class winners.

Action Express Racing was formed as a result of Brumos Racing (No. 59) deciding to cut down to one car for the 2010 season.  Most of the crew working on the car worked for Brumos Racing last season and were retained by the new, independent team for 2010.  The team does receive some support from Brumos, but otherwise, it is completely independent from Brumos Racing.
 
NASCAR's list of Banned Substances finally revealed

Back on the 22nd, it was reported that NASCAR was finally giving drivers a list of banned substances that they will be tested for as part of NASCAR's Substance Abuse Policy.  Now, thanks to SceneDaily.com, the general public now knows what those banned substances are.

It's actually a quite extensive list.  The policy specifically bans Stimulants, such as amphetamines, methamphetamines, and Ecstasy, among others.  There is no mention of excessive amounts of caffeine being banned, however, which is unlike other lists of banned substances in other sports.

Moving on to other types of drugs, ephedrine is banned if used counter to the instructions included with the product.  In the recent past, weight loss products that contained Ephedra, such as Stacker 2, were sponsors in Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series before the FDA cracked down on the products following a series of deaths.
 
Performance-enhancing drugs, such as synthetic testosterone, anabolic steroids, and HGH (Human Growth Hormone) are not permitted for use.  Sleep aids, such as Ambien, are also banned under the policy.
 
Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium are "no-no's," along with muscle relaxers such as Soma.  Dietary supplements, in contrast, are allowed - but drivers must be vigilant.  If the labels on the product say not to use them if they are subject to drug testing, they will cause a positive drug test and the driver will be disciplined.

Along those same lines, masking agents are banned for use.  These are certain substances that can be taken in order to "beat" tests and give false negatives.  The policy itself mainly talks about inhibitors designed to affect the testosterone/epitestosterone ratio in respect to masking agents.  However, in some testing regimens, substances as simple as Aspirin are banned because they are seen as masking agents.

Finally, drivers cannot consume any alcohol within 12 hours of any on-track activity.  Drivers can be suspended if they are found to have a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of .02 percent.
 
The release of this list has gone a long way towards putting drivers at ease over the Substance Abuse Policy.  Last year, NASCAR maintained that it was safer that the drivers not know what they were being tested for.  Their rationale was essentially that they would be able to look at every driver on a case-by-case basis; however, this philosophy fell under heavy criticism as the Jeremy Mayfield case heated up over the summer.
 
NASCAR cuts purses in top 3 series

On Friday, NASCAR confirmed rumors that had been circulating about the race purses during the 2010 season.  There will be a ten percent decrease in race purses across the board in NASCAR's top three series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series).

These cuts are part of overall cost-cutting measures that have been instituted because of the sagging economy over the past couple of years.  The lower purses benefit the tracks, who have to pay sanctioning fees to NASCAR in order to hold races, in addition to a certain share of the race purse.  The lower race purses also allow tracks to lower ticket prices and make it easier for fans to attend races.

The general opinion about this move is positive.
 
"This will help everyone -- fans, tracks, vendors, and everyone in between to reduce cost," said Lenny Santiago, Director of Marketing for ISC (International Speedway Corporation).  "We applaud NASCAR for this move."  O. Bruton Smith, Chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. is also in favor of this move, but also claims that drivers won't like it.

Keller to drive for re-launched TriStar Motorsports for 2010

The Greenville [South Carolina] News is reporting that Jason Keller, formerly of Baker-Curb Racing in the Nationwide Series, has a new ride for the 2010 Nationwide Series season.  That ride is with a blast from the past, Mark Smith.
 
On Friday, Smith announced that he has re-launched his race team, TriStar Motorsports, and will campaign a No. 19 Chevrolet for Keller in the Nationwide Series this season.  In Keller, Smith gets the most experienced driver in the history of the series (Keller has a record 492 career starts) and someone who is still capable of running at a high level.
 
Keller is happy for the opportunity, especially considering the realities of NASCAR now.
 
