Roush critical following plane crash

Friday, April 19, 2002 – NASCAR premier series team owner Jack Roush was hospitalized in critical condition following the crash of a private, experimental aircraft in Troy, Ala. Roush, who has flown aircraft for several years, crashed into a lake in a gated community. He was pulled from the wreckage by local resident Larry Hicks.

Roush was celebrating his 60th birthday with friends when the crash occurred. He had spent the day at Talladega Superspeedway where his four NASCAR premier series teams had qualified for the following Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.

Roush suffered a head injury and two broken legs in the accident, which occurred when the plane he was piloting struck a power line.

Hicks, a retired Marine who had trained in underwater rescue, dove into the fuel-filled water twice in order to free Roush from the wreckage, then administered CPR to the team owner on the wing of the aircraft until local rescue personnel arrived.

Clock strikes midnight for Wallace

Sunday, April 18, 2004 – Former series champion Rusty Wallace snapped a 105-race winless streak with a victory in the Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Wallace, driving for team owner Roger Penske, led the final 45 laps. It was career win No. 55 for the St. Louis native.

The win was the final victory in NASCAR’s premier series for Wallace. He posted eight top-five finishes the following year, including a runner-up at Pocono, before retiring at the end of the ’05 season.

The victory was the only win for Wallace in a Dodge. Previous wins had come in Pontiac and Ford entries.

The race took nearly 5 hours to complete due to a piece of concrete coming up from the track in Turn 3. The piece struck the No. 24 of Jeff Gordon while the field was under caution and resulted in a delay of more than one hour while repairs to the racing surface were completed.

All-Star race likely aero package preview

Clearing off the desk with spring break around the corner:

Charlotte Motor Speedway will once again be the 1.5-mile NASCAR version of a laboratory as officials announced the details of an updated aerodynamic package to be used in the 85-lap test case otherwise known as the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.

NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell and Speedway Motorsports, Inc., president Marcus Smith unveiled the particulars for this year’s non-points exhibition race Wednesday evening on the Fox Sports program “RaceHub.”

On the technical side, the updates consist of a radiator duct that will direct air flow from the engine compartment out through the hood and a one-piece splitter/radiator pan made of carbon fiber.

The purpose of the first is to address aero issues while also helping reduce engine temperatures; the purpose of the second is to provide help in the area of ride height sensitivity.

The ’19 race will be five laps longer than the ’18 version, and will consist of four stages of 30, 20, 20 and 15 laps.

The race winner will collect $1 million.

Changes to the aerodynamic package first put into play in the ’18 all-star race became the basis for the current ’19 aero package. Should these changes produce the desired effect, it’s likely a version of the package will be incorporated into the rules platform for the Generation 7 car scheduled for a 2021 rollout.

While a restrictor plate was used in the ’18 race, tapered spacers became part of the ’19 package. Both devices restrict air flow into the engine.

“Last year’s all-star rules package resulted in one of the most exciting all-star races in history,” O’Donnell said in a news release. “With a similar package and added elements that we could see in the next generation race car, we expect another must-watch event.”

Qualifying for the all-star race is scheduled for Friday, May 17.

Three segment winners from Saturday’s 50-lap Monster Energy Open (20-20-10 laps) will advance to the All-Star Race. A fourth driver will advance via fan vote.

Green and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages; only green-flag laps will count in the final segment.

Drivers who have already earned a berth in the All-Star race (as a 2018-19 race winner, previous All-Star Race winner or former series champion): Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford), Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 12 Ford), Clint Bowyer (SHR No. 14 Ford), Kurt Busch (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet), Denny Hamlin (JGR No. 11 Toyota), Kevin Harvick (SHR No. 4 Ford), Jimmie Johnson (HMS No. 48 Chevrolet), Erik Jones (JGR No. 20 Toyota), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford), Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford), Ryan Newman (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford) and Martin Truex Jr. (JGR No. 19 Toyota).

Talk of the need for more short tracks (and road courses) sent some folks to the archives …

Modern Era (1972-): The high-water mark for short tracks during the modern era came began in 1973 and ran through ’84 when there were 10 short-track races at five venues each year.

