NASCAR Notebook: News and Notes from TMS
by Austin Kilgore    Fri, Oct 31, 2008, 04:30 PM
Stayed tuned in to all the news of the NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.


Asphalt Chef
Juan Pablo Montoya beat out fellow Sprint Cup drivers Carl Edwards and Bobby Labonte in an “Iron Chef”-style cooking competition outside the track at Texas Motor Speedway after Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
After the reveal of the secret ingredient, chili peppers, the teams had five minutes to concoct a recipe, and another 20 minutes to create their dish.
Montoya, working with Food Network chef Mario Batali, made a “Vietnamese/Texan/Columbian surf and turf,” as Batali described it, using chilies and bell peppers to accent skewers of shrimp and flank steak.
Edwards, paired with television host and Food Network cook Rachel Ray made an ancho-chili laced chili served with a quesadilla.
Labonte, together with 2007 “Iron Chef America” winner and Ft. Worth chef Tim Love, in a nod to his sponsor, made a Coca Cola marinated ribeye that was served with a warm shrimp salad and a chili-infused salsa.
Judging the event was TMS parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. president and CEO Marcus Smith, TMS Speedway Club Executive Chef Heath Miles, Brookshire’s grocery stores president and CEO Rick Rayford, and NASCAR pit reporter Dave Burns.

Under Pressure
With the prospect of going winless for his first season since his 1993 rookie year, and racing at one of his worst tracks, Jeff Gordon doesn’t need any more pressure coming into Texas Motor Speedway. Well, he’s got some.
The Ft. Worth-based Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Company, which makes the Dickies clothing line, and is the title sponsor of Sunday’s race, is tying in the sponsorship with its annual American Worker of the Year promotion. Award winner Hale Hughes got to randomly pick a driver from a series of briefcases, Deal or No Deal style, and if that driver wins Sunday’s race, Hughes wins $1 million, a payday richer that what Sunday’s winner will receive.
At the press event, Hughes picked the Gordon’s No. 24.
Hughes, from Woodville, Texas, where he is an oil rig safety supervisor, has already won a new pickup truck and a four-wheeler. He’ll be the grand marshall of the race, giving the command to start engines and waving the starting green flag.
So far, Gordon’s holding his own this weekend. He’ll start from the pole, and was eighth fastest in the second practice session, the first on Saturday, and since qualifying on Friday.

Frito Bandito
Plano-based Frito Lay’s Frito brand will sponsor Kasey Kahne next season at Daytona in a cross promotion with the Kroger grocery store chain. The one-race sponsorship is rumored to have cost the company $1 million. Yesterday, Kahne shot a internal promotional video for Frito Lay employees, that is the ones that are still around after the chip maker laid off 300 employees worldwide, including 130 from the Plano branch.

Gordon on Pole for Dickies 500
Jeff Gordon has never been good at Texas Motor Speedway. It’s one of only two tracks on the circuit where he hasn’t won, and last April’s Samsung 500 was the second time the driver has finished 43rd — dead last. For the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet, coming to Texas didn’t seem like the place where Gordon, who’s on the verge of going winless for the first time in his career since his 1993 rookie season, could turn things around. Nevertheless, Gordon won the pole for Sunday’s Dickies 500.
Sprint Cup qualifying has been rained out for the past three races, automatically putting points leader Jimmie Johnson with the starting position.
“The irony of it is what’s kinda boggling my mind,” Gordon said. “The last three weeks, not being able to qualify at three tracks that I thought we had the shot at the pole at each of them, and never got the opportunity, and I thought the one place that there’s no way we’re gonna get the pole is here.”

Special TMS Visitor?
Rumor around the garage is that recently crowned NASCAR Mexico Series champion Antonio Pérez will make an appearance at TMS this weekend, in hopes to network and make connections with the sport’s top organizations in a bid to secure a full-time ride in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series.
Pérez is the nephew of Adrian Fernandez, an open wheel and Grand-Am driver that has raced a handful of NASCAR road course events for Hendrick Motorsports, most notably the four Nationwide Series races at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City.
NASCAR started the Mexico Series to help promote stock car racing in a country whose race fans are used to watching open wheel racing. Columbian racer Juan Pablo Montoya races in the Cup Series, and teams would love to get their hands on the sponsorship money that could come from a company trying to expand its reach in Hispanic markets.

Young Guns Take The Stage
All eyes are on Jimmie Johnson this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. His 183-point lead in the series championship going into this weekend is the biggest lead any driver has built since NASCAR created the 10-race Chase for the Cup, the sport’s playoff system, and Johnson is poised to win his third consecutive championship, something that hasn’t been done in the sport since Cale Yarborough won three in a row in 1976, ’77 and ‘78.
But two of the sports up-and-coming stars, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are also at the track, looking to make Sunday’s Dickies 500 Sprint Cup race.
Logano has already made two Cup Series races, and he and Keselowski both made the field for Sunday’s race.

Nicorette’s “Quit Crew”
Back when Winston was the title sponsor of NASCAR’s top racing series, race fans were treated to free cigarette samples at many of the circuit’s tracks. This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, race fans can get free samples of nicotine gum.
Nicorette will serve as primary sponsor on Jeff Gordon’s Chevrolet Sunday, and the quit smoking gum’s involvement at TMS goes way beyond the logo on the racecar.
NASCAR and smoking went hand-in-hand for decades, and even now, it’s not uncommon to see team members and fans smoking at the track. But since it began its sponsorship of Gordon, Nicorette has created a program aimed at helping NASCAR crew members and officials kick the habit with its “Quit Crew” program. Since 2005, more than 350 crew members and officials in NASCAR have quit smoking.
In addition to its program for race teams, Nicorette will also be handing out samples of its products, and quit smoking counselors will be on hand Sunday to provide free counseling to race fans.

Working Overtime
When the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are at the same track on race weekend, it’s not uncommon to see a large chunk of the field comprised of Cup Series drivers pulling double duty. But with this weekend’s events at Texas Motor Speedway including a Craftsman Truck Series event, there are a handful of drivers pulling another type of double duty.
Travis Kvapil and Scott Speed will race in the truck and Cup race. Max Papis and Chad McCumbee both attempted to qualify for the Cup race, but didn’t make the field, and Kyle Busch will not only race in the truck and Cup races, but also run in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.

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