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Rolex 24 At Daytona impossible to predict
Strong field includes Sprint Cup Series drivers and actor Patrick Dempsey DAYTONA BEACH -- When the checkered flag falls on the 2015 Rolex 24 At Daytona at 2:10 p.m. Sunday afternoon, there's only one thing we now know for sure: The car that's the first under the flag will have earned the victory. "This is a strong field," said Scott Atherton, IMSA president and chief operating officer. "A very strong field." That may be an understatement. One year ago, the 2014 Rolex 24 was the first race for the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which consisted of the combined GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. Cars, personnel and schedules were combined, and no one really knew what would happen the first time the new TUDOR Championship took to the track. What happened was a race that ran at an absolutely frantic pace for the full 24 hours. Long gone are the days where teams could cruise at 90 percent, saving their equipment for the last few hours. Now, it's flat out, all day and all night. Bringing home the overall victory last year was the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP driven by Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais. That car was followed by three more Corvette DPs and a Nissan ORECA P2 car in fifth. For 2015, there are four Corvette DPs in the field, including the No. 5 Action Express entry, all sporting the new Stingray styling in the front and rear. For the stars to align and have all four Corvettes up front again is a long shot – even through the top three cars were all on the same lap at the finish, 695 laps after the start – the Prototype field is very strong this year. There are 16 Prototypes, including a pair of brand-new Honda HPD ARX cars racing under the Tequila Patrón ESM banner, as well as a Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 that Michael Shank Racing is bringing to the party. There's another new Ligier fielded by Krohn Racing, but it has Judd power. Mazda is back for its second year with a pair of diesel-powered Prototypes built and raced by SpeedSource that are showing a lot more speed than last year. And you can never count out the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates twins, both powered by Ford EcoBoost engines in Riley chassis. With a driver lineup that includes Scott Pruett, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Kyle Larson , Jamie McMurray , Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam, the two Ganassi cars have to be counted among the favorites. And, of course, there's those other three Corvette DPs – the No. 31 Whelen Corvette DP, a sister car to the Action Express No. 5; the VisitFlorida.com No. 90 and the always-formidable Konica Minolta No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing, which has brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor teaming with veteran Max Angelelli. Looking for a dark horse? The DeltaWing Racing Cars Claro/TracFone was fast in practice, as was the Starworks Dinan-powered Riley, which has an all-star driver lineup that includes Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rubens Barrichello. Of the four classes racing in the Rolex 24, the aforementioned Prototypes are the fastest, but not far behind are the open-cockpit Prototype Challenge cars, which use ORECA FLM09 chassis and Chevrolet engines. It's tough to pick a favorite from the eight entries, but expect the Starworks No. 8, the CORE Autosport No. 54, the RSR Racing No. 11 and the BAR1 Motorsport No. 16 to contend during the 24 hours. The GT Le Mans (GTLM) class is invariably among the most competitive and the highest profile, as the production-based cars are all backed by the manufacturers, and bragging rights are a strong motivation. Corvette Racing has its usual two-car entry and is always a threat to win, especially at a horsepower track like Daytona. There are three Porsche 911 RSR entries, two backed by Porsche North America, and one by Falken Tire, coming off an end-of-the-season victory at the 2014 Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta. The Bobby Rahal -led BMW Team RLL has a pair of BMW Z4 GTEs, and there are two Ferrari F458 Italias, one from AF Corse and one from Risi Competizione. But don't forget the lone Gulf-sponsored Aston Martin Vantage V8, which has a world-class roster of drivers. At 19, the largest of the four classes is GT Daytona (GTD), which – like GTLM, are familiar production-based cars – but don't have quite the power, or the price tag, of the GTLM entries. GTD is impossible to handicap, though the fact that there are nine Porsche 911 GT Americas in the field gives them the numerical advantage. There are three Ferrari 458 Italias, two Aston-Martin V12 Vantages, two Dodge Viper SRTs, a pair of Audi R8 LMS entries, and a lone BMW Z4, but that car is fielded by he respected Turner Motorsport, so don't write it off. If you have to play favorites, the two Alex Job-prepared Porsches (Nos. 22 and 23) should be there in the end, because few have mastered race strategy as well as Job. The No. 63 Ferrari