Wife of NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon, @HaleyKDillon
NASCAR family adds personal touches to Rescue Ranch
Johnson, Byrnes: Sport evolves with new format to grow fan base RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Jimmie Johnson stood outside his motorcoach two days prior to the 2014 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway , expounding on an answer about the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format and its impact on the sport. "Times have changed, the world has changed, there isn't an easy answer for it," Johnson said. "What I'm trying to do is look at the statistics. Is viewership up? Is attendance up? I don't know the viewership answer, I've heard mixed reviews." Johnson was informed that ratings were up the previous two weeks at Texas and Phoenix. "That's a good sign. I know attendance, it looks like, has been up at a lot of tracks in the Chase. Phoenix was sold out, Chicago was really full, that's what I'm really looking at," he said. "Especially when I'm getting older in my career, I want the sport to be around, I want it to be around for generations to come. The world has changed, and we need to change with it." The revolution will, of course, continue to be televised (and tweeted, and instagrammed, etc.). Viewership was up for the 36th and final race at Homestead, which produced a sellout crowd, while the rating remained level with last year. Steve Byrnes, who has been a stalwart presence in NASCAR television for three decades, assessed the state of the sport prior to Homestead. "I still think that we are a work in progress, meaning we had this amazing growth and popularity, and everybody was kind of puffing their chest out," Byrnes said. "Then when the economy staggered, we staggered with it. I think we're still trying to catch up and find out what the fans really want. They’re trying everything they can." Those efforts produced a strong finish to the 2014 season and valuable momentum for NASCAR heading into the New Year. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
See what drivers have to say about keeping friendships on the track RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Photo credit: Jim Fluharty/ NASCAR Illustrated Is it hard for drivers to maintain friendships with one another? Austin Dillon, Sprint Cup Driver, ( @austindillon3 ) "It's harder for some drivers than it is for others. You just have to learn how to have friendships with those guys because you see them so often. There's a balance between being a friend or just a guy that you know. It can be tough to hit that balance." Brian Vickers, Sprint Cup Driver, ( @BrianLVickers ) "It goes both ways. You have this common interest and respect for each other because of what you do. They are also your competitors. You race with them each week and things happen. You get in accidents, you get mad at each other, so friendships come and go. The respect is probably what keeps friendships together." Kevin Swindell, Nationwide driver, ( @KevinSwindell ) "It can be. A lot of guys go off the old adage, 'If you want friends at the race track, bring them with you.' As you get older, your mindset tends to change. You forgive a little quicker and get to thinking that not everyone is out to get you." Elliott Sadler, Nationwide driver, ( @Elliott_Sadler ) "No, not at all. I've got a lot of friends in this sport. It's almost like a traveling family. You're with drivers more than you're with your own family. You might have an issue with somebody, but you're such close friends, you talk it out and work through it." Have you ever been surprised by how a driver you thought was a friend talked about you or raced you on the track? DILLON: "Yes, at certain times, I've gone, 'Wow, I didn't think he'd say something like that.' Or other drivers have done things after the race that left me saying, 'I don't know that guy.' But you always get over it because there are times when all of us act out of character." VICKERS: "For me, what happens on the track is on the track. I may be mad or disappointed about how someone handled a situation, but that's purely for how they handled things on the track. I wouldn't let it change how I felt about them as a friend." SWINDELL: "There's always something, but you've got to stop and ask yourself, 'Would I have done the same thing to them?' If that's the case, you've got to calm down and let it slide." SADLER: "You run into that all the time, but it’s in the heat of the moment. I'd say 75 to 80 percent of the guys out here are great guys who would do anything in the world for you. But you've got to go out there and race hard and know where to draw the line." Have you ever gotten to know a driver for the first time and come away thinking, "That guy is cooler than I thought?" DILLON: "First impressions are big with me. I feel like I know where someone stands pretty early on when I meet them. I have talked to some guys and come away thinking, 'Man, that's a good guy.' I have also thought, 'Man, that guy is a loser,' and then spent 30 minutes with them and come away thinking totally different of them. I've learned that you've got to be open-minded with everybody. You've got to give everyone a chance." VICKERS: "You have perceptions of people and sometimes that changes when you get to know them. With people in the public eye, you're almost forced to make a judgment of them before you really know them based on what you’ve seen of them. Then you meet them and maybe get a different impression." SWINDELL: "Sure. There are always people that have a reputation one way or the other, and you come away surprised that they are different than you thought." SADLER: "I've had that happen a couple of times, and I've talked to drivers I didn't really know and felt like, 'That guy is going to have a tough time.' " SUBSCRIBE NOW!
