Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:23 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 8:12 pm

Juan Pablo Montoya reflects on Daytona crash

By Pete Pistone

Juan Pablo Montoya has played the scary-looking incident from last Monday niight's Daytona 500 over in his head all week and understand just how lucky he is that things ended up the way they did.

Montoya's fiery crash with a jet dryer working on the track in turn three was the result of a parts failure on his Target Chevrolet as he was trying to catch up to the field under caution.

“There was a vibration; an issue or the gear box broke," Montoya explained Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. "It started to feel weird because then I shifted and it depends on the rpm; it was like on or off. And I said (to the crew on the radio) look, I think there’s something wrong. We looked at everything and everything was fine. And I went out again and we had a problem with the car and that was it, you know. We move on.” 

Montoya suffered what he calls minor injuries to his feet in the accident but other than that he's no worse for wear.

“I’m feeling okay," he said. "My feet are still a little sore, but not bad. It’s kind of interesting a week later, or five days later, and you’re looking back on that. And there’s actually a shot that shows the impact, and I’m pretty lucky to be honest.” 

As Montoya's car sped down the backstretch and then went out of control heading for the jet dryer he saus all he could do is brace himself for what he knew was going to be a big hit.

“It sucks because the car spun and I’m going oh, driver’s side, that’s going to suck," Montoya said. "That’s the only thing. You don’t think oh my God I’m going to kill myself. Nah. You go oh, that’s going to hurt. It wasn’t too bad.” 

The spectacular crash became a worldwide sensation and was quickly known around the world thanks to television, social media and You Tube. Montoya says he's heard from other drivers in various forms of motorsports who all have praised the safety initiatives in NASCAR.

“I think overall, people were kind of amazed that I walked out of that one," he said. "Honestly, everybody was being pretty amazed. Everyone has been really supportive and everything. The bright side is you can joke about it.” 

Montoya's wife Connie may not yet be ready to joke about it but he says she was obviously relived to see him walk away from the crash so quickly.

She saw me get out of the car and it’s like, it’s all good," he said. "You know what I mean. As long as you get out, it’s all good, no?”

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 3:58 pm

Brad Keselowski defends cellphone in car

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Keselowski says his testing crash at Road Atlanta last year is another reason why he carries a phone)

Brad Keselowski
says he has a practical reason for having his cellphone with him when he straps into a stock car.

It's not just to have a device capable of tweeting pictures or thoughts to fans. Keselowski maintains there's a safety aspect to have the phone with him.

When Keselowski was involved in a violent crash at Auto Club Speedway a couple years ago, the cellphone was a lifeline to family and friedns concerned for his well being.

A similar scenario presented itself during his testing crash at Road Atlanta last summer and he was able to let him mother know that he was allright before news of teh accident had spread.

“That kind of put the fire out before it really got started and she really appreciated that,” Keselowski said. “It put me a lot more at ease. From that moment on, I decided I was going to keep my phone with me in the race car.

“There actually was a practical purpose for having it with me and I designed a pocket to put it inside my car to be able to keep it there. I didn’t put it in my car thinking, ‘We’re going to have a red flag at Daytona for a guy hitting a jet dryer and causing an explosion.’”

Keselowski is aware of those who have concern the smartphone could lead to some form of cheating or for teams to try to get a competitive advantage especially in the new age on electronic fuel injection.

However he's not sure how a driver or crew chief could actually use a phone in such a case.

"You could definitely make an argument that a smartphone is a mini-computer,” Keselowski said. “I could definitely see that. But it’s not like I had it plugged into anything. You have fuel injection in the cars, but I don’t know how you could use it to cheat, quite frankly.

“Unless you mounted it to something to maybe make a video.”

For now Keselowski plans to carry the phone with him and continue his heavy involvement on Twitter.

"As an athlete, entertainer, race-car driver, whatever you want to call me, the things I did on Twitter was something I would want to see,” Keselowski said. “The people that I follow on Twitter, if you were to ask me what I would want to see from them, that’s what I would want to see.

“That’s all I did. I don’t think any harder than that. I’m glad that people liked it and enjoyed it.”

