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Preview: 55th Running Of The Daytona 500

February 24, 2013 1 comment

Daytona 500

In American sports, there are three single-day sporting events that take precedent over all other forms of entertainment including the Super Bowl, Indianapolis 500 and, the biggest of all today, Daytona 500.

NASCAR’s most respected venue and largest valued race in any season will take place on FOX at 1:29 p.m. as the green flag will be dropped by two-time NFL champion, and recently retired, Ray Lewis.

Headlines have been countless over the last week since Sprint Cup Series rookie Danica Patrick took pole and became the first woman to record the fastest qualifying lap in NASCAR’s premier series. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon will start outside Patrick to start The Great American Race.

The debut of the Generation 6 has been talked about in Speedweeks and has been the most important focus of all teams and media throughout the last week. With the style of the bodies looking like the cars you would see on the showroom floor, teams and manufacturers are happy to see a racy, brand identity machine that brings the stock, back in stockcar racing.

Throughout the races and practices held so far with these new cars, we still don’t know the type of racing we will see. Besides the two-car tandem now being inexistent, we know the pack racing will be back in full-force, but there seems to be new complications with the draft drivers are still trying to figure out.

kyle larsonHaving a pack of 43 cars will be something we all should look forward to in finding out what the racing environment will be like.

After a stunning race, in multiple ways, Saturday in the Nationwide Series, it left double-digits of cars wrecked crossing the finish line and 28 fans injured, some critically. All fans that were taken to the hospitals in the area of Daytona International Speedway were listed as stable this morning and some were released.

Fan safety is an area that is not talked about much when it comes to racing. The unfortunate reality that is motorsports is cars running near 200 miles per hour can become airborne leaving the possibility of flying into the catchfence where debris can become part of the grandstands.

Here is to a successful day where storylines are plentiful during the timeframe of 500 miles on a 2.5-mile high-banked oval. Speeds will be close to 200 mph and competitors will fight inches apart, sometimes three-wide, for the coveted Harley J. Earl Trophy.

danica gordonWill it be a former Daytona 500 champion, with nine of those drivers in the field, to win again? Will it be Tony Stewart to win his first 500 in his 15th try? Drivers to win their first Daytona 500 in their 15th try were Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Michael Waltrip. Will it be Danica Patrick? She will be the only female in the field, and will become the fourth woman driver to compete in the Daytona 500. Or will it be a first time winner?

The unknowns are great for the 55th running of the Daytona 500, and I know I will be glued to my TV for the entirety. Are you ready?

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iRacing’s Daytona 500 With Jeremy Lukaszka

February 22, 2013 Comments off

Jeremy Lukaszka will race the BAJA Sports Chevrolet Impala on Saturday at 2 p.m. on GlacierTV.com for the iRacing Daytona 500.

Jeremy Lukaszka will race the BAJA Sports Chevrolet Impala on Saturday at 2 p.m. on GlacierTV.com for the iRacing Daytona 500.

Sim racers across the globe will take part in iRacing’s World Tour premier event Friday and Saturday in their version of the Daytona 500.

18-year-old Jeremy Lukaszka, driver of the BAJA Sports Chevrolet Impala, will race at 2 p.m. ET Saturday in the top split of 43 cars broadcasted on GlacierTV.com.

Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5-mile oval, and the iRacing Daytona 500 will consist of 200 laps with iRacing’s Chevrolet Impala (Not the Generation 6 car, will be released Feb. 25.).

This is Lukaszka’s first attempt at iRacing’s Daytona 500, but without prior experience, his expectations are set high.

“I think realistically, we mainly just want to survive until the end to have a shot at winning,” Lukaszka said. “The expectations are to win.”

Lukaszka is from Palo, IA, where he aspires to be a fabricator, member of a pit crew, or a crew chief in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His plans are to eventually attend the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, NC.

Winning is in Lukaszka’s history, with is career stats being exceptional since joining iRacing in March 2012. He has recorded 102 wins in 377 starts and is 51st overall on the overall Oval rating on iRacing. He has three championships, all in Season 4 2012, in NASCAR iRacing National Series (Fixed) for season and time trial and IndyCar Oval (Fixed) time trial championship.

