TV TIMES By Lou Modestino(For 2/5-2/7/10)

We read with interest Brian France’s recent tete-a-tete with the Cup drivers regarding criticism of NASCAR. Brian told the assembly that criticism from the drivers is bad for NASCAR. JR took all this to heart and said that he was going to be very careful in the future. Now let’s just think about all of this. Consider if NASCAR was not taken to task about starting the races too late, the COT is a turkey and needs fixing, there’s a lack of competition and the presentation is bland, the ticket prices are not worth it, we would still have a status quo. So in the case of speaking out about what’s wrong in NASCAR, it has to be the reason that the organization decided to go back to square one on all of the items we talked about.

There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism. If Brian France thinks that the fans quit buying tickets and watching the races on TV because the media and the drivers were talking about things that were wrong with NASCAR, he better think long and hard about it. They were the result of all of changes he made over the past few years. Granted the tanking economy was a factor in the drop off in NASCAR tickets sales. But, the TV ratings should have increased given that the fans are cutting back on the discretionary entertainment outlays. The media and the drivers did Brian a big favor. Communications isn’t a one way street from the top down. All that needed to be done and the results could make things better as long as NASCAR follows through.

We’ve watched the first three episodes of the racing reality series MADHOUSE on the History Channel on Sunday’s, now aired at 11 p.m. We’ve taken a minority position about this program which the majority of viewers and pundits feel that this type of near anarchy racing is setting back the sport of short track racing 50 years. That may be the prevailing opinion. However, we didn’t see too many empty seats and Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem, NC has one of the largest capacity grandstands on the NASCAR weekly racing series. All that tells us that the fans there like what they see and come back for more every week. It’s also amazing that the 60-year old veteran Junior Miller is still able to intimidate a lot of younger drivers like he does. Frankly, we think short track racing has become too bland and the weekly Modified program at BGS has got to be the hot ticket.

On another note, tells about NASCAR Authentics, who own and distribute and sell clothing and collectibles at the various tracks and mail-order is still bleeding red ink. Also, NASCAR continues to restructure and institute pay cuts of staffers and cut travel expenses. That news isn’t very good. All of that is a direct result of the ailing economy and other things that have impacted NASCAR and other types of racing in a negative manner. Let’s hope that we’ve hit rock bottom and things will level off and maybe there will be some growth in the near future.

ESPN2’s daily NASCAR news and information program NASCAR Now returns for its fourth season on Monday, Feb. 1, at 5 p.m. ET, to coincide with the beginning of the 2010 NASCAR season. The program includes highlights, opinion, debate, analysis and the latest news from drivers, crew chiefs and insiders.

With hosts Nicole Briscoe, Mike Massaro and Allen Bestwick, NASCAR Now originates from ESPN’s high definition studios in Bristol, Conn., with reporters and analysts checking in from locations around the country wherever NASCAR news is happening. In addition to reports from races, NASCAR Now reporters also visit race shops and special events.

The program regularly airs at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with all weekday programs 30 minutes except for a one-hour Monday roundtable discussion edition with ESPN analysts and reporters. ESPN2 also airs an hour-long edition at 9 a.m. on the morning of each NASCAR Sprint Cup race, and a weekend wrap-up edition will begin in July.

NASCAR Now will originate from Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., site of the NASCAR season-opening Daytona 500, with special hour-long programs Feb. 8-14. Massaro will host the first week of episodes beginning Feb. 1, with Briscoe reporting from Daytona starting Feb. 4.

The first two weeks of the program will include a focus on the top 10 teams in the sport, looking back at the 2009 season and looking ahead to 2010 with predictions from ESPN analysts. In addition, the first week of the program will feature drivers of the decades, starting on Feb. 1 with drivers from the 1960s.

The NASCAR Now team also includes Terry Blount, motorsports writer for; analyst Tim Brewer, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion crew chief; reporter Angelique Chengelis, Detroit News writer and columnist; D.J. Copp, tire changer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; analyst Ricky Craven, a former winning driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series; and analyst Brad Daugherty, five-time NBA All-Star and NASCAR team owner.

Others are analyst Ray Evernham, three-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief; Ed Hinton, motorsports writer for; analyst Randy LaJoie, two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion; Ryan McGee, motorsports writer for ESPN the Magazine; David Newton, motorsports writer for; and NASCAR Now lead reporter and ESPN Insider Marty Smith.

