The 2019 class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame was announced this evening around 6 pm EST. On the list - Jeff Gordon, Rodger Penske, Jack Roush, Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki. Congratulations to this years class!
I woke up Friday morning with a big smile on my face, the day I had been anxiously awaiting for months had finally arrived; in less than eight hours I would be standing in Charlotte, North Carolina.
To me the seven and a half hour drive was nothing, I was perfectly fine with it, in fact I was excited. I love being in the car for trips, it's part of the experience. If you don't enjoy the journey how can you possibly love to travel? When I was younger I used to get car sick, so I'm supposed to eat before I'm in the car for too long but I opted to skip breakfast.
I was halfway to Charlotte before my nerves inevitably caught up with me. I tried to ignore it, but the feeling eventually hit my stomach and I knew I was going to have to change something. One of the first things I did was start eating peppermint Altoids (mints). Peppermint is supposed to settle nervous stomachs. The Altoids worked the first two years at Kentucky, and they worked while I was on my way to Charlotte.
Because I am always over prepared, my Dad and I were driving through Mooresville when I finally looked up race shop hours. My trusty pal Google said Hendrick's was closing at 5 O'clock, and the GPS said we wouldn't arrive at the shop until 4:30. (On a serious note, I previously had no intention of going to a race shop Friday afternoon otherwise I would have looked up the hours days before.)
If you have ever been to the Hendrick race shop then you already know the beauty the campus is capable of. To say I was stunned is an understatement. I was left breathless, as I always am when I see race shops, in a way I cannot explain. It genuinely feels magical, as stupid as that sounds it's true.
So I finally pull out my camera and I get two shots of the entrance
We parked the car, and my Dad and I decide to go into the 9/24 building first. To the left of the door was a William Byron car and a Chase Elliott car. To the right were other cars and tons of awards were displayed on all of the walls. The 88/48 building was basically the same, but more centered on those two drivers. We didn't have time to go to the museum so we went to the gift shop instead. Walking in, I had no intention of leaving with anything. However, Dad found sheetmetal on sale and he may have been talked into buying an Elliott 24 fender from the previous season. When we were checking out, we found lug nuts for a dollar each and we both picked up a Byron lug nut.
Then we left the building I got my final shots of the building and we entered our hotel address into the GPS. Lucky for us the hotel we were in was, no joke, literally directly across the street. As in, from the hotel window we could see one of Mr. Hendrick's car dealerships.
The hotel had those fun little cardboard props sitting in the lobby I took a picture but didn't hold them up that would have caused too much attention. (Although, I admit it would have been hilarious)
Once we had everything in our room we went to dinner. I'm not sure how many of you know about this but Jimmie Johnson, yes driver of the 48 chevy, has a restaurant in Uptown Charlotte. It's called Southbound and is a Mexican restaurant. I love Mexican food as much as the next guy, but the food at Southbound is honestly so good. We got guacamole, Mexican cokes, and I got a really strange sounding quesadilla. I can't remember what it was called but it had chicken, pineapple, black beans and corn on it. I definitely recommend it. As for the restaurant itself, the atmosphere was really nice, and calming.
Now, had I been smart, we wouldn't have been sitting in Southbound, we would have been sitting in the stands at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS), watching qualifying. But we weren't. We were enjoying the best Mexican food I've ever had so I wasn't very upset about it.
We left Southbound, and this is the part where I demanded we drive around the city, because I absolutely love Charlotte. I've travelled quite a bit since I was little, and nowhere has ever made me feel the way being in Charlotte has. We didn't do anything extravagant like go in the NASCAR Hall of Fame or anything, we just drove around the streets.
My dad wanted to make sure we knew where the track was for the race tomorrow (which means I refused to go to the hotel before we drove past the track so I could see if we could hear the trucks racing yet). So we drove by, we were happily caught up in the pre-race traffic (I was happy anyways) listening to the distant revving of engines and then we drove back to the hotel to watch the race on TV.
