2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Owner Standings
MORE: Monster Energy Series owner standings " XFINITY owner standings Rank Owner Trk # Points Ldr Nxt Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts. Attempts 1 Maurice Gallagher Jr. 21 478 0 0 1 5 10 11 2 Kyle Busch 4 471 -7 -7 3 4 19 11 3 Brad Keselowski 29 431 -47 -40 0 1 1 11 4 Rhonda Thorson 88 427 -51 -4 1 2 7 11 5 Mike Curb 98 356 -122 -71 0 0 0 11 6 Maurice Gallagher Jr. 124 355 -123 -1 1 1 6 11 7 Joe Nemechek 8 354 -124 -1 2 1 11 11 8 Kyle Busch 51 353 -125 -1 2 4 14 11 9 Duke Thorson 27 337 -141 -16 0 1 1 11 10 Shigeaki Hattori 16 336 -142 -1 0 1 1 11 11 Kyle Busch 18 329 -149 -7 0 1 1 11 12 Brad Keselowski 19 292 -186 -37 0 0 0 11 13 Maurice Gallagher Jr. 33 272 -206 -20 1 0 5 11 14 Matthew Miller 199 253 -225 -19 0 0 0 10 15 Duke Thorson 13 236 -242 -17 0 0 0 11 16 Jeff Bolen 66 233 -245 -3 0 0 0 11 17 Norm Benning 006 205 -273 -28 0 0 0 11 18 Randy Young 02 190 -288 -15 0 0 0 11 19 Al Niece 145 185 -293 -5 0 0 0 11 20 Jay Robinson 49 177 -301 -8 0 0 0 11 21 Tom Deloach 17 170 -308 -7 0 0 0 5 22 Ricky Benton 92 167 -311 -3 0 0 0 7 23 Jennifer Jo Cobb 110 163 -315 -4 0 0 0 11 24 Mark Beaver 50 163 -315 0 0 0 0 11 25 Chris Larsen 52 158 -320 -5 0 1 1 9 26 Tracy Lowe 1 151 -327 -7 0 0 0 11 27 D J Copp 183 146 -332 -5 0 0 0 11 28 Mike Mittler 63 143 -335 -3 0 0 0 11 29 Tom Deloach 7 126 -352 -17 0 0 0 5 30 Charles Henderson 175 99 -379 -27 0 0 0 7 31 Shane Lamb 44 97 -381 -2 0 0 0 9 32 Tim Self 22 94 -384 -3 0 0 0 5 33 Jason Little 297 67 -411 -27 0 0 0 2 34 Kyle Busch 46 65 -413 -2 0 0 0 2 35 Beverly Mittler 136 53 -425 -12 0 0 0 5 36 Richard Wauters 5 36 -442 -17 0 0 0 2 37 Tim Self 132 35 -443 -1 0 0 0 1 38 Jennifer Jo Cobb 0 35 -443 0 0 0 0 7 39 Rick Ware 12 32 -446 -3 0 0 0 5 40 Clay Greenfield 68 21 -457 -11 0 0 0 2 41 Norm Benning 57 19 -459 -2 0 0 0 7 42 Tracy Wallace 180 17 -461 -2 0 0 0 1 43 Bryan Hill 20 17 -461 0 0 0 0 2 44 Andrea Nemechek 87 15 -463 -2 0 0 0 3 45 Duke Thorson 89 14 -464 -1 0 0 0 1 46 Mark Rette 130 12 -466 -2 0 0 0 1 47 Boyd Long Jr. 114 10 -468 -2 0 0 0 1 48 Al Niece 38 8 -470 -2 0 0 0 1 49 Chris Fontaine 47 0 -478 -8 0 0 0 1 50 Jerry Brown 186 0 -478 0 0 0 0 1 51 Jim Rosenblum 28 0 -478 0 0 0 0 1 52 Mike Harmon 74 0 -478 0 0 0 0 1
Crafton celebrates in Victory Lane
Crafton ends his drought and reacts to his first dirt win at Eldora
Danica Patrick sits down with Dan Patrick, things get interesting
Danica Patrick sat down on the set of "The Dan Patrick Show" on Tuesday to promote the start of the NASCAR on NBC season (the show is simulcasted on NBCSN), which embarks this Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway with the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). And boy, did things get interesting. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver touched on a variety of subjects, talking about differentiating how her competitors act on the track versus in real life, who she'd help win a race first: team owner Tony Stewart or boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr . -- hint: she's a good employee -- and whether or not she can beat up Kasey Kahne if the pair had an on-track issue. "Oh, definitely (I could take Kasey Kahne in a fight)," Patrick said. "There's a lot of them I could take, but Kasey's definitely one of them. I should've probably taken care of that at Fontana when he right-reared me at 210 (mph), but I didn't. Instead he was a little scared for a while. I didn't say a lot of hellos. I kind of wanted to keep him right there." MORE: Danica, Kahne wreck at Auto Club Be sure to watch the video below in its entirety; Dan Patrick asks a lot of great questions -- and Danica has a lot of great answers.
