Tag:Auto Racing
Posted on: December 10, 2012 2:46 pm

My Interview With Erik Jones: A Future Superstar

Erik Jones won a thriller earlier this month at 5 Flags Speedway in the 45th annual Snowball Derby. The 16 year old raced door-to-door with Kyle Busch & prevailed against the NASCAR superstar in a great finish which capped off a wild night in Florida.

Racing Start

Erik got his start in racing when he was just 7 years old racing quarter midgets saying "It wasn't anything that my parents pushed me into, it was something that I really wanted to do from the time that I was just a toddler."

After winning his first championship in quarter midgets back in 2007; he started racing street stocks at Owosso Speedway where he would win Rookie of the Year honors. The then 12 year old Erik Jones set his sights on racing Late Models & at the age of just 13, he got his chance. His 2010 victory at Dixie Motor Speedway made him the youngest winner in series history.

Young & Fast

Just one year later, Erik won the JEGS/CRA All-Star Tour title. He made the switch from ASA Late Models to the Super Late Models during the off-season & in December of 2011; he made his presence in the racing world known with his astonshing win at New Smyrna Speedway in the Governor's Cup 200 where he led from green flag to checkered flag dominating the event. By the way....that was just his 2nd ever Super Late Model start.

On March 10th, Erik became the youngest starter in ARCA History driving for Venturini Motorsports when he was just 15. Jones led 14 laps before a mechanical failure relegated him to a 29th place finish. He made 9 more starts in ARCA this year with a best 3rd (twice) & 4 top 5's. This was very impressive but no where near as huge as what he would accomplish on December 2nd of this year...

The Snowball Derby

The 45th Snowball Derby was to say the least, crazy. From Steven Wallace chucking a hammer to half the field being involved in incidents. Erik started 9th & was leading by lap 70. He led a race high 124 laps on his way to securing the win after an epic battle with Kyle Busch. I asked him at what point did he realize that he may actually win that race.

"Well, we had a good car all week.  We came down and tested the Saturday and Sunday before the race and I felt that the car was very good, ad definitely would be able to contend for a win.  You don't really know what you have until the other cars show up though.  After the last pit stop I knew that we had a shot at winning the race, and felt like racing against Kyle was going to be a huge challenge. But we were able to prevail and come out on top in the end."

Erik raced head-to-head with the likes of Kyle Busch; one of the most aggressive & talented drivers in NASCAR & he out-wheeled him which is a victory in itself. Unlike most drivers including Chase Elliott, Steve Wallace & TJ Reaid who were very angry with Busch after the race; Erik told me that he loved racing with Rowdy.

"I really enjoyed racing with Kyle.  He is a had dosed and aggressive racer, but at the same time he will race you with a lot of respect.  When you get out on the track with your helmets on I believe that we all become equals.  You don't know if its Kyle Busch driving the car or not, to me it is just another car on the track."

The 16 year old has done so much in his young career & this is what he had to say about where this win ranks in his already very long list of racing achievements...

"This is definitely the biggest win that I have ever had in my career.  This race just has so much prestige and history behind it, and also you are racing the best of the best down here.  You have 60 cars from all over the country coming down here just trying to make the race, and to be able to win it is huge for me and my team."

Lastly, I wanted to find out where Erik wants to go with his racing career & if he has aspirations to become a NASCAR driver.

"Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Do you want to make it to NASCAR's national level or do you want to go a different route?"

"I would love to be able to race on sundays for a living.  It is a long road to be one of those 43 lucky drivers, but I think we have a shot at it.  You never race for the money, but its nice to be able to make a living doing what you love.  I say that a lot but I believe that its very true, and I hope other racers feel the same way about their racing careers."

Erik Jones definitely has the talent to be a superstar. Not many racers that have been doing it for 40 years can say they have done what this kid already has. He is surely one to watch in the years to come & can do great things if the right opportunity presents itself. If someone just gives him the car, then the sky is the limit for this young, racing phenom.

Posted on: June 7, 2012 6:06 pm

NASCAR Loses Cotton Owens

     I was thinking about what I should write about this week. Should it be Kurt Busch's suspension, Reutimann filling in for him, James Finch's comments, the Prelude to the Dream action, Twitter joining forces with NASCAR, the newly repaved Pocono Raceway or Greg Biffle on American Restoration. I ended up chosing none of these in light of the tragic lose of NASCAR legend: Cotton Owens.

     This probably won't be my most popular article due to the lack of controversy in it but I ask this of everyone who reads this. Tweet this to your followers, share it on Facebook and make sure you can teach people about Cotton so that he can be remembered like he deserves & should be. I may only be 18 but I know who Cotton Owens was and in tribute and in memory to him, I want to make sure other people know who he was too. 

*The Early Days of Cotton Owens*
     Everett "Cotton" Owens was born May 21st, 1924 in Spartanburg, SC. Cotton was also nicknamed "King of the Modifieds" for his hundreds of NASCAR Modified victories. He is considered one of the best mechanics in NASCAR history and he also wasn't too bad of a driver either. In his 160 NASCAR Cup starts, Owens earned 9 wins, 52 top 5's, 84 top 10's with 10 poles one of which was the 1960 Daytona 500. He went on to finish 2nd in that race. 

