Retro Rundown 2018: Paint schemes for the 69th Southern 500

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The 69th Southern 500 might seem like it’s a long way aways, but you only have to wait 53 days for the Sept. 2 race at Darlington Raceway, which will air on NBCSN.

That night, the latest batch of throwback paint schemes will race for our affections and the win.

Here’s a roundup of the eight paint schemes that have been announced so far.

No. 2 – Brad KeselowskiWill drive Rusty Wallace’s paint scheme from the 1990 Cup season.

Team Penske

No. 4 – Kevin Harvick: Will drive a scheme based on Busch Beer’s can design from 1996.

Stewart-Haas Racing

No. 9 – Chase Elliott: The Hendrick Motorsports driver will have a scheme based on one driven by his late cousin, Casey Elliott. He passed away from cancer in 1996.

Photo: Dustin Long

No. 12 – Ryan Blaney: Will drive a scheme based on the car his father, Dave Blaney, raced in the 2003 Cup season.

No. 21 – Paul Menard: Wood Brothers Racing will pay tribute to Cale Yarborough’s win in the 1968 Southern 500, which was the first for the team and Yarborough.

No. 24 – William Byron: Will drive Jeff Gordon‘s iconic DuPont “Rainbow Warriors” scheme he raced full-time from 1993 -2000.

Hendrick Motorsports

 

No. 32 – Matt DiBenedetto: Will drive Jeff Burton‘s paint scheme from the 2000 Cup season.

 

No. 41 – Kurt BuschWill drive his own paint scheme from the 2003 season when he was part of one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history at Darlington Raceway, losing to Ricky Craven by 0.002 seconds. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the race.

 

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Hendrick Motorsports, PepsiCo/Mountain Dew extend relationship through 2020

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Mountain Dew will continue as a sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports and Chase Elliott through 2020, the team announced Wednesday.

The soft drink will be a primary sponsor of Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet in four races each of the next two seasons.

It has sponsored Elliott this year in The Clash at Daytona, at Bristol and Michigan and will return to the No. 9 on Oct. 21 at Kansas Speedway. Elliott enters Saturday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) 15th in the standings.

PepsiCo, which is behind Mountain Dew, has been a partner of Hendrick Motorsports since 1997 when it began sponsoring Jeff Gordon with Pepsi.

Before Elliott, Mountain Dew sponsored Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 2008-2017.

Tony Stewart among 7 elected to Motorsports Hall of Fame of America

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Three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart is one of seven people who have been selected for induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2019.

Stewart, who won 49 races in NASCAR’s premier series from 1999-2016, will be inducted March 12, 2019, in the Hall of Fame’s 31st induction ceremony.

Now a co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, Stewart follows Jeff Gordon‘s induction in March.

Stewart will be eligible for the NASCAR Hall of Fame beginning next year, three years after his retirement from full-time racing.

The MSHFA is the only hall of fame that encompasses the full spectrum of American motorsports: cars, motorcycles, off-road, powerboats and airplanes

Here’s a look at the 2019 induction class.

Augie Duesenberg (Historic) – August Samuel Duesenberg, with inductee brother Frederick Duesenberg (MSHFA Class of 1997), built some of the greatest racing cars of their generation. With Fred as the designer and Augie handling the manufacturing, they built some of the last “hand-made” race cars that dominated the Indianapolis 500 in the mid-1920s. Augie also served as crew chief for the brothers’ Duesenberg racing team. As engine builders for cars, boats and aircraft, their motors appeared in many race-winning vehicles including those driven by three Indianapolis 500 champions (1924, ’25, ’27).
 
Dario Franchitti (Open Wheel) – From 2007-2012, Dario Franchitti was as good as any driver in open wheel racing history, winning four championships and three Indianapolis 500s – 2007, 2010 and 2012 – in six seasons, which includes the year he took off (2008) to try his hand at NASCAR. Born in Scotland, Franchitti came to the U.S. in 1997 and the following year he won three races and a season-best five poles with Team Green. He began his string of Indy 500 victories and championships in his final year with Andretti Autosport (2007) and continued the run to two more Brickyard victories with Chip Ganassi (MSHFA Class of 2016).
 
Phil Remington (Sports Cars) – Wherever Phil Remington went, wins and championships followed. The WWII flight engineer was one of the most successful chief engineers in sports car racing history. As chief engineer at Shelby-American, they captured the 1965 World Manufacturers Championship and built the Ford GTs that became in 1966 and 1967 the first American cars to win Le Mans. Next, “Rem” helped Holman and Moody win the 1968 Daytona 500. Later that year he joined Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, where over the next 40-plus years he was central to the team’s success in everything from the Indianapolis 500 to sports car racing.
 
