Archive for August, 2014

StewartTeam Chevy Driver Press Conference Transcript

Tony Stewart, No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS and Brett Frood, Executive Vice-President of Stewart-Haas Racing, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  

THE MODERATOR: Good morning. I’m director of communication for Stewart-Haas Racing. Up here is Tony Stewart, driver & owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, and Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing.

Tony has prepared some remarks. We’ll let him read those.

TONY STEWART:  Thanks.

This has been one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with both professionally and personally. This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life.

With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward’s family and friends are experiencing is something that I can’t possibly imagine.

I want Kevin’s father, Kevin Sr., and his mother Pam, and his sisters Christi, Kayla, Katelyn, to know that every day I’m thinking about them and praying for them.

The racing community is a large family, as you guys know. Everyone’s saddened with this tragedy.

I want to thank all my friends and family for their support through this tough emotional time, and the support from the NASCAR community, my partners, all of our employees, it’s been overwhelming.

I’ve taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family, and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.

I miss my team, my teammates. I miss being back in the racecar. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.

I also understand that all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers, however I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time. Emotionally I’m not sure if I could answer them anyway.

We’re here to race this weekend, and I appreciate your respect.  There will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions. Thank you.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Tony.

Again, Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, will be available to take a handful of questions.

Q: Brett, NASCAR issued a statement yesterday that Tony had received all necessary clearances to race. What was the process of going through clearances? What approvals did he need?

BRETT FROOD: Well, as you all know, when a driver’s out of the car, there is that process. I’m not going to get into the medical side of it, but I will say we’ve been in close contact with them throughout the process, have gotten from them what he needed to get back in the car right now.

Q: The investigation as we understand is still open. Was there any thought to not having Tony race until it was closed? Why now?

BRETT FROOD: Well, I think for Tony, it’s all about this healing process. That’s part of why he’s in the car. Besides his mom, his dad, his sister, his niece and nephew, his family is here, it’s at this racetrack. It’s part of the healing process of being with his family that he’s been with since 1999, knowing that these people are going to help him get through this.  I think that’s one side of it. The other side of it is he’s a racer. We have 270 employees.  I think him putting a helmet on will help him cope with this situation.

Q: Brett, respecting the process, the investigation, knowing there’s things you can’t comment on, are you able to say whether you know whether Tony has a clear picture in his own mind of what happened that second or two that night?

BRETT FROOD: I am not going to comment on the incident itself. It was a tragic accident. Right now the focus is to be on Tony and the car this weekend and how he’s going to get through this.

Q: The fact that Tony is racing this weekend, should we read anything into that about what you know about the investigation and where it’s at in the process?

BRETT FROOD:  No.  I mean, we’ve really been respecting the process, as Tony said, and the investigation.  Him being in the racecar right now is about him getting through what has been a very emotional two weeks, what his next step is in coping with this. There’s been a great deal of empathy and sympathy for that family and what they’re going through.  For Tony, it’s just been extremely emotional.  This is what is going to help him.

Q: Can you talk about where Tony is at emotionally right now to step into the car? Was it 100% his choice not to race the last couple of weeks, without the involvement of the sanctioning body that we will hear from next?

BRETT FROOD: I’ll address the latter first. Yes, the decision to be in the car is 100% Tony’s.

Q: Please define his emotional stage at this point. A very fragile Tony Stewart at this point.

BRETT FROOD:  You just saw Tony.  It’s been a difficult two weeks.  But Tony is ready to be in the racecar.  He wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t.

Q: Brett, you’ve worked for Tony for a long time. You’ve seen him in ways we have not.  How would you characterize his preparation for this and what you think he’ll experience as he gets back in the car?

