A panel of three motorsports journalists selected finalists from stock car racing, road racing and open wheel, and then more than 248,000 votes were cast by fans online and at race tracks where the IROC races were held this year.
The honoree from open wheel racing is Mario Andretti, who won the 1979 IROC championship. The late Dale Earnhardt was selected as the representative from stock cars. He won four IROC titles. Scott Pruett represents the road racers and has two IROC wins. The fourth member of the class was Steve Kinser, the "wild card" selected by the fans as the driver with the most votes other than the winners in each of the divisions.
Pruett said the IROC series, despite sponsor changes and car changes over the years, is still the same level of competition.
"You bring all these champion drivers together and whoever says they’re just out there having fun is full of crap, because these guys are hard-charging, determined, ‘want-to-win’ drivers every practice, every race. It’s pretty awesome and I’m proud to be a part of it."
The International Race of Champions will hold its 2005 season finale on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race will be carried live at 1:30 p.m. on SpeedChannel.
TWO TRUCK DRIVERS HONORED: Pilot Travel Centers awarded $50,000 to two long-haul truck drivers — one a professional driver and the other a driver of a NASCAR team transporter. Dubbed the Pilot Truck Driver Challenge, the program is in its second year of honoring the best driver in the NASCAR garage area and the best driver in its Driver Payback program.
Among the qualifications for the award, the drivers must have a clean record, with no accidents and no speeding tickets.
James and Sue Langley, of Jonesboro, La., were the non-NASCAR winners. He drives for Southern Cal Transport.
And for the second year, a driver for one of Richard Childress Racing was the NASCAR winner. Frankie Nester has been with RCR for three years and drives the Cingular Chevrolet race cars and equipment from track to track for driver Jeff Burton. He
previously drove for Rousch Racing and a Busch team.
"Before that, I was hauling furniture up north," Nester said.
"I think you guys have the hardest job in this sport," Burton said to all of the NASCAR transport drivers. "You’re gone more. You’re always here, you’re always the first ones to be here and the last ones to leave."
Burton said Nester previously said if he won, he would donate 10 percent of his winnings to charity and the driver said he would match it. Nester, of Stoneville, N.C., said they will select a charity and announce it at a later date. Pilot Travel Centers also donate unspecified amounts each year to NASCAR charities, including the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
NEW NEIGHBOR IN GOODY’S COUNTRY: Goody’s Headache Powders previewed its new commercials titled "Mr. Petty’s Neighborhood" on Friday morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In the new spots, Richard Petty welcomes driver Tony Stewart, knocking on his door bearing a casserole from his wife, Linda.
As one might expect, everything happens fast in Goody’s Country, which Petty explains to the new resident Stewart.
"Tony Stewart joining Goody’s just makes so much sense," said Darren Singer, vice president of marketing for Goody’s. Stewart answered snickers from the audience by saying, "I know what you guys are thinking. Don’t worry, that’s what I was thinking, too."
Kyle Petty piled on, "That’s what I was thinking, too."
The new commercials were filmed on Hickswood Drive in Greensboro, N.C. Singer said residents allowed their homes and streets to be used for the two days of shooting and even brought out their lawn chairs to watch the events. The Pettys and Stewart chatted with them and signed autographs — and definitely left their mark.
"If Goody’s ever comes to y’alls neighborhood wanting to do a commercial – no, no, no," Richard Petty said. "These poor people’s yards were tore up. Their trees were tore up. It was unreal how we left it. We gave them a bunch of Goody’s, because they had a bunch of headaches."
Goody’s has been associated with NASCAR and the Petty family for 30 years. The company was an early and major contributor to the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
Stewart also is a major contributor to the camp for children with life-threatening conditions. Goody’s also presented a check for $25,000 on behalf of the Tony Stewart Foundation for the Victory Junction Gang.
BIFFLE’S SALUTE: Roush Racing driver Greg Biffle, who is currently fourth in the Nextel Chase for the Championship, will have a special decal on his No. 16 Ford this weekend to honor fallen members of the 48th Brigade, a National Guard unit based in Georgia.
"A lot of the soldiers defending our country in Afganistan and Iraq are National Guard and Reserves, which they like to call citizen soldiers." Biffle said. "They are also the ones that support our country when we have hurricanes and things. The 48th brigade that’s based here in Georgia have lost a tremendous amount of people. It’s unfortunate, and we’re thinking about them."
Biffle spent Thursday at Fort Benning, two hours south of Atlanta, meeting Army Rangers and watching their training. He even was allowed to shoot live ammunition in a 2-4-9 Suburban Assault Weapon and an M-16.
ON HIS CHANCES IN THE CHASE: "Well certainly it’s known we’re going to have to be first, second or third these next four races, to have a chance to win the title and that certainly won’t guarantee us the win, by any means. If we won all four of them, and lead all the laps that still won’t win us the title, depending on where Tony and Jimmy finish. We have our work cut out for us. I would think we’re going to win one of them, two of them maybe, or at least be there for an opportunity to win."
ON RACING THE TOP 3 DRIVERS IN THE CHASE: "Tony (Stewart) has been the easier guy to race around in the Chase than the other two. Ryan Newman is very difficult to pass. It’s tough to get position on him. Jimmie is hard to get position on as well. Tony’s just easier to race around that those two, just in my opinion, that’s what I’ve experienced inside the car."
ON TEAMMATE CARL EDWARDS: "I’m very surprised … about his performance. He’s done a very good job. The way our Roush system works today, versus when I came in or Kurt (Busch) came in, we provided much better communication and he can pick my setup. He’s been able to shortcut the learning process by a tremendous amount by being able to rely on Matt, Kurt, me and Mark to get his car right. And then if you give him the right car and he’s got to drive it, it makes it much easier to bring a guy in and be competitive right off. I’m proud of that. I’m excited that we’re able to do that as a company."