Weekend Preview: Sylvania 300

By Blake Smith and Moon Mullins

The second stop of the Chase is this Sunday (if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise) at New Hampshire International Speedway.  Before we preview the Sylvania 300, let’s take a look at the headlines for this week because believe me…there are PLENTY!

First, the past week: Woo-wee, a Toughie

After a 5+ hour rain delay and 2 battery cycles on my iPhone, the Sprint Cup Series’s Geico 400 came to a conclusion on Sunday evening with Matt Kenseth in victory lane and gaining maximum points towards the championship. He was followed by Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson. Two Chase drivers who were not so fortunate were Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano who were forced to retire early from the event due to engine failures.

NAPA leaving Michael Waltrip Racing after 2013 Season

Following controversial decisions during the final laps of last Saturday’s regular season finale at Richmond, NAPA Auto Parts announced on Thursday that they would be ending their relationship with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Gaylord Spencer, NAPA's Vice President, Marketing Strategy:

"NAPA announced today that, after due consideration, it has decided to end its sponsorship arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) effective December 31, 2013. As many of you are aware, NASCAR determined that MWR attempted to manipulate race results at Richmond, Virginia, on September 7, 2013. NASCAR assessed a large fine, deducted 50 points from each of the three MWR drivers in the race and suspended or banned other members of the MWR team. NAPA believes in fair play and we are very disappointed in the actions that led to the NASCAR penalties. We have made NAPA’s decision known to MWR and posted a statement on our Facebook page. There will be significant media coverage and discussion among racing fans and we expect that our decision to terminate our sponsorship will generate additional attention. The decision was difficult, but we believe is the right thing to do. We appreciate in advance your support of our marketing efforts. We will continue to evaluate our future position as it relates to motorsports."

Michael Waltrip Statement

“NAPA has been with me from winning two Daytona 500s, to missing races with a new start-up team, and back to victory lane again. The relationship grew far past that of just a sponsor, but more of a partner and a friend. We will not be racing a NAPA car in 2014, but I have friendships that will last a lifetime. To the fans and those who made their voice heard through social media, as the owner, I am responsible for all actions of MWR. I sincerely apologize for the role our team played and for the lines NASCAR has ruled were crossed by our actions at Richmond. NASCAR met with the competitors in Chicago and we all know how we are expected to race forward.”

Montoya moving to #2 for Penske

I KNEW that headline would catch your attention! It is true but in the IndyCar Series and not the Sprint Cup Series. Montoya will drive the #2 Team Penske IndyCar for the full season as he will join Will Power and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the team's IZOD IndyCar Series lineup beginning next season. "I am really excited to join this legendary team beginning next year," said Montoya. "I have had the opportunity to drive for some of the best racing teams in the world and I have always admired Roger Penske and his organization. I consider it an honor to be offered the opportunity to drive for Team Penske."

Montoya will be replaced in the Sprint Cup Series #42 by 2014 Rookie of the Year Contender Kyle Larson.

Possible 2014 Schedule Changes

The 2014 Sprint Cup Series Schedule is being debated behind closed doors with an official announcement expected by the end of the month. When the series visited Richmond just a couple of weeks ago, it appeared there weren’t going to be any major changes on the schedule but the rumor mill is beginning to turn as the announcement gets closer.  Don’t make any hotel reservations but here are some rumored changes to the 2014 Cup Schedule.

• Homestead could lose it’s season finale spot to Phoenix

•  Sonoma could earn a spot into the 10-race Chase for the Championship

•  Road America, the road course located 1 hour North of Milwaukee could hold a race next season. With that said, in order for Road America to gain a race…someone would have to lose one. That race is being rumored as the late Sprint event at Dover.

•  The one I am MOST EXCITED about is…could Darlington be returning to Labor Day weekend? My sources tell me that the Cup Series could be returning to South Carolina on Labor Day Weekend with Atlanta getting the Mother’s day event.

Stay tuned to see if any of these changes or other changes take place for next season’s schedule.


