Freelancing Opportunity

Photo: Jim Sands

By: Kobe Lambeth

My senior year of high school was definitely a year to remember. I finally made it after so many years of school from Kindergarten in Mrs. Dishmon’s class at Wentworth Elementary as a shy little boy to a grown 18 year old man ready to see what life has to offer after walking across the stage at Reidsville High School.

There were so many memories made throughout my high school years. From the highs to the lows, I am truly grateful for everything that has happened to me these past four years. I have grown as a person and will continue to do so as the next chapter in life will be the greatest challenge of all.

When I think of the memories made in high school, Fall 2016 stands out more than a food stain on a white t-shirt. All seniors were required to complete a senior graduation project on a topic that can be applied in real-world situations. I was blessed to have the opportunity to work alongside RockinghamNow Community Reporter, Joe Dexter, who helped mentor me through my project on NASCAR Marketing.

After spending a semester at RockinghamNow working on my senior project, I knew journalism was the right career for me to pursue. I will begin my life at UNC Charlotte in January 2018, which left Fall 2017 wide open for me to find something to do in the meantime. Sometimes, we leave lasting impressions on those who notice our true capabilities.

During the time of my senior project, I left some people at the office very impressed with my passion for motorsports and the willingness to learn the ropes of being a professional journalist. I am very excited to announce that I will be working as a freelancer for RockinghamNow in Fall 2017, primarily focusing on local high school sports.

“It’s great to have Kobe back in the fold here at RockinghamNow,” said Community Reporter, Joe Dexter.

“When he came in for his senior project last year, it was clear that he was hungry to start his journalism career. His determination and willingness to get it right will take him far and help him grow as he starts his career as a freelancer.

Working alongside Joe Dexter, who has been such an inspiration as my mentor throughout the entire process, will continue to provide more valuable information before I make the journey down I-85 to UNC Charlotte.

Some people may believe that freelancing is not the ideal career choice, but it is definitely a great place to start especially for a student straight out of high school, according to Dexter.

“Not only is it a foot in the door, but anybody that is willing to freelance is showcasing their willingness to step up to the plate when needed and get the tough assignments done,” said Dexter.

“That is a huge part of growing as a young journalist and building a name for themselves. Another major part in growth is getting repetition and freelance opportunities allow up and coming journalists to do so in a professional environment.

I will also have the opportunity to work alongside RockinghamNow Sports Editor, Jim Sands, who has been a vital part of my transition to becoming a freelancer. He will teach me the right ways to cover an event in a sports-minded environment, which will require taking high-quality photos, recording statistics. writing recaps of games, and much more.

According to Sands, being versatile in such a competitive industry is essential to having a career that will last for many years.

“Journalism is constantly changing, and if you want to survive and be successful, you have to adapt to the way people chose to consume their news,” said Sands.

“If you don’t learn how to master the new technology and continue to grow, then you could very well find yourself on the unemployment line.

During these next few months, I am anxious to learn from two established professionals such as Dexter and Sands as they will pass on their knowledge to a new generation. It will be crucial for me to absorb as much information as I possibly can and take full advantage of the unique opportunity that I have been given.

Sands considers it a privilege to teach a student fresh out of high school the most important roles in the daily life of a journalist, before the adventure in the heart of NASCAR community begins in just a few months.

“To work with a young man that is willing to put in the time and effort to learn what it is like to compete in such a challenging field, in my eyes, is a responsibility I don’t take lightly,” said Sands.

“Kobe cares about what he is doing and holds himself to a very high standard. That is part of what sets him apart from most people.

 

The Significance of Alonso to Indy

Photo: Lars Baron

By: Kobe Lambeth

I remember when I first saw the news as I awoke on a beautiful Spring afternoon in April. At first, I believed it was “fake news” or a late April Fools Day prank, but it was shockingly true. Active McLaren-Honda Formula One driver, Fernando Alonso announced that he would skip the Monaco Grand Prix to travel to the United States, in order to compete in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, driving a McLaren-Honda entry fielded by Andretti Autosport.

Honestly, nobody saw this coming. Of course, people probably daydreamed of something significant happening, but not a well-respected Formula One World Champion choosing to miss the biggest grand prix of the year in favor of the American open wheel classic at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In a short amount of time, Alonso will have to learn quickly as the Indianapolis 500 is next month, plus the learning curve is steeper as Alonso has never raced on an oval. After taking a few days of digest the shocking news and listen to hundreds of opinions, there are mixed feelings in the motorsports community about the massive challenge Alonso will face once he takes his first laps around the historic speedway.

Some of Alonso’s F1 rivals seem to support his decision but are questioning the decision to skip Monaco, where the power unit should not play a major factor in lap times compared to other tracks on the F1 circuit. There are some who are completely against the idea of a driver skipping a grand prix and trading Formula One for IndyCar. Finally, those like myself, fully embrace and respect Alonso’s quest to tackle the mindblowing speeds of American oval racing.

