Hamlin’s kept promise to win gives Joe Gibbs Racing 100th career victory

Joe Gibbs talks to the media during the Charlotte Media Tour. Harold Hinson/HHP

With Denny Hamlin’s promised win via Twitter after running out of fuel in the first Chase race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Chicagoland, also let JGR grab a milestone at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) reached its 100th victory, becoming only the sixth team in NASCAR Sprint Cup history to do so.

Joe (Coach) Gibbs entered the series in 1992 as a one-car team with eventual series champion Dale Jarrett as his driver. Now, JGR exists as a three-car team with another possible championship this season with contender, Hamlin. JGRs first championship came in 2000 with Bobby Labonte. JGR would follow that up win two more titles, both with Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005).

Below is a timeline of Gibbs’ victories on its way to 100:

On Feb. 14, 1993, JGR won its first race – and it was on NASCAR’s biggest stage, the Daytona 500. With his father Ned urging him to victory while calling the race from the CBS broadcast booth, Dale Jarrett captured his second and Gibbs’ first win. JGR has won at least one race every season since.

JGR won its first Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, on May 28, 1995 with Bobby Labonte driving.

JGR won its first Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Aug. 5, 2000, during his championship campaign, Bobby Labonte led 21 laps prior to kissing the bricks. JGR would win two more Brickyard events, both with Indiana native Tony Stewart (2005 and 2007).

The team’s next win came in another of NASCAR’s crown jewels – the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Labonte picked up the win again, on Sept. 3, 2000.

JGR reached milestone victory No. 50 on July 1, 2006. Tony Stewart won the Daytona night race, starting second and leading 86 laps.

On June 28, 2009, in a rain-shortened event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, JGR driver Joey Logano became the youngest winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history at the age of 19 years, one month and four days.

On Nov. 7, 2010, Denny Hamlin won at Texas Motor Speedway for the team’s 11th victory of the year, making the 2010 season the most prolific in JGR’s history.

JGR Wins By Driver
Tony Stewart              33
Denny Hamlin             22
Bobby Labonte           21
Kyle Busch                 20
Dale Jarrett                  2
Joey Logano                2

JGR Wins By Crew Chief
Greg Zipadelli             34
James Makar             21
Mike Ford                  17
Steve Addington        12
Dave Rogers               8
Darian Grubb              5
Michael McSwain        2
Jason Ratcliff              1

JGR Wins By Track
Atlanta                       10
Pocono                     9
Richmond                  9
Martinsville                 7
Michigan                    7
Bristol                        6
Dover                         5
Watkins Glen              5
New Hampshire          5
Charlotte                    4
Daytona                     4
Homestead                4
Chicago                     3
Darlington                  3
Indianapolis                3
Sonoma                     3
Talladega                    3
Texas                          3
Kansas                       2
Phoenix                      2
Kentucky                    1
Las Vegas                   1
Rockingham                1

Stats via NASCAR Media

NASCAR responds: Brad Keselowski seeing many shades of grey with Hendrick Motorsports

Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne battle three-wide at Michigan International Speedway. Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

*Update at bottom

During the Pure Michigan 400 race, Brad Keselowski and his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge was battling with the No. 48 Chevy of Jimmie Johnson, and then, with only six laps to go, the No. 48 blew its engine. Caution comes out and Greg Biffle retains the lead on the green-white-checkered restart. Biffle ends up winning the race, as well as retain the points lead, with Keselowski trailing behind, finishing in 2nd place.

At this point, Keselowski is not a happy driver. During a post race interview with Sporting News, Brad Keselowski stated he couldn’t catch the No. 48 Chevy because of “Penske Racing’s refusal to bend the rules.”

Huh?

Keselowski, being purely speculative, stated that Hendrick’s have done “tricks” with their cars. “Hendrick Motorsports cars appear to have different rear suspension setups than other cars, especially at intermediate tracks such as Michigan, Indianapolis and Pocono. “There’s parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that makes the cars more competitive,” Keselowski said after the race.