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:36 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 2:43 pm

Drivers mixed on tweeting and devices in race

By Pete Pistone

(Monday night's red flag at Daytona gave drivers a chance to releax and for some tweet - Getty)

Brad Keselowski’s
Twitter session during the red flag at last week’s Daytona 500 has sparked some interesting discussion throughout the NASCAR world. 

Some drivers think the interaction through social media is something that will greatly benefit the sport in terms of popularity. Others aren’t so sure that any kind of tweeting or social media initiatives during a race are over the line. 

Still others are concerned about the use of digital recording devices the smart phones being inside the cockpit of a racecar throwing off the competitive nature of the sport.

Let’s face it today’s cellphone can do so much more than simply calling home to check on the family or ordering a pizza for dinner. The mini-computers could easily find their way into mapping systems or other telemetry to give an enterprising crew chief or driver a high tech edge. 

Several drivers weighed in on the subject during their media availability on Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.


“Well, to be honest with you I had no idea that was something that would even remotely come into play as far as keeping your phone in your car during a race. But I guess if you’re going to keep up with that side of it, you’re going to have to. I’m going to look for every app I can for mile-per-hour, GPS mapping, and anything I can find to put in my car. I’m looking for it because I’m looking to outlaw this rule as fast as I can because I don’t want to have to keep up with it.”


No, not during a race situation. I mean, I don’t know. Where does it end? What do you do? Do you then text or Tweet during cautions and then you look up and run into the guy behind you. I don’t know. When does it -- you’ve got to have -- there's certain parameters that I guess we’ve got to all play in, but I don’t know if I'm thinking about winning the race, I’m not thinking about social media when I’m under that green flag or yellow flag or any of those conditions. So, I think it’s just different people see things important differently.”


“I thought that was neat that it worked out where Brad was able to do that honestly. I haven’t gotten to see the whole telecast yet. I saw the last 40 laps this morning, or whatever it was after the fire. That is all that was on my recorder in the motor home. I didn’t see the rest of the race and all that went on. I know it was entertaining for the fans and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I never knew we could carry our phones in the car, not that I am going to start, especially when you aren’t supposed to have communication with other drivers and all that any more. I am not sure about all that and having that in the car, but I think that certainly during a red flag when you have two hours off I don’t think there is anything wrong with tweeting and filling some air time and doing all that. They had a lot of airtime to fill between Sunday pre-race and when we finally got the race over Tuesday morning. I thought it was neat.


I think that the social media aspect of it I thought was great for the sport, great for Brad (Keselowski) and from that side of it; I think that it’s awesome that NASCAR is really being that lenient.  I think that the technology of phones these days is growing rapidly that there could be some things that NASCAR might need to pay attention to that might need to keep the phones out of the car.” 

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:41 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 11:48 am

Chad Knaus surprised by penalties

By Pete Pistone

  Jimmie Johnson (L) Talks
(Knaus is with Johnson and the 48 team this week after the Daytona penalties until the appeal is heard)

Chad Knaus
maintained his innocence regarding the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet failing pre-Daytona inspection and completely surprised by the penalty handed down by NASCAR in the aftermath.

Knaus met with the media Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway and said he's not sure why Jimmie Johnson's car didn't pass inspection and why the subsequent penalties announced by NASCAR were so severe.

"We do everything we can to build the best race cars we possibly can to bring to the racetrack, and that's what we do," said Knaus, who was fined $100,000 and placed on a six race suspension foe the infractions. "Unfortunately, they didn't like something and we've got to address that." 

The parts and pieces in question were the C-Posts of the No. 48 Chevrolet but Knaus says NASCAR inspectors didn't put the car through the inspection templates but rather was pulled out of line and deemed illegal by a visual inspection.

That alone seems to be the sticking point for teamowner Rick Hendrick, who has stated a plan to appeal the penalties, which is why Knaus was allowed to participate in Phoenix this weekend.

"It was just a visual inspection at that point," Knaus said. "We never actually got the opportunity to present that under the templates. So it's unfortunate. There's a bit of subjectiveness to it. That's why we're going through the appeal." 

