First look at the magazine's Q&A with Dale Jr.'s fiancee
LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Perspective. A week ago, Regan Smith was caught up in a fiery post-race fracas with XFINITY Series championship rival Ty Dillon after an on-track mixup at Watkins Glen International. On Thursday, he walked with eyes wide and jaw agape through the neonatal intensive care unit at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, which cares for infants born as young as 24 weeks -- roughly five and a half months. Smith, a recent first-time father to a nearly 6-month old son, Rhett, and JR Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott toured the hospital on behalf of the Patient Champions program, which pairs drivers with children who have completed or are undergoing treatment at the hospital. "Talking about perspective, if (feuding with Dillon) is the worst thing we have going on ..." said Regan, before trailing off. "We're standing here in a hospital right now with kids that have a lot of serious things going on. It was a race. We'll move onto the next one. Naturally, there's a lot bigger things going on in the world." The program, which pairs 10 drivers with 10 "Patient Champions" from the hospital, is in its third year in NASCAR since the sanctioning body began racing at the road course in the XFINITY Series in 2013. Patients, who are afflicted with diagnoses ranging from Autism to Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis to Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and everything in between, have a hand in designing their drivers' respective paint scheme themselves -- Smith's purple, giraffe-embroidered No. 7 Chevrolet is a sight, for sure -- and are recognized throughout the weekend at the race track. Front and center at the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 driver/crew chief meeting on Saturday, the group of children received a 30-second standing ovation from some of the biggest names in the sport, before breaking off to the garage area to hang out with their paired driver and, yes, sit in their actual race cars. Through its The 1989 World Tour partnership, XFINITY gifted each of the Patient Champions with a Taylor Swift-themed canvas bag filled with an iPad mini, CD, signed photo, thumb drive, t-shirt and third row tickets to her show when she rolls into Columbus in mid-September As the race prepared to get underway, the Patient Champions held one of the most important jobs of any race weekend -- co-grand marshals. Giving the command to start engines is certainly a moment that will stick with these children throughout their lives. Visiting the hospital is one that is sure to linger in the minds of Smith and Elliott. "I think more than anything, it's just knowing that these kids have gone through a lot and continue to go through a lot and just being able to hang out with them and mess around and play with them," said Smith, who legitimately could not wipe the smile off his face after receiving a tin of cookies from his Patient Champion, Laynie Roll. "I think, for me, the NICU hit close to home. Just because we're not far removed from having a baby that small. I shouldn't say 'that small,' but having a baby of that age. To see some of the 24-week-old babies that are that premature, it's incredible to even think that 30, 40 years ago, it probably would've been a different outcome. As they've learned, as this hospital has grown and as we've gotten smarter as a whole, to see that they're able to have a baby that is that little surviving, some of them breathing on their own is incredible." For Smith, the experience was one that brought up many questions, invoking his inquisitive, curious side as the hospital's neonatology chief Dr. Edward Sherman brought he and Elliott through the department. The new father clearly has an invested interest in the well-being of children overall and wanted to make sure he brought as much joy as possible to every patient he came in contact with, enthusiastically drag racing toy cars in the lobby and later, painting wooden toy chassis in the arts and crafts room with patients. Elliott, still just 19 years old, maintained a reserved, tentative approach. The sobering experience was a lot to take in for anyone, let alone someone who just graduated from high school last year. It was a similar, somewhat intentional pairing to 40-year-old Brendan Gaughan and 20-year-old Dylan Kwasniewski 's visit last year. Needless to say, the reigning series champion walked out of Nationwide Children's Hospital differently than when he walked in. "I