Susan & David Stone
Official Photographers 1999-2006
  NASCAR Southwest Series


 Sprint Cup


(March 27, 2011)            


              Last-Lap Pass Gives Harvick Win at Fontana

Reid Spencer -  NASCAR

Kevin Harvick, who grew up in Bakersfield—about 150 miles from Auto Club Speedway—needed a last-lap pass of Jimmie Johnson to win for the first time at the 2-mile track, in his 18th attempt.

Harvick won Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, powering his No. 29 Chevrolet to the outside of Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy through Turns 3 and 4 and beating Johnson to the finish line by .144 seconds.

Harvick, who restarted fifth with nine laps remaining, surged to the front on the final two laps, passing Kyle Busch and Johnson in the process. The victory was Harvick’s first of the season and 15th of his career and moved him up six spots in the points standings to ninth.

Busch, who led a race-high 151 laps, came home third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman. Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne and polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top 10. Edwards took over the series lead by nine points over Newman.

Busch held the lead until Lap 198, when Johnson passed him to the inside after the cars crossed the stripe. The duel between Busch and Johnson allowed Harvick to gain ground.

A caution on Lap 185 of 200, after Bobby Labonte blew a right front tire and slammed the Turn 4 wall, meant decision time for the crew chiefs. With Labonte’s wrecked car blocking the entrance to pit road, the pits remained closed until Lap 189, when Labonte’s car was dragged to the garage by a wrecker.

Busch, Johnson, Tony Stewart, Bowyer, Harvick, Newman and Edwards stayed on the track during the caution, with Kenseth leading a group of cars to pit road.

“Those guys just started to race,” Harvick said. “They got side by side, and we were able to pull up in there. The more laps we got on our tires, the better we were, but I was really nervous about that last call—staying out—but it all worked out in our favor, and we were able to make up ground.

“(Crew chief) Gil (Martin) obviously knew that we were better after the tires had air in them (as pressure built during green-flag runs), and it all worked out today.”

Johnson’s battle with Busch opened the door for Harvick, who led one lap—the one that counted.

“If I could have gotten by the No. 18 (Busch) a lap sooner, maybe that would have made the difference, and I would have had enough of a margin to hold off the No. 29, but he was rolling on the top,” Johnson said. “I did all I could. I was dead sideways. I think I hit the fence one time off of (Turn) 2, chasing Kyle, with the right rear first because it was sliding off the corner.”

After a cycle of stops that began when Busch pitted from the lead on Lap 138, Busch held a 6.5-second lead over Stewart, who began to make up ground throughout the ensuing green-flag run. Stewart had erased all but 1.3 seconds of Busch’s advantage when another cycle of green-flag stops widened the lead to 2.5 seconds.

Andy Lally’s spin off Turn 4 on Lap 170, however, brought out the third caution of the race and bunched the field for a restart on Lap 175. Busch and Stewart took the green flag side-by-side, with Busch in the outside lane, and the driver of the No. 18 Toyota pulled away to a half-second lead within three laps.

Notes: Sunday’s race was Harvick’s 39th at Fontana in NASCAR’s top three series. He is winless in 17 NASCAR Nationwide Series and four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts. He finished third in Saturday’s Royal Purple 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. … Harvick’s victory was the first at Fontana for team owner Richard Childress. … Harvick teammate Paul Menard finished 16th, improving on his previous best finish of 18th at Fontana. Menard, who is seventh in the standings, has personal-best results at all five tracks this season. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home 12th and fell to 12th in points, 31 behind Edwards.

February 27, 2011


Late Surge Helps Gordon Break 66-Race Drought 

 Reid Spencer -  NASCAR

AVONDALE, Ariz.—Jeff Gordon didn’t just drive to end hunger Sunday—he drove to end a famine