Saturday came around, the day you all were excited for, and I woke up to rain. As a race fan, I have a natural unease when it rains, even more so on race day, and an even stronger sense of unease when it's raining and you're staying two minutes down the road from the track. The hotel had free breakfast, and my stomach cramps were back but I forced my breakfast down - diced fruit, yogurt and a boiled egg. (Why do I only make healthy options when I'm on the road?)
Since it was raining, we clearly weren't going to the track early. (I have a natural sensitivity to the sun so we probably wouldn't have anyways) Instead we were stuck thinking of what we would do for the day. My dad found some website with all the race shop hours on them and just like that it was decided - we were going to visit Stewart-Haas Racing for the first time ever, and take my second ever trip to Team Penske.
Since Penske is located all the way in Mooresville it only made sense to go there first. The shop was just as beautiful then as it was the first time I visited last August. The only difference was there were only a small handful of cars in the shop since the others were at the track for practice.
We spent like an hour in Penske looking at the cars that were there and wandering around the gift shop. Again, my plan wasn't to buy anything but we needed credential holders and I may or may not have fallen in love with a leather Team Penske journal. (I have a week spot for notebooks and pen sets)
We left Penske and made our way to the Stewart-Haas shop, we bought my little sister a beanie and my mom a Freaky Fast shirt. The Stewart-Haas shop had a smaller visitor center but I did get to see Kurt Busch's Daytona 500 win car from last season. That thing got beat up!
There was also this fun little picture opportunity area that I had my dad take my picture at.
My dad and I knew we needed to get food at some point, so I kept eating Altoids and ignoring my nerves and we went to Texas Roadhouse. Yeah, I know, it's a weird place to stop before hitting the track but we only got cheese fries and fried pickles. We ate a little bit of the appetizers and I ate some of the rolls they give you when you first arrive at your table. We took the left overs to the hotel and got our stuff for the track. By then the rain had stopped and the sun as even starting to peek out.
Track Tip: If you over heat easy and are planning to be at the track all day I recommend bringing a little spray bottle with water in it, and spraying your arms when you start to get too hot. It sounds silly but this seriously saved my butt at Kentucky in 2017.
There was still time to kill so when we got back to the hotel we watched some documentary about the track that FS1 had on. It was pretty interesting, it had information about past drivers, about the track, about some races held at the track.
We got in the car around 4 o'clock and were parked at CMS within minutes. We parked super far from the entrance and it was getting hot out, I was starting to worry about over heating again, when a bus pulled up and asked if we needed a ride to the door. We told the driver yes and sat near the front. The bus was filled with people, and the driver was hilarious, he kept talking bad about every driver on everyone's shirt it was so funny. He saved us like ten minutes of walking I'm seriously so grateful. I'll take the Penske trash talk over over-heating at the track any day.
My dad set up my scanner and I took pictures of the track, and we walked around the Toyota and Chevy displays before deciding it was time to find our seats.
We were sitting down for the Open by 5 o'clock and I'd just like to point out that the Open didn't start until like 6 or 6:30, so we had some waiting to do. The seats we had were so close to the flag stand.
We got to watch Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Aj Allmendinger drive their way into the All-Star race, we watched the pre-race concert and the driver intros. I got about two hundred pictures that day, leading up too and during the races. It's been pretty complicated trying to decide which pictures I want to use since I obviously can't put two hundred of them in this post. So I've created a "Track Photos" tab where I'll put a bunch of them, I'm not sure I'll put all of them yet - we'll see.
This race was like no other, besides the fact that it was the All-Star. I really loved the new aero-package I'm excited to see if it gets used more often or not. From the stands point of view I have a positive feeling about it. I'm interested to see how it would look on TV.
We left the track that night pretty quick, I'd say we were back at the hotel and ordering pizza within twenty minutes of leaving out seats. If you've ever been to a race you know it's typically not that easy.