NASCAR Illustrated's Steven Levine meets up with Krissie and Ryan Newman to learn about all of the initiatives at their Rescue Ranch.
Richard and Kyle Petty honored for their work as Victory Junction turns 10 RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Weave your way through Randleman, North Carolina, past its verdant pastures and timeworn gas stations, and you'll happen upon a magical place. About four miles outside town, a stone's throw from Richard Petty's residence, you’ll find Victory Junction. But it might as well be at the intersection of healing and hope. The 80-acre camp, situated on land that Petty roamed as a child before donating it a dozen years ago, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Since it opened in 2004, Victory Junction has enriched the lives of children with serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences at no cost to them or their families. It has also honored the memory of Adam Petty in a most fitting way. Due to that incredible achievement, NASCAR Illustrated is naming Richard and Kyle Petty the 2014 Persons Of The Year. Although they would surely prefer the award go to the thousands of people who have helped turn Adam's idea into reality, we honor these two for their tireless efforts and singular contribution to children. Grandson of Richard and son of Kyle, Adam developed the idea of this camp. The notion came to him some two years before his death in an accident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000. Shortly after, the seed that Adam had planted started to take root. "This was just land that I grew up on," Richard Petty said recently. "We brought four-wheelers over here and went hunting and all this kind of stuff, so we knew the land. We had some boys from [ Richmond International Raceway developer] Hugh Hawthorne and he brought a bunch of guys down from Richmond. Dale Inman [long-time Petty crew chief] got on a bulldozer, never been on a bulldozer before, and just cleaned everything. For two years, they just cleaned everything trying to get things lined up." On a recent, resplendent autumn day, the King gazed out on the finished camp, taking stock of just how far it had come. "The place really looks good now because it looks like it belongs here," he said. "When we done it to begin with, it was pretty but it was naked. Now everything's hidden. Beautiful place, man." This is true both literally and figuratively. Victory Junction has welcomed more than 20,000 children and family members from all 50 states and several foreign countries in its first decade of operation. It has succeeded in its mission to create a place that fosters independence, confidence and continuous growth after camp to better the quality of life for children. Adam's legacy is palpable on these healing grounds. "I think you feel his presence," Kyle said of his son. "I've said it before: I see Adam in every child that comes through here in their smile. Adam had a huge smile. So when you see these kids laugh and smile, then yeah, you do feel closer." Victory Junction has always relied on and benefitted from the generosity of its extended NASCAR family. The Pettys started this journey with little more than Adam's vision and a belief that it was meant to be. There were only fields and dreams in the beginning. "We went out then to race fans, to the tracks, to NASCAR , everybody, and said, 'This is what we're gonna do,' " Richard said. "We started with no money; we just started it and said, 'We're gonna do it and they will come.' As you were able to show what you was doing here, then more people came and more people got involved." Evidence of that largesse is everywhere -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Corral and Amphitheater, Kurt Busch 's Superdome, Michael Waltrip 's SportsCenter and Jimmie Johnson 's Victory Lanes bowling alley among others. "It's been that trickle-down effect," Kyle said. "The first two guys that really helped us here were Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett, really made a commitment and said, 'Let us do something.' Since then, just about everybody (among drivers). That's all cool and that was big and they built a big building and donated and gave their time and effort to raise their funds and awareness. "But it's the fan that sends $4.50 a month or $45 a year that really keeps the camp going. "So, that's the base. The base is the fan base. Just like the same guys, men and women and kids that go to race tracks all over and pull for Tony Stewart or Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon . They're the people that keep camp alive." Victory Junction Chief Development Officer Mark Schumacher joined the camp this year and only recently realized that his professional and personal lives had crossed without him knowing years earlier. Schumacher's son, a cancer survivor, was a camper