Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Mike Neff · Wednesday June 13, 2012
Brandon McReynolds is the son of former Cup crew chief and broadcaster Larry McReynolds. While that might seem to be a positive relationship, it can be a negative as well. It is often misconstrued that the younger McReynolds has unlimited resources to go racing just because his father is so entrenched in racing. Nothing could be further from the truth and the constant battle to try and secure sponsorship has kept the talented young driver from showcasing his talents on a national stage more than a few times. The Frontstretch’s Mike Neff had a discussion with Brandon about growing up in the sport, racing go-karts with friends and what he’d rather drive.
Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com: You started racing at 8 years old. Was your dad done with his crew chief duties or was he still working for Cup teams at that point in time?
Brandon McReynolds: He was still working on cars. I think he was crew chiefing for Dale and then obviously switched over to Skinner. About the time I moved on, I was already moved on to Allison Legacy cars when he took over the Fox deal.
Neff: Was it hard getting to the track with him when he was committed to the NASCAR stuff? Did anyone else help you out?
McReynolds: That’s a good question. A guy named Sean Treadway, he used to work for Jake Crum, everyone knows Jake the Snake, Sean came over and started working for us when I was running Bandoleros. He basically took me to the race track, week in and week out, and Dad would try and get there as much as he could. Obviously it was easier for him to get out to the Tuesday night races at the Summer Shootout. When I moved up the ladder to the Legacy cars and the Late Models, Sean really looked over everything. And then in ’09 we had a switch of crew chiefs with Nick Hutchens. So Dad always provided me with that one full-time guy to babysit me and make sure I wasn’t getting in trouble and make sure we ran good.
Neff: With your dad being in the NASCAR side of things, and Hutchens for that matter, did any of the NASCAR innovation leak down into your Bandolero and Legacy racing?
McReynolds: At the end of the day, when you’re growing up racing, whether it is go-karts, Bandoleros, Legacy car or Late Model, at the end of the day it is all about basics. Make sure all four wheels are straight, the motor works, the brakes work, clutch works, gas pedal doesn’t hang, it is all of those little things that allowed us to focus on our setups a little more because we already had the basics down. My dad’s guidance always taught me that safety is a big part of this sport. Make sure all of your stuff is safe and then after that we can focus on trying to engineer things. For the most part, I didn’t have as many resources as people think. I can remember being 8 years-old, Dad got me the Bandolero and, up until I was 13 or 14, we just worked out of our garage. It was just me and Dad. Sean Treadway, like I mentioned, did come over and help us out a lot. I think I took my Late Model to the pull down rig one time. I know of guys who take theirs to the pull-down rig all of the time and there are (K&N Pro Series) East teams who take their cars to the pull-down rig all of the time. There really hasn’t been any huge advantage to Dad being a former crew chief in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The biggest thing has just been having the relationships with people. That is where it has really paid off, just being able to go into the garage area and bounce ideas off of Bootie Barker or have Dad go ask Chad Knaus a question. That is where it has really paid off.
Neff: You grew up around racing. We’ve seen the pictures of you in Victory Lane in 1992 with your dad holding you. You’re buddies with Corey LaJoie. Are there any other guys around your age now that you grew up with running around at the track?
McReynolds: I’ve been working over here with Jeff Burton, building a race car with his guys for his son, Harrison Burton, who is an up-and-coming driver. It has been really cool because Jeb Burton, Ward’s son, is Jeff’s nephew. We actually tested yesterday up at Ace Speedway with Harrison and got to spend a lot of time with Jeb. We got to reminisce about old times with me and Jeb and Kyle Grissom and LaJoie and Coleman Pressley and we were talking about testing an ARCA car up at Michigan a few weeks ago. I remember shooting water balloons out at the fans with a slingshot that Ward had bought me and Jeb and getting in trouble with the security guards. That was when we were way young. We try and stay out of trouble now. It is cool to see that same strand of guys coming up through the sport. As aggravating as the sport can be, as far as making it, whether it is talent or trying to find that sponsorship or trying to find money. It is just neat to see all of your buddies having the same interest as you and I think that is why we all have such a tight bond.
Neff: On the racing side of things, you’ve run a Late Model, not sure if you’ve run a Super Late Model. Do you think running the Late Model better prepares you to step up to ARCA, Nationwide and Cup than a Super does because they’re a perimeter car vs. a straight rail car.