think (their strength) is the key to it all. Seeing these kids and what they go through makes you sit back and realize how fortunate we are to really do what we love to do," Elliott said. "Don't take anything for granted, because you don't know when anything can happen at any given point. That's just life. Just very fortunate to be here and come see things first-hand. This hospital and Nationwide, the things that they do for them to make this happen is huge. It's cool to see it and be a part of it. "I got to see this race weekend last year and ran the race and got to see … (last year's race-winner) Chris (Buescher) had a young boy on his car. I didn't have anybody on my car and we obviously didn't win that day, but it was cool to see the joy that brought. It makes you sit back and realize that a bad day at the race track could be a lot worse." ******* At the conclusion of the 2014 running of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200, Luke Benner stood in Victory Lane in front of a giant trophy with a No. 1 finger in the air. Standing next to him was race-winner Chris Buescher , who'd just picked up his first career NASCAR victory -- but let the spotlight shine on Benner, his Patient Champion. "It was a really humbling win for me," Buescher said Friday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. "(I did feel extra pressure to win) and it probably had something to do with the fact that they said 'We're on the car now and we expect you to win, so you better.' They were not shy about what they were hoping to get out of the weekend. "They've been awesome. The whole Benner family has been a lot of fun to deal with and be around. To create a friendship and follow Luke's progress … they (came) back this weekend even though we have a new Patient Champion on the side of our car. We'll have William Schaffer on board and his family out here this weekend, but we'll also have the Benners, so we (had) a lot of kids running around our area trying to keep everything going forward. It'll be exciting that there's that little bit of extra pressure but at the same time, there's 10 of us that have the extra pressure so it evens out, I'd say." And that's what it's all about. Creating a special bond between patient and driver -- a mutually beneficial relationship that truly represents the communal spirit that makes NASCAR such a unique sport and experience through and through. It's clear that the sanctioning body, its teams and, most importantly, its drivers value and care for its fans and the relationships bonded -- especially with those in need. Even for Nationwide, which gave up its entitlement sponsor position of the series at the conclusion of last season, to remain so visible and charitable is nothing short of incredible. "These are kids that have gone through a lot, but because of the hospital and what they can do there, they can come out of it as a success story and they're special, unique kids that can talk through the challenges and what they've overcome," said Jim McCoy, director of sports marketing for Nationwide. "For us to highlight those stories in a national way through a race, putting (the patients') face on the car, having them come out to the race track and just enjoy time not thinking about whatever ailment that they have, it brings a lot of meaning to what we do and why we look forward to this race every year." All in all, while Saturday's race was won by Smith, the ones that walked away champions were Aiden VanWagner (Patient Champion of Elliott Sadler ), Alexandra James (Patient Champion of Ben Rhodes ), Dominic Clarke (Patient Champion of Darrell Wallace Jr .), Evan Kern (Patient Champion of Chase Elliott ), Kylee Leonard (Patient Champion of Alex Tagliani ), Laynie Roll (Patient Champion of Regan Smith ), Michael Galiher (Patient Champion of Ryan Reed ), Owen Mattie (Patient Champion of Brian Scott ), Roger "Mikey" Allen (Patient Champion of Brendan Gaughan ) and William Schaefer (Patient Champion of Chris Buescher ). Roll, race-winner Smith's Patient Champion, received an extra special experience, as she helped Smith celebrate in Victory Lane after the race at Mid-Ohio. "To come out here, they get to experience something that they're not going to get on a daily basis or in any normal sport," Buescher said. "You're not going to get the all access, come in the garage, sit in the cars, be on the pit box during the race. It's all stuff that is very unique to our sport and is very close up and all the Patient Champions get to do that this weekend." "It's very cool that we were able to carry it on."
