THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER
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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
December 19th, 2011
Volume IV, Edition CCLIV
Editor's Note: Remember, the Frontstretch Newsletter has scaled back to a weekly edition over the offseason! The next scheduled edition will run on Monday, December 26th.
Zipadelli to Serve as Competition Director at Stewart-Haas Racing
On Friday, longtime crew chief Greg Zipadelli left his post at Joe Gibbs Racing in order to move over to Stewart-Haas Racing. There, Zipadelli will serve as the team's Competition Director, working underneath Matt Borland, SHR's Vice President of Competition as the organization revamps after a championship run in 2011.
In his new role, Zipadelli will oversee the company's full-time Nos. 14 and 39 cars. In addition, he will launch the new part-time No. 10 team that Danica Patrick is scheduled to make her Sprint Cup debut for in 2012. That team, laden with primary sponsorship from GoDaddy, is currently scheduled to run approximately ten races in preparation for a full season in 2013.
Zipadelli is excited for his brand new job opportunity after over a decade of serving on top of the No. 20 pit box at Gibbs.
"I trust and believe in [Stewart] as much as I do anybody on this earth," Zipadelli said on Friday. He continued on to say that Stewart was the only person that could have convinced him to leave JGR.
Tony Stewart is thrilled to have his former crew chief and longtime friend join his organization.
"Greg and I have a long and successful history together," Stewart said. "I know him and he knows me, and we both know what it takes to build race teams. We took our time in searching for a Competition Director because its an important role with a lot of responsibility. Greg knows all that goes into the job, understands the importance of teamwork and communication across all levels of the organization, and is ultimately someone I have a great deal of trust in."
Zipadelli's former employer, Joe Gibbs, is sad to see his star mechanic go but understands the significance of the opportunity he had.
"We appreciate everything Greg [Zipadelli] has done for us here at Joe Gibbs Racing," said the owner. "He has been a big part of our success, but we felt the timing was right to make this transition for our race team which allows Greg the opportunity to pursue a Director of Competition position with Tony [Stewart]."
Replacing Zipadelli atop the pit box for Joey Logano and the No. 20 team will be Jason Ratcliff. Ratcliff has served as the crew chief of Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 18 team in the Nationwide Series for the past seven seasons. In that time, Ratcliff has won 44 races (Kyle Busch accounts for 39, Denny Hamlin had four and an additional win was credited to Aric Almirola at Milwaukee in 2007, but Almirola was removed from the car 59 laps in and Hamlin drove the car to victory).
Prior to making the move to SHR, Zipadelli served as the only crew chief that Joe Gibbs Racing had ever had on the No. 20 Home Depot-sponsored Toyota. In 13 seasons at the helm, Zipadelli won 34 races (33 of those with Stewart at the wheel) and was the crew chief of record for Stewart's first two championships.
NASCAR Announces Rule Changes for Daytona
Also on Friday, NASCAR announced a series of rule changes that are designed to alter the type of racing that will be seen during Speedweeks in February. Many of these changes were tested at Daytona during a closed session back in October.
The new rules cover adjustments to both the internals of race cars and their aerodynamics. First, the restrictor plate hole size has been increased to 29/32nds of an inch, which is 1/64th larger than back in February. This measurement is considered to only be a baseline and may be changed again as speeds warrant. Also, the move to fuel injection for 2012 means that the restrictor plate will be moved to a new location on the engine.
The radiators will have a maximum capacity of two gallons of water, down 60 percent from five gallons. In addition, the overflow tank capacity has been cut down to a simple half-gallon tank, a 50 percent reduction. The grille opening will remain approximately the same size, but will be moved up in order to further disrupt airflow into the radiators.
Finally, there will be a reduction in the size of the rear spoiler and a softening of springs. It is currently unclear just how much of a change that these will be, or how such adjustments will alter the handling of each race car.
The end result of these moves should mean fans will not see cars stuck together in tandem drafts for the entire race, like all four restrictor plate events in 2011. However, they likely will still be able to link together for a lap or two in order to make moves up through the field.
Kurt Busch to RPM to replace Allmendinger?
After driver A.J. Allmendinger had his best season in the Sprint Cup Series, finishing 15th in points and running very well during much of the season, Richard Petty Motorsports was apparently unable to convince Best Buy to stay on as the No. 43 team's primary sponsor for a third season.
However, last Tuesday, news broke that the team made a last ditch attempt to keep Best Buy in the fold. That revolved around replacing driver A.J. Allmendinger, who had been with the team since late in the 2008 season with Kurt Busch, who recently was fired from Penske Racing after his expletive-laden tirade towards ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch.