at Camp Boggy Creek in Orlando, Florida, in 1998. That year, wildfires ravaged the Daytona Beach area and forced NASCAR to postpone the July race to October. As fate would have it, the Pettys visited Camp Boggy Creek that fall and that is when Adam hatched his idea. He left thinking: Instead of visiting kids in hospitals, as the Pettys had done with the annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride to that point, why not bring the kids to a camp in North Carolina? Schumacher's son's experience -- both good and bad -- helped make the move to Victory Junction a no-brainer. "He said it was the best time of my life during the worst time of my life," Schumacher said. "If that doesn't say it for you, nothing does. We just all believe one thing: A child needs to be a child. This is where they can do that. We're just bringing to them what every other child enjoys. That is what drives everybody on this team." Forged out of loss and sadness, Victory Junction has blossomed over time into a place of great joy. Schumacher sees a common thread running through all the campers that visit. "I think the genesis of this camp and the building of this camp and the experience the campers have is looking at life without a rear-view mirror," he said. "There is nothing we can do to change things. We can't bring Adam Petty back; we can't say to some of these children that your disease, your disability is magically disappearing. But we're not focused on looking back; we're focused on going forward. "So what can we do to make a difference going forward in their lives and how can we make that tragic death of Adam Petty mean something? That's Victory Junction." In the company of others sharing the same condition, kids feel empowered to let their true personalities come out. It's a freedom that -- once discovered -- can liberate these kids from the constraints society places upon them. "When these kids are in school, that's what they're known by is their disease," Kyle said. "That's the little boy in the wheelchair. That's the little boy with spina bifida. That's the little girl that can't play because she has hemophilia or whatever it may be. They become known by their diseases. Here, they are known by their names. Their disease takes the backseat." Victory Junction Camp Director Chris Foster noted that for many campers -- particularly those from small towns or with unique diagnoses -- it's often the first time in their lives being in the presence of others that can relate to what they're going through. The relationships that are formed over the course of a week can last a lifetime. "To come here and spend a week at camp with six or seven other kids in the cabin that have the same diagnosis as you is something they've never experienced in their whole life, and they get to feel normal and just play and be a kid," Foster said. "We don't like to focus on the diagnosis at all. We really just like to focus on the child and allow them to have that great experience. But in the real world, sometimes they are labeled by diagnosis." Michael Deal, who made his sixth visit to Victory Junction this summer, is one of many campers that return to the camp each year. "One of my good friends behind me, Zach, we both have Chrohn's [a bowel disease]," Deal said. "It's just we've been coming here so many years and almost been in the same cabin every time. We're basically best friends. We've done everything together. It's just a lot of fun. Here you can just let it all out. At home, you're afraid if people are going to tease you or make fun of you. And here, you can just talk about it and everybody will understand." In its first decade, Victory Junction has helped thousands of kids like Deal understand, heal and move forward on their way to better lives. Richard Petty, fond of using the word "deal" in everyday conversation, invoked the word to describe what makes this place truly special. "The deal is when you think about being here 10 years and seeing 20,000 kids that wouldn't get a chance to do anything like this," he said. "They can't go to church camp or YMCA camp or anything like that. But they can come here for five or six days and they see people that -- they think they're the only one in the world that's afflicted like that -- they come here and there's another 125 kids just like them. They join the world." The patriarch of the Petty family noted that he’d been blessed with four children, 12 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His singular success in stock car racing afforded fame, fortune and worldwide acclaim. And yet, at 77, you get the suspicion that what's been built in the rolling hills of Randleman will mean more to him in the end. "This is the place that I come and I look around and say, 'Thank you, good Lord, for letting me be in this position to try to help all these other kids,' " he said. "To