Geoff Bodine

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Sonoma could be great opportunity for Cup drivers without wins

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Who is ready for another first-time winner this season in the Cup Series?

A poll taken of the Cup garage would probably bring back everyone but the six drivers who have hogged Victory Lane through the first 15 races of the season.

Divided among just three teams – Joe Gibbs Racing (nine wins), Team Penske (five) and Hendrick Motorsports (one) – variety among teams has not been in the cards so far.

Enter Sonoma Raceway.

NASCAR makes its first trip to a road course this season with the California circuit, which has been reconfigured for its 50th anniversary with the re-introduction of “The Carousel.”

Sonoma may be a prime opportunity for a winless driver to break through to Victory Lane, according to history.

In 12 of the last 16 seasons, dating back to 2002, the driver who visited victory lane in Sonoma was doing so for the first time that year.

Before 2002, it was done only four times in the track’s first 13 years of holding Cup races, with all four occurring before 1998, when the Cup Series stopped running on the “Carousel.”

Drivers in the field this year who will try to repeat history are Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer.

Harvick holds the distinction of being the most recent driver to get his first win of the season at Sonoma. He pulled it off in 2017.

Should he repeat the feat, it would be his first win since November’s Texas playoff race (17 races) and be Stewart-Haas Racing’s first of the year. He’d also join Ricky Rudd (1989, 2002) as the only drivers to achieve that twice.

Drivers who earned first win of the year at Sonoma

Event Date    Race Winner
6/25/2017    Kevin Harvick
6/26/2016    Tony Stewart (only win that year)
6/28/2015    Kyle Busch
6/23/2013    Martin Truex Jr. (only win)
6/24/2012    Clint Bowyer
6/26/2011    Kurt Busch
6/21/2009    Kasey Kahne
6/24/2007    Juan Pablo Montoya (only win)
6/25/2006    Jeff Gordon
6/26/2005    Tony Stewart
6/22/2003    Robby Gordon
6/23/2002    Ricky Rudd (only win)
5/4/1997    Mark Martin
5/16/1993    Geoff Bodine (only win)
6/7/1992    Ernie Irvan
6/11/1989    Ricky Rudd (only win)

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to return to Martinsville in May 2020

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Martinsville Speedway announced Tuesday that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to the track in 2020.

It will mark the series’ first race at Martinsville since 2010.

The modified tour, once a fixture at Martinsville, will run a 200-lap race at night on May 8, 2020. That will be held the evening before the Cup night race there. The modified race will be known as the MaxPro Window Films 200.

“We get asked a lot about the modifieds a lot – from fans, from drivers, from media,” Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said. “Now, we can say, ‘Yes, we will have them back next year.’ These cars are such an important part of Martinsville Speedway history and the time is right to bring them back.”

The modified division first raced at Martinsville from 1960-2002. Greg Sacks went 101.014 mph in qualifying in a modified car in 1986 – a record that remains for any series at Martinsville.

“The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Martinsville Speedway are a perfect match,” said Brandon Thompson, NASCAR Managing Director, Touring Series. “When you talk history and legacy – names like (Richie) Evans, (Jerry) Cook and (Geoff) Bodine are synonymous with Martinsville. The modified division and Martinsville Speedway are the cornerstones on which the sport was built. We’re excited about adding names like (Doug) Coby, (Justin) Bonsignore, and maybe even (Ryan) Preece – a new generation of Modified racing stars to the half-mile and look forward to being part of an incredible race weekend.”

 

Dale Jr. Download: Richard Childress’ fighting advice: ‘Always take off your watch’

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Richard Childress learned a valuable lesson in the 1970s when it came to getting into a brawl. Take off your watch.

“We used to go out to the bars and have a good time and everything,” Childress recalled on this week’s Dale Jr. Download (airs today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “We were up at an old bar at Daytona one night and a big fight broke out. I happened to be in it. I had a Rolex. First Rolex I ever had in my life. I lost it in that fight. Ever since that you always take your watch off.”

That creed is now synonymous with Childress thanks to a 2011 altercation with Kyle Busch.

But the buildup to that confrontation began the previous year in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“We were running for the (Cup) championship,” Childress said. “The 18 (Busch) was kind of holding Kevin (Harvick) up. Kevin wrecked him coming off of (Turn) 4.

“That night, hell, I was good friends with Kyle. We were eating at a place and him and I think his girlfriend at the time, this was before he got married, and a guy from Toyota was there. (Toyota) had won the (Truck) championship.”

Childress went over to congratulate them on the Truck championship.

“You know I’m going to wreck your car?” Busch said, according to Childress.

“What do you mean?” Childress asked.

“Kevin wrecked me today. I’m going to wreck your car,” Busch repeated.

“What you need to do is wreck his Xfinity car, don’t wreck my car,” Childress said.

Kevin Harvick wrecks in the 2011 Southern 500. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

“Nope, I got to do it in Cup,” Busch said, according to Childress.

That didn’t sit well with Childress.

“If you wreck my car I’m going to whip your ass,” he told Busch.

Six months later, Busch and Harvick were in a wreck in the closing laps at Darlington. The fallout spilled onto pit road, where Harvick reached into Busch’s car and Busch sped away, pushing Harvick’s car into the pit wall.

“So they carried us over in the (NASCAR) trailer,” Childress said. “Got on to all four of us. I think Joe (Gibbs) was in there. Kyle and me and Kevin. I just told them what I was going to do and I kept my word.”

