The Dirty Air Podcast’s Chuck Bush, Matthew Dillner and Jonathan Merryman debate their crown jewels of NASCAR past and present in a clip from this weeks Dirty Air Podcast.
Winningnest owner at IMS yet to have driver win Brickyard 400 SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- There are very few racing achievements still left on Roger Penske's to-do list. But Sunday's Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard represents a rare opportunity for Penske to accomplish one of the greatest feats in auto racing. A victory by one of his drivers Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano would give the legendary team owner the motorsports "triple crown " -- also counting wins in the Daytona 500 (Logano) and Indianapolis 500 ( Juan Pablo Montoya ) earlier this year. Of course a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be special, triple crown or not. Penske is the winningest Indianapolis Motor Speedway team owner (16 Indy 500 victories) in history but has amazingly been 0-fer at the track when it comes to NASCAR's Brickyard 400. Three times Penske was a runner-up with Hall of Fame driver Rusty Wallace (1995, 2000 and 2002), but the closest he's been lately is Logano's fifth place last season. "Anytime we hear Indy coming up we start getting the calls from Roger," Logano said Friday between practice sessions at Indy. "We really want to win this race. This is the one on his bucket list that he hasn’t gotten yet and we talk about it a lot. It would be very special to give him a Brickyard 400, along with the Indy 500 he won earlier this year up here and the Daytona 500 we won earlier, too. So this could be quite the trifecta if we could make it happen." Keselowski actually delivered Penske his first NASCAR win on the famed Indy 2.5-miler -- a 1-2 finish with then teammate Sam Hornish Jr . -- in the inaugural XFINITY Series race in 2012. Ironically, Penske was travelling and unable to attend the event -- something Keselowski vowed to tease him about at the time. The significance of Keselowski's day was not lost on him. "The Brickyard means so much to all of us as race car drivers and to the sport in general, and it transcends three different forms of auto racing, whether it's IndyCar in the United States, F1 and their history here, and then obviously with stock cars and their initial time here to the current date, from '94 on, it transcends into a special victory or a special place to race I should probably say," Keselowski said during his winner's press conference. Racing's "triple crown " has only been achieved one time -- in 2010 by Chip Ganassi, Penske's longtime and well-respected rival in both NASCAR and IndyCar series. And it's obviously very seldom even a possibility with the difficulty of winning both the Daytona and Indy 500-mile races. Keselowski's No. 2 Miller Lite Ford was second fastest in Friday's second practice -- the most promising of the two cars. Logano's No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford finished 14th in the final practice, preparing for Saturday's pole qualifying. Both drivers were optimistic about their chances on Sunday. Motivation won't be a problem. "I don't think you need any more incentive besides giving Roger Penske another win at Indy," Logano said. "You want to add your name to the list of guys that have won here for him. Every time I walk into the shop the first thing you see is all these Indy 500 trophies and the helmets that they wore when they won that race and the picture. "We all want to come up here and give our best effort and try to execute the race the best we know how to and build the fastest cars we know how to before we get there, but we do that every week. We do that for every single race track, but there's just a little bit added for this one. It's like going down to Daytona. You really wan to win the Daytona 500 because it's one of the biggest races of the year. This is the same story, but it's even a little bit more special I think for Team Penske than it is for everyone else." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
RELATED: Photos of Stewart through the years " Bowyer tabbed as replacement Three-time premier series champion Tony Stewart smiled and conceded it was a "formality at this point" in announcing Wednesday afternoon that he would step away from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition following the 2016 season. "It was a choice that is 100 percent mine, no pressure from anybody," Stewart said of his decision not to compete full-time anymore. "If anything, it's been the opposite, more people trying to talk me out of it. "Everyone in their career makes a decision when it's time for a change. I think deep down you know when it's time to do something different and make a change like this." Appearing jovial and without a hint of second-thought about his career decision, Stewart joked he was bringing Harry Gant out of retirement to drive the the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevy in 2017, then confirmed that actually Clint Bowyer would be taking over his seat. The news confirmed months of speculation and rumor about Stewart's future and solidified Bowyer's career path as well with Bowyer's Michael Waltrip Racing team closing operations at the end of 2015. "It's all about people, all about culture for me, and I don't think the fit factor could be any better," said Bowyer, acknowledging the SHR ride was "one of the biggest powerhouses in the sport" and said an announcement is coming later this week about his 2016 plans. Wednesday was clearly more about "the people's champion" as