I understand that skipping the Monaco Grand Prix may seem like Alonso does not want to be a part of Formula One anymore, but it appears to be a smart decision considering the season has not started off the way everyone at McLaren-Honda envisioned. With the current state of the car and not scoring championship points in the first two rounds, Alonso does not have much to lose by skipping Monaco. The Top 10 finishers are rewarded points while everyone else gets nothing, so leaving for Indianapolis could be for the best this time around.

Both Formula One and IndyCar should benefit from Alonso competing for glory at Indy. Alonso is loved by the fans in Formula One, so his diehard supporters will likely watch their favorite driver on race day. This is a perfect way to introduce IndyCar to a new audience and possibly gain new supporters. Some F1 fans have questioned oval racing, so actually seeing one of their drivers compete in this crown jewel event may give them a new view of something they once doubted.

IndyCar will get new exposure from a worldwide audience with the addition of Fernando Alonso in a livery similar to the McLaren-Honda F1 car. Overall, Formula One and IndyCar will be big winners from this deal. Both series will get worldwide exposure and more fans may pay attention to the events leading up to Memorial Day weekend. However, the ultimate winner is the race fan.

Crossovers are not common anymore due to the rigorous schedules in auto racing series throughout the world. The most recent crossover was in 2014, when Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star, Kurt Busch, attempted “The Double” as he finished 6th in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport and 40th in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after a blown engine for Stewart-Haas Racing. Instead of getting upset at Alonso for choosing Indy over Monaco, we should embrace it as we are lucky to have this historic deal come together in a short amount of time.

How often are we going to get an “active” F1 driver competing in the Indianapolis 500? Although Alexander Rossi won last year’s addition, he was not an active F1 driver at the time, but he was a reserve driver for the now defunct Manor F1 Team. Winning the race as a rookie was absolutely an incredible feat. However, having a driver such as Fernando Alonso with many years of F1 experience, two world championships, and two-time winner of the Monaco Grand Prix truly takes the Indianapolis 500 to a different level.

As a two-time winner of Formula One’s biggest event and a two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso has nothing left to prove in Formula One. He is in the prime of his career and his looking for a new challenge. Racing on an oval where speeds reach 230mph is definitely a challenge for one of the best drivers in the world. There will be so much to learn in such a short amount of time, but I strongly believe that Alonso has the skills necessary to succeed in the 500 mile oval race.

As we wait for May 28, 2017, the excitement will build and there will be many unknowns. For any doubters of this historic challenge, I advise you to be more open-minded and embrace it. This is significant and rare for the worldwide motorsports audience so the spotlight will be on Formula One and IndyCar until the checkered flag is waved. Sometimes, we need a new adventure to refuel our passion for what we truly love.

 

 

Cisneros: “Media has impacted NASCAR in different ways”

Photo: Savannah Blanco

By: Kobe Lambeth

Teenagers in high school often daydream about their future following graduation. Patrisia Cisneros, a 15 year old sophomore, at Valley Center (CA) High School, seems like your typical student but has a deep passion for NASCAR. The pre-race prayer, National Anthem, the command to start engines, and the best drivers in the world going to battle every lap fuels Cisneros’ dream to be a part of the sport in some capacity.

“I’ve been a race fan for 6 to 7 years,” Cisneros told Daily NASCAR Scoop and More.

Outside of her love for NASCAR, Cisneros is a member of her high school’s (Valley Center High School Jaguars) Track and Field team, enjoys spending time with family and friends, and helping out others in need. There are many opportunities to be a part of NASCAR and Cisneros has already done her research narrowing her options down to a few possible career choices.

“A few careers that I’m looking into are sports photography and engineering,” said Cisneros.

In general, sports photography is a great way to get to the race track as a photographer taking pictures during race weekends. Journalists at the track will likely need photos for their articles and having a photographer can prevent a journalist from “double duty.” Sports photographers will be needed as “media has impacted NASCAR in different ways”  by providing breaking news and analysis to the fans. Engineering involves hardcore math and science, which plays a major factor into the product viewed on the racetrack.

As sports photography and engineering are the top career choices of Cisneros, it appears that she is clearly comfortable with one over the other.

“I love taking pictures and NASCAR, so I thought why not put the two things together,” said Cisneros. “This year I started learning some things about photography and it’s something I would like to do as a career.

NASCAR is the one sport that Cisneros truly loves compared to other worldwide sports. However, there is so much more to NASCAR than the on-track product.

“NASCAR is more than a sport, it’s more like a family,” stated Cisneros.
Her claim can be backed up based on the reaction following Austin Dillon’s terrifying crash at the end of the 2015 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Dillon’s  No. 3 car went flying into catchfence, ending a wild crash filled race at the iconic speedway. Crew members from other teams ran onto the track to check on Dillon immediately after the crash. Teams may be rivals for over thirty weeks out of the year, but NASCAR is a family sport at the end of the day.
The atmosphere of NASCAR has truly sparked Cisneros’ confidence to be a part of the sport after she completes her studies. In ten years, she intends to make her dream a reality.
“I see myself living my dream, traveling, and having a great job that I’ll enjoy for years to come.”