Three race weekends later, Busch was upset by how RCR driver Joey Coulter raced him in the closing laps of the Truck Series event at Kansas Speedway. That led to Busch rubbing fenders with him on the cool down lap.

Afterward, a watchless Childress confronted Busch in the garage and put him in a headlock

During Childress’ visit to the Dale Jr. Download, he also recalled a feud from Dale Earnhardt’s heyday.

Childress doesn’t remember how the late 1980s rivalry between Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine started, but he’s sure of one thing.

“It was one of those deals where whatever he gave that guy, Bodine, he deserved,” Childress said. “It was one of them deals we didn’t want to be run over and they started it. In my opinion, he started it. Once it started, we wasn’t going to be the ones to give up. Mr. France helped us give up.”

“Mr. France” was Bill France, Jr., the president of NASCAR at the time who played a hand in diffusing the rivalry that inspired Cole Trickle and Rowdy Burns’ feud in the 1990 film, Days of Thunder.

“A lot of the story part was true,” Childress recalled. “But it didn’t all go down like that. I remember Bill France bringing us in there and telling us, ‘I want to see you guys running and if you have to run on each side of the race track, you’re not going to get together again.’ He said, ‘You’re not going to destroy our sport.'”

There is one detail about the film, which Childress has only seen once, that he took issue with.

“They had some fat guy doing me as the owner (actor Randy Quaid) and I didn’t like that,” Childress said.

NASCAR America: Hendrick Motorsports could win their 13th championship this year

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Kasey Kahne scored Hendrick Motorsports’ 249th victory at Indianapolis last year. It would take more than a year for them to reach the 250-win milestone when Chase Elliott pulled into victory lane at Watkins Glen earlier this month.

The last three wins for Rick Hendrick came with three different drivers – and that is fitting since the organization’s 250 victories have come with 17 different drivers behind the wheel, according to NBC’s Nate Ryan.

Geoff Bodine gave Hendrick his first win in 1984; 11 years later, Jeff Gordon gave them the organization its first championship.

Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports its 12th Cup championship in 2016 – and now that the organization’s winless streak has ended, the question turns to whether they will be able to get another championship.

“If you’d asked me this a month ago, I would have said ’no, there’s not a chance,’ “ Jeff Burton said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “But watching Chase Elliott and the improvement they’ve made – you look at the stage wins they’ve all the sudden started getting, the laps they’ve started leading – they’ve become very consistent.

“Chase Elliott gives them a shot. I don’t see anyone else that has a chance.”

Landon Cassill would toss Johnson’s name in the mix.

“It’s Hendrick Motorsports and it’s a yes all the time,” Cassill said. “And that’s because they’re still one of the most well-funded organizations in the sport, they’ve got some of the most talented people, you can always hang your hat on that 48 team – even though they’re without a win. They can show up and peak at the right time. … The beauty of our sport right now is with the playoff system, it only takes one win to be the champion.”

For more, watch the video above.

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Mark Martin shares the story of when Dale Earnhardt made him mad

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Mark Martin joined the digital world Monday with the debut of his own podcast, sharing stories about his interest in rap music, his racing carer and his battles with Dale Earnhardt.

Martin won 40 career Cup races (a mark Kevin Harvick tied Sunday with his victory at ISM Raceway) in a career that began in 1981 and ended in 2013. Martin’s success led to his induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017.

During episode one of the Mark Martin Podcast, the former racer took fan questions. He talked about a variety of topics, noting what he liked about rap music, what valuable lesson crew chief Alan Gustafson taught him and how he doesn’t lament losing the 2007 Daytona 500 by a nose but how another loss ranks as the one that bothers him to this day.

One question to Martin was who made him the maddest at the track.

Dale Earnhardt’s name came up.

Here’s how Martin tells the story:

“I had some issues with Earnhardt,’’ Martin said “The stories on Earnhardt are Dale really respected me before I got to NASCAR, he knew who I was. He treated me with great respect until one day in the mid 90s he wakes up and he just thinks, ‘Boy, I’ll just mess with Mark, see how much he will take.’ He started pushing my buttons just for the fun of it.

“I would go out to practice and try to run by myself and he would come out. He would wait for me. He would come out right beside me and he would get on the outside of me. That’s when the cars were just starting to get aero loose with a car on the outside.

“He would mess with me and mess with me and mess with me. Well, I finally got tired of it at Michigan. He got on my outside and I switched it on him. I got ahead of him and then let him get on the inside of me and when we did, it sucked him around. He spun me around and he wrecked me. I had not wrecked myself or him all this time he had been messing with me and it pissed me off because it wrecked my car. Leave me alone. So I was mad. That was in practice. That wasn’t in a race.

“So, the next weekend on Friday, first thing we rolled out at New Hampshire, I go out and here he is. He does the same thing, and I put the wheel on him in practice. He comes in after practice and he looks at his p.r. guy and he said ‘I think Mark has had enough.’

“That’s all. It was just playing. I wasn’t going to cry to the media, I wasn’t going to complain, I was going to be a man. I wasn’t going to be a baby. Some of the other people, their reactions … Dale didn’t like the way they reacted, he didn’t respect it and he made their life miserable.

“I watched him do it to Geoff Bodine. God, he just irritated Geoff Bodine something terrible, just all the time and he just did it because he didn’t like the way Geoff would act when he would do it to him. He would just do it. Dale was a tough guy, he was a tough customer.’’

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