Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Martinsville Gets Lit Up for 2017

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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Oct. 13, 2016
Volume X, Edition CLXXXI
What to Watch: Thursday
- Today is pull-in day for the Sprint Cup, XFINITY and ARCA Racing Series.  ARCA teams have opening inspection while XFINITY and Cup teams simply pull in and park.  No on-track action is scheduled.
Thursday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Martinsville Speedway to Add Lights for 2017

Wednesday, Martinsville Speedway announced the Light Up Martinsville project, which will illuminate the 0.526-mile oval with permanent lights consisting solely of LEDs.  Read more

Litany of Infractions Post-Charlotte

Wednesday afternoon, NASCAR released the weekly Penalty Report from Charlotte.  It was a rather busy chart.  18 different warnings were assessed; however, none of them constituted major violations.  Read more

Have news for the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.
Editor's Note: Potts' Shots will return soon.
The Critic's Annex: Racing Roots
by Phil Allaway

Welcome back.  This week, we're stepping away from race telecast critiques in the Annex to take a look at another show.  After the Citizen Solider 400 at Dover on Oct. 2, NBCSN debuted Racing Roots.  The idea behind this show is that it will go back through a driver's history to see what makes them what they are today.  Very intriguing, at least to me.  Kevin Harvick was the first man up.

To do this right, Kyle Petty and Rutledge Wood traveled to Harvick's hometown of Bakersfield to get an idea of what he would have dealt with growing up.  They found a rustling city full of businesses.  The oil industry is pretty big there, as is agriculture outside of the city (with irrigation and tapping aquifers since Bakersfield gets less than seven inches of rain a year on average).

Harvick takes Petty and Wood to North High, his old stomping grounds, which really hasn't changed much since Harvick was a student there in the early 1990s.  Rather than just one building, it's a collection of smaller ones with outdoor meeting space.  For those in the northern part of the country, it can be difficult to perceive such a place because it gets way too cold in the winter.  However, being outside is very important to Californians and the chaps in Bakersfield are no exception to the rule.

Harvick's aggression on-track is linked to the time he spent as a high school wrestler.  Rick McKinney took Harvick on and trained him, even though Harvick's go-kart racing got in the way of competing in some of the meets.  Even here, Harvick showed the tenacity that he now shows weekly on the racetrack.

We then go "to the other side of the tracks" to Oildale (and it's probably literal since there is a lot of freight train traffic in the Bakersfield area).  Officially considered a "Census-designated Place" (CDP) Oildale is full of small businesses that appear to have seen better days.  Harvick admits that he had to move his own mother out of the neighborhood he grew up in last year because of an incident involving her neighbor and a gun.  Not cool. 

Oildale is not an affluent area by any means.  According to the American Community Survey from 2014, nearly 39 percent of households in Oildale have yearly incomes of less than $25,000 a year.  The median household income in Oildale is $33,818, plus or minus $2,183.  Rent is reasonable by today's standards at $745 a month, but that can be taxing on the median income listed.

Editor's Note: We cannot directly link to either place where we got the data in the previous paragraph.  For the ACS Survey, go to the United States Census Bureau's American FactFinder and input Oildale.  For the rents, we got our data from Rentometer.  Enter Oildale in the search box on the homepage.

Harvick fully admits that his family wasn't well off when growing up.  Times were tough and there was only so much money to go around.  With the finances tight, Harvick's go-kart racing was a nice diversion from what was really a hard existence.

We also see Harvick's "race shop" from when he drove late models, which was a room inside of an auto glass place.  Apparently, they weren't paying rent there, as the building was not exactly in a great area. Vagrants would hang out nearby, requiring anyone there to watch themselves.  It does sound somewhat nerve-wracking, but it's the best that Harvick could come up with back then.

Getting the then-Busch Series ride with Richard Childress Racing required an incredible financial outlay for Harvick.  He was under contract with Liberty Racing to drive in the Craftsman Truck Series, but wanted to make the move.  He had to take a loan out against a house he'd just purchased to be able to buy out his contract but luckily, it worked out.  Otherwise, he'd likely still be in a world of financial hurt.

Later, we took a trip to the go-kart track where Harvick got his start, and to the former site of Mesa Marin Raceway, where the stars came out.  This race, the 1999 Dodge California Truck Stop 300, an event in which Harvick led laps and finished second to Rick Carelli, is an example of the kind of racing you used to see there.  Unfortunately, the combination of developers and the recession has resulted in Mesa Marin being reduced to some brush out in an open field (Kern County Raceway, a current staple on the K&N Pro Series West schedule, was built to replace it).  It's a sad shame but at least they finally got Kern County Raceway open, which is a showplace to West Coast short track racing. 

The show ended with a look at how Harvick has given back to Bakersfield.  He has effectively sponsored North High's wrestling program and the Kevin Harvick Foundation has donated to the local Boys and Girls Club and local parks.

