Already this season we have seen three different first time winners in the Cup series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillion and Ryan Blaney. But who's the next young gun to celebrate in victory lane? I'm choosing Chase Elliott to be the 4th first time winner this season.
Elliott will be starting second in the Coke Zero 400 tonight at Daytona in the iconic no. 24. Also on the front row, starting first, is teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. who earned his first pole since 2013.
Elliott has 10 top 10's and 5 top 5's thus far. In only his second year competing full time in Cup, he already has 2 pole awards at the World Center of Racing. One of those being earlier this year at the Daytona 500; also alongside the 88.
Elliott raced to a season best, runner-up finish in The FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway two weeks ago.
Elliott has finished inside the top 10 the last four races after enduring a dreadful four-race stretch from late April through May with four consecutive finishes of 24th or worse. That span included a pair of crash-related DNFs.
Without a doubt, I think we could see the iconic 24 snag his first Cup series victory tonight!
Catch the race on NBC at 7:30 p.m. ET
Do you want to work in NASCAR? Do you want to get a behind the scenes look on what it's like to operate a full-time Cup level team? Do you want to learn about the divergent careers in the industry? Are you in high school? Then CAMP 95 is the place for you to be next summer!
CAMP 95 is a two day program hosted by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team, Leavine Family Racing. CAMP 95 is open to high school students who are interested in learning more about the various careers in NASCAR, from engineering and building racecars to marketing, public relations and sponsorship roles.
CAMP 95 was a GREAT experience for me! It was the perfect opportunity to gain more knowledge of the various jobs in the sport and ask questions! We all know NASCAR is more than just the drivers, crew chiefs and spotters. "It takes a village," as they say. There are tons of different careers in the sport. Considering I want to do public relations, my favorite session was the public relations and social media panel with Jessica Stroupe from Team Chevy and Jay Pennell from Richard Childress Racing. Everything from the crew chief and engineering session, to the operations, sponsorship and marketing session, ALL of the speakers did a phenomenal job giving us a detailed look as to what it's like to have their occupation.
The Leavine Family Racing team by far has some of the most genuine, and diligent employees that I have ever met. From the time I arrived the first day, to the time I left the second day, EVERYONE was extremely nice and outgoing. They really made us feel like we were apart of their team. From touring the shop & hauler and meeting the employees the first day, to eating Sticky Fingers and everything in between, I had a exceptional time! I would definitely recommend CAMP 95 to any high schoolers interested in working in NASCAR.
I want to give a huge thank you to everyone at at LFR, y'all have an amazing program. Just as owner Bob Leavine said in his closing remarks, "you can't get anywhere without helping others." Your mission to help others is obvious by opening up your shop to 22 high schoolers and allowing us to get a step ahead on our journey to the industry shows just how selfless you are. I can't say enough great things about you all!
Hope to see you all soon!
Thanks again and best of luck always,
Wow! Hard to believe we are already 7 races into the 2017 season! Time sure does fly. This weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is at "The Last Great Colosseum" also known as Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the years, we've seen some crazy finishes and short tempers. Below are 3 of my picks (in no particular order) who could potentially have a promising finish on Sunday afternoon at the 0.533-mile Tennessee track.
2017 Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch has five victories at Bristol. He has 3 top 10's so far this season. Although his last Bristol win came in 2006, could we see him get his sixth Bristol win this weekend?
No stranger to BMS Victory Lane, Matt Kenseth has 4 wins at the short track. With only 1 top 5 so far this season, I'm confident we could see that increase after the Food City 500!
2012 Cup champion, Brad Keselowski, has 4 top5's including 2 wins at Bristol. He is also the only driver that has more than one win thus far. I think he has what it takes to capture another win at the track!
Tune in Sunday, APR. 23 / 2:00 PM ET on FOX
Until next time, Taylor Smith
With Daytona right around the corner, here are 7 things to keep an eye on in 2017!
