Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Great Clips Re-ups with Hendrick Motorsports

Presented by
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Sep. 21, 2016
Volume X, Edition CLXV
What to Watch: Wednesday

- Today is penalty day in NASCAR and we have some takers.  At bare minimum, we'll see two graded penalties (Martin Truex, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson from Sunday).  There will be more than just that, for sure.  When the report comes out, we'll have it for you.

Wednesday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Great Clips Extends Contract with Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports

On Tuesday, Hendrick Motorsports announced that sponsor Great Clips has signed a contract extension.  They will continue to serve as a primary sponsor of Kasey Kahne's No. 5 for ten races a year through the end of 2018.  Read more

Tequila Patron ESM to Race 2 DPi Nissans in 2017

On Tuesday, Tequila Patron ESM announced that they will return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship full-time in 2017 with 2 DPi entries.  These cars will be Ligier JS P217's with Nissan engines.  Read more

Have news for The Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.

Today's Featured Commentary
A Change of Season
Professor of Speed
by Mark Howell
Maybe it's because the leaves are about to change color? Maybe it's because the evenings are beginning to get just a little bit cooler? Maybe it's because school is back in full swing and Labor Day is a distant memory?

The autumnal equinox is tomorrow, which marks the official start of fall.

Call me Mr. Melancholy, but autumn invokes up all kinds of meaningful recollections:  Friday night football games, geese heading south, seeing old friends, and buying new pencils and notebooks. As my kids grow older, I catch myself lapsing more often into that oh-so-annoying habit of harkening back to the "good old days" when my life was simpler.

Today's day-to-day grind is anything but "simple". Growing up into responsibility is where one's nose hits the proverbial grindstone. That's what I enjoy most about the start of fall:  autumn takes me back to a time in my life when simple pleasures meant immersing myself in a weekly experience that many of my then-neighbors considered irritating.

It was all about Selinsgrove Speedway.

Allow me to explain. The year was 1987. I was a newly-minted graduate of Penn State University with a shiny diploma that read "Bachelors of Arts in English". Since I had a background in journalism, I looked for newspaper openings. I had experience as a stringer in a sports department, but I was okay with any gig a paper might throw my way.

My soon-to-be-mother-in-law at the time saw a classified advertisement posted by an area county newspaper. The small, weekly publication sought an editor to oversee all day-to-day operations because the company that owned the newspaper was located a couple hour's drive away. The editor would work for the parent company and make sure all ran smoothly.
Long story short:  I applied; I interviewed; I was hired.

As the new editor of The Selinsgrove Times-Tribune, I oversaw pretty much anything and everything that made it into print each Thursday. Looking back, it was a great training ground for a young journalist. I covered all kinds of stories, I took (and developed) most of the pictures, I edited and proofed all content, and I supervised page layout.

The job even required me to drive our mechanicals to the printer in a nearby town, drive printed newspapers back to Selinsgrove, and get copies to the post office for mailing that evening. On my way home, I'd swing by several retail stores to make sure they had copies ready to sell.
My home, back then, was a rented townhouse on the south end of Selinsgrove. I lived across the street from a factory where they built mobile homes, and at the end of the street – less than a block away – was Selinsgrove Speedway. While many people along the street cursed the dust, the crowds, the traffic, and the noise, I absolutely loved it and needed the uproar to keep me somewhat emotionally grounded.

Selinsgrove Speedway dates back to the mid-1940s. Joie Chitwood helped make the half-mile dirt track a reality, with events being run there since 1946. The inaugural race was won by 1949 Indianapolis 500 champion Bill Holland, with NASCAR Hall of Famer Red Byron finishing second. Legendary racing journalist Chris Economaki was track announcer at Selinsgrove in the 1950s. By the time I moved in down the street, the speedway was a hotbed of Central Pennsylvania sprint car action.

I hoped to cover the races at Selinsgrove Speedway in my capacity as editor of the town newspaper, but the opportunity never came my way. When I started at the Times-Tribune, I inherited a local racing enthusiast who voluntarily covered all races at not only Selinsgrove, but at nearby Port Royal Speedway, as well. Every Tuesday morning, the man would stop by the office. He'd be carrying four-or-five sheets of onionskin typing paper covered top-to-bottom with single-spaced highlights from that past weekend's events.

Instead of reporting on the regional racing action, I resolved myself to edit and proof our volunteer's coverage. Those four (or five) pages contained details about every heat race, every last-chance qualifier, and every feature of every division. I'd review names, car numbers, lap times, and cash awards. I would learn all about the races I heard from my little rented townhouse.

But, oddly enough, that's what I loved about my job and where I lived. I'd sit in a lawn chair on my back patio, or I'd sit on my front stoop, and I'd listen to the races at Selinsgrove. It was like owning the world's biggest radio; the cars would roar to life as the green flag flew, clouds of dust would dim the streetlights, and the track announcer would call the play-by-play, shouting over the din of sprint cars on Saturday night.

Sometimes I'd walk down to the track and peek through holes in the retaining fence, like a little kid. I might shoot photos through the fence as the winged cars roared past me. And the drivers who raced there were nothing short of area heroes. It was the era of recognized names like Don Kreitz, Jr., "Flyin'" Freddy Rahmer, Jim Nace, Stevie Smith, and Keith Kauffman. It felt like I lived on the frontstretch, and I loved every minute of it.

As Saturday evenings grew colder, and as the racing season began to wind down, the sporting focus would eventually shift toward the local high school and university football teams. My dedicated racing volunteer's weekly missives would eventually stop coming across my desk, and I would no longer have to wash the thin layer of mud off my Ford pickup each Sunday morning. By wintertime, racing at Selinsgrove Speedway would take its place on the back burner of my newspaperly priorities.

From where I sit today – as a college professor with more than a quarter-century of teaching under my belt – it's easy to reminisce about those simpler days in Central Pennsylvania. Memories seem to blossom alongside the shorter days and cooler nights. My stories of "back then" may drive my kids crazy, but they're important to me. It's nice to know that life hasn't always been so hectic….

It was just dusty and loud and fun.

Dr. Mark Howell is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.  He can be reached via e-mail at

compiled by Aaron Bearden


Q: In 2001, Robby Gordon earned his first Winston Cup win at New Hampshire by getting past Jeff Gordon late.  What were the circumstances surrounding that pass?

Check back Thursday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Tuesday's Answer:

Q:  In 1999, Joe Nemechek picked up the first of his four career Cup victories at Loudon in a caution-strewn.  Points contender Mark Martin was running down the order a ways when he encountered trouble.  What happened?

A: John Andretti spun and backed hard into the wall in turn 1 after being hit by Mike Skinner.  Martin was just behind the duo and tried to weave his way through the incident.  Martin was then hit from behind by Dale Earnhardt and spun onto the apron.  Martin was then hit by David Green in the TylerJet Motorsports No. 45 while Jeff Gordon was rubbing against him as well.  Green then was hit by Ricky Rudd.  The crash can be seen here.

The Roush Racing crew had to make repairs, but Martin continued and eventually finished a lap down in 17th.  Andretti, Green and Rudd were all out on the spot.  Skinner ended up 27th, two laps down.  Gordon ended up fifth, but had right side damage to deal with.

In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have any news that breaks in the world of NASCAR, plus a look at Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series broadcasts in the Critic's Annex.

Toni Montgomery returns with her weekly look at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Nitro Shots.
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