*An Interview with Cotton Owens*
     Cotton's famous white #6 with red wheels and red number was one to be feared and one to be noticed on the track. In an interview with Christpher R. Phillip Cotton explained the reasoning for the unique paint job.
"I like it because it shows up real good on the racetrack. If you've got a scorer in the stands, you've got to keep up with the number of laps that you're running. You want to be able to see it and spot it real quick so you won't miss it, and get you a lap behind."
-Cotton Owens

     Cotton also told a story about the inagural Daytona 500 that was pretty interesting:
"Fireball Roberts had a new '59 Pontiac. I didn't have one. So I went to my shop where I had four '58s that were wrecked. I took those four wrecked cars and put them all together into one race car. I showed up at Daytona a week later (than the other racers), and Fireball Roberts had the pole at 140 mph. I set a record by 3 mph faster than Fireball in my '58 Pontiac at 143.198 mph"

*The End of his Drving Career* 

     Owens first win came at the famous Beach at Daytona in 1957 where he won by nearly a minute over 1959 Daytona 500 runner-up Johnny Beauchamp. Cotton was the first person in NASCAR history to win a race for Pontiac which went on to win 153 more NASCAR races the last being in 2003 with Ricky Craven. In 1959, Cotton was runner-up in the standings to 3 time champion & patriarch of the Petty dynasty Lee.

     Cotton Owens hung up his helmet in the early 60's and became an owner. He was the one that gave the "Silver Fox" David Pearson his first big shot. To show just what kind of guy Cotton was, listen to this story. When David Pearson first started driving his cars, he made a bunch of rookie mistakes dispite showing loads of promise. He made Cotton so mad that at Richmond, in 1964, Owens took a 2nd car to the race to show Pearson how it's done. Cotton won the race by over a lap over his very own driver and future 3x champion & 105x winner David Pearson. That was Owen's 9th and final career win as a driver.

*Cotton Owens the Car Owner*

     Cotton won 38 races as a NASCAR owner in the Cup Series. NASCAR HOF'ers and legends Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Buddy Baker were just some of the names that won races driving for him. Along with 38 wins in 404 starts as an owner, Cotton's team earned 177 top 5's, 241 top 10's, 33 poles and lead nearly 10,000 laps. On top of all that, the Owens team took home the 1966 NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) title with driver David Pearson by nearly 2,000 points!

     The father of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt also made his NASCAR debut driving for Owens finishing a respectable 7th. Some of the most famous names in motorsports drove his cars including  David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Pete Hamilton, Ralph Earnhardt, Bobby Isaac, Junior Johnson, Benny Parsons, Fireball Roberts, Mario Andretti, and Al Unser just to name a few.

*We have lost a Great Man*

     Cotton Owens was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame in 1970, named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998 and in 2013 he will be inducted into the NASCAR HOF. Cotton was a great racer, an ace mechanic, an outstanding owner and a wonderful man.

     He passed away on June 7th, 2012 at the age of 88 after a 7 year battle with lung cancer. He is without a doubt one of the best and will always be remembered by the racing community. If you have any doubt about the toughness and incrediable ability of Cotton Owens, you should know that he raced nearly his whole career with double vision. Rest in piece Cotton; we will always miss you & you will never be forgotten.
Posted on: March 27, 2012 7:59 pm

Where Have All the Short Tracks Gone?

      I'm only 18 but I'm sure a lot of you older fans out there remember the "golden age" of NASCAR. Remember when Ricky Rudd and Dake Earnhardt spun at North Wilkesboro on the final lap battling for the win in 1989. How about when Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth are almost at a dead heat across the line at the Rock in 2004.

     I like the big tracks. I love Atlanta, Texas, Charlotte and places like that. It's that the Sprint Cup Series schedule has been dilluded with them. Look at this statistic about how many short tracks there have been on the schedule every decade.

Short Tracks on Schedule
1950-13/19 races, 68.4%
1960-30/44 races, 68.2%
1970-28/48 races, 58.3%
1980-10/31 races, 32.3%
1990-7/29 races, 24.1%
2000-6/34 races, 17.6%
2012-6/36 races, 16.6%
     Would you look at that. Richmond, Bristol and Martinsville with 2 races a piece are the only ones that remain. North Wilkesboro is gone, Hickory gone, Nazareth gone and the Rock had weeds growing through the start-finish line a few years ago. Thankfully, it is making a comeback and yes I know it is mile and technically not a short track.

      The one mile tracks are like the short tracks though. They are both exciting, action packed with rubbin and lots of racing and they usually have some kind of good finish or controversy. When is the last time you saw a phantom debris caution at Bristol or Martinsville? Yes, phantom debris cautions are real and they happen a lot. They are wrong but they don't bother me because they do spice up some races but that is a whole other controversy for another day.