Stewart is often referred. One of the most popular and accomplished champions to ever compete in NASCAR's marquee series, Stewart, 44, has won three premier series titles as a driver (2002, 2005, 2011) and two as an owner (2011, 2014), accumulated 48 victories and won over countless hearts as a kind of extreme throw-back talent garnering comparisons to racing's all-time greats such as A.J. Foyt and Dale Earnhardt. Quite simply, Stewart won in every car he drove. And NASCAR fans always appreciated that about the driver known by his nickname, "Smoke." RELATED: Drivers react to Stewart's announcement Stewart won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 15 straight seasons from his 1999 rookie year through 2013, and he has 11 NASCAR XFINITY Series wins in 94 starts -- roughly winning once every 10 times he tried. He won twice in six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and had five top-10 finishes. "When I think of Tony Stewart , unmatched passion and a pure love of the sport come to mind," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a release. "He has won championships and millions of fans. But he has given back so much more, and that's what I admire most. Today's news was bittersweet for all, but we know Tony will continue to be a big part of our sport in his roles as a team and track owner. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Tony for his many years of excellence and competitiveness, and wish him nothing but the best in his final season as a driver in the Sprint Cup Series." The 1997 IndyCar champion -- and 1996 Indy 500 Rookie of the Race -- proved his mettle against motorsports' best drivers, winning four times in IROC competition, earning the 2006 IROC championship and finishing runner-up in 2001. In 1999 he completed racing's Memorial Day "Double," finishing ninth in the Indianapolis 500 and fourth in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 later that same day in North Carolina. Stewart was the first driver in history to win all three major United States Auto Club national championships -- Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown -- in a single season. So after essentially four decades behind the wheel fulltime, Stewart said he contemplated this decision for a while and said this week, he is completely at peace. "I've learned a lot about myself," Stewart said. You run through the range of emotions. There's days you're like, I can't wait, and then there's days that are like, man, do I ‑‑ you battle back and forth. "I'm not leaving the sport I love. I'm not walking away from something I'm passionate about, I'm just changing roles, which it's like just moving to a different position in a company. "I'm not really retiring, I'm just changing positions." RELATED: Best quotes from Stewart's press conference It's been an admittedly uphill climb for the champ after the last three seasons of horrible injury and extreme heartbreak. He missed the last 15 races in the 2013 season after suffering a compound leg fracture while competing in a sprint car race. Then last year, while still mending from that injury, Stewart was involved in another sprint car accident. This time, another competitor, Kevin Ward Jr., was killed when, after approaching Stewart's car on track during a caution period, the car struck Ward. Stewart sat out three Sprint Cup races immediately after. No criminal charges were found to be justified against Stewart; the Ward family filed a civil lawsuit against him a year later. On Wednesday Stewart stressed that his decision to stop driving in the Cup series full-time had "zero percent to with (the Ward situation)" and that physically, "my leg feels fine, there's nothing wrong with my leg." He said he may even compete in Sprint cars again. He listed the Rolex 24 at Daytona as a possibility and mentioned racing modifieds and making sporadic starts in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series -- all things he plans to do without the stress and full schedule of racing full-time in the Sprint Cup ranks. RELATED: Tony talks toll on leg, life In the past two seasons, Stewart has struggled to post the kind of top-shelf results both he and his fans had grown accustomed to seeing. But he has consistently insisted that was more to do with the current rules package than his off-track distractions. He said earlier this year that NASCAR's new high downforce, low horsepower car does not suit his style and is actually "the opposite of everything I've ever driven. "It's like I'm in the middle of a calculus equation and I didn't take pre-calculus,'' Stewart told NASCAR.com this May. He is currently 25th in the Sprint Cup Series driver standings with a sub-standard two top-10 finishes in his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet this year. But he was adamant that he would not be coasting in his final season and that this decision was not "performance based." Stepping away from his NASCAR driving duties, Stewart's focus shifts to running his beloved Eldora Speedway in Ohio and to being a team owner. His resume out of the car is already as impressive as his work behind the steering wheel. "It's just time to do what we're doing," Stewart said. "I still fully anticipate we're going to get things turned around. If I didn't feel that way, I wouldn't waste my time next year for anybody. I'm not a guy that's going to get in a car and ride. We're full steam ahead. "We're going to keep working and try to win as many races as we can next year, and that goal is going to be ‑‑ when you guys get to February, go ahead and write this down, what our goals are for