Shannon Spake, a pit reporter on ESPN’s NASCAR race coverage, will report for NASCAR Now this season and occasionally host while also reporting for SportsCenter and other ESPN platforms covering NASCAR.

NASCAR Now viewers also will see analysis and reports from the NASCAR on ESPN race coverage team including analysts Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree and pit reporters Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch.

Live NASCAR racing returns to the ESPN networks for the 2010 season when ESPN2 airs flag-to-flag coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series 300-mile from Daytona on Saturday, Feb. 13. NASCAR Countdown airs at noon ET, with the race’s green flag at 1:34 p.m.

Josh Richards started preparing for a stock car auto racing career via an aggressive dirt Late Model schedule in 2003. Seven years, more than 400 races and a World of Outlaws Late Model Series Championship later, he’s ready. He’ll use the February 6 Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards race to prove to the world that he’s set for the next chapter of his racing career. Richards’ ARCA superspeedway racing debut is just one stop in a three-week racing tour that begins Thursday night at Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, Georgia.

He will also compete at East Bay Raceway, Volusia Speedway and, of course, Daytona, in an aggressive race schedule that involves on-track activity nearly every night for the next three weeks.

Richards, a dirt racer at heart, is one of many accomplished drivers using the ARCA Racing Series to transition to full bodied stock cars this season. Much like Nick Igdalsky (road course racing), Ricky Carmichael (former motocross racer), Nelson Piquet Jr (Formula One), Milka Duno (IZOD INDY Car Series) and Danica Patrick (IZOD INDY Car Series), he’s spent the better part of his adult life focused on all things racing-and some of his childhood, too.

Richards began racing at 14 years old but has been around the sport his entire life, spending much of his youth at the family business-Rocket Chassis. Successes behind the wheel of his family’s dirt Late Model-including close to 40 career wins, a rookie of the year title and a World of Outlaws Dirt Late Model Championship-led to the not-surprising nickname, Kid Rocket.

“Racing is all I know,” said Richards. “All day, every day–the only thing I’ve known my entire life is to race. There are no Saturdays off. We’re either at the race shop or racing and I enjoy every second of it.”

Richards’ transition to stock cars has been steady and methodical. He took advantage of the ARCA Racing Series’ diverse schedule and his dirt track racing strengths by making his series debut in 2007 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds-one of two mile-long dirt tracks that are staples on the national stock car tour’s schedule. His car owner for the race was his mentor and dirt Late Model teammate, NASCAR’s two-time Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart.

“In my first ARCA race in 2007 I learned that even though these cars are different the principles of racing all apply the same,” said Richards. “Everything is just slow motion. Not that the cars are slow. You’re just way more focused on being smooth and consistent. In a dirt car everything happens much faster and you’re more aggressive but you can afford to make more mistakes. Dirt track racers will tell you pavement racing isn’t quite as exciting but I find it just as exciting. You need to have good strategy, as well as racing well and racing smart.”

Last year he added intermediate speedways to his stock car racing repertoire, partnering with veteran ARCA Racing Series team Venturini Motorsports at Kentucky Speedway. He also began his stock car racing association with Ken Schrader Racing, making three starts in the K&N Pro East Series for the veteran ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. Schrader, no stranger to Daytona with two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Shootout victories, will be his car owner for this year’s Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200.

“Being with Schrader and his people for this race is the best part,” said Richards. “We’ve run a few races with him in the East Series and he has so much knowledge and so much talent it’s unbelievable. We’ve been friends for a long time and as hard as he has worked to get to where he is today you just have to respect him. Donnie Richeson, the crew chief, is just awesome at what he does and so are all of the guys on the team so going to Daytona with Schrader Racing is definitely the most exciting part of going to Daytona.”

Richards participated in ARCA’s three-day test session at Daytona in December.

“I don’t think it matters how much experience you have or how prepared you think you are your first laps at Daytona are impactful,” said Richards. “Once you get out on the track it’s all out or nothing and when you’re looking down the strait-a-way it’s just so big-you look down into the corners and almost think that there is no way you can make that but then once you get into the corners you are fine.