"It's a changing time in racing," Keller said on Friday, explaining he drove a forklift over the winter while waiting for callbacks that simply didn't come before Smith knocked on his door.  "The drivers with money are the ones that are able to position themselves. Some deserve to be there because of their racing skills, but a lot are there because of their ability to bring a sponsor with them.  So it's less about what you've done - what's on your resume - than it is about what kind of sponsor you can bring. You can't really fault the owners, though; the owners have to pay the bills."
 
Now, Smith and Keller will try and revitalize a once-successful program. TriStar Motorsports originally was a Winston Cup team that first appeared on the circuit in 1989 as a part-time team.  After a number switch from 18 to 68, the team went full-time in 1991 with the late Bobby Hamilton driving, and Country Time Lemonade as the sponsor.  Hamilton won Rookie of the Year in '91, and managed six top 10 finishes (his best was a sixth at Rockingham in October, 1991) before being dumped in favor of Greg Sacks in 1993.

For 1994, the team replaced Sacks behind the wheel with ARCA driver Loy Allen, Jr.  Allen brought sponsorship from Hooters with him to replace Country Time.  In his debut, Allen won the pole for the Daytona 500 on Hoosier tires, but was a complete non-factor in the race.  He went on to win three poles in 1994, but failed to qualify for 12 races and didn't run well when he did make the field.
 
The team ran a partial schedule in 1995 before returning for the full schedule in 1996 with sponsorship from Healthsource.  With Allen back in the car, the hopes were high.  But Allen got hurt in the second race of the year (Rockingham) and missed nine races (Dick Trickle substituted in Allen's absence) which threw the entire season off.  1997 started with sponsorship from Child Support Recovery, but the backing did not last long.  By the end of May, TriStar Motorsports was done.  Since TriStar closed up, Smith has specialized in building engines with Pro Motors, one of the most respected engine builders in all of NASCAR.
 
Have news for Phil and the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at ashl...@mail.com with a promising lead or tip.
 
Today's Feature
Despite Hiatus, Garcia Looking to be a Bridge between Latin America, NASCAR
By Bryan Davis Keith
 
Alex Garcia was supposed to be a full-time Nationwide Series competitor in 2008, only to find himself one of countless drivers and teams whose plans were shuttered due to reductions in sponsor dollars. Since failing to qualify for the NNS race at Watkins Glen in August of that year, he and his No. 98 car have been absent from NASCAR.
 
But he never left the sport. Instead, the only Venezuelan to ever start a NASCAR race has been working the PR trails, trying to find the sponsorship that has been so fleeting.
 
“I've done a lot of events during the time I wasn't racing,” says Garcia. “Every time somebody [wanted a] show car, we were there. Autographs, I'm there. I've done events at Costcos, events at Mexican Independence Day, all kinds of events over the last year and a half. If I'm not racing, might as well get to work and do as much marketing and PR as we can.”
 
“I think we've gotten out there and gotten to it, but it's a tough market.”
 
It's a tough market indeed, one where the sport's biggest names such as JR Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing have found themselves side-by-side with teams like Garcia's, desperately seeking the funding needed to keep cars on the track. But even before the economy turned sour, Garcia has been at the forefront of taking on a challenge that many in marketing have been unable to figure out...a way to bridge NASCAR and the Latin American markets.
 
Says Garcia, “we have to consider that in the US in 2050, Hispanics will be the majority. It's an important market, you have to pay attention to it. Companies are, a lot of the Fortune 500 are, and they're spending a lot of money advertising [to Hispanics]. They're spending a lot on NASCAR advertising, but they don't put it together.”
 
“You can actually, through a Hispanic driver, bridge that gap, and whoever does it is going to be real successful. I've tried, and I've tried, and I haven't quite made it there.”
 
Now, as 2010 rolls around, Garcia is refocusing his efforts not as a driver, but as an owner seeking to facilitate driver development for Latin Americans who now are considering stock cars as a potential career path. But he knows that for drivers not necessarily used to this type of racing, the learning curve needs to start with both left and right turns.
 