the year, we're going to try to win races, try to win the Daytona 500 , then the Brickyard 400, the Southern 500, and try to win a championship." Ultimately, stepping away from his NASCAR driving duties, Stewart's focus shifts to running his beloved Eldora Speedway in Ohio and to being a team owner. His effort out of the car is already as impressive as his work behind the steering wheel. His namesake Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 team is the reigning Sprint Cup owner champion thanks to Kevin Harvick 's 2014 championship run, and two of his team's four drivers -- Harvick and Kurt Busch -- are in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . This summer Stewart collected his 10th Knoxville Nationals trophy in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series fielding a car for driver Donny Schatz, who has also delivered five World of Outlaw championships for Stewart. He has 23 national titles as a team owner. "I've won more car championships as an owner than a driver," Stewart said "I'm definitely as competitive as an owner as I am a driver. …That fire's still there and that's what makes this transition easier." While his success driving and fielding cars is partly responsible for Stewart's incredible popularity over the years, he is also one of the sport's most robust personalities. RELATED: 'Smoke' still the people's champion He's not afraid to express his displeasure at his competitors' blunders, and the other drivers have come to expect either face time or bumper time with him after on track run-ins. And Stewart's "no-fools" tolerance policy extends to the media covering his career. There are highlight reels devoted to showcasing him sparring with reporters in press conferences and on pit road -- his wit and sarcasm legendary with the media corps. He grinned broadly and warned the room of reporters on Wednesday that he will not follow the guide of four-time champ Jeff Gordon who has met with the press nearly every week during this -- his last -- year of NASCAR competition. "Let's establish this right now: I will not be coming to the media center every week to talk about it,'" Stewart said smiling and shaking his head. "You can save your gifts. I've got enough rocking chairs at home as it is. I bought those when I wanted to go sit on my own rocking chair. You don't have to give me one. "I'm content to go race and be around the racing community and the racing family and be around our fans," he continued. "They can just send me a note from the track president and say, hey, thank you, and that'll be sufficient for me. "I think it's been very fitting for Jeff [Gordon]. I don't think I'm worthy of that kind of admiration because I think Jeff has really done so much for the sport that nobody will ever be able to do again. I think that kind of celebration is reserved for somebody like Jeff." One thing Stewart has across the board is respect -- from his competitors, to the fans and to the media who will be watching closely to see how this next chapter in his career and life plays out. He gave a couple hints on Wednesday afternoon. When it's time to drop the green flag for the 2017 Daytona 500 – the first one run without Tony Stewart on the grid since 1999 – the champ says he hasn't figured out quite yet where he'll be, but spoke about one possibility. "I'll probably be on some fan's motor home on the back stretch promoting our sponsors," Stewart said laughing. "I have no idea where I'm supposed to be yet. I've got a whole year to figure that out."
RELATED: Hall of Fame class of 2016 announced CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 29, 2015) -- Tickets for the 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be available to the public beginning Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte , Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner will be honored during this year's ceremony set for Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Ticket prices range from $45 for general seats to the Induction Ceremony to $350 for the Exclusive Driver Dinner Package (plus applicable service fees and taxes). Drivers, celebrities and legends of the sport will take the stage during this premier celebration that will honor the seventh class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Prior to the ceremony, a special Induction Dinner at the Charlotte Convention Center, which is connected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, will include a special jacket presentation for the living inductees and an award presentation honoring popular FOX Sports broadcaster Steve Byrnes, the fifth recipient of the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. Fans also have the exclusive opportunity to purchase a seat for the dinner that puts them at a table with a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver (limited quantities are available). After dinner, the Induction Ceremony will take place in the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center and will honor the five Class of 2016 inductees as well as Harold Brasington, the second recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Following the ceremony, a special NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day will take place at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Saturday, Jan. 23. More details on driver appearances, activities and programming for this day will be announced at a later date. Individual ticket and ticket packages will be available beginning Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. at ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. For