#3 returning to Sprint Cup Series Competition

There aren’t many things that get NASCAR fans more fired up than the #3 car returning to Sprint Cup competition.  The #3, made famous by Dale Earnhardt Sr. has not been run in the Sprint Cup Series since his untimely death in February of 2001. Although an official announcement has not been made, it is expected that Austin Dillon will be the driver of the #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in 2014. An image of the #3 Cheerios Chevrolet made its rounds on social media on Tuesday, but is this Austin Dillon’s 2014 ride? A team spokesperson advised that this image was a prototype from the beginning of the season but refused to comment on the #3.

Danica to co-host American Country Awards

Danica Patrick will join Trace Adkins on the stage in Las Vegas for the FOX’s American Country Awards on December 10th.  "I'm so excited to host the American Country Awards with Trace Adkins," Patrick said. "I have no doubt he'll be able to keep up with me. I've become a huge fan of country music since I came to NASCAR and have been fortunate to be in videos with Miranda Lambert and Colt Ford. This is going to be a really cool experience and I'm excited to be a part of it. It's going to be a great show!"

Back Racing in the Bluegrass

While the Sprint Cup Series is racing in New Hampshire this weekend, the Nationwide Series and ARCA Racing Series are utilizing the Kentucky Speedway for their events this weekend. The ARCA Series will race on Friday with the NASCAR Nationwide Series taking to the track on Saturday.

Nationwide Gives Up Nationwide Series

Nationwide announces they will stop their seven year sponsorship of NASCAR's #2 series. The Cleveland based Insurance giant will spend its money on car sponsorships and in the Cup series..

Race Preview: Sylvania 300

Milestone Starts at New Hampshire

Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and David Gilliland will all make milestone starts this weekend at New Hampshire. Martin, who is subbing for the injured Tony Stewart will be making his 875th start, putting him fifth on the all-time start list. Matt Kenseth will be making his 500th start and commemorating it with a special paint scheme. David Gilliland will be making his 250th Sprint Cup Series start.       

There have been 37 races at the Magic Mile in Loudon, New Hampshire. The most recent winner was back in July when Brian Vickers ended his winless drought with a “magical win” at the Magic Mile. In the September 2012 race at NHIS, the win went to Denny Hamlin.

43 teams are entered for this weekend’s race, which means all drivers entered will be racing on Sunday. The teams will take to the track on Friday during their first practice session to prepare a setup for their qualifying laps later in the day. Teams will strive for a fast lap on Friday as New Hampshire has a history of a track that is hard to pass on. Track position, much like at Richmond a couple of weeks back, is everything.

The cars and teams, who were competitive at Richmond just 2 weeks ago, will have a good base set up to start from at New Hampshire. They are both primarily flat race tracks where the car doesn’t have much room to drift up for grip. The teams will strive for a car that can “roll through” the center of the corner without much braking.

At the beginning of the article, I used the phrase “If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise.” Looking at the forecast for New Hampshire on Sunday, that could be an issue. Like last week at Chicago, there is a 60% chance of rain on Sunday but the bad news is…unlike Chicago there are no lights at New Hampshire.

Blake’s Pick

I began following NASCAR closely in the late 1990’s. While most elementary school kids were watching their favorite cartoons on Saturday morning, I was looking for the first Saturday practice session on my NASCAR schedule. During this period of time, a driver who was almost synonymous with New Hampshire was Jeff Burton. I recall a race at Loudon where Burton led every lap in 2000. Burton has 4 wins at New Hampshire and has had moments this season where he has been very competitive including at New Hampshire in July and both Richmond races. My pick for Sunday is the #31 Jeff Burton!

Getty Images\Elsa

Moon’s Pick

I’m going with the only female to ever race at New Hampshire without a win…Danica Patrick. Wait…she is the only female to ever race at New Hampshire!

Getty Images\Brian Cleary

Tune into Sunday’s coverage of the Sylvania 300 beginning at Noon on WBKR and WBKR.com!