Father of Johnny Sauter made 76 career starts in premier series Jim Sauter, a racer and father of four drivers including NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Johnny Sauter , died on Friday night shortly before the conclusion of the Truck event at Texas Motor Speedway , according to ThorSport Racing. He was 71. Sauter competed in 82 NASCAR national series races from 1980 to 2004, including 76 premier series starts. The native of Necedah, Wisconsin, made his final NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the Milwaukee Mile in 2002, racing against his sons Jay, Johnny and Tim. Jim Jr. followed in his father's footsteps as well. In addition to these four sons, Sauter is survived by his wife, Debbie, eight additional children, 51 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two sisters. A two-time champion in the ARTGO Racing Series in the Midwest, Sauter tested International Race of Champions cars with fellow Wisconsin racers Dave Marcis and Dick Trickle. His son, Johnny, learned of his father's passing following Friday's Winstar World Casino & Resort 350. His lone win of 2014 came at Michigan International Speedway , and he acknowledged it was a special victory in his post-race comments that recalled his dad's recollections of the track. "I'm just going to relish in this win because this has been a tough, tough race track for me throughout my career," Johnny said. "My Dad always said, 'That place is easy.' But, I never felt that way. Until today, I mean when you have a truck like this -- it was just awesome." NASCAR issued the following statement on Jim Sauter's passing: "NASCAR offers its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jim Sauter. A true racer, Jim passed on his passion and competitive spirit to his children and grandchildren. A driver himself with roots in the Midwest, his reach and impact extend across the entire sport." The racing community expressed condolences on social media with a sample included below from Sauter's former competitor Mark Martin ; fellow Wisconsin racer Roy Kenseth, father of Matt; crew chief and former IROC chassis specialist Ray Evernham and NASCAR Senior Vice President, Racing Operations Jim Cassidy. Sorry to hear Jim Sauter died. He was a really good man and a great racer. — Mark Martin (@markmartin) November 1, 2014 Thoughts and prayers go out to the Jim Sauter family today. pic.twitter.com/ydHNAQcXQT — Roy Kenseth (@roykenseth) November 1, 2014 Really sorry to hear about passing of Jim Sauter. Worked with him for many years at IROC. Crew chiefed for him at Pocono 1990 #RIP — ray evernham (@RayEvernham) November 1, 2014 Thinking about the Sauter family. Jim Sauter's contribution to stock car racing and NASCAR will be felt for many generations. Good man. — Jim Cassidy (@jfcassidy) November 1, 2014 MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
In this week's edition of the Dirty Air Podcast, the guys are joined by not one, but two special guests as they cover a hectic week and bring you all the NASCAR news fit to go on air.
A three-wide battle between David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer sends Ragan into the inside wall at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr. hits the wall in practice forcing the team to go to a backup car at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Presenting NASCAR content from around the web Editor's note: On Wednesday at noon ET, "High 5" will present some of the best NASCAR-related content from around the web. 1. Ronda Rousey: Fast as...? Undefeated MMA fighter Ronda Rousey made headlines on Saturday when she won the highly anticipated UFC 190 by knocking her opponent Bethe Correia to the ground in a swift 34 seconds. Whoa -- that's fast. But it's not unusual for Rousey, whose last four fights have spanned 130 seconds total, according to ESPN . NASCAR drivers may know a little something about a need for speed. ESPN even called out Sunday's race winner Matt Kenseth in the piece, saying the driver propelled his No. 20 machine around Bristol Motor Speedway at 14.917 seconds to win the pole in April. Kenseth would have to round "The World's Fastest Half Mile" 8.7 times to equal Rousey's 130 seconds. But hey, Matt -- Rousey didn't have an incredible race car propelling her to victory. She got that checkered with her own two feet -- and fists. Props, girl. 2. Look out for the giant...minion? Attention: Minions are indeed taking over the world. Just last month, a few were spotted hanging out with Carl Edwards at Kentucky Speedway. RELATED: The Minions' NASCAR adventure at Kentucky And now, a giant minion was causing all kinds of chaos across the pond in Dublin, Ireland, on Sunday. A giant inflatable Minion flew loose and caused traffic havoc in Santry this afternoon: http://t.co/IjQ5TDdJpC pic.twitter.com/MQbp2xH6zl — TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) August 3, 2015 Good thing the minions at Kentucky weren't that big. Because traffic jams at race tracks aren't ideal, especially ones caused by giant, inflatable objects. Nothing beats this balloon caution, tho pic.twitter.com/joCMzpyGr3 — Jim Utter (@jim_utter) July 26, 2015 Click here to read Mashable's account of the amusing