BRETT FROOD: I think it’s going to be very overwhelming being in that garage today. He’s going to feel an awful lot of support. As I just mentioned, this is his family. It’s the crew members, it’s the officials, it’s the drivers. It’s his family that he’s been with since 1999. This is going to be part of that process for him.  I believe it’s going to be an overwhelming process, this weekend. That being said, Tony Stewart is a racecar driver. He’s been a racecar driver for the past 35 years. When he puts that helmet on in practice, I’m quite convinced he’ll be ready to race the car, he’ll be able to separate the two.

Q: Brett, this obviously is a tremendous tragedy. Obviously in the sport of racing, these guys learn to deal with that part of the sport. Why do you think this has hit Tony so hard?

BRETT FROOD: Because he was involved in an accident and a young man died. I can’t imagine what he’s going through.  I can’t imagine what the kid’s parents are going through. It’s something, as Tony said, that he hopes no one in this room or certainly anywhere will ever have to go through.  He was involved in a tragic accident.

Q: I noticed Tony mentioned Kevin Ward’s family members by name. Has he reached out to them personally at all?

BRETT FROOD: Tony has sent the family flowers and a card around the services.  Besides that he’s been very respectful of them and their time to grieve. I do know that it will be very important, it’s important for Tony, to spend time with the family. I do believe that will happen in the appropriate time.

Q: Obviously it’s an emotional time. Internally how do you deal with it as an organization, the prep work? Let’s face it, it’s not an ordinary weekend that all of you are dealing with.

BRETT FROOD: We’ve got 270 employees back in Kannapolis working hard. Tony has three other team members. These are folks that are at Stewart-Haas because they believe in the leadership, they believe in the ownership, believe in the folks that we have surrounding them, and we believe in them. So for them, I think their focus has been undeterred over the last several weeks. They’re obviously really excited to have Tony back in the car, that leader, the guy they believe in. So I think the focus will be there this weekend from those guys. We should be good.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much for your time. We certainly appreciate it.

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. — Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing announced Aug. 16 that they will form a multi-car organization for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series. The team will be known as CFH Racing.

The two single-car teams, based in Indianapolis, will be headquartered at the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing shop in Speedway, Ind., just a few blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Additional details about CFH Racing, including personnel, suppliers and sponsors, will be announced in the near future.

Ed Carpenter Racing, established in 2012, has three victories this season with Mike Conway capturing the Long Beach and Toronto street races and team owner/driver Ed Carpenter winning at Texas Motor Speedway oval in the No. 20 ECR/Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet.

In addition, Carpenter won the Indianapolis 500 pole position in 2013 and 2014.

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, formed in 2008 and co-owned by Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman, won its first race in 2011 at Kentucky Speedway with Carpenter behind the wheel.                

This season, SFHR driver Josef Newgarden has recorded a best of second place at Iowa Speedway in the Honda-powered No. 67 SFHR Hartman Oil car.

“I am very excited about this new opportunity to merge Ed Carpenter Racing with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in CFH Racing,” Carpenter said. “We had success together in 2011 and have always had a great relationship. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we won our first race together at Kentucky Speedway.

“I look forward to getting started with this new team and continuing to add to the success that each of our teams have had in the past. There will be a lot of work to do this offseason to bring the two teams together to form one new team, but we feel that it is a great opportunity for all of us to grow and reach new heights of success. There are a lot of details we will need to finalize after the season comes to a close, so for now we are focusing on finishing this season on a high note for Ed Carpenter Racing.”

Fisher, the first woman to win an IndyCar Series pole, became the first female team owner in the IndyCar Series in 2008. She announced her retirement from driving in 2010.

“The merger of the two teams is a big-picture plan,” she said. “At the nucleus of all parties, there is a lot of synergy that has great potential for the future. Working with Ed, and capturing that first win, was a foothold in our team, and I look forward to the many more that will come as a result of bringing all the parties together.”

Hartman, a successful businessman in Wichita, Kan., and owner of Hartman Oil, joined Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing as co-owner in December 2011.