of Scuderia Corsa seems to love the longer races, as does the Magnus Racing No. 44 Porsche. If you are looking for star power, that would be the No. 58 Dempsey/Wright Motorsports Brumos Porsche, with "Grey's Anatomy" actor Patrick Dempsey leading the four-driver team. Bottom line: Don't expect a runaway winner in any of the four classes – competition is simply too strong. Weather could be a factor, if the forecast for some damp weather for the weekend comes true – some cars, and some drivers, seem to thrive on wet pavement, and a slick surface tends to cripple the highest-horsepower entries, leveling the playing field and enhancing the importance of driver finesse. So keep your money in your pocket this weekend – the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona is simply too close to call. The Rolex 24 at Daytona will be broadcast from 2-4 p.m. Saturday on FOX; 4-8 p.m. on FOX Sports 2; 8-10 p.m. on FOX Sports 1; 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on IMSA.com , and on Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on FOX Sports 1. All times are Eastern. For more information on where to watch or listen to the 2015 Rolex 24, log onto IMSA.com .
Bruce: Weighing racing careers is serious business
RELATED: Class of 2017 announced " See all the nominees NASCAR's latest group of Hall of Fame inductees has been determined, but as is often the case, there are questions that remain unanswered. The selection of car owners Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Raymond Parks, along with driver Benny Parsons, as four of the five inductees for the Class of 2017 means that 24 of the 25 names on the inaugural list of nominees are now members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The only nominee from that list who has not been chosen for induction is Red Byron, NASCAR's first Modified and Strictly Stock (the forerunner of today's premier series) champion. Eight classes in and Byron, who won two races in just 15 career starts, appears no closer to selection than he did when the original list of nominees was released in July of 2009. Byron, who passed away in 1960, has obviously been seen as worthy of consideration by the Nominating Committee, which meets annually to compile each year's list for consideration by the Voting Panel. While it is not a requirement that those not chosen for induction remain on the list of nominees for the following year, it has often been the case. Should there be a limit to how long a nominee can remain on the Hall of Fame ballot? If a nominee hasn't been selected for induction after, say, 10 years, should his or her name come off the ballot? It doesn't appear likely that there will become an increasingly long list of nominees who continue to be passed over, but the possibility exists. The formation of the Landmark Award, now in it's third year, has eased some of the concern there, although one can be on the ballot for Hall of Fame consideration as well as the Landmark Award. RELATED: Ty said grandfather is 'hero' " Childress, Hendrick, Parks chosen A second concern often voiced involves inducting those who remain active in the sport, particularly car owners. Childress, Hendrick and Jack Roush remain at the helm of their respective organizations. Their careers are not complete. Eligibility guidelines for drivers stipulate that he or she have competed in NASCAR for a minimum of 10 years and have been retired for two years. Additionally, any driver who has competed for 10 years and is 55 years old on or before Dec. 31 of the previous nominating year is eligible for consideration. Any driver competing for 30 or more years is automatically eligible, regardless of age. For non-drivers, the only requirement is that they have worked in the NASCAR industry for at least 10 years. Anyone who has made significant achievements in NASCAR, regardless of occupation, but did not meet the previously mentioned minimum requirements may also be considered. Should those still involved, in whatever fashion and to whatever extent, be considered when many others who are no longer active have yet to be nominated and/or inducted? Well, would that person be chosen if he or she was no longer active? In most cases, the answer has been yes. What then would be the purpose of delaying the inevitable? Childress, Hendrick or Roush may decide to step aside at some point and turn their organization over to someone else. But what if they don't? What if they remain at the helm until they are physically no longer able to do so? Should they, or anyone else, not be considered simply because they're still living? Fortunately, that is not the case. Should each year's group of nominees be categorized, with at least one driver, one owner, and one crew chief among those going into the Hall? Drivers have been the overwhelming choices in recent years -- nine of the last 10 members inducted have been selected for their accomplishments behind the wheel. The 2017 class favors car owners. RELATED: Martin calls selection 'crown jewel' of his career A crew chief hasn't been inducted since Leonard Wood's selection in 2013. And there are several worthy candidates on the list