Photo: Dustin Long

Daytona 500 victory 50 years in the making for Austin Dillon’s tire changer

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DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — The younger members of Austin Dillon’s team, full of adrenaline-fueled energy and excitement, celebrated their Daytona 500 victory Sunday with a late-night visit to a tattoo parlor to permanently etch their achievement on their rear end.

Terry Spalding didn’t make it that far. It was time to turn in.

That’s OK, Sunday was a big enough day for the 50-year-old front tire changer, who experienced his first Daytona 500 win.

Yes, Spalding is 50 years old and changes tires for a Cup playoff team. Age alone gives him a different perspective on the Daytona 500 victory.

“I’m really able to appreciate it,’’ Spalding told NBC Sports. “I’ve been doing it 20-some years. Only since I’ve been at RCR in the last seven or eight years have I really been able to win the races that I won.’’

Dillon says Spalding doesn’t need a Daytona 500 ring to note how special he is.

“Terry is just a champion in life, period,’’ Dillon said. 

Spalding grew up the son of a racer in Pennsylvania and moved to North Carolina to pursue a job in the sport in 1990 — the same year Dillon was born.

Along the way, Spalding has worked in Cup for car owners such as Travis Carter, Ray Evernham, Richard Petty, Michael Waltrip, Richard Childress. Spalding has gone over the wall to service cars for drivers such as Jimmy Spencer, Elliott Sadler, Tony Raines, David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard and Dillon.

Spalding went to in Victory Lane at Indianapolis in 2011 when Paul Menard won. Spalding was in Victory Lane last year when Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600.

That he is still going over the wall is a feat considering the radical changes for pit crew this season. With NASCAR eliminating one of the over-the-wall positions, pit crew members are having to redefine their roles. Those that haven’t adjusted as well have lost jobs or been dropped down a series. Spalding’s duties have changed. He now carries a 60-pound tire with along with his air gun.

He’s always managed to adjust through the years. When he turned 40, he often was asked how much longer would he wanted to change tires. He randomly said 50. It’s a nice round number. Realistically, as pit crews have become more athletic and younger — many are in their 20s — that seemed like a pipe dream.

Now that he’s 50, how much longer will he go?

“I feel as good as I did when I was 40,’’ Spalding said. “I thought about when I can’t go over the wall anymore, starting to coach.’’

He’s got to find time. He plays in the same basketball league Denny Hamlin hosts at his house that includes Dillon, Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Blaney and others. In recent years, Spalding competed in slalom ski races. He’s also played in a roller hockey league. He’s competed in mountain bike races.

“I still go in the weight room, I don’t hit it as hard as I used to,’’ Spalding said. “I like to do things … and stay active that way.’’

He’s not ready to quit any time soon.

“I want to go as long as I can,’’  he said. Barring some freak injury, I honestly think 55 is no problem.’’ 

That would be at least five more Daytona 500s.

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NASCAR connections to Monday’s college football National Championship

Talladega Superspeedway
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The 2017-18 college football season ends tonight with the National Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The game (8 p.m. ET on ESPN) pits the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs, two Southeastern Conference teams.

We decided to take a look at the two schools and their connections to the NASCAR world.

If we missed any NASCAR connections, let us know.

The paths of Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski crossed last year.

In September, the driver of the No. 2 Ford visited the school’s Tuscaloosa campus, which is located just under 110 miles west of Talladega Superspeedway.

Saban actually served as the grand marshal of the 2009 spring Cup race at the 2.66-mile speedway, when Keselowski won his first Cup race.

During the visit, the two swapped jerseys, with Keselowski receiving a No. 2 jersey with his name on it.

“I can tell you this, I hope the tide rolls us right into victory lane when we get back to Talladega,” Keselowski said. “Like Coach Saban and his teams at Alabama, there is a winning tradition at Team Penske. We hope to add to that legacy with another Talladega Superspeedway triumph, and ultimately another championship.”

Two weeks later, Keselowski claimed his fifth Talladega win.