Ok. That’s HIS thought. However, these questions went rushing through my mind: Race parts being moved, even after inspection? But what about post race inspection? Is it truly nonsense, an angry driver just saying things letting off steam? Or could there be a little truth to what Keselowski is claiming? Or are some of the NASCAR officials looking the other way just because its Hendrick Motorsports?

Well, needless to say, Keselowski’s statement sent me on a mad search for facts.

It’s no surprise to race fans that the No. 48 team, however mainly Chad Knaus, has quite a history with failing inspections – or in other words – getting busted for trying to get that lead advantage over other teams. Just as there have been many other teams being penalized for infractions pre- and post-race, (keep reading!) I think Knaus holds the most. Just to back-up my statements, here’s a list of some suspensions, fines and penalties I pulled off the NASCAR Media site for Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports:

Daytona International Speedway 2/29/2012 – Race equipment does not conform to NASCAR rules; part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications (illegal C Posts). Crew chief Chad Knaus & car chief Ron Malec have been suspended from the next six (6) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship events, suspended from NASCAR until April 18 and placed on NASCAR probation until May 9. Knaus has been fined $100,000. Driver Jimmie Johnson and car owner Jeff Gordon have been penalized with the loss of 25 driver and 25 owner points.

Hendrick Appeal(s) 3/13/2012 – Chief Appellate Officer heard and considered the appeal (twice) of the penalties resulting from the #48 Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team. The first attempt, everything was upheld stemming from the infractions. Another hearing was heard, where the fine was upheld, but the points were reinstated to the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.

Infineon Raceway 6/26/2007 – In violation of Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-Q (car, car parts, components and/or equipment used do not conform to NASCAR rules); 20-2.1E (parts or components of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that have been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted); and 20-2H (fenders may not be cut or altered except for wheel or tire clearance which must be approved by the Series Director) of the 2007 NASCAR rule book. The violations were found during the initial inspection process. Penalized 100 driver championship points, fined $100,000, suspended for the next six NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events until Aug. 15, 2007 and placed on probation until Dec. 31, 2007. This happened to BOTH the No. 48 & No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team with the exact same infractions, suspensions and fines.

Daytona International Speedway 2/2006 – Chad Knaus fined $25,000, suspended until 3/22/2006 for unapproved template modification to the rear window area.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway 3/2005 – No. 48 Chevrolet team received THREE penalties: roof height being too low, car, car parts, components, and/or equipment used that do not conform to NASCAR rules. Chad Knaus suspended from competition for the next two races and fined $35,000. Jeff Gordon, No. 48 car owner, has been penalized 25 owner points.

Daytona International Speedway 7/10/2002 – Chad Knaus, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was fined $25,000 and his team was also penalized 25 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Championship driver points as well as 25 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Championship owner points.  Knaus’ NASCAR Winston Cup team was penalized under Section 12-4-A of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series rule book: “Actions detrimental to stock car racing: offset mounting bolts for the front of the truck trailing arms.”

Seems to me after my research, Knaus feels that the No. 48 Chevy needed that little extra help mainly on Superspeedways (a racetrack that is greater than 2 miles in length), not intermediate tracks (oval that is greater than 1 mile in length, but less than 2 miles in length.) What does Jimmie think? I wonder if he thinks his crew chief doesn’t believe he can pull it off as a driver, as a team? Hummm…

Then there’s Rick Hendrick’s history as a businessman (early on):

The biggest piece of a (bad) history maker for Rick Hendrick was for the lack of trust and bad judgement on his part in the American Honda Motor Company scandal. Early in the 1980′s, the scandal came about due to the fact that Honda vehicles had a very high demand during that time. Dealers could sell the cars for thousands of dollars above the sticker price. Executives at Honda took advantage of the high demand by soliciting bribes from dealers. Dealers were granted new dealerships and increased shipments of cars.

It all came down to money.

Unfortunately, Rick Hendrick was a willing participant to gain better inventory for his Honda dealership. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud. Hendrick then admitted giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, BMWs and even houses to Honda executives in exchange for a lower sentence. These crimes could have put Hendrick in prison for years.