McReynolds: That is a really good question, I get asked that quite a bit. I don’t think there is one right way to groom a kid coming up through the sport. Obviously, if you have unlimited funding, you can go out get a straight rail car and haul the mail and learn how to drive the crap out of your race car. At the same time it is really good to go run a series like UARA, which is what I grew up racing and learn finesse and how to take care of your stuff, because if you don’t you’ll burn the right front off because they won’t turn in a 40 acre field as it is. The best way to answer that question is I wouldn’t change anything I did growing up racing. I think Dad did a really nice job, he might have moved me a little too slow, I ran Bandoleros until I was 15 years old and I’m only 21. I haven’t really been out in big cars for that long. At the same time, I don’t take any of that back. Dad did a nice job of understanding those UARA Late Model cars don’t turn very good and we all know a stock car is a stock car and a Truck or a Nationwide or a Cup car isn’t going to turn very good either. Over here at Jeff’s he’s really passionate about building some straight rail cars and Freddie Query has been working on some of that for us. I think it is good to teach a kid how to understand taking care of the rear tires instead of the front tires and I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Neff: Okay, getting away from big time racing a little bit. You and Corey LaJoie and a couple of the other guys have had this Field Fillers thing going for a while. Where did it start? Was it at the Pit up in Mooresville?
McReynolds: No, the main group, long story short, was me, Joey Logano, Coleman Pressley, Corey LaJoie and Kyle Grissom. We entered a 12 hour go-kart race down at Victory Lane Karting in North Charlotte. We had to come up with a name. We asked what the names were and the guy that worked there told us we were the last group to enter so we had some names to choose from or we could come up with our own. Coleman Pressley had the great idea, “since we were the last ones I guess we’re the Field Fillers.” We were like, “Why don’t we use that for our name?” It kind of started from there. You obviously know the story of Randy LaJoie building the go-kart track behind the Joie of Seating, the seat shop over there in Concord. We were just sitting around one day, had nothing going on, I was actually working for Randy and Corey was welding seats and I was helping build seats and I said “Let’s pull some of those karts out of the shed.” It started out with just five of us buddies and now we get 200-250 people just to show up and watch. It has been a really cool journey. It is cool to see kids that will never have the opportunity because of not having money or knowing people, who are really good race car drivers and have run go-karts for a long time, just come out and have a lot of fun.
Neff: I spoke with Corey on a radio show the other day and he said you guys are doing some charity work with a church through the Field Fillers but said you might be expanding to a tie in with a charity. Have you guys made any progress on that?
McReynolds: Myself and Corey and Coleman and all of us out there are really in touch with our faith and we always like to give back. This racing thing, it is so easy to take advantage of all of the benefits of being a race car driver. Obviously none of us are making big paychecks right now but we do have an opportunity, through the Fairgrounds race track, to raise some money and help people out. I’m really passionate about trying to help out my buddy Lonnie Klaus. He’s actually down in Mexico running an orphanage with his whole entire family. He dropped everything he was doing with Motor Racing Outreach, who travels around to all of the Cup series events, and moved down there to Mexico and he’s been helping out a lot down there. You’ve got that, you’ve got Victory Junction Gang Camp, you’ve got our church University City Fellowship that me and Corey go to. There are a lot of different avenues that we’re trying to go through to try and help people out and give back to the community. I’m really excited because Corey has been kind of heading that up and it is really neat to see his passion for that. Hopefully we can get things worked out and get rolling on that because we have a race coming up on July 4th so it will be pretty neat.
Neff: Racers have a tendency to brag a little. LaJoie won at Bowman-Gray, Logano won at Pocono. How much smack talk is going on between the three of you between you at Talladega, LaJoie at Bowman-Gray and Logano at Pocono?
McReynolds: It is funny you ask that. Growing up, as younger kids, we were always really competitive. Now all of us realize how hard it is to make it in this sport, especially me and Corey. Corey and I have become a lot closer over the years. It is just really neat to see him have success. He’s worked really hard. His situation is a little bit different than mine. His dad and his grandfather have helped him out a lot and he’s been able to work on his own race cars. My dad sold all of my stuff, sold all of my Late Models this year. I don’t have the opportunity, I guess you could say, to go out and race week-in and week-out and run my own race cars, which is why I’ve been working over here at Jeff Burton’s. We’re really happy for each other, to answer your question. It is just two different situations so there’s no need for getting jealous or anything like that. It is really cool to see what Corey and Joey have done and I think they’re really happy for me too running for Turner Motorsports and having the opportunities and going down and winning Talladega. It’s been a good year for us so far I just hope we can keep it rolling.
Neff: The Fillers are definitely having a good year. Speaking of your racing, I’ve heard rumblings that there might be a Truck race in your future with Turner after winning at Talladega.