of nominees, led by Ray Evernham, a three-time champion with driver Jeff Gordon . Waddell Wilson was not only a successful crew chief, but was equally successful as an engine builder. Harry Hyde worked with some of the sport's most talented drivers, including Hall of Fame member Bobby Isaac, Buddy Baker and Tim Richmond and is credited with 55 victories as a crew chief. Yes he was a colorful character. But he was also extremely successful. The most obvious drawback is that such a plan could penalize a deserving candidate or candidates based on nothing more than the number of nominees in a particular category during a given year. The current process is fair and it is deliberate. It is not easy. Spending several hours with many of NASCAR's legends and powerbrokers is a tremendous way to spend an afternoon. But at the end of the day, everyone understands the importance of the process. Each of us is being asked to rate the value of a particular person's career accomplishments. That's a pretty heavy undertaking. And it's something that none of us take lightly. MORE: Cain, Bruce reveal Hall of Fame ballots
Pursuing NASCAR's triple crown intrigues Bobby Labonte
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Bobby Labonte quietly bowed out of full-time Sprint Cup Series competition at the tail end of the 2013 season. No retirement tour, no gifts. Certainly no ponies. The 2000 premier series champion has selectively dabbled in the sport since, however, with a handful of unremarkable starts at Indianapolis and the restrictor-plate tracks, knowing the pack racing may be his last remaining shot at picking up his first -- and likely final -- Cup victory in more than a decade. Labonte will run in Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway , his second of a scheduled four-race slate in 2016. While not sure if this same type of deal will continue to be available to him in future years, the brother of NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte hinted at an interestingly hush-hush opportunity that could be coming down the pipeline later on this season. "I do have a couple other possibilities I am excited about that might come to fruition later on in the year that I didn't see coming around the corner but they are opportunities that might lead to something that I have been more excited about than anything I have done in my career," Labonte said Friday at Talladega. "Racing is still a big passion of mine and I know I am not going to go do a lot of things I used to do but there are still some opportunities out there that are still up on my radar that I would like to do." But what does he have left to prove? What racing goals remain? "That is a great question, too. Winning any race. It might be a bicycle race. Racing at the Sprint Cup level has gotten so intense that if you can't do it every weekend … (Talladega) is different as we all know. Last weekend and next weekend is different than here," Labonte said. "It is one of those things that I guess I kind of want to race more in a way but I don't want to race more in some ways. I don't want to do it every weekend but I know there are different series you can do that aren’t quite as strenuous as this. "My brother told me one time after about two years of retirement, 'You know, you will have a lot more friends later that you didn't know you had.' And that is true. I am enjoying that. As far as racing goes I am enjoying it and my opportunity is only four times right now through a little bit of what I want to do and a little bit from other people." One remaining goal is obvious: becoming NASCAR's first Triple Crown winner by notching a championship at each of its three national series levels. Labonte has the two arguably tougher feats down, winning the XFINITY Series (then Busch Grand National) title by 74 points over Kenny Wallace in 1991, then taking his first and only Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup) title by a wide, 265-point margin over Dale Earnhardt in 2000. It's a long shot, and Labonte admits that "everything has to line up right," but he's at least considered the prospect of running for a Camping World Truck Series title. He has 10 career starts in the series, with one win (2005 at Martinsville). "It is absolutely something that we have talked about and met with some people about," Labonte said. "I couldn't just make it happen by snapping my fingers and we couldn’t quite get it all lined up. I definitely had it in my mind that it was something I really wanted to do. I would still entertain that but there is also a point where if you can chase the championship that is one thing, and you can do it in a lot of ways. "When I started racing when I was little, the passion was to race and win and that is what you want to do. You want the chance to do that. We did it back then and I think the Truck Series is very appealing to me. I loved it when I did a few of them for a couple of guys and won a race and finished in the top five quite a bit. It is definitely a different level and the garage area is a lot calmer there than it is in the Sprint Cup Series and it kind of, at this point in time, is very appealing."