In ’73, the 10 races were part of a 28-race schedule; the tracks hosting two Cup races each season were Bristol, North Wilkesboro, Martinsville, Richmond and Nashville.

In ’85, the number of short-track races fell to eight when Nashville came off the schedule.

By ’97 the number had dropped to six, where it remains today, when North Wilkesboro was no longer hosting Cup races.

Prior to 1972, the number of short-track races fluctuated. In 1964 when the schedule consisted of 62 races, 48 were contested on tracks less than 1 mile in length.

As far as adding short tracks going forward, until the current five-year sanctioning agreements end (after 2020) there won’t be any changes in venues.

An off week means Christopher Bell might go more than seven days without being asked when he will exit the Xfinity Series for Cup competition. It’s been one of this year’s early storylines and it’s a legitimate item of interest since the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has the tools and the talent to compete at the Cup level.

He has 10 wins in the Xfinity Series, including two this season.

“That’s not really for me to decide,” Bell said at Bristol, where he pocketed a $100,000 bonus for winning the first of this season’s Dash 4 Cash events. “I just wait until they tell me where I’m landing.”

JGR fields four Cup teams with drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. It also fields Xfinity series entries for Bell, Brandon Jones and a third for various drivers.

Exactly where Bell, 23, might land in a move to Cup isn’t known. Besides JGR’s four Cup entries, Toyota is also aligned with Leavine Family Racing.

Two other organizations field Toyotas but are not competing fulltime – Gaunt Brothers Racing and Motorsports Business Management.

JGR owner Joe Gibbs has said that Bell “has a place with us long-term,” as does Jones.

“That’s our goal; that’s what we’ll keep working on,” said Gibbs.

Bell said he hopes to continue to race outside of NASCAR when the opportunity allows. Even before he won the Bristol bonus, he said the six-figure windfall could become seed money for his own racing efforts.

“I think my ultimate dream, short term, is to have a sprint car for me to go race whenever I can … and then long-term I’d like to have a team that maybe runs the World of Outlaws or maybe just has a true outlaw schedule,” he said.

Could he focus just on NASCAR? Sure. Just don’t ask him to. He’s been racing some sort of open-wheel machine since he was six years old.

“It would be very, very difficult,” Bell said. “It’s been my life.”

Bell isn’t eligible for round No. 3 of the Dash 4 Cash bonus after finishing 16th last weekend at Richmond. Cole Custer, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick will be competing for the bonus when the program resumes at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway April 27.

In case you were wondering: Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson ran his first marathon Monday, completing the Boston Marathon in 3 hr., 9 min. 7 sec.

Johnson began his NASCAR Cup career in 2001 and since that time, there hasn’t been one Cup points race that lasted exactly 3:09.07.

A couple have been close.

Coming in just six seconds shy was the 2009 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (3:09.01). Mark Martin was the race winner and Johnson finished fourth.

The time of race for the 2004 Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was a shade longer – 3:09.15. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race; Johnson finished fourth, again.

There was also the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond Raceway (Sept. 8, 2001), a race that lasted 3:09.11. But Johnson made only three starts that season, and Richmond wasn’t one of the three.

That’s a lot of lead changes

Sunday, April 17, 2011 – Jimmie Johnson passed Jeff Gordon for the 88th lead change, tying a series record, on the final lap of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. There had also been 88 lead changes the previous year at Talladega.

Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick finished first through fifth. It was Johnson’s 54th career victory in NASCAR’s premier series.

There were five lead changes in the final five laps of the 188-lap race with Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Edwards, Gordon and Johnson moving to the point.

Twenty-six of the 43 drivers in the starting lineup led at least one lap. Bowyer led the most at 38.

At 2.66 miles, Talladega is the longest track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

A pole and a punch for Bodine

Friday, April 16, 1993 – Brett Bodine sped to the fourth pole of his career, taking the top spot for the First Union 400 NASCAR Cup race at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway. Moments later, he was involved in an altercation with fellow driver Ricky Rudd in the garage.

Rudd was angry about to contact between the two drivers two weeks earlier at Bristol Motor Speedway. Bodine said he told Rudd he didn’t want to discuss that incident until Rudd had seen a replay. Rudd, he said, told him his pole run was “nice,” but that he would be “in the fence” in the race.

