NASCAR on NBC podcast

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NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 92: Matt DiBenedetto on making a name for himself

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Go Fas Racing driver Matt DiBenedetto was a recent guest of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, offering why he believes he can become a fan favorite like friend Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“I think I’ve had to go about my whole racing career on such a difficult path and the old school way, it makes me appreciate it way more,” DiBenedetto said on the podcast. “The fans have been a big part of me getting here and getting sponsors and embracing my story. I do appreciate them way more.

“It’s not that hard to just have fun with them. Not knocking anybody, but I look up to someone like Dale Jr. because he’s just genuine, he’s himself. That’s all you really need to do, you don’t need to act like someone different. Just be your normal old self. They’re just people. You don’t need to act like a huge celebrity and just fly by them. All I do is have fun with them, be different, take videos with them. They love that stuff.”

The Grass Valley, California, native is among the more creative and proactive drivers on social media across multiple platforms, including Earnhardt in some of his Snaps.

DiBenedetto believes his savvy will set him apart with more success.

“That’s why I have that vision that I know I can be a fan favorite,” he said. “I’m not going to fill Dale Jr.’s shoes. But I feel like if I’m in a position to win races, and we have that kind of media attention, I feel like I can darn near take over the world because it’s all about being different, and I’m different than other people.”

Earnhardt often jokes with DiBenedetto about the pronunciation of his last name (and had fun with it on his team radio last year, leading to a SiriusXM Satellite Radio clip that DiBenedetto reacts to during the podcast). But the Hendrick Motorsports driver also has been an asset, promoting DiBenedetto as among NASCAR’s most underrated drivers.

“I’ll mess with (Earnhardt), ‘Hey since you think so much of me, go ahead and put me in the 88,’” DiBenedetto joked. “Tony Stewart also has helped me and given me advice. It’s cool to have all these people on your side, so if you need to lean on them for advice or favors or help, that’s not going to hurt in the long run in my career.”

In the podcast, DiBenedetto also discusses:

–His underfunded team’s top 10s in the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400;

–The gamble by his family to relocate to Hickory, North Carolina, to give him a shot at a racing career;

–What life is like on the road for one of the only full-time Cup drivers without a motorhome.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

The free subscriptions will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 91: Tony Stewart on racing in Global Rallycross and other series

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With his NASCAR career over, Tony Stewart has the freedom to drive whatever he chooses, but he still might not have the time to do it all.

During a recent episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, Stewart said Steve Arpin had called him many times about being a teammate in the Global Rallycross series.

“I’m very interested in doing that,” Stewart said on the podcast. “We’ve been playing phone tag back and forth trying to get organized to have a conversation about it. We just have so much stuff going on, it’s a good problem to have. It’s nice to be so busy that it’s hard to find time to do all the things we want to do.”

The three-time Cup Series champion, who also has indicated a desire to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans, made his debut this year in the Little 500, a 500-lap sprint car race on a high-banked quarter-mile track in Anderson, Indiana. Stewart finished third in a race that features the rarity of pit stops for race cars without clutches.

“It was a really big toss-up between racing the Little 500, a bucket list item for me, or going to Monaco for the Formula One race,” he said.

Next year, Stewart plans to be in Monte Carlo with co-owner Gene Haas to watch the Haas F1 team.

“It’s cool to be checking boxes off,” he said.

During the podcast, Stewart also discussed:

–The meticulous preparation necessary to get his Eldora Speedway ready for a dirt-track event;

–What appeals to a driver about racing on dirt;

–The state of safety in dirt racing;

–Adapting to sprint cars this year after a long layoff.

A new role driving his team’s souvenir trailer.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Podcast: Tony Stewart on a new role driving his team’s T-shirt trailer

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Tony Stewart is enjoying his new life of driving – and not just behind the wheel of a sprint car again.

In his first year without racing NASCAR in 18 seasons, the three-time Cup champion is logging as many hours on the interstate as on the track, driving the Ford pickup truck that pulls his team’s T-shirt trailer between races.

“It’s nice to get on the road, driving down the interstate,” Stewart said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “You can think of a lot of things, you can also just have time to not think of anything and just relax. Driving down the road is a good opportunity just to do that.”

During one recent stretch, Stewart drove the truck to a track near Madison, Wisconsin. After arriving midafternoon and racing, he left at 1 a.m. and drove until 5:30 a.m. After a six-hour break, he and the team completed the drive to Knoxville Raceway in Iowa for a Saturday night race that ended around 11 p.m.

Stewart then drove the trailer back to his team’s shop in Brownsburg, Indiana, arriving around 8 a.m. He reached his house near Columbus an hour later and slept until late afternoon.

The souvenir business is strong enough in dirt-track racing to make the road trips worth the effort. Kyle Larson’s success in sprint cars this year has put the spotlight on the disparity between merchandise profits for drivers in Cup vs. grassroots.

