Rising NASCARette, Maryeve Dufault, Says Danica Patrick Inspires Her to Pursue Stock Car Racing Dreams

If you like watching the Nationwide series for stock car racing (NASCAR), then make sure that you keep a good eye on Maryeve Dufault. Her good looks should not confuse you, as she is as dashing to look at in person as she is competent and experienced when in the cockpit and competing during stock car racing events. Interestingly enough, Dufault is trying to follow in the footsteps of stock car racing’s most famous female driver, Danica Patrick, of which she has recently divulged to ESPN that she strives to be just like and is motivated in pursuit of her career as a result of.

Learning from her mistakes early on in NASCAR…

Dufault has learned to take the setbacks as they come and in stride, much like her role model, Danica Patrick has. As we all know, 2011 was very dismal year for Patrick—where she actually crashed her car during one of the final races of the season, limping off the field to lick her wounds and quietly recuperate while Tony Stewart basked in the in limelight of a Sprint Cup championship.

Rewind to the stock car racing event of August, 2011, the NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Montreal, and Dufault had already crashed her car during the earlier part of the race. But much like role model, Patrick, her unnerving pursuit of NASCARette glory persisted. Dufault quickly got back on the track and ran laps for points, ultimately finishing in 30th place for that race.

“I didn’t give up. Maybe I should’ve just parked the car, but I didn’t and I kept going because that’s not the way I am,” she recanted to ESPN regarding that fateful day on the track back in 2011. “Maybe it was a mistake with the equipment we had, but it was a risk – sometimes you fail and sometimes you succeed.”

With a good head on her shoulders and a slot for a part time run in the NASCAR nationwide series this season, perhaps Dufault can turn some heads for more than just her model looks (she used to be the lead model for Hawaiian Tropic). Maybe…just maybe…it will be enough to attract serious sponsors and a fulltime car for the 2013 season.

Stock Car Racing History Books Could be Rewritten at Opener This Year (Daytona 500) Providing that Patrick Wins

Stock car racing has a much storied history, and perhaps the most historically significant part of the season schedule is none other than the season opener: The Daytona 500. This year, the world is abuzz about the “Great American Race,” because among the 43 elite drivers that will be contending in stock car racing’s biggest event, one of them is a female driver. It will be the first time that she or any other female driver has contended at this high a level of stock car racing, and if she wins, it will easily set the standard and rewrite the history books. The only driver we could be talking about is the Godaddy.com girl, Danica Patrick, NASCAR’s “Honey Badger.” (Because she is sweet at heart but mean as a badger on the track.)

Danica is still probably trying to take it all in, and in good stride. She is one of the most recognizable faces in NASCAR. She sells more merchandise than most drivers, and is in the top ten for 2012 for sales overall. She also sells more tickets. According to Nielsen, ratings dramatically increase when Patrick is on the stock car racing track by about 33%. Patrick is also no stranger to the intensity of such demanding races, lessons she has learned from seven years of IndyCar contention prior, namely at equally as large and prestigious events like the Indy 500 (where she has already set records).

“I think that if I had not experienced all the media crazy around this whole part of things it would have been somewhat overwhelming,” she told CBS News in recent preseason interview. “My whole (public relations) team knows how it works and how to organize everything so it’s done effectively and efficiently.”

This year, she aims to set new stock car racing records after ditching her previous IndyCar routine for a full time schedule in NASCAR, and her first run in the Daytona 500, which she qualified for.

She did offer some reasoning behind her switch from one side to the other.

“Back a few years ago, I definitely was concerned with the work load that NASCAR schedules bring,” she explained to CBS. “But the last two years, I went from doing a 16-18 race season to about 30, and now it’s going to be about 34 or 35 weekends, so it’s really only an extra month worth of weekends so it’s much more tolerable than jumping from Indy Car to NASCAR in one jump.”

If she can post in the top 10, the top 5 or in first, she will set records that were previously unimaginable. Just by merely competing she’s already setting records. Experts estimated that this will be the most watched Daytona 500 in history. If Danica wins, it will also be the most memorable and historic.

Ready to Shine: Kasey Kahne Ramps up 2012 Stock Car Racing Hopes with New Team, * Long Time Crew Chief

The offseason is nearly over at NASCAR, as is the wait for the stock car racing season to officially get underway. It is usual custom for there to be plenty of changes to teams, cars, rules, owners, safety regulations and, of course: the drivers. No stranger to shifting teams as of late is Kasey Kahne, who actually controls his own destiny in 2012 after getting picked up by Hendrick Motorsports for the year and paired with his old crew chief, Kenny Francis. The news of this has skyrocketed media predictions for the year in early media voting to a lofty 8th spot for Kahne. This would put in him officially in the Chase if he can deliver. Considering that Kahne has only been in the Chase twice in eight seasons, 2012 is already off to a fabulous start.