McReynolds: There’s been a lot of talk about different things we can do over at Turner Motorsports. Obviously funding comes first. Steve Turner, I could sit here and talk to you all day about what a stand up guy he is and how thankful I am for him giving me the opportunity. There are hardly any owners out there that go and hand pick one kid, out of the country, and say I believe in this kid and it is not about money and it is not about politics it’s not about who he is. I think he’s a good race car driver and I’m going to give him an opportunity. It was cool to see all of that pay off at Talladega. To answer your question we’ve talked over the last couple of weeks. I think the goal is to maybe try and run a couple more ARCA races or maybe hop in a Truck before the end of the season. I wish I could say when and where. Obviously they are working day-in and day-out over at Turner Motorsports trying to find funding. They’re really working hard for James Buescher, he’s been doing a really good job. It is really up in the air right now but I feel confident that I’ll be part of the company for a long time. That makes me feel good because I don’t want to race anywhere else. Obviously I’m looking for that next opportunity and I hope I land that over at Turner Motorsports.
Neff: Beyond the race track, what do you do for fun?
McReynolds: I work on race cars, that’s really about it. Working over here for Jeff, I really don’t consider it a job. I am really passionate about working on cars and that is really an opportunity for me to learn from a guy like Jeff Burton. He’s gotten the job done off and on the race track. He’s a really good mentor to bounce ideas off of. At the same time it is really cool to see him bringing his son, who is 11 years old, going to Late Models up through the series. The kid is going to be really good. I have a lot of fun over here working. In the meantime, when I’m not over here at the race shop, I’m always either going over to LaJoie’s and working out and hanging out with all of my buddies and we’re going and racing go-karts or blowing up fireworks or doing something crazy. That is really about it. All of our lives center around racing so, whenever I have a little off time I’m going to Cup races, trying to learn as much as I can, so when I do get that opportunity I will take full advantage of it.
Neff: You do do a little hunting don’t you?
McReynolds: Every once in a while. When hunting season comes around I try and go visit my buddies Trey and Jimmy Fowler. They’ve actually been bankers for my dad for many years. I try to go down to South Carolina and see those guys and have a lot of fun going down there. I wish I could go down there more. I am proud to say I killed my first buck last season. It was an eight-pointer which, I know there are a lot of people out there who think that isn’t anything, but it was a really cool experience. There is no other rush like it.
Neff: I saw the pictures of it, I did not realize it was your first one ever. Congratulations.
McReynolds: It is a shame I can’t get down there to go hunting more often. I really enjoy it. When I grew up and first started going hunting I hunted with Donnie Allison’s grandson Justin. I’ve had a lot of fun and learned a lot about it. I’ve become a pretty passionate hunter and we’ve had a lot of fun with it.
Neff: If you could race at just one track, what one track would that be.
McReynolds: That is a really good question, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that. I’d have to say, if I got to choose anywhere, I’d really like to go to a really worn out race track. Somewhere like Rockingham or Atlanta. I don’t know that I could pinpoint just one. Obviously I’ve raced Rockingham so I guess it would be somewhere like Atlanta or Texas. Somewhere you can move around and obviously you aren’t stuck with what you’ve got. You can take care of your tires but at the same time you can search around. That is kind of my driving style. I like places where you can run the top, bottom or middle, wherever you need to go.
Neff: Another theoretical question for you. If you had the chance to run in a winning Truck or a 30th place Cup ride, which would you rather do?
McReynolds: A winning Truck, hands down. I know that would be a lot of guys answer to that question. I think a lot of guys would take that Cup opportunity but, driving for Steve Turner over at Turner Motorsports, he is really big on quality vs. quantity. He’s a racer just like me and my dad, so that works out really well. I think a lot of kids get ahead of themselves and they want to take that next step to Nationwide or Truck or Cup when they haven’t won at the level that they’re at. Taking baby steps is good. To be honest with you, if I had a full-time Truck ride, if that was all I had for the rest of my life, I’d be completely happy. I think Truck and Nationwide racing is great. Obviously the goal is to go win that Cup Championship and win Cup races, but I’m just a racer. I like running up front and if that is as far as I go, you won’t hear any complaints out of me.
Neff: You said your dad sold your Late Model stuff, is there any chance you’re going to get to run at Martinsville this year?
McReynolds: I’d like to hope so. Matt McCall has been helping out over here on these Late Models and me and him have talked back and forth quite a bit. I’d like to get an opportunity to go run for someone else up at Martinsville. I’ve always run really well up there. The place kind of suits my driving style. We’ve had some really good runs up there but we’ve had a lot of bad luck there. Two years ago we had a throttle stick running third. I’ve enjoyed it. I ran second to Jake Crum. That was a bonehead move on my part, I should have moved him. It is just one of those deals. I’d like to get that grandfather clock. I tell a lot of people, running second up there you can hear that thing ticking in your sleep. We’ll see what happens. You may see me pop up running a couple of other races here and there.
Neff: You do like some other sports. What is your favorite sports team?
