News & Media

From the Notebook: Stoddard persevering, improving in 2012

February 27, 2012, Dave Rodman,

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- FAS Lane Racing not worried about PIR turnaround, PPR not so fortunate

Owner Frank Stoddard proved a small team could succeed in 2011, as his FAS Lane Racing outfit started up and, despite missing the fourth race of the season, never fell out of the critical top 35 in owners' points that guarantees a weekly starting position.

Stoddard hopes 2012 will start out the same way -- though he's rightfully proud his operation is far ahead of where it was a year ago, when former two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte earned a 15th-place finish in the Daytona 500 that provided a solid foundation for the season.

Under the lights

The Daytona 500 is going prime time. With storms forecast Monday afternoon, NASCAR will wave the green flag on the Daytona 500 at 7:02 p.m. ET.

"It worked out well for us last year and we're further ahead than we were last year [right now] -- way further," Stoddard said Monday morning while waiting out the Daytona 500's second rain delay. "We've got nine cars that are prepared and ready to go to the race track, right now. It's not like we've got to go home and take parts off this car -- to rob Peter to pay Paul -- we've got complete cars ready to go to the race track and race.

"Our Phoenix and Vegas cars are completely done, sitting there with motors in them. Our Bristol and California cars are complete less the motors and our Martinsville car is sitting there, complete less a motor. We've done a lot of work in the offseason and every car that we'll run for the first seven weeks of the year will be a different car."

Stoddard said he hoped his hauler would be on its way from Daytona by midnight Monday and would be back to the Charlotte, N.C., area by 7 a.m. ET Tuesday.

"We're driving back, so we've got a plan in place for a couple of the guys who have to be in, first thing in the morning to leave with 15 or 20 laps to go in the race," Stoddard said. "They'll be able to sleep on the way home. The rest of the staff will go in at 1 [p.m.] and hypothetically, if everything goes right we'll be going down the road to Phoenix by 6 or 7 o'clock Tuesday night.

"Wednesday we'll finish our [Las] Vegas car and have it ready to be transported out on Friday, and then we'll fly out on Thursday."

Stoddard, whose team used eight drivers in 2011 and finished 34th in owners' points, did a deal for those points to enable Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip Racing to use those points to make them a guaranteed Daytona 500 starter. Stoddard has done another deal to lock his car into the field for the next four races this season, after which 2012 owners' points will be used to determine the top 35, locked-in starters.

"I think [2012] is going to be pretty similar to last season," Stoddard said. "The bottom line is going to be this, getting off to a good start in the first five races -- that's really the critical factor."

FAS Lane's Facebook and Twitter accounts list sponsorship from a diverse group including C&J Energy, US Chrome, TMone, Green Smoke and Southern Pride Trucking. It puts Stoddard in position to race, and he and car chief Dwayne Doucette are proud of that.

"Unlike some of these guys, I'm committed to running all 36 races," Stoddard said. "I've got funding from Federated Auto Parts where Ken Schrader has come on board and he's going to run at least 12 races, maybe more -- and Federated's going to be on the car for at least nine, and that could go to more. They've stepped-up with a nice program for us.

"Regardless of what happens to us, we're going to race every week. Our program has always been that way and it's going to continue to be that way, as long as I'm doing it."

Stoddard's opinion, as the season gets set to open, is that there will be one spot in the top 35 open to "start-and-park" teams and if his team runs into trouble in any of the first five races, that could be trouble he said they could overcome "in the long term, and we should be able to get ourselves locked-into the top 35 for the season. Certainly, that's our goal."

After Labonte runs his second consecutive Daytona 500 for the team, Mike Bliss will run at Phoenix before Schrader will step in for the next four races -- with Las Vegas and Martinsville being Federated events -- before Bliss runs a stretch of races through the spring before Schrader comes back at Michigan in June for his next Federated race.

Logistics not a small nightmare for some

Phil Parsons provided the flip-side to Stoddard's story, even as the debuting Phil Parsons Racing was on the verge of potentially its best Daytona 500 result ever. Parsons has previously fielded cars with other partners before joining this season with Dusty Whitney and Mike Curb to field the No. 98 Ford driven by Michael McDowell.