Rhino Linings 350 entry list
The Truck Series runs its final stand alone race of the season Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 0 Caleb Roark Kenneth Grimes Michael Stewart 14 Chevrolet Grimes Irrigation & Construction 2 02 Tyler Young Randy Young Bryan Berry 14 Chevrolet Randco/Young's Building Systems 3 05 John Wes Townley Tony Townley Mike Beam 14 Toyota Zaxby's 4 6 Norm Benning Norm Benning Kevin Dargie 14 Chevrolet TBA 5 7 Brian Ickler Tom Deloach Chris Carrier 14 Toyota TBD 6 07 B J McLeod Ken Smith Doug Weddle 14 Chevrolet TBA 7 08 Jimmy Weller Bobby Dotter Jason Miller 14 Chevrolet TBA 8 8 Joe Nemechek Sidney Mauldin Jerry Babb 14 Toyota Smoke-N-Sear/SWM 9 9 Ron Hornaday Jr Joe Denette Ryan McKinney 14 Chevrolet RHEEM 10 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Jennifer Jo Cobb Steve Kuykendall 14 Chevrolet Driven2Honor.org 11 13 Jeb Burton Duke Thorson Jeriod Prince 14 Toyota Estes-Carolina Nut Company 12 115 Mason Mingus Billy Boat Dan Deeringhoff 14 RAM 811 Call Before You Dig/Diamond Equipment 13 17 Timothy Peters Tom Deloach Marcus Richmond II 14 Toyota Red Horse Racing 14 19 Tyler Reddick Brad Keselowski Doug Randolph 14 Ford Reese 15 20 Jason White(i) Bob Newberry Chris Rice 14 Chevrolet Gun Broker 16 21 Joey Coulter Maurice Gallagher Jr Jeff Stankiewicz 14 Chevrolet Allegiant Travel 17 23 Spencer Gallagher Maurice Gallagher Jr Ryan London 14 Chevrolet Allegiant Travel 18 29 Ryan Blaney Brad Keselowski Chad Kendrick 14 Ford Cooper Standard 19 31 Ben Kennedy Steve Turner Doug George 14 Chevrolet Heater.com 20 32 Tayler Malsam Harry Scott Jr Mike Hillman Jr 14 Chevrolet Outerwall 21 35 TBA Kevin Cywinski Dennis Connor 14 Toyota TBA 22 136 Scott Stenzel Beverly Mittler Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet Mitler Bros Machine & Tool/Ski Soda 23 50 T J Bell Mark Beaver Tim Sliva 14 Chevrolet Dedicated to Electrical Linemen 24 51 Erik Jones Kyle Busch Eric Phillips 14 Toyota ToyotaCare/Project Pink 25 54 Darrell Wallace Jr Kyle Busch Jerry Baxter 14 Toyota ToyotaCare 26 63 Justin Jennings Michael Mittler Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet Mittler Bros/LG Seeds/Ski Soda 27 77 German Quiroga Tom Deloach Butch Hylton 14 Toyota OtterBox 28 88 Matt Crafton Rhonda Thorson Carl Joiner 14 Toyota JeldWen/Menards 29 98 Johnny Sauter Mike Curb Jeff Hensley 14 Toyota Nextant/Curb Records 30 99 Bryan Silas Chris Baluch Cal Boprey 14 Chevrolet TBA MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Monster Energy, Charlotte plan Bellator MMA fight
BUY TICKETS: See the All-Star Race at Charlotte LOS ANGELES -- The Monster Energy Bellator MMA Fight Series visits Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race weekend on Saturday, May 20, and will feature several MMA bouts throughout the afternoon prior to the start of the on-track racing action. All bouts are set to take place between 3:30-5 p.m. ET at the Monster Energy display in the Charlotte Motor Speedway Fan Zone. Additionally, fans will have the opportunity to meet two of the biggest names in the history of the sport on Friday, May 19, when former UFC champion Tito Ortiz and former PRIDE and STRIKEFORCE titleholder Dan Henderson will be available to sign autographs at the Monster Energy display in the Charlotte Motor Speedway Fan Zone between 3-4 p.m. ET. Through Bellator MMA, along with longstanding partner Monster Energy, mixed martial arts will be included as a pre-race activation exclusively for fans in attendance. The lineup on Saturday will consist of four MMA bouts featuring some of the best regional up-and-coming talent, with the main event prospects in consideration to be signed to a multi-fight Bellator MMA contract. The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race takes place Saturday, May 20 at 8 p.m. ET, airing live on FS1. Tickets to