Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, aka "Gronk," is throwing his hat into the ring for The Madden NFL 13 Cover in a big way. Gronk recently put together a video of himself "getting jacked at all times, going crazy" in a bid to win votes. BTW, we're loving the retro work out pants worn by his brothers.
After five years of skydiving downward in both ratings and relevance, 2011 appeared to be the season NASCAR pulled out the parachute. A white-knuckle championship battle, ending in a tie between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, led to a double-digit audience increase in the Chase. Five new first-time winners showcased the parity of competition, while the upcoming car models for 2013 are reported to put the “stock” back in stock cars. (What do we call them again? The Car of Tomorrow, Tomorrow?) Even with a disastrous start to 2012, courtesy of Mother Nature, the rain-delayed Daytona 500 pulled an 8.0 in the Nielsens, with a total of 36.5 million people tuning in for at least some portion of the event — making it the second-most watched stock car race in history.
But as evidence mounts that NASCAR is headed in the right direction on-track, its position in company boardrooms across America remains in a precarious position. Last year’s Daytona 500 champion, Trevor Bayne — despite being charismatic, youthful (21), and trouble-free — failed to secure a primary backer to run the Cup Series full-time this year. Even now, he’s positioned to start no more than 12 races, despite being paired with the legendary Wood Brothers while watching funding for his AAA-baseball type Nationwide ride dry up completely.
Matt Kenseth, this year’s 500 champion and a top-5 finisher in last year’s Cup Series point standings, remains without funding for a whopping 41 percent of this season’s schedule. Even teammate Edwards, who fell just short of the title, lost full-time backer AFLAC and is using a potpourri of a half-dozen primary sponsors to make it through.
Why does the financial bleeding refuse to stop? All other major sports continue to rake in the dough for everything from stadiums to postseason tournaments, watching their “recession revenues” skyrocket. According to Forbes’ yearly evaluations in the four major stick-and-ball sports, the average value of a franchise went up over the past 12 months: 7 percent in MLB, 6.5 percent in the NBA, 5 percent in the NHL and 4 percent in the NFL. And NASCAR? Its average value within the top nine teams declined 3 percent, down to $141 million — a number that pales in comparison to even the $240 million average value of a hockey franchise. So if “it’s the economy, stupid,” as many NASCAR executives like to claim, why are people and advertising dollars beefing up elsewhere? Money still makes the world go round, and even in the cases where there’s a limited amount, people are choosing to spend it in other places.
It’s because fixing the sport’s business model is harder than it looks. Every organization is a private contractor, meaning the sport has no control over everything from how they spend their money to how many races they enter. During NASCAR’s “boom” years, in the 1990s, that was a good thing: any Joe Schmo off the street with a license could come in with a racecar and attempt competition at even the sport’s top level. But as the price to play increased, NASCAR’s lack of leverage bit it as a “country club” level of elite owners gathered exorbitant amounts of money and resources to compete. Opening up their own engine shops, chassis centers and hiring the Best Buy geek squad of aerodynamic specialists, their price to play became bloated compared to the $5 million it took to win in the mid-’90s. Suddenly, $25 million for a sponsor was what a small, single-car team needed to match the amount a four-car organization was paying its glutton of 400-plus employees.
That’s important, because as the sport enters 2012 a decline in both owners and revenues continue to give us one crucial exception to the rule. Take a look at how the top 5 NASCAR race teams in value have evolved over the last five years since Forbes first rated them in mid-2006:
Forbes’ Most Valuable NASCAR Teams: 2007
1) Roush Fenway Racing - $316 million
2) Hendrick Motorsports - $297 million
3) Joe Gibbs Racing - $173 million
4) Evernham Motorsports - $128 million
5) Richard Childress Racing - $124 million
Total value of the top 9 teams in the sport: $1.444 billion
No. 1 Team (Roush Fenway Racing): 21.8 percent of that total
Forbes’ Most Valuable NASCAR Teams: February 2012
1) Hendrick Motorsports - $350 million
Percentage Difference: +17.8 percent
2) Roush Fenway Racing - $185 million
Percentage Difference: -41.5 percent
3) Joe Gibbs Racing: $155 million
Percentage Difference: -10.4 percent
4) Richard Childress Racing: $147 million
Percentage Difference: +15.6 percent
5) Stewart-Haas Racing: $108 million
Percentage Difference: N/A
Total value of the top 9 teams in the sport: $1.267 billion (8.7 percent decline)
No. 1 Team (Hendrick Motorsports): 27.6 percent of that total
You’ll notice that Hendrick, which was second before Jimmie Johnson racked up the first of five straight titles, now has nearly double the value of any other Cup Series organization. That’s not unusual in sports; in baseball, for example, the Yankees’ value ($1.7 billion) is almost twice that of the second-place Boston Red Sox. But in baseball, where every team is franchised, the Yankees pay a penalty for spending too much money, a luxury tax that benefits other teams and helps keep the sport’s competitive balance intact.