"My guys, truthfully, when they get home will probably have to go straight to work, because our Phoenix stuff is not done," Parsons said Monday morning. "Actually, some of the fuel injection stuff that we're racing on our car, hopefully [Monday] night we'll have to take off, to put on our Phoenix car. It's really challenging."

The challenge for Parsons' small team is such that he sent his car chief, Kenny Evans, home to North Carolina on Sunday night to go to work on next weekend's car.

"We're fortunate enough that we have three good guys back at the shop, working to prepare the Phoenix and Vegas cars," Parsons said. "We sent Kenny home so we can be in a position when we get home [early Tuesday morning], they'll more than likely go straight to the shop and work until the stuff's done and loaded for Phoenix."

As Stoddard said, Parsons' hauler will also not return east, once it goes to Phoenix, as it will carry the cars for both Western races. Parsons was extremely pleased to see the sun break out over DIS Monday afternoon.

"Quite frankly, I don't know what we'd do," Parsons said, "if we couldn't run [Monday] night."

Parsons said he thought his crewmen would strip the EFI parts off the Daytona 500 car and carry them by plane -- a charter flight that leaves two hours after the checkered flag -- to North Carolina "to give them a six-hour head start on getting that stuff installed."

Gordon stands pat on engine

Robby Gordon talked about negotiating a new engine for the Daytona 500 but after his crew, with the help of engine rebuilder Joey Arrington, disassembled the engine and looked it over, a faulty O-ring had caused an oil leak in last Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150 and it was deemed to be safe for the Daytona 500.

Gordon, who with his Robby Gordon Off-Road team continues his activity in a variety of events, will be at Phoenix for this weekend's entire schedule. Gordon has a conflict the weekend of Las Vegas with the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 off-road race in Mexico. Gordon said he would go to Vegas on Friday, have Reed Sorenson qualify his No. 7 Dodge on Saturday before Gordon returns to run Sunday's Sprint Cup race.

Carelli in a benevolent court

Rick Carelli found himself in a unique position Sunday night, obviously along with a lot of other fans and industry insiders. But Carelli, the former touring division champion and Truck Series winner who now spots and works in team management, had been summoned for jury duty back home in North Carolina.

Carelli called the court's automated system Sunday evening and found that his status was active as of 8 a.m. ET Monday. Carelli Tweeted Sunday night that was obviously a problem.

But Monday morning, after calling the courthouse -- much as Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne had done when Kahne's jury call conflicted with his brother's wedding -- Carelli was given an alternate date in March to fulfill his obligation to the court.

Goss bounces back in a positive way

Randy Goss' career legacy includes two American Motorcyclist Association Grand National championships but more recently, successful stints in stock car racing with Roush Racing and last season, as a Truck Series crew chief at Germain Racing.

There's a chance 2012 might be Goss' first step to the best chapter in his stock car racing career yet. Goss' son-in-law, Sprint Cup driver Aric Almirola, said over the weekend his father-in-law will work at Rev Racing this season as the crew chief for highly-regarded development driver Kyle Larson in the K&N Pro Series East.

Larson and Goss are one of almost 30 teams that are testing Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway -- along with Rev teammates Jorge Arteaga, Bryan Ortiz and Ryan Gifford -- for the series' debut at BMS next month as part of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series weekend.

Inception does points deal

In Daytona 500 qualifying, Inception Motorsports owner/driver David Stremme proved he needed very little help, as he turned the second-best speed among the 14 go-or-go-home teams trying to make the Great American Race.

But in fact, Inception, who on the eve of the race also signed a sponsorship deal with JEGS Performance to put the performance parts company's website on its No. 30 Toyota, also did a points deal with owner Kevin Buckler's dormant TRG Motorsports team, which in 2011 was 36th in owners' points.

"We were 43rd [in 2011 owners' points] and we thought we'd help ourselves a little bit," Stremme said of the move up, which might be a factor if qualifying for any of the first five races this season is rained out. In that case, 2011 owners' points become a critical factoring in determining the lineup.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.