incident. RELATED: Balloon caution? We remember the Tropicana orange 3. All-star status Ever wanted to create your own NASCAR series team, from driver to pit crew to engine builder? Congratulations -- Sports Illustrated's Beyond the Flag has given you that power with its new piece entitled, "Creating the Ultimate NASCAR All-Star team." After making your own selections, the quiz shows viewers which are the most popular picks. The top driver and crew chief -- Jeff Gordon and No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus -- would certainly make an interesting pair, as Knaus said during January's Charlotte Media Tour that he wanted to be Gordon's crew chief. RELATED: Knaus: I wanted to be Gordon's crew chief Agree? Disagree? Make your own selections here. 4. Got ya! Everyone loves a good prank -- including soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid player donned a wig, fake beard and mustache and kicked around a soccer ball in the middle of Madrid. He reveals himself at the end of the video when he signs the soccer ball and gives it to the child. People are going to think that I’m crazy!#LIVELIFELOUDClick here to check out my new brand at ebay.com/roc Posted by Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday, August 3, 2015 All this disguising and pranking reminds us of one of the greatest NASCAR pranksters. Yup, we're looking at you, Tony Stewart . 5. RIP Kermit-Miss Piggy It's a sad, sad day in the world of Muppets. After 40 years, Kermit and Miss Piggy are calling it quits. Kermit and Miss Piggy break up after 40 years of Muppet love http://t.co/ya6MQKId4U pic.twitter.com/kUbiYTddnE — TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 4, 2015 Such true love that ended so arruptly. It breaks our hearts. Guess we better keep the two apart if any of the Muppets decide to participate in raceday activities again. With cars going 200 mph, the race track is probably not the best place for a quarrel. RELATED: Muppet uttered the most famous words in racing
Eldora puts on another winner of a Trucks Series show Last week's visit to Eldora Speedway was the third consecutive year in which the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series raced on the half-mile dirt track. The 2015 event, which saw Christopher Bell hold off Bobby Pierce for the win, may have been the best race of the three. A good time is had by all each year, if Twitter reaction and turnout of stars is any indication. And we know Tony Stewart , owner of the Ohio facility, is interested in having stock cars grace his track. But is it a good idea? Should the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series or the NASCAR XFINITY Series host a race on dirt? Join NASCAR.com's Kathy Sheldon and Brad Norman in this debate, and leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Sheldon: Brad, you went to Eldora last week and have a first-hand account to share, but as someone watching on TV with most of NASCAR's fan base, I have two words: Heck yeah! Sliding, mud-slinging, back-to-our-roots racing at its finest came through again in the Wednesday night Truck Series race. At a time when tension flares between NASCAR's old guard fans and emerging generations and locations, dirt racing is an opportunity to showcase racing at its core, stripped down from all the rules packages and NASA-level tech that makes speedway racing thrilling to some old fashioned bumping, banging and racing that rewards the bold and brave drivers. Norman: You want a firsthand account of Eldora? I'll return your two words with two of my own: Awe. Some. Seriously, Eldora is a wonderful facility and the event was captivating. Magical, almost. That's why this should stay a once-a-year type of deal, Kathy. Drivers are split on this issue as well, but I agree with those like Austin Dillon (the event's first winner, mind you) that oversaturation is bad for the sport. Why make Eldora and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event less special? Why make it seem common? It's special, and there's nothing wrong with having a special event once a year. Sheldon: It's a good thought to keep things special, Brad, but I think we can have one dirt race a year in each series and still keep it special. We only have two road course races a year in Sprint Cup , and up until the latest Chase format, road course specialists often were brought in for those because they were so unique. Now many people are clamoring for a road race in the Chase. A dirt track sure would mix things up in the schedule, perhaps even giving a driver outside the usual suspects a shot at a Chase berth. Norman: I'm all for mixing things up, and you make some good points Kathy -- but I think the biggest follow-up question to your argument is also the biggest unknown. OK, let's have Sprint Cup and XFINITY on dirt. Where would the race be? Eldora? Hey, it's one of the best dirt track facilities in the region, probably the nation, and there's just no way it could support a Sprint Cup race. The infrastructure is simply not there, not to mention the seats. What about the haulers? The roads? If those are huge issues for Eldora -- one of the best -- then I don't think there's a dirt track in the world that could handle