Beyond the Cockpit

Beyond the Cockpit: Catching up with Rick Crawford

_Rick Crawford spent 2008 as one of Frontstretch.com’s Driver Diary contributors, and through this relationships fans got to keep up with Crawford not only on the track, but off the track as well. While he no longer contributes a regular diary, Crawford knows fans enjoyed hearing about some of the things he likes to do in his spare time and thought everyone might like an update on some of his ongoing activities, as well as the inside scoop on the 2009 season at Circle Bar Racing._ _Toni Montgomery recently visited with Crawford at his race shop just behind Turn 2 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Crawford’s shop has a lot of history. It was once home to NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki and Crawford works out of the same office Kulwicki once used._

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Beyond the Cockpit: Jarit Johnson on Making It As an Independent, Family… and Cheese

_Making it in NASCAR isn't easy, and for Camping World East Series owner/driver Jarit Johnson, there's another, surprising obstacle: his name. When your older brother is the Sprint Cup champion, it can be hard to pave your own way in the same sport. But Johnson is trying to do just that, and without a full-time sponsor to boot as he looks to build his racing career from the ground up._ _Amy Henderson sat down with Johnson at his race shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, for an extended discussion on what it takes to field a team, run a successful fabrication and cooling system business, and raise a family. As Johnson shows here, he may sound like his brother (they could probably play some serious phone gags), but he's his own man, and one determined to forge his path against the odds._

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Beyond the Cockpit: Colin Braun On the Future, Le Mans, and… Signing Babies?

_Colin Braun became accustomed to racing - and winning - at a young age, beginning his international career at just eight years old. He’s the youngest driver to win a major auto race on American soil (2006 Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona at age 17) and, later that year, became the youngest driver ever to have a podium finish at the 24 Hours of LeMans, finishing second in his class. This year, he added NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner to his already impressive resume, and will take the reins of a full-time Nationwide Series ride for Roush-Fenway Racing in 2010._ _Braun took a little time out of his busy schedule last week to talk to Amy Henderson about his racing accomplishments, as well as his future in stock car racing with one of the sport's most successful organizations._

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Beyond the Cockpit: Andy Lally on Making His Cup Debut

_Andy Lally is one of the best drivers the Grand Am series has to offer. The three-time champion already has two wins this season, continuing to add to a record number of top 3 and top 5 finishes in the series. With two 24 Hours of Daytona victories under his belt, it would seem the 34-year-old has accomplished everything he's set out to do in road racing._ _That's why it's not surprising to see one of auto racing's best looking to broaden his horizons just a bit. In a revealing interview with our Phil Allaway, Lally talks stock car racing on the eve of his first Sprint Cup start in the No. 71 TRG Motorsports Chevy, hoping a solid run Monday will be a springboard to bigger and better things._

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Beyond the Cockpit: Kelly Bires – From Wisconsin to Iowa

_Last season, Kelly Bires was one of the up-and-coming drivers in the Nationwide Series, finishing 13th in points with six top 10 finishes. This year ... he's been forced to take pretty much any open ride that comes up. After no sponsorship forced his No. 47 JTG Daugherty team to turn to Michael McDowell, Bires was left out in the cold and forced to take rides with "start and park" teams -- cars without enough money or resources to go the distance -- in order to stay in the sport._ _Being left out in the cold in this tough economy is enough to get any driver down. But Bires has made the most of it, finishing 10th or better in each of three races he's been allowed to finish this season. That included a 5th place run at Iowa behind the wheel of the No. 10 Braun Racing Toyota, one of several teams the young driver hopes to align with in 2010 as he looks to get his career back on track._ _Our own Jeff Meyer sat down and talked with Kelly at Iowa Speedway Saturday, discussing how he got his start in racing, the ups and downs of starting and parking, and whether the series he loves so much is headed back in the right direction._

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Beyond the Cockpit: Brian Vickers on Luck, Teammates, and Jumping Out of a Perfectly Good Airplane

Amy Henderson: What do you think that next step is as far as winning races? It certainly looks like your team is right there every week. Brian Vickers: We’ve accomplished a lot. I feel like we’ve had some work to do -- on the driver’s part, on the team’s part, in the race shop. But above and beyond that, I feel like we just need to have a little bit of luck...