Crew Chief and New Team Could Be Kahne’s Shot in the Dark in 12’

While there are unquestionably a lot of doubters out there who think that Kahne may not have what it takes to contend at the next level of NASCAR, one of them certainly isn’t his crew chief, Kenny Francis, who will help guide Kahne to a few victories while he races under his new banner for his new team, Hendrick Motorsports, in the chase for the 2012 Sprint Cup championship. Kahne and Francis have worked together many times prior and on various different teams over the years.

“He’s just a thinker,” Kahne told the NASCAR Wire Service in a press interaction that was conducted at the Daytona International Speedway of his crew chief, Kenny Francis. “He’s really just spot on about a lot of things because he thinks about it for a long time and really looks into it and figures it out before he talks about it or before he tries it.”

For Kahne, he now has all of the tools that he will require to win poles and rack up more victories in stock car racing. Some speculate that Hendrick is wagering a lot on Kahne. But all things considered, 12 Sprint Cup wins in eight years says otherwise. Of course, any given season can make or break a driver. In light of his new lucrative position and team, however, it seems highly probable that Kahne will fully deliver as expected.

Preseason Woes: Jimmie Johnson’s Daytona Hopes at Risk After Illegal Stock Car Racing Mods Found on Car

Stock car racing is easily one of the most competitive sports in the world. With such a plethora of drivers and teams, crew chiefs and engineers, cheating can often be as simple as adjusting suspension or altering the series’ template. Most of the time, it is safe to say that drivers and their crews are on the up and up. But when you have a crew chief like Chad Knaus, who has been demoted before for getting caught cheating at Daytona, well it seems more likely that a team is trying to cheat than just having made a simple error in engineering.

Jimmie Johnson’s no. 48 stock car racing beast was the subject of the most recent cheating scandal to rock NASCAR at the core. When officials discovered that his C-post suspension had been illegally altered, so much so that they stated it was visible to plain view and did not even require further inspection to know it was illegal, Knaus has become the topic of cheating in NASCAR once again. And from the grapevine at NASCAR to your ears, they say that suspensions and fines could be pending their final investigative summation.

According to the Sprint Cup Series Director, John Darby, it is possible that members of Johnson’s team will be suspended. “Suspensions are not out of the realm of possibility,” Darby said in a recent interview with the press. However, due to the violations being uncovered early, and prior to any races kicking off in stock racing for the 2012 season, Darby also was sure to note that, “The team will be allowed to fix the car.”

Racing Car Blog highlights the fact that this is nothing new for Knaus, who has been in hot water before for making illegal mods on cars. Rewind to the 2006 six season with Johnson, and it was all bad news for Knaus. He got caught modifying a rear window, which had been altered to push out nearly an entire inch past acceptable regulation. His punishment was a four race suspension and a hefty 25k fine. That year, Knaus should have learned his lesson as he watched interim crew chief, Darian Grubb, guide Johnson from the crew bench.

Once the final verdict from NASCAR is handed down, it may very well be reminiscent of 2006 (for Knaus). NASCAR is expected to dole out their findings following the season opener on February 26th.

Stock Car Racing’s Daytona 500 Will Be Landon Cassill’s First Attempt in the Big Race

For a driver that was stuck on a start-and-park team last year, (Front Row Motorsports), things are looking pretty up. Landon Cassill just walked away from his old stock car racing team in favor of a brand new start…and his first career start at the Daytona 500.

A little bit of behind the scenes stock car racing offseason magic is perhaps to thank. When TGR Motorsports and Red Bull Racing crumbled after last season, the sponsors of TGR decided to start a new team – which has yet to be named. They were quick to name the new driver of their Triad-powered no. 83 Toyota, however: Landon Cassill. Now, thanks to a unique opt-out clause in his previous contract with Front Row, Cassill has a new car, a new yet to be named team, and a full time car for the entire 2012 stock car racing schedule.

Cassill is Stoked for Stint in NASCAR in 2012

With a brand new team sponsoring him to drive in NASCAR for the entire 2012 season, Landon Cassill is thrilled about his stock car racing prospects. While it may be his first attempt at the Daytona 500, Cassill is anything but negative. Rather, he retains a very positive outlook at his potential for performance in one of the biggest races of stock car racing for the forthcoming year, likening the prospect to a dream come true.

Dream Come True for Cassill

“It’s my first time going into a NASCAR season with a signed deal knowing I’m going to be in the car every week,” Cassill said in an interview with the Associated Press. “It’s my first time attempting the Daytona 500 — wait, I am locked into the Daytona 500. That’s a pretty big dream came true.”