“I am excited about the opportunity for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to join with Ed Carpenter Racing to create a top-tier Verizon IndyCar Series team,” he said. “The newly formed collaboration as CFH Racing will allow us to double down on our commitment to be successful on and off the track.”

Photo and Data courtesy of IndyCar.com 

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INDYCAR Presents: Beer, Cheese & Charity, a fundraiser and online auction benefiting Racing For Kids on its silver anniversary and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

WHERE:

VIP beer garden, inside IndyFest Street party, Hilton Milwaukee City Center, 509 W. Wisconsin Ave.

WHEN:

5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15

COST:

Admission is $25 and includes beer, paired with cheeses and hors d’oeuvres and entry into the VIP lounge. Tickets are available at qtego.net/racingforkidsmilwaukee and at the entrance to the event. Entry in the Indyfest Street Party is free.

THE AUCTION:

The event’s auction runs from Aug. 6 at 12 p.m. through Friday, Aug. 15 at 9:30 p.m. at qtego.net/auc/racingforkidsmilwaukee

FOR THE MEDIA & MORE INFORMATION:

Contact Cathy Kightlinger at ckightlinger@indycar.com or 317-797-3490.

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Welcome to Racing for Kids

 

Founded in Detroit in 1989, Racing For Kids® is designed to use the increasing popularity of motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the health care needs of children

The hospital visits form the heart of the program. Racing For Kids® drivers visit children in Children’s Hospitals wherever they race. They spend time with each sick youngster answering questions about their sport, posing for pictures, signing autographs and handing out the distinctive Racing For Kids® hats, coloring books and assorted memorabilia provide by our sponsors.

Racing For Kids® representatives have visited with more than 25,000 young patients in nearly 500 hospitals in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, and Australia.

In addition, nearly $6 million has been raised through donations and specific fund raising events for children’s hospitals and child health institutions and causes across the country.

Meet the Team

Racing For Kids, 93 Kercheval, Suite 4, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236 | 313-882-3403

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chris owenINDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 10, 2014 – Marc Marquez’s perfect season rolls on.

The Spaniard pulled away in the second half of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Sunday, beating Jorge Lorenzo by 1.803 seconds to win for the second consecutive year on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and continue an incredible 2014 season.

The 21-year-old has won all 10 races so far on the MotoGP World Championship schedule, an extended run of dominance not seen in the sport since Australia’s Mick Doohan’s won 10 in a row in 1997.

“I cannot explain – every race I go to the weekend and I say, ‘OK, here maybe is the time to finish second or third. Here will be the time that I struggle,'” Marquez said. “But every race I feel so strong.”

His afternoon at IMS began with a struggle as he fell from the pole position to fifth moments after the race began and needed 10 laps to work his way back to the front. But once there, the defending world champion held steady for the final 17 laps on his No. 93 Repsol Honda and became the first back-to-back champion at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

“The start was not so good, and in the beginning I had some moments,” Marquez said. “Then when I saw the tire (come in), Jorge also attacked and tried to push in the front. I said, ‘OK, now is the time I overtake them’ and I started to push.”

Mike HardingMarquez won for the fourth consecutive year at IMS, having also won in Moto2 in 2011 and 2012. In winning on Sunday, he also secured the 500th Grand Prix win for Spain. No. 499 came from Efren Vazquez, who started Sunday’s racing with a win in Moto3 after a fierce battle among five riders in the closing laps.

Italy’s Romano Fenati led coming into the front straightaway but Vazquez ran him down in his Honda for a 0.065-second margin at the Yard of Bricks and his first Moto3 victory.

“It was a really hard race for us and, I think, for every rider,” Vazquez. “I will take it – the first victory.”

Moto2 featured a dominant wire-to-wire performance by Mika Kallio of Finland, who led all 16 laps in a shortened race following an early red flag. His margin at the finish was 1.380 seconds over Maverick Vinales of Spain.

In the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series, Steve Rapp won in a five-bike shootout in the closing laps.

