Garage chatter: What’s the news?

Nov. 19 news and notes

Carl Edwards takes on new role — 3:30 p.m. ET

Carl Edwards may not be ready to quit his day job, but he’s certainly adding to his layers of talent.

Add musician to the role – after the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver made a surprising appearance with the Zac Brown Band during the fan festival in Miami Beach on Thursday night.

“I heard their song ‘Chicken Fried’ but I didn’t know that was them until it was either after we met or halfway through our conversation,” Edwards said. “They’re just the most down-to-Earth, humble guys, so they were playing last night and they threw it out there that I could play with them if I wanted to. I figured that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I had a blast.

"The bass player, about halfway through the song came over and as cool as he could be said, ‘Did they tune that guitar for you?’ I mean, right in the middle of the song, and I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘It sounds out of tune.’ And he walked away. I was like, ‘Oh, boy.’ And then he turned around and laughed. I thought that was pretty sly of him. We had a really good time, though.

“It’s just a great group of guys. Zac Brown is starting a camp for kids, and we talked a little bit about it before we went up there, but he’s buying the property himself, putting up all the money and following in the footsteps of folks like Kyle and Pattie Petty, trying to do something good in the world, so just really good guys. It was a blast for me and I really enjoyed it. I don’t know if I did well or not, but I had fun and that was my No. 1 goal. I’m not a good musician by any stretch of the imagination, but I practiced that song a little bit and it was just cool to be able to go up there and do it. That was really, really fun. Those guys are massively talented, and they did a good job of making me feel comfortable. It’s something I’ll never forget. It was just really, really cool.”


Robby Gordon has to pull logos — 1:30 p.m. ET

Robby Gordon is not allowed to use the logo he developed for his new Speed energy drink, according to a story on SceneDaily.com.

The story cites a court order that granted an injuction against Gordon for using the logos, something that could prove costly to the owner/driver planning to use that company to back his NASCAR Sprint Cup team next season.

A district judge ruled Thursday in favor of Specialized Bicycle Components, which had claimed a violation in the look of the logo compared to its own.

According to SceneDaily, Gordon cannot sell any product that features the logo, nor can he use it on his race car.

“If Speed Energy is unable to sell its energy drink products, it will not be able to sponsor our team in 2011,” Gordon said in a statement to the court filed last month. “Without that sponsorship and the resulting revenue, … our NASCAR team would be devastated.

“We would no longer be in a position to field cars and personnel at race events.”

The story further quotes the court filing as stating that using the logo on Gordon’s race car for 10 races has been worth $2.25 million.


 

 

Nov. 18 news and notes

Why will I be Cup champion? — 3:30 p.m. ET

Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have been somewhat consumed by the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup in recent weeks.

They’ve talked strategy and pit stops and fuel mileage.

Yet, each had to stop a moment when asked a simple but critical question during Thursday’s championship contenders’ news conference in Florida. The trio is preparing for the final race of the season, Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hamlin brings a 15-point lead over four-time defending champion Johnson and a 46-point lead over Harvick into the race.

The question, though, that gave each pause? Why are you going to win the championship.

For Harvick, the answer was easier than it was for the others. While he jokingly referenced Hamlin’s lack of fuel mileage last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, a setback that ended Hamlin’s shot at building a larger lead heading into this weekend, he pointed out the no-holds-barred attitude of his team.

“I think for us, it’s one of those scenarios where we don’t have any pressure on us,” he said. “We go and we race as hard as we can. Hopefully they put that same carburetor on Denny’s car that they had last week.

“For us, it’s going to come down to those guys. I think (Hamlin) needs to make a mistake. We’ve got to outrun both of them. So for us it’s very simple: You let it all hang out, see where it all falls in the end, see where the mistakes crop up this week.”

Johnson, meanwhile, finds himself adjusting to his position of trying to catch the leader entering the season finale. In each of the last four seasons, he’s headed to Homestead with a points lead – often a relatively comfortable one. Now, he needs to perform.

“For us, the small points gap, the way we’ll win the championship is by doing our jobs,” he said. “If we go out and lead the most laps, win the race, we’ll be potentially in a tie situation. But that’s what our motive is. That’s what we need to do, is go out and do our jobs. We’re capable of doing it. We’ve done it in the past. Now it’s time to step up as a team and go out and do it.”

For Hamlin, though, the pressure is more intense. He’s never been in this position – and he’s never been a Cup champion. As he offers his answer, it’s clear his thoughts run in a more defensive direction. Can he hold off the challengers and be champion?

“Anything can decide the championship,” Hamlin said. “It could be wrecks. It could be luck. It could be strategy. Any of those things. The one thing that’s tough to get is speed. I feel like we have good speed. So I like that part of it being on our side. Yeah, we probably realistically will have the worst fuel mileage of these other two guys. But, you know, we’ll have to take the speed. Hopefully things work out for us. If they don’t, we’ll work on our whole program next year.