1. Monster Energy: After 13 years with Sprint as the entitlement sponsor of NASCAR’s top series, it was announced in early December that Monster Energy would replace Sprint. Monster Energy is sure to be an exciting sponsor for NASCAR. The energy drink brand also has/had sponsorship's with other motorsports sanctioning bodies. This could certainly attract younger fans to the sport.
2. Stewart Haas Racing: Early in 2016 the team made the announcement that they would switch to Ford Performance after a long run with Chevrolet. Other Ford teams are Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing and Wood Brothers Racing to name a few. This could make for some great racing in 2017 from Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer.
3. New Format: The new format, consisting of 3 stages is sure to make the racing more aggressive and make it interesting to see the different strategies. Many drivers were stoked when the new format came out. Every lap will be important and mistakes made on pit road could be very costly. Who's ready to see it go into action at Daytona?
4. Erik Jones: Moving up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Erik will compete full time for the 2017 season. The 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion made 3 starts in the Cup Series last year driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. Erik will pilot the number 77 Toyota for Furniture Row Racing with sponsorship from 5-hour Energy. Could this young gun pull off a good season?
5. Daniel Suarez: After the abrupt news broke that Carl Edwards would not be returning for the 2017 season, it was said that reigning Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez would replace Edwards in the number 19. Although he has a lot to learn, it will be exciting to watch him progress throughout the season!
6. Dale Jr: After missing the last part of the 2016 season, Dale will return to racing in Daytona. Could this be the comeback of a lifetime? We’ll have to wait and see!
7. Jimmie Johnson: Coming off his SEVENTH championship, tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, could definitely be one to keep up with this season. Jimmie will be looking to earn his eighth premier series title this year! Does he have what it takes? We’ll have to wait and see!
Well, I know I am a little late but now I finally get to share my trip to the 2016 Bojangles' Southern 500! Out of all the NASCAR races I have been too, this was the first race I have got to experience the pits! I don't even know how to describe the experience... the energy down there is incomparable! You can literally feel the roar of the cars as they are moving around preparing for the race! I arrived at the track around 11am. Before I went to the pits, I walked down the midway and checked out a bunch of throwback cars, snapped a lot of pictures and even got some merchandise from the enormous fanatics tent! One of my favorite throwback cars I saw would have to be Cale Yarborough's number eleven Busch car! After a few hours of checking out the midway, it was finally time to hit the pits! I went through the turn 1 pedestrian tunnel. If you have never seen the tunnels at Darlington, you're missing out! The tunnel honors NASCAR premier series race winners since 1950 who have won at the track, Too Tough to Tame. All down the left side of the "Walk of Champions" turn 1 tunnel is photos of legends who have tamed the track. Darlington's rich history and memorable moments are just another reason why Darlington is a track I love! Walking through the tunnel kind of gave me chills knowing that I was soon going to step foot onto the surface that many legends have raced on and the infield that is rich in history and memories. Once I made it in the infield I started looking at the many pit boxes. The first pit box I looked at was Kyle Larson's. The 42 crew were busy prepping the tires. I stopped and looked at EVERY pit box along pit road! It was so cool to see the differences in each one and also the the crew's throwback uniforms for the second throwback race weekend at Darlington since its move back to its original Labor Day weekend spot on the schedule. The teams, media and more celebrated the 1975-84 era of the sport with throwback paint schemes, uniforms and more. It was also interesting to see the crew hard at work completing there task to make sure everything was good to go before it was race time. While snapping pictures of all the action, I happen to run into one of my favorite journalist in the sport, Claire B. Lang as she was coming from the garage. We were able to get a picture together before she had to get to her next interview. If you have never listened to her, be sure to listen to her on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio! After exploring pit road and some of the pits, we then took a little stroll through the infield campgrounds to check out some of the hardcore fans unique homemade buses! After that, we stopped in victory lane to see where that nights winner would celebrate their win with the crew and media! We also watched several cars go through inspection. It was then time to head out onto the track again to get ready for the pre-race concert and driver introductions! After music from classic rock legends, Kansas, it was finally time for driver introductions to begin! Before drivers came on stage, Winston Kelley brought some true legends out on stage. After some more announcements were made and other people talked, it was time to announce the drivers by there starting position. I was able to get a picture of every single driver as they came across the stage! At the conclusion of driver introductions, it was finally time to head to our seats and get ready for the race, what we have all been waiting for all day! We had an incredible view from our seats near turn 4 in the Pearson tower! As the night progressed, the sun set was a beautiful background behind the track! From the first lap to the last lap, the action had be on the edge of my seat! In the last laps, I was on my feet anxious to see who would take the checkered flag! I was happy to see Martin Truex Jr. grab another win! Truex passed Ryan Newman for the top spot on lap 339 of 367. After watching Truex do burnouts and head to victory lane, it was time to head back to the car and reflect on the eventful day!