The Red Bull Indianapolis GP will return in 2015, with a race date to be announced in the future.

 Data and Photography Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Editor’s Note from Speedway Sightings …

After midnight last night, I began to see on-site press reports surface about the tragedy involving Kevin Ward, Jr. and Tony Stewart in a Sprint Car race at Canandaigua Speedway in upstate New York. I stayed with the story until the end of a press conference held by Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero at 3am.

At times like this I fall back on my favorite quotation from John Lawton as he was speaking before the American Association of Broadcast Journalists in 1995.  He said: “The irony of the Information Age is that it has given new respectability to uninformed opinion.”

The purpose of my re-posting this writer’s work is that it is too important to be a link buried within the text of the short few paragraphs. It deserves to be published in its entirety.

Steven Cole Smith has taken the high road by offering up the facts as best reported and leading the reader through a list of varying aspects that should be considered before condemning anyone for this tragedy.

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Incomprehensible tragedy occurs Saturday night at a dirt track in New York …

By: Steven Cole Smith

Editor-in-Chief — Motorsport.com

Many of you will wake up to the incomprehensible news that Tony Stewart was responsible for the death of a fellow racer last night. It’s true. But you need to know the whole story – or at least as complete as it is at 5 a.m. ET, when I write this.

There is no denying that the death Saturday night of 20-year-old sprint car driver Kevin Ward, Jr., killed when he was struck by the right rear tire of a sprint car driven by NASCAR star Tony Stewart, is a tragedy almost beyond comprehension.

His team released a brief statement, but it is generic and probably vetted by lawyers: “A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating. Tony was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We’re still attempting to sort through all the details and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time.”

Making it so much worse is the excruciating contention, repeated literally hundreds of times last night on social media that Stewart swerved into Ward intentionally.

According to a video of the incident, Stewart was inside the young Empire Super Sprint driver going into turn two of Canandaigua Speedway in upstate New York. Stewart drifted high, and Ward, running out of room, touched the outside wall, spinning completely one time, and coming to a stop pointing in the wrong direction, his right rear tire flat.

He climbed from his car, and began striding down the track, obviously looking for Stewart, whose car was approaching at a reduced speed under the caution flag, but still traveling at perhaps 40 mph. Ward was pointing a finger at Stewart’s car and moved toward it.

It appears Stewart saw him at the last second, and swerved, but still hit Ward hard enough to toss him like a rag doll at least 20 feet down the track. An autopsy is pending, but it seems likely Ward suffered a broken neck, though he still had his helmet and head restraint device on, but the device only works when you are strapped into your car. Stewart stopped about a hundred feet down the track. Emergency workers were there in second. Indeed, Stewart may have hit the gas, but you steer sprint cars with the throttle for more than the steering wheel. The idea that he accelerated trying to hit Ward is beyond the pale.

How could this happen?

I have driven winged sprint cars, and as you can imagine, visibility to the side is horrible. Ward was wearing a mostly black fire suit and a black helmet. The idea that any driver would purposely hit another over what was a comparatively minor, that’s-racing incident is hard to swallow. That Tony Stewart would do it on purpose? That is unthinkable.

There are so many sad coincidences here that the mind reels. This is the same track where, just over one year ago, Stewart sparked a 17-car collision that sent two drivers to the hospital, including a 19-year-old female racer.

And just a few days ago, it was the one-year anniversary of Stewart’s own crash in a 360-cubic-inch sprint car identical to the one he was driving Saturday night, breaking his leg so severely in two places that he had to miss the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Let me correct one thing I just said: The car Stewart was driving Saturday night was fitted with several safety features that Stewart helped develop, based on his crash and the death of three sprint car drivers last year, including NASCAR driver Jason Leffler. Those safety features included tethers similar to the ones used in IndyCar, and a re-enforced tunnel for the torque tube, which is essentially a driveshaft that runs between the driver’s legs. That tube rupturing is what injured Stewart. He told me earlier this year that if anything good came from his crash that — like it did when the death of Dale Earnhardt occurred – safety innovations were developed that have likely saved other driver’s lives.

