Recapping NASCAR’s frantic first half of the 2013 regular season

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series completed its halfway point in the 26-race regular season last weekend at Dover International Speedway. The TV coverage switches from FOX to TNT starting this weekend at Pocono, for its six-race “Summer Stretch” series. And, there’s been more than a few storylines this year:

  • Penalties, penalties, penalties. Three of NASCAR’s biggest names got hit hard and often for infractions, either via mouth or at the track. Denny Hamlin got it started at Phoenix when he claimed NASCAR’s new Generation 6 car “didn’t race as well” as its old one, and got docked $25,000. Then NASCAR dropped the hammer on Penske Racing after Texas, and Matt Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing after Kansas, although in both Penske’s and Gibbs’ cases they were reduced. Penske got hit again just this week.
  • It feels like the 48 is back. Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team from Hendrick Motorsports aren’t doing their usual “win a couple races in the regular season, then dominate the Chase” routine. They’ve amped up even more after two consecutive years without a championship. Johnson leads the points with two wins, including his second and crew chief Chad Knaus’ first Daytona 500. And that’s even with a jumped start penalty last time out at Dover.
  • Toyota. Engine. Failures. There have been too many to count of late for the manufacturer, either via its flagship engine builder TRD (Toyota Racing Development) or the offshoot Triad and Arrington builders that supply other teams. Still, to their credit, Gibbs has five wins – three for Kenseth, and two for Kyle Busch.
  • Blue Oval blues. Ford has only two wins thus far, one of which coming in the crapshoot that is Talladega with the shock Front Row Motorsports 1-2 led by David Ragan. Carl Edwards has been the most consistent, with one win and currently second in points, but the rest of the Ford teams – including defending champions Penske and Brad Keselowski, after switching from Dodge – haven’t quite got the full handle on the Gen-6.
  • Danica? Meh. Once we got past the Daytona 500 pole hoopla, Danica Patrick’s first full year in Sprint Cup has gone about as expected – less than stellar. Qualifying hasn’t been great and outside of the eighth at Daytona and 12th place at Martinsville, she has only two other top-25 finishes. Her boyfriend and fellow rookie-of-the-year competitor, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., hasn’t cracked the top 10 yet, but a consistent string of 11 top-20 finishes in 13 races has him a respectable 15th in points. Patrick is 29th.
  • Some abnormal off-track moments. Away from the Sprint Cup ranks, storylines have included catch fence safety after an accident in the Nationwide Series opener, the Nelson Piquet/Brian Scott groin kick and crewmember fight at Richmond, the Mike Harmon/Jennifer Jo Cobb “He said, she said” transporter theft allegations, and a TV cable falling during the Coca-Cola 600. Additionally, NASCAR lost a legend and short track icon in Dick Trickle, at age 71.

The top 10 in points are below, with other points notables thereafter, and number of wins in parentheses:

  • Top 10: Jimmie Johnson 473 (three wins), Carl Edwards 443 (one), Clint Bowyer 423 (zero), Matt Kenseth 399 (three), Kevin Harvick 399 (two), Dale Earnhardt Jr. 398 (zero), Kasey Kahne 392 (one), Brad Keselowski 375  (zero), Kyle Busch 374 (two), Paul Menard 371 (zero).
  • Other notables: Jeff Gordon (11th, -10 points to 10th, zero wins), Greg Biffle (13th, -18, zero), Tony Stewart (16th, -33, one), Kurt Busch (17th, -34, zero), Ryan Newman (20th, -48, zero), Denny Hamlin (26th, -122, zero).

IndyCar’s Scott Dixon staying fit with new training regimen during layoff

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During a regular racing schedule, five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing would spend much of his time between races at PitFit in Indianapolis.

The highly advanced workout facility on the northwest side of Indianapolis is run by noted sports trainer Jim Leo. His clientele includes IndyCar Series drivers and other athletes in the area.

In addition to the array of workout machines, Leo’s facility also has advanced equipment to test a driver’s reaction time. These range from a board with lights that rapidly flash, and a driver has to hit the board to turn them off. There are other tests drivers do to keep their skills sharp and reaction time focused.

Times have changed, though.

Indiana is under a statewide lockdown with the exception of essential services only. Instead of going to PitFit, Dixon is working out at his home on the north side of Indianapolis.

RELATED: How is Sabres’ star Jack Eichel staying fit?

His reaction time is being tested by his wife, Emma, throwing a tennis ball at him, changing the direction with each toss.