“For me, I’m in a good situation because, like I said before, if I go out there and I do what we’ve done all year and perform really well, then it’s up to them to go out there and better us. We don’t have to beat one of these guys by a certain amount of positions, we just have to stay ahead and that’s it. That’s not going to be an easy feat. We know that. But we have the speed, I feel like, to do that.”


Edwards seeks partial Nationwide sponsorship — 12:15 p.m. ET

Carl Edwards plans to stay busy in 2011, now his team has to find the financial backing to keep up with him.

Along with his Sprint Cup Series duties, Edwards plans to compete full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2011 for the seventh consecutive year. Roush Fenway Racing is seeking a half-season sponsorship on the No. 60 Ford Mustang to help secure funding for the entire season.

"I’m going into my seventh season running full time in the Nationwide Series and we have one of the strongest teams we’ve ever had," Edwards said. "We’re coming off back-to-back wins at Texas and Phoenix, and we have a lot of really exciting things planned for the Mustang in 2011, so right now is one of the most exciting times for me in the Nationwide Series. I think we have a very real opportunity to add to our 29 wins and our championship next season, and I look forward to being partnered with sponsors who would like to be part of it."

Fastenal, which sponsored the team this year, will continue its relationship with Edwards and RFR for 15 of the 34 Nationwide Series races. Along with the 2007 Nationwide Series drivers championship, Edwards has amassed 29 victories, 106 top fives, 145 top-10 finishes and 21 poles. Currently Edwards is second in the Nationwide Series standings with four wins including the last two consecutive races at Texas and Phoenix.

— Rea White


Petty team on road to Homestead — 9 a.m. ET

After a brief delay Wednesday at Roush Fenway Racing, which supplies Richard Petty Motorsports with its NASCAR Sprint Cup cars, the team is on the road to Homestead-Miami Speedway. The organization has faced financial struggles in recent weeks and was delayed transporting its cars from the race at Texas to last week’s race at Phoenix International Raceway because of those. Originally scheduled to leave at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, the group was on the road at 8 p.m. ET.

— Lee Spencer


Nov. 17 news and notes

More drama for Petty team?  — 5:30 p.m. ET

Richard Petty Motorsports haulers were loaded and sat waiting to be released from Roush Fenway Racing on Wednesday. The trucks scheduled departure time of 5 p.m. ET came and went.

Stay tuned for more.

— Lee Spencer


Bass Pro to stay with Childress, Dillon — 2 p.m.  ET

Bass Pro Shops has announced it will continue its longtime relationship with Richard Childress Racing and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Dillon.

Dillon is currently fifth in the 2010 Truck standings. He has two wins, six pole positions (a series rookie record) and seven top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 24 races.

"It is an honor for us to continue our relationship with Richard Childress Racing and Austin Dillon," Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris said. "Austin is an extremely talented driver and has done a great job as a spokesperson for our company and been a real friend to all of us at Bass Pro Shops.

"Our relationship goes beyond the racetrack and has also led to many great times in the woods and on the water with Austin and Richard. It is our hope that this partnership brings awareness to all the conservation groups our company is involved with as well as all the conservation work Richard has done," Morris continued.

The company first joined forces with RCR in 1998 as an associate on the No. 3 Chevrolet of driver Dale Earnhardt. The relationship has continued with Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series.

"It’s an honor for RCR to be involved with Bass Pro Shops because of all they do for hunting, fishing and outdoor conservation,” team owner Richard Childress said. “Austin has had a great season so far and has been a great spokesman who has been able to get more young people interested and involved in hunting and fishing."
 


Nov. 16 news and notes

Crew chiefs gear up for Sprint Cup finale — 5:00 p.m. ET

The three NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chiefs for the teams fighting for the title offered insight Tuesday into their approach to Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Mike Ford, crew chief for points leader Denny Hamlin, should be in an easier spot than the others as his team leads the standings. But Ford is coming off a race weekend in which his team faltered. Hamlin’s group had a chance to significantly extend its lead on the other contenders, but had to pit late for fuel and ended up saving only 15 points of its lead.

Tuesday, Ford talked about Hamlin’s emotional reaction to that and comments that he made following the race — and how the team is moving past it.

“You know, the post-race comments, you mix — don’t take this the wrong way. When you’ve got a guy who’s not educated on what your limitations are and then you mix a little frustration with it, you get inaccurate statements, and then you’ve got to go back and educate and then everything makes sense,” Ford said.

“Denny is a competitor. He’s very smart in the race car. He knows what he’s looking for. He knows how to call races. He watches these races back, he studies them, he asks a lot of questions. But when you mix partial information with lack of information and then throw in a little frustration, you get inaccurate comments. I think he did good in his post-race at one point, then when he got to the media center, it just became more frustrating for him, and he said some things that weren’t true.