In NASCAR, there is no such thing, meaning as other teams fall further behind Hendrick can still charge top dollar for everything from advertising space to engines and chassis. Its equipment has now won six straight titles; even Stewart’s win last year, with his Stewart-Haas Racing team, came through the grace of Hendrick sheet metal and horsepower slapped on the side. As revenues increase, there are no consequences for Hendrick to consider cutting spending or streamlining its business. In fact, with the SHR partnership throwing an assist to “satellite” organizations, it only increases its value. And it’s A-plus marketing department, with statistics to sell, continues to rack up worldwide deals: they’re on the verge of getting a Chinese company, Trina Solar, to back Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 for nine events.
Does that mean money buys championships? Not necessarily, but the important thing is it appears that way to the owners who matter. Kenseth is the perfect example: he already has three sponsors in Best Buy, Zest (a new company) and Valvoline that, if Roush Fenway Racing lowered its operating costs could back him in all 36 events. Their presence is a sign the Fortune 500 isn’t completely ignoring the sport, they’re just putting their foot down and saying, “We’re not giving you a blank check anymore.”
But with the top team still pushing the envelope, how could Roush lower the price tag? No wonder Edwards has more logos on the side of his uniform than that guy with the pieces of flare in Office Space. Broken apart, then sold on particular drivers’ talent, that fleet of companies could back nearly 25 percent of the 43-car grid. But the price to play, uncontrolled, remains high enough that RFR believes the strategy must be to filter funding straight to their sponsor’s dream.
The same applies to an owner looking to enter the sport from the outside. No one wants to enter racing to run second, and right now, the impression is to run first, based on stats, you need to spend at a rate that creates a $350 million NASCAR organization. Even beyond Hendrick, the value for a team like Richard Childress Racing suggests an operating cost per team approaching $50 million.
Certainly in Hendrick’s case, considering Johnson left Daytona with negative points, the actual truth to that statement – money buys championships – is far from a guarantee. But the one place where NASCAR is right about the economy is too much money scares potential owners away, from Red Bull Racing bailing back to Europe to former Cup champion Robert Yates, who chose to retire rather than fall further behind the country club crowd.
This year, Forbes stopped short of ranking the top 10 NASCAR franchises because it only found nine that stood above the fray. What’s the solution? Some say franchising — the first step towards some sort of “salary cap” or “luxury tax” model the other major sports have employed. Others say an expansion of NASCAR’s one rule it tried to use to stop uncontrolled growth: a four-team “limit” per owner. Reducing that to two, plus outlawing the sales of engines and chassis to teams you do not own could limit information sharing, although it would do little to nothing to cut costs. Others feel like putting creativity back in the hands of the mechanics, like relaxing rules for the 2013 model and reducing dependence on aerodynamics, will give underdogs the ability to compete once again at the fraction of the cost. If it’s proven they can win — consistently, to the point a single-car team is making the Chase — perhaps the economics would magically reverse themselves.
There is no perfect solution out there right now. But it’s clear there’s a problem, and the quicker NASCAR stops denying it, blaming a dragging economy and starts working towards long-term fixes, the better off it’s going to be.
The Backseats Drivers Fan Council is back! While NASCAR and tracks have their own fan councils, most people don’t see the results of what fans are asked. That’s why I started a fan council last year where anyone could answer questions about the sport and see the results, along with comments fellow council members made.
Was NASCAR’s punishment of Chad Knaus fair? Do car brands matter anymore to NASCAR fans? Will rising gas prices force some fans to attend fewer NASCAR races? Those were among the topics members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council debated in this week’s survey.