Johnson and car owner Jeff Gordon also face penalties of 25 driver and owner points respectively, discipline that if it sticks through the appeal process would put the 48 team deep in the hole in the race for the championship early in the season.

“Obviously, I’m deeply saddened of course," Knaus said. "We didn’t expect this.  It’s not the way that we wanted to start off the season.  It is good to have the support of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports.  We will go after this thing, hopefully get it resolved and beaten and go back to business.  Right now we are focused on getting through Phoenix and trying to win this championship this year.” 

Knaus is a many time offender and has been suspended more than a time or two during his tenure with Hendrick. But he's not sure if that past track record played any part in how the sanctioning body viewed this situation.

“I don’t know.  That is difficult for me to say.  You would have to go ask NASCAR about that,” he said.

Knaus is not worried about how this latest example of running afoul of the rules may impact his reputation with fans or inside the garage area. The crew chief is only focused on winning races and getting Johnson back into the title hunt in 2012.

Honestly, I’m here to do the best I can No. 48 team, and that is all that really matters to me," he said.  "As far as my reputation goes, I’m not too concerned about that. What we want to do is go out there and do the best thing we can for Hendrick Motorsports, the best thing for Lowe’s and try to win races and championships.” 

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:05 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 9:27 pm

Penske's move to Ford has major implications

By Pete Pistone

(Will a Dodge Charger compete in the Sprint Cup Series in 2013 or will the manufacturer leave?)

Now that the dust has settled on the bombshell announcement of Penske Racing leaving Dodge for Ford next season, what are the ramifications of the decision? 

Currently the only Dodge team in NASCAR, Penske’s move to the Blue Oval means a more crowded Ford camp and at this point a giant void for his former manufacturer. 

Penske’s return to Ford gives “The Captain” a better chance to be successful in his mind and was the only motivation in the change. 

“Let me say this, this wasn’t about money,” Penske said. “We’ve been operating for the last 10 years pretty much with some support in the previous years, maybe four or five years ago, but we needed to have a benchmark and I think that having that additional technical information flow through the process as Ford has outlined it to us, I think, was very important to us.” 

Until Thursday Penske and his organization had preached the gospel of being the only Dodge team as a benefit. With no other organizations in the sport, the manufacturer was able to funnel all of its resources to the two-car effort at Penske. 

That view obviously changed and apparently the opportunity to align with Ford presented a better option. 

“I think when we weighed the plusses and minuses of the opportunity, it was apparent to us that we need to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship and we have been trying to do it alone,” Penske said of being the lone Dodge entity.

“I think with a certain amount of sponsorship available to us and we were fielding two, three cars and then some in the Nationwide, but having the opportunity to benchmark with someone like Roush, who has been world-class, you could see the performance this past weekend with [Matt] Kenseth and how good their cars are, we thought that it was the time for us to evaluate other options.” 

Now it’s time for Dodge to evaluate what options are available in the post-Penske era. There is speculation the manufacturer may simply leave NASCAR and focus its resources on the various other forms of motorsports it currently participates in. 

Dodge plans to unveil its 2013 Charger next week in Las Vegas, an event that had been in the works for several weeks. The company still plans to show the car to the world obviously without Penske’s participation. 

Since work on the new Sprint Cup car has been on the drawing board for some time, it does seem unlikely Dodge would scrap that path and pull up its NASCAR stakes. 

However the statement released by the company on Thursday did leave the door open to that possibility. 

“Our motorsports involvement isn't limited to NASCAR. We do value our NASCAR program and will be evaluating the opportunities available moving forward,” said Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge’s Street Racing and Technology Brand and Motorsports, in the statement. “As those opportunities materialize, we'll reveal our 2013 plans, not only in NASCAR but in other forms of motorsports." 

That doesn’t sound like a resounding, “we’re sticking around NASCAR and the Sprint Cup Series” to me. 

Finding a new team to replace Penske appears to be a major challenge for Dodge’s NASCAR future. Most of the major organizations in the garage area are locked into manufacturer agreements for several years. 