“I can deal with that. I respect that. I’m the same way. I’ll blow my stack occasionally as well, and say things I wish I wouldn’t have said. But you can look over that. That’s nothing new. That’s how you handle it. And by the time he gets to Homestead, I guarantee that even by the time yesterday rolled around, he had a different outlook on things, and I’m sure that he’s going to be 100 percent focused when he rolls into Homestead. He knows the deal.”

Chad Knaus, four-time championship crew chief with driver Jimmie Johnson, faces a little uncertainty this weekend as his team tries to overcome its 15-point deficit to Hamlin. Johnson and Knaus have not entered Homestead trailing during their four-year reign — and the pair haven’t had to really race for the title at the track since Johnson has generally held a somewhat comfortable advantage entering the race.

“I think the biggest concern that I’ve got currently is that we haven’t gone to Homestead to truly race yet,” Knaus said. “We’ve gone down there with a bit of a protective mindset, so I think that puts us a little bit behind compared to the other guys. Denny, he ran top five most of the race last year. They had a good pit stop at the end, got some good track position, was able to win the race and that was a good job by them.

“We ran 15th to fifth the majority of the day but never really had to get ourselves in a position where we had to push the car a whole lot. So we haven’t had to be the aggressor there, so I think that puts us a little bit behind the eight ball. But then again, when we go to tracks for the first time and try to get aggressive with it, we usually do pretty well. So I think that it could be a good thing also.”

Meanwhile, Gil Martin — crew chief for third-place Kevin Harvick — and his group will attempt to overcome a 46-point deficit in the standings. Harvick and Martin, in some ways, have an edge. They have nothing to lose — and they haven’t been involved in the banter that has been going on between the top two. And that suits him just fine.

“One, I’m surprised that we have stayed out of it because we’re usually in the middle of most of this kind of stuff,” he said. “But secondly, I mean, I think it’s kind of a waste of time to do a lot of smack talking with the 48 (of Johnson). They have been in this position many times. They haven’t been trailing going into Homestead, but a team of that caliber, you’re not going to do a lot of smack talking and bother them a whole lot. They’re going to go down there focused with a mission, and I think a lot of that will — has the potential of backfiring on you.

“We’re just going down there looking to — we know the job that we have at hand, and we’re going with our best piece, and I think our driver is ready and psyched up about it after our meeting this morning, and just looking forward to it.”

— Rea White


Nov. 15 news and notes

From the editors’ desks … — 10:30 a.m. ET

Somehow things just keep getting closer in the battle for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

This weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, it looked for most of the race as if Denny Hamlin was going to deal a major blow to the championship campaigns of four-time champion Jimmie Johnson and fellow challenger Kevin Harvick. Hamlin led 190 laps in a race where Harvick had to recover from pitting an extra time after a lugnut was left loose on his car and Johnson just never seemed to get his car dialed in the way he wanted.

In the end, though, Hamlin had to pit for fuel when the others nursed their cars to the end – and the championship race grew even tighter heading to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

More on that later, but first let’s take a look at other weekend action.

All three series were together for the second consecutive week.

In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Clint Bowyer took a turn behind the wheel of a Kevin Harvick Inc. truck – and took a trip to Victory Lane. His win was rightly overshadowed, though, as Germain Racing’s Todd Bodine clinched his second career Truck title.

In the Nationwide Series, Carl Edwards continued to flex his muscle, winning for the second consecutive week. For highlights, click here.

Then came the Cup race.

Emotions were clearly running high even before the actual race. With Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick in a tight points battle, prerace interviews centered on whether any of the trio was being overlooked and reaction to both the Hendrick Motorsports crew swap between the Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon teams and some comments made regarding that change.

That created some entertaining remarks. Harvick called out Hamlin crew chief Mike Ford for playing mind games. Hamlin, leading the standings said he felt his team had been overlooked, at times. And Johnson topped them all by invoking Yoda. Or maybe Luke Skywalker.

Then the actual racing got underway. Hamlin turned in his dominating performance, but had to pit for fuel late, while Carl Edwards was able to conserve — and win. Edwards snapped a 70-race winless streak with the victory. Hamlin settled for 12th overall. (Photos)

That, combined with Johnson and Harvick finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, left the Chase race tight. Hamlin has a 15-point lead over Johnson, and 46 over Harvick, entering the season finale.

Hamlin was understandably upset over the turn of events. Johnson and Harvick were somewhat more pleased. Their takes? Watch here.

Now, all three series head into the season finale at Homestead.

The championship is, for the first time in a few seasons, really on the line.

Don’t miss anything. Keep up here. FOXSports.com is up-to-date on all aspects of the Chase, with complete coverage, photos, analysis and news appearing on our Chase Central page.

— Jorge A. Mondaca and Rea White

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