Junior, Rahal train with National Guard
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Graham Rahal journey to Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, Indiana to train with the National Guard.
Bruce, Cain reveal NASCAR Hall of Fame ballots
RELATED: Photos of Voting Day, inductees NASCAR.com was privileged to have two ballots cast as part of NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day on Wednesday. Senior writers Kenny Bruce and Holly Cain each submitted their five nominations for induction in the Class of 2017 and a vote for the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. A spirited discussion and voting process created one of the most intriguing classes in the stock-car shrine's history with Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons selected as Hall of Fame members. Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles received the Landmark Award. Here are Holly's and Kenny's ballots cast Wednesday with their choices for induction: Kenny Bruce Ron Hornaday Jr. No one dominated NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series like Hornaday, the only four-time series champ. He remains the leader in career wins, top-five and top-10 finishes in Truck Series history. Mark Martin. The working man's racer; Martin finished second in the premier series points battle five times and earned 40 wins in 882 career starts. His XFINITY Series record wasn't too shabby, either. Benny Parsons. Folks who knew Benny the Broadcaster might not know just how talented Parsons was behind the wheel of a race car. The 1973 premier series champion, Parsons won 21 times, including victories in the Daytona 500 (1975) and World 600 ('80). Raymond Parks. The Atlanta-based businessman not only provided much-needed financial assistance as the newly formed NASCAR governing body got up and running, but Parks was a successful car owner as well. His career as an owner peaked in 1949 when driver Red Byron won NASCAR's first Strictly Stock crown. A year earlier, Byron had won the group's first Modified title in a Parks-backed entry. Robert Yates. As an engine builder, Yates helped power Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough to 77 victories. As a car owner, his drivers won three Daytona 500 titles, 57 races and 48 poles. Landmark Award H. Clay Earles. His Martinsville Speedway was there from the beginning (actually before NASCAR was formed) and it remains a popular stop today as one of three short tracks on the premier series schedule. Keeping up with the changing landscape of the sport wasn't easy, and no one did it better than Mr. Earles. Holly Cain These are the Hall of Fame votes I considered the most worthy and timely, considering a ballot of 20 of the sport's most deserving people. I tried to decide on a well-balanced group of drivers, owners and technical people and considered time on the ballot, too. Some I did not vote for this year I feel like will be definite choices in the upcoming Hall of Fame votes. Red Byron. NASCAR's first champion should be in its Hall of Fame for historic reasons. He won NASCAR's very first race on Daytona Beach in 1948, won NASCAR's first "season" championship and then its first Strictly Stock title, which is the modern era Sprint Cup crown. Raymond Parks . He owned the first championship car driven by Red Byron and for many of the same reasons Bryon needs to be in the Hall, so does Parks. Even after the two early titles he fielded cars for greats such as Bob and Fonty Flock. He is the sport's heritage, its beginning. Benny Parsons . Many current NASCAR fans know Benny from his ease and skill behind the television microphone and camera once he retired from driving a race car, but he was an amazing competitor, too, winning NASCAR's two biggest trophies -- the 1973 Cup championship and the 1975 Daytona 500 . Perhaps most amazingly, he finished among the top 10 in 54 percent of the races he ran. Waddell Wilson. It is impressive Wilson was so successful both as an engine builder and a crew chief. He built the motors that David Pearson and Benny Parsons drove to titles and as a crew chief led Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough (twice) to Daytona 500 wins. He built the first engine that broke 200 mph -- driven by Parsons in qualifying for the 1982 Winston 500. Robert Yates. This is another example of the ultimate in successful multi-tasking. Similar to Wilson, he built championship-quality engines (1983 with Bobby Allison) and then Yates owned a championship team, fielding the car with which Dale Jarrett won a title in 1999. He owns three Daytona 500 wins as part of a 57-win legacy as a team owner and won 77 races as an engine builder. Landmark Award Ralph Seagraves. This was a tough category. My selection was based on his contribution really being a turning point for the entire sport. Under Seagraves' leadership, RJ Reynolds provided top-dollar, high-promotion sponsorship of the sport that lasted for more than 30 years. It thrust NASCAR into another stratosphere as far as the American sports landscape was concerned and absolutely created a foundation that is still enjoyed today.
