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Category: NASCAR

NASCAR's Tony Stewart hires former crew chief Zipadelli

Tony Stewart and Greg Zipadelli are back together.

StewartStewart, the newly crowned NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, on Friday named Zipadelli, 44, competition director for his Stewart-Haas Racing team.

Zipadelli, nicknamed Zippy, was Stewart's crew chief from 1999 through 2008 when Stewart drove for Joe Gibbs Racing and won his first two Cup championships in 2002 and 2005.

When Stewart left to form Stewart-Haas in 2009, Zipadelli stayed behind as crew chief for Gibbs' No. 20 Home Depot car, now driven by Joey Logano.

It's been a struggle for the 21-year-old Logano, who has won only one Cup victory and finished 24th in the Cup standings this season with four top-five finishes.

"It was a sad day when [Stewart] left," Zipadelli said in a statement, adding that "to become a part of what he's already built, but to do it in a new role with a new set of responsibilities, was a challenge I wanted."

Stewart drives the No. 14 Chevrolet and his teammate, Ryan Newman, the No. 39 car. Stewart-Haas also plans to have Danica Patrick drive in 10 Cup races next year as she migrates to NASCAR from IndyCar racing.

Separately, Gibbs said Jason Ratcliff would become crew chief for Logano's car to replace Zipadelli. Ratcliff spent the prior seven years as crew chief for Gibbs' No. 18 car in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: NASCAR driver Tony Stewart gets into his car during a practice session at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 5. Credit: Larry Papke/Associated Press

NASCAR's Greg Biffle to ride on Rose Parade float

He'll be traveling much slower than normal, but NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle is scheduled to ride on a float in the Rose Parade on Jan. 2.

BiffleBiffle's NASCAR team, Roush Fenway Racing, said the driver will ride on the Natural Balance Pet Foods float as it moves along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Biffle's Greg Biffle Foundation promotes the well-being of animals.

The pet-food company's floats previously have included dogs skimming and diving in water, including one named Tillman, and its upcoming float features dogs "surfing" on 65-foot-long waves in more than 6,600 gallons of water.

"Tillman came to our shop at Roush Fenway Racing last month and we got to see him skateboard," Biffle said in a statement. "I can't wait to see the [new] float."

If you missed last year's parade, here's a reminder:



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--Jim Peltz

Photo: NASCAR driver Greg Biffle at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 4. Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Darian Grubb named crew chief for NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin

Joe Gibbs Racing said Friday that Darian Grubb would be driver Denny Hamlin's crew chief next year, the latest in a flurry of crew chief changes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

GrubbGrubb was let go by Stewart-Haas Racing despite leading Tony Stewart to his third cup championship this season. And the Hamlin spot became open Tuesday when Gibbs released Mike Ford as crew chief on Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota.

"I'm thrilled to join Joe Gibbs Racing," Grubb said in a statement. "The chance to work with Denny is something I'm excited about."

Hamlin had a relatively disappointing 2011 season, winning one race and finishing ninth in the points after winning a series-high eight races and finishing second in the standings in 2010.

Elsewhere in the series, Steve Addington left Kurt Busch and Penske Racing and then was named Stewart's crew chief. Busch and Penske parted ways as well.

Richard Childress Racing last month named Shane Wilson to replace Gil Martin as crew chief for Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Chevrolet.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: NASCAR crew chief Darian Grubb on Oct. 31 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

NASCAR's Gibbs releases Denny Hamlin's crew chief


Joe Gibbs Racing said Tuesday it released Mike Ford as crew chief for NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin after a disappointing year for the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota.

"Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing appreciate what Mike has done for our organization over the past six seasons" as Hamlin's crew chief, the team said.

Gibbs did not immediately name a replacement for Ford, 41.

After a series-high eight wins in 2010 lifted Hamlin to second in the Sprint Cup Series standings, the Virginian won only one race this year and finished ninth in the points.

Hamlin had only five top-five finishes during the 36-race Cup season, compared with nine for champion Tony Stewart and 19 for runner-up Carl Edwards.

Ford's departure is the latest in a series of moves involving crew chiefs in NASCAR's top-level series.

Steve Addington left Kurt Busch and Penske Racing and then was named Stewart's crew chief. (Busch and Penske parted ways as well Monday.) Last month, Richard Childress Racing said Shane Wilson would replace Gil Martin as crew chief for Kevin Harvick, who finished third in the standings.