There’s much to discuss, which Fan Council members did, so, let’s get to what was said:
NASCAR’S PENALTIES TO CHAD KNAUS
NASCAR announced that it would suspend crew chief Chad Knaus six races, fine him $100,000 and dock Jimmie Johnson 25 driver points, among other penalties after issues were found with Johnson’s car at Daytona in the first day at the track. Fan Council members were asked what they thought of the penalties, which Hendrick Motorsports is appealing.
44.4 percent said the penalty was appropriate 41.4 percent said the penalty was too harsh 14.2 percent said the penalty was not severe enough
What Fan Council members said:
• It's about time that they start looking at the body of work and not individual events for the 48 bunch. Has a year gone by in recent history when they weren't caught trying something? They were warned not to mess with the body and they have repeatedly. Time to drop the hammer and let the chips fall where they may.
• NASCAR officials seemed to talk a lot in the off-season about being more transparent and consistent with the fans, but I don't think this decision is very transparent. I believe that this punishment is about more than just C-posts. It's no big secret that NASCAR has been unhappy with how far Knaus has pushed the limits of the rules, so it appears to me that they are trying to 'put him back in place' with the suspension and fine, rather than just respond to the C-post issue.
• Innovation has always been part of racing, why kill it altogether. Not a 48 fan, but come on NASCAR, give the teams a break.
• I feel like there is either more to this story we don't know or this is too harsh.
• I think NASCAR is way out of line on this one. I figure what makes a good crew chief is a natural talent for figuring things out. Their goal isn't to cheat, but to figure out how to go faster. NASCAR believes its job is to rein them in, but I believe it's wrong for NASCAR to penalize them for being innovative. Tell them no, we don't like that, go change it, but a suspension and penalty like this is just way over the top.
• Chad is a repeat offender. He didn't learn from his previous penalties so it is only right that NASCAR make these penalties more severe. Bottom line is that Chad Knaus was cheating and he got caught and he was punished appropriately.
• Should 100% be overturned on appeal.
• It's impossible for fans to know the true violation without some kind of evidentiary support. Until NASCAR does a 5-minute video presentation on why it was illegal or not, fans will never completely understand what was wrong and how bad it was or wasn't. Have to trust the sanctioning body on this one.
Photo by ASP, Inc.
IMPORTANCE OF CAR MANUFACTURERS TO FANS
In light of the recent announcement of Penske Racing moving from Dodge to Ford after this season, Fan Council members were asked how important is it that their favorite driver races a particular car brand.
38.3 percent said the car brand was not important 22.9 percent said the car brand was moderately important 20.8 percent said the car brand was slightly important 18.1 percent said the car brand was very important
What Fan Council members said:
• I don't pick my drivers based on car brand. I select drivers based on talent, contributions to the sport, and society, as well as their personality.
• Something in my brain makes me feel like it SHOULD matter, but in the end I don't think it does. I like my drivers because of their personalities and the way they perform on the track - if it takes a different manufacturer to help them achieve better results, then I think I'm OK with that!
• The cars don't look like anything that resembles a stock car, for a number of reasons. Therefore, there's hardly a reason for brand loyalty. Our favorite driver is Junior, and we could care less that he's driving a Chevy, even though our favorite vehicles are Fords.
• Historically, I have been a Chevy fan. I previously only cheered on drivers who were racing Chevys. I guess with the COT and the lack of "REAL" brand identity, I've soften a bunch. However, my favorite driver does drive a Chevy.
• As long as my driver doesn't switch to a Toyota, I'm fine...not saying I would pick a new driver at that point but I sure wouldn't be happy! This used to be referred to as "The Great American Sport" and it pains me to see that one manufacturer has changed all that!
• If the King can successfully shift to Ford, anyone should be able to drive the make that offers them the best opportunity for success
• Always been a Ford fan, but had to swallow hard and root when Mark Martin moved to Chevy and now Toyota.
• While I make it a point only to purchase vehicles made by NASCAR manufacturers, it actually isn't that important to me if my favorite is behind the wheel of a Chevy or a Toyota - as long as he's winning!
Fan Council members were asked what was their favorite car manufacturer competing in NASCAR and why.