In 1997, Hendrick was sentenced to one year of house arrest (instead of prison, due to his diagnoses with chronic myelogenous leukemia within two days prior to sentencing), three years probation, and a $250,000 fine.

Word was whirling around that Hendrick built his car dealership empire through bribery and scandal. Hendrick had faced well over 50 lawsuits during this period from competitors who are accusing him of unfair competition.

Humm… unfair competition…

It was during this time he underwent treatment for leukemia; Meanwhile, he has been in full remission since December 1999. Hendrick also began the Hendrick Marrow Program, a non-profit which works with the ‘Be The Match Foundation’ to support the National Marrow Donor Program.

In December 2000, Hendrick received a full pardon from, then exiting, President Bill Clinton.

Moving forward…

So maybe, just maybe, Brad K. might be onto something according to the past history of Chad Knaus as well as Rick Hendrick. We all wonder about the possibilities of teams “cheating” trying to gain the upper hand. But don’t forget about that “grey area” where they are within the allowable tolerance according to NASCAR. There are teams that are willing to go that extra 1/4 or 1/8th inch, yet there are teams that will totally stay away from it and not chance the risk of a fine or being penalized. Apparently, Penske Racing has a hard rule of not going near that “grey area.” Keselowski added, “as a group at Penske Racing, we have not felt comfortable enough to risk that name and reputation that Roger has over those parts and pieces. Others have, which is their prerogative.”

It’s all about the name for Roger Penske.

But is that “grey area” considered cheating? Apparently not. The most that would happen is NASCAR would “warn” the team that are too close to becoming “illegal.” A majority of these teams try it because sometimes the rules are way too vague.

I consider “cheating” to be someone or a team who intentionally tries to get away with unapproved adjustments, car components, weights, etc.

CHEATING: (verb) to violate rules or regulations; to practice fraud or deceit; to defraud; to elude; (noun) a person who acts dishonestly, the fraudulent obtaining of another person’s  property by a pretense or trick.

NASCAR sees that if a team builds/works/adjusts a car according to the rule book, it’s legal. If anything outside the perimeter and not in the rule book, it’s unapproved, therefore illegal.

Even as I write this article, I received an email from NASCAR stating that No. 18 team of Kyle Busch for Joe Gibbs Racing, was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20-2.3A (improperly attached weight) of the 2012 NASCAR rule book. The infraction occurred during practice on Aug. 18.

As a result of the violation, crew chief Dave Rogers has been fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until Oct. 3. In addition, car chief Wesley Sherrill has been placed on NASCAR probation until Oct. 3.

But just because a team or a crew chief has come up with “something” that NASCAR hasn’t and is NOT in the NASCAR rule book, does that make it illegal? I know…confusing, right?  Was the JGR a case of going into that “grey area?” Did they take the risk?

As some might say, Knaus takes those risks and “tries” to retain his team as the top team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series…

…until that dreadful October 2011 race day at Talladega Superspeedway when everyone’s heart jumped into their throats when Knaus’ comment was broadcasted LIVE on NASCAR.com’s RaceBuddy application from Johnson’s in-car camera. Everyone watching the feed broadcasted at the time saw and heard it… remember that?

“If we win this race, you have to crack the back of the car,” Knaus could be heard telling Johnson on the recording.

“Got it?”

“Really?” Johnson replied, sounding surprised.

“Yes,” Knaus said. “Got it? You don’t have to have to hit it hard, you don’t have to destroy it. But you’ve gotta do a donut and you’ve gotta hit the back end, or somebody’s gotta hit you in the ass-end or something. OK?”

THAT, to me, WAS and IS cheating on Knaus’ part while Johnson was totally at a lost about it. So my question was, and still is, why wasn’t anything caught during pre-race inspection?

Knaus later explained that the instructions weren’t meant to cover up an intentional violation of the rules but to account for the constant pushing and bump-drafting at Talladega that could knock the car out of tolerance. After that incident, NASCAR stated, “The 48 organization knows that from this occurrence that their car is likely to be a regular customer at the R&D Center for post race inspection the balance of this season (2011).”

