NASCAR welcomes 2014 Hall of Fame induction class

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The NASCAR Hall of Fame opened its doors to its fifth induction class on Wednesday night, welcoming the Class of 2014 of racing greats Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty, Tim Flock, Jack Ingram and Edward Glenn “Fireball” Roberts.

“I’m very appreciative in that I’m in there now and I’ll be there forever,” Ingram said.

It marked the first time that four members of the same family are now enshrined in the Hall: Maurice, brother Richard (inducted 2010), late father Lee (inducted 2011) and cousin Dale Inman (inducted 2012).

“Who would have thought that the whole family would have got into the Hall of Fame together,” Maurice Petty said. “It’s great. I’m really tickled to death about it.”

It also marked the first time that a living father and son are now enshrined in the Hall: Dale Jarrett and father Ned (inducted in 2011), and the Jarretts become the third father-son combination to be chosen to the Hall (along with the Pettys and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and son Bill Jr.

The Hall is now 25 members strong, having inducted its first class of five in 2010. Selection of the sixth Hall class will be announced in late May.

Say hello to the newest members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame:

MAURICE PETTY

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by brother Richard Petty, who said of his little brother, “There wouldn’t be a Richard Petty, per se, (who) accomplished the things that he accomplished without a lot of people, but this is one of the main characters of the whole deal.” … Native of Randleman, N.C. … One of the most prolific engine builders in NASCAR history. Led Petty Enterprises to 198 wins and seven championships. Is also the first engine builder to be inducted into the Hall. … Formed legendary Petty Enterprises with father Lee and brother Richard, who preceded him as NASCAR Hall of Famers. … Was nicknamed “the Chief.”

THE QUOTE: “It was a lot of fun but the whole problem was Richard was a whole lot better (as a driver),” Maurice Petty said. “I was tearing up cars while Richard was winning races and bringing in a whole lot more money.”

TIM FLOCK

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by former Charlotte Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler. Accepting Flock’s induction was his widow, Frances. … Native of Fort Payne, Ala. … Was one of stock car racing’s early pioneers. Was a two-time champion (Grand National Series in 1952 and 1955), with 39 wins and 129 top 10s in just 187 starts, highest career winning percentage (21 percent) for a full-time NASCAR driver. … Holds NASCAR record for most pole positions earned in a season (18, 1955). … Was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. … Used to own a pet monkey, Jocko, that was well known in the sport, accompanying Flock to the racetrack on numerous occasions and even was strapped in next to Flock during seven races before getting loose. Flock had to pull into the pits and have Jocko removed. “He got the monkey off his back,” Frances Flock said with a laugh.

THE QUOTES: “We’re now almost married,” Wheeler joked after placing Tim Flock’s induction ring on the finger of his widow, Frances Flock. … Upon accepting her late husband’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Frances Flock said, “Boy, this is like being at the Super Bowl of racing here tonight. I bet my darling and the passed drivers are having one huge race in Heaven tonight. I can almost hear them telling stories.”

JACK INGRAM

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by former competitor Harry Gant. … Native of Asheville, N.C. … Arguably the greatest driver in NASCAR Busch Series history. Five-time Busch Series and Late Model champion. Won 31 races, had 122 top five and 164 top 10 finishes in 275 Busch Series starts. … Won 317 races across several NASCAR racing series. … Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. … Nicknamed “the Ironman” for oftentimes running three or four times a week across the Southeast.

THE QUOTES: “Wouldn’t be any of them that ever win 317 NASCAR races,” Ingram said when asked if he could go out and teach some of today’s young drivers like Kyle Busch a thing or two. … “This is a major lifetime achievement for me. While I’ve won driving the car, I had plenty of help and support along the way. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here tonight,” Ingram said. … “I want to thank my fans. I still get letters every day from people all over the world,” Ingram said.