“I know it’s been a controversy, but everywhere we’ve gone and taken our souvenir trailer, we’ve done great with it,” Stewart said on the podcast. “I know for the drivers whose full-time job is driving race cars, that T-shirt business is huge. Thank God it’s not under the NASCAR side of it, or these guys wouldn’t be making anything on souvenirs. The guys on the NASCAR side aren’t making squat on souvenirs, and it’s something that ticks me off daily. The drivers who worked their entire life to build their brands aren’t making the most money on it.”

Four days after recording the podcast, Stewart won his second sprint car race of the season, which he described as “a challenge.

“It’s not been near as easy as I’d like it to be,” said Stewart, who has struggled to adapt his cars and style to a different tire. “But that’s why l like going sprint car racing, too, because it’s not easy. It’s really difficult.”

What has been easier for him is the pace of life without the demands of being a full-time NASCAR driver. As an owner of various racetracks, companies, series and teams, Stewart faced as much pressure from outside the car while trying to race Cup.

“We’ve got a lot of things on our plate,” he said. “This has taken a ton of stress out. The workload is higher now, but I’m having fun doing the work that I’m doing. It’s definitely been the right move for me.”

It also has allowed for some unique freelancing for Stewart, who raced in the prestigious Little 500 for the first time this year and plans to become a regular at an annual three-quarter midget race at the Columbus, Indiana, fair (along with attending the Monaco Grand Prix next year). A one-off ride in the Global Rallycross series also is a possibility.

“It’s nice to be so busy that it’s hard to find time to do all the things we want to do,” he said.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 90: Roger Slack

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Eldora Speedway general manager Roger Slack joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss his track’s past, present and possible future with NASCAR.

Slack detailed the run-up to the initial “secret” test with Tony Stewart and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon that led to scheduling a Camping World Truck Series race that recently completed its fifth edition.

Slack also discussed the storied history of Eldora, which opened in 1954 and was bought by Stewart 50 years later.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

Cup Series race in cards for Eldora Speedway?

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Since the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ smashing debut at Eldora Speedway in 2013, speculation has sprouted about whether the Cup Series could be molded to the short track.

The better question might be whether the historic half-mile clay oval, which opened in 1954 and was bought by Tony Stewart in 2004, could be retrofitted to meet specs of playing host to NASCAR’s premier series without altering its character.

“Would a Cup race work? Yes,” Eldora Speedway general manager Roger Slack said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “But at that point, you’re having to make alterations to the facility. Say a full pit road. How to do that and not compromise nearly 65 years of the Eldora legacy?”

The track also lacks a SAFER barrier because the soft-wall technology is designed to be anchored and mounted on an asphalt surface. Slack also said the dirt and mud that would be slung into its crevices would hamper the SAFER barrier’s efficacy because it wouldn’t flex in the intended manner to cushion impacts.

“If there was an option to do it that worked on dirt, in all likelihood, we’d be the first place to go and install it purposely for a dirt track,” he said. “There’s a motorsports safety council (that is) trying to take a look at it.”

There also could be space concerns about handling the fleet of 18-wheelers that transports the Cup circuit around the country.

“It’s not just 40 haulers” for the teams, Slack said. “It’s at least 100 haulers, and you have to have room for 100 semis.”

After the truck’s debut, Stewart lobbied hard for NASCAR to bring the Xfinity or Cup Series to the track, but he has been less vocal the past three years.

“If you can take the trucks and make them work here, the Cup and (Xfinity) cars aren’t a big stretch,” Stewart said in 2014. “It’s definitely feasible. It’s just a matter of is that something they want to do?”

Slack believes the Xfinity Series wouldn’t work as well as trucks because its costs would preclude dirt-track moonlighting, and it wouldn’t offer the star power of Cup.

“The trucks are different, they look different,” Slack said. “It’s something our local dirt racers can raise some money and get into the show. That makes it unique enough where it still works. I don’t think Xfinity would work as it is.”

But there is strong evidence that a Cup race would be a major draw. Using Late Models provided by dirt track teams, Cup stars raced in the annual Prelude to the Dream at Eldora from 2005-12.

“Would a Cup race work there? Yes,” Slack said. “Would it work in the middle of the week? Yes. Would it work financially? Yes.”

So is there any hope of putting it on the front burner for NASCAR?

“They don’t return my normal calls, let alone those ones,” Slack said with a laugh about NASCAR officials.

In the meantime, the track is happy to have become one of the crown jewel events on the truck schedule.

“You really have to respect the truck guys,” Slack said. “They work their guts out. A lot of them are not making very much money, struggling to be there, and they come and bring a truck built for asphalt and race it on dirt. And they are extremely appreciative we have the event.”

During the podcast, Slack also discussed:

–The top-secret test in 2012 with Austin Dillon and Stewart to ensure the trucks would work on dirt;

–The renaissance and resurgence of dirt racing and its appeal;

–What it’s like working for Tony Stewart.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.