Nearly 40 years to the day, Las Vegas Motor Speedway will honor the “Miracle on Ice” USA Olympic hockey team before the Pennzoil 400 on Feb. 23.
The USA squad upset the four-time defending gold medal-winning Soviet Union team 4-3 in a semifinal game on Feb. 22, 1980 and then went on to win the gold medal two days later over Finland in Lake Placid, New York.
Among members from that team expected to be in attendance at LVMS are team captain Mike Eruzione; four-time Stanley Cup winner Ken Morrow; 1981 inaugural Hobey Baker Award winner and 1995 Stanley Cup winner Neal Broten; and Dave Christian of the famous Christian hockey family, whose father and uncle won Olympic Gold in 1960.
“We are excited and honored to be coming to Las Vegas Motor Speedway to share our 40th anniversary with the great fans of NASCAR,” Eruzione said. “It’s always special when we can get this group of guys together, and we’re looking forward to seeing some great racing action to wrap up our big Vegas weekend.”
As part of a three-day celebration honoring the team, the squad will take part in the “Relive the Miracle” event on Feb. 22 at the Thomas and Mack Center. The event will feature the team on stage with an interactive display of video, audio, memorabilia and never-before-seen components from their Olympic triumphs.
In 1999, Sports Illustrated named “Miracle on Ice” the top sports moment of the 20th century. In 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation named that game the best international ice hockey story of the previous 100 years. The story was turned into a movie called “Miracle” in 2004, starring Kurt Russell as head coach Herb Brooks.
Here’s the closing minute of play, including Al Michaels’ famous “Do you believe in miracles?” call as time expired:
Chip Ganassi Racing announced Tuesday that engineer Phil Surgen will be the crew chief for Matt Kenseth‘s team for the rest of the season. Surgen has been with the team since 2016.
Surgen replaces Chad Johnston, who had been the crew chief for the No. 42 team since 2016. The team’s statement did not address Johnston’s status.
Chip Ganassi Racing hired Kenseth in late April to take over the ride after the team fired Kyle Larson. Kenseth finished 10th in his debut with the team in May at Darlington but has had one top-10 finish since, a runner-up showing at Indianapolis last month. Kenseth finished 37th last weekend at New Hampshire after causing three cautions.
Elliott was asked about the changes NASCAR has made this year.
“I think we’re on a path right now that is really what NASCAR needs,” he said. “I see a lot of it. To me, we’re simplifying things, which is something that I think needed to be done for a long time. I think as NASCAR grew, I think it kind of overgrew it’s shoe size a little bit over the years and we overcomplicated things.”
One of the changes Elliott said that has been good is the limited number of crew members at the track.
“Yes, that can be more work, but I think what it has done is allow more crew members and myself included, I think everybody has an extra job or two, and I think what that has done is brought us closer together and brought more of that short track mentality of a small group of people that are more diverse going to the racetrack each week,” he said. “It brings you closer together because you have to work closer together to make sure everything is done and done at the level you want it to be.
“I just don’t see the need of practicing three hours every weekend. I think that is just ridiculous and way too much. I mean, heck, I think a lot of guys, Chocolate you’ve probably seen this, you go back to where you started (with the setup in practice) half the time anyways, more than half the time.
“Show up, you’re giving your best stab at what you have the most confidence in when you get to the racetrack on a Friday for practice anyways, so why not go ahead and start the event and see what you have? There is no better practice than a race and you don’t get your report card until the race is over anyway. Let’s just give our best effort in what we believe is fast and if it’s not, we see it right then and there and we can go to work on trying to improve.
“I’ve only heard one person complain about less practice, but I have a pretty strong feeling if they had won a few races by now they wouldn’t be saying less practice either. I think for the most part, it’s been a big time solid.”
Elliott enters this weekend’s Cup doubleheader at Michigan International Speedway (4 p.m. ET Saturday and 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN), fifth in the points.