Saban will be looking for his sixth national championship tonight.

Hendrick Motorsports has a few team members who have ties to the game.

Rowdy Harrell, a former walk-on linebacker at Alabama, is a rear tire carrier on the No. 88 team. He won three championships with the Crimson Tide, the last coming in 2013. He joined Hendrick in September of that year.

Harrell was brought to the team by Chris Burkey, a pit crew coach for Hendrick. Burkey is a former scouting assistant for the Miami Dolphins from Saban’s time as head coach of the team.

The colors of the Crimson Tide have made their way to the high banks of Talladega multiple times over the last 17 years.

The first Alabama-themed scheme belonged to Scott Pruett and his No. 32 Tide car in 2000.

Michael Waltrip Racing was the vessel for three more schemes in 2010, 2012 and 2013, the seasons following Alabama National Championships.

2010 – David Reutimann

(Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

2012 – Clint Bowyer

(Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

2013 – Michael Waltrip

There are far fewer connections between NASCAR and the University of Georgia, but they’re there.

Chase Elliott, the Hendrick Motorsports driver and native of Dawsonville, Georgia, is a noted fan of the Bulldogs.

Hendrick’s strength and condition coach, Darius Dewberry, was a Georgia linebacker from 2006-09 and joined Hendrick in June 2013.

NASCAR on NBC’s own Rutledge Wood is a native of Alabama, but he moved to Georgia in 1995 and graduated from the school with a degree in marketing.

Bulldog sports teams have interacted with the NASCAR world a few times.

In 2014, the football team was part of the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina, playing against the University of Louisville. As part of their bowl week festivities, the teams visited Charlotte Motor Speedway to participate in the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Two years later, the Georgia baseball team visited Charlotte to play the University of North Carolina – Charlotte 49ers.

As part of their visit, they visited Hendrick Motorsports to get a taste of the life of a NASCAR pit crew.

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NASCAR America: Top 5 moments from Michael Waltrip Racing (VIDEO)

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The NASCAR America crew takes a look back at Michael Waltrip Racing’s top five moments, from David Reutimann’s rain-shortened win in 2009 to Clint Bowyer finishing second in points in 2012.

 

Here’s all you need to know about the Coca-Cola 600 and Charlotte Motor Speedway

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Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 is the longest and most grueling race on the Sprint Cup – 400 laps, 600 miles in total.

Providing there’s no race-extending Green-White-Checker finish, of course.

Because the race is so long, sometimes fans can use a slight diversion – like reading all about the history of the race, some of its top statistics, and so forth.

Thanks to the great figure-filberts in NASCAR’s and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s PR and Statistics departments, here’s everything you need to know about the Coca-Cola 600 and CMS:

COCA-COLA 600 at CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Track Specifications:
–Superspeedway: 1.5-mile quad oval
–Race Length: 400 laps, 600 miles
–Track Length: 1.5 miles or 7,920 feet
–Banking: turns: 24 degrees; straights: 5 degrees
–Straights: Frontstretch – 1980 feet; Backstretch – 1500 feet
–Turns: Turns 1 & 2: 2,400 feet; Turns 3 & 4: 2,040 feet
–Radius Turns 1 & 2: 685 feet
–Radius Turns 3 & 4: 625 feet
–Grandstand Seating: 89,000 (down from 134,000)
–Suites: 113
–Pit Road Speed: 45mph
–Pace Car Speed: 55mph
–Opened: 1960
–Last Repave: March 2006

Race Festivities/Officials:
–Grand Marshal: Dawn Seif, wife of fallen Marine SSgt. Andrew Seif; USO CEO & President J.D. Crouch II
–Command to start engines: Dawn Seif
–Honorary Starter/Wave Green Flag: West Virginia Senate President/Lieutenant Governor Bill Cole
–Honorary Pace Car Driver:Carolina Panthers LB Thomas Davis
–Honorary Pace Director: North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest
–Color Guard: TBA
–Invocation: TBA
–National Anthem: 82nd Airborne Chorus
–Flyover: TBA

