Austin Dillon drives the No. 3 for RCR in the Cup Series. His brother Ty drives the No. 13 Chevrolet for Germain Racing.
Lee, a 24-year-old native of Newton, North Carolina, will make his Xfinity debut after placing third in the ARCA Racing Series standings last year. He has three Camping World Truck Series starts. He finished 16th twice at Texas Motor Speedway and Gateway Motorsports Park.
Gaughan returns to RCR for his seventh season with the team. The former driver of the No. 62 car will compete at Road America and Mid-Ohio, two of the three road courses Xfinity visits.
Gaughan earned one of his two Xfinity wins at Road America in 2014.
Burton, the son of former up driver Ward Burton, has 22 Xfinity starts since 2013. His best finish is fourth at Daytona last July.
Nick Harrison will be the crew chief for the No. 3 in all 33 races.
Bootie Barker to finish season, but Germain Racing will have new crew chief in 2018
Germain Racing announced Tuesday that veteran NASCAR Cup crew chief Robert “Bootie” Barker will finish the season with the team in that position, “but will not be with Germain Racing in 2018.”
Barker, 46, has been crew chief at Germain Racing, primarily for the No. 13 car, since 2010. Ty Dillon replaced Casey Mears as driver of the No. 13 Chevrolet this season. Dillon has struggled; his best finish in his first full Cup season has been 11th at Talladega four weeks ago.
In 479 Cup races as a crew chief, Barker has no wins, three top-five and 17 top-10 finishes. In 94 Xfinity Series races, he has four wins, 20 top fives and 39 top 10s. He also served as a crew chief in the Truck series for three races.
UPDATE: The team announced Wednesday that, like Barker, technical director Chris Andrews and engineer Scott Whitehead will complete the current season but will not return in 2018.
Tommy Baldwin Jr. joins Premium Motorsports as crew chief, competition director
Veteran NASCAR crew chief and team owner Tommy Baldwin Jr. will return atop the pit box, named Friday as crew chief for the No. 15 NASCAR Cup Toyota of Premium Motorsports.
Team owner Jay Robinson announced that Baldwin will serve both as crew chief for the No. 15, as well as competition director, effective immediately. Reed Sorenson is driving the No. 15 this weekend at Darlington.
“Tommy’s passion, experience and knowledge will serve Premium well in its quest to become more competitive in the future,” Robinson said in a statement.
Baldwin previously served as crew chief for Bill Davis Racing, Evernham Racing and Robert Yates Racing, working with several drivers including Ward Burton, Jimmy Spencer and Kasey Kahne. He has five wins as a NASCAR Cup crew chief, including the 2002 Daytona 500 with Burton.
My NASCAR memories start to come into focus around 1996, a year before I attended my first race at Texas Motor Speedway as a 6-year-old. Even now, most of my NASCAR recollections prior to 2001 get fuzzier by the day.
But boy, did I love NASCAR in the 1990s.
The names, the races, the paint schemes. It’s embedded in my DNA as deep as the Top Gun soundtrack.
But was it really that great? That’s the question I hope to answer with this series, while learning more about the sport.
Why start with the 1995 Goody’s 500? With having covered the STP 500, I’ve had Martinsville on the brain for the last two weeks. The half-mile track is one of five Earnhardt claimed more than five wins at, and the 1995 race was the last one.
Also, the NASCAR of 1995 and 2017 have a couple things in common. Both seasons follow one where a driver won their seventh championship (Dale Earnhardt vs. Jimmie Johnson) and they’re the coming-out parties for the sport’s “youth” (Jeff Gordon vs. Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, etc.).
Before we start, here’s a fun fact: There were two Goody’s 500s in 1995. The pain reliever also sponsored the Aug. 26 race at Bristol Motor Speedway (aka Dale Earnhardt vs. Terry Labonte, Part 1). Goody’s first sponsored the fall Martinsville race in 1983 and continues in 2017.
Setting the Stage
When the Winston Cup Series rolled into Martinsville on the weekend of Sept. 24, 1995, Bill Clinton was in his third year as president of the United States.
The air was filled with the sounds of Tim McGraw’s “I Like it, I Love It,” which was enjoying its third of five weeks as the No. 1 country song. Brad Pitt was asking Morgan Freeman “What’s in the box?” in David Fincher’s second film, Seven.
