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Category: Tony Stewart

Struggling NASCAR track Irwindale Speedway cancels season

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Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, once hailed as perhaps the best short track for minor-league NASCAR racing, said Monday it has canceled its 2012 season.

Amid speculation that the half-mile speedway might be closed or sold in the face of dwindling crowds, its management issued a one-sentence statement announcing the cancellation and providing no other details.

Track officials could not immediately be reached to elaborate, but the speedway's website also had been taken down.

The 6,500-seat Irwindale facility alongside the 605 Freeway opened 13 years ago mainly to host weekly Saturday races for NASCAR stock-car developmental series. It drew positive reviews and was considered a particularly fan-friendly venue.

The track also hosted annual races that at times drew some of racing's biggest stars, including Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano.

Those races included the NASCAR All-Star Showdown and the "Turkey Night" race on Thanksgiving Day for open-wheel sprint and midget cars.

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Photos: Cars race in the NASCAR All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale on Jan. 30, 2011. Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

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

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 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

Tony Stewart leads halfway through NASCAR race in Phoenix

Phoenix

The battle for NASCAR's Sprint Cup title went off as advertised Sunday.

Tony Stewart, who started the day trailing Carl Edwards by only three points in the championship standings, was leading at the halfway point of the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

But Edwards kept up the pressure, running a close third behind Stewart and second-place Matt Kenseth, who was the race pole-sitter.

Stewart was aggressive from the moment the green flag waved, charging from his eighth-place starting spot to the lead in less than 40 laps of the 312-lap race on the one-mile Phoenix oval.

Brad Keselowski was fourth and A.J. Allmendinger fifth. Kyle Busch, who started near the back of the 43-car field, had climbed to 13th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 23rd.

Overall, though, passing proved difficult for the drivers and much of the racing was single file on the newly repaved Phoenix International layout.

This is the next-to-last race in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup title playoff; the finale is next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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--Jim Peltz in Avondale, Ariz.

Photo: The field takes the green flag Sunday at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

NASCAR's Matt Kenseth wins pole for Phoenix race

Matt Kenseth won the pole position for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Phoenix, while title contenders Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart qualified in the top 10.

KensethEdwards has a three-point lead over Stewart with two races left in the Cup season. Kevin Harvick is third, 33 points behind, and Kenseth is fourth, 38 points back.

Kenseth, who won the Cup title in 2003, turned the fastest lap in Saturday's qualifying with an average speed of 137.101 mph on the newly repaved, one-mile Phoenix International Raceway. A.J. Allmendinger qualified second at 136.446 mph.

Stewart will start eighth in the 43-car field and Edwards ninth. Harvick qualified 27th.

Kyle Busch, preparing for his first race since he was heavily penalized for intentionally wrecking another driver a week ago in a NASCAR Truck Series race, qualified 34th in the 43-car field.

But under NASCAR's rules, Busch will have to start at the rear Sunday because his Joe Gibbs Racing team needed to change the engine of his No. 18 Toyota during practice Friday.

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--Jim Peltz in Avondale, Ariz.

Photo: Matt Kenseth during practice Friday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. Credit: Jennifer Stewart/US Presswire

The conundrum that is NASCAR's Phoenix race

Stewart

"This could be interesting."

So summed up driver Kevin Harvick as he previewed Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the newly repaved, reconfigured Phoenix International Raceway.

As with any repaved speedway, it's unclear how the pack of 43 cars in a Cup race will behave on the new, smooth surface. But the uncertainty is heightened Sunday because it's the next-to-last race in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup championship playoff.

Carl Edwards leads the Chase by three points over two-time champion Tony Stewart, and it's widely thought that they will battle for the title. But Harvick, 33 points behind Edwards and third place in the standings, still has a shot.

Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 "could be a game-changer," Harvick said, but "in what direction, I don't think anybody knows because we have no clue how it's going to race."

"We know we can all drive around by ourselves and make good lap time and adjust on our cars," the Bakersfield native said. "But how hard it will be to pass when they drop the green flag and everybody's on the race track? We don't know." 

Continue reading »

Danica Patrick to make NASCAR Sprint Cup debut at Daytona 500

Danica Patrick plans to make her debut in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series at the Daytona 500
Danica Patrick plans to make her debut in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series at the sport's crown-jewel race, the Daytona 500, next Feb. 26 and is eyeing a possible full-time Cup ride in 2013.

Patrick, 29,will drive the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, the team co-owned by two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart.

Patrick just finished her full-time career in the Izod IndyCar Series, in which she won one race in seven years, to drive full-time in NASCAR stock-car racing.

In an announcement at Texas Motor Speedway, site of the next Cup race Sunday, Stewart-Haas and Patrick said she would drive a total of 10 Cup races next year while also competing all season in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series.

Besides Daytona, Patrick's Cup schedule includes Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.

Her two other Cup appearances will be determined later.

"Our goal with Danica's schedule is to try and maximize her 10 races with us so that she's as prepared as she can possibly be for a full-time Sprint Cup schedule in 2013," Stewart said in a statement.

Patrick, who is driving in this Saturday's Nationwide race at Texas, also said her helmet and race car would carry paint schemes honoring two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, who was killed last month in an IndyCar race in Las Vegas.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Danica Patrick and team co-owner Tony Stewart unveil Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series during an event at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday. Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images

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