“Drafting was good. It’s just crazy how much those cars change when you’re around other cars. It’s all air-knowing how to work around cars and what you’re supposed to do. It’s just so magnified at a place like Daytona. Just knowing how much the car picks up. That’s going to be huge. I’m hoping to pick that up as quickly as possible. I definitely feel more comfortable about going back for the race now that I have tested.”

Comfort, it appears, comes easy for Richards any time he’s near a racecar. He’ll race his Dirt Late Model the next three nights in the O’Reilly Southern All Star Racing Series at Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, Georgia before heading Gibsonton, Florida’s East Bay Raceway for a series of races in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. Following the Saturday, February 6 Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, Richards will compete in the DIRT Car Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

The 2010 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards kicks off with the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Saturday, February 6, 2010. The race is live on SPEED beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

Fort Frances, Ontario’s Steve Arpin entered his first year of competition in the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards as a relative unknown–just another rookie among a sea of unfamiliar faces at the Daytona season-opener. But the credentials of the young dirt track racer from way up North were quickly verified and now, it seems, everyone in the world of ARCA is familiar with the name Steve Arpin. Arpin worked hard in 2009 and was named the 2009 National Speed Sport News ARCA Nation Most Popular Driver.

It is official! Danica Patrick, one of the most popular drivers in motorsports, confirmed today that she will be racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series New England 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 26.

Last month, Jerry Gappens, the executive vice president and general manager of the speedway, flew to JR Motorsports in Mooresville, N.C. with over 20 pounds of fresh lobster for Patrick and her crew. This was an enticement to have New Hampshire on her limited racing schedule with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s team.

Today, Danica gave the speedway a gift by adding the New England 200 to her 2010 NASCAR schedule.

“This is great news for our fans here in New England,” said Gappens. “She is a talented racecar driver and a major sports personality that will bring the national spotlight to the largest sports and entertainment facility in New England.

“Since she didn’t eat the lobster, I will have to find an appropriate thank you gift for Danica, perhaps a pair of high heeled Christian Louboutin’s!”

From her start in karting in 1992 to her win at the 2008 Indy Car Series race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan, Patrick has always been a top competitor.

She will be the sixth woman to attempt to qualify for a NASCAR Nationwide Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Tina Gordon (2004), Tammy Jo Kirk (2003), Patty Moise (1990, 1996, 1998), and Shawna Robinson (1992, 1993) have qualified and raced at the speedway. Kim Crosby (2005) did not qualify in her attempt to make the field at “The Magic Mile.”

Tickets for the NASCAR Nationwide Series New England 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway start at just $25. For more information, please visit us online at or call our Ticket Hotline at (603) 783-4931.

From the widley circulated Valvoline Track Talk Newletter comes this insight. Nelson Piquet Jr., after testing a NASCAR Truck: “For a lot of people, who are outside of America, it’s a downgrade. But for people that really understand — maybe it’s a downgrade in technology of the car — but in terms of career, of how big the sport is in a lot of ways, it’s even a tougher step than F1.”

Here’s some of the motorhead programming from the beginning of the week into the weekend on TV as more live racing returns to the TV screen for the beginning of the long run of NASCAR action that won’t end until the weekend before Thanksgiving next November. On Monday Speed offers NASCAR Race Hub at 7:30 p.m. Ditto on Tuesday plus HBO airs Jimmy Johnson-Race To Daytona at 10 p.m. Wednesday has Speed airing NASCAR Race Hub at 7:30 p.m.

Thursday will ramp up the action with Speed offering the Bud Shoot Practice at 5 p.m. Speed returns with Bud Shootout Practice at 6:30 p.m. while TSN2 offers NASCAR Media Day at 7:30 p.m. The Speed Channel also airs the NASCAR Bud Shootout Selection Show at 9 p.m. and then NASCAR Performance Awards at 10:30 p.m. Friday goes with Speed airing a 2 p.m. telecast of Daytona 500 Practice and again at 4 p.m. At 5:30 p.m.

Saturday offers the British Touring Car Championship from Rockingham, UK on Speed at 1 p.m. followed by the German Touring Cars in action at Dijon, France at 2 p.m. At 4:30 Speed airs the ARCA 200 from Daytona with Fox/TSN kicking in the Bud Shootout at 8 p.m. and finally NASCAR Victory Lane from Daytona at 10 p.m. on Speed. Sunday’s only offerings are a noon time airing of the AMA SuperX Lites from San Diego followed by the SuperX from that same venue at 1 p.m.