That was our last night in Charlotte, we drove home the next day. It's barely been a week and I miss the city more than anything.
I hope to one day call Charlotte my home, until then I have to hope that I'll get to return before then.
Even though we should never expect anything (especially in NASCAR) by this point it should come as no surprise that Kevin Harvick has taken another victory. This time, Harvick wasn't awarded with Play-Off points however, he was given a Million dollars.
The Charlotte All-Star race is NASCAR's big test for changes. One year the stages were tested, one year softer tires, this year a new aero-package. I had the absolute pleasure of attending the race live for the first time (more on that in another post!) I can easily say I loved the new aero-package.
Harvick won the first and third stages along with the final ten lap shootout. The second stage was own by Kyle Busch. Harvick has had such a dominate season so far - what comes next for driver number 4?
Harvick is now going for his sixth win of the season next weekend in the second Charlotte race - the Coca Cola 600. Often called the '600', it is the longest race of the entire season. Charlotte created the 600 in response to the Indy 500. Drivers constantly talk about how they lose a lot of water weight during the race. It used to be held during the day, but moving it to a night race has proven to be easier on the drivers. Will Harvick get another win this weekend? Tune in to find out!
Kevin Harvick took his 5th win tonight at Kansas Speedway. It was his fourteenth mile and a half win, which tied him with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon for number of wins at Kansas. It's Harvick's 42nd career win, and his 5th win of the year in the first twelve races!
When Harvick won the race he went down the front stretch driving backwards waving at the fans out the window.
The previous twelve times Harvick has won the pole he has not been able to make it to Victory Lane until tonight! It's also the 6th time Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have finished 1-2.
The 4 team has had a great start to the season, and it'll be interesting to see where their season will go from here. Will Harvick get his 2nd three race win streak this season? Find out in Charlotte!
Also Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there!
Kevin Harvick took home win number four of the season this Sunday at Dover. The other three wins came in the form of a three in a row sweep - Atlanta, Las Vegas, and ISM (Phoenix).
The second race of Harvick's three win streak in Vegas was encumbered, meaning he didn't get any benefits of the win besides the trophy. No points, and a few other penalties (money and owners point loss). But he went on the next week to win again in ISM.
Harvick's Dover win came after four hundred laps at Dover International Speedway which is also known as The Monster Mile. It will be Harvick's car in Miles the Monster's hand for the rest of the season until the fall race in October.
This evening in Victory Lane Harvick said about his son and last Dover trophy, "Yeah don't break his arm this time Keelan!" He also spoke about how much fun he had racing his teammate Clint Bowyer. "...It's fun to race your teammate..." and then went on to talk about how Stewart Haas Racing had three cars in the top five, "Says a lot about our company." The other teammate to round out the three (SHR) drivers in the top-five was Kurt Busch in 5th. Their teammate Aric Almirola finished in 11th place.
Harvick will try to get another win next weekend at Kansas Speedway. Don't forget it's a Saturday night race starting at 8 pm on FS1!
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I've personally always loved restrictor pale and road course races I don't really know why, but last Sunday Logano took his first win in over a year at a restrictor plate. But more on that in a moment,
We all remember how Joey Logano's 2017 Richmond win was encumbered, and last season he missed out on the playoffs, but not this season! Last Sunday Logano scored his first win in a year at Talladega Superspeedway.
It was the 7th Penske win in the last 13 Talladega races. Logano got to enjoy his time in Victory Lane with his wife Brittany and their son Hudson who was born in January. After the very exciting Victory Lane celebrations, Logano was invited to Dirty Mo Radio - Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s podcast.
Last Sunday when Logano won he broke his thirty-six race winless streak, and won his 19th cup race. I had tons of Logano stuff in my media all week, and I honestly forgot what that was like. I'm glad it happened though Logano has a huge smile, it's very contagious. I've included some of my favorite videos and photos from the win below for you all to check out.
