Michael Waltrip

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Rodney Childers agrees to multi-year extension with Stewart-Haas Racing

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Rodney Childers has agreed to a multi-year extension to remain as crew chief for Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal first reported the news Monday.

Childers then took to Twitter to confirm the report.

 

Childers, 43, has 28 career wins as a Cup crew chief, 25 of those coming with Harvick. Harvick and Childers both joined SHR in 2014 and went on to win the Cup championship that first season together. They also finished runner-up in 2015 and third in both 2017 and 2018.

In addition to Harvick, Childers has also worked with several other drivers in his Cup career, including Scott Riggs, Patrick Carpentier, Elliott Sadler, David Reutimann, Brian Vickers, Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip.

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Long: Heated radio chatter raises questions about who is driving

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RICHMOND, Va. — For at least the second time this season, a crew chief told his driver to retaliate after contact from another car, raising questions about such emotional outbursts and the actions that follow.

Car owner Richard Childress and crew chief Danny Stockman each told Austin Dillon on the team’s radio to pay Alex Bowman back for an incident on the Lap 109 restart Saturday at Richmond. Bowman’s contact sent Dillon’s car into William Byron’s, causing more damage to Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet.

Childress told his grandson to “get (Bowman’s) ass back if you get to him.”

Stockman told Dillon:

“Get him back.

“Get him back.

“Get him back.

Get … him … back … now.”

Dillon did as told and spun Bowman but the contact also damaged Dillon’s car.

Later, as Dillon tried to dissect his car’s handling at the end of stage 2 on Lap 200, he mentioned the incident earlier in the race: “I don’t have a good idea for you. We ruined our car in a wreck for no reason. I didn’t think we needed to do that.”

Ultimately, the driver is responsible for what they do with the car. But when a driver is agitated after being hit by a competitor and told to “get him back” as Dillon was, it puts the driver in a difficult situation. Ignore the crew chief — and the car owner in this case — and it can lead to questions about team leadership among crew members and who can hear the conversations on their headsets. Do as told and it can make a bad situation worse.

It did for William Byron at Watkins Glen.

Kyle Busch spun while underneath Byron’s car in Turn 1. Busch caught Byron and hit the back of Byron’s car, forcing it through the grass in the inner loop.

Crew chief Chad Knaus told Byron on the radio: “If I see that 18 (Busch) come back around without you knocking the (expletive) out of him, we’re going to have a problem.”

Byron, following the orders of a seven-time champion crew chief, did as he was told and had a bigger problem.

Seeing Byron behind him under caution, Busch hit his brakes and Byron slammed into the back of Busch’s car. The contact smashed the nose of Byron’s car. Byron, who started second, finished 21st and was never a factor after the incident.

Byron called the Watkins Glen episode a “turning point. I realized I’m the guy driving the car and ultimately the decisions that I make … trickles down to my team and all the work they’re putting in.”

Another key is what is said on the radio and how it is said between Knaus and Byron.

“I think the only thing is just staying positive and staying motivated in the race,” Byron said. “I don’t seem to do well with like negative energy.”

How did he get his point across?

“I think situations have played out on the track to where it’s kind of been understood that we’ve got to do things a different way,” Byron said. “We both have our way of doing things. I’ve really accepted the way he does things, and he’s accepted the way I do things. Any good working relationship is kind of that compromise.”

It’s understandable that crew chiefs and teams will be upset when somebody damages their car. To have all the work that goes into each race impacted by some driver’s mistake or recklessness is frustrating and infuriating.

But for those who talk to a driver on the radio during a race comes great responsibility. One can calm a driver and focus on the task at hand or inflame the situation.

When a situation escalates, the results are never good.

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Although he tied his best finish of the season Saturday night at Richmond, placing fifth wasn’t the biggest achievement to Ryan Newman.

“What meant to me the most was just being better than we were the first race,” said Newman, who finished ninth at Richmond in the April. “We came back and showed that we were learning and we’ll keep learning.”

Such improvement has put the Roush Fenway Racing driver — who didn’t secure a playoff spot until the regular-season finale — in position to advance to the second round after Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC). Newman enters the weekend ninth in the standings, 14 points ahead of Alex Bowman, the first driver outside a playoff spot.

Ryan Newman’s finishing position has improved 3.8 positions in the six races Cup teams have visited a track for a second time this year. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Newman is one of four playoff drivers — Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson are the others — who have finished better in their second appearance at a playoff track than the first time this year. Newman’s 10th-place finish in the Las Vegas playoff opener was 14 places better than he finished there in March. His Richmond race was four spots better than his spring result.

“We hoped every time we got back (to a track a second time) we would be better,” Scott Graves, Newman’s crew chief, told NBC Sports after the Richmond race. “This was a good race for us in the spring. We took all our notes there and we knew what we needed to do differently. When you get here and you unload and the car is good right from the bat and you can just make fine adjustments, it just makes the weekend go easier. We were able to do that this time.”