the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star race are available at NASCAR.com/tickets or by calling Charlotte Motor Speedway at 1-800-455-FANS (3267). Monster Energy Bellator MMA Fight Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway Fight Card: Heavyweight Main Event : Allen Crowder (7-2, Mebane, N.C.) vs. Robert Neal (4-2, Jefferson, Ga.) Welterweight Bout: Jeremie Holloway (8-2, Charlotte, N.C) vs. Jacob McClintock (8-2, Charleston, S.C.) Lightweight Bout: Mike Stevens (6-3, Winston-Salem, N.C) vs. Lashawn Alcocks (6-8, Wilmington, N.C.) Light Heavyweight Bout: Allen Bose (5-0, Jacksonville, N.C.) vs. Chris Crawford (8-5, Durham, N.C) Visit Bellator.com for details. *Event schedule subject to change.
Dale Jr. emerges from concussion rehab stronger, centered and ready to win
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Dale Jr.'s complete Daytona 500 history NEW YORK CITY -- A production assistant pins a lavalier microphone to the lapel of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s suit jacket in a newsroom studio inside FOX News on Sixth Avenue. "One, two, three, four, five. Hello, hello," the 14-time NMPA Most Popular Driver says instinctively, without instruction from the PA. You can tell this -- the sound test, the back-to-back-to-back-to-back (and then some) interviews, the traipsing around the "Big Apple" to promote the 2017 Daytona 500 , everything -- feels normal to him, like second-nature. Not long ago, there was no such thing as normal for Earnhardt. The Hendrick Motorsports driver will make his return to points-paying competition in Sunday's "Great American Race" (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after missing the second half of last season following concussion-like symptoms from wrecks at Michigan International Speedway in June and at Daytona International Speedway in July. The road back was a lengthy, arduous, winding trail filled with uncertainty and confusion. "You'd be doing something during the day and something would happen and you'd go 'Whoa, what was that? That was weird,' " Earnhardt told NASCAR.com, who tagged along with him for the day. "Just these little moments when you might get dizzy or you might forget about something that you think you shouldn't forget about. That used to happen all the time." Dale Earnhardt Jr . gets mic'd up. Earnhardt was cleared to race in December after months of rehabilitation and doctor appointments. He says he's fully healthy and recovered from his concussion, but don't hold your breath on him throwing out that cliché preseason line about being in the best shape of his life. RELATED: Watch Dale Jr.'s full interview from Daytona Media Day "I think I was probably at my peak physical condition at … 1? But since then it's all been downhill," Earnhardt joked. "I feel healthy. Mentally, I'm always sort of self-analyzing so I'm not having these things that would bring (the concussion) to my attention anymore. "The further you get removed from that stuff, the less you even remember it happening, or the less you think about it. When you go a day or a week never even thinking about the injury or the past, you're free from it. I feel great. Like I said, the doctors have given me a lot of confidence, just talking to them. They're like, 'Man, you're good. We feel good about this. We feel good about you racing. We feel good about you crashing.' You've got to have those." To get a sign-off from his doctors on crashing -- a near-certainty to happen over the course of a 36-race season -- is massive. The risk of another concussion will always be in the back of Earnhardt's mind after this most recent one kept him sidelined for so long. But he can't let that apprehension occupy him behind the wheel. "The wrecks and stuff are inevitable and I do worry. There's been crashes that I haven't had issues with, but there's been a few wrecks