58.1 percent listed Chevrolet as their favorite 22.0 percent listed Ford as their favorite 14.1 percent listed Toyota as their favorite 5.8 percent listed Dodge as their favorite
What Fan Council members said:
• My pops may not have had a whole lot of hard and fast rules when I was a kid, but I remember this one distinctly. "Don't ever drive up here in a FORD." We were Earnhardt fans, Chevy people through and through. I would even go so far to say that I honestly don't care who wins as long as they are driving a Chevy. To this day I tow my Chevy race car to Midwest dirt tracks with a Chevy Silverado.
• Don't have one. Personally, I don't have ties to any manufacturer and will not pledge blind allegiance to one. The American manufacturers were once the leaders in their industry. But they grew complacent and failed to listen to the consumers and continued to produce inferior products while selling better products overseas.
• For NASCAR it would be Chevrolet due to the deep history in the sport. For my personal use, it's Toyota due to dependability and value.
• I believe in the Toyota product and have owned several. Love Toyota being in NASCAR shaking up the good ole boys. And for me, my driver favorites are based upon the car they drive. Smoke in a Toyota, Go Smoke! Smoke in a Chevy, good for him. (Martin) Truex Jr. in a Chevy, good for him. Guess what? I now pull for Truex Jr.! I pull for all the big boys in a Toyota except for Kyle Busch. I am loyal to Brand.
• Ford, because they haven't taken a dime of your money that you haven't freely and willingly given them as a customer. Ford has supported the Wood Brothers since the late 50's, and I own a Ford.
• Was born and raised to like Chevy and hate Ford and Dodge.
• I drive a Ford. I like Jack Roush.
• Both my husband and I pull for Chevy drivers...plan on our next car being a Chevy mainly to reward their hard work to get the company back on track.
RISING GAS PRICES EQUALS SLIDING ATTENDANCE?
With gas prices rising (and topping $4 a gallon in some parts of the country), Fan Council members were asked if the cost of gas would impact their decision to attend a NASCAR race this year.
57.5 percent rising gas prices would not impact their travel plans 17.8 percent said they won’t be attending a NASCAR race, partly due to rising gas prices 16.8 percent said they are changing their plans to attend a NASCAR race closer to home 7.9 percent said gas prices won’t impact their plans unless it tops $4 a gallon nationally
What Fan Council members said:
• I won't attend Dover or Bristol as I'd planned to do.
• I go to both Talladega races each year, and that will not change. I haven't planned to go to any other tracks this year, but if gas was to go down it would help my decision a little bit.
• We're only a 7-hour drive from Kansas Speedway. My car does pretty good on fuel. I don't think it will affect me. We can only afford one race anyway. We'll just have to cut back on something else.
• Always make room in the budget for a race!
• I usually go to Martinsville and Pocono at least once a year. Both of those tracks are 4 hours from my home. This year my husband (a new fan finally) and I are attending the Richmond race in April. Richmond is about 1.5 hours from home.
• I have given up on going to TMS this year, but will go to Chicago since it is closer.
• It does make me re-consider plans, yet I am still attending Daytona, Martinsville, Rockingham, Richmond, and Dover this year. I am lucky that there are so many races I can go to and come back in the same day from my home in SE Virginia. If these high prices are sustained or get even higher it will certainly impact my future travel plans.
• I live in Seattle...I considered driving to Phoenix for the race. At 2800 miles I'm looking at $400.00 worth of gas alone to make that trip, so I watched from the sofa. I'm still considering Sonoma...a more reasonable 1600-mile roundtrip.
• We've already renewed our race tickets and camping spots for 2012 for the 5 races we plan on attending. We have a diesel motor home and fuel prices are important but this is what we do for vacation and budget accordingly. We take advantage of the easy pay plans and have them paid for before we attend them. It's great that the tracks offer these wonderful ways to make attending the races more affordable.
• Please. I'll drop my lattes before I'll cut back on my NASCAR races.
• My husband and I plan on going to Talladega in May. The only thing that could stop us are the gas prices. If they do go over $4 a gallon, we probably won't be able to make it.
• I’ll walk to Bristol if I have too.
