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Danny Peters

A Talk With Joe Balash On The Nationwide Series’ Past, Present, And Future

As is often the case, it was one conversation that changed Joe Balash’s life. “Just happened to be another one of those phone calls,” he says now, but at the time it was clearly anything but. When that call came, Balash was Senior Vice President of Operations for the now-defunct ASA Series, rising to the top after just four short years of working his way up the ladder. Little did he know the next step would be a _little_ higher. “[NASCAR’s] Gary Nelson asked me to come down and interview,” he explained. “We talked about me working as a Technical Director for the Regional Tours.” Making the move from ASA to the top stock car series in America, Balash and his wife moved from Ohio to North Carolina and began the transition to NASCAR. But 60 days later, another phone call turned his life upside down once again. This time, the call came from NASCAR President Mike Helton, and the words would change this official’s life for good. Was Balash interested in becoming Director of the Busch Series? Read More »

Eight Thoughts After Eight Races

Eight Thoughts After Eight Races

Technically speaking, we'll be at the quarter pole mark following the conclusion of the rollercoaster ride at Talladega this Sunday; but, with a brief pause in the relentless slog that is the Sprint Cup schedule, it's a good time to put out eight thoughts and questions with eight races of the 2008 season in the books. *1. We had a 50th Daytona 500 to be proud of…* It is often the case in sport that the “big” occasion doesn't live up to the pre-event propaganda, but the 50th running of the Great American Race was not one of those instances. Now, it's fair to say this finish wasn't an instant classic; but it was far from a damp squib. Yes, the finish, while undeniably exciting, was not as dramatic or spectacular as 2007, nor did it contain cars crossing the finish line upside down and on fire. But as the lap counter ticked down in the 2008 edition, the tension ratcheted up notch-by-notch in the last 25 circuits. With three laps to go, Tony Stewart looked set to break his Daytona 500 0-fer; but in the end, it was Ryan Newman, courtesy of the an answered prayer in the form of a push from teammate and erstwhile “Smoke” nemesis Kurt Busch, who took the honors in the most prestigious of all NASCAR races. Read More »

Is It Already Bust Rather Than Chase For Juan Pablo Montoya?

Is It Already Bust Rather Than Chase For Juan Pablo Montoya?

Each week, NASCAR.com runs a short article on Juan Pablo Montoya. Entitled "Where's Juan?" it's a gentle look at what's going on in the world of the Bogota, Colombia native. But where, exactly, is Juan these days? After Sunday's 19th place finish, two laps down, it's not a bad question -- because for most of this year, he's been utterly anonymous. In fact, the start of the open-wheel convert's sophomore season has been as bland as his rookie campaign was colorful. Read More »

Nuts for Nationwide : Ten Years Ago Today

Nuts for Nationwide : Ten Years Ago Today

On this very day some 10 years ago, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won his first race in NASCAR's second series, taking the checkered flag in the 1998 Coca Cola 300. The Kannapolis, North Carolina native drove his father's AC Delco sponsored No. 3 Chevy to victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway. Later that same year, Junior founded JR Motorsports, initially to deal with his burgeoning sponsorship and marketing opportunities. Four years later he turned the business into a race team running in the street stock division at Concord Motorsports Park. And in 2006, Earnhardt, Jr. debuted the No. 88 car in the Nationwide Series with Mark McFarland picking up the driving duties. Tomorrow, Junior will pilot the second Nationwide car in his JR Motorsports stable, the No. 5 Go Daddy Chevy, as he tries to mark the 10th anniversary of his maiden victory at a track where he also secured his first Sprint Cup win. Read More »

How Much Will Be Enough For Dale Earnhardt, Jr.?

How Much Will Be Enough For Dale Earnhardt, Jr.?

Last year, ahead of the Spring race at Martinsville Dale Earnhardt, Jr. expressed frustration at the sheer dominance of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon on the smallest track the Sprint Cup Circuit has to offer. On Sunday, the No. 88 finished behind the 24 and 48 once again; but while the frustrations remained, the expectations were far different. This time, all three were running for Hendrick Motorsports, something few would have predicted at the time of Junior's annoyance twelve months earlier. But none of them would have ventured a guess as to what else was in the forecast; that the second time around, it would be Junior, not his teammates, who truly had the upper hand. Read More »

Is Hamlin Suffering A Junior Jinx?

Is Hamlin Suffering A Junior Jinx?

