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NASCAR weekly update for Jan 4th

by Dave Grayson
Monday, January 04, 2010

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Travis Kvapil
Over the past few days we observed the true spirit of the NASCAR Nation, we welcomed three new members to the Nation, and NASCAR's most popular driver hosted an amazing 60 minute party. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP for the fans that comprise the NASCAR Nation. Through direct contributions and participation in special nationwide events, the fans helped raised approximately $1.8 million for the NASCAR Foundation as well as the charitable links they support. The bulk of these donations directly benefited the lives of children and families in need most notably in the areas of pediatric health.

Also very noteworthy was the large increase in the NASCAR Foundation volunteer network, reported to be 10,000 plus, who graciously donated their time to Foundation charity events. Again, THUMBS-UP to all who made this extremely important project work so well in 2009.

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THUMBS-UP to Front Row Motorsports, FRM, whose NASCAR Sprint Cup efforts appears to be headed in the right direction for the upcoming 2010 season. Former Sprint Cup driver Travis Kvapil will be returning to the series to drive the #34 Ford which is a manufacturer switch from last year's Chevrolets. FRM also named Steven Lane as the new crew chief for the team.

In still more good news for FRM, they also announced a second Sprint Cup team for driver Kevin Conway who spent much of last year campaigning in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on a part time basis. Conway will bring his long time sponsor, Extenze Men's Health Supplement, to the table to help support the second Ford team. In a very interesting note, Conway at this point in time is the only driver on the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup roster who is eligible to compete for the 2010 Raybestos Rookie Of The Year title.

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A similar THUMBS-UP goes to Barney Viser, owner of the Denver based Furniture Row Racing-FRR, whose recent personnel announcements will certainly help his operation in 2010. First off, driver Regan Smith will be returning with newly hired crew chief Ryan Conlam supervising the pit box. Conlam comes over from Germain Racing after spending 2009 working with driver Max Papis. FRR also announced that veteran Pete Rondeau, who worked with Dale Earnhardt Jr during his tenure with Dale Earnhardt Inc, will be joining their #78 team as the new car chief.

But the really big personnel coup for Barney Viser and FRR was last Thursday's announcement that said Mark McArdle was joining the team as the new Director Of Competition. McArdle spent the majority of 2009 performing similar duties for Richard Petty Motorsports-RPM.

Unfortunately, that leads to a WHAT'S-UP to McArdle for an eye opening comment he made last week regarding his former employer. In a mid September incident, at the Richmond International Raceway, there was a well documented confrontation between McArdle and majority team owner George Gillette. The aftermath of that incident resulted in McArdle's suspension, and later release, from is duties at RPM. McArdle raised more than a few eyebrows last week when he said "once, (former owner and team founder), Ray Evernham left Richard Petty Motorsports things became more and more difficult."

McArdle gets this week's only WHAT'S-UP for making that unnecessary comment. Whatever the situation between McArdle and RPM was it's from the past and needs to remain there. McArdle needs to instead focus on the exciting possibilities of his new duties rather than dwell in the past.

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A THUMBS-UP and GOD BLESS goes out to the newest members of the NASCAR Nation. Popular ESPN racing correspondent Shannon Spake and husband Jerry McSorely welcomed the arrival of twin boys on New Years Day. Jerome McSorely weighed in at 4 pounds 8 ounces while his brother, Brady James, entered the world at 4 pounds 5 ounces.

The same sentiments goes out to former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Steve Park, now racing with the NASCAR Camping World East Series, and his wife Jessica who welcomed the arrival of Jaden Robert Park last Saturday who weighed in at 8 pounds 4 ounces.

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THUMBS-UP to Dale Earnhardt Jr for hosting a rather unique 60 minute party this past Wednesday night. It's well known that NASCAR's most popular driver is also the owner of Whiskey River, a very popular night club in Charlotte-North Carolina. Junior thrilled the crowd last Wednesday with his arrival at the club and, during the course of one hour from 8 to 9 pm, ran an open bar tab. He wound up buying drinks for 800 patrons during the 60 minute party.

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The final THUMBS-UP goes to the ever popular Michael Waltrip for the best NASCAR "Twitter" of the week. On new year's eve Waltrip wrote "last new year of the decade. A lot went down this decade. Maybe most dramatic ten years of my life. Well, the 80's were big too with puberty and all." That's why everyone loves Mikey.

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