Until Next Time, Taylor Smith
Below are a few of my favorite pictures!
This past Saturday the United Sprint Car Series Outlaw Thunder Tour traveled to The Red Rose City, Lancaster South Carolina for the second time this season to hit "The Fastest Half Mile Dirt Track In The South," Lancaster Speedway.
Morgan Turpen, driver of the 10m, came to Lancaster fresh off a win from the previous night at Carolina Speedway and also one from the previous weekend at Dixie Speedway with hopes to make it 3 wins in a row.
Before the high powered machines took on the high banked half mile, I had the opportunity to catch up with Turpen for another interview!
Check out the Q & A below
TS: Last time we talked, you were telling me about teaching but you also mentioned something about being a resort manager, is that still something you have an interest in?
MT: Actually, right now it’s all teaching. I am going back to grad school starting August 22nd to actually get my masters of arts and teaching so that’s pretty much what I plan on doing right now, at the moment anyways.
TS: What is a track on the schedule that you always look forward to racing at, or a track you feel like you can always go too and count on a good finish?
MT: Oh man, that’s a tough one! Um, I would probably have to say Dixie Speedway down in Woodstock, Georgia. We seem to have pretty decent finishes their but lately it just seems like we have good finishes everywhere, except for here (laughs)
TS: Being a girl in a male dominated sport, explain what it feels like to be out front leading all the guys and even winning races, I know it has to be a good feeling!
MT: Oh my god, it’s a great feeling but now especially as I have gotten older I am more of a racer than a girl and especially with the guys I have been racing with they don’t view me as a girl racer, they view me as another racer out on the track. It’s nice to have that as a backup, but I just kind of expect it of myself that I am a racer.
TS: We all know dirt has been very good for you, but what are your thoughts on asphalt?
MT: Well I have won an asphalt sprint car championship and I have won races on asphalt in sprint cars but there is just not a lot of it around and I had a couple of things come around but I am not bringing money to the team so I lost them but its definitely the way you have to go nowadays to make it in racing so I am definitely not opposed to it, I know I can get it done because I have won asphalt races.
TS: How would you compare the physical shape and mental attitude that a race car driver must have too those of other sports such as golf, baseball, etc.?
MT: I think it’s all the same, having a good relationship with God, upper body strength and having the right mindset is what makes us athletes it’s pretty much the same for any athlete I believe.
TS: Taken everything that you have learned so far about racing, what three things would you do differently if you had to start over?
MT: Oh man, if I had to start over I would probably go to late models for sure instead of doing the sprint car deal, I would try to get into super late models and besides that I really wouldn’t change anything, I love what I do and I love the people I race with and I love the people I work with and I feel like I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them
TS: I know you mentioned teaching earlier, but recently saw somewhere on Twitter that soon, you’re hanging up your helmet but hopefully be able to run part time?
MT: Yeah, I have a interview on Monday for a teaching job and that’s when I have to tell them that I need 4 days off right off the bat to finish this season out but me and Terry have had long, long talks on the road lately and I am definitely going to have a part time gig anyway we are still going to get to do 20 or 30 races just not 60 or 70 like we are doing now.
TS: How does Lancaster Speedway compare to some of the other tracks you go too? Is it more difficult?