My takeaway is that Harvick came from very limited means and employed a great deal of self-determination in order to make it in NASCAR.  He didn't have a lot growing up, so he had to stretch what he could.  Very humbling.  Harvick then made it to the top with what could be described as very limited help.  He's a blue collar man who could work on race cars with the best of them when he had to.  Even though he no longer lives in Bakersfield, the Sprint Cup champion is still connected to where he grew up and tries to help make the community better. 

I found it to be a very educational program by showing Harvick's overall background.  Previously, that was a bit of a mystery to me despite his lengthy time racing in the Cup Series.  I knew he was from Bakersfield and raced on the Featherlite Southwest Tour, but little else -- and I'm assuming most fans out there had a similar amount of knowledge.  Seems that Harvick's background is somewhat similar in terms of privilege to that of Jimmie Johnson, a man who will admit to growing up in a trailer park and not having the means to do much more than go-kart racing.  

However, I'd like to know how Harvick put together his original Truck efforts (his family owned a team that started five truck races starting in 1995 before Harvick moved to Spears Racing).  That was not covered on the show.

Today, a number of racers that make it to the upper levels of NASCAR are from privileged backgrounds.  Let's use Tyler Dippel, who we ran an interview with at Frontstretch on Wednesday, as an example.  Dippel's father, Todd, owns Tycar Trenchless Technologies, Inc., a utility construction contracting firm based out of Tyler's hometown of Wallkill, N.Y. 

Todd Dippel effectively has funded much of Tyler's career to this point.  This article actually talks about Tyler's early racing in vehicles such as Slingshots (mini-Modifieds that run with motorcycle engines).  When he started in Budget Sportsman Modifieds (full-sized Northeast Dirt Modifieds with GM crate engines that output roughly 380 horsepower) at Lebanon Valley Speedway, Tyler drove around the track as if the place were paved (it's not) and made some decisions that perplexed veterans (like intentionally choosing the inside line on a double-file restart when the outside was considered to be the preferred line).  Even then, Dippel was full of talent and you could tell he was eventually going to race pavement.

Despite Tyler's talent, which is quite substantial, the Dippels paid a rather substantial amount of money to HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks in order for him to race in the K&N Pro Series East this season (note the Tycar logos on the No. 38 this year).  How much does Tyler work on his race cars?  I'm not really sure.  He would help out when he was going through post-race inspections.  I do know that the Dippels have a decent-sized place to put their Modifieds (Note: In between K&N Pro Series East races, Dippel won two races at Lebanon Valley.  He is now the youngest driver ever to win a Big Block Modified there).  As far as I know, it is level, unlike Harvick's late model shop.

My point is the sheer money involved in starting up a racing career and short track venues disappearing do threaten the future of racing.  Harvick is naturally concerned about this reality, having already lost his hometown short track to the wrecking ball and sees the costs of racing on a regular basis. I was glad Racing Roots showcased that and gave us a side of this Sprint Cup veteran we never see.

Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for  He can be reached via e-mail at
Frontstretch Line of the Week
From Beyond the Cockpit: Getting to Know NASCAR Next Driver Tyler Dippel

"He's been a big help on the road courses because he is a good road course racer. Whenever we went to the road courses, he helped because I had never run on a road course before. He was a big help there and teaching me some basic stuff that I didn't know and he knew, which benefited me. It was a big help." - Tyler Dippel on the benefits of being a teammate to 2016 K&N Pro Series East Champion Justin Haley.  Racing Modifieds on dirt ovals doesn't necessarily train one to turn left and right, but Dippel took to it quite well, nearly winning early in the year at VIR

by Dustin Albino and Sean Fesko

by Huston Ladner

by Bryan Gable

by Toni Montgomery

Q: Fuji Speedway hosted the first World Championship event in Japan back in 1976.  It was the season finale and should have settled the James Hunt-Niki Lauda championship battle on the track.  While the race happened, it wasn't really decided on-track.  Why?

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

Wednesday's Answer:

Q:  Fuji Speedway has been the site of a number of scary incidents over the years.  In 1991, the All Japan Sports Prototype Car Endurance Championship held four events at Fuji Speedway.  The third of these was a 500-mile race.  That event was marred by massive crashes with similar causes in almost the same spot.  What happened?

A: Both Takao Wada and Masahiro Hasemi blew left-side tires on the frontstretch at near maximum speed and were pitched into rolls in their Nissans.  Wada's was the more destructive of the two, but Hasemi came out of his in worse shape since he appeared to take a good shot to the head.  Wada's crash can be seen here, while Hasemi's can be seen here.

Yes, the commentator on these clips doesn't exactly bring home the seriousness of these crashes.  He's too busy sounding like a cartoon character, but these were serious incidents.

In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll preview the Sprint Cup Series' Hollywood Casino 400 while also providing news from Thursday.

We'll have Four Burning Questions for you to think about heading into this weekend's action in Kansas.
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