During his career in stock car racing, Cassill has made 48 starts in the Sprint Cup. He enjoyed his best 12th place finish while driving for the Phoenix Racing team. This year, he will make his very first start at the Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Returns to Stock Car Racing’s Nationwide Series Seeking 2nd Title in Row for 2012

What is the only thing that a returning Nationwide series stock car racing champion like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. can think of entering the 2012 season … winning a second championship title in a row. Stenhouse will not only be focusing on the Nationwide series, but the 24-year-old soft spoken driver will also be trying his hand behind the wheel in the Sprint Cup by competing in Daytona 500 this year.

You will see Stenhouse driving a different car for Roush Fenway Racing in the Sprint Cup this year, the trademarked No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford Fusion. In the Nationwide series, his car will be the same one you saw him driving last year, the ultra fast No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing NNS Ford Mustang.

Sponsorship Issues Being Hammer Out

Even elite drivers and returning cup champs struggle during the crazy NASCAR offseason with sponsorships and funding, a key concern for any driver or team. While Stenhouse enters the season with several races that have been sponsored, the team is still hunting for more sponsors and funding to fill the numerous open races that they have left for the forthcoming 2012 stock car racing schedule.

“That part’s kind of tough,” Stenhouse told SPEED regarding sponsorship ups and downs. “We’ve got Kellogg’s and Rice Krispies and Pop Tarts on the Nationwide car at Daytona. They’ve got a few other things working. Obviously, we’d rather have that one anchor sponsor like Greg Biffle and 3M, just to kind of build my career with. We’re still looking for that right now. We’ve got a couple of races that we think we’ve got sold, but the majority of them are still open.”

Stenhouse returns to the stock car racing Nationwide series this year fulltime to defend his current crown. After defeating Elliott Sadler by a significant margin in 2011, it seems that Stenhouse has his sights solely focused one thing: winning it all again in 2012. And all things considered, he has every tool and the skill set that he will require in order to do so.

Stock Car Racing to See New Female Driver, Johanna Long, in NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2012

Stock car racing is about to see a brand new female face, and no it’s not Tia Norfleet – we already covered her historical moment and branding as the newest NASCARette. This time it’s another record-setter. And man oh man does 2012 seem to be the year for records being set, and prior to the season even getting underway.

Johanna Long is the newest female face that will be gracing stock car racing in the second tier level of the Nationwide series this year, and she will look damn good doing it, too. She just inked a two year deal with ML Motorsports that will put her behind the wheel of a fine Chevrolet Impala, with the no. 70 for the next two years; although we think that this young and talented racer will be in contention far longer than that.

So what is the record? Long will be the youngest female driver in NASCAR ever, and the youngest female driver to race in the Nationwide series. Pretty haughty numbers for such a young stock car racing driver, who started turning heads at the age of 15 when she won at the Five Flags Speedway, becoming the first female driver to do so. Oh yeah, and one more thingy, she also bested one stock car racing pro, none other than Kyle Busch, at the Snowball Derby in 2009.

Now, Long is off to test her wits against pro drivers and well funded teams that often brandish multiple cars on the grueling tandem pro tracks of the NASCAR circuit. But the owner of ML Motorsports who signed her, Mary Louis Miller, thinks that Long is entirely ready for the level of skill it will take to compete at the pro stock car racing level.

“Johanna is a strong driver and a dynamic young lady, and we are excited to have her on board,” Miller expressed of her newest driver in a recent interview with PNJ. “She has a great competitive spirit; we believe she has everything it takes to succeed at the highest levels of NASCAR competition.”

With 24 races under her hat in the truck series, where she showed she had the knack, this young driver is well on the road to a successful stock car racing future.

 

Three Wins in 11’ Not Good Enough for Stock Car Racing Veteran, Jeff Gordon – Shifting Gears to Ramp up First NASCAR Sprint Cup Since 01’ in 12’

Put yourself in the shoes of 40-year-old stock car racing sensation, and one of the top winning NASCAR drivers of all time, Jeff Gordon, and see how you would feel if you nearly won the Sprint Cup Championship back in 2007, only to come in second behind your teammate for Hendrick Motorsport, Jimmie Johnson, what it feels like to have been virtually winless while in the chase for four years and running.

He will tell that it is getting old (not winning cups that is), and it’s starting to make him feel old, too. This year, Gordon is predicting that it will once again be a championship year for the vet, even if he is feeling a bit old and even if he says that stock car racing is a “a young man’s sport.”

After a near cup win was dashed by his teammate back in 2007, it seems that the loss beset Gordon for the few years that followed. In 2008, he did not have any wins. In 2009 he had one. And in 2010 he was winless again. Then, he spurred back and won three races in 2011. But still, all of those wins combined did not add up to the six that he had when he last contended for the cup in 2007, only to be bested by Johnson.