“We’re not children,” Bodine said. “… If you can’t control your emotions any better than that out of the race car you don’t belong in a race car.”

NASCAR officials met with the two drivers the following day but took no action.

Bodine’s older brother, Geoff, qualified on the outside of the front row for the North Wilkesboro race.

Running the numbers after Richmond

Where to begin? Another win by a Joe Gibbs Racing team?

That’s six in the season’s first nine races as Martin Truex Jr. joins teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin in the win column.

Maybe as NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series heads into its first break, the story isn’t how good JGR has been out of the gate but how others have struggled.

Chevrolet teams are now 0-for-9 and that will continue to be an issue. Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 marked the first time all season that a Chevrolet driver failed to lead at least one lap. The last time that happened was last fall’s stop at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway).

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch has been the most consistent of Chevy drivers, finishing inside the top 10 on six occasions.

Ford has a stellar lineup but thus far only Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have struck pay dirt, winning the three races that JGR somehow overlooked.

Stewart-Haas Racing hasn’t been invisible – Kevin Harvick is fourth in points, Clint Bowyer seemed in contention for wins at Bristol and Richmond while Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez are 11th and 12th in points, respectively. But there’s nothing in the win column yet.

Saturday’s win was No. 20 for Truex, tying him with Speedy Thompson for 41st overall on the NASCAR Cup win list. Thompson’s last victory came at Richmond in 1960.

There are more Richmond tie-ins: Jeremy Mayfield, Carl Edwards and now Truex all won at Richmond with the No. 19. The first of Mayfield’s two victories in the No. 19 (for Evernham Motorsports) came at Richmond in ’04; it was the final race of the “regular” season and catapulted the driver into that year’s Chase.

Truex is the fourth different driver to win a Cup race using the No. 19. The others were John Rostek (Arizona State Fairgrounds in 1960), Mayfield and Edwards.

He is the 10th driver to win a Cup race with JGR, joining Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Hamlin, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Logano and Edwards.

Besides being the sixth Cup win for Toyota this year, it was win No. 130 for the automaker since it began fielding Cup teams in ’07. Overall, Toyota now has a combined 468 wins in Cup, Xfinity (154) and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series (184).

Kyle Busch picked up his fifth stage win of ’19 at Richmond and the 25th of his career; Logano won a stage for the fourth time this season. Neither total includes final stage (race) wins. Combined with bonus points for race wins, Busch has already earned 20 playoff points.

On Friday, Harvick ended the run of eight different pole winners to start the season. The SHR driver also started out front at Las Vegas.

Got me to wondering who might be in the midst of longest dry spell when it comes to poles. First thought was Ryan Newman, who won poles frequently earlier in his career and has 51 to his credit.

Now competing for Roush Fenway Racing, Newman’s last pole came in 2013.

That’s not the longest among active drivers though.

Clint Bowyer’s last pole came in 2007. It’s one of two for the SHR racer, it came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bowyer went on to win the race.

Noted in the points standings after nine races: The top two in points are unchanged from this time last season – Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Fourth and fifth are the same as well – Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. So four of the top five are 2018 all over again. What are the odds of that being the case?

Likewise for Aric Almirola (11th) and Austin Dillon (14th).

Several others in the top 16 are within a position or two of their points position a year ago – Truex and Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

An Xfinity note: Tyler Reddick won the Xfinity championship last year with JR Motorsports and while he hasn’t won a race yet since switching to Richard Childress Racing, Reddick is your points leader through eight races. Says something about the driver and the team.

Christopher Bell (2), Cole Custer (2) and Michael Annett are your series regulars in victory lane so far and they’re second, third and seventh in points.

And along those lines … was reminded last week that the success for Cup teams winning this year shouldn’t come as a surprise since rules packages have slowly made Cup entries more similar to their Xfinity brethren (or so we’ve been told). And which teams have been dominant in Xfinity in recent years?

NASCAR takes a break for the Easter holiday this weekend; next up will be Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Cup and Xfinity teams April 27-28. The Truck Series will be back on track at Dover (Del.) International Speedway May 3.