the crush. Sheldon: I have a venue suggestion: Birmingham International Raceway. It's been a horse track, a one-mile dirt oval, a half-mile dirt oval, a quarter-mile dirt oval and a five-eighths mile paved oval. NASCAR's premier series ran there in 1958 and 1961-68. The list of winners there: Fireball Roberts, Ned Jarrett, Jim Paschal, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison. It was home track to the Alabama Gang. Alas, the track was torn down in 2008-09, and a natatorium and track-and-field complex sits on the site now. But if Daytona can get a $400 million makeover, a big ol' track renovation is possible, too. If you build it, they will come! Norman: Sounds great! Now … who gets to tell a track president they are losing their date on the Sprint Cup calendar? I'd like to stay as far away from that one as possible. Because I think that's the final fallout piece. If NASCAR adds a race on dirt for the Sprint Cup Series or XFINITY Series, somewhere else has to go. Unless, of course, the sanctioning body is interested in adding more races to its calendar … in a time in which drivers think the number of races should scale back slightly. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
RELATED: What 'Rowdy' needs to make Chase Kyle Busch came up short in his attempt to win four consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota running out of fuel on the final lap of Sunday's Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway. Twelve drivers have won four or more consecutive premier series races. NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Cale Yarborough was the first, in 1976. Six-time series champ Jimmie Johnson was the most recent, in 2007. And then there was Billy Wade. Notable here because Wade's fourth and final win came in 1964 at Watkins Glen International, site of this weekend's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Driving for car owner Bud Moore, Wade strung together wins at Old Bridge (N.J.) Stadium, a half-mile oval; Bridgehampton (N.Y.) Raceway, a 2.85-mile road course; Islip (N.Y.) Speedway, which measured a mere two-tenths of a mile; and Watkins Glen. The stops were part of what was known as the "northern tour" for the series at that time; the four races came in a span of 10 days. Wade's success came against some of the series' toughest competition of the day. At Old Bridge, he outlasted Ned Jarrett; two days later he held off two-time series champ Buck Baker; on Wednesday evening he bested Jarrett once more; and on the following Sunday, Wade beat LeeRoy Yarbrough to the checkered flag. Lee and Richard Petty, David Pearson and Marvin Panch were among those also in the field for the four races. A native of Houston, Wade had won the NASCAR Rookie of the Year title the previous year, tops among a group that included Bobby Isaac, Larry Manning and J.D. McDuffie. Three of his four wins during the streak came from the pole position, including the victory at Watkins Glen. Although he competed in only 35 of the season's 62 events, Wade finished a career-best fourth in the final points standings. Sadly, those were the only victories of Wade's brief NASCAR career. Less than a year later, the 34-year-old was killed during a January 1965 tire test at Daytona International Speedway when his Mercury blew a right-front tire and slammed into the wall. According to reports, the wall had been built barely a month earlier as a safety measure to keep cars inside the 2.5-mile track. Wade was the fourth driver to lose his life on the track in less than a year's time. Two-time series champ Joe Weatherly was killed in a crash the previous January while racing at Riverside (Calif.) Raceway; Glenn "Fireball" Roberts died in July of '64 as a result of injuries suffered in a crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway earlier that season; and Jim Pardue, twice a winner, was killed when he crashed at CMS during a Sept. tire test in '64. Such tragedies did spur safety developments in the sport, such as the driver's side window net, the inner liner for tires and the fuel cell. Similar safety developments continue today, and were in evidence this past weekend at Pocono. When Brad Keselowski slid through his pit box during the race, he sent his crew scrambling. Jackman Braxton Bannon was upended and landed on his back; front tire carrier Jeremy Ogles, headed around the front of the car, managed to leap onto the hood of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford. No one was injured, and the crew, wearing helmets, managed to complete the pit stop. WATCH: Pocono pit problems for Keselowski Since 2002, NASCAR has required crewmen going over the wall to service a vehicle on pit road in all three national series, Sprint Cup , XFINITY and Camping World Truck s, to wear a helmet. More than a decade earlier, in 1991, pit road speed limits had been put into place. The action was taken after a crewman, Mike Rich, was killed on pit road at Atlanta in the season-ending race of 1990. Limiting pit road speed doesn't eliminate the danger, as the Keselowski incident clearly revealed. But it has, fortunately, lessened it considerably.
Kansas driver puts down roots in North Carolina country on family farm