“I’ve gone back to old school, like tennis balls and Emma can drop them or throw them,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “As long as you keep up with basic cardio and lift weights and work on the neck muscles, that’s the harder part to get ready for.

“I had already stopped going into Pit Fit last week. We had not been doing that for a while. Haven’t left the house for 13 days, now. We went to the grocery store once. The rest of the stuff has been delivered.

“We’re locked down, man, trying to do our best for everyone else.”


Dixon’s home has an impressive array of workout equipment. That allows the 39-year-old racing legend to stay fit during this extended time off that won’t end until the last week of May at the earliest.

“I have most of the stuff I need at home,” Dixon explained. “Some of the reaction stuff, the D-2s and Synaptic machines plus some of the upper-body machines, are pretty unique machines. Those are the machines that Jim Leo has at PitFit.

“As far as cycling, running, general weights, skiers and rollers, I have that at home.”

It seems like a lifetime ago when the world was normal. That was before the dreaded novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic literally sent society underground and locked in while awaiting a solution to this fatal virus.

Photo by Chris Graythen, Getty Images

Before this unexpected shutdown, Dixon would go into PitFit to work on specialized equipment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He would do the rest of his physical workout at home.

“I started skipping that when we got home before the lockdown,” Dixon said. “Before the lockdown, Jim could have stayed open because he never has more than 10 people at once.

“Typically, he would have the drivers spaced out where Tony Kanaan and I would go in at 8 in the morning, and Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe would go in at 9:30, and then Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot and Charlie Kimball would go in around 11. There were only about five of us going in at once.”

Two weeks ago, Leo dropped off some equipment at Dixon’s house along with more instructions to focus on his workouts during the layoff.

Sacrifices are being made all throughout the world, including racing.

“You can’t be selfish,” Dixon said. “It sucks for the drivers, but it sucks a lot worse for a lot of other people. Luckily, the school the girls go to has e-learning. It’s school as usual on the computer from 8:30 to 3 and that has been seamless on that front.

“On a personal note, it’s nice to be home with the baby and bonding as well, and that is great. But all of us wish everything was back to normal as soon as possible.”

RELATED: Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph adjusting to ‘new normal’ for training

Dixon is the father of three, including young daughters Poppy (10), Tilly (8) and infant son, Kit.

This is a time to keep his family safe.

“You hear mixed messages about who is more at risk,” Dixon said. “Obviously, older people with underlying conditions. We’re a fairly healthy family, but still it sounds like something can trigger a pretty bad situation. It’s better to be safe than sorry so we are limiting our contact as fast as possible. The quicker everybody locks down, the quicker we will get through the situation. If we stay home, we will see a decline and hopefully get back to normal pretty quickly.

“It’s a new thing for everybody.”


For now, Dixon works out at home, while the girls continue their classes on the computer. Emma spends time with her infant son, Kit, while taking care of the family.

These days of working out at home will be important because once racing is scheduled to return, tentatively set for May 30 at Detroit, it will be flat-out, racing nearly every weekend.

There won’t be time off inbetween races.

“No, but everybody is having plenty of rest right now,” Dixon quipped. “It’s not what anybody wants. We all keep hoping everybody remains safe and healthy. It’s a difficult time for a lot of people and we’ve been very lucky that we don’t know anybody that has had an issue so far. Hopefully, that remains the same.

“Everybody is ready to go. We were ready to go at St. Pete. This will be welcomed greatly.

“Nothing is normal these days. I think what IndyCar and IMS did was probably the best of the situations. You never want to move the dates of the 500, but you always want the people to be relaxed enough they are going to come to the race, too.

“The way they have done the schedule is pretty cool. It gives them enough wiggle room now with Detroit being the kickoff. What is also fun is the July 4 doubleheader weekend at Indianapolis and St. Pete finishing the season.”

Once life returns to normal, depending on what the new normal will look like, race drivers and athletes will once again be in an area they know.

The difficult part of this, however, is nobody knows when the COVID-19 outbreak will end.

“The hard part right now is there are so many unknowns,” Dixon said. “That is what people hate. They could wrap their hands around two weeks, but it could be another six weeks. People will go crazy.

“That is what we are going through right now. The unknown. Nobody knows what the next step is.”

That is why Dixon has a message for all race fans to take these orders seriously.

“Stay safe. Stay away from people. Lock down. Get this period done with,” Dixon said. “Once we do that, hopefully we can crack on like normal, and people can find fixes and therapies. As soon as everybody bunkers down, we will get through this sooner instead of later.

“Let’s get back to normal as quick as possible and get back to racing when we can.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500