Bill Elliott on the NASCAR Hall of Fame and how he prepared his son for handling stardom

1 Comment

        DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A fan favorite who once was voted NASCAR’s most popular driver a record 16 times, Bill Elliott is accustomed to being the object of affection.

But the adulation has changed since Elliott was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year.

“It’s kind of rejuvenated everything from the standpoint of the fans and the recognition and stuff like that,” Elliott told NBC Sports. “I think it’s definitely different.

“They want you to sign things ‘Hall of Fame,’ and they bring back the old stuff. It kind of validates everything they’ve collected.”

After being inducted with Rex White, Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott and Joe Weatherly into the Charlotte shrine Jan. 30 (the night after his son, Chase, was announced as the 2016 replacement for Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet), Elliott has been stumping for the Hall of Fame. The 1988 series champion made a series of promotional stops last month during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, including a sitdown interview with NASCAR Talk:

NT: Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett both said they felt extra responsibility to be Hall of Fame ambassadors because each class doesn’t have five living members? Do you feel that same need to be a spokesman?

BE: Very much so. To me, it’s been important because I am still around. Some of these guys like a Rex White or Fred (Lorenzen) or some guys that were exposed through the 1950s and ‘60s era, to be able to listen to their stories and help carry that to the next generation, I think that’s important. Those guys paved the road for us and for future generations. (Telling) what their contributions were to the sport, I think that’s the legacy of the whole thing.

NT: So you agree with Richard Petty, who said he didn’t feel he should be in the first class of the Hall of Fame because everyone from the first decade of NASCAR should have been recognized before him?

BE: I agree. But I am thankful that I am able to enjoy it and understand it and be a part of it for the older generation that might be either gone or not able to enjoy it.

NT: You weren’t always comfortable in the spotlight. Is it any more comfortable now that you’re being recognized after your career?
BE:
It’s fine now. Back in the early days, I worked on a car just like anybody else. We felt like if the race car run good, the rest would come. Our biggest goal was to make sure the race car ran fast. That’s what I felt like I could do best. As time goes on, now I’m kind of here and part of the show. It’s a different deal, but I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing the younger groups come up and who’s doing what. I understand racing enough to know what it’s kind of all about and the things that I enjoy about it. I still have, like Benny Parsons said, I have a passion for the sport.

NT: Your son is so comfortable and mature beyond his years talking with media …

BE: So far. (smiles) He’s done a good job.

NT: Did you work on instilling those values, or has it been natural?

BE: It’s been all pretty natural. We’ve talked to him about certain things, but he grew up in it. He understands the sport. I think he understands it better than most. He knows the things that are important. He watches the interviews after the race. He studies everything. I think he’s just very analytical in the things that he does. He’s able to put all that together. That’s been his strengths.

NT: What was it like having your Hall of Fame induction coming on the heels of his No. 24 news?

BE: I think his announcement was bigger than mine!

NT: But the events dovetailed nicely for your family?

BE: Believe me, I was as shocked as you all were, because they didn’t tell us until two days before the announcement. You’d hope something like that would happen, but for it to really come to light and finally things come together, it was like, ‘Hey man, this is an incredible week.’ It was just such an enjoyable week. It was laid back, a lot of fun, it was great to see a lot of the older guys I hadn’t seen like Bud Moore, Maurice Petty, Dale Inman. I grew up around that. They were all so much a part of your life for so long.

NT: Are you in awe of one Hall of Famer in particular?

BE: Leonard (Wood) was always kind of my hero because as hard as I worked on the car in the early days. I’ll never forget coming to Daytona, and I could watch Leonard work on his car. He could work on the motor and never raise the hood. He’d put it on jackstands, take the front tires off, and he’d get in there and change things. He’d be secretive in what he was doing. I thought, ‘Man, that was cool.’ I always enjoyed Bud, Junior (Johnson) and all those guys and listening to the stories. Dale Inman was always a cutup and into something. I just couldn’t imagine being around those guys in the 50s and 60s.

I’ve enjoyed this. It’s been a lot of fun and been very much an honor for me to be in this class. It just puts the topping on my career.

Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing

0 Comments

Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season

0 Comments

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

1 Comment

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.

NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

1 Comment

CONCORD, N.C. —  NASCAR announced Tuesday that it will not permit drivers to run against the wall to gain speed as Ross Chastain did in last year’s Martinsville Cup playoff race.

NASCAR made the announcement in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

MORE: NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events 

MORE: NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023

Chastain drove into the Turn 3 wall and rode it around the track at higher speed than the rest of the field, passing five cars in the final two turns to gain enough spots to make the championship race. NASCAR allowed the move to stand even though some competitors had asked for a rule change leading into the season finale at Phoenix last year.

NASCAR is not adding a rule but stressed that Rule 10.5.2.6.A covers such situations.

That rule states: “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM. Therefore, any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness. Safety violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”

NASCAR stated that the penalty for such a maneuver would be a lap or time penalty.

Chastain said he’s fine with being known for that move, which will never be repeated in NASCAR history.

“I’m proud that I’ve been able to make a wave that will continue beyond just 2022 or just beyond me,” Chastain told NBC Sports earlier this month about the move’s legacy. “There will be probably a day that people will learn about me because of that, and I’m good with that. I’m proud of it.

“I don’t think it will ever happen again. I don’t think it will ever pay the reward that it paid off for us that it did that day. I hope I’m around in 35 years to answer someone’s question about it. And I probably still won’t have a good answer on why it worked.”

The video of Chastain’s wall-hugging maneuver had 12.5 million views on the NBC Sports TikTok account within a week of it happening. Excluding the Olympics, the only other video that had had more views on the NBC Sports TikTok account to that point in 2022 was Rich Strike’s historic Kentucky Derby win. 

Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo all praised Chastain’s move at the time, joining a chorus of competitors throughout social media.