that I have had issues," Earnhardt said. "I don’t know … my doctors told me basically that I was healthy and if they thought I shouldn't race, they would let me know. They said, 'Look, we feel good about you racing. We feel like anything that happens … it's a dangerous sport and you're going to be at risk no more than you were before. Anything that happens to you, we can fix.' " Dale Earnhardt Jr . signs autographs for fans on the streets of New York. Talking to Earnhardt, it's clear 2016 was a year that challenged on many levels. It was also a year of tremendous growth and reflection that culminated -- quite literally -- with a marriage to longtime girlfriend Amy Earnhardt (née Reimann) on New Year's Eve, a topic that took center stage throughout his media tour at the "TODAY Show," FOX News, "The Dan Patrick Show," Inc. Magazine and "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen." RELATED: Dale Jr., Amy Reimann get married on New Year's Eve Even if she did miss a question or two on the unofficially official " Dale Earnhardt Jr ." quiz on The Dan Patrick Show ( watch it here ), Earnhardt touts Amy's support and gives her nearly all the credit for his transformation. "I think I feel like a stronger, more complete person thanks to her. I hope that this isn't just a mood, that it's more permanent. I think we'll find out as we just get into the grit of the season, week-to-week and going from track to track and being tugged in all kinds of different directions by my responsibilities. Hopefully this sticks." With health in hand and a family life starting to come together at 42 years old, nobody would have blamed the 26-time winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for walking away before the start of his 18th full-time season. RELATED: Dale Jr. regals listeners with family storytime Dale Earnhardt Jr . with Andy Cohen of 'Watch What Happens Live' But the big news of the past week was Earnhardt's looming contract extension, with his current deal set to expire at year's end and a talented replacement champing at the bit for a full-time opportunity in Alex Bowman . RELATED: Dale Jr. discusses contract status Earnhardt won't walk away "until the gas tank is on empty," but he can't quite pinpoint when that'll be. He says any extension would be "no less than two, no more than three" years, but has put off negotiations with team owner Rick Hendrick until he knows he can commit, health-wise, long term. "I don't know (how much gas is left in the tank.) If I told you, 'Man, I've got three years,' I don’t know if I'd be telling you the full truth," said Earnhardt, a two-time Daytona 500 winner. "I can't see, I can't feel it. I know I want to finish this year and if I finish … everybody keeps asking me about my goals for a successful season, and that's to finish every race. If I'm in every race, and not injured and not missing races, then that's a successful season. "I think that will propel me into a new extension. The only thing holding me up, really, is knowing that I can do it, health-wise. Knowing that I can be there every week. If I'm going to sign a deal to be there and work for my owner … I love this man like a father. And I don't want to tell him I can be there for three more years if I can't. I'm going to get a few months under my belt and get the confidence that we can start working on the extension and I think if we get there, I'm signing that extension with the intent of doing that contract. "Now, that might be the last one but I don't know. You just don't know these things. I mean, I know drivers -- and I won't say names -- but I know very, very successful drivers in this sport that five years ago were ready to hang it up, just fed up. And they're happier today than they've ever been." Earnhardt mentioned that he nearly walked away from the sport earlier this decade, but credited his