     We have too many cookie cutter tracks on the shedule and it needs to be fixed. I chuckled when I saw a commercial for the AutoClub 400 the other day when the guy said "the only place where you see 5 wide racing." Yes, we see 5 wide there but only for about 5 to 10 laps after a restart. They left out the part about the single file 200 lap green flag run which usually ends with a debris caution.

     Now like I said before, I love Atlanta, Charlotte and those places. Those tracks have history and character. Kansas, Las Vegas, Kentucky, Cali and Chicago don't. I have heard all the excuses. NASCAR needs to be in that city, the tracks will get better with age, you need all those grandstands and so many other excuses. I don't mean to be a posion pen here. I usually am not but these are the facts and this is my opnion. We need tracks with their own character. I loved how they took Phoenix and tried to warp it int a minature cookie cutter track.

     Everybody think about this for a second. When does a track like the ones I just stated have an exciting finish? When it is a fuel mileage race or there is a late caution, right? That isn't good. That is saying that the racing can't be exciting without an outside force bunching up the field or running the cars out of fuel. So what should NASCAR do? Well, I have a few suggestions.

    First and foremost, talk to Bruton Smith. He controls most of these tracks and nothing will get done unless you have an understanding with him. He wouldn't want to size down his tracks because it will cost him money which will be the main issue. But, packing the stands at a 1 mile track that gets high TV ratings is a lot better than a half filled superspeedway who's TV ratings are in the crapper. We need new tracks to be built that copy Darlington and Martinsville instead of copying Atlanta and Michigan.

     We need NASCAR to step forword and act. NASCAR needs to do this unless you all want to see 30 AutoClub 400's in about 30 years. Bring back the short tracks and build new unique ones. That is the symbol of NASCAR and it is what made them so popular today. Why fix something that isn't broken which is exactly what they did. Now look what they did, it's broken and we now have to fix it.

Posted on: February 23, 2012 6:39 pm

Heartache & Hard Hits Define the Duels at Daytona

    The dust has settled on the 2012 Gatorade Duels at Daytona and the field is set for the 500. Tony Stewart held off a hard charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win Duel #1 while Matt Kenseth blew by teammate Greg Biffle to steal the win in Duel #2.

The 4 Golden Tickets:
    It looked like a showdown was shaping up between McDowell and Robby Gordon on the final lap of the first Duel until Trevor Bayne pulled over to lock them both in. As the defending Daytona 500 champion moved to the side, Kenny Wallace's dream of making the 500 went up in smoke as he would fail to fill a transfer spot in his Duel.

    Micahel Waltrip made a very costly rookie mistake in the first Duel crashing himself after a green flag pit stop. He had two tires on the banking and two on the apron sending him sideways and into the backstretch wall. A rookie mistake by the two time Daytona 500 champion.

    Kenny Wallace had fuel pressure problems in the second Duel regulating him to a 21st place finish which wasn't enough to make the race. Dave Blaney and Joe Nemechek took the two transfer spots in Duel #2. Terry Labonte took the past champions provisional.


Vicious Wrecks in Duel #1:
    Both Danica Patrick and Juan Pablo Montoya are going to be sore in the morning after a couple of hard licks in the first Duel. Michael McDowell pushed on the left rear of David Gilliland sending him into Montoya and Paul Menard. The front end of the #42 was destroyed but the hit of the day belonged to rookie Danica Patrick.

    While Jr. tried to chase down Stewart with half a lap to go, Danica was holding her own around 12th. Almirola got into the door of Patrick sending her head on into the inside wall ripping the front end off the car and sending the #10 off the ground. She was shaken but okay.

The Battle for the Win:
    In Duel #1, Carl Edwards got the push from Dale Jr. to take the lead with 2 to go. Dale was able to get past the 99 but he was quickly over taken by the #14 of Tony Stewart. Before Jr. could get the spot back, the caution had come out for Danica's crash giving the win to 3 time Sprint Cup Series champion, Tony Stewart.

    The second Duel was much more calmer with not a single yellow. Matt Kenseth pushed his teammate Greg Biffle to the front early but Greg ducked down to the bottom leaving Kenseth hung out to dry. Matt would get his revenge late as he blew by the #16 after a failed block by Biffle with Jimmie Johnson pushing. There was contact between Johnson and Regan Smith with half a lap to go which killed the momentum Regan had costing him a chance at the voctory.

    We may want to keep on eye on these cars overheating as we saw a lot of it during the Duels. That could become a major problem in the race on Sunday. Also, Like I said in my last article, these drivers need to be careful and stay away from the left side of the car they are pushing. I think this will be one wild Daytona 500 and watch out for the #98 of Michael McDowell. He was strong in his Duel and he could be the next cinderella story.

A couple fun facts:
-With Michael Waltrip failing to make the 500, this will be the first time since 1972 that a Waltrip will miss the Great American Race

-Matt Kenseth's Duel #2 win was the first Gatorade Duel victory for Roush Fenway Racing

-A owner has never won both Gatorade Duels

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com