A rumor that Richard Petty Motorsports, a former Dodge player that has its Ford contract up for renewal at season’s end, could return to the fold was shot down by the organization at least for the time being Thursday night. 

“We welcome Penske Racing to the Ford Racing Family in 2013,” read the statement.  “Additional teams mean more information for everyone and that's a very good thing from a competition standpoint. 

“We have a partnership with Roush Fenway Racing and we are happy to be a part of the Ford Racing program. As we always do, we will evaluate all of our options and make decisions based on what is ultimately best for our race team.” 

Other candidates may include Chip Ganassi’s team, which once was a Dodge operation in NASCAR. However Ganassi’s alignment with Chevy supporter DEI and his successful Earnhardt Childress Racing engine program would appear to be major hurdles to any kind of change. 

The elevation of a current Nationwide Series of even Camping World Truck Series to carry the Dodge banner in Sprint Cup is also possible, but such a program would more than likely take several years before becoming competitive at the sport’s top level. 

The coming days and weeks will very much shape the manufacturer landscape for 2013 and beyond. The introduction of the new Sprint Cup car next season pretty much levels the playing field and allows teams and their manufacturers to figure things out from a blank piece of paper.

But unless Dodge can find a new partner willing to be a lone wolf, it won’t be surprising to see one less manufacturer in the garage area next year.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 1, 2012 12:18 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 8:33 pm

Behind the Hauler: Kenny Francis

By Pete Pistone

  Kasey Kahne(L), Driver Of The #5 Farmer's Insurance Group, And Kenny Francis, Crew Chief Of The #5 Farmer's Insurance
(Francis is hoping to guide Kahne into the Chase and a possible Sprint Cup title in 2012)

Kasey Kahne
and crew chief Kenny Francis have been a successful tandem working together at a number of NASCAR operations. The duo spent last season with Red Bull Racing and went to victory lane in the second to last race of the year at Phoenix in anticipation of their long-planned move to Hendrick Motorsports.

As the 2012 season gears up, Francis is ready to guide Kahne behind the wheel of the Hendrick No. 5 Chevrolet. Although their season didn’t get off to the best start at Daytona with a variety of incidents and bad luck getting in the way, Francis believes a successful season as well as tenure at Hendrick lies ahead.

He joined SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” to preview the year and provide his perspective of working with Kahne and at Hendrick Motorsports:

Why do you and Kasey work so well together? What is it between you two?

We’ve got a lot of history together Kasey and I and we’ve been through a lot of ups and a lot of down too. We’ve got a great understanding of each other so hopefully we can be an asset to this organization and bring something to the table that’ll help everyone. We’re hopeful and confident that we’re going to run good and do well for Farmer’s (Insurance), all of our sponsors and the organization.

When did that chemistry begin?

Well we started working together the last race of 2005 officially but we had obviously known each other before that because he was our teammate at Evernham (Motorsports). So I’d say you know he was pretty young and I was younger too but he had a lot of talent and enthusiasm but I think we hit it off when we first met him. We started developing that relationship…it’s been a good time.

Assess him for us Kenny. What are some of the characteristics and attributes of Kasey Kahne that helps you as the crew chief try to get that car to victory lane on a more regular basis?

He’s pretty smart; he’s really good at thinking about the car and figuring out what he needs to go faster. He’s pretty analytical about things. He’s got a real good feel seat of the pants-wise. Which is great, he’s probably one of the most naturally talented people I know but he puts that together with a real good thought process.

Can you guys contend for multiple wins and a championship in 2012? A lot of people already have you as title contenders and expect big success in year one at Hendrick?

It’s too soon to kind of say anything. It’s going to take us some races to get used to things and understand the subtleties of these cars. The Hendrick chassis and bodies are a little different than what we had before. It all should be good. At the same time we are trying to sort out new cars and equipment and figure out what we’re building new, what we’re keeping from last year and there’s some uncertainty and unknowns.

How is he behind the wheel? It appears he keeps his emotions reigned in.