Hall of Fame preview: Mark Martin among contenders
RELATED: Meet 2017's nominees " Live stream of reveal, 5 p.m. ET Mark Martin will be one of 20 people considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame when the Voting Panel convenes in Charlotte on Wednesday to determine the 2017 class. (TV coverage: NBCSN, 5 p.m. ET) Three of those on the ballot are former premier series champions -- Red Byron, NASCAR's first Strictly Stock champion in 1949; Benny Parsons, the 1973 winner who went on to enjoy a successful second career in the broadcast booth; and Alan Kulwicki, killed in a plane crash just four-and-a-half months after capturing the 1992 crown. There was no championship trophy for Martin, who retired from competition at the end of the 2013 season. But that doesn't diminish the accomplishments the Batesville, Arkansas, native garnered during a career that spanned more than three decades. Martin, 57, won 40 times in the premier series, with victories coming at 21 different tracks. He finished 10th or better 453 times, in more than half of his 882 career starts. He also won 56 poles. RELATED: Live stream, 5 p.m. ET, Wednesday In the battle for the championship, Martin placed second five times, a mark he shares with current Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison, and he scored 17 top-10 points finishes during his career. "It makes me proud I was able to be as successful as I was and grateful for the opportunities I had," Martin told Little Rock, Arkansas, radio station KABZ-FM recently. "To be real honest I didn't enjoy a … significant part of my career because I was trying so hard to get that championship because I wanted it, and even more than that, the people who supported me wanted it for me so badly. I saw time running out. "I spent too much of my time focused on that and not enjoying the opportunities I had. Today, when I look back on it I wish I hadn't done that." Martin lost the 1990 title by 26 points to Dale Earnhardt and finished second to the Richard Childress Racing driver again four years later. Other runner-up finishes through the years came against Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson . "My life would not be different one bit had I won one of those or not," Martin said. "I had a great career. … I don't think it would have changed a thing in my life had I won one of those trophies. I was very close. I got beat by only four of the greatest of all time in NASCAR in my opinion. … "I'm not embarrassed." Earnhardt was one of five members inducted into the Hall’s inaugural class in 2010. Gordon, a four-time series champion with 93 career victories, retired from driving at the end of 2015 and won't be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration until 2018 and possible induction until '19. Stewart, winner of three premier series titles and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing , will cease to compete full time in the series following the 2016 season. Johnson is a six-time champion and boasts 77 career wins, including two thus far this season. In addition to his premier series exploits, Martin held the XFINITY Series record for career wins for 14 years and is also a seven-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series. It is his second consecutive appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. First-year nominees for the 2017 ballot are former Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr ., team co-owner Jack Roush, driver Ricky Rudd, noted crew chief and engine builder Waddell Wilson and broadcaster Ken Squier. Rounding out the list of nominees are Buddy Baker, Richard Childress, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Harry Hyde, Hershel McGriff, Raymond Parks, Larry Phillips, Mike Stefanik and Robert Yates. Also to be determined by the Voting Panel is the 2017 recipient of the Landmark Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to NASCAR. The five nominees are Martinsville Speedway track founder H. Clay Earles, driver Janet Guthrie, team owner Raymond Parks, former RJ Reynolds executive Ralph Seagraves and Squier. The Voting Panel is scheduled to begin the selection process Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET at the Charlotte Convention Center. The announcement of those chosen will take place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Great Hall (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN). NASCAR.com will also live stream the event: You can watch it live here.