Don Schumacher (Drag Racing) – Don Schumacher’s first career in drag racing was impressive but his second has made him one of the all-time greats. As a Funny Car pilot, “The Shoe” won the 1972 Coca-Cola Cavalcade of Stars, 1973 AHRA World Championship, five NHRA national events and about 70 percent of his 560 match races. He retired from driving to devote more time to his business and family. Since his return more than a decade later, Don Schumacher Racing has amassed 16 NHRA world championships through 2017, including son Tony’s eight titles, and more than 300 wins. DSR was the first team to win Top Fuel and Funny Car titles in the same year, which it has done four times. 
 
Kevin Schwantz (Motorcycles) – Kevin Schwantz started riding at four, became a top motocross rider in his teens, then switched to road racing, where he became a Daytona 200 winner, 500cc World Champion and 25-time victor on the international Grand Prix circuit. He finished second to Eddie Lawson (MSHFA Class of 2002) in the 1986 Daytona 200, and the following year began his epic rivalry with Wayne Rainey (MSHFA Class of 2008). Rainey took the 1987 title, but runner-up Schwantz won five of the six last races, then followed with a victory in the 1988 Daytona 200. His world championship came in 1993 and in 125 GP starts, Schwantz prevailed 25 times, the second American all-time behind Lawson. The FIM later retired his No. 34.
 
Tony Stewart (Stock Cars) – Where there’s Smoke, there are victories and championships for Tony Stewart, both as a driver and more recently as a team owner. Few modern drivers come close to his versatility, speed and quiet assistance to racers in need. The only person to win championships in IndyCar (1997) and NASCAR (2002, ‘05, ‘11), Stewart also won the 1994 USAC National Midget Series, 1995 USAC Triple Crown and 2006 IROC titles. His 2011 Cup crown was the first by an owner-driver since Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Inductee Alan Kulwicki (MSHFA Class of 2010). As an owner, he has won an additional Monster Energy Series championship with Kevin Harvick (2014), the 2017 Daytona 500 with Kurt Busch, and his four-car team has been a dominant force so far in the 2018 Monster Energy Series.
 
Linda Vaughn (At Large) – The “First Lady of Motorsports” transformed the role of beauty queen into an enduring ambassadorship. It’s hard to imagine anyone more beloved by fans and racers alike in the history of the sport. The Dalton, Georgia, native carved her own niche after winning the Miss Atlanta Raceway title in 1961 and Miss Pure Firebird immediately thereafter. Best known for her long association with Hurst Industries, where she became “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter” after besting 200 contestants for the title. Vaughn appeared in the motorsports-oriented films Gumball Rally (1976), Burnout (1979) and Stroker Ace (1983). Already recognized by the MSHFA, she was presented with the Bob Russo Heritage Award in 2004. Her eponymous autobiography was published in 2016.

ISC president cites ‘issue with star power’ for attendance drop

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — International Speedway Corp. President John Saunders cites “an issue with star power” as a contributing factor to the company’s attendance decline.

“All in all, the attendance was a little softer than expected,” Saunders said Thursday morning during ISC’s conference call with investor analysts to discuss results from the second quarter. “We still have an issue with star power. Hopefully this stable of young drivers coming along will start to win and build their brands.”

Ryan Blaney, 24, says he’s tiring of the discussion.

“This whole young guys need to win now thing is getting old,’’ Blaney said Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. “We’re trying. We’re trying our hardest. It’s not like I go out there and I’m happy for fifth every single week. Every other guy under the age of 25 I’ll just say is the same way.

“It’s not a competition here between young guys and old guys. It’s a competition between 39 other cars and yourself. No matter what your age is, experience level, everyone is trying to accomplish the same goal.

“I think it would be healthy for the sport if we see just more variation in general of winners. How many winners this year? Six. Come on now. You can’t just put that on the young guys for not winning. That’s a lot of other people that aren’t winning too.”

Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon said he’s not bothered by Saunders’ comment but raises a question himself.

“I just want to know what we do about it,” Dillon said Thursday. “How do you move forward with that because the guys that are in this sport are talented enough to win. We haven’t made any changes this year to the packages that we’re running. Each and every week you probably can guess … who the top three guys are probably going to be. I bet if everybody had to bet their house on it, they’d take between three guys right now, maybe four. I bet he would too.”

Bubba Wallace, 24, wasn’t thrilled with Saunders’ comment.

“There’s a lot of boring stuff that we still have that has been the same thing at ISC tracks that we could update to get more fans out,” Wallace said. “It kind of goes hand in hand from us behind the wheel to people that are here hosting us. It’s a group effort.”

ISC stated that attendance for its six Cup weekends in the second quarter was down about 10 percent. Those six events were races at Phoenix, Auto Club Speedway, Martinsville, Richmond, Talladega and Kansas. Other tracks operated by ISC include Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

ISC stated that it had an increase in attendance with the Richmond event.

ISC cited weather, construction at ISM Raceway (Phoenix) and “a general trend of lower sales at live sporting events” for impacting revenue.