RATING SUNDAY’S CUP RACE FROM PHOENIX
53.1 percent called it Good 33.1 percent called it Fair 11.7 percent called it Great 2.1 percent called it Poor
What Fan Council members said:
• Fair number of leader changes, good mix of drivers and manufacturers up front and not too many cautions. Just how I like it!
• It wasn't the most exciting race, but it never is at Phoenix.
• The racing was most exciting in the few laps after restarts. Things tended to get a bit strung out during the longer green flag runs, but the race race still held my attention pretty well. I also liked watching the drivers negotiate the dogleg on the backstretch - I think PIR did a good job re-configuring the track last year.
• Length was OK, not too long. Racing action was real good. I prefer tracks this size and smaller, or road courses.
• I was there in person, turn 1 Allison Grandstands, the race was absolutely fantastic. Saw the whole race ... no commercial interruption, and the great play-by-play work by MRN made it 100% enjoyable.
• Great. Fuel strategy and good side-by-side racing through the field. Some parts of the race were single file but you will have that at non-restrictor plate tracks. There's nothing we can do about it. It cannot be 3 or 4 wide every lap. People who understand racing will know this.
• I think I OD'd on Daytona because I just wasn't ready for another race. It was okay, but it didn't hold my attention very well.
• Fuel mileage races are not too exciting. I would prefer to see drivers race for the win. They call this sport racing not strategy.
Fans can join the Backseat Drivers Fan Council by sending Dustin an email at email@example.com.
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
While our 2012 fantasy season got off to a great start in Daytona, last weekend's race at Phoenix International Raceway proved even the hands-down favorite — in this case Kasey Kahne — can find trouble and ruin a fantasy day.
Anything can, and will, happen throughout the course of a race, making NASCAR one of the toughest fantasy sports to predict.
This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits the desert for the second time in as many weeks, as the early season schedule rolls into the Sin City for the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Simply looking at the statistics, it is easy to see which team will head into Sunday's race the favorite. In a town built on gambling, this weekend's safe bet is Roush Fenway Racing. In the speedway's 14-year history, no organization has had more success than the Roush cars.
The “Cat in the Hat” Jack Roush has had one of his drivers celebrating in Victory Lane in seven of the 14 Sprint Cup events held at the venue. Carl Edwards earned his lone victory of the 2011 season on the 1.5-mile track, beating an otherwise dominant Tony Stewart in the process. Edwards was coming off two impressive performances at Daytona and Phoenix, although a wreck at PIR led to a 28th-place finish. This year, another Roush Fenway Racing driver finds himself in a similar situation.
Greg Biffle has a renewed confidence in 2012, after an extremely disappointing performance last year. He has been candid in his comments and criticism of the team’s 2011 showing and also outspoken about its upcoming trip to Vegas. With consecutive third-place finishes to open the season, Biffle seems poised to make his return to Victory Lane this weekend at a 1.5-mile venue where he’s clicked off five top 10s in eight starts. Biffle tops the list as this week’s fantasy favorite.
While Biffle’s teammate, Edwards, went to Victory Lane in last year’s Vegas race, his No. 99 Ford was not the most dominant car that day. That honor went to the aforementioned Stewart.
Leading 163 of the 267 laps, Stewart had to come through the field after a pit road penalty sent him to the back of the pack. Taking two tires to regain track position, Stewart was forced to take four tires on the final pit stop while Edwards took two.
Las Vegas is one of only two tracks currently on the Cup schedule where the defending series champion has yet to win (the other being Kentucky Speedway). After last year’s disappointing second-place finish, Stewart is eager to knock Vegas off his yet to win list.
Stewart was on par for a strong finish last Sunday in Phoenix, but an issue with the Electronic Fuel Injection system led to a 22nd-place finish (following a 16th at Daytona). Given their disappointing finish last weekend, I expect Stewart and his Steve Addington-led crew to put up a solid finish this week, making the defending champion my safe play of the weekend.
Another driver I have my eye on this weekend is five-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.
Like Stewart, the 2012 season has not gotten off to the kind of start Johnson or his Hendrick Motorsports team expected. Issues during the initial inspection at Daytona cost the No. 48 team 25 driver and owner points, a hefty fine, and the loss of crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec for six races (pending appeal).