The Goody’s 500 was the 26th of 31 points races on the Cup schedule. Jeff Gordon, in his third full year on the circuit, had been in the points lead since the July 9 race at New Hampshire, 10 races prior.
Dale Earnhardt’s reign of terror was in its twilight. Despite three wins (North Wilkesboro, Sonoma and Indianapolis), he trailed Gordon by 309 points after the No. 24 won the previous week at Dover, his seventh win of the year.
On the afternoon of Sept. 24, the two defining names of NASCAR in the 1990s were on the front row after rain canceled qualifying. Gordon’s “pole” was his ninth of the year. At the time, Earnhardt had five career wins on the short track. Gordon had none.
With ESPN airing the race, Bob Jenkins had the call along with Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett.
What’s Different – Part 1
In 2017, there’s been a lot of hand-wringing over car counts. After the Daytona 500, only one race has reached the field maximum of 40 entries. Just a few years ago, the maximum amount was 43 cars.
But in the mid-’90s, short tracks had their own rules. A full field was 36 cars. For this race, six entries went home.
ESPN’s contributions to auto racing and how it’s presented on TV are immense. But in 1995, the practice of constant on-screen graphics depicting race position was still in its infancy. Here during the opening laps, Jenkins explained to viewers that new contraption up in the left-hand corner.
The race broadcast went to its first commercial on Lap 14 of 500. When it came back, Jenkins read ads for Ford, AC Delco and NASCAR’s 1994 season-in-review VHS tape. This tape can now be bought on eBay for $13, plus shipping and handling. As with any 22-year-old advertisement I see, I’m always tempted to call the toll-free number.
So I did.
It was disconnected.
On Lap 32, the first caution came out due to rain. Earnhardt had a commanding lead over Rusty Wallace, who had won the last three Martinsville races.
I’m all for bringing out the tarps to stay dry when there’s a little moisture, but this is ridiculous. I’ve seen enough movies to know Richard Childress Racing is hiding an alien or an ancient artifact under there somewhere. My money is on an alien.
During the caution, everyone’s favorite pit road reporter, Dr. Jerry Punch, interviewed Childress. Andy Petree was Earnhardt’s crew chief at the time, but it already was known he wouldn’t be back the following year. Punch asked multiple questions about who would lead the No. 3 team (David Smith, Earnhardt’s longtime jack man, would get the job, and 1996 would be his only season as a Cup crew chief). An owner giving a midrace update on a crew chief search would be weird in 2017.
The race went back to green on Lap 51 with Earnhardt still in the lead. He lost it for the first time when Wallace passed him with 438 to go.
What’s Different – Part 2
In the 22 years since this race, NASCAR has developed a quicker trigger finger when it comes to throwing cautions. The following accident, just shy of Lap 80, would undoubtedly cause a caution in 2017. In 1995? Move along, nothing to see here.
As a result, everyone pitted. On top are 1995 pit stop times. Below, Martinsville pit times from 2016.
The next significant caution occurred on Lap 232. Every once in a while, Martinsville will catch you off guard. Such as this instance when Ted Musgrave went for a ride ON the backstretch wall courtesy of Robert Pressley. The broadcast showed a replay just as Musgrave went sprinting down pit road to confront Pressley at his car.
Remember what I said earlier about NASCAR throwing cautions? With 102 laps left in the race, Mike Wallace caused a fog drift to form when he spun exiting Turn 4. Jenkins, Parsons and Jarrett sounded just as baffled as I that it didn’t warrant a caution. Not that it mattered. Within three laps, there would be a caution involving Elton Sawyer’s No. 27 Hooters car and the No. 8 of Jeff Burton right in front of the leaders. Rusty Wallace lost a bunch of spots while avoiding a collision with Sawyer.
With 38 laps left, Earnhardt assumed the lead for the fifth time. Given the outcome, the following moment sent a jolt through me. Lake Speed, driving the No. 9 Spam car, spun in Turn 4. As Speed came down the track to get going, Earnhardt’s car flashed into view, seemingly avoiding hitting the No. 9 just in time.
