Dale Jarrett, one of the five newest members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, with country music superstar Blake Shelton, who presented Jarrett for induction into the Hall on Wednesday.

NASCAR welcomes 2014 Hall of Fame induction class

Leave a comment

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.”

F1 Paddock Pass: German Grand Prix (VIDEO)

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 28: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari laughs in the Drivers Press Conference during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 28, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Formula 1 makes its long-awaited return to Hockenheim this weekend for the German Grand Prix after a two-year absence.

Lewis Hamilton arrives in Germany leading the drivers’ championship for the first time in 2016 following his victory in Hungary last weekend.

Five wins in the last six races have seen Hamilton wipe away Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg’s 43-point lead in the title race, turning it into a six-point advantage ahead of F1’s summer break.

With the driver market beginning to fall into place for next year and the F1 Strategy Group having met earlier today, this weekend’s race is due to feature a number of key storylines.

Previewing the weekend with all the latest interviews, news and analysis, Will Buxton brings you the latest edition of Paddock Pass.

John Force gets ‘gorilla’ off back, ready to become King Kong again

2015_John_Force_Head
(Photo: Gary Nastase Photography)
1 Comment

John Force admits he’s probably been watching politics a little bit too much of late, particularly some of Donald Trump’s rhetoric.

After he won this past Sunday at Denver, the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion couldn’t contain himself.

“I was like a little kid, I got kinda stupid,” he said. “I’m yelling it out, ‘We’re live on Fox. We’re going to make NHRA drag racing great again.’”

Force paused, and then sheepishly added, “It just kinda came out of me.”

But Force had good reason to be caught up in the moment: he had just won his first NHRA national event in over a year.

For a guy who has now won a record 144 races, going more than a year without a win was tantamount to coming out of a dark forest after being lost for nearly 13 months.

“I did a recent interview and the guy said, ‘Boy, you’re back.’ But I never really left. Mentally, I never left.

“But the problem is when you get in that battle and you’re getting whipped every week, whether it’s the Schumacher’s or Pedregon, Wilkerson or Kalitta that are beating you up, there ain’t a whole lot to say.

“You take your whipping and just keep fighting it. Now I have something to say.”

Indeed, Force has something to say – but then, he always does. The most popular and outspoken driver in NHRA history wants to make sure that the fans, and especially his fellow competitors:

“I didn’t just get a monkey off my back, I got a gorilla off it,” he quipped.

And now it’s Force who is ready to get back to his old King Kong form.

“Without a doubt, I’m going after a championship,” Force said. “That’s how (teammates) Robert Hight and my daughters think. That’s what we do.”

NHRA Drag Racing
John Force, left, after defeating daughter Courtney in the final round of this past Sunday’s race in Denver.

To say Force was excited after winning is an understatement:

“I was jacked. I started yelling, and I never do that if it’s my daughter or Robert Hight, if I’m lucky enough to beat ‘em. I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to rub it in, but man, my heart was pounding.

“I jumped out of the car at the end of (his winning) run and I wanted to be like Ron Capps. He always jumps up on his hood when he wins a race and he doesn’t hurt it.

“I wanted to jump up on that hood, I got out of the car, and I about fell off the side of the car. They had to catch me. … It was so funny. One of my guys said, ‘Old man, get off there, you’re going to kill yourself, get off that roof.’ I said, ‘No, I’m going to stand up there like Capps, I want to do this for live TV.’ I’ll tell you, I got a little crazy there.”

Winning at Denver brought back memories of the 1992 season, when Force was going for a third consecutive Funny Car championship.

“I remember we won championships in 1990 and 1991 and then here comes Cruz (Pedregon) with the hamburger stand from hell. He was sponsored by McDonald’s, and he beat us in ’92. I was having fits.

“We were going up to the race in Seattle, were in a McDonald’s drive-thru and my daughter Ashley said, ‘Dad, I want one of those McDonald’s cars.’ I wanted to break it. My wife said, ‘Are you losing your mind?’ I told her, ‘You don’t understand what it’s like.’ This kid came out of nowhere.