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Photo: NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, left, talks with crew chief Mike Ford at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 13. Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

For NASCAR's Kurt Busch, a dearth of options


Having split with Penske Racing, NASCAR driver Kurt Busch says he's searching for a way to "put the fun back into racing for me," seeing a sports psychologist and trying to "grow as a person and be a better driver."

But if Busch plans to compete again next year in the Sprint Cup Series, the former Cup champion also needs to find fast race cars, and that could be a challenge.

Among the Cup series' premier teams, they either don't appear to have room for another driver or would be unlikely to seek Busch's services.

Hendrick Motorsports already has four drivers, the NASCAR maximum. Roush Fenway Racing, where Busch left on sour terms before joining Penske in 2006, and Richard Childress Racing are cutting back to three cars from four next year and have their drivers set.

Joe Gibbs Racing? That's home to Busch's younger brother Kyle, who's already given Gibbs and its sponsors all the controversy they need, thank you.

Continue reading »

Kurt Busch and Penske Racing part ways

Kurt Busch will not return to drive Penske Racing's No. 22 Dodge next season. The move, which is being called a mutual decision, was announced Monday, just a little over a week after Busch was fined $50,000 for his latest off-track incident.

"I appreciate the victories that Kurt has brought Penske Racing and our sponsors over the past six years," Roger Penske said in a statement. "While I am disappointed that Kurt will not be racing for our team in the future, both Kurt and I felt that separating at this time was best for all parties, including our team and sponsors. I wish Kurt the best in his future racing endeavors."

Busch said in the statement: "I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years. Together we won a lot of races --16 in all. Leaving a great organization and a lucrative contract is not easy, but it's an important step for me and allows me to take a deep breath to work on things that can make me a better driver and a better person. I want to personally thank Roger Penske for the opportunity that he has given me."

During the Sprint Cup series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch was caught on video using an obscene gesture and launching into a profanity-laced tirade toward ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch. The incident was posted on YouTube.

Busch admitted last week that he's seeing a sports psychologist to address “personal issues.”

This is the second time an off-track issue appears to have cost Busch his job. He was fired by Roush Fenway Racing in November 2005, less than a year after winning the Cup series championship, after being cited for criminal recklessness in Avondale, Ariz.


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-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Kurt Busch on the track. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire

NASCAR champ Tony Stewart names Steve Addington as crew chief

NASCAR champion Tony Stewart hired Steve Addington as crew chief for his No. 14 Chevrolet for next year
The musical chairs among NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chiefs continued Monday as newly crowned champion Tony Stewart hired Steve Addington as crew chief for his No. 14 Chevrolet for next year.

Addington, 47, had been Kurt Busch's crew chief but left after a tumultuous season-ending race a week ago in which the Penkse Racing driver launched into a profanity-laced outburst in the garage at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.

NASCAR later levied a $50,000 fine on Busch for his actions.

"I know Steve well and I know how he goes about setting up a racecar," Stewart said in a statement. "He balances the technical part of our sport with the real-world experiences we get at the track, and that will allow for a smooth transition as we prepare to defend our title in 2012."

Addington has 16 career Cup wins, including two with Busch this year. Addington was also a onetime crew chief for Kyle Busch, Kurt's younger brother, at Joe Gibbs Racing and helped him win eight races in 2008 and 12 victories overall.

At Stewart-Haas Racing, Addington replaces Darian Grubb, a former Hendrick Motorsports engineer who became Stewart's crew chief in 2009 when Stewart became co-owner of his race team.

Grubb said he was told in October that he would not return to Stewart-Haas. Stewart struggled badly at times during the season but then won five of the 10 races in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup playoff and captured his third Cup championship.

"He's a great person and I know he'll continue to be successful in this sport," Stewart said of Grubb.

Kevin Harvick, who finished third in the standings behind Stewart and Carl Edwards, also recently announced that he would have a new crew chief in 2012, with Shane Wilson taking over the No. 29 Chevrolet for Gil Martin at Richard Childress Racing.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: NASCAR crew chief Steve Addington at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Oct. 31. Credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

NASCAR's Kevin Harvick gets new crew chief for 2012

Frustrated with finishing third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings for the second consecutive year, Kevin Harvick will get a new crew chief for the 2012 season.

HarvickHarvick's team Richard Childress Racing said Shane Wilson would replace Gil Martin on Harvick's No. 29 Chevrolet. Martin was named director of team operations.

"Kevin came to me after the Phoenix race a couple of weeks ago and asked for a change," team owner Richard Childress said in a statement.

Wilson previously was crew chief on RCR's No. 33 car driven by Clint Bowyer, but Bowyer is leaving to join Michael Waltrip Racing next year. Before that, Wilson was Harvick's crew chief in the second-tier Nationwide Series in 2006 when Harvick won the series title.