While he has been in chase each year that followed 2007, and is always a stock car racing driver to keep your eyes on, a climb to third place in points last year quickly vanished, with Tony Stewart earning the Victory Lane kiss at the end of it all.

His latest weapon is found in his new crew chief, Alan Gustafson, whose aim is to help Gordon win his fifth Sprint Cup Championship in 2012.

“We’ve got the team to do it,” Gustafson told Fox Sports.

After three wins in 2001 and a third place standing, Gordon is reeling back from dismay. But Gustafson thinks that 2012 is also Gordon’s year for his fifth cup.

“I think Jeff and Tony are two of the few people who can do that,” Gustafson told Fox Sports. “What Tony did (winning the cup in 2011) was very inspirational to everyone.”

All things considered, Gordon looks as good as he ever has this year.

Roush Fenway Racing Enters 25th Year on Stock Car Racing Circuit in 12’

There always are some pretty big news stories that circulate and make their rounds through the various news channels and press feeds as well AP syndicates during the always popular and much watched preseason Sprint Media Tour. This year, once again, the biggest news propagates from stock car racing’s legendary track, the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and one of its most winningest teams, the Roush Fenway Racing team, which announced “25 Winning Years” in stock car racing this week.

Roush Fenway is coming off a groundbreaking and team record setting year in 2011, where they won 20 poles and enjoyed 17 victories in stock car racing, including driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. taking away the coveted Nationwide Series Championship trophy.

But trophies are nothing new for a team that commemorated its 299th victory thanks to a spectacular showing by driver Trevor Bayne in Texas last year. Roush Fenway also has amassed an enormous amount 125 Sprint Cups as they officially breach the quarter century mark. And, Jack Roush was awarded the Owner’s Championship in 2011, too; just another trophy to add to his ever growing collection of them.

“From the first win with Mark Martin at Rockingham in 1989 to our 299th win last season with Trevor Bayne in Texas, they all mean something,” said team co-owner, Jack Roush in statement to the press. “Along the way we’ve won multiple championships in all three NASCAR Series, with Greg (Biffle) getting the first two and Matt Kenseth getting our first Cup championship in 2003.”

The team enters the 2012 season as a fan favorite, and with the odds in their favor. Their all-star lineup includes the likes of other sensational stock car racing masters like Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth behind the wheel. The mantra of 25 winning seasons is fitting, all things considered. The Roush Fenway Racing team is the most winningest team in the history of stock car racing, and for good reason, too.

Danica Patrick to Forgo Indy500, Heading Straight to Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) in 12’

The topsy-turvy world that is stock car racing is seemingly never without some form of excitement during the offseason. From teams getting dropped by sponsors to teams dropping drivers, to new crew chiefs, security and car limitations that are put in place by the powers that be, and the offseason squabbling that’s tantamount to this intense professional sport. Every once in a while, however, stock car racing gets a nifty, gourmet dish of newsier eats. This time around, it’s centered upon the most recent announcement by one of stock car racing’s only female drivers, Danica Patrick, and her announcement during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour that she will be leaving IndyCar in 2012 in favor of a fulltime grind in stock car racing.

The Reasons Behind it All?

If you are fishing for lengthy diatribes that explain some sort of heartfelt sentiment of NASCAR this and IndyCar that, you won’t get it from the hard-headed but soft-spoken Patrick. In fact, during her short announcement, her only reason being was that she was just conducting business as per usual.

Dig deeper into the well, however, and you may find a few other reasons. For example, Andretti Autosport, who has provided Danica with her car the past five IndyCar seasons, is not her car sponsor anymore. Next, you have team owner on her NASCAR side, Tony Stewart, who blatantly said he would not take care of her ride or finance her IndyCar aspirations, stating that it would be nearly “impossible” for her to tackle the gruesome double-headers that he used to in this season’s schedule. Lastly, she still has something to prove to the NASCAR world, and that is the primary reason.

Sure, Danica is an awesome IndyCar driver. She holds records aplenty, and is easily someone that other drivers know has what it takes on the IndyCar Speedway race tracks. That early success has seemed rather stagnant for her lately, with regards to NASCAR. Aside from her impressive finish in Las Vegas last year, where she pinned 4th, she has not done all that much in NASCAR. For a race car driver that is all about winning, the most seneschal evaluation is that Patrick is out to prove to the world that she can and will contend.

She’s got the car. She’s got the sponsors. She’s got the team. She’s got the driving skills and sultry good looks. Now she has ten appearances in the Premiere series in combination with a full time nationwide schedule in 2012 to put her money where her mouth is.