“(Former crew chief Austin) Coil said, ‘Force, relax, he’d have to win the last five and we’d have to lose in the first round each time.’ And that’s what happened. Cruz just won everything. He found magic and we found stupidity.

“Then, the next year, we went out and won 10.”

That’s where Force is at now. One win down, nine to go – or at least he hopes in the remaining 10 races on the NHRA schedule.

While he may not win nine races, what he showed at Denver means Force and his team are capable of winning many more races in what had been a challenging season up until last weekend.

When he came off the mountain at Denver, Force had improved from ninth to eighth in the Funny Car point standings. But he still has more mountains to climb ahead of him, as he’s 299 points behind points leader Ron Capps.

But on the flip side, Force is only 60 points out of fourth place, currently occupied by two-time champ Matt Hagan.

That’s why Force is looking forward to this weekend’s Toyota Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

“The hill was big for us but when we got on that mountain (last week’s race at Denver), for some reason we had it all right,” Force said. “But trust me, when we get to Sonoma this weekend, they’ll (his Funny Car rivals will) be back. They didn’t like getting beat. They’ll all be back but we’re still learning, we’re still turning that corner.”

Force and Top Fuel counterpart, eight-time champ Tony Schumacher, both earned their first wins in over a year at Denver. So as the so-called Western Swing (Denver, Sonoma and Seattle) continues this weekend, Force and Schumacher both want to continue their newfound winning ways.

“The Western Swing is pretty special,” Force said. “Schumacher told me after Denver that we’re going to try to win the Swing, him and me. But he said, one thing if we don’t, nobody else can. So, we’ve fought everybody by this first win.”

Even though he’s now 67 in age, Force said he feels much younger in performance. He claims he never thought that his win at Epping, New Hampshire a year ago in June potentially could have been the last of his career.

“Nope, never did,” Force said. “First of all, I took a big financial hit.”

That he did. Force lost his two primary sponsors after the 2014 season when Castrol Oil (which had been with him for more than 30 years) and Ford (20 years) both decided to reallocate resources in other directions.

“You’ve got to be financial to stay alive,” Force said. “I put all that back together. That was my focus. Then I started building teams again.

“I told Jim Campbell (U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports) at Chevrolet that this wasn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take me time to put together. It fell apart. Financially, it killed me. I had big overhead and couldn’t pay it. I lost people, we weren’t able financially to test as much.

“Now we’re back in the game and we’re starting to turn the corner. I’ve got a team that’s young, with so much heart and hungry.”

Force had a number of drivers to get past en route to his win at Denver, none more important – or close – to him than his opponent in Sunday’s final round: his daughter Courtney.

The win over his youngest daughter was both bittersweet and humorous, and only Force can tell those stores in his own inimitable fashion.

First, the bittersweet aspect:

“You know what’s funny, I didn’t even know I’d won. She (Courtney) was right out my window all the way to the (finish) lights. I kept saying to myself, ‘Come on, baby, keep it in the groove, keep it in the groove, don’t be looking over at her.’ I promised I wouldn’t look over at her, I didn’t want to know she was there, because I get emotional (when he races) my kids and then you don’t fight the fight to win.

“You got to go in there like you want to tear their throat out, but how do you do that to your baby girl? I did look over and thought, man, she’s right out the window, and I knew she was faster than me.

“She did her job, she was right there. But when we cleared the lights, I didn’t see her anymore because she likes to drive by me (in the shutdown area).

“I told them, don’t talk about my daughter to me in the final. Everybody mentioned she was next to me, but I wanted to forget about her. I didn’t even want to look over to see her team. I needed to go do my lane, be a tiger and go after it.

“I didn’t want to know it was her, I gave it everything I got and the good Lord got us there. But I’ll take it because I needed it.”

And now, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story on his win over Courtney – with the kind of humorous twist that only John Force can put on it:

“After the race, our teams went out to dinner. Courtney went to a pizza place with her team; she wouldn’t go to dinner with me. I said to her, ‘Are you still mad at me, honey?’ She said, ‘Dad, you just aggravate me.’