Once in the race, a wreck on Lap 2 resulted in a 42nd-place — and his sixth straight finish of 27th or worse in the Daytona 500. The subsequent penalty from the failed inspection left Johnson heading to Phoenix with negative points in the championship standings.
While Knaus and Malec have been able to remain at the track as NASCAR and HMS work through the appeal process, the No. 48 team is in a huge hole. That said, the team was able to recover nicely in Phoenix, scoring a fourth-place finish on Sunday, but Johnson is currently 38th in the standings, 71 points out of the lead.
Sitting so deep in the standings, Johnson has set his focus on making the Chase — one way or another. Well out of contention for the points lead, the former champion understands that at this point, his best bet to make the Chase could be through one of the two Wild Card spots. That means the No. 48 team will be looking to win races early and often.
And if that’s the objective, Vegas is a good track for Johnson to meet the goal. His 48 team has four wins, four top 5s and five top 10s in 10 LVMS starts. With that track record and Knaus and Malec still at the track, I expect the 48 to be among the front-runners throughout Sunday’s race, leading to a strong day on the fantasy side of things.
For this weekend’s darkhorse pick, I’m looking towards Richard Petty Motorsports’ Marcos Ambrose. Although the driver of the No. 9 Ford has only three starts at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ambrose lists the track among his favorite on the circuit. During last year's event, Ambrose started from the outside pole and finished the day in fourth after showings of 14th in 2010 and 20th in ’09.
Already in 2012, Ambrose and the team have shown they are capable of running up front and contending for wins. After a strong run throughout the afternoon in Phoenix, engine issues late in the race ruined what looked to be an assured top-10 run. If Ambrose and his Todd Parrott-led team can avoid mistakes and engine issues, I expect a solid fantasy day from the No. 9 group.
Throughout the weekend, keep a close eye on practices and qualifying, as track position will be key in Sunday's race. Clean air and pit strategy will be paramount in determining the winner at the end of 400 miles in Vegas.
The Big East has arguably been college football’s most active conference with it comes to realignment, but it appears the final piece (at least for now) is in place. Temple will move its football program from the MAC to the
What is it with nicknames and baseball? In high school I played with Doggie, Bird, Soup, Clone, Rooster, T and White Legs. Nicknames and baseball players just seem to go together like bat and ball. For as long as young boys and men have been batting baseballs around, they have given each other descriptive nicknames for facial features, deformed body parts, the way they played the game, hair color and, the most popular, shortening their surnames. In fact, some players with nicknames were given nicknames for their nicknames.
Joey Logano says he’s worked with the same sports psychologist teammate Denny Hamlin has, but that’s not the only reason why Logano could do something in Sunday’s Las Vegas race that he hasn’t in more than a year.
After finishing ninth in the Daytona 500 and 10th last weekend at Phoenix, Logano will seek to score his third consecutive top-10 finish — something he hasn’t done since his late-season charge in 2010.
A new attitude is important, as Logano admits, but it also helps to have better equipment, which Joe Gibbs Racing is providing.
If Logano’s early success continues, it could take some of the pressure off. He’s in a contract year and knows he needs to deliver on the potential that led Gibbs to put him in a Cup car full time when Logano was 18 years old.
Now 21 and able to legally walk through the Las Vegas casinos, Logano is learning what it takes to be a successful driver. He understands a key part is mental.
On the advice of Gibbs last year, Logano began talking with sports psychologist Bob Rotella. Hamlin credits Rotella for giving him a better outlook after his struggles last year. Logano also has seen the benefits after his talks with Rotella.
“(It) just kind of gives you some more answers and gives you some tools to be able to deal with certain situations and how to talk to people in a positive way, in a motivating way to keep everyone going,’’ Logano said. “All that stuff there is very, very important. It's people skills really, leadership skills.’’
That’s an area that Logano admits he was not prepared for when he moved to Cup. Then again, how many 18-year-olds are?
Logano’s struggles, compounded by the problems his team had last year, beat him down. He’s learned from talking with Rotella, known for working with several top PGA golfers, how to better handle such situations.
“The thing is you’ve got to show up at the race track with the right mindset and knowing that you can go out there and win the race and not going out there to finish in the top 10,” Logano said. “When you’re goal is to finish in the top 10, the best you’re ever going to finish is 10th. You need to focus in on winning.”