support system for pulling him back. And he's thankful it did. "I've been down, down in the dumps," he said. "Hell, if I didn't have the right support system around me, I probably would've quit in 2010, 2011. I'm glad I didn't. We got this ship righted and got to winning some races and I've had the best time behind the wheel that I've ever had in my career for three or four years now. "So who says that if I stick around that it can't get even better? I want to see, I want to wait." RELATED: Dale Jr. on front row for Sunday's Daytona 500 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;span _rtetemp=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;spchk&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; style=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;background-color: #ffffaa;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; _rtespchksugg=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;am&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/span&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;p;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: What they're writing about his return
RELATED: Junior busy in final Daytona practice Dale Earnhardt Jr . isn't the same person we saw in a race car July 9 at Kentucky, his last of 2016 before stepping aside with concussion-related symptoms. He's much better, he told NASCAR.com . He's a husband now after marrying girlfiend Amy Reimann on New Year's Eve. And he's on the front row for Sunday's Daytona 500. But how we got from July to February has had fans transfixed and reporters writing a whole lot about the journey. Here are some of the best stories and tidbits from Junior’s recovery and return. Junior sees himself as altered in significant ways, telling the New York Times, "I do feel like this is a new chapter, for whatever reason. I don't have a vision for what's going to happen. I don't know how to explain it, but it feels like a new me." And that new man is less stressed out and more at ease in every aspect of his life. " Read more Tommy Tomlinson captures the soul of the driver and the images from Junior’s test session this winter at Darlington. And goes deep into what makes our sport's perennial NMPA Most Popular Driver tick. One key piece of the new-and-improved Dale Jr. is Amy. Now his wife, she told Tomlinson she often provides Earnhardt with confidence and stays close, especially in stressful situations: "I'm his binky." But she's much more than that, and he gives her credit for improving every relationship in his life. " Read more A tale about brisket and pickled eggs from Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! shows us yet again how forthright and just, well, normal Dale Earnhardt Jr . is -- even when his life felt like it was spinning far out of that normal range. " Read more The days of dizziness and blurry vision were nightmares for Junior, who told USA Today's Brant James exactly how hard it was fighting back from wrecks at Michigan and Daytona. "My eyes were jumping around in my head real bad just riding down the street or in the car," Earnhardt said. "Like a road sign jumping around. It was so annoying. I was scared to death I was going to be stuck with that all my life." " Read more Friends and colleagues MartinTruex Jr. and Elliott Sadler tell Bob Pockrass of ESPN all about how grueling the exercises were to bring Junior back. And Pockrass writes what everyone in NASCAR is feeling: "When Earnhardt rolls off Sunday for the Daytona 500, the industry will celebrate it as an accomplishment of a race car driver and also with a huge selfish deep breath that the sport is whole again." " Read more Junior's return to racing is a victory for him, for the sport and for fans. SB Nation sums it up : "It's always more compelling when its favorite son is in the news for what he’s doing on the track."