Saunders said on the call that “these headwinds are further impacted by recent retirements of star drivers.”

Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are among drivers who have exited the car in recent years.

Only two of the first 17 Cup races this season has been won by a driver under the age of 30. Dillon (Daytona 500) and Joey Logano (Talladega) were both 27 when they won. They’ve since had birthdays.

Former champions Kevin Harvick (five wins), Kyle Busch (five) and Martin Truex Jr. (three) have combined to win 76.5 percent of the races this season. They’ve also combined to lead 47.2 percent of the laps this year and won 48.6 percent of the stages.

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NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Daytona in last three seasons

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Handicapping a restrictor-plate NASCAR race is one of the most difficult things to do. The ever-present threat of the “’Big One” crash is only one of the problems faced. The capriciousness of the draft can play havoc with a fantasy roster just as readily because a driver who makes a move at the wrong time can drop from the top five to outside the top 20.

Still, there are a few drivers who manage to find the front with greater regularity than others, so setting this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster does not have to be an exercise in frustration.

The biggest thing to note before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC) is the absence of the Big 3 among the top 10.

Kyle Busch has not scored a top 15 on this track in his last three starts. Martin Truex Jr. has not finished that well in four starts. Kevin Harvick hasn’t cracked the top 20 in four races. The odds are good that at least one of them will be able to reverse that trend, but fantasy owners who like to play the odds, will find some great dark horses in this week’s top-10 list

1. Bubba Wallace (three-season average: 8.50 in two races)
Before fantasy players discount Wallace’s second place in this year’s Daytona 500, they should note that he finished 15th in this race last year driving in relief for Aric Almirola. Occasionally a driver develops an immediate affinity for a course.

2. Aric Almirola (three-season average: 10.50 in four races)
Streaks are hard to maintain on a restrictor-plate track because of the finicky nature of the draft and the prevalence of “Big One” crashes, so when someone has four consecutive top-15 finishes, fantasy players need to pay close attention.

3. Michael McDowell (three-season average: 10.50 in four races)
Ultimately, it is the finish that matters. The majority of points are paid out when the checkered flag waves, so a driver like McDowell – who may spend a large portion of the race in the back half of the lead pack – is often more valuable to the roster than one who spends most of the race in the middle of a volatile pack.

4. Joey Logano (three-season average: 11.00 in four races)
There are not a lot of marquee drivers in the top 10 this week. None of the Big 3 make the list, so Logano stands out. Anyone can get swept into an accident at Daytona – which is what happened to Logano in this race last year – but otherwise, he’s finished sixth or better since the start of 2016.

4. AJ Allmendinger (three-season average: 11.00 in four races)
Allmendinger tends to be crash-prone at Talladega Superspeedway, but he has been able to stay out of trouble at Daytona. One doesn’t need to know the reason behind this, but if the trend continues, he will be one of the greatest difference-makers in the field.

6. Denny Hamlin (three-season average: 12.40 in four races)
Hamlin makes the list this week based on two stellar finishes in the last three seasons. He won the 2016 Daytona 500 and finished third in this year’s 500. He deserves a spot on one’s roster, however, because of top-10 sweeps in 2014 and 2015.

7. Ryan Newman (three-season average: 12.60 in four races)
Newman has three top 15s in the past five Daytona races. Two of these came in back-to-back races last summer and this spring. The best news regarding the No. 31 is that Newman has been able to stay out of trouble recently and that allows him to be in a position to make late-race moves to maximize his finish.

8. Paul Menard (three-season average: 13.60 in four races)
Menard gained some momentum last week with his Chicagoland pole. That might actually carry over to Daytona this week if it adds to his confidence. Of course, a sweep of the top five last year on this track and a sixth in the 2018 Daytona 500 won’t hurt either.

8. Ryan Blaney (three-season average: 13.60 in four races)
Blaney is capable of scoring strong results when he is able to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, that has not been all that easy for him because he has been involved in at least 11 accidents in his last eight races. He managed to keep his car running on several occasions and score decent results, but starting him is a lot like playing Russian Roulette.

10. Austin Dillon (three-season average: 14.40 in four races)
Dillon’s victory in this year’s Daytona 500 was only his second top five there, but he has been one of the most consistent drivers during his career. Seven of his 10 starts on this track have ended in top 15s and that is about as good as anyone gets on a plate track.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Hendrick Motorsports has always been solid in qualification at Daytona. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were perennial threats. Chase Elliott has carried on the tradition.

Segment Winners: Kurt Busch and Blaney won the stages in this year’s Daytona 500, Brad Keselowski and Logano won them in last year’s Coke Zero 400, while Kyle Busch and Harvick won them in last year’s 500. A pattern has failed to emerge about who might repeat, but it seems likely that the stage winner will be a driver with a big name and marquee team.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.