DALE JARRETT

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by country music superstar Blake Shelton. … NASCAR Sprint Cup champion in 1999. … Native of Hickory, N.C. … Earned 32 wins and 260 top 10s in 668 Cup series starts. … Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. … Current commentator/analyst for ESPN broadcast of NASCAR races. … Was good enough to potentially be a professional golfer (turned down golf scholarship from University of South Carolina). … Was a three-time Daytona 500 winner (1993, 1996 and 2000). Also two-time winner of Brickyard 400 (1996 and 1999).

THE QUOTES: “My dad was and still is my hero, and that’s what makes tonight so special, because I’m joining him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Jarrett said. … “This is the ultimate. For it to be the only living father-son combination and to be the first dad to see his son inducted into the Hall of Fame, I can’t tell you how special that is,” Ned Jarrett, father of Dale Jarrett. … “It does mean a lot to me,” Dale Jarrett said. “There’s a lot of people that come through this sport and I wish they’d be able to know what this feels like.” … “Nothing compares to how proud I feel tonight,” Ned Jarrett said of his son’s induction. “He’s made us proud in a lot of ways, and this just tops it all.”

EDWARD GLENN “Fireball” ROBERTS

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by former mechanic Waddell Wilson. … Native of Daytona Beach, Fla. … Had one of the most prolific nicknames in NASCAR history, called “Fireball,” which came from his prolific ability to throw a baseball as a teenager. … Perhaps the greatest driver to have never won a NASCAR championship. Even so, Roberts still won 33 races and had 122 top 10s in just 206 career starts. Biggest win was the 1962 Daytona 500. … Succumbed to burns and other injuries six weeks after a horrific and fiery crash in the 1964 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. … Considered to have been NASCAR’s first superstar.

THE QUOTE: “We are proud that our grandfather, who sacrificed his life to racing, is being honored by NASCAR, the organization that set the scene for a life well lived,” said grandson Matt McDaniel. “There is no doubt that our grandfather would have shared this special night with everyone who influenced and had an impact on him during his career, including his family, friends, colleagues and fans.”

Also announced as the winner of the Squire-Hall Award for Media Excellence was veteran journalist, TV and radio race announcer and founder of National Speed Sport News, the late Chris Economaki.

Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett said of Economaki, “He never quit. I can’t believe the energy he had. When he would leave the racetrack, he’d go to the hotel or motel and work until midnight to get ready for the next day. He was just such an inspiration to a lot of people. Just a great guy and certainly deserving of this great honor.”

NASCAR Truck drivers feel the earth move sitting in NHRA powerhouses

Photos courtesy Kalitta Motorsports
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Several NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers got to see how the other half lives – namely, their counterparts in the NHRA – on Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and across the street at zMax Dragway.

To say it was an eye-opening experience is putting it mildly.

Top Fuel drag racers Shawn Langdon and Troy Coughlin Jr., as well as Funny Car driver J.R. Todd – all from one of the top teams in the NHRA, Kalitta Motorsports – are in Charlotte for this weekend’s 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.

NASCAR Trucks driver Noah Gragson gets to feel the 10,000 horsepower of a Top Fuel dragster.

Thursday, they invited NASCAR drivers Ryan Truex, Christopher Bell, Grant Enfinger and Noah Gragson to show how it’s done NHRA-style.

Todd, Langdon and Coughlin started the day taking Toyota Camry pace cars around the 1.5-mile CMS oval.

Then everyone moved across the street to see some real horsepower, namely, 10,000 horses worth – which is roughly about 13 times the power they have under the hood of their race trucks.

Truex and Bell got a chance to “warm up” Todd’s Funny Car, while Enfinger and Gragson did the same with Langdon’s Top Fueler.

 

Meanwhile, Todd and Langdon both did smoky burnouts that, if the Truck guys thought they could do burnouts, they learned a lot to the contrary.

“It was a cool to do a big smoky burnout,” Todd said. “It was cool to see the guys reactions. We had a great time today and I think we created several new fans.”

Added Langdon, “Days like today is what makes me love our sport even more. Bringing these guys over here and letting them hit the throttle and sit in the car when it warms up gives them a look at what we do. To see the smiles on their faces after a badass burnout and how excited they are, just gets me pumped.”