During the resulting caution, the battered No. 2 of Rusty Wallace stayed out while the rest of the leaders pitted. In 1995, double file restarts among lead lap cars still were 14 years away. Earnhardt restarted behind Wallace, while the lapped car of John Andretti was the first car on the inside.
There would be one more restart with 20 to go after an accident with Dale Jarrett and Derrike Cope (the latter is the only driver in this race still competing in the Cup series in 2017).
Eleven laps later, “The Intimidator” made his presence known. The No. 3 forced Wallace to make a mistake entering Turn 3.
Nine laps later, Earnhardt took the checkered flag with ease. It was his sixth and final win at Martinsville.
Though Earnhardt significantly narrowed the points margin over the next five weeks and won the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the championship belonged to Gordon. Earnhardt missed out on an eighth title by 34 points.
Heilig-Meyers – Sponsor of Mike Wallace’s No. 90 Ford: Heilig-Meyers was a furniture company founded in 1913 in Goldsboro, North Carolina, by Lithuanian immigrants, W. A. Heilig and J. M. Meyers.
The company was the primary sponsor of Cup series entries driven by Bobby Hillin, Jr., Wallace and Dick Trickle from 1993 – 1998.
In August 2000, after becoming one the largest furniture retailers in the United States, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. All of its stores were closed by the end of the year, except for its RoomStore branches, which would be liquidated in 2012.
Unsure about his organization’s future, team owner Tommy Baldwin met with his employees Monday “so I can give them the options if they needed to go find a job.’’
Baldwin told NBC Sports in an exclusive interview Tuesday that “I’m exploring all my opportunities right now. I’m trying to figure everything out.’’
He hopes to have his plans solidified by some point in December. Among the options, there is one thing Baldwin said he won’t do.
“I would never shut down,’’ said Baldwin, whose team debuted in the Cup series in 2009. “Don’t use that word. The options are keep going or sell. That’s the only two options we have.’’
Baldwin admits he’s given his employees a similar message “in six out of the eight years” of the team and always made it to the next season.
But Baldwin concedes that it is becoming more difficult for a small team like Tommy Baldwin Racing.
“The technology has just increased,’’ Baldwin said. “Everyone has just become smarter. The race teams, with Michael Waltrip Racing shutting down (after the 2015 season) and some other things, it put a lot good people, dispersed a lot of good people to different teams. Everyone had to spend a lot more money to keep up with the Gibbs and Hendrick programs.
“It’s funny to me how everyone thinks our racing is not good. This is the most competitive that NASCAR has ever been.’’
Baldwin admits it has been a struggle at times for the team and driver Regan Smith.
“I think we’ve been competitive at times,’’ Baldwin said. “I think we’ve been really bad at times. It’s been a competitive roller coaster. This year is probably one of the best race teams that we’ve assembled, it’s been a great group of guys that have worked for TBR. There’s a lot of pluses that we have going on, but again, it’s the almighty dollar that is talking.
“If you don’t have the money to keep up with the Joneses, you’re going to be left behind. If you told me eight years ago when I first started this team I would be pretty much in the same spot as when I started, I would have told you that you were crazy. This sport has taken off so much here as far as how smart we’ve all gotten. It’s not that we don’t know how to do it, it’s just that we don’t have the money to apply the proper resources to do it.’’
Baldwin has one of the 36 charters granted to Sprint Cup teams at the beginning of this season. That adds value to his organization, ensuring that his team — or whoever purchases the charter, if that happens — would be in every Cup points race.
Baldwin’s car is 32nd in the car owner point standings, ahead of five other teams that have charters (another team below Baldwin’s leased its charter for this season).
Smith is 33rd in the driver standings. He finished a season-best third at Pocono in August. His only other top-10 finish this year has been an eighth-place result in the Daytona 500.
The organization continued to use a variety of drivers in 2010 before Dave Blaney ran 34 races in 2011. Blaney was with the team through 2013.
Tommy Baldwin Racing expanded to two full-time cars in 2012. Danica Patrick, in partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing, ran 10 races where Baldwin was listed as the car owner. Tommy Baldwin Racing ran two cars through 2014 before selling the assets of the second car (the No. 36 team) to Premium Motorsports.
Before becoming a team owner, Baldwin was a crew chief. He won five Cup races as a crew chief, including the 2001 Southern 500 and 2002 Daytona 500 with Ward Burton.