With a convincing victory in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, where he beat runner-up Kyle Busch to the checkered flag by 1.137 seconds, Gordon ended a 66-race winless streak dating to April 2009 at Texas.
 The win was Gordon’s second at the one-mile flat track and the 83rd of his career, tying him with Cale Yarborough for fifth on the NASCAR Sprint Cup victory list.
 He won for the first time in his second start with crew chief Alan Gustafson and in his second race under "Drive to end hunger" sponsorship, an initiative of AARP.
 "Pinch me, man. Pinch me," Gordon said in mock disbelief, after killing his engine in an ill-fated burnout on the frontstretch.
 Five-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson finished third after starting 28th. Kevin Harvick came home fourth, a substantial improvement over his 42nd-place result in last week’s Daytona 500, and Ryan Newman claimed fifth.
 Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top 10.
 In victory lane, Gordon was positively bubbly.
 "God, it feels so amazing," the four-time Cup champion said. "I can’t tell you how amazing this feels. So thankful to (owner) Rick Hendrick, all that he does. It’s been a long time, I know. I’m going to savor this one so much, but I’ve got to say thanks to the fans.
 "I mean not only the fans at home—I’ve been tweeting lately for the first time and all of the stuff that people have been saying, the motivation has been unbelievably inspiring. And then to see that crowd stick around to see my really lame burnout—because I stink at them—but they love that show. Man, we hope we can give them some more shows like that this year."
 Taking the lead on Lap 304 of 312, Gordon prevented Busch from achieving the second weekend sweep of his career. Busch had won Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race and Saturday’s Nationwide Series event.
 On Sunday, however, he fell nine laps and one position short of matching the feat he accomplished at Bristol last August, when he became the first driver to win races in all three of NASCAR’s top national touring series at the same track on the same weekend.
 "There’s always got to be the one car out there to ruin the whole weekend," Busch quipped. "Today it was the 24."
 Gordon nosed to the inside of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota at the start-finish line and cleared him in Turn 1 to complete the winning pass.
 "He was gaining on me really good, and I knew he was going to get to me eventually, and this place is so flat and it’s one groove that we all run the bottom," Busch said of the sequence where Gordon got to his bumper on Lap 304.
 "He got so tucked up behind me in (Turns) 3 and 4, he got me loose, and I could not put the gas down," Busch said. "I mean, he was so far up underneath me that I could not go forward."
 Busch, at least, could find some degree of consolation in taking over the lead in the series standings by three points over his brother, Kurt.
 Gordon had to survive a number of early wrecks, including a 13-car pileup on the backstretch that blocked the track with crippled cars and stopped the action on Lap 67.
 Slight contact between Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford and Brian Vickers’ No. 83 Toyota cut Vickers’ left rear tire and ignited a wild wreck that damaged the cars of Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, David Reutimann, Casey Mears, Travis Kvapil, David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, Regan Smith, Andy Lally and Robby Gordon.
 "We’re all better racecar drivers than this," a disgusted Bowyer said after the incident. "It’s pretty embarrassing, to be honest with you."
 The wreck occurred eight laps after contact between Kyle Busch and the No. 99 Ford of polesitter Carl Edwards sent Edwards into the Turn 3 wall. Edwards, who entered the race with the points lead, was able to return to the race but finished 28th, 52 laps back.
 "I’m not exactly sure what happened," Edwards said. "I’ll have to talk to Kyle about it. I thought at first he was just frustrated and he turned left to get back in line and he didn’t know I was there. But I watched the tape, and I think he really did get loose. He hit me hard, and I was left with nothing."
 Busch acknowledged responsibility for the wreck, saying repeatedly he owed an apology to Edwards.




Record-Setting Day At The Daytona 500

New All-Time Track Bests For Lead Changes, Lap Leaders


            DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2011) – The 53rd running of the Daytona 500, the first on the brand-new racing surface at Daytona International Speedway, featured a track-record 74 lead changes and 22 leaders.

            The lead-change record was especially noteworthy, considering the previous mark lasted more than three decades. The prior lead change mark was 60, set in the 1974 Daytona 500.

For the second consecutive year, the record for different leaders fell. In last year’s 500, 21 different drivers led.

Additionally, there were 16 cautions, a track record. The 60 caution laps tied a record at Daytona.

Sunday’s Daytona 500 continued a record-breaking Speedweeks trend. Last Saturday night, the Budweiser Shootout featured a record-breaking 28 lead changes.