McReynolds: Being from Carolina I’m a huge Carolina Panthers fan. At the same time college football, we’re huge Alabama fans in the McReynolds household obviously with my dad being from Birmingham. We live, sleep, breathe and die by Alabama football. It was really cool, I heard AJ McCarron was at the Mobile race. He’s the quarterback for Alabama. I was really hoping to run that ARCA race. Hoping to go down there to win but also it would have been really cool to sit around and chat with him because they have a really good work ethic and I think it is really cool what they’re doing down there.
Neff: Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are your favorite drivers. Have you ever had a chance to hang out with them?
McReynolds: Yeah, obviously I think that was one of the things, growing up my Bandoleros were sponsored by Lowe’s and Kobalt Tools through Dad. So I obviously have respect for both of those guys. Nowadays I don’t really have a favorite. I just like seeing a good race. I think it would be really cool to see Dale Jr. go to Victory Lane, I think he’s knocking on the door of doing that. I have been around Jimmie a little bit, just from racing with his little brother Jarit Johnson. I’ve been around Dale Jr. at a much younger age, just from being around Dale Sr. Those are both guys that have done a lot in the sport and I just like seeing good racing. My boss, Jeff Burton, always like to see him run good. Those guys are really cool to hang around for sure.
Neff: Knowing you’ve grown up around the sport, and just from talking with you, you obviously have a really good gift with the spoken word. Did growing up around drivers and seeing their interaction with the media help you with your media interactions?
McReynolds: Yes, I’ve always been a huge fan of going back and watching races. At a young age I’d go back and watch what guys were doing on their in-car camera stuff, I’d watch how the races played out, I’d watch how they gave interviews. Obviously being around Dad has been really great with the media because that’s what he does for a living. One thing my dad has always told me, when you get out of the race car, whether you’re angry or happy or whatever your emotions are, you owe it to your fans, whether it is five people or five million, you owe it to your fans to give a good interview, tell them what you’re thinking, show a little emotion and tell them what you are thinking because that is what they want to see. It is not an act that is just who I am. I don’t mind talking. It just one of those things, I’ve learned from a lot of good people who have always given good interviews like my dad, Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty. A lot of people really looked up to Richard Petty and he was one of those guys who always tried to give back to the fans and I really admired that so I try and model myself after those people.
Neff: You like racing SIM cars. They had a SIM Dream race last week and had like 280 guys entered and had 1,000 people watching. I respect that it is a game but some guys get wrapped up into it like they’re racing real cars. Do you look at it as it is a tool to help your racing or do you get caught up into thinking it is real racing?
McReynolds: I don’t think it is one of those deals where I think if I can run a race on a SIM and win a race at Michigan that I think I can go run a ARCA race at Michigan and win. I think that, when you’re getting ready to run a race on a certain track, especially on road courses or a place like Pocono where you have reference points like the 3,2,1 signs. I think that if you can sit down, like I’ve sat down with Joey Logano before I was going to Pocono and asked what points you were using for lifting. Obviously it is different in a real life, but it is just getting comfortable with the visual side of things. I know there are a lot of guys who put a lot of time and effort into it and I think it is great that they have a passion for something. At the same time I don’t buy into, “I ran really well at New Hampshire on a SIM, I’m going to go run a race at New Hampshire in real life.” I don’t get into it that much. I spend so much time working I don’t have as much time to spend playing on the SIM as I’d like to. I don’t think it is a bad too either.
Neff: We just had the Prelude to the Dream. Have you ever run on dirt and would you like to run on dirt?
McReynolds: I’d love to run on dirt. Funny story, I don’t even know why but I was driving down the road and thinking that, if I ever make it as a Cup driver I’d love to do some dirt. I think it is really cool what Clint Bowyer has done with his team and Mike Dillon has team Dillon Racing where Austin and Ty and Ryan Gifford go run those Late Models on dirt every once in a while. I ran a mini-sprint on dirt one time when I was younger. I think it is really neat. I think it is a great training tool for guys who’re coming up as far as car control and knowing what you’re looking for and realizing how sideways you can be and at the same time taking care of your equipment. That race is always really cool to watch. I think it is great what Tony Stewart does up there in Eldora. I don’t know, I’d really like to one day be involved with dirt racing or at least get some dirt experience down the road.
McReynolds has grown up with racing around him since he was a baby and is still living the dream to this day. The path hasn’t been easy but he’s realized some success and also has himself grounded off of the track. His abilities and personality are what many race fans are looking for in their drivers. Hopefully he’ll be able to turn that total package into a full-time national touring ride some time in the near future.
Connect with Mike!
©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Recent articles from Mike Neff:
Infographic for the West Coast Nationals for the Mini Outlaws
Want to find out more about Mike Neff? Maybe see all the articles he's written here at the Frontstetch? Check out his article archive and bio page then!