With his expectations being to win, there is nobody he is looking to beat, specifically.

“Really, no one judges you in this race,” Lukaszka said,”you’re top split, and you’ve obviously earned your right to be there, so you’re not aiming to beat one person.”

“If you go for the win, you’ll beat everyone.”

JL A FixedSo with 43 virtual cars racing around the oval for three plus hours, what is the strategy to win, and what will the atmosphere of the race be like?

“As with any race, the beginning will be aggressive because everyone will be hyped up for it,” Lukaszka said. “I’ll want to stay up front for as long as I can, but if I get shuffled to the back, I’ll usually like to stay there.

“Hopefully, there aren’t wrecks, but if there is I hope there is enough time to check up and drive by.”

Fans, or viewers watching the GlacierTV.com broadcast, can interact with others via Twitter by following the hashtags #iRacingWT and #iRacingDaytona500 or by following @iRacing. You can also follow Lukaszka’s on Twitter at @JeremyLukaszka.

The iRacing Daytona 500 is the third World Tour event of the year, and has plans to run seven entirely. This race, specifically, is the most important to oval racers and Lukaszka.

“This race comes once a year, but, as far as iRacing, this is the biggest World Tour event on the schedule,” he said. “Everyone wants to win it, and it isn’t an easy race to win. It’s the race everyone puts a lot of work into it to try to build the fastest piece they can, and it is a race everyone looks forward to.”

Winning this race on the real surface is one of the biggest pinnacles in motorsports, but what does winning it mean for someone on virtual surface?

“It would solidify who I am as a sim racer with potential,” Lukaszka said. “I think it would, definitely, show other drivers that I can do this. This is the biggest deal, broadcasted and lots of work is put into it.”

“This is the Super Bowl of sim racing. This is Daytona.”

Trevor Bayne makes history winning the Daytona 500

February 21, 2011 1 comment

Trevor Bayne takes the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway to capture his first win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at the Daytona 500. Credit: Facebook.com

In the 52 years of the Daytona 500, Lee Petty was the only driver to ever arrive at his first Daytona 500 and win, until today.

A driver of 20 years and one day from Knoxville, Tenn. made history in the Wood Brothers No. 21 as the youngest Daytona 500 winner and he goes by Trevor Bayne (website says “Official site coming soon”). Bayne scored his first Sprint Cup Series victory at Daytona International Speedway,the sport’s most prestigious track, in only his second start.

Bayne has jumped from a few teams in the Nationwide Series before meeting with the Woods to enter the first five races of the 2011 Sprint Cup Series. He drove the paint scheme formerly driven by newly inducted hall of famer David Pearson who drove to the last Woods’ Daytona victory 35 years ago.

For a driver who chose to run for a Nationwide title this season, his life will forever be changed as his name is etched into one of the most famous trophies in the sports. He joins some of the best names in racing such as Pearson, Foyt, Yarborough and Lund to drive to victory in a Woods’ Daytona 500 winning car.

It is doubtful those names could have completed the obstacles Bayne overcame and surpassed over the course of Speedweeks. Bayne worked the draft, two-car tango and other competitors the best out of every rookie and possibly veteran driver in the field. He earned the respect of Jeff Gordon in the Gatorade Duel on Thursday, but also pushed multiple cars to the front of the field in yesterday’s race.

So how can a virtually ‘unknown’ driver’s life change, so to speak, from being just another driver in the field to being a Daytona 500 champion?

An hour after Bayne’s victory, he noticed he went from 6,000 followers on Twitter to over 16,000 (now over 23,000). It is possible this victory will allow Bayne’s 17 guaranteed starts this season to increase to a possible full season opportunity with one of the most professional owners in NASCAR history.

In the end, he was the rookie looking like an upcoming veteran holding off past Daytona 500 champion and Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte, Carl Edwards and David Gilliand.

For a team owner who missed the Daytona 500 in 2008 for the first time in four decades Eddie Wood only had words for the future of Bayne.

“He reminds me of the great ones,” Wood said. “He will be a great one. I told somebody the other day that I felt like he just might be the next big deal, and I think he is.”