Richmond marked the sixth time that Cup has raced at a track for a second time this season. The others are Daytona, Las Vegas, Bristol, Pocono and Michigan.

Newman has improved 3.8 positions the second time at those tracks, ranking fourth among playoff drivers. Newman trails Larson (gain of 11.2 positions), Martin Truex Jr. (9.2) and William Byron (4.5).

“I feel like we really struggled to figure out where the balance of the car needed to be the first time around,” Graves said. “How much drag did we need? How much downforce did we need? Then mechanically, what did we need in the car. It’s kind of like those learn-by-trial kind of things. We went, ‘OK that didn’t work but we think we know what we need now.’ ”

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The six lead changes Saturday at Richmond were the fewest there since the 2014 fall race, which had four lead changes among two drivers.

Both Richmond races this season combined for 10 cautions (five in each race). Last year’s two Richmond races combined for nine cautions.

Clint Bowyer, who finished eighth, expressed his frustration with this past weekend’s race.

We have to figure something out with this track and our package,” Bowyer said. “I’m not sold that this is the best product we can do here. I love this place. I love the race track. I love this fan base, this area and everything. Ever since I started in this sport, this has always been an action track and it’s lacking a little bit of that. 

“I think we could do some things with maybe some PJ1 or sealer or tires – something. We need to try to make an adjustment, I really believe that.”

Kevin Harvick was asked the day before last weekend’s race if traction compound should be used at Richmond to help drivers with passing.

“I honestly thought we would have traction compound down for this particular race,” he said. “Using the tire dragon here does zero.”

So where would it be best to apply traction compound at Richmond?

“Chase Elliott had the best idea, just like we used to do with the sealer, just coat the whole corner,” Harvick said. “Let it ride for the weekend. Let the race track evolve. It’s become one of the most difficult places to pass. It’s become more difficult this year. I think the traction compound would definitely be a good option.”

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Clint Bowyer is a free agent after this season but signs point to him returning to Stewart-Haas Racing next year.

Bowyer noted that he did a Mobil 1 shoot last week with Kevin Harvick for next year.

Bowyer said a new contract is “not done” but “I’m comfortable where it’s at. We’re working on partnerships for next year and having success there.”

Bowyer is in his third season at Stewart-Haas Racing, taking over the No. 14 ride after Tony Stewart retired. Bower has won twice with the team, scoring victories at Martinsville and Michigan in 2018.

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There was a buzz in the garage over the weekend about possible changes for pit stops next year in the Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

That buzz intensified after Michael Waltrip tweeted that stage breaks without live pit stops for the Xfinity and Truck Series would be “absolutely the right thing to do” to help teams save money while also providing more racing action.

NASCAR had no comment about the issue and Waltrip’s tweets.

It’s clear based on the chatter in the garage that NASCAR is taking a look at potential changes to pit stops. In making the switch to 18-inch wheels with the Gen 7 car, which is scheduled to debut in 2021, NASCAR also is considering the use of a single lug nut to secure wheels. Such a move would overhaul pit stops and likely de-emphasize the importance of tire changers. 

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Ryan Blaney to race Michael Waltrip tribute in Southern 500

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Ryan Blaney will boast a paint scheme inspired by Michael Waltrip in this year’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sep. 1 on NBCSN).

Blaney revealed the scheme Wednesday for his No. 12 Ford on NASCAR America presents MotorMouths.

The scheme is based on the No. 30 Pennzoil Pontiac that Waltrip drove for owner Chuck Rider from 1991-95.

 

Here are the previous cars Blaney has driven for the Throwback Weekend at Darlington.

2018

Blaney drove a scheme based on the car his father, Dave Blaney, used in the Cup Seres in 2003.

2017

Blaney drove Kyle Petty’s 1987 CITGO scheme.

2016

Blaney piloted David Pearson’s scheme from 1976.

2015

In his first Throwback Weekend start, Blaney’s car had a mosaic of more than 2,0000 pictures depicting the history of Wood Brothers Racing.

Jimmie Johnson completes Boston Marathon

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Jimmie Johnson completed the Boston Marathon on Monday, finishing the 26.2-mile route in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 7 seconds. His average pace was 7:13 per mile.

Johnson placed 4,155th overall. He was 3,746th among men and 641st in his division.

Johnson, who ran with bib number 4848, had stated his goal was to complete the marathon in less than three hours. His wave of runners left the starting line at 10:25 a.m. ET.

“I left the pace I wanted to try to hold and came up a little bit short of my goal,” Johnson told reporters after the race. “I wanted to race it and really run hard and challenge myself. I need some food. I’m afraid to sit down. I might not get back up. Everything is starting to tighten back up right now.”

Johnson said it was “amazing” how many people recognized him and his bib and cheered him on, “from banners and T-shirts. My sponsor Ally was at the firehouse (at mile marker 17) and took it over and decorated and I got a huge applause coming through there.”

Johnson also noted the “camaraderie” among fellow runners and the “energy” and “excitement” from fans with “kids passing out popsicles and waters. It was really amazing.”