Records also were broken in each of Thursday’s two Gatorade Duel races. The first Duel race had a record 20 lead changes. That mark was immediately broken in the second Duel event, which had 22 lead changes.

            Trevor Bayne, who became the youngest Daytona 500 winner (20 years, one day), led the final six laps. He gave the Wood Brothers organization its fifth Daytona 500 win. The Woods’ last victory came in 1976 with NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee David Pearson beating Richard Petty in a legendary last-lap battle. Bayne became the seventh driver to earn his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the Daytona 500.



      1998 Daytona 500 Victory Only Part Of The Intimidator’s Legend

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2011) — NASCAR returns this weekend. And around all the racing and adjoining pageantry, the sport will remember one of its legends.
Ten years ago this weekend, NASCAR lost Dale Earnhardt, a man who practically owned Daytona International Speedway’s high banks.
Earnhardt, who posted a track record 34 victories over 21 seasons, was without question Daytona’s dominant driver of the 1980s and 1990s.
He won at least once a seasonfor 10 consecutive years from 1990 and 1999, including the 1998 Daytona 500, and spent nearly as much time in Victory Lane as behind the wheel of his iconic, Richard Childress-owned black No. 3 Chevrolet and other competition vehicles.
Earnhardt, who died at age 49 following a final lap accident in the Feb. 18, 2001 Daytona 500, was seemingly luckless in the “Great American Race,” finishing second four times before finally winning the 500. Sure victories slipped away due to bizarre circumstances, ranging from a seagull-damaged front fender to a last-lap flat tire.
Still, the seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was hands-down the favorite every time the green flag waved in Daytona. He twice won the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola and captured the Gatorade Duel at Daytona a dozen times including every qualifying race between 1990 and 1999.
Earnhardt won the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 seven of the 15 times he competed – capped by the final five races he entered between 1990 and 1994.
He finished outside the top five in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona only once winning the non-points race six times including 1980, the first year Earnhardt became eligible.
His results in the now discontinued International Race of Champions were similar: six victories in 13 starts against stars of both international and domestic racing series.
Earnhardt’s success came as NASCAR’s live television era opened a window to millions of new fans. He became the face of the sport, especially in its signature event.
“Dale helped build this sport and make it what it is today and his legacy lives on,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman of the board and chief executive officer.
Said Richard Petty, the sport’s only other seven-time champion and winner of the 1979 Daytona 500, the first in which Earnhardt competed, “Dale came along at the right time. He took us to another level.”
Longtime media member Ed Hinton, who covered the 1979 race for the Atlanta Journal, said that performance identified Earnhardt as more than just another driver. “He owned (Daytona) from the first race he was on it,” said Hinton. “What they remember (about the 1979) race was the fight between Cale Yarborough and Bobby and Donnie Allison. What they don’t remember is a rookie named Earnhardt hung in there drafting the lead pack, second and third all day long.” Earnhardt finished eighth that race.
Earnhardt came up the old-fashioned way as the son of Ralph Earnhardt, one of the south’s top short track competitors. He rose from the North Carolina mill town of Kannapolis, racing his own, underfunded cars throughout the region to finally make it to NASCAR’s premier level and become a hero to millions of blue collar fans – who saw themselves mirrored in Earnhardt’s signature aviator sunglasses.
Car owner and longtime friend Childress explains it this way: “So many people knew Dale Earnhardt the race car driver but they also knew him as a person that worked on his farm throwing hay and tending his cattle.
“He worked every day and enjoyed it. That’s what fans loved about him.”
“Dale Earnhardt was a chip off the old block,” said Ned Jarrett, twice a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion due for induction later this spring into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “I built respect for him when I saw that he was going to be following in his dad’s footsteps. He was a working man’s hero. He never tried to be anything he was not and I respected that.”
Joe Gibbs, three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup championship owner and Pro Football Hall of Fame coach, said of Earnhardt, “I used to kid him, telling him that he could have played linebacker for me. He was so tough. He gained everyone’s respect by the way he handled adversity.
“Dale was a real man’s man. He was one tough dude.”
“He had a gift here at Daytona,” said Mark Martin (No. 5 Chevrolet). “(Daytona) was no different than racing him anywhere else. He was tough; no matter where you were or what you were driving.”
Bill Elliott (No. 09 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet), a two-time Daytona 500 winner and the 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, agrees that Earnhardt was an intimidating figure and definitely used it to his advantage both on and off the track.
“He tried to find out where his boundaries were and I think he pushed everybody as hard as they needed to be,” said Elliott. “If he had to rough you up to beat you, that was his style. He was a great competitor; he did a lot for the sport.”
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet), at least in the eyes of many fans, was Earnhardt’s foil in the 1990s. The two couldn’t have been more different – in age, background and personalities.
It made for one of NASCAR’s greatest rivalries, both at Daytona where Gordon won the 500 three times and elsewhere.
“Here’s this young kid from California growing up in modern-day motorsports … to the old-school, hard knocks Dale Earnhardt,” said Gordon during last week’s Media Day interviews. “It was just black and white, just two opposites in a way, even though later as Dale and I got to know one another we weren’t as opposite as maybe it was perceived from the outside.
“Still, that’s the way the fans thought of it and the way the media thought of it. It heightened the excitement of those races, those championship battles. Dale was just one of those kind of guys that it worked really well for him to have a rival. He had several throughout his career and he thrived on it.”
Earnhardt could be an enigma to reporters – talkative without prompting one day and hard to be found for comment the next, especially after a bitter loss.
Godwin Kelly, who followed much of Earnhardt’s Daytona career for the hometown Daytona Beach News-Journal, remembers examples of both.
“Earlier in his career … he was one of the guys that would just walk into the media center and just sit down. It was basically, ‘come get it, boys, this is it,” said Kelly. “This was before the media was as organized as it is now and he figured if anybody had any questions he’d get it all done in one shot. He was like a guy before his time.”
Earnhardt knew the importance of the media.
“He had a real appreciation for what we did,” Kelly said. “Maybe he didn’t like everything we wrote but the thought was, ‘Hey, NASCAR’s getting in the paper and that’s good for everybody.’”
Daytona International Speedway has asked fans to celebrate Earnhardt’s career by remaining silent during the third lap of Sunday’s 53rd Daytona 500. Commemorative No. 3 decals will adorn all of Richard Childress Racing’s race cars and trucks, transporters and pit boxes throughout the week.
“All of us at RCR and ECR [Earnhardt-Childress Racing] are honored to pay tribute to Dale on this 10th anniversary,” said Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing and Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines. “His legacy is still felt every day at RCR, ECR and throughout the world. We hope all of Dale’s fans appreciate this salute to their hero and ours.”