Trevor Bayne poses with the Daytona 500 trophy after his victory Sunday. Credit: Yahoo! Sports

BAJA Sports: To ‘The Birthplace of Speed’ for 53rd running of the Daytona 500

February 18, 2011 Comments off

The Daytona 500 will be ran at 1 p.m. on FOX. Credit: visitwestvolusa.com

BAJA Sports bloggers Thomas Hitch, Jeremy Lukaszka and C.J. Bowe will discuss topics of “The Great American Race” at Daytona International Speedway coming this weekend. NASCAR’s top-three series will visit the Florida track, where drivers will attempt to win the 53rd running of the Daytona 500.

1. The 53rd Daytona 500 being run Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the race since Dale Earnhardt’s death in 2001. How much do you think NASCAR has changed over the past decade? Overall, has NASCAR succeeded since his tragic death?

Thomas Hitch: Since Earnhardt’s death in 2001 a lot has changed for NASCAR over the past 10 years. The biggest improvement would be to the safety features around the track such as the SAFER Barrier, HANS device and the tighter drivers’ seats. I might be one of the believers of if Earnhardt was still here today, I do believe NASCAR would have made the same changes to the points system and we would have seen the same champions.

Jeremy Lukaszka: As a person that didn’t truly become a NASCAR fan until 2004, I never experienced the impact of Earnhardt’s death and the effect he and his death really had on the sport. If the events on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 never happened, I honestly believe the sport would be just as safe as it is now but with the consequences of somebody else’s life. The only way I know NASCAR racing is the way the sport is today, in which case I believe every change the organization has made since then has been a successful one.

C.J. Bowe: NASCAR has changed quite a bit since the passing of  Dale Earnhardt.  The best thing that came out of everything was the obvious dangers in the sport and what could be done to fix it.  At this day in age its hard to even imagine NASCAR drivers without the HANS device or SAFER barriers.  There was a streak of tragedies in NASCAR back in the early 2000’s with Kenny Irwin, Adam Petty and Dale Earnhardt and if it was not for Earnhardt’s passing who knows when or if these safety precautions would have ever been put into effect.

Thomas Hitch: Now drivers and teams are driving the Car of Tomorrow, which has been attributed as being a major safety change from NASCAR. When you guys look at the COT, do you see it as NASCAR’s way of adding to the safety improvements or trying to improve the overall racing?

C.J. Bowe: I think of the COT as another safety precaution.  The racing was just fine with the old car, but the safety of the old car could be improved. I think looking at the changes they’ve been making to the COT to make it more like the old car is a sign that COT was meant to make racing more safe.

Jeremy Lukaszka: The Car of Tomorrow is safer without a doubt. However, I don’t believe NASCAR intended on making it safer as much as they did to build a better car for racing and to look different from what we’re accustomed to seeing. Think about it, if they were really worried about safety at the time, then the Nationwide Series would have switched to the COT as well since the cars used to be completely identical.

2. Fans have already witnessed the change in racing after Daytona’s new pavement. Will it change the outcome of who has a chance to win the 500-mile race?

Jeremy Lukaszka: Before I saw more than one car hit the track at a single time, I was predicting the 2011 Daytona 500 to be the best ever and see three-wide racing throughout the entire race. After seeing the Budweiser Shootout, I am almost positive this will be the worst Daytona 500 in history. The “two-car tango” is not what any fan expects at Daytona and the fact that we are not going to see pack racing will definitely hurt some drivers’ shot at victory.

C.J. Bowe: I think it definitely changes the outcome.  It was hard to predict before who would win the 500, but now it is down right impossible.  With the two car draft I would say anybody within the top 15 on the last two laps has a shot, it all depends on if one car gets hooked up with another car at the right time.

Thomas Hitch: After watching the Budweiser Shootout, fans had to be in complete disarray in the stands of what they were seeing. The fact is: Daytona is a different race track now, and if it provides different racing we, as fans, will learn to like what we see until NASCAR bunches the cars back together.

3. What drivers will visit victory lane in NASCAR’s top-three series Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series this weekend?