“I told her, ‘I needed it, I needed to get you.’ She said, ‘I know, you needed to win for Peak and Chevy to prove you were okay.’

“I told her, ‘They’re all looking at you. They love you, you’re beautiful, like your mom. You ain’t homely looking like me. I needed a win. Now, I need more. And she knows.’”

And so does every other Funny Car driver out there.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Rosberg surprised by Hamilton’s sudden interest in F1 safety

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 28:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP walks in the Paddock during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 28, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nico Rosberg is surprised by Lewis Hamilton’s sudden interest in Formula 1 safety as their dispute over the yellow flags shown in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix continues.

Hamilton was forced to abandon his final Q3 lap in Hungary after a spin for Fernando Alonso sparked double waved yellow flags at Turn 8.

Mercedes teammate Rosberg was one of the last drivers to come across the double waved yellow flags, lifting briefly through the incident site before taking pole by one-tenth of a second.

The stewards investigated the incident late in the day, reportedly at Hamilton’s behest, but felt that Rosberg slowed sufficiently despite setting a session-best middle sector.

Hamilton said on Thursday that the lack of penalty given to Rosberg has now set a precedent for all other drivers to follow, before airing concerns about the safety of the ruling.

“He’s not someone who’s regarded for being interested in safety up to now, so quite a change there which I just noted,” Rosberg told NBCSN on Thursday in Germany.

When asked if that was a widely-held opinion, Rosberg said: “I have no idea,” before telling NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton: “I’m sure you would share the opinion with me.

“There’s nothing to be biased about, it’s just a reflection. You can have the same one.”

Rosberg remained adamant that the rules regarding yellow flags in F1 are clear, reasoning his actions during Q3 in Hungary.

“It has been very clear, which is why I followed instructions totally and there was no issue,” Rosberg said.

“There’s no grey area – as long as you significantly slow down where there’s the incident where there’s the double yellow.

“Setting a purple lap on a drying track has nothing to do with the incident because the sector is huge.

“What’s important is you slow down in that one corner to keep things safe and that’s not changed. That’s the same as always.”

Hamilton: Hungary stewards’ Rosberg ruling sets precedent for all

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 28:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks to the media during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 28, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton believes the FIA stewards’ ruling on Nico Rosberg’s pole position lap partly set under yellow flags in Hungary sets a precedent for all other Formula 1 drivers.

Hamilton was forced to abandon his final Q3 lap in Hungary after a spin for Fernando Alonso sparked double waved yellow flags at Turn 8.

Rosberg was one of the last drivers to come across the double waved yellow flags, lifting briefly through the incident site before taking pole by one-tenth of a second.

The stewards investigated the incident late in the day, reportedly at Hamilton’s behest, but felt that Rosberg slowed sufficiently despite setting a session-best middle sector.

Speaking on Thursday about the incident, Hamilton once again questioned the way in which the regulations regarding yellow flags are interpreted.

“The rule has been written and I’m pretty certain even before my time, but since I started racing when I was eight, the rules have been written exactly the same since then and meant the same since then,” Hamilton told NBCSN.

“They just seem to be interpreted differently from year to year. I think that’s really what’s in question.”

Hamilton believes that the lack of action taken over Rosberg’s pole lap has set a precedent to all other drivers about what is acceptable under double waved yellow flags.

“Right now, it’s clear from the last result that’s I think how all us drivers can approach it the same way as the precedent was set in the last race unless it’s rectified this weekend,” Hamilton said.

“That’s the precedent that’s been set. We’ve not been told any other way so all you have to do is do that little lift which is not good in the big scheme of things. It’s not good.”

Hamilton believes that the leniency could backfire in the future, but hopes it will not take an incident to prompt the stewards to get tougher on yellow flags.

“That’s why I made so much noise about it at the last race,” Hamilton said.

“One day there’s going to be someone on the track. Then they’re going to be like ‘you have to slow down half a second and not go faster in the sector’.

“But hopefully they’ll make that decision before then.”