PURSE:

2015: TBA
2014: $6,659,323
2013: $6,611,706
2012: $6,544,088
2011: $6,412,212
2010: $6,474,775
2009: $6,696,340
2008: $6,648,557
2007: $6,569,628
2006: $6,452,431
2005: $6,279,649
2004: $6,201,379
2003: $5,396,853

Track Websites & Social Media:
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Speedway Motorsports
Facebook – Charlotte Motor Speedway
Twitter – @CLTMotorSpdwy
YouTube – CLTMotorSpdwy
U.S. Legend Cars
Cabarrus County Destination Guide
Track Stats – Racing-reference.info

RECORDS/STATISTICS:
–2014 May Race Winner: #48-Jimmie Johnson, 145.484mph, started 1st
–2014 October Race Winner: #4-Kevin Harvick, 145.346mph, started 7th
Track Race Record 500 miles: Jeff Gordon, Oct 1999, 160.306mph
Track Race Record 600 miles: Kasey Kahne, May 2012, 155.687mph
Slowest Race Record: Junior Johnson, 107.752mph, 1960
Worst Starting Spot to Win: Jimmie Johnson, May 2003, started 37th
Oldest Winner: Cale Yarborough, 46 years, 6 months, 9 days, 10/6/1985
Youngest Winner: Jeff Gordon, 22 years, 9 months, 25 days, 5/29/1994
2014 May Pole Winner: #48-Jimmy Johnson, 194.911mph, finished 1st
2014 October Pole Winner: #18-Kyle Busch, 197.390mph, finished 5th
Track Qualifying Record: Kurt Busch, Oct 2014, 198.771mph, set in 2nd round of qualifying
Coke 600 Qualifying Record: Denny Hamlin, May 2013, 195.624mph
500 mile Qualifying Record: Jeff Gordon, Oct 2013, 194.308mph
Youngest Pole Winner: Jeff Gordon, 22 years, 2 months, 6 days, 10/10/1993
Oldest Pole Winner: Bobby Allison, 49 years, 10 months, 8 days, 10/11/1987

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Charlotte
–#48-Jimmie Johnson 111.6
–#18-Kyle Busch 106.7
–#5-Kasey Kahne 100.8
–#20-Matt Kenseth 95.5
–#11-Denny Hamlin 92.8
–#24-Jeff Gordon 91.6
–#19-Carl Edwards 89.6
–#16-Greg Biffle 88.7
–#22-Joey Logano 88.4
–#2-Brad Keselowski 86.5

Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Formula combining the following categories: Win, Finish, Top-15 Finish, Average Running Position while on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.

See an explanation how the Driver Rating is calculated at NASCAR.com.

Winners of the Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star Race in same season:
1985-Darrell Waltrip
1991-Davey Allison
1993-Dale Earnhardt
1997-Jeff Gordon
2003-Jimmie Johnson
2008-Kasey Kahne
2010-Kurt Busch

