Richard Petty not convinced likely changes to Chase for Sprint Cup will help

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While most of the drivers on this week’s NASCAR Media Tour seem to be in favor of the likely changes expected to be announced Thursday for the Chase for the Sprint Cup format, legendary team owner and Hall of Fame member Richard Petty isn’t as convinced.

“Another PR deal, okay,” Petty said with a laugh during Wednesday’s session with the media. “What can NASCAR do to cause a little bit more interest in the way the points standings are?”

The changes that NASCAR chairman Brian France is expected to announce during his annual state of the sport address Thursday include expanding the Chase field from 12 to 16 drivers, as well as implement eliminations of four drivers each after the third, sixth and ninth races of the Chase, leaving a four-driver winner-take-all shootout for the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Petty shares the record for most NASCAR Sprint Cup championships won by a driver – seven – with the late Dale Earnhardt.

Neither of them seemed to worry too much about points systems – nor were they adversely affected by several changes to the system in their respective careers, Petty said.

“I won championships in I think five different ways that they counted the points,” Petty said. “In the long run, no matter how you cut the points, look at them and stuff, you’re pretty well going to have the best guys winning the championship.

“So it’s not going to be somebody that’s not a championship driver to win the championship. They can count it about any way they want to and still come up with probably the best (drivers) that year.”

In other words, Petty wouldn’t be surprised if Jimmie Johnson takes to the new system like a duck to water en route to a seventh Cup crown in 2014, which would tie Johnson with Petty and Earnhardt.

“It’s just something different, it’s just another change,” Petty said. “Whether it’s the right format or not, it’s the format that football and baseball are following, so NASCAR looks at it and says, ‘Wow, it’s pretty successful there, let’s give it a try here.”

IndyCar: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports expands mentoring program for tech school students

Photos: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
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IndyCar team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today that it is extending and widening a unique sponsorship and mentoring program that began last season with students from Lincoln Technical Institute.

The program began last year, with students from several Lincoln Tech branches attending select IndyCar events for an entire weekend.

The students, primarily from auto and diesel training programs, got an insiders experience with the team, taking part in team meetings, watching team workers prepare and service the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe, sat on pit boxes during practices, qualifying and, of course races.

The overall experience was to get students more interested and involved in potential careers in the IndyCar field.

“We said at the beginning of last season that we knew our students would benefit and learn from the professionalism and drive of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team,” Lincoln Tech President and CEO Scott Shaw said. “But the experience they received working with the entire pit crew team and in particular crew member Cole Jagger – a Lincoln Tech graduate himself – went beyond even our own expectations.

“We were grateful for the time they spent mentoring our students, and we are thrilled to once again be part of the racing legacy of team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson.”

Lincoln Tech will once again serve as an associate sponsor on Hinchcliffe’s car for the entire 2018 IndyCar season. In addition, it is expanding its Mentor Program to select students to attend a minimum of nine IndyCar races from six last season.

Students are selected based upon their grade point average, attendance, conduct and overall commitment to becoming outstanding automotive technicians. An interest in IndyCar and a desire to work in the industry is also considered.

One student that took part last season, Tyler Crist of Lincoln Tech’s Denver campus, joined the team at the IndyCar race in Long Beach last April, watching as Hinchcliffe won the event.

“It was the best weekend of my life,” Crist said after the event. “It reminded me of why I joined this field in the first place and to never give up on my dreams.”

Jagger will oversee the expanded mentoring program this season. For Jagger, being involved especially hits home, as he is a graduate of Lincoln Tech’s Indianapolis campus.

“I totally enjoyed working with the Lincoln Tech students that participated in the Mentor Program last year and look forward to meeting this year’s group,” Jagger said. “Being a Lincoln Tech grad, I hope the students realize that if you have a passion for cars, a career in racing is something that’s not out of reach. If I can be an example for them to follow, that makes it even more rewarding.”

In addition to the at-track activities of the mentoring program, several Lincoln Tech branches across the country will utilize CNC computerized machining and manufacturing tools to assist in creating car parts for SPM.

“Through this unique partnership, we’re able to hopefully find the next class of talent that could one day be part of our organization,” SPM president Jon Flack said. “We’re looking forward to another year of the mentorship program and having their students be ‘boots on the ground’ gaining real-life experience with our team.”

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