NASCAR America: Erik Jones’ racing roots in Byron, Michigan

Leave a comment

After a feature looking at his upbringing in Byron, Michigan, Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones spoke with NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Marty Snider about the early years of his racing career.

The journey to his NASCAR career began with a yard cart that his late father, Dave Jones, brought home one day when he was 3.

“I rode that all day long around the yard,” Jones said. “Winter time would and we had like a gravel circle driveway in front of our house. When it would snow over I would get the kart out and ride it around in the snow because I could slide and I thought that was pretty cool. I would get it stuck about every five minutes out in the snow.”

Jones would then get out of the kart and find his dad in their barn to come out get him out.

Now 21, Jones also discussed how much his dad was involved in his career until his death in June 2016 after a battle with cancer.

He also explains how he’s never stayed in any series for more than one year in his career.

Watch the video above for the full discussion.

NASCAR America: Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle draft their dream four-car teams

3 Comments

Of all the major national sports leagues, NASCAR is the only one that doesn’t have some sort of draft to fills its ranks of drivers at its top level.

With the drafts for the NBA and NHL coming up this weekend, NASCAR America decided to have its own mock draft.

Analysts Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle each selected drivers for their own dream four-car team.

Here’s who each analyst picked:

Jeff Burton

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Kevin Harvick
  3. Brad Keselowski
  4. Joey Logano

Greg Biffle

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Martin Truex Jr.
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Ryan Blaney

Which four drivers would you pick?

Watch the above video to hear why they picked each driver.

Kyle Busch says ‘no question’ people treated differently based on how they show emotion

5 Comments

Misunderstood? Too much misbehavior? Or just envied?

Kyle Busch was asked at Wednesday’s test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway if people are treated differently depending on who they are and how they show their emotion after events.

“No question,’’ Busch said before citing New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has won a record five Super Bowls but also is as known for a surly attitude with the media. “Bill Belichick gets it differently than anybody else, but, you know, we also sometimes are more successful than others, too.’’

The latest issue comes from Busch’s brief answer in the media center to a question after finishing second to Austin Dillon in last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600. After his response, Busch dropped the mic on the table. He awaited other questions but there were none and NASCAR allowed him to leave, as he fulfilled his media obligations. He had previously done interviews on pit road with network TV and radio.

Busch’s action led to a debate on Tuesday’s NASCAR America with Carolyn Manno, Parker Kligerman, Jeff Burton, Nate Ryan and Greg Biffle (in the video above).

“The bottom line is they hate to lose, and when they lose they don’t do a good job of containing themselves and giving the answer everyone expects them to give,” Burton said on NASCAR America during a discussion about Busch’s media center appearance. “And then when they do give that answer everyone expects them to give, everybody gets mad at them because they don’t show their personality. So in some cases it’s hard to win.

“It isn’t the best look for Kyle Busch. There’s no question about that. He’s not a whiner. He’s not a guy who doesn’t work hard and put everything into his career. He’s a hard worker and fierce competitor, but it’s not a good look.”

 and on Facebook

Long: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., his father savor Victory Lane after challenges getting there

Leave a comment

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Racers, father and son, both had their dramatic victories Sunday.

After Ricky Stenhouse Jr. held off Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch on the final lap to earn his first career Cup victory, his father faced as daunting a challenge in his race to Victory Lane.

Perched on an RV along the backstretch, Ricky Stenhouse Sr. sought the quickest path to Victory Lane.

He tried to climb the fence to cross the backstretch.

When Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won his first ARCA race in 2008 at Kentucky Speedway, father and son climbed opposite sides of a fence to celebrate together.

This time, the father, who is in his early 60s, couldn’t make it up the fence.

So he started running along a perimeter road to a place to cross the track but security stopped him. Excited and emboldened by a day in the Talladega sunshine watching stock cars scream by at nearly 200 mph, he was in a fever pitch to get to his son.

Once he told security whom he was, a phone call was made to the track’s director of security. Soon, he was taken to Victory Lane.

“Everything that I know about racing, I learned from him,’’ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said. “I’m glad he was able to be here in Victory Lane.’’

Ricky Stenhouse Sr. joined a celebration a few years in the making.

It was Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s first Cup win in 158 starts. It ended Roush Fenway Racing’s 101-race winless drought that went back to 2014.

Until this season, Roush Fenway Racing had become a cautious tale. Lack of performance and sponsorship had knocked the once-mighty team down.

The organization, which has won 136 Cup races and two titles, downsized from three teams to two before this season — the first time Roush has run only two cars since 1995.

A team that put all five cars in NASCAR’s Chase in 2005, has seen a decline in recent years.

Matt Kenseth left after the 2012 season. Carl Edwards left after the 2014 season. Greg Biffle’s ride went away after last year, leaving Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne.

Both endured mighty struggles. Stenhouse, the 2013 rookie of the year, never has had more than six top-10 finishes in a season. Sunday’s win was his fifth top 10 of the year.

