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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.

Friday 5: Here’s how to address NASCAR’s ‘issue with star power’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — International Speedway Corp. President John Saunders created a hubbub Thursday when he cited an “issue with star power” as among the reasons for a 10 percent decline in attendance at the company’s six NASCAR events from March to May.

So if the sport is looking for someone to build around, how about …

Kyle Busch.

No other active driver elicits as a visceral reaction as Busch. Many heartily booed him after he won last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, while his fans cheered, creating a confluence of noise.

Detractors seethed after Busch spun Kyle Larson to win, conveniently forgetting that only seconds earlier Larson’s contact sent Busch into the wall and out of the lead.

After retrieving the checkered flag, Busch walked to the camera and rubbed his eye to mock those crying about his victory.

The boos continued and Busch taunted those fans, telling them: “If you don’t like that kind of racing, don’t even watch.”

Busch, who is tied with Kevin Harvick with a series-high five wins this year, has long accepted there will be a vociferous segment of the fan base that detests him. He never had a chance. He notes that early in his Cup career he was booed as much for being Kurt Busch’s little brother as anything. Kyle Busch’s intensity and antics infuriated some fans and made his backers more determined in their support.

Busch knows he likely will never win most popular driver but isn’t the main goal to win championships?

“There you go,” he said.

As for wearing the symbolic black hat, Busch doesn’t worry about it.

“I’ve had the black hat for a long, long time, so it doesn’t bother me as long as it doesn’t bother my sponsors and they can accept that, as well, too, and … know who I am as a person outside the race car rather than the one minute tidbits of TV that you get from a guy on television,” he said.

This topic of star power is not new. International Speedway Corp. has cited declines in ticket sales in the past to the absence of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

Thursday, Saunders cited weather as impacting attendance at some tracks, added: “We still have an issue with star power and hopefully this stable of young drivers coming along will start to win and build their brands.”

Ryan Blaney scoffed at the notion that the weight should be just on the young drivers.

“How many winners this year? Six. Come on now,” the 24-year-old Blaney said. “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.”

Ultimately, the best selling point for the sport is going to be the racing. Have more races and finishes like last weekend will help the sport but it will take more than that.

2. A tale of two trips

Daytona in February is about hope. Daytona in July is about reality.

When NASCAR arrived here in February to begin the season, Hendrick Motorsports was hopeful of getting past its “rough” 2017, Matt Kenseth was not at the track and numerous driver changes provided their teams with hope.

With Cup teams back on the beach, Hendrick Motorsports continues to search for its first win, Kenseth again is not around — but will be back at Kentucky for Roush Fenway Racing — and four of the drivers with new rides this season are in a playoff spot with nine races left in the regular season.

The gear celebrating Hendrick Motorsports’ next win — which will be its 250th in Cup — has been in storage since Kasey Kahne won at Indianapolis. That was 33 races ago.

Hendrick Motorsports entered the season with two new drivers. Alex Bowman took over the No. 88 after Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired, and William Byron climbed into the No. 24, taking Kahne’s spot with the organization. Hendrick also entered with questions about sponsor Lowe’s (it was announced a month after the Daytona 500 that Lowe’s would not return to Jimmie Johnson’s team for 2019).

With Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch dominating, there have been few chances for Hendrick Motorsports or other teams to excel. Also, Hendrick and many other Chevrolet teams have struggled with the new Camaro this season.

While Hendrick has seen progress — Alex Bowman has scored back-to-back top-10 finishes the past two weeks for the first time this season and Chase Elliott has three top 10s in the past four races — there have been challenges. Elliott has led only eight laps this season. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson has led two laps this year. Hendrick’s four drivers have combine to lead 106 laps — 65 by Bowman.

At Roush Fenway Racing, the struggles continue. Matt Kenseth’s run in the No. 6 car for Trevor Bayne did not lead to significant improvement.

“We’ve had some tough conversations these last few weeks,” said Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is battling for a playoff spot. “I think I’ve been pretty vocal in the shop and sometimes whether it be in an interview or on the radio probably when I shouldn’t, and I definitely need to respect all of our guys at the shop that are working hard and trying to provide new stuff for us. We just haven’t got that new stuff as quick as what we wanted.”

Drivers in new places who are in a playoff spot heading into Saturday night’s race are Blaney (Wood Brothers to Team Penske), Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports to Stewart-Haas Racing), Erik Jones (Furniture Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing) and Bowman (no full-time ride to Hendrick).

3. Slide job!

Christopher Bell is enjoying how prevalent the slide job is becoming in NASCAR. It’s a skill Bell and Kyle Larson learned while racing sprint cars on dirt. Other drivers have picked it up, especially at tracks where a high groove is the preferred line.