Also did you guys catch the Drivers Only broadcast on FOX during the Xfinity race on Saturday? It was so cool, it's the second one they've done and I love the idea a lot! Here's some of the best moments from the broadcast!
I want to start doing these little Victory Lane inspired articles everyweek, I can't promise anything yet since I'm still in school (Finals are coming up - gross!) and I'm pretty busy at LOS, but I'm going to do my best!
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One more month until NASCAR gets started up again! February 11th is the start of Daytona Speedweeks, the first Truck race is the 16th, and the Daytona 500 is on the 18th this year. What does that mean for us? Not a whole lot, but since we're down to a month away, we need to adjust to new rules, driver changes, rumors, and schedules! Now, just how do we keep up with all of this? Social Media will always be my saving grace. I would suggest you start keeping up with NASCAR, NASCAR on NBC, Fox: NASCAR, NASCARFemale and some individual reporters on Twitter until the season starts. My go to's include Jamie Little, Matt Weaver, and Claire B. Lang. Of course, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, Mikey Waltrip, Mike Joy and the other Fox crew are all good picks for the start of the season too.
The following link will take you to the official announcement of each race date, and where it will air. The list includes the Cup series, Xfinity, NCWTS, K&N East and K&N West. ( The K&N races don't have a TV air date but those get posted throughout the season regularly on the NASCAR on NBC and NASCAR Home Tracks pages.
So addressing seat changes, this is what we know so far. Let's start out with Danica Patrick - she's supposedly running the Daytona 500 and Indy 500. She hasn't announced what team this will be for, but these two events are the last of her racing career. Aric Almirola will take over the 10 this season. Bubba Wallace will be in the 43, moving up from Xfinity to race full time. As for Matt Kenseth, his last race was in Homestead, Erik Jones taking over the 20 car. Kasey Kahne will move to the 95 for Levine Family Racing, and the 5 car will "disappear" from the field. Hendrick Motorsports will look like this - Alex Bowman in the 88, (remember Jr. retired!) Jimmie Johnson in the 48 and Chase Elliott is going through a number change, William Byron will be in the 24, and Elliott in the 9. I heard someone (Jeff Burton I believe?) say to look at it as a jersey change, the only thing changing for them is the number. We have Team Penske expanding to a three-car team, adding the 12 car and Ryan Blaney to the seat. So who takes over the 21? Paul Menard and that opens up the 27 seat. The rumor is that Brendan Poole (Xfinity driver) will be moving up to the seat, but nothing is confirmed yet. Since it's been relatively quiet lately I'd love to say 'Silly Season is over!' but remember how Edwards left last minute last season.
Hopefully I've prepared you well!
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If you guys followed Team Penske on social media last season you'll have heard of the Penske Games! A series of challenges all the drivers (both Cup and Indy) went through to see who was the ultimate champion. The videos were hilarious and I even got myself a Simon Pagenaud, "Hula hoop on a regular day" shirt.
I bring all of this up because it's that time of year again! Filming for season two of the Penske games has officially started this week. Yet another sign that the Cup season is approaching fast! If you didn't watch the series last season you can click here for the playlist of all of the games. Last season's games included all sorts of silly challenges, including hula hooping, the chubby bunny challenge (a game where you put as many marshmallows in your mouth as you can fit and still say chubby bunny), drawing race cars blindfolded, and many other shenanigans. I laughed during every single episode and don't regret watching them at all and I'm sure you guys will love them too.
I am very excited for this season of The Penske Games, and can't wait to see what they have in store for us this time!
Side note: I would have used a photo of my Hula Hoop shirt but it has been tragically stained by fruit punch so it's MIA for now.
So it's Off-Season now. The chaos of Homestead-Miami has settled, the banquets are over and everyone is prepping for next season. What does that leave fans with? Nothing to do but count down the days? My first Off-Season I had the same question, then I started writing for a website and now run my own blog so I've found something to keep me a little preoccupied. But that first year of Off-Season felt like the worst thing ever! I was sad at school, didn't have anything to look forward to on the weekends just that same old depressing "get through the week" scene. Sure there were holidays I could prep for but how long does it really take to get ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Three months? I don't think so!