“I think you go through that so long that you almost lose a little — all your confidence,’’ Stenhouse said of the struggles in Cup. “You know, we would have good runs here and there that would kind of boost that confidence back up and get everybody kind of energized again, and then we would kind of lose it.’’

A good run at the beginning of the race helped him at the end Sunday. Stenhouse started on the pole and led the first 13 laps. He watched how Brad Keselowski, running second, maneuvered his car to keep others behind them in overtime.

Jimmie Johnson pushed him by Busch for the lead in Turn 1. Johnson was set to attack, but McMurray squeezed between Johnson and Busch instead of giving the No. 48 car the push it needed to take the lead.

Stenhouse blocked McMurray low. Stenhouse blocked Busch high.

“My spotter was telling me everywhere to go, and there at the end, I felt like I was needing to block (McMurray), but (Busch) was coming, so I was kind of back and forth, didn’t know which one to pick,’’ Stenhouse said. “You know, my spotter told me to pick the top, block (Busch).’’

Stenhouse crossed the finish line first. He did it at a track where he failed in qualify in 2014 after a bizarre set of circumstances that later led to a rule change.

“I remember sitting in the bus watching this race and knowing that this is a racetrack that we’ve had good success at,’’ he said. “It feels awesome to get the first win here.’’

It felt even better to celebrate it with his father after his dad’s circuitous path to Victory Lane.

 and on Facebook

Talladega a must-win race for Dale Earnhardt Jr? Not what he thinks

Leave a comment

TALLADEGA, Ala. — After a deflating start to the season and only one win at a track other than Daytona or Talladega since late 2014, it’s easy to see why some suggest this could be a must-win weekend for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make the playoffs.

Just don’t count him among that group.

“I don’t buy the notion that we can’t win anywhere but Talladega or Daytona,’’ Earnhardt said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway, a track he has scored six of his 26 career Cup wins. “We have had a dry spell, haven’t won a lot of races. We have won at other tracks in the past. I think if I go in thinking this is a must-win, then I’m probably going to get in there and make a few mistakes.’’

Earnhardt enters this weekend 24th in the points. He is 60 points — the maximum number of points a driver can score in a race — out of what is the final playoff spot at this time.

Five finishes of 30th or worse this season have put Earnhardt in this situation. Some of it has been bad luck, some of it has been mistakes that put him in a bad spot.

He led the Daytona 500 when Kyle Busch cut a tire in front of him and spun. Earnhardt clipped Busch’s car and did enough damage to his car that he was done for the race, placing 37th.

A speeding penalty dropped Earnhardt to the rear of the field at Martinsville and then he was collected in a crash, finishing 34th. Last week, crew chief Greg Ives kept him out while most of the field pitted. Earnhardt was running at the front but was on older tires. He was knocked into the wall when teammate Jimmie Johnson, unaware Earnhardt was on the outside, went up the groove and slammed Earnhardt’s car. Earnhardt continued but finished 30th.

What’s been disconcerting at times is that Earnhardt’s car hasn’t shown top-form speed. It’s an issue some of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates have had this season even with Johnson’s two wins.

Some have raised questions about Earnhardt’s playoff hopes just a third of the way thought the regular season because of his recent record. He has three wins since late 2014. One win was at Daytona, another at Talladega and the other at Phoenix (shortened by rain). Since 2008, Earnhardt has seven wins and they’ve been at Daytona (two), Talladega, Pocono (two), Phoenix and Martinsville.

Earnhardt isn’t focused on that. He views this weekend as an opportunity but knows a win won’t come easy at Talladega even for him.

“I just know what I need to do,’’ he said. “I’ve said it in the past. You’ve got to run the last 50 laps mistake-free and the guy that does that will win the race. That means choosing the right line to move up and take the run. Every move and decision, every slight turn of the wheel has to be the right decision.’’

He says he knows what kind of mindset he needs to succeed Sunday. He notes that in his 2014 Daytona 500 win, he was racing Greg Biffle for position and ran him aggressively. That’s what he’ll have to do Sunday.

“The only way I could keep myself from sliding backwards was to run like one inch off the door and squeeze him against the wall,’’ Earnhardt said of his battle with Biffle. “It really kind of killed both of our cars. But at least he wasn’t passing me.

“It was a bit outside of character for me to drive so much like a jerk, I guess, but that’s what you’re got to do. You’ve got to keep on cracking the whip, keep telling yourself, ‘This is what has to happen, this is how I have to do this to make this work if I want to win.’

“I can’t accept him taking the lead, maybe losing a couple of spots and falling to fourth and thinking, ‘Man, I’ll just get it back.’ That’s not as easy anymore. The cars are too equal.

“You have to be way more aggressive to holding positions and defending positions, and you’ve got to run guys tight and they don’t like it. Nobody likes somebody hanging on their quarter panel because it doesn’t feel good and it makes the cars act weird. You have to do it that way. You have to start the race really with the attitude. You’ve go to be willing to work every single lap and not settle for riding.’’

That’s the mindset he’ll have to have Sunday if he hopes to score a win and earn a playoff spot.

 and on Facebook