Bobby Allison on two left feet, dancing with Nancy Reagan
Before President Ronald Reagan gave the command at Daytona in 1984, he had a fan in Bobby Allison. The feeling was mutual. The NASCAR Hall of Famer professed his respect for the president in 1982 and was later invited to the White House for a state dinner with Reagan and his wife, Nancy, who died earlier this week at age 94. The story below was told by Bobby Allison to Matt Crossman. When I won Daytona in '82, Reagan was going through a political deal where guys were really hammering him about he wasn't a good enough president about something. In Victory Lane at the 1982 Daytona 500 , when they stuck the camera in my face and the microphone in my face, I said, "I love Ronald Reagan." It went out all over. Ronald Reagan happened to be watching that broadcast that day and he saw that. So then (my wife) Judy and I got invited to go to the White House for a state dinner, which was quite an affair. We were up in New York for the '83 championship banquet. Somebody under his command called and said, "The president would like to have you and Judy at the White House for a state dinner." I had to go rent a tux -- we didn't wear tuxes yet at the awards banquet. I had a regular suit. I went across the street there in New York City, got a tux, tried on the pants and shirt, bow tie, all that stuff. I told the guy I wear size 10 1/2 shoe. So he grabs a pair of shoes and sticks them in a shoe box and says, "OK, they're in there." I go to Mike Curb's apartment in Washington D.C. to get dressed. I get my tux all on and my bow tie and my studs. I put my left foot down into my left shoe. I put my right foot down -- into another left shoe. So here I am, with two left feet. Mike wasn't there. His sister was there. She called him to see if he had a pair of patent leather shoes for a tux. He said, "Yeah, they're right there. But you know I have little tiny feet." Mike Curb had size 7 1/2 shoes. So I put my size 10 1/2 feet into those 7 1/2 shoes. I was so in agony. Nancy Reagan asked me to dance, and I couldn't dance. I could barely stand up. It hurt to sit down, even.
Bobby Isaac joins NASCAR Hall of Fame Class 2016
RELATED: Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame In a different era, in which stock cars driven to and past their limits didn't break with frequency, there's no telling how many races or championships Bobby Isaac might have won. Isaac, the 1970 NASCAR premier series champion, won 37 of his 309 starts. But he was a DNF -- did not finish -- 129 times. His 49 poles rank 10th all-time, with 19 -- a still-standing, single-season mark -- coming in 1969. Only 38 drivers have won 19 or more poles in a career. Nobody ever had to tell Isaac to "stand on it." " Bobby was a never-give-up kind of guy," said Buddy Parrott, a member of Isaac's No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge crew and a 49-time winner as a premier series crew chief for NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip among others. " Bobby had no fear." Isaac's accomplishments are such that he'll join the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2016 along with Jerry Cook, Terry Labonte , O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. Their induction will take place Jan. 22 in Charlotte, N.C. The ceremonies will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET by NBCSN. Isaac, born on a farm near Catawba, North Carolina in 1932, saw his first stock car race at nearby Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and at age 17 bought a 1937 Ford and put roll bars in it. He flipped the car on the race's second lap but that didn’t dampen his desire. Working at a variety of low-paying jobs, Isaac began racing the NASCAR late model sportsman circuit. He survived but sometimes just barely. "One time I drove 200 miles to drive a fellow's modified car with $4 in my pocket," he once said. "I figured that I'd have enough to buy gas and get down there and eat a hot dog before the race. The gas was $3 but I had to put two quarts of oil in my car so I was broke when I left town. When the feature started my stomach was not only growling but I didn’t have enough gas to get back home. "I drove that car as hard as I could and won. I had to win." Isaac, described by some as "mercurial," went sportsman racing fulltime in 1958, driving for Ralph Earnhardt. He won 28 feature events, competing against the likes of NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and David