Wilson "has a lot of experience now in the Sprint Cup Series and I look forward to working with him again," Harvick said.

Harvick, 35, won four Cup races this season but the Bakersfield native finished behind champion Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards in the title standings.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick last Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Credit: Jerry Markland / Getty Images

NASCAR's Kurt Busch apologizes for outburst, loses crew chief


It has been a ragged ending to the season for NASCAR's Busch brothers.

Two weeks after Kyle Busch was severely reprimanded for intentionally wrecking a rival driver, his older brother Kurt Busch and his Penske Racing team apologized Tuesday for Kurt's outburst in the garage Sunday at the Sprint Cup Series season finale.

After transmission trouble sidelined his Dodge early in the race at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, Kurt Busch made several profanity-laced remarks as he waited impatiently for a live interview with Dr. Jerry Punch, the veteran ESPN pit reporter.

"I let my emotions get the better of me," Busch, 33, said in a statement in which he apologized to Penske Racing, NASCAR, fans, media, sponsors "and in particular, Dr. Jerry Punch." Busch's main sponsor is Shell-Pennzoil.

Penske Racing also apologized and said Busch's actions were "inconsistent with the company's standards for behavior, respect for others and professionalism."

Busch also had angry outbursts on his team radio at races earlier in the season, some directed at crew chief Steve Addington, and Penske Racing confirmed Tuesday that Addington had left the company.

Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, won two races with Addington this year but finished 11th among the 12 drivers in this year's Chase for the Cup title playoff.


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Photo: NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, left, and crew chief Steve Addington at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., last May 28. Credit: Bob Leverone/Associated Press

Tony Stewart wins -- free ice cream for all!

First Tony Stewart wins the Sprint Cup championship. Then there was all that free ice cream. Life couldn't have gotten much better Sunday in Columbus, Ind.

The 40-year-old NASCAR driver has always gotten tremendous support from his hometown, a city of about 40,000 where visitors driving into town are greeted by signs welcoming them to the home of Tony Stewart.

Visitors to the downtown Dairy Queen, where Stewart has been known to hang out, were greeted by another sign on Sunday: "Good Luck Tony, Win the Chase." A mural of the driver is featured on the back wall of the restaurant.

Owner Bob Franke, who was a teenage Stewart's first sponsor, promised free ice cream cones all night if the driver came away with the Sprint Cup that day.

It was a suspense-filled afternoon as Stewart and Carl Edwards battled to the finish for the series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But in the end, Stewart got his prize -- and so did the citizens of Columbus, who lined up well into the night for their free ice cream cones.

But, of course, Stewart's Sprint Cup victory meant much more than just frozen treats to his hometown, which held victory parades for the driver after his series championships in 2002 and 2005.

"It's just a celebration if he wins," assistant manager Kim Sexton said.

Another fan, Jeff Whittington, summed it up: "He's a hometown guy."


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-- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Jay Coomer changes the sign of the Dairy Queen in downtown Columbus, Ind., to a message of celebration after hometown hero Tony Stewart won at Homestead-Miami Speedway to take the Sprint Cup title on Sunday. Credit: Joe Harpring / Associated Press / The Republic

NASCAR's Kasey Kahne wins in Phoenix; Carl Edwards leads Chase


Kasey Kahne won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, while Carl Edwards kept a three-point lead over Tony Stewart in the Chase for the Cup championship battle -- the same gap they had when the race started.

With only one race left on the Cup schedule, all of the other 10 drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup title playoff have been officially eliminated, including reigning champion Jimmie Johnson.

Edwards and Stewart will now decide the championship next Sunday at the finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.

Edwards and Stewart finished second and third, respectively, behind Kahne after swapping the lead between themselves for much of the 312-lap race.

Jeff Burton finished fourth and Stewart teammate Ryan Newman was fifth.

Kahne had gone 81 races without a win, and the victory cameas he is about to leave the Red Bull Racing team for Hendrick Motorsports next season. "It's been a long time coming," Kahne said. "It was a great run today."

In addition, Red Bull has said it's looking to sell all or part of its NASCAR team after this season, so it's unclear whether the team will be back on the Cup circuit in 2012.

Kyle Busch, who started in the rear of the 43-car field, charged as high as third but the engine let go on his No. 18 Toyota shortly after the halfway mark.


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-- Jim Peltz in Avondale, Ariz.

Photo: NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne celebrates his victory in the Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday with a burnout at Phoenix International Raceway. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images


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