more information, visit nascarhall.com . For accessible seating, please call 704-654-4400. See below for ticket and package options. NASCAR Hall of Fame Exclusive Driver Dinner Package ($350 per person plus applicable service fees and taxes; limited quantity available) • NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver at Table • Induction Dinner Seat, including Jacket Presentation • Induction Ceremony Seat • Commemorative Dinner and Ceremony Ticket • NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Yearbook • Admission to First Look at Class of 2016 Inductee Exhibits • (NASCAR Hall of Fame Annual Pass NASCAR Hall of Fame VIP Induction Package ($299 per person plus applicable service fees and taxes; limited quantity available) • Induction Dinner Seat, including Jacket Presentation • Induction Ceremony Seat • Commemorative Dinner and Ceremony Ticket • NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Yearbook • Admission to First Look at Class of 2016 Inductee Exhibits • NASCAR Hall of Fame Annual Pass Premium Seating at Induction Ceremony ($80 per person plus applicable service fees and taxes) • Premium Induction Ceremony Seat • NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Yearbook • Admission to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 22. General Seating at Induction Ceremony ($45 per person plus applicable service fees and taxes) • Induction Ceremony Seat • NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Yearbook
RELATED: Stewart through the years Watching Tony Stewart as he announced his plans to step out of full-time NASCAR competition in 2017 reminded me a whole lot of the Tony Stewart I first met in 1996 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , a driver who always made the racing beat a little more interesting and lot more entertaining for the last two decades. On the track and off it. Stewart, 44, was cutting up, smiling and relaxed Wednesday afternoon sharing his news and holding court in front of a room of reporters -- easing at times, but sincere and authentic. His larger-than-life persona has always been in proportion with his talent. Like a lot of people, I have mixed emotions about not watching him race every week, but they are trumped by the idea that Stewart could now exhale and be at peace. He seems very much so. And he deserves it. I'd spoken with him in previous months about the possibility of his "don't call it retirement." He bounced the idea off plenty of people and admitted that most tried to talk him out of it. I noticed that Stewart was especially chipper last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , and after the race was feisty like I had long known him to be. He was smiling a lot more. There was a definite good vibe. Clearly, he was ready to make this career-impacting announcement -- to move on, not aside. RELATED: Stewart: 'Deep down you know when it's time' It's the rare exception that a racing driver possesses the talent of his heroes, and in Stewart's case, he also shares a good bit of their personality. He loved racing against Dale Earnhardt, who loved racing against Tony Stewart . And he took A.J. Foyt's famed No. 14 for his own Chevy when he moved to Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart is deservedly and fittingly compared to those two legends in his racing accomplishments, and in what has become a time of polish, politeness and political correctness, there will probably not be another so similar out of the driver's seat, either. Sometimes, Stewart's temperament -- the sarcastic interviews or the pit road confrontations -- diverted our appreciation for what a remarkable racer he is. RELATED: Statement from Brian France on Stewart Stewart is still the only driver to win an IndyCar championship (1997) and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles (2002, 2005, 2011). He was the first to win three USAC national titles (Midget, Sprint Car and Silver Crown ) in one season (1996) and his results in racing's Memorial Day "Double" (ninth in Indy 500 and fourth in Coca-Cola 600 ) are unmatched. Everything you need to know about Stewart's drive was evident in his 2011 Sprint Cup championship run when after going winless during the regular season he won five of the last 10 races -- including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- to claim his third title trophy in a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards . He promises a similarly motivated final season in 2016 with a Daytona 500 and Southern 500 trophy still on his to-do list. "I've been very fortunate to do what I've loved to do for 37 years up to this point, and next year it will be 38 and there's no period on it at the end of next year," Stewart said this week. "It's just a little change. I still plan on adding stats for years to come after 2016." Asked about his legacy, which surely includes a NASCAR Hall of Fame induction, Stewart was more reflective, even philosophic. RELATED: Quotes from Stewart's retirement announcement "I really haven't thought about it, to be honest because to me at the end of the day I'm happy with who I am,'' he said. "I look at myself in the mirror and I'm comfortable with who I am and what I've done and the path that I've been down." And who could ask for more than that? "I think everything that's happened in my life has happened for a reason,'' Stewart said. "I think there's things that I would have skipped in my life and things that have not happened, but I think everything in the big picture has happened for a reason and is part of something that's a lot bigger than what we are this room."