     NASCAR Lowers Age Limit For Touring Series

            Learner’s Permit Eligibility Also Expanded In All-American Series by Jason Christley, NASCAR

February 12, 2011

  NASCAR announced today it has lowered the minimum age for drivers competing in its regional touring series to 15.
The change, effective immediately, will be applied to drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
“We are constantly evaluating the process in which drivers are introduced to the sport and make their way up the NASCAR ladder,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR managing director of racing operations. “This change is the next logical step as the influx of talented young drivers entering NASCAR grows.
“The NASCAR touring series level is a great platform for developing the next generation of our sport’s stars. By making this adjustment, we are increasing the opportunities for drivers and crew members to compete and gain experience at the regional level, and prepare them for the higher levels of the sport.”
In a corresponding move, the Learner’s Permit License for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series will be applicable for all divisions at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks. The Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR's national championship program for its more than 55 sanctioned short tracks across North America. More than 10,000 drivers compete in the series annually.
Last year, NASCAR introduced the Learner’s Permit to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, which allowed drivers and crew members ages 14 and 15 to participate in tracks’ entry-level divisions.
In 2007, NASCAR lowered the age minimum for the regional touring series from 18 to 16. Current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano, then 17, won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship that season.
Ryan Truex, driving this season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, made his debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series at age 17 and won the last two East championships. Brett Moffitt, who will take over for Truex at Michael Waltrip Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, broke Logano’s record as youngest series winner in 2009 when he was 16.
In 2008, Ryan Preece was 17 when he set the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour record for youngest winner at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, while Erick Rudolph eclipsed that mark in 2009 at age 17.




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