C.J. Bowe: For Friday nights truck race I’m going to have to go with Kyle Busch although I will be pulling for Austin Dillon. I have high hopes for a good race on Saturday and would love to see Jr. get a win, but when Tony Stewart comes to Daytona in a Kevin Harvick Inc. Nationwide car my money has to be on him.  Then we get to the main event, thee Daytona 500.  I am really hoping it is exciting and we get to see some pack racing with three-wide racing, but at the end of the day the guy sitting in victory lane will be Dale Earnhardt Jr. Nobody in sports needs a win as bad as this guy, he NEEDS this one.

Thomas Hitch: When I look at the entry lists for these three races there are a lot of names who could be racing in all three series this weekend. I will be pushing for Aric Almirola driving the No. 51 Toyota in the Truck Series. In the Nationwide side of the garage, it is obviously February at Daytona and Tony Stewart is piloting a KHI vehicle, which puts him to the top of the leaderboard as my favorite. Not only because of his past record at the 300-mile race, but he is driving a racecar sponsored by Oreo. In the Cup garage it will be a tough choice to pick one driver. I believe it will come out of the Hendrick or Childress stable, and I will be pushing for the green and white AMP Energy Chevrolet piloted by, no other than, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Jeremy Lukaszka: The Truck Series race is going to be the best race of Speedweeks 2011, and the man in victory lane will be Todd Bodine just like it usually is at the superspeedways. The Nationwide Series race is so unpredictable with the new track surface and the new car which many drivers have never driven. However, with the driving similarities it has compared to the Cup car I can only expect a Cup Series driver to win the Drive4COPD 300. The Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most prestigious race, will undoubtedly be the most difficult to predict. I cannot guarantee a winner, but I am almost positive I can guarantee the car leading the race out of turn four will be spinning backwards across the start-finish line coming to take the checkered flag.

Thomas Hitch: Obviously the Truck Series will provide the most action-packed racing throughout the race Friday, and I agree it could be the most exciting to watch as fan of superspeedway racing. I am not too sure about a Todd Bodine selection though, unless his shiney forehead blinds the other drivers toward the end.

C.J. Bowe: I’m not going to be a flip flop on my pick, but looking at the Duels today it proves the only thing we as race fans already knew, this race is impossible to pick a winner for. I personally dislike the two car draft and think it has ruined plate racing.  Still hoping to see some kind of pack racing finish, but if I had to guess how the 500 will end, it will be two guys breaking away on a green-white-checker, putting the gap between second and third to about 1.5 seconds.  I am sure it will be a photo finish, but where is the excitement in two cars completely breaking away from the pack?

Jeremy Lukaszka: After watching the Gatorade Duel at Daytona on Thursday I am neither for or against the two car draft. I certainly miss the pack racing we used to get, but I believe with 43 cars on the track Sunday afternoon the race will be beyond exciting. As long as the Daytona 500 does not go flag-t0-flag (which I highly doubt it will) I think the field will finish in one pack, assuming there are cars left to have a pack toward the end of the race.

NASCAR field set for 500 miles at Daytona

February 17, 2011 Comments off

Tony Stewart drives through Daytona International Speedway's garage area during practice. The Daytona 500 will take place Sunday at 1 p.m. on FOX. Credit: 4ever3blog.com

Today the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series set the field for the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 during the Gatorade Duel 150s.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 22 Pennzoil Dodge, and Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, won the two 150 mile races today at Daytona International Speedway. Because Dale Earnhardt Jr. was forced to a backup car, Busch will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday with Jeff Gordon on the outside.

Drivers in the first duel will fill in the inside row (odd positions) for the start of the race, and the drivers in the second duel will fill the outside row (even positions).  Drivers who missed “The Great American Race” are Todd Bodine, Kevin Conway, Derrick Cope, Michael McDowell and Casey Mears.

Teams will have three more practice sessions to prepare for their biggest event of the year. There will be two practices on Friday and Happy Hour will take place Saturday morning before the Nationwide Series take the track for the Drive4COPD 300 being aired on ESPN2 at 1:15 p.m.

Here will be the starting lineup for the race Sunday on FOX at 1 p.m.