me, that's basically what it's all about." For Kyle Petty, the loss of his son served as prelude to healing on a grander scale than any of the family members could have imagined. He was asked what Adam would think, how he might feel, about the number of lives that have been so positively impacted by Victory Junction since it opened. "It's been like dropping not a pebble in still water, it's been like dropping a boulder in still water with the ripple effect and how it continues to just overwhelm you," he said. "I think from that perspective, he would be like us. He would just be humbled by the fact that the boulder that was dropped in the water was him, but when you look at it, the ripple effect still continues this much later." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Writer offers thanks to those that help make NASCAR part of her world RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated I can't remember if I was grumbling about a commercial break, a caution period or a drive-through penalty. The point is, I was grumbling. If cautions breed cautions, then complaints breed pure, unadulterated whining. I don't ever want to be thought of as a cynical or jaded NASCAR fan, but sometimes it's just way too easy to pick apart anything or anyone. After all, complaining is the art of making something out of nothing just to have a reason to speak. And, in addition to being wholly unattractive, it is generally fruitless. When I find myself whining about minutiae (especially something so good as NASCAR ), I take a breath and look at the big picture with a fresh appreciation. So, in the spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving, I want to take a moment to appreciate those who make this sport a part of my world for 10 months of the year. I am thankful to the families that share their dads, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters every weekend. As pit crew, officials, PR representatives, or people driving around in golf carts looking important, these folks spend time away from their families for jobs that help facilitate my addiction to NASCAR . I am thankful for commercials -- even the one with older couples holding hands while soaking in bathtubs out in the middle of a dock. You help pay for the broadcast. I am thankful for the drivers whose personalities and driving styles irritate the rest of the field. You give us someone to root against. I appreciate members of the media, who work tirelessly to bring me news and information. I am grateful for scanner headsets with microphones. You keep me from pulling the ear pad off and yelling, "What?" I am thankful to get a reminder postcard in the mail six months ahead of a race asking if I'd like to purchase tickets. I'm not too proud to admit, I can use a good reminder for any aspect of my life. And, yes, I do want those tickets. I am grateful to NASCAR for introducing and tweaking the Chase. I gained a ton of "street cred" after explaining it to several guys who weren't sure how to structure the office betting pool. Not to mention, I actually like the new system -- and that's coming from someone who is slow to embrace change (I'm still using Windows 7). I appreciate my husband and kids, who now know instinctively not to ask to change the channel until after the post-race interviews. And, lastly, I am appreciative that " NASCAR Nation" is full of folks who can tolerate a little of my whining. I wish you all the joys of being thankful. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Four-time 2014 winner explains chassis setup RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated From Donald Mosely (via Facebook): "Do they still use front-steer and rear-steer cars for different tracks?" Steve Letarte: No, not anymore. Really, the sport in general has changed so much from the days of front-steer and rear-steer. Fifteen, 20, 25 years ago, all of the chassis were manufactured by two or three outside vendors, and all the companies bought their chassis. In today's world, the chassis have become a lot like the engines. There are about four or five manufacturers. Hendrick builds our own. Stewart-Haas also runs a Hendrick chassis. There are other teams that now purchase chassis from race teams. So, the front geometry, especially the steering geometry, to the naked eye, or to the casual race fan, would look identical. Now, the compliances, and how strong it is, and how I want to load it is very different, and I might see the difference between us and Roush, but, no, they're all front-steer cars. The steering arms are all in front of the spindles nowadays and that's kind of how all the cars look. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
*But 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series champ's in no hurry to get to the top
Family's first for NASCAR on FOX broadcaster in second fight with disease