In every episode of the hit Bravo TV show "Project Runway," the delectable German Supermodel Heidi Klum makes the solemn proclamation that, "In Fashion, one day you're in. The next you're out." Now, I realize you're probably wondering if you clicked onto the wrong website, or if the esteemed editors of Frontstretch are playing some kind of a joke... but hear me out. Yes, Project Runway is not a show I would expect to show up on too many NASCAR fans "can't miss TV" lists, but Heidi's famous line is one that has parallels to our own beloved sport because: "In NASCAR, one day you're in. The next you're out." If you're in any doubt of that, just look into the mindset of Denny Hamlin, because the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Camry has had a nightmare start to 2008. Read More »

Nuts For Nationwide : Four down, Thirty-one to go.

Nuts For Nationwide : Four down, Thirty-one to go.

It's still very early in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series but already the themes are emerging. Yes, there are thousands of laps to be run, but the pre-season predictions are proving to be accurate. Well, mostly. Moonlighting Cup drivers are cleaning up… Drivers from NASCAR's top echelon have made almost exactly a third of the total available starts (58 of 172) in Nationwide races this year and, perhaps unsurprisingly, they've picked up all the prizes on offer so far. Tony Stewart (Daytona, California), Mark Martin (Vegas) and Matt Kenseth (Atlanta) have accounted for the wins while Stewart (Daytona), Jeff Burton (California, Atlanta) and Brian Vickers (Vegas) have vacuumed up the pole positions. For Mark Martin, it was an all-time series best 48th victory, the next nearest being Kevin Harvick with 32 wins; for Matt Kenseth it was win number 24, moving him into a tie for fifth place on the all time wins list with Tommy Houston. Kenseth's win, by the way, ended a 22 race winless streak for Ford in NASCAR's second series. Read More »

Like It Or Not … Toyota’s Here to Stay

Like It Or Not … Toyota’s Here to Stay

After what can most politely be termed as a "learning experience for Toyota" in year one, there was little doubt in the media, in the garage, or amongst the fans that 2008 would be a completely different story. After Joe Gibbs Racing was safely ensconced in the fold, along with the expertise of renowned engine builder Mark Cronquist, the only real question was "when" and not "if" they would win a Sprint Cup race. On Sunday, after 500 tough miles at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kyle "Rowdy" Busch achieved the milestone win for the Japanese manufacturer in his own inimitable fashion; Busch, being a man for whom the term "drive it like you stole it" was invented. But Toyota was hardly stealing the winning trophy in their 40th start in the Cup series. The seeds of their milestone victory were sown over several years of hard work, a culmination of their early experiences in both the Craftsman Truck and Nationwide Series. Following the automaker's 2004 introduction to NASCAR's Trucks, it took just 13 races before Travis Kvapil took the checkers in his Tundra at Michigan. Just three short seasons later, the manufacturer had their first Truck champion in Todd Bodine, and they accounted for 12 race victories in total. Read More »

From Snake Eyes To Box Cars : Sizing Up NASCAR Odds In Vegas

From Snake Eyes To Box Cars : Sizing Up NASCAR Odds In Vegas

With the old adage that the "bookies never lose" notwithstanding, and NASCAR's annual date with Sin City just a couple days away, now seems as good a time as ever to put up some odds you might (or might not) see throughout the 2008 NASCAR season... -- *All bets are off*: Juan Pablo Montoya employing another "Scott Pruett special" on a teammate (or any other driver for that matter) if he's running second with the race on the line. *2-1*: Odds that corporate pitchman extraordinaire, Michael Waltrip, gets NAPA into the first five words of every radio or TV appearance. *3-1*: Chances of a Robby Gordon-related controversy _on the track_ before the start of the Chase. Double your money if he celebrates a win after being black flagged. Read More »

The Yellow Stripe: The Perfect Day

The Yellow Stripe: The Perfect Day

The idea to go to the 50th running of the Daytona 500 was born in Italy last summer. During a lazy afternoon by the pool, a couple of days before I was married, I was explaining to my best man how much I loved NASCAR when he admitted that he had been watching some highlights of the races on late night British TV. So, we made a snap decision to go to the big race; all that was left was the question of logistics. The how part was simple; it would have to be a road trip. Roping in a great friend of mine from New York, I planned out a five-day, 2,500-mile round trip for the three of us, with the signature event being the 500 and a pre-race pit tour from a buddy of mine in the business who would act as our chaperone for the day. My two traveling companions are both confirmed petrol-heads -- one is a real Formula One enthusiast, but you could have written his knowledge of NASCAR on the back of a postage stamp with a paintbrush. Read More »