Todd Gilliland to run partial slate with Kyle Busch Motorsports
RELATED: Gilliland's 2017 plans set MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 21, 2016) – Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) announced today that 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Todd Gilliland will compete in four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races in 2017 with primary sponsorship from Toyota – the world’s top automaker. Gilliland, who competed in seven Super Late Model races for KBM in 2016, will make his Truck Series debut behind the wheel of the No. 51 Toyota Tundra June 17 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. The third-generation driver will also compete at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Sept. 3, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon Sept. 23 and Phoenix International Raceway Nov. 10. With six victories this year in the K&N Pro Series West, the 16-year-old matched three other drivers for the series record for most wins in a single season and also collected six poles, 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes en route to becoming the youngest champion in the history of any NASCAR national or touring series. The K&N West Series Rookie of the Year also competed in five K&N Pro Series East events in 2016, registering one win, one pole, three top-five and five top-10 finishes. Gilliland was victorious in his K&N Pro Series West debut at Phoenix International Raceway in November of 2015 and opened up the 2016 season with wins in both the East Series opener at New Smyrna Speedway and the West Series opener at Irwindale Speedway. He followed it up with a win at Kern County Raceway Park in April, giving him wins in each of his first four K&N Starts which matched a 60-year-old record set by International Motorsports Hall of Famer Dan Gurney. In addition to his seven career K&N Pro Series victories, Gilliland made history in his ARCA Racing Series debut at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway in May of 2015 when he became the youngest winner in series history just two days after his 15 th birthday. He finished ninth in his only other ARCA start at Iowa Speedway in July of 2015. "Todd joined the driver lineup for our Super Late Model program this year and we liked what we saw with his competitive nature and strong work ethic, so we are looking forward to seeing him move up to the Truck Series program for 2017 and getting behind the wheel of our Tundras for four races," Busch said. "He proved by winning several races in the K&N Series, both East and West, and the West Series championship that he has the talent to succeed in bigger stock cars and he deserves a chance to compete at higher levels next season." "I'm very excited for the opportunity to race in the Truck Series for KBM next year and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of everyone at Toyota and TRD," Gilliland said. "Moving up into the top levels of NASCAR is going to be a learning experience, but I know that I'm getting behind the wheel of fast Tundras and with the staff that they have in place at KBM and the knowledge that Kyle can pass along I'm going to learn a lot and continue to grow as a driver.” Gilliland joins owner-driver Busch (five races) as part of the multi-driver lineup that will compete behind the wheel of the No. 51 Tundra in 2017. Announcements for the drivers who will complete the remainder of the schedule are forthcoming.
College student: Phoenix turned me into believer
At first race, Penn State student got great view of NASCAR action Students are encouraged to work as active media members at the race track and ultimately tell the story of their unique experience at a NASCAR event. Following each immersion, one student will have the chance to see their work published on NASCAR.com. Melissa Conrad, a senior at Pennsylvania State University, attended the race weekend in Avondale, Arizona, and filed this story. I grew up watching and playing all sports, from field hockey to tennis to cross country and everything in between. I traveled up and down the East Coast watching my brother play summer league baseball and competing in AAU basketball tournaments myself. I watched NFL games every Sunday with my dad. I pined over Olympic figure skating and gymnastics with my mom, the one non-sports-oriented person in my family. I chose to attend Penn State University for the well-respected education I would receive from the College of Communications and the athletic involvement opportunities that would present themselves at such a high-profile institution. Now, as a senior having completed a multitude of internships in the industry, I thought I had accomplished a diverse, well-rounded background in sports knowledge. That is, until Nov. 7 when I arrived at Phoenix International Raceway to experience NASCAR. Before arriving in Phoenix to participate in an exclusive student immersion program for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series races, NASCAR was defined as such: The sport of which I have almost no knowledge or opinion. My definition today? The best-kept sports secret of my generation. Per my own observation, it seems that the buzz for NASCAR exists mostly within an older-than-college crowd. However, my experience in Phoenix is proof to why the buzz needs to spread (and will). As soon as we landed at the airport, we were immediately whisked away to the track. Tom Bryant, director of communicators for Touring and Weekly racing, met us at the track entrance to get us set up with credentials that would allow us access to people and areas that thousands of others would beg for during the weekend. I can genuinely say that the scene we walked into was unlike any other sports scene I’ve been a part of, from Penn State’s Beaver Stadium filled to capacity to Gaelic football playoffs in Ireland. It was an organized chaos of pit crews handling hundreds of tools and parts, passionate fans