“People now take notice [of NASCAR], whereas 15 years ago it was an impossibility,” says Garcia. “There's drivers that want to get their feet wet running the road courses, to get familiar with a big car before they get to an oval. There are some ovals, some pretty big ovals, in Latin America, but there's not many of them.”
 
With the focus of many foreign drivers tackling the road courses as an introduction to stock car racing, Garcia's team is preparing accordingly.

“We're finishing up our road race car [and] on the Nationwide Series side we'll definitely be there for the road course races,” states Garcia. “We're not ready to make the jump to full-time. We've got some interest in some races, the road races happen to be the first ones. We're [also] building a car for the ARCA race, and we hope to test at Palm Beach on February 8.”
 
In fact, Garcia is extremely excited about the prospects of ARCA racing at Palm Beach.
 
“It's going to be a good race. ARCA really impressed me with the road course drivers, McDowell and Lally, when they went to New Jersey, and I'm expecting the same thing down there," he said. "Especially with the way the phone's been ringing. It's good for ARCA, it opens the sanctioning body and race series to a whole wide world of viewers that haven't noticed it. It's a good call, especially having it in South Florida, which is pretty much a gateway to Latin America. Watch for a big turnout there.”
 
Bryan Davis Keith is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.com.  He can be reached by e-mail at bryan...@frontstretch.com.

FRONTSTRETCH TRIVIA:
Q:  In 1992, the Daytona 500 was a runaway affair for the first 84 laps before a brief rain shower brought out the first caution of the race.  A couple of laps after the restart, the infamous Big One occurred on the backstretch.  This allowed the race to literally become a three-car race before halfway.  What caused this big crash?

Check back Tuesday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
 
Last Monday's Answer:
Q.
  Today, the Nationwide Series has three road courses on the schedule (Road America, Watkins Glen and Montreal).  However, neither of these three tracks hosted the first road races in this division.  Which one did, and who were the fortunate ones to claim victory at this speedway?

A.  The first road races in what is now known as the Nationwide Series were held at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia in 1986 and 1987.  These races were 300-kilometer long races on the then-2.52 mile course (since that time, multiple improvements have been made to the track, including a new pit road, and a new, slower complex right before the crossover bridge).  The races were won by Darrell Waltrip and Morgan Shepherd, respectively. Both of those drivers were full-time in the Winston Cup Series at the time of their victories.
 
After 1987, Road Atlanta was dropped from the schedule in favor of Lanier Speedway.  A notable fact about this move is that the 3/8-mile Lanier Speedway is literally across the street from Road Atlanta.

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!!

Coming Tuesday in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News from Summer Dreyer
-- Sitting in the Stands: A Fan's View by S.D. Grady
   This week's topic: Will NASCAR's vow to "loosen up" result in NASCAR looking like the NHL?
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles and more!

Tomorrow On The Frontstretch:

Talking NASCAR TV by Phil Allaway
Even though the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams haven't rolled into Daytona International Speedway yet, that doesn't mean there isn't any TV coverage to critique.  This week, Phil looks at SPEED's coverage of the Rolex 24 and the Toyota All-Star Showdown as racing in 2010 has officially gotten underway.
 
The Yellow Stripe by Danny Peters
Our New York City-based writer is back with his weekly commentary.
 
Turner's Take by Jared Turner
Our newest writer is here with his take on an important issue.
 
Five Points to Ponder by Bryan Davis Keith
There are five potential things to look out for at the beginning of this season, and Bryan's here to bring them to you.

Driver Diary: Marcos Ambrose by Toni Montgomery
The driver of the No. 47 JTG / Daugherty Cup car returns for his first full season doing a Frontstretch Driver Diary. In this season preview, Marcos looks back at his offseason back home in Australia and sets his goals for his sophomore year behind the wheel at stock car's highest level.
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