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Beyond the Cockpit: Casey Mears on Routines, RCR, and Diapering 101

_It’s been an eventful year for Casey Mears, and when we last talked with him, it was just the beginning. Amy Henderson caught up with the driver of the No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet at New Hampshire International Speedway, and he had a lot to say about the past year, his new team at Richard Childress Racing, and fatherhood._ *Amy Henderson, FS.com:* Last year at this time, you were still deciding what you were going to do this year. What was the process like for you deciding to come over to Richard Childress Racing, and what has the transition been like? *Casey Mears:* The process was like any other -- you’re just trying to find the best fit, what’s going to work the best, and what’s the best opportunity. By far, RCR was the best opportunity that I had. I’m just really excited to be a part of this organization. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m just having fun so far.

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Beyond the Cockpit: Bobby Labonte on Adjusting, Winning, and… Shooting The Truck?

_At a time when veteran drivers are becoming a thing of the past in NASCAR, Bobby Labonte is the rare fortysomething who's remained a fixture in the series. Indeed, the sport has changed quite a bit since the Texan captured his lone Cup title nine years ago -- but one thing that hasn’t is how hard it is to win races and championships. In fact, Labonte says, it’s tougher than ever these days, evidenced by a slump of his own that's gone on far longer than anyone might have expected. He last visited Victory Lane at Homestead in November, 2003, and has yet to make the Chase since the playoff began one year later. This season to date has been the worst of his career statistically, as he's got just one top 10 finish and ranks 28th in the standings in his first year driving the No. 96 Ford._ _Still, Labonte's NASCAR Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup titles stand as a NASCAR record -- no other driver can lay claim to both. Amy Henderson sat down with Labonte to discuss whether that mark will ever be broken, why his season has been such a struggle, and how a little fun involving two brothers and a pickup truck may have been the coolest thing that's ever happened in his life._

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Bill Claren Reflects on the Early Days of NASCAR, the Bootlegger Myth the Current State of the Sport

On June 13, 1954, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (then known as the Grand National Series) held its first and only event at the Linden Airport in Linden, New Jersey. This event marked the first time NASCAR ever raced on a road course that was not on the Daytona Beach. The race received further notoriety last season, as it was the last time a foreign car manufacturer (Jaguar driven by Al Keller) went to victory lane in the sport until Kyle Busch won at Atlanta driving a Toyota in the spring of 2008. In fact, there were 13 Jaguars entered at Linden and one of them was driven by Bill Claren, who drove his No. 2 XK-21 to a fourth place finish that day, one spot behind Buck Baker while beating names such as Herb Thomas and Lee Petty

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Beyond the Cockpit: Kenny Wallace on The Fan Car, Big Changes, and… Use Your Imagination

_The NASCAR Nationwide Series has evolved through the years, in every aspect from the series’ vision to the technology and expense needed to be successful. A handful of drivers have been there through many of the changes, and this week we speak with one of them. The Frontsretch’s Amy Henderson sat down with Nationwide and Cup Series veteran Kenny Wallace, for a candid conversation about his team’s sponsorship efforts to run at Montreal in August, to the effects of manufacturer cutbacks and the series’ evolution on the teams...and then number one item on his grocery list._ *Amy Henderson, Frontstretch.com:* You’ve got an effort going for Montreal to have your fans sponsor your car. How is that working out? *Kenny Wallace:* The fan car is exactly that. It was an idea from one of my Facebook friends. It started out when I reached out to the media, asking if anyone knew any companies who would sponsor us in Montreal. Then we said, ‘hey wait, we have over 5,000 friends and fans on Facebook so we said why don’t we try and raise $20 per person?’

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