Charlotte Motor Speedway Notes & Facts – history:
–Construction began on Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) in 1959.
–The track’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 19, 1960 – won by Joe Lee Johnson.
–The track was repaved midseason in 1994.
–The track name changed from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 1999.
–It changed back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the 2010 season.
–The track was re-paved again before the 2006 season.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Notes & Facts – drivers:
–527 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying race at Charlotte Motor Speedway; 378 in more than one. 441 drivers have competed in the Coca-Cola 600; 287 in more than one.
–NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Charlotte with 64. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 44 starts; followed by Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart with 31. Richard Petty and Bill Elliott have made the most Coca-Cola 600 starts with 31 each; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in 600 starts with 22.
–45 different drivers have won at Charlotte Motor Speedway, led by Jimmie Johnson with seven wins including four Coca-Cola 600 wins – 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2014.
–30 different drivers have won the Coca-Cola 600, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip with five; Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with four; followed by teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne with three each.
–Nine drivers have posted consecutive wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including three consecutive by NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen (fall 1964 and both 1965) and four straight by Jimmie Johnson (2004 and 2005 sweeps).
–A season sweep at Charlotte has occurred eight times, including each season from 2004-2007.
–Seven times from seven different drivers has the winner of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race gone on to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway: Darrell Waltrip (1985), Davey Allison (1991), Dale Earnhardt (1993), Jeff Gordon (1997), Jimmie Johnson (2003), Kasey Kahne (2008) and Kurt Busch (2010).
–Richard Petty leads the series in runner-up finishes at Charlotte with nine. Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth lead all active drivers with three.
–Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth lead all active drivers in runner-up finishes in the Coca-Cola 600 with two.
–NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison are tied for the series most top-five finishes at Charlotte with 23. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 17. Richard Petty leads the series in top fives in the Coca-Cola 600 with 12; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven.
–Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Charlotte with 31. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 24. Darrell Waltrip, Ricky Rudd and David Pearson lead the series in top 10s in the Coca-Cola 600 with 15 each; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 12.
–Joey Logano leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Charlotte with a 10.000. Carl Edwards leads all active drivers in average finish in the Coca-Cola 600 with a 9.000.
–Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Charlotte without visiting Victory Lane at 30; followed by Ryan Newman with 28.
–Seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series active drivers have made their first career start at Charlotte Motor Speedway: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (5/30/99), Jimmie Johnson (10/7/01), Brian Vickers (10/11/03), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (5/29/11) and Kyle Larson (10/12/13).
–Four active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon (5/29/94), Matt Kenseth (5/28/00), Jamie McMurray (10/13/02) and Casey Mears (5/27/07).
–Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Charlotte with 1,733 laps led in 27 starts.
–Two female drivers have competed at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Notes & Facts – race:
–There have been 112 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, two races per year since the track opened in 1960. In 1961, there were two 100-mile qualifying points races held the week before the May race. The first six fall races at Charlotte were 400-mile events (1960-65).
–Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Charlotte in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 18: Jimmie Johnson (seven), Jeff Gordon (five), Darrell Waltrip (two), Ken Schrader (one), Terry Labonte (one), Casey Mears (one) and Kasey Kahne (one).
–Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Charlotte; led by Chevrolet with 43 victories; followed by Ford with 29. Chevrolet also has the most Coca-Cola 600 wins at 23.
–There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but only once for the Coca-Cola 600 (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): fall of 2005 (334/336), fall of 2007 (334/337) and the 2011 Coca-Cola 600 (400/402).
–Five of the 112 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 won by David Reutimann and Michael Waltrip Racing. Four of the five races shortened were the 600-mile events (1968, 1997, 2003 and 2009).
–Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the May 29, 2005 race won by Jimmie Johnson over Bobby Labonte with a MOV of 0.027 second.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Notes & Facts – poles:
–Fireball Roberts won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway (World 600) in 1960 with a speed of 133.904 mph.
–42 drivers have Coors Light poles at Charlotte, led by David Pearson with 14. Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon lead all active drivers in poles at CMS with nine.
–David Pearson and Ryan Newman are tied for the series most Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Coors Light poles with six each; followed by Jeff Gordon with five.
–12 drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Charlotte. David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Charlotte with 11; from the fall of 1973 through 1978.
–Jeff Gordon won five straight Coca-Cola 600 poles at Charlotte between 1994 and 1998.
–Four active drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon (10/10/93), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (5/28/00), Ryan Newman (5/27/01) and Aric Almirola (5/27/12).
–15 of the 112 (13.3 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Jimmie Johnson in 2014 (Coca-Cola 600).
–The second-place starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (17) than any other starting position at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
–32 of the 112 (28.5 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from the front row: 15 from the pole and 17 from second-place.
–85 of the 112 (75.8 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Charlotte have been won from a top-10 starting position.
–Nine of the 112 (8.0 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
–The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Charlotte is 37th, by Jimmie Johnson in the Coca-Cola 600 of 2003.
–Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Charlotte with a 7.630.
–Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway twice; the fall race of 2002 and the fall race of 2008.

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