I think he’s good at that and a benefit yes. I mean everyone gets frustrated in this business, I mean it’s a tough business. You know it’s hard to keep your emotions in check in this business sometimes. Maybe some of that has rubbed off on me because I try to be even-keeled. I think that it’s an asset that you know if you’re having a tirade it’s not really doing anything to help solve the problem you’re having. If you’re going to get through it you have to put some thought into it and he’s very good about that.

You said you thought you could help the Hendrick team this year by maybe bringing a new perspective or some added information. Specifically are there things you’ve already been able to bring to the table here in the early going?

Well they struggled last year on their intermediate program and some of the mile-and-a-half tracks and we were able to be pretty successful on what we were doing last year. So that’s one area we’re focusing on. But overall the resources we have to work with and the strength of this organization is something I haven’t really experienced before. Having the stability and the strength of Hendrick behind us is a really good feeling.

So what can you guys accomplish in 2012?

Expectations are always high. We think we can contend, win races and when you win races good things happen in the points department. We had a pretty good run last year in some difficult circumstances for a lot of people and we had a good Chase. I’m hoping that momentum can carry over for 2012. We learned a lot last year that will help us this season and hopefully help the entire organization.

Early on we need to get our feet wet and get going, run a few races and see where we're at and see what we've got to work on as we go forward from there. Every place has a little bit different strengths and weaknesses. And we're looking forward to getting going. 

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 2:44 pm

Penske Racing leaving Dodge for Ford in 2013

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(The debut of the new Fusion in 2013 will include Penske Racing as part of the Ford program)

In a blockbuster announcement Penske Racing will join the Ford camp in 2012 leaving Dodge.

An official announcement was made Thursday morning confirming earlier reports the long-time NASCAR team would campaign Fords in NASCAR beginning next season.

“We look forward to joining the Ford Racing NASCAR program beginning in 2013," said team owner Roger Penske. "We appreciate the long-term commitment that Ford has made to Penske Racing and for their continued support of the sport.”

More: Dodge statement regarding departure

The move returns Penske to the manufacturer a partnership that began in 1976 and 1977. Penske left and came back in 1994 before aligning with Dodge.

In total, through 524 NASCAR starts (509 Cup Series and 15 Nationwide Series) with Ford, Penske Racing teams earned 28 victories (27 Cup Series and one Nationwide Series) and 42 pole positions (36 Cup Series and six Nationwide Series).

The announcement was a surprise to many as Penske's two car tandem of Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger were both considered pre-season favorites for victories as well as possible Chase contenders.

Only one race into the new year, the organization and the manufacturer decided to announce their new partnership.

“It was important to get this agreement in place early so that we can plan ahead for the debut of the new 2013 NASCAR Fusion,” said Jamie Allison, Ford Racing director. “We will work with Roush Fenway on the final development of the new car during this season, but we want to be able to have our teams building their new cars for the 2013 season before the end of the year, as the transition to the new body is taking place.

“With the operations and technology resources Penske brings from all forms of racing, we know they will be a strong addition to our program, and we look forward to working with them and all our teams to create a stronger Ford NASCAR program with even greater depth.”

Ford unveiled its new 2013 Fusion during a media event in Charlotte back in January and the manufacturer sees the addition of Penske to its line-up of NASCAR organizations including Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports as another opportunity to win the Sprint Cup title in 2013.

“This is an historic day for our racing program, and we are thrilled to see another member of the extended Ford family coming back,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas. “Working together with Penske Racing gives Ford another championship-level program, and we are excited to take our racing program to all-new levels.”

Where this news leaves Dodge and its NASCAR program is still murky. Penske was the only team in teh Dodge camp fielding entries in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.

Dodge is set to unveil its new 2013 Sprint Cup Charger next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but at this point does not have a team aligned with the manufacturer for the new year. 

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 1, 2012 10:02 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:31 am

Report: Penske to switch from Dodge to Ford

By Pete Pistone

Autoweek is reporting that Penske Racing will leave the Dodge camp and field Fords for the 2013 season. An official announcement is expected to come Thursday afternoon.

Penske has fielded Dodges since 2003, winning 26 times in that span.

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Category: Auto Racing
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