Schrader first to establish NASCAR mark

Saturday, April 15, 1995 – NASCAR competitor Ken Schrader became the first driver to register wins in all three of NASCAR’s national series when he claimed the Craftsman 200 Truck Series race at Saugus (Calif.) Speedway. The Fenton, Mo., native had earned his first Cup win in 1988 and won in the Busch (now XFINITY) Series the following season.

Schrader had to overcome a penalty for rough driving early in the 200-lap race; he eventually moved to the front when leader Butch Miller and Joe Ruttman tangled.

At the start of the 2019 NASCAR season, 28 drivers had won at least one race in all three series, the most recent being Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon.

NASCAR adds Indy to ’94 Cup schedule

Wed., April 14, 1993 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials announce the legendary track will host a 400-mile race for NASCAR’s premier series Aug. 6, 1994. It will mark the first time any type of racing other than the annual Indianapolis 500 for open-wheel entries has been contested on the 2.5-mile speedway.

Nine NASCAR teams had tested at Indy the previous year (1993) as NASCAR and Indy officials considered the move.

The inaugural Brickyard 400 was scheduled for 400 miles to avoid overshadowing the 500 and to fit into a 3-hour time slot for broadcast purposes. It was scheduled as a Saturday event, leaving Sunday as a potential rain date should one be required.

Pearson’s final win comes at Darlington

Sunday, April 13, 1980 – No rust was evident for David Pearson as the Silver Fox from Spartanburg, S.C., made a triumphant return to NASCAR’s premier series, winning the CRC Chemicals Rebel 300 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. It was the three-time champion’s first start in the series since winning the Southern 500 Labor Day classic on the same track the previous year.

The victory was No. 105 for Pearson, driver of the No. 1 Hoss Ellington-owned Chevrolet, and was his last in NASCAR’s top series. He was the second driver to top 100 victories and currently remains second on the all-time win list behind Richard Petty (200 wins). He ended his racing career with a Darlington track record 10 victories.

The race was stopped after 258 of the 367 scheduled laps had been completed due to darkness. Earlier, the race had been delayed for 2 hr., 18 min., because of rain. Pearson led a race-high 99 circuits around the 1.366-mile track.

Pole winner Benny Parsons, Harry Gant, Darrell Waltrip and Dick Brooks completed the top five.

Hooters exits as primary sponsor

Monday, April 12, 1993 – Hooters officials announce the restaurant chain is withdrawing its primary sponsorship of the No. 7 Ford for Alan Kulwicki Racing effective immediately. The decision comes 11 days after a plane crash claimed the lives of owner/driver Alan Kulwicki, Mark Brooks (son of Hooters CEO Bob Brooks) and two others. “The relationship between Hooters and Alan Kulwicki was unique,” Bob Brooks said. “… It is unrealistic to think that such a relationship could be formed with a new owner and driver in so short of a time.”

The crash occurred Thur., April 1 approximately six miles from Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville, Tenn. The Food City 500 NASCAR Cup Series race was scheduled for Bristol Motor Speedway that weekend. Kulwicki was the defending series champion as well as the defending race champion.

Bojangle’s, sponsor for Cale Yarborough Motorsports and driver Derrike Cope, also sponsored the No. 7 at North Wilkesboro (April 16-18) along with Easter Seals Foundation and Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children. It was the first appearance by the team since the plane crash, following an off-weekend after the Bristol race. Jimmy Hensley drove the car to a 12th-place finish.

Team owner Felix Sabates oversaw the operations of the Kulwicki team until a buyer could be found. NASCAR competitor Geoff Bodine announced on May 11 that he had purchased the team.

Sabates said the Hooters decision to withdraw its sponsorship was due to his refusal to name ARCA driver Loy Allen driver of the No. 7 entry instead of Hensley. The company sponsored Allen in seven ARCA races in ’93 and eventually seven Cup races (through Naturally Fresh) during the second half of the ’93 season. Allen qualified for four of the seven Cup races.

According to reports, Sabates stated that he “was empowered to do what is best for the team.”

“I am not going to put a nobody in the car,” he said.