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Amy Henderson

Beyond the Cockpit: Casey Mears On His Past, His Future, And His Family

Beyond the Cockpit: Casey Mears On His Past, His Future, And His Family

_No question about it, Casey Mears has racing in his blood. His grandfather Bill began the "Mears Gang" tradition in the 1950s, racing anything with wheels while winning the infamous Pikes Peak hill climb during his heyday. But little did he know then that the accolades would get bigger and better for the following generation. Casey's Uncle Rick won the Indianapolis 500 four times, and father Roger is an off-road racing legend - conveying a passion for motorsports to son Casey that runs deeper than ever these days. Even during a season of struggle -- Mears will miss the Chase in his second and final year with perennial contender Hendrick Motorsports -- the love for anything motorsports allows to him to see the light at the end of the tunnel during these trying times._ _In this latest edition of Beyond The Cockpit, our Amy Henderson sat down with Mears to talk about the driver's past, present, and future -- with a lot of stops in between. The 30-year-old talks about his beginnings in racing, his family's influence, his friendship with Jimmie Johnson, and the strangest question a fan has ever asked him. It's one-on-one time with one of NASCAR's brightest stars, the nicest guy in the garage according to drivers and fans -- and the latest generation of the legendary Mears Gang._ Read More »

Beyond the Cockpit : Brian Vickers Talks Turnaround, Teamwork, And … Skydiving?

Beyond the Cockpit : Brian Vickers Talks Turnaround, Teamwork, And … Skydiving?

Amy Henderson: *Your team has had a 180 degree turnaround from 2007. What has changed, and what has stayed the same?* Brian Vickers: The biggest thing that’s changed is performance, obviously. We’re running much better. I’m really proud of everybody at Red Bull. I don’t think there’s one thing that you can pinpoint. It’s a lot of little things. There are some new faces who have helped us. Jay Frye has come on board, and I think his leadership is one of the biggest benefits. Kevin Hamlin coming on board the No. 83, there are a lot of new engineers and new staff -- a lot of guys back at the shop who bring a lot of experience we didn’t have last year. Read More »

According To Bruton Smith, New Hampshire Offers Bright Future … Not A Means To An End

According To Bruton Smith, New Hampshire Offers Bright Future … Not A Means To An End

When Bruton Smith talks, everyone listens; and Sunday was no exception. Popping up just prior to his track's main event, Smith spoke to the media as newly purchased New Hampshire Motor Speedway prepared for the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event under the Speedway Motorsports, Inc. banner. As usual, all ears were in Smith’s direction as he and NHMS General Manager Jerry Gappens addressed the packed room. The future of the race track was in question, and these two were just the people to provide either comfort or chaos to thousands of New England racing fans. But once they finished, the motives for Smith's press conference were clear; rumors of the Speedway's demise were greatly exaggerated. Instead, Smith has big plans for the 1.058-mile oval that he purchased from Bob Bahre last November. Read More »

Dog and Pony Show for Sponsors Can Leave Fans With a Flea Circus

Dog and Pony Show for Sponsors Can Leave Fans With a Flea Circus

Over the years, the sponsor landscape has changed drastically, from one of small, mostly local automotive-driven businesses to one of billion-dollar international corporations who pump millions into the race teams for the right to paint their logo on the hood of a racecar. And in return, they get a polite, smiling racecar driver to come to the hospitality village to speak to VIP's and potential clients. Oh, and to appear at the occasional company meeting. And maybe sometimes make a commercial. And did we leave out the photo shoot and the 17 grand openings? Sorry about that. And while you're at it, you said "darn" in your last interview. Clean up the language, okay? Read More »

A Scarlet…Asterisk?  Giving Illegitimate Wins Their Due

A Scarlet…Asterisk? Giving Illegitimate Wins Their Due

Remember _The Scarlet Letter_? The novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne in which young Hester Prynne is sentenced to wear a scarlet "A" on her clothing, a constant reminder to all that she had committed adultery, the utmost sin in her Puritan lifestyle? You probably read it in high school and possibly vowed never to read another book again as long as you lived. It was a public humiliation which earned Hester scorn wherever she went. But this is not a book review. Read More »

No Cries of “Cheater” on this Playground?

No Cries of “Cheater” on this Playground?

Sometimes I wonder why some things get magnified until they seem larger than life while some things that should be a big deal seem to be buried in the background. No, I'm not talking about making mountains out of molehills and molehills out of mountains. I'm talking about calling a mountain a mountain and a molehill a molehill. There was barely a ripple in Race Fan World about the oil tank lid infraction on the No. 99 after Las Vegas. I suppose it's feasible that four bolts backed out and the lid migrated up to a highly unusual and visible place in the back of the racecar. It just seems highly unlikely, given that this, and four similar (lids loose, but not removed) in the Nationwide Series this year, are the first time in recent memory a car has been cited for a loose oil tank lid. Cars vibrate all the time and their bolts stay in place. Read More »

An Open Letter to the Unsung Heroes of Racing

An Open Letter to the Unsung Heroes of Racing

To the Emergency Workers and Officials at California Speedway: I don't envy your jobs. You (and hundreds like you at tracks big and small, across the country and back) work in anonymity, but you have an awesome responsibility placed on your shoulders. You don't know, when you get to that next car, what you are going to find, and you go anyway. Many times emergency crews are criticized for their slow response time to an on-track incident. On Sunday, in a business where seconds count, too slow can be the space of one heartbeat, but you didn't wait even that long. Read More »

Side-By-Side : Whose Fault Was It — Tony Stewart Or Kurt Busch?

Side-By-Side : Whose Fault Was It — Tony Stewart Or Kurt Busch?

*Today's Question : Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled Friday in Bud Shootout practice, destroying Busch's No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. It's a wreck Busch responded to by using his damaged race car to beat and bang Stewart's vehicle all the way down pit road, the second such time he's done so in the past year (see Dover, June 2007).* Amy Henderson: Why on Earth would anyone think telling Busch to behave was enough? Obviously, the money and championship points have not deterred him from driving a 3400-pound missile toward unprotected crewmen on pit road -- and we're supposed to believe that telling him to "play nice" will? NASCAR should have suspended Busch from the Budweiser Shootout, at the very least. Bryan Keith: How can anyone blame Kurt Busch for going after Stewart? This is the same Tony Stewart that wrecked Busch in exactly the same way at Dover last year ... putting him in a deep points hole as he strived to make the Chase. This is the same Tony Stewart that has a history of run-ins at Daytona (just ask Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin), the same one who wrecked out with Busch in last February's 500. Every single thing might not always be Tony's fault; but frankly, I don't buy the theory that a plethora of NASCAR stars have just developed a habit of braking in front of the No. 20. Read More »

Time to Put This Bud on Ice

Time to Put This Bud on Ice

On Saturday night, NASCAR will roar back onto the landscape with the Budweiser Shootout. The race is an exclusive, members-only affair, with only pole winners from the previous season and previous winners on the guest list. Budweiser sponsored the pole award for years, and along with the honor of top starting spot for a race came entry into the short, money-or-nothing Shootout each spring. Now, with Coors taking over as top beer sponsor, the future of the race is questionable. And you know what? It's a race whose time is past. Sure, it's an entertaining way to get the kinks out after a long off-season. Because there are no points on the line, drivers tend not to be as careful with their equipment, and that can lead to exciting racing. It is certainly the norm in professional sports to have exhibition games before the regular season starts. But NASCAR isn't a stick and ball sport. Read More »