Pearson. Isaac, at age 28, competed in his first premier series event in 1961. Driving a Dodge for Ray Nichels, he won his first race in 1964 -- a 50-lap Daytona 500 qualifier in which he edged Jimmy Pardue in a photo finish after Richard Petty ran out of fuel. With factory-supported teams jumping in and out of the sport in the mid-1960s, Isaac went from top ride to no seat at all. His fortunes changed in 1968 when he was hired by Indiana insurance magnate Nord Krauskopf and paired with legendary crew chief Harry Hyde, whose larger than life persona was captured as Harry Hogg in the film "Days of Thunder." Over the course of five seasons, 1968 to 1972, the trio's "Poppy Red" Dodges won 36 times -- 17 alone in 1969 when Isaac won 17 times in 50 starts. Bedeviled by 19 failures to finish, Isaac wound up sixth in the championship standings. Isaac "only" won 11 times in his championship season, but the DNFs were reduced to just nine. The K&K team is remembered best for its winged Dodge Charger Daytona, the needle-nosed, high rear-wing version of the standard Charger. Remarkably, Isaac visited Victory Lane only once in that model, at Texas World Speedway in 1969, his 20th career win and first on a superspeedway. "We won a lot of short-races, but we couldn't pull it all together on the big tracks until the last race of the season," said Isaac in Greg Fielden's book "NASCAR: The Complete History." "Winning the championship gave me personal satisfaction, but I'd rank it second to the Texas win. "The way I look at it, it took me seven years to win a superspeedway race and only three years to win the championship." In September 1971 the team took its winged car to the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah where Isaac set 28 speed records, including a 217.368 mph "flying kilometer" mark. "That car weighed 3,900 pounds and it had 650 horses in the motor," Hyde told Car and Driver's Bob Zeller in May 2002. "And when Bobby set it sideways, it looked like a hydroplane on water. He came by at 200 mph broadside with a big rooster tail of salt comin' out the back." Driving part-time schedules for a number of owners, Isaac ran his last premier series race in 1976. He returned to Hickory Motor Speedway the following year where, on Aug. 14, he pulled out of a sportsman race feeling ill and was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to heart failure at age 45. Isaac was inducted into the National Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1979 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1998, NASCAR honored him as one of its 50 Greatest Drivers of all time. Tickets are available for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Ceremony (limited quantities available). Individual ticket and ticket packages are available at ticketmaster.com, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Box Office or by calling 800.745.3000.
Judy Allison, wife of Bobby Allison, passes away
Judy Allison, wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, died Friday following complications from surgery, the Allison family announced. She was 74. The Allisons released a statement Friday night: "The Allison Family is sad to announce the passing of Judy A. Allison, age 74, after complications from surgery earlier today at Iredell Memorial Hospital in Statesville. " Bobby Allison, NASCAR Hall of Famer driver, and Judy were married for 55 years. She was surrounded by her family, daughters Bonnie Farr and Carrie Hewitt, grandson Robbie Allison, brother-in-law Donnie Allison and his wife, Pat. "At this time, funeral and memorial arrangements are pending and will be announced when finalized. The family members ask for privacy during this difficult and sad time." NASCAR also issued a statement on Judy Allison's passing. It reads: "NASCAR extends its condolences to the friends and family of Judy Allison, the wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison. Judy, the matriarch of a cornerstone NASCAR family, provided the foundation for the careers of a legendary husband and two sons who both lost their lives entirely too soon. Her love extended well beyond her own family, as many in the NASCAR family leaned upon Judy for support and compassion during many difficult times. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of a true friend, and a woman who has given much to our sport." Bobby Allison won 84 premier series races during his NASCAR career. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2011.