MT: It’s just big, really one lane, not very racy. It’s just not very good for sprint cars, I would say it probably has some really good racing for other classes, I just don’t think it’s very safe for these cars to be out there. I just kind of always come here thinking let’s just finish, don’t tear the car up, and call it that.
TS: After winning the 30 lap feature at Carolina Speedway on Friday, how confident are you going into tonight’s race here at Lancaster?
MT: I would like to say that I feel confident, I just don’t here, I don’t like this racetrack, I don’t feel comfortable when I am here. I mean maybe that will change but I’m just kind of ready to get it over with and go home with my trophy from last night and know that we had a great weekend and get ready for next weekend!
As the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series take on the excitement of racing in the highly anticipated Daytona 500, the sold out crowd will also be taking in all of the new amenities that Daytona International Speedway has to offer since its extensive 400 million dollar renovation project.
Even though this marks the beginning of a new era at Daytona, the iconic past will never be forgotten. Twenty year old, Chase Elliott, is already making history starting from the pole position in Sunday's race making him the youngest driver yet to start from the pole position in the Daytona 500. Bill Elliott, father of Chase, is a two time winner of the Daytona 500 in 1985 and 1987.
Chase is my pick to win the 58th running of the Daytona 500. This will be Elliott's first full season in the Sprint Cup Series driving the famed #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy formerly driven by Jeff Gordon. I feel that Elliott has big shoes to fill driving the #24 car. Elliott placed a 3rd place finish at Daytona last year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. I believe that Elliott has the support and the car it takes to get him to the checkered flag at the end of Sunday's race.
Catch the race on Sunday, February 21st at 1:00 PM ET on FOX.
Until Next Time, Taylor Smith
First, I have to say, WOW! What an incredible season and year it has been! From Kyle Busch being out for 11 races and coming back to win the Championship, to my first year Blogging about Motorsports, it has been CRAZY good! I have truly enjoyed my first year blogging/writing about NASCAR and other Motorsports and also getting to interview and meet drivers. Getting to interview some NASCAR drivers can be quite the challenge considering I haven't had the opportunity to receive Hot Passes to get up and close with them in the pits. Other times, it can be pretty simple. You just have to be prepared at the right time. Something I really had fun doing was attending Lancaster Speedway (a track I visit often) back in April for the USCS Sprint Car Race. It was my first race where I got to go in the pits and interview many popular Sprint Car drivers! I would love to do that again! I also had a lot of fun at the NASCAR Hall of Fame (my 3rd visit to the massive museum) back in January for Fan Appreciation Day. It was the first event I attended as a journalist/blogger. I got to interview up & coming stars, Ben Rhodes & Kenzie Ruston and I also got to interview former Miss Sprint Cup, Monica Palumbo. On top of that, I got pictures with Kyle Larson and many, many more drivers. Since starting this blog, it has truly made me realize how much I love the sport. I'm excited to say that I'm continuing this blog on to next year and beyond! I am working on some improvements for next year and also planning some new things for next year! Thanks to all the PR, drivers, family & friends who have made this a fun 1st year! That's all for this racing season, stay tuned during the off season for updates and post!
Until Next Time, Taylor Smith
As many people are focused on the chase drivers this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, wondering who will make it to the championship 4 at Homestead Miami, the additional focus is on a new driver who will be making his debut in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series! That driver is, Ryan Ellis! Ellis has had an abundant amount of starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and also the NASCAR Xfinity Series (formerly known as the Nationwide Series). As a child, Ellis competed in quarter midgets for 7 years! After quarter midgets, Ellis went on to race Legend Cars. After a multitude of success in Legend Cars, Ellis competed in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup and more. He then went on to race in other series like the Grand Am and others. Later he made his debut in NASCAR debuting at Road America in 2012 in the Xfinity Series. Followed by his debut in the Camping World Truck Series in 2014. Ellis has now made it to NASCAR's top series debuting his #33 Science Logic Chevrolet SS for Circle Sport at Phoenix International Raceway.
I had the chance to send some questions to Ryan and he was generous enough to answer them.