Things haven’t been smooth for Elliott in the last month even with his All-Star Race victory at Bristol. In the five points races since July, he’s finished between ninth and 23rd. Michigan could be a good place for a doubleheader weekend for Elliott. He’s been a runner-up there three times and and has finished in the top 10 in seven of his eight Cup starts at the track.
“I definitely think there is room for improvement, for sure,” said Elliott, who placed ninth last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I think we fired off the year awesome, and I think the results showed that across the board. We were running better as a group and battling for a win like we expect and like we want to do as a company, as a manufacturer, as individual teams.
“As always, time goes on and people improve and if you get behind that curve just a little bit, it is hard to catch up. I think for us, we’ve just got to really put our focus on that areas that we talk about in our meeting and the things we struggle with the most and places like (New Hampshire) are one of them.
“It wasn’t one of those things that that wasn’t a new thing for us (Sunday). We put a lot of emphasis in trying to do better and went with a handful of different mindsets (Sunday) setup wise and this and that. Unfortunately, just didn’t really seem to be any improvement. Sometimes you have to step back and look at things from a more general perspective and look at general big trends and what is off in certain areas. I think you can dive sometimes too deep into the fine details and get lost in that.
“I think fine details are great when the big stuff is right. I just think as a group we’re off a little bit and you’re not talking much. A tenth (of a second) or two would be the difference between running ninth or 10th and battling up in the top five. When you are working that small window it is hard to not focus on the fine details, but I’m a believer in a lot of times in looking back in the general trends can sometimes help you get in the right direction, too.”
“It’s with great sadness today that I announce the sale of the Leavine Family Racing team, assets and charter. Since 2011, Sharon and our entire family have enjoyed being a part of the NASCAR community with Matt DiLiberto joining the family as a co-owner in 2016. We will say goodbye at the conclusion of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“This decision has not been made lightly. Family has always been a part of the team’s name and this is how we view every member of our race team — as our family. There is no good time to make this announcement, but doing it earlier allows our people to explore employment opportunities, for next season, to provide for their families. There will be opportunities with the new owners which was important to our decision.
“This year has been challenging for not only our race team, but our industry, our country and the entire world. The pandemic has impacted our economy and unfortunately that’s just not something we are able to overcome in order to continue racing beyond this season.
“Leavine Family Racing will continue to compete through the end of 2020, and we want to leave on a positive note – contending for top-finishes with Christopher Bell, Toyota, TRD, and all of our partners. Thank you to everyone for your support through this journey. Thank you to our partners and fans and most of all, thank you to everyone who has been part of the Leavine Family Racing family over the last decade.”
Leavine said the chassis and equipment that came from its alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing will return to JGR at the end of the season and are not part of the sale.
Leavine Family Racing has competed in NASCAR since 2011, making its debut with David Starr at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9. The organization didn’t run a full schedule until 2016 with Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon splitting the ride. Others who have driven for the team include Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith, Matt DiBenedetto and Bell.
Toyota Racing issues a statement from Paul Doleshal, group manager for motorsports, Toyota Motor North America:
“We want to thank Bob and Sharon Leavine, Matt DiLiberto, Jeremy Lange and everyone at Leavine Family Racing (LFR) for a successful partnership. We entered this 2020 racing season with high hopes for LFR and the team has not disappointed. While the season may not have started out as everyone wanted, after returning from the shutdown due to COVID-19, LFR rebounded with some very strong on-track performances. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world and more closely, the entire NASCAR family in so many ways and for LFR, that has forced the sale of the race team. We’re certainly disappointed and saddened by the news, but most importantly, we want to wish Bob, Sharon, Matt, Jeremy and everyone impacted the best of luck in their future endeavors.”
I’m grateful for the opportunity to compete in the Cup series for LFR, and I’m focused on finishing the year strong and going after not only my first win, but the teams as well. https://t.co/FBU5XKXTNX