Despite the fact that Busch would bring significant baggage to the team, RPM was willing to risk the potential bad PR in order to save their relationship with Best Buy. However, it does not appear to have worked. Best Buy has spent much of the last week effectively shopping their backing to other teams in need of sponsorship and it appears that RPM is out of the running.
As of Monday, there is no word on what will happen with Allmendinger now that the Best Buy sponsorship appears to be lost. Busch also remains in limbo, although he continues to talk with smaller organizations about potential rides.
According to SceneDaily.com, Roush Fenway Racing is currently considered to be the frontrunner for the Best Buy sponsorship. If obtained, it would go to the team's No. 17 team and driver Matt Kenseth. That car currently does not have a primary sponsor after Crown Royal left at the end of the 2011 season.
Speed Gets A Part-Time Ride For 2012
On Tuesday, Leavine Family Racing announced that Scott Speed will drive the team's No. 95 Fords for a limited, 15-race schedule in the Sprint Cup Series in 2012. Speed will replace David Starr, who was released from the team at the end of the 2011 season.
Team owner Bob Leavine is very pleased to have the former Red Bull Racing Team driver join his organization.
"We are pleased to have Scott Speed join our team," Leavine said. "We, as a team, want to give Scott the equipment and resources he needs to win - and that is what I believe he will do for us in return. Scott is a proven driver. He was the first American to race in Formula One since Michael Andretti [in 1993] and has a lot to offer our program as a teammate and competitor."
For Speed, the move to Leavine Family Racing is one that guarantees him the chance to race full Sprint Cup events. Last season, after he was dumped from the Red Bull Racing Team in favor of Kasey Kahne, he spent much of the year on the sidelines. Speed attempted 16 races in 2011, qualifying for 13 of them. However, he failed to finish all but two of those starts, most of them being start-and-parks. His best finish was a 33rd at Chicagoland Speedway with Whitney Motorsports.
In the Nationwide Series, Speed also mainly did S&P runs for Key Motorsports. However, he did race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal in Kevin Harvick, Inc.'s No. 33. There, he finished a strong sixth after starting fourth. Speed's lawsuit with Team Red Bull is still pending.
Have news for Phil and the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a promising lead or tip.
2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Trevor Bayne
2011 NASCAR Driver Review: David Ragan
by Doug Turnbull
2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Timothy Peters
by Beth Lunkenheimer
AND DON'T MISS OUR CHASER DRIVER REVIEWS FROM THE PAST WEEK! JUST HEAD HERE AND YOU'LL FIND THEM ALL LISTED FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE.
Q: In 1999, the then-Winston Cup Series made their first visit to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Pennzoil 400. Joe Gibbs Racing dominated the day and Tony Stewart went to Victory Lane. However, the race also saw a multi-team promotional campaign for a new cartoon series. What was this series called and what channel did it air on?
Check back next Monday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Q. In 1987, Bobby Allison came from a lap down to win the 1987 Pepsi Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. However, he was not originally considered to be the winner on ABC's Wide World of Sports telecast. Why?
A. ABC's booth commentators for the race actually missed when Allison got his lap back with just a few laps to go by beating Dave Marcis back to the start-finish line. As a result, they thought that Allison was getting back on the lead lap when he actually made the pass for the win. The graphics team knew all along, though. Because of the obvious screw-up, plus the fact that the telecast was going to be tape-delayed, they re-recorded the call of the last ten laps of the race for the broadcast later on in the afternoon. It is interesting to note that Bobby's own brother Donnie was in the booth for ABC along with Keith Jackson that day.
Frontstretch Trivia Guarantee: If we mess up, you get the shirt off our backs! If we've provided an incorrect answer to the Frontstretch Trivia question, be the first to email the corrected trivia answer to email@example.com and we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... FREE!
Hey, Frontstretch Readers!
We know you love the roar of raw horsepower under the hood that powers 43 of the best drivers in the world every weekend, but did you ever wonder how the sponsor on top of that hood also contributes to keeping the sport moving? What about the contributions of official NASCAR companies? If you think they are simply writing checks, think again. Check out our newest feature - Sunday Money. This weekly Frontstretch exclusive provides you with a behind the scenes look at how NASCAR, its affiliates and team sponsors approach the daunting task of keeping fans interested and excited about the sport for 38 weeks of the year.
Coming Monday, December 26th in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News from Phil Allaway
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more ... including our 2011 Driver Reviews!
All this week on the Frontstretch:
2011 Driver Reviews by the Frontstretch Staff
Now that we've covered the 12 Chasers, and the champions from the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, we're going to cover the remaining drivers in alphabetical order, starting with the A's. Note that Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series drivers will be lumped in with the Sprint Cup drivers, instead of separately.
Check out the full Driver Review Schedule here.
Today: Trevor Bayne, David Ragan and Timothy Peters
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