Better equipment also helps.
Engine woes saddled Gibbs’ team last year. Logano had to start at the rear of last year’s Daytona 500 because of an engine change and then blew an engine at Phoenix the following week. It started a season-long slide for the team. He finished on the lead lap twice in the first 11 races and by then was all but out of Chase contention. With Gibbs getting its engines from Toyota Racing Development this season, things seem to be better so far.
Logano helped Gibbs place all three cars in the top 10 at Phoenix with Hamlin winning and Kyle Busch placing sixth — something Gibbs did not do last season.
This year, Logano is one of only five drivers to open the season with consecutive top-10 finishes (the others are Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin).
Two races doesn’t guarantee anything and Logano understands that. Still, it’s a good way to start the season with a new crew chief, as Jason Ratcliff takes over after Greg Zipadelli left in the offseason to be the competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing.
One of the things Logano mentioned in the offseason was that the crew chief change would allow him to take on more leadership with the team. With what he’s learned talking to a sports psychologist, Logano says he’s taking a greater role this year.
“My attitude’s different,” Logano said. “I feel like I walk around with a lot more confidence in myself. That carries through the whole team. Granted, we’re only two races into this deal. But we need to stay focused and keep our eye on the prize like we’ve been doing.”
Photo by ASP, Inc.
GOOD SIGN While Kevin Harvick might have been disappointed with finishing second at Phoenix last weekend after leading a race-high 88 laps, it didn’t diminish his enthusiasm for this season.
After the race, car owner Richard Childress congratulated Harvick on the radio for his run. Harvick replied: “It’s going to be a good year.”
Harvick was excited with his run after struggling at Phoenix last year and finishing 19th.
“They’ve done a good job over the winter,” Harvick said of his team. “And hopefully that continues over the next few weeks in the preparation that they’ve done through the winter.”
PIT STOPS Goodyear held a tire test Tuesday at Rockingham Speedway in preparation for the April 15 Camping World Truck Series race there, the first NASCAR race at that track since the Cup Series left after 2004. Said Jason Leffler, among the drivers testing: “I’m just looking forward to coming back and seeing 35 other trucks out here racing hard to see what happens when the tires wear out and everybody gets slipping and sliding.” ... Dodge will reveal its 2013 Charger this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Prior to last weekend’s events at Phoenix International Raceway, Penske Racing announced it would switch to Ford at the conclusion of the 2012 season. “We do value our NASCAR program and will be evaluating the opportunities available moving forward,” Ralph Gilles, President and CEO SRT Brand and Motorsports, said. “As those opportunities materialize, we'll reveal our 2013 plans, not only in NASCAR but in other forms of motorsports.”
Kobalt Tools 400 Entry List
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Entry list for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Driver, Number, Make, Team Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Dodge, Penske Racing Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Robby Gordon, No. 7 Dodge, Robby Gordon Motorsports* Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports David Reutimann, No. 10 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing Casey Mears, No. 13 Ford, Germain Racing Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing Joey Logano, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing Trevor Bayne, No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers* AJ Allmendinger, No. 22 Dodge, Penske Racing Scott Riggs, No. 23 Chevrolet, R3 Motorsports* Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Josh Wise, No. 26 Ford, Front Row Motorsports* Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing David Stremme, No. 30 Toyota, Inception Motorsports* Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing Ken Schrader, No. 32 Ford, FAS Lane Racing Brendan Gaughan, No. 33 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing David Ragan, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports Dave Blaney, No. 36 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing* Timmy Hill, No. 37 Ford, Max Q Motorsports* David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports Ryan Newman, No. 39 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Chevrolet, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports Bobby Labonte, No. 47 Toyota, JTG Daugherty Racing Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports J.J. Yeley, No. 49 Toyota, Robinson-Blakeney Racing* Kurt Busch, No. 51 Chevrolet, Phoenix Racing Mark Martin, No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing Regan Smith, No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing Landon Cassill, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing Joe Nemechek, No. 87 Toyota, NEMCO Motorsports* Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Travis Kvapil, No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing Michael McDowell, No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing* Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
*Not in Top 35 in Owner's Points. Must qualify on speed.