And a final irony is that Saturday night, 820 miles due west from Canandaigua, New York, the biggest sprint car race of the year was being held – the Knoxville Nationals, in Knoxville, Iowa, featuring all the World of Outlaws sprint car stars, and the top drivers from other series. The feature there was just about to get rolling when Stewart’s accident occurred. The winner of the Knoxville Nationals, for the eighth time – Donny Schatz, who drives for team owner Tony Stewart. In fact, Stewart was in Knoxville earlier this week, cheering on his team, which also includes soon-to-retire sprint car legend Steve Kinser.

Why does Stewart do it ?

After Stewart’s own crash, he took a lot of criticism about how someone of his stature should not be racing sprint cars – that so many employees and sponsors depended on him that he simply shouldn’t participate in something so dangerous. Some of those people will be waiting for a respectful time to pass before they say, “I told you so.” Others won’t even wait that long.

Stewart said that of all the types of cars he has driven, winged sprint cars were the most challenging, and that he needed to challenge himself. Some of his fellow drivers understood, others did not.

Not long ago, I asked NASCAR driver Greg Biffle – who, like Stewart, came up racing on short tracks – what he thought of the fact that a healed-up Stewart had said that he was about to go back to sprint car racing.

This is what Biffle said: “It’s in our blood. Driving race cars is what we do. I like to ride dirt bikes and ride my ATVs and I have a sand car, and if somebody told me I couldn’t do that anymore I’d be devastated. I’m different from Tony, or Kasey Kahne or Clint Bowyer – I get my fill of racing from NASCAR, so my fun activity is to get to go play in the sand or the desert. That’s what I love to do.

“So I know where he’s coming from. That’s what he enjoys, what he loves, that’s what he’s done since he was a little kid. No matter what you do, racing or not, we could all get hit by a bus when we cross the street. We should all be able to do something you love, and that’s what he loves to do.”

As for what he gets out of sprint cars: He did a conference call with some of us just after he returned to sprint car racing on July 18, winning his first time out at the Tri-City Speedway, a dirt track in Michigan, where he showed up unannounced to run a 360 sprint with the SOD (Sprints on Dirt) series.

“I just like it,” Stewart said. “I’ve always liked dirt racing. I’ve always liked racing Sprint cars, and it’s just what I enjoy doing.  Everybody has hobbies. Everybody has stuff they like to do when they have downtime, and that’s just what it is for me.  That’s what I like to do when I have extra time.”

The coming storm …

As I write this, it is difficult – impossible, really – to imagine the storm that is about to rain down on sprint car racing in general, Tony Stewart in particular. Having covered him since his original short-track days, I wish I could tell you about the charitable deeds you don’t know about. About how we once admitted to each other that we each had a Chihuahua dog, that happened to sleep in our bed, and how we must never again say that out loud in public. About how, when he briefly owned a few racing Greyhounds, that he would fly them to new owners in his private jet when they retired.

Tony Stewart is as gruff as they come, but he has the biggest heart of any professional driver I have ever known. I can only imagine how his heart is broken for causing the death of another young driver, and to have people insisting that he did it on purpose.

I can imagine how bad that is: I cannot imagine what the friends and family of Kevin Ward, Jr. – described in one Facebook post by a friend as “the nicest folks who ever walked the earth” – must be going through.

This story will be enormous, the repercussions far-reaching and likely devastating on multiple levels. No matter what happens at the NASCAR Sprint Cup race this afternoon at Watkins Glen, where Stewart is supposed to start 13th – the number of Kevin Ward’s sprint car – this tragedy will eclipse everything, and will for a long time.

I’m praying for Kevin Ward’s family, and for Tony Stewart. If you are so inclined, maybe you can, too.