Kevin Harvick may not have won the argument, the physical altercation or whatever you want to call Sunday's post-race confrontation -- a jab, a punch, a push, a shove -- with Jimmie Johnson . What he could win -- either of the next two races -- holds the key to his repeat championship bid. With his next-to-last place finish in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway receding in the rear-view, Harvick's quest for advancement turns to the next two events, starting with New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend and ending at Dover International Speedway in two weeks. He can take any math out of the elimination equation by winning and sealing an automatic berth in the Contender Round. RELATED: Can Harvick recover, advance in Chase? It's a task Harvick is well-suited for, based on his history of clutch moments in the march to his first Sprint Cup title last season and on his ability, as crew chief Rodney Childers suggests, to find an extra level of focus when it matters. "Yeah, we can win anywhere," Harvick said Sunday on Chicagoland's pit road. "I mean, we could've won today. It's just a matter of putting a couple days together and being able to come back to Victory Lane. So, same thing as last year." The sense of déjà vu for Harvick stems from his method of reaching the championship race in 2014. After a crash-related 33rd-place finish in the Eliminator Round opener at Martinsville, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver converted on a must-win in the round's finale at Phoenix. He summoned the same sort of crucial performance the following week, winning the race and his first premier-series crown at Homestead-Miami Speedway . The task this year is similar, but comes much earlier in the postseason process. His on-track scrape over racing room with Johnson during a midrace restart Sunday left Harvick spinning into the wall just a handful of laps later and left him fuming in the drivers' motorcoach lot post-race. If any resentment and hard feelings linger after Harvick's subpar finish, channeling them into increased determination could help lift the No. 4 team into the Contender Round. RELATED: Harvick confronts, shoves Johnson post-Chicagoland "Honestly, Kevin's got a second gear to him and even this race team," Childers said. "It's bad to say this, but we haven't really pushed that hard since we won at Phoenix in the spring. We wanted to save everything we had for the Chase, and I think everybody saw that this weekend with how fast we were. It didn't work out, though. We'll have good speed in the next two weeks and just have to go try win one of those." The next two tracks -- 1.058-mile New Hampshire and 1-mile Dover -- haven't historically been strongholds for Harvick, who has just one win collectively at both venues. But more recent history holds optimism for the SHR No. 4 Chevrolet camp, which has led laps in bunches at both tracks since 2014. RELATED: Hear what was said over the scanner "I feel like the last two races at Loudon, we had the best car and hadn't quite closed the deal," Childers said. "The last three at Dover, we've had everybody killed. If we hadn't knocked off valve stems and crazy (expletive), and Jimmie got us on that last restart at Dover last time, but we've had great race cars there every time we've been. Definitely feel like we can go there and win."
LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR will crown two Iron Men on Sunday. Jeff Gordon , who will take the nod for most consecutive races run (789) in the Sprint Cup Series when the green flag drops for Sunday's Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra), will occupy most of the headlines, but Camping World Truck Series driver Ben Kennedy 's pursuit of IRONMAN triathlon status is nothing to ignore. Following the conclusion of Saturday's UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, FS1), Kennedy will hop on a plane with his mother, Lesa France Kennedy, en route to Augusta, Georgia, where the pair and her boyfriend will all compete in a 70.3-mile IRONMAN race. We've seen fitness freaks Jimmie Johnson , Landon Cassill and Josh Wise spend their off-time training for these types of events, but until recently it never appeared to be on Kennedy's radar. "I don't know (how it happened)," the 23-year-old said Friday at the 'Magic Mile.' "It came about in November of last year. We were all sitting down at dinner; it was me, my mom and her boyfriend and we'd done some small triathlons, 5Ks but nothing major. "I've always wanted to do at least a half IRONMAN and we were probably a little bit crazy in the head (at the time), but it was something that we committed to and now we're here doing it this weekend." Kennedy said that as his career has progressed, he's come to realize the importance fitness and nutrition play when he's in the truck. There have been a few "wake up calls", as he put it, when he realized he needed to be more physically fit as he advanced within the sport and races got longer and more demanding. Now, he's using the same training program that Carl Edwards , arguably NASCAR's fittest driver, uses and he's seeing the benefits play up both off the track in his alternate racing career and on the track, where he already has more top-fives and is on pace to earn more top 10s than his 2014 campaign. Kennedy's competitive nature -- which every NASCAR driver certainly needs, to an extent -- is apparent, but he's keeping his expectations in check for Sunday, when he'll have to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles just to complete the grueling race. "I've got two different goals and I'll just be happy finishing, honestly," said Kennedy, whose other goal is to place first in his age group and qualify for the next stage in Australia. "Especially after this weekend, because I'm going to race on Saturday and jump on a plane right after to fly down to Georgia. "Only thing I'm worried about is being kind of wired after the race, because I know I'm going to be wired even more so about Sunday morning. I don't know how much sleep I'll get." No matter if he places first or not; or even if he finishes or not, the five months of training that led up to Sunday are enough to be proud of for anyone, let alone a NASCAR national series driver trying to balance a race schedule on top of a routine that saw him doing two of the three legs every day. Sunday will tie Kennedy back together with his childhood hero, whose legend in the sport will be further ingrained around 2 p.m. ET. Just another reason for him to admire the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion. "With everything that Gordon's done for the sport; I remember when I was, I think, 3 years old, I had the opportunity to meet him and he was the first driver I think I ever met," Kennedy said. "I made that connection in the back of my mind growing up through my childhood that he was always my favorite driver. "It's so cool to see him running so good at this point of his career. You look at some athletes and they're not at their strongest the last couple years of their career, but Jeff Gordon , he's as strong as he's ever been, especially in the field that's out there; it's so unbelievably competitive. It's cool to see what he's done and brought to the sport."
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman talks with Carl Edwards in victory lane following the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Podcast explores Darlington's throwback paint schemes and more
Ryan Newman wins the 20th running of the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.