Taylor: At what age did you know that racing was something you wanted to do for a living?
Ryan: As soon as I could peddle a hotwheels or draw pictures of racecars
Taylor: What is one of your favorite racing memories?
Ryan: Winning my TDI cup race 2010
Taylor: Describe one of your scariest racing experiences.
Ryan: Don't really have one
Taylor: As you make your Sprint Cup debut at Phoenix International Raceway, has anyone given you any tips or advice? Anything you are or aren't looking forward too?
Ryan: BJ McLeod- Drive every lap as hard as I could
Taylor: I saw you competed in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup. How did that go?
Ryan: It was great, a huge opportunity that didn't have a ton of funds
Taylor: Away from the track, what are your hobbies?
Ryan: Hockey and sleeping
Taylor: What are your plans for the off season?
Ryan: Find a sponsor and ride for 2016
Big thanks to Ryan and his PR for working with me! Wishing you the best of luck this weekend!
Until Next Time, Taylor Smith
When people hear "Miss Sprint Cup" they usually think of the girl in the Sprint fire suit who stands behind the driver in Victory Lane. What most people do not know, is that Miss Sprint Cup does far more than just stand in Victory Lane after the race. They get behind the scenes access of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to give fans a look at what goes on behind the scenes and represent the Sprint brand at the track every weekend. One of the girls who has done that is former Miss Sprint Cup, Monica Palumbo. She represented the Sprint brand for 4 years with other girls who also served as Miss Sprint Cup traveling the NASCAR circuit to give fans an inside look on the sport. Palumbo has an abundant amount of film and TV experience. She gained fame in 2001 when she won the title of Miss North Carolina USA 2001 and was awarded Miss Congeniality at the Miss USA Pageant! Back in January, I was able to meet Charlotte native, Monica Palumbo at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and ask her a couple questions while she had a short little break and she was kind enough to answer more questions via Internet.
Taylor: Back in your your Miss Sprint Cup career, what NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track did you enjoy traveling to the most?
Monica: Wow, they're all so different, jeez, I really don't know I have several. I like Sonoma just because it's different. You turn left and right. I really enjoy Talladega because you never know who is going to win, their is always the "Big One," the big wreck and the fans there are so hyped the whole time because there is so much action always happening.
Taylor: What motivates you most on a daily basis?
Monica: My family! My six month old son because I want to be a good example for him, that's my motivation.
Taylor: Who is one of your favorite drivers?
Monica: Well, I can't have a favorite because I work with them *laughs* so you know they might hear this but Aj Almendinger is probably one of my favorites, him and Clint Bowyer because they're just so personable and they like to hang out with the fans which I appreciate because the sport wouldn't be anywhere without the fans and there answers are always very off the cuff.
Taylor: Before NASCAR, what did your life consist of?
Monica: Before NASCAR I was living in Los Angeles struggling to make it as an actress/ tv host. Oh but what a fun life experience it was.
Taylor: When you have to travel to some of the races, what is a typical
race week/weekend like for you?
Monica: Nowadays it varies to compared to the Miss Sprint Cup job. I am normally hired to report at the track. So that means a full day of filming. Filming fun events happening at the track, interview race fans, covering practice, qualifying and of course the races!
Taylor: With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series being at Charlotte Motor Speedway for 2 weeks, what's May like in Charlotte?
Monica: May is CRAZY during speed weeks! A good crazy. There is so much going on, not only for us who are working but for the race fans. Fan days at race shops, concerts downtown Charlotte and driver appearances at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Taylor: How has life changed for you since Miss Sprint Cup?
Monica: It has changed a lot. I went from traveling almost every weekend to becoming a radio host. So I had a normal job Monday through Friday. I still worked for SPEED (now FoxS1) after my days as Miss Sprint Cup. Life has changed even more after the birth of my son. I'm at home with him majority of the time nowadays and freelance when a race track needs me.
HUGE thanks to Monica for being so kind and also for her time answering these questions!
Thanks for reading!
Until Next Time, Taylor Smith