looking on and waiting for autographs, media members fighting for interviews and cars zooming by in tight lanes to enter the raceway for practice or qualifying rounds. Friday consisted of meeting the on-site NASCAR Competition Communications team from top to bottom, who welcomed us as if we were one of their own. The group was not only quick to offer any and all background information on the sport, but was also just as interested to hear our stories -- where we were from, what our majors were, what brought us here and so on. We looked on in amazement as the final practice round for the NASCAR Nationwide Series took place, followed by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying. I never realized that NASCAR isn't just the race itself; it’s the compilation of qualifying and practice rounds that are just as crucial. The sun went down and it was time for NASCAR under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway . There was one problem though: a power outage in the region. Half of the race track was completely darkened beside the Arizona desert mountains, and the main attraction of the day (not to mention, my first ever NASCAR race) was delayed by an hour. When the lights turned on and the race did get going, a crash occurred before some of the trucks even reached the start/finish line, thus rendering 18 ensuing caution laps. Everyone in the press box made a point to stop by the Penn State students' chairs and whisper: "Don't worry, it's not usually like this." However, what they didn't realize is that you never forget your first experience with a particular sport. Power outages and cautions laps or not, NASCAR was beginning to make sense to me. Saturday was another full day of practice rounds, qualifying, media interviews, press conferences and most notably a 100 mph, adrenaline-spiking pace car trip around the track. The NASCAR Nationwide Series race was set for 2 p.m. that afternoon. We had the amazing opportunity to sit atop Kyle Larson 's pit box, an experience I'm sure would be envied by many NASCAR loyalists. I almost felt guilty taking such an incredible viewing spot for the race, having had no previous knowledge of a sport in which millions live and breathe. Watching the @NASCAR_NNS race at @PhoenixRaceway from @KyleLarsonRacin 's pit box. pic.twitter.com/AvFJIGbSr3 — Melissa Conrad (@melissaconradPR) November 8, 2014 What an experience it was to see the race from that vantage point. Listening to the radio, watching Larson's team go to work in less than eight seconds each pit stop and being that close to the track was a sports moment I will never forget. I learned in those three hours that you do not need to fully understand a sport to truly grasp its intensity. The beauty of sports is just that. If you have a passion for competition, it doesn't matter whether it's a ball bouncing on a court, a puck skimming across the ice, a glove making a catch, or a high-speed car revving its engine. All sports matter. I arrived at the Phoenix International Raceway as a NASCAR doubter and left as a believer. Text goes here MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Mark Martin tabbed for NMPA Hall of Fame
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Mark Martin, winner of 40 NASCAR premier series races and a runner-up in the championship battle on five occasions, has been selected for induction into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame. Martin, 57, will be inducted Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. He was named on 95 percent of the ballots cast by the NMPA membership. The Batesville, Arkansas, native competed in NASCAR for more than three decades. His 40 career victories currently rank 17th on the all-time list for the series while his 882 career starts rank fifth overall for the sanctioning body's top series. In addition to his premier series efforts, Martin also enjoyed success in NASCAR's lower national series, winning 49 times in what is now the XFINITY Series and seven times in the Camping World Truck Series. He is also a five-time winner of the IROC (International Race of Champions) title. Others receiving votes but falling short of the required 65 percent necessary for induction were veteran crew chiefs Kirk Shelmerdine (61 percent), Buddy Parrott (59 percent) and Larry McReynolds (51 percent); and long-time Martinsville Speedway public relations director Dick Thompson (59 percent). "Those guys are heroes of mine," Martin said of his fellow nominees. "It is just such an incredible honor to be considered along with them. I feel very fortunate and blessed but most of all I'm thankful. Very thankful." Former statistician Bob Latford and driver Dan Gurney were also named as write-in candidates on this year's Hall of Fame ballot. Martin, who retired from competition following the 2013 season, earned 35 premier series wins with team owner Jack Roush. His final five victories came in 2009 after joining Hendrick Motorsports . Alan Gustafson served as crew chief for Kyle Busch , Jeff Gordon and Martin at Hendrick. He is currently the crew chief for 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Chase Elliott . "Mark drove so much by just raw feel," Gustafson said. "His ability just to flat out drive a car, no markers, no signs no nothing, he was really good at that, which produced some amazing lap times. "We've all seen it. Mark Martin, first lap on the track, is just insane. Because he doesn't have to figure out where he's at, he just drives by feel. He was open to working on things and doing things but he just did it a different way than drivers like Jeff and Kyle and Chase." The National Motorsports Press Association was formed more than 50 years ago and its membership consists of motorsports writers, broadcasters and photographers from throughout the U.S. and abroad. The NMPA Hall of Fame, established in 1965, is located on the grounds of Darlington Raceway .
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