For the first time, the marathon took place on the anniversary of the bombings that marked the event six years ago (April 15, 2013). The tragedy left a mark on Hendrick Motorsports.

“We had somebody close to Hendrick Motorsports … was lost in the bombing,” Johnson said. “Sean Collier was a security guard at MIT and was lost trying to apprehend the bombers. His brother (Andrew) worked in our engine shop and I’ve been able to meet with his family and spend time with them and take them to the races. I’ve been trying to bring up his name and honor him.”

Will Johnson return to the marathon in 2020?

“I’ve got to look at the car racing schedule,” Johnson said. “Somebody told me that it doesn’t work out as well. I’d like to have Sunday to recover some. So I need to look at it, but I’ve heard that with my time I’m qualified to come back. So, if I can, I will.”

The 2020 Boston Marathon is scheduled for Monday, April 20. The Cup Series is scheduled to compete at Richmond Raceway the day before.

Kenyan Lawrence Cherono won the marathon in a photo finish over Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa. Cherono won with a time of 2 hours, 7 minutes and 57 seconds.

For a time comparison, this year’s Daytona 500 was completed in 3 hours, 45 minutes and 55 seconds.

The 500-mile Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway took 3 hours, 16 minutes and 11 seconds.

In Johnson’s last Cup win at Dover International Speedway in June 2017, the time of the race was 3 hours, 52 minutes and 6 seconds.

Johnson took part in the marathon two days after competing in the 400 lap Cup race at Richmond Raceway.

Former Cup driver Michael Waltrip competed in the Boston Marathon in 2000 the day after a race at Talladega Superspeedway. He completed the route in 4 hours, 42 minutes and 20 seconds.

Below are tweets documenting Johnson’s marathon experience.

Darrell Waltrip taking the checkered flag on his broadcasting career

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip is retiring as a broadcaster upon the conclusion of Fox Sports’ final Cup race in June, he announced Thursday.

“I could’ve waited until Charlotte or somewhere else down the road, but it’s been hanging over my head,” Waltrip told The Tennessean. “I just wanted to clear the air, let people know what my plans are and then other people can make plans accordingly. Like who’s going to take my place or is somebody going to take my place?”

Waltrip’s last race will be June 23 at Sonoma Raceway, the final race for Fox Sports before NBC Sports broadcasts the rest of the Cup season.

The 72-year-old Waltrip has been with Fox since it began broadcasting NASCAR races in 2001, making his debut in the 2001 Daytona 500 – the race his younger brother Michael won and the race Dale Earnhardt suffered fatal injuries.

Outspoken and passionate, Waltrip sought to reach out to NASCAR fans in his own way.

“Darrell has been the heart and soul of the Fox NASCAR booth since day one, so it’s incredibly bittersweet to know this is his final season,” said Fox Sports CEO & executive producer Eric Shanks. “DW’s unmatched charisma and passion helped Fox Sports build its fan base when we first arrived at Daytona in 2001, and he has been the cornerstone of our NASCAR coverage ever since.”

Waltrip told The Tennessean he considered retiring earlier.

“My dream had been that I was going to retire in 2017 because I love 17,” he told the newspaper. “Well ’17 came and I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, bad decision, no, no, no. I’m not quite ready for that.’

“A big wake-up call for me was when our first grandchild was born 14 months ago and I would come and go and it was just like when I’d watched my girls grow up. They grew up at the racetrack and they were grown and married before I hardly knew it.”

Waltrip also told the newspaper that the addition of Jeff Gordon also played a role in Waltrip’s decision to retire.

“Jeff Gordon coming along beside of me has just made me aware of what I know I know — that I’m old school,” Waltrip told The Tennessean. “I grew up in this sport in one era and Jeff grew up in a totally different era. When he talks to the drivers they talk a different language than I ever talked. When he relates to the drivers he relates to them in a different way than I do. And so it just became obvious to me it’s a young man’s sport. I’m not a young man anymore.”

What’s next for Waltrip, other than spending more time with family? He’s not sure.

“Every time I’ve made a change in my career or in my life I thought it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me,” Waltrip told the newspaper. “And then next thing you know it was actually the best thing that ever happened to me. So I’m optimistic about future.”

The three-time Cup champion was inducted into the third class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2012. His 84 career victories ties him with Bobby Allison for fourth on the all-time list. Waltrip was the recipient of the Bill France Award of Excellence in 2000 for his lifetime of achievements in the sport.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps praised Waltrip in a statement:

“For nearly five decades, few people have been as synonymous with NASCAR as Darrell Waltrip,” Phelps said. “A Hall of Famer on the track and in the booth, Waltrip brought quick wit, tireless passion and a wealth of stock car racing knowledge to millions of NASCAR fans on FOX for 19 seasons. We are grateful for Waltrip’s many contributions to the sport over the past 47 years, both as a champion driver and broadcaster. On behalf of everyone at NASCAR, we wish DW all the best in retirement.”