Here’s what the NASCAR guys thought about the experience.

Bell: “J.R. Todd let me sit in his Toyota Camry Funny Car and they even cracked the throttle open for me when we were warming up the motor. It is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. It is a feeling like none other.”

Enfinger: “Just a crazy experience, something I have never done. Been able to do a lot of cool things with Toyota, but it is not every day that you get to make your dad jealous.”

Gragson: “This was awesome. It was the experience of a lifetime. It was great to hang out with J.R. Todd, Shawn and Troy Jr. Definitely a cool experience; one that I will remember forever.”

Truex: “This has probably been the craziest experience that I have ever been a part of. I got to sit in a Funny Car; they hit the throttle, which really scared me. When I was outside the car, I jumped about three feet in the air. It was cool to get inside and experience that. The nitro was all in my face, and I think they gained a new fan with me today.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

F1 drivers split on new ‘shield’ protection

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One drivers are split over plans to test a new “shield” device to protect against flying debris.

The FIA will trial the transparent screen in the coming months for a potential introduction in 2018, as it pushes for greater head protection for drivers. Recent years have seen major head injuries in several motorsport series.

“I wouldn’t mind trying out the shield, seeing how is the visibility,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas said on Thursday. “In terms of safety it would be a good step compared to what we have now.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was another supporter, saying “we’ve still got to see a bit more, but first impressions seem OK.”

The FIA previously seemed to favor a metal frame known as the “halo,” which was designed to stop a flying wheel hitting a driver’s head but was criticized by some drivers on aesthetic grounds.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat said on Thursday he was “quite against” the shield and the halo. “The way Formula One should look should remain the same,” he added. “We have enough protection.”

Romain Grosjean of Haas voiced concern the “next step” would be completely closed cockpits.

Recent years have seen several high-profile head injuries, including the deaths of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees in 2009 when he was hit by a loose wheel and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who was struck by debris, in 2015.

In Formula One, Brazilian driver Felipe Massa missed the second half of the 2009 season when a loose spring from another car hit his helmet, leaving him needing surgery.

Haas changes F1 brake supplier ahead of Russian Grand Prix

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Haas has switched from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in a bid to remedy its long-running braking issues in Formula 1.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation onto the F1 grid in 2016, with Romain Grosjean scoring all 29 of its points through its debut season.

Grosjean and then-teammate Esteban Gutierrez had their efforts spurned on a number of occasions by brake issues which continued to arise through pre-season testing in 2017 and the early races.

Haas pushed to remedy the issue by testing new Carbon Industrie brakes in the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test, with Grosjean and new teammate Kevin Magnussen conducting running.

The team duly decided to fit the new Carbon Industrie brakes for this weekend’s race in Russia, with both VF-17 cars to run with them from Friday onwards.

“To be fair to Brembo, the last update in brakes we had that arrived in China were much better. It took a long time to get them,” Grosjean explained.

“So then I was not screaming to change to Carbone Industrie but it was in the pipeline, so we tried them, and both drivers were pretty pleased with them. We felt like we had more control under braking.

“I’m very sensitive to my left pedal, so I really need to get good brakes to get good confidence and push the car to its maximum limit. So we are going to run them here.

“There is still a little bit of work we need to be doing around the mapping and finding the solution around those brakes but I think yeah, definitely it’s going to help me a little bit to find the last few hundredths.”

NHRA: Chad Head to substitute for Alexis DeJoria in Charlotte

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Alexis DeJoria will miss this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, with her Kalitta Motorsports team confirming DeJoria will need to tend to a family matter.

Chad Head, Kalitta Motorsports Director of Safety, will step into the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry this weekend. No timetable was given for DeJoria’s return; after Charlotte this weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues for its third consecutive race weekend next week in Atlanta.

This isn’t the first race DeJoria has had to miss recently, as she also was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the 2016 NHRA season finale in Pomona.