This was also the season that broke the 5X-Champion’s run for their sixth Sprint Cup Championship for the No. 48 Hendrick team. What a coincidence – almost to a point of being down right eerie.

All three NASCAR series will head to Thunder Valley at Bristol Motor Speedway. In addition to his duties driving in both the NASCAR Cup Series and the Nationwide Series, Keselowski will pilot his own No. 29 Ram in Wednesday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at BMS. This is his sixth, and final, NCWTS start of 2012.

Sources: NASCAR Media, Google, Hendrick Automotive Group, Sporting News

*UPDATE: 8/24 NASCAR’s response to what Brad K. was claiming:

NASCAR officials said mechanical devices the Hendrick Motorsports teams and other organizations in the Sprint Cup Series are using to gain a competitive advantage in the rear housing are legal — today. “We watch it weekly because it has ramped up the last couple of months,” series director John Darby said on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “If it stays pretty level we’ll probably leave it alone the rest of the year. “If there is a higher extreme somebody takes it to that could create issues we don’t want to see, then we’ll react to that.”

The HMS cars in May were the first this season to develop devices that allow the rear axle to turn slightly to follow the front, creating more speed particularly in the corners. “Where we’re at today, right now, there is no illegal procedures going on,” Darby said. “Obviously, there was one we found Tuesday that was questionable. But the mechanical devices, the way they’re using them, there’s a clear understanding of what the teams are doing.” Darby said teams are using different methods to create a “hook and ladder fire truck effect that allows the rear axle to turn so the rear of the car follows the front.” He said there’s nothing in the current rulebook that doesn’t allow that, but he didn’t rule out that changing in 2013. “It’s just a direct everybody has gone to maximize, optimize,” Darby said. “Right now it’s pretty level throughout the garage. If you take the most extreme to the least developed, it’s not a huge difference.’ – SOURCE: ESPN

Rick Hendrick hospitalized upon return to Charlotte after plane crash in Keys

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - RICK HENDRICK STATEMENT

 

Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports:

“Linda and I have been overwhelmed by all the words of encouragement and genuine concern we’ve received. We are blessed to have such a wonderful support system, and our family is extremely grateful for the thoughts and prayers. We extend our sincere thanks to everyone.

 

“I’m so proud of how our pilots handled the situation, and we’re extremely appreciative of the folks in Key West who went above and beyond to help us. It’s good to be back in Charlotte as we regroup and focus on our family.”

 

CONCORD, N.C. (Nov. 2, 2011) – Monday evening, a Gulfstream G150 aircraft operated by Hendrick Motorsports ran off the runway after experiencing braking issues upon landing at Key West International Airport in Key West, Fla.

 

All four people on board — Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, his wife, Linda Hendrick, and two Hendrick Motorsports pilots — were released from Lower Keys Medical Center early Tuesday morning. Mrs. Hendrick was treated for minor cuts and bruises, and both pilots were released without injury.

 

Upon returning home to Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Mr. Hendrick was further evaluated as a precautionary measure by his personal physician. He was diagnosed with four broken ribs (previously stated as one broken rib), a broken clavicle (as previously stated) and bruising. No other injuries have been identified.

 

Due to discomfort from the injuries, Mr. Hendrick was admitted Tuesday afternoon to a medical facility in the Charlotte area, where doctors believe the pain can most effectively be managed. He is in good spirits and is expected to be released by the end of the week.


Clint Bowyer signs three-year agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing

Team owner Michael Waltrip (left) and driver Clint Bowyer (right) pose for a photo with the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 7 in Kansas City, Kan. Waltrip announced that Clint Bowyer will join Michael Waltrip Racing for the 2012 Season. Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR 

 

Michael Waltrip Racing announced Clint Bowyer will drive the team’s #15 Toyota with 5-hour Energy as the primary sponsor for the next three NASCAR Sprint Cup seasons beginning at the 2012 Daytona 500. The announcement ends months of speculation for the highly valued free agent.