1. #22-Kurt Busch

2. #24-Jeff Gordon

3. #78-Regan Smith

4. #31-Jeff Burton

5. #29-Kevin Harvick

6. #33-Clint Bowyer

7. #17-Matt Kenseth

8. #15-Michael Waltrip

9. #4-Kasey Kahne

10. #18-Kyle Busch

11. #42-Juan Pablo Montoya

12. #92-Brian Keselowski

13. #43-A.J. Allmendinger

14. #1-Jamie McMurray

15. #5-Mark Martin

16. #2-Brad Keselowski

17. #27-Paul Menard

18. #11-Denny Hamlin

19. #39-Ryan Newman

20. #56-Martin Truex Jr.

21. #48-Jimmie Johnson

22. #99-Carl Edwards

23. #14-Tony Stewart

24. #00-David Reutimann

25. #83-Brian Vickers

26. #16-Greg Biffle

27. #09-Bill Elliott

28. #37-Robert Richardson Jr.

29. #47-Bobby Labonte

30. #7-Robby Gordon

31. #46-J.J. Yeley

32. #21-Trevor Bayne

33. #36-Dave Blaney

34. #6-David Ragan

35. #9-Marcos Ambrose

36. #77-Steven Wallace

37. #71-Andy Lally

38. #20-Joey Logano

39. #34-David Gilliland

40. #87-Joe Nemechek

41. #38-Travis Kvapil

42. #32-Terry Labonte

43. #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.  (B)

*B – going to rear because of backup.

Last minute announcement by Robby Gordon coming…

January 28, 2011 1 comment

Robby Gordon returns from the wind tunnel while NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers were testing at Daytona. The Daytona 500 will take place on Feb. 20. Credit: Planetrobby.com

Gamblers will want to put their money in Las Vegas casinos on the NFL Super Bowl in two weeks, but a tougher choice possibly could be betting money on which manufacturer Robby Gordon will choose to fill his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule for 2011.

Robby Gordon Motorsports has driven every manufacturer since it found its origin in 2005. Starting with Chevrolet in 2005 he blew the unreliable Menards’ engines, and in 2006 he had moderate success with Dale Earnhardt Inc. engines.

In 2007 RGM switched to Ford, where Roush-Yates engines were bought, and he posted his best point season as an owner finishing 26th.

At the end of the 2007 season, Gordon decided to merge with Gillette-Evernham Motorsports including a switch to Dodge at the beginning of the 2008 season. That season he struggled with the technical-manufacturing-marketing alliance to drop to 33rd in points.

After finishing the 2009 Budweiser Shootout, Gordon ran through 2010 with Toyota logos where he finished 34th in both seasons in owner points.

Yeah, I agree not too impressive. Only a few top-fives and a few runner-up finishes to show for it.

Now we sit in 2011 and fans who follow RGM are wondering, to which manufacturer will he return? Dodge and Chevrolet will be the final choices, but what is the more logical answer?

Dodge has only two teams remaining in the Cup Series, and they have said they would prefer to support three teams. Penske Racing has two teams this season with Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski after releasing Sam Hornish Jr. due to lack of sponsorship.

Gordon was close to merging with Penske in 2007 after he dropped the merger with Gillette-Evernham, and after announcing his intent to run the 2011 and 2012 Indianapolis 500, Penske would be a great beginning for his future endeavors. In addition, he would not be far down the line in engines as he would if he had an agreement with Roush-Yates who provides for over five race teams.

All seems great, having an engine lease agreement with Roger Penske, right? Wrong. Penske has only won four races over the past two seasons with Kurt Busch. Looking long term, Penske has the opportunity to switch manufacturers at any point and have major support; however, RGM does not have the resources, let alone money, to switch manufacturers every season and continue to survive.

Chevrolet seems to be the answer fans will receive when Gordon hits the track for Speedweeks at Daytona in two weeks. Leasing engines with Earnhardt-Ganassi or Richard Childress Motorsports will more than likely be the outcome.

Switching to the most winning manufacturer over the past decade, and being provided one of the top-five fastest, reliable engines in the garage will only help the company strive to a better-finishing season and future.

Gordon will then continue to race a shorten season due to lack of funding, and the desire to race in more forms of motorsports to promote his new energy drink company SPEED Energy.

The most important fact for fans of Robby Gordon is he is locked into the first five races of 2011 and will be competing Feb. 20 in the Daytona 500.

SPEED Energy hauler returns to RGM from the wind tunnel. Credit: Twitter via @SPEED_Energy

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