So I've come up with a list of racing-related things fans can do during the Off-Season! Now I know, nothing on this earth compares to the rush we get when the green flag drops on a Sunday, but I have a question for you! Do you watch all three top-tier NASCAR series? No? Well, are you craving some racing? All the races and most interviews are posted on YouTube. All you have to do is click on the search bar and start typing the name of the race and the series. I know Xfinity and Trucks aren't everyone's forte, but if you love racing can't you give it a try? At least to see who really will be taking over the sport someday if nothing more?
If you do watch the top three tiers then I suggest looking into ARCA, and the K&N Pro Series East/West. Same deal... just start typing on YouTube and you'll get all kinds of results. Who knows maybe if we can get enough people watching the K&N Series we can actually get the races to play live on TV one day in the future? That might just be wishful thinking, but you never know what can happen if NASCAR Nation comes together as one!
If you already watch all those series, don't like YouTube, or simply just won't watch them I have another solution! This one takes up much less time, but it's a start. Books! Yes, I said books. There are all kinds of NASCAR related books on Amazon and eBay! You can get trivia books, complete history books, biographies, even race stories! There are a few I've been looking into reading myself including - Earnhardt Nation: The Full-Throttle Saga of NASCAR's First Family. Driving With The Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and The Birth Of NASCAR. Jeff Gordon: His Dream, Drive and Destiny. Then Junior Said To Jeff: Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told. He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back: The True Story of the Year The King, Jaws and Earnhardt and The Rest of NASCAR's Fuedin', Fightin' Good Ol' Boys Put Stock Car Racing on The Map. Flat Out and Half Turned Over: Tales from Pit Road with Buddy Baker.
See? There's all kinds of books out there on racing! But reading and watching races aren't the only things out there. There's a ton of NASCAR and car-related documentaries on YouTube. They aren't as boring as the name 'documentaries' makes them sound. Just type 'NASCAR Documentary' and you'll be busy for a while! Two of my favorites I've seen so far are Refuse to lose, The 1997 Daytona 500, and The Daytona Primetime. I've spent a good chunk of time watching NASCAR documentaries on YouTube. But theres a ton to sift through, so give them a look!
You can also find all kinds of funny Media Center stuff between drivers, one of my personal favorites is Harrison Burton's Thanksgiving comment. The drivers are goofy, we already know that, we just need to look in the right places in order to find the golden comments! If you have Snapchat add Noah Gragson, he always is posting funny stuff on there including all of his unfortunate plane rides.
If you're already on your computer look up the history of the sport, or read this article about Red Byron it's one of my favorites! There are even more articles like that one on the internet! It's a lot of fun to just sit down and find some 'raw NASCAR' to look into.
How about Podcasts? Do you like them? Never tried them? Well, get on it then! There's all kinds of NASCAR Podcasts out there! I was mentioned somewhere in Episode 8 of The Lapped Traffic Podcast, there's the Glass Case of Emotion Podcast which has Ryan Blaney in it every episode, Off Axis Paint Undefeated Podcast, PETM Racing Podcast. You can just open the Podcast app that comes with your phone and type those names or NASCAR and you'll get stuff! Or if you go to Podbean.com you can find some! Heck, even just Google 'NASCAR Podcast' You'll find some really cool stuff out there! You can even look up radio shows with driver interviews on YouTube and Google. There's all kinds of radio shows out there like Sirius XM NASCAR, or PMN Radio.
See? Not as boring as we thought! Instead of watching racing, we can just keep up with everything going on on social media, and all these other things too! It won't compare to race day, but at least it's something right?
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I'm a junior in high school but that doesn't stop me from keeping up with and bringing you the latest from NASCAR!