Bowyer, 32, is a six-year veteran with four victories, two pole positions, 30 top-five finishes and 90 top-10s in Sprint Cup competition. MWR is finishing its fifth season competing in the Sprint Cup series and has scored two wins.

PR: MWR

 

Announcement to come at Talladega regarding MWR and JTG Daugherty Racing

In an earlier blog, (NASCAR teams suffer broken relationships) I reported that Michael Waltrip Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing were in a possible break-up and ending their alliance with each other.

 

Here’s an update:

According to JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team [#47 Toyota] and driver Bobby Labonte, will likely maintain its current alliances with Michael Waltrip Racing and Toyota in 2012.

 

Geshickter confirmed that JTG Daugherty will no longer operate out of the MWR shops in Cornelius, NC, in 2012, instead moving back to their its own facility in Harrisburg. Geschickter also revealed plans to expand the team in the foreseeable future, saying, “We’re definitely looking to become a multi-car team in 2013.”

 

Geschickter said an official announcement of next year’s manufacturer and driver lineup will likely come at Talladega in two weeks.

Lesson in History: Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 ‘Hall of Fame Tribute’ car

Interstate Batteries/Joe Gibbs Hall of Fame tribute car that Bobby Labonte drove at Talladega Superspeedway in July 1996. Photo credit: Interstate Batteries.

What exactly does Football, NASCAR and Interstate Batteries have in common?

Joe Gibbs.

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) celebrates its 20th anniversary since the team’s inception in 1991, and has quite a history under its belt. Gibbs, from Mocksville, N.C., oversees an organization that has produced three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles (Bobby Labonte, 2000; Tony Stewart, 2002 and 2005), three consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series owner titles (2008-2010), one Nationwide Series driver title (Kyle Busch, 2009) and more than 150 NASCAR victories. Those three Sprint Cup championships, three Nationwide Series titles, plus Gibbs’ three Super Bowl victories as coach of the National Football League’s (NFL) Washington Redskins in 1983, 1988 and 1992 mean he has won an incredible nine championships in two of the most popular sports in the United States.

Gibbs was named head coach of the Washington Redskins in 1981 and became one of the most successful head coaches in NFL history. His teams won three Super Bowls and he is the only coach to have won the event with three different quarterbacks – Joe Theismann (Super Bowl XVII), Doug Williams (XXII) and Mark Rypien (XXVI).

Back then it was like a torrid love affair between the Washington Redskins and NASCAR. Who was to prevail? Gibbs retired following the 1992 season, but only to return for a second stint from 2004 to 2007, during which he led the Redskins to two playoff appearances. Gibbs finally retired from the Redskins for a second time in January 2008. He is joined by legends Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers (four), Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers (three) and Bill Belichek of the New England Patriots (three) as the only coaches in NFL history with three or more Super Bowl titles. He was also named NFL Coach of the Year in 1982, 1983 and 1991.

Gibbs would be inducted on July 27 in Canton, Ohio, so the choice of where to use the special car was obvious. Bobby Labonte would be piloting the No. 18 Interstate Batteries machine in a 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race one day later at Talladega Superspeedway.

Officials from Interstate Batteries, began working with the team on a special “Hall of Fame Tribute” paint scheme to coincide with his enshrinement. It was decided that the famous green colors of Interstate Batteries would be replaced with the burgundy and gold colors of the Washington Redskins, while the Pro Football Hall of Fame logo would adorn the hood. On the back bumper were the words “Way To Go Joe!” See, unlike today, where race cars have multiple primary sponsors and different paint schemes for almost every race, 15 years ago, cars usually had one sponsor and used the same paint scheme for every race during the season. So it was a big deal when the Interstate Batteries car dropped the green and became burgundy and gold for the weekend at Talladeaga.

“I’ve always said you win with people,” Gibbs said. When you have great people around you, great things can happen. And, by the way, Bobby Labonte finished eighth that day.

Info compiled from True Speed Communication press release