At those tracks, a driver charges into the corner, cuts to the bottom and lets the car drift up the banking to pass a car and stop that car’s momentum.

Larson attempted the move on Kyle Busch but it didn’t work and Busch went on to win. Noah Gragson tried it on Brett Moffitt on the last lap of the Camping World Truck race at Iowa Speedway but Moffitt got back by.

“It’s cool to me to see that coming to fruition,” Bell said of he move. “Like Iowa, man, the truck race, the Xfinity race, everyone was sliding each other, and I think it’s passing, right, so you get more passes. A guy passes someone going in, and then another guy passes someone coming out. I think it’s exciting to see more guys using it and it becoming more common in NASCAR.”

But that also means drivers are learning how to defend the move better. So what will Bell do?

Hopefully do it some more, right?” he said. “It’s going to be tough here at Daytona, and Kentucky (the groove) is on the bottom, so I won’t get to do it anymore there. But it’s just another trick in the bag, right? So if you get the opportunity to pull it, I’m going to do it.”

4.  Less practice

Rain canceled Thursday’s final Cup practice before any car could run a lap at speed. That left teams with only the 50-minute opening session to prepare for Friday’s qualifying and Saturday night’s race.

Should that be the norm for next season? In the Xfinity Series, only 10 cars went out in the final practice session. Are two sessions needed?

“I think if you had, say, one practice but it was an hour and 20 (minutes) long, I think you’d be fine with that,” Kyle Busch said. “I think that would be enough and that would be beneficial to being able to go straight into a qualifying and into the race. Fifty (minutes) may be a tick short for what some guys want to do.”

5. Will the streak continue?

There has been a different driver win each of the last eight July Daytona races. The streak started with Kevin Harvick in 2010 and he was followed by David Ragan, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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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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Kyle Larson wins Pennsylvania sprint car race; Kasey Kahne third

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Kyle Larson won the A feature of the Pennsylvania Speedweek race at Grandview Speedway on Tuesday night.

Greg Hodnett was second. He was followed by Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart. Former Truck series racer Rico Abreu was 11th. Christopher Bell placed 17th.

Comparing Cole Pearn, Martin Truex Jr.’s record together to NASCAR greats

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Martin Truex Jr and Cole Pearn have a good thing going.

Truex’s win Sunday at Sonoma Raceway came in his 123rd start with Pearn serving as his crew chief.

The two have had an eventful tenure in their four years together at Furniture Row Racing.

Since teaming up in the No. 78 Toyota in 2015, Truex’s second year with the team, the duo has scored 16 wins, 45 top fives, 75 top 10s and an all important championship last season.

How does their record so far compare to the first 123 races of other notable driver-crew chief pairings in NASCAR history?

Racing Insights compiled the info of nine pairings, including Truex/Pearn and Kyle Busch/Adam Stevens, who have 119 starts together. They would have 130 starts together if not for Busch missing 11 races in 2015 due to injury.

Truex and Pearn would have 124 starts together if not for a one-race suspension for Pearn in 2015.

The data includes five active pairings: Pearn/Truex, Stevens/Busch, Chad Knaus/Jimmie Johnson, Rodney Childers/Kevin Harvick and Paul Wolfe/Brad Keselowski.

Among the nine pairings, the best is Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond, who had two championships, 28 wins, 75 top fives and 91 top 10s in their first 123 races together.

The most comparable pairing to Truex/Pearn is Knaus/Johnson.

After 123 starts, they’re tied for 16 wins and 75 top 10s. While the Hendrick Motorsports pairing had two more top fives, Truex and Pearn earned their first championship faster.

Johnson and Knaus earned their first title in their fifth year together when they reached 176 starts together.

Check out the info below.

Pairing       Starts     Wins Top 5s   Top 10s Titles
Jeff Hammond/Darrell Waltrip 123 28 75 91 2
Cole Pearn/Martin Truex Jr. 123 16 45 75 1
*Adam Stevens/Kyle Busch 119 18 54 74 1
Rodney Childers/Kevin Harvick 123 13 59 84 1
Chad Knaus/Jimmie Johnson 123 16 47 75 0
Ray Evernham/Jeff Gordon 123 19 51 71 1
Kirk Shelmerdine/Dale Earnhardt 123 22 59 89 1 – Secured 2nd title in 125th start
Greg Zipadelli/Tony Stewart 123 14 47 76 0
Paul Wolfe/Brad Keselowski 123 11 39 61 1
 

*Only 119 starts together