Bobby Labonte to run XFINITY race at Daytona
Huntersville, N.C. (February 10, 2016) – Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) announced today a partnership with NOS Energy Drink, as primary sponsor of the team's No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Camry in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch , the all-time race winning driver in the history of the XFINITY Series with 76 wins, will drive his first NOS program race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and in subsequent races that total 16 XFINITY Series events this season. To kick off the 2016 race schedule at Daytona International Speedway , Joe Gibbs Racing and NOS Energy Drink are excited to announce they are also bringing back another champion for the XFINITY series program start, longtime race winner and past Joe Gibbs Racing veteran racecar driver Bobby Labonte . "We've always sought out the most determined, fearless and committed athletes to represent our company and brands," said Vice President of Sports Marketing, Mitch Covington. He commented further, "With Kyle (Busch) in the seat most of the year and a strong Daytona start with Bobby (Labonte), we have every reason to believe our program will win." The NOS Energy Drink brand is no stranger to victory lane with Busch. A partnership between the two earlier in his career afforded them much success together. Between 2011 and 2008 (Busch's first season with Joe Gibbs Racing ) the orange and blue NOS colors were represented across 25 races in the XFINITY Series when Busch earned seven victories and three pole-position wins to further their brand exposure. Also in 2008 Busch represented the NOS Energy Drink colors with one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry, in which he earned a second-place result. Newly minted 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Busch remarked, "I'm pumped to be back with NOS Energy Drink, a brand that supported me initially when I came to Joe Gibbs Racing . We had a lot of success together and I can't wait to win with them again!" In 311 starts over 13 seasons, Busch has proven himself to be the winningest competitor in the history of NASCAR’s XFINITY Series. In addition to 76 career wins, the 30-year old has recorded 186 top-five finishes, 48 pole-qualifying wins and 15,766 laps led. In 2010 Busch made series history with a record 13-win race season. Past XFINITY Series Championships for Kyle include a Driver’s Championship in 2009 and Owner’s Championships in 2010 and 2008 –- all with Busch’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series team owner Joe Gibbs Racing . Labonte proved to be a strong selection to kick off the NOS Energy Drink program for the first race of the season as he rejoins Joe Gibbs Racing while they celebrate their 25th year of NASCAR racing. "I'm excited about the opportunity to drive for JGR again. I didn't think this would ever happen and when Joe called me about the program, it was a 'no-brainer.' Great race team, great cars, the opportunity is a good one. There would be nothing better than to hang a flag in this building too,” Labonte said of the Daytona opportunity in front of him with the No. 18 JGR XFINITY Series team. A Texas native, Labonte was an early driver of the No. 18 with JGR and earned them 21 victories and a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in 2000. Labonte is also a NASCAR Champion in the XFINITY Series (1991) and the IROC Series (2001) and has victories recorded in all three of NASCAR's premier racing series. 2016 marks Labonte’s 30th consecutive year as a professional racecar driver. The No. 18 team's goal will again be to capture an Owner's Championship in the XFINITY Series. With Busch and Labonte confirmed and the recent announcement of Matt Tifft as driver of the No. 18 for races later in the schedule, crew chief Chris Gayle is eager to attack that goal. Gayle remarks, "Owners points matter and it's important for us to keep striving for that team goal. Looking forward to having NOS Energy Drink back with us and hopefully we are able to give them more trips to Victory Lane." Joe Gibbs Racing and NOS Energy Drink are two brands at the top of the field in their respective industries. With this partnership, the two have positioned themselves for great success together in 2016. NOS Energy Drink will be featured on the No. 18 XFINITY Series Camry for 18 total races this season: Daytona International Speedway (February 20, Labonte); Atlanta Motor Speedway (February 27, Busch); Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 5, Busch); Phoenix International Raceway (March 12, Busch); Auto Club Speedway (March 19, Busch); Texas Motor Speedway (April 8, Busch); Bristol Motor Speedway (April 16, Busch); Talladega Superspeedway (April 30, TBD driver); Pocono Raceway (June 4, Busch); Michigan International Speedway (June 11, Busch); Kentucky Speedway (July 8, Busch); Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 23, Busch); Watkins Glen International (August 6, Busch); Richmond International Raceway (September 9, Busch); Chicagoland Speedeway (September 17, Busch); Dover International Speedway (October 1, Busch); Kansas Speedway (October 15, Busch); Phoenix International Raceway (November 12, Busch).