2016: Year in Review

Photo: Jim Sands

By: Kobe Lambeth

Dear 2016,

Where did the time go? It felt like I was celebrating the beginning of a new year yesterday and here we are again. A lot has changed in 2016 and I would love to take some time to reflect on a year that has been like a roller coaster at an amusement park.

In November 2015, I launched my own website Daily NASCAR Scoop and More after a very brief stint with The Apex. Many lessons were learned at the start of a new chapter in my life. Previously, I wanted to be a mechanical engineer for a race team, but sometimes we must be brutally honest with ourselves. I finally decided that it was not in the cards to be an engineer as I do not have the math skills to be successful in this area.

This left me wondering if I cannot be a mechanical engineer, then what will I do after high school? Every morning before school, I typically check motorsports news-based websites such as Sportscar 365 to start my day. There are a plethora of extremely talented journalists today in the world of motorsports. Articles written by those individuals made me realize something special about myself.

Throughout my years in school, teachers have always praised my writing skills, so why not pursue a career as a motorsports journalist? I carefully researched the position and discovered that I am truly capable of making it my career. A fellow high school student named Aaron Durant, who has similar aspirations approached me with the idea of joining The Apex. It was very intriguing so I took the offer, although the relationship did not last very long. During my brief stint with The Apex, I learned so much about myself, which led to my decision of starting Daily NASCAR Scoop and More. The experience helped expand my writing skills and I grew tremendously as a person. I would not be where I am today without Durant and The Apex pushing me to improve each and every day.

Now, I reflect on this entire experience as 2016 is nearing its final destination. It has been a fantastic 13 months of writing, building connections, and expanding my horizons in many areas. In general, 2016 has been a challenging year with more responsibilities, difficulties, and interesting circumstances as I am close to entering the world of adulthood. Overcoming any challenge is always a victory.

One word to describe my senior year of high school at the halfway mark is “busy.” The year has truly gone by extremely fast, but shocking revelations about life in the future weigh on my mind. College applications, scholarships, and the senior graduation project caused plenty of stress this semester, which is totally normal for high school seniors around the country.

I chose NASCAR marketing for my senior graduation project and it was quite an experience. We had to do a research paper, portfolio, product, and present our findings to judges, in order to prove that we are the expert on our topic. My most memorable experience from completing this project is learning from a community reporter for RockinghamNow named Joe Dexter.

Many days after school, I went to the newsroom and Dexter shared his expertise and knowledge of journalism with me. Throughout this entire process, I learned the importance of ethics of journalism and maintaining a “never quit” attitude to accomplish all of my goals and dreams. As one of the judges of my presentation told me as I was about to leave, “You and your mentor had a special experience where one professional journalist is passing on knowledge to an aspiring student who wishes to be in the same position.” Knowledge is power.

There are not words to describe how special it was working with Dexter for my project. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to learn the correct way to becoming a professional journalist. Speaking of opportunities, I have received multiple offers to join various websites as one of their contributing journalists. Honestly, I did not expect for my articles to gain so much attention this early in my journey, but I am blessed that others are interested in my services. In my best interest, I believe it is best to continue with Daily NASCAR Scoop and More for the immediate future and help my writing skills grow, before pursuing a better opportunity as I progress through the ranks.

On Christmas day, I appeared in my local newspaper, the Reidsville Review, discussing my goals of covering NASCAR as a motorsports journalist. However, I am open to opportunities in open wheel and sportscar racing. The article was published online the day after Christmas and the rest is history. Family and friends were so excited to see the quiet, small town kid following his heart to pursue his dreams of making it to the race track.

I want to thank my family and friends for believing me and my abilities. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have such wonderful people in my life supporting me. 2016 has been a wild year filled with ups and downs. The year ended on a positive note with people in my hometown of Reidsville, North Carolina noticing my true potential, excelling in academics, and knowing I have the support of others as I move towards a future of unknowns.

A close friend gave me some special advice about heading into 2017 and beyond as 2016 is coming to a close. The answer was quite simple. Ride the momentum.

Sincerely,

Your friendly neighborhood future motorsports journalist

Game Review: NASCAR Heat Evolution

Photo: Gamespot

By: Kobe Lambeth

On September 13, 2016, I purchased NASCAR Heat Evolution just like many NASCAR fans who were eagerly awaiting the newest NASCAR game. Based on the feedback I have received by gamers, the overall response to the game as a whole is not good. Some people referred to the game as “a waste of money” or a “massive disappoint.” In my opinion, the game definitely has its flaws as every video game does, but I certainly see much potential in Dusenberry Martin Racing and Monster Games. Please take into consideration that this is their first game.

When I started playing the game, I loved the fact that we have the opportunity to pick our favorite driver, and have the option to use other drivers at any point. At first, one massive disappoint was unlocking tracks instead of having them all available at first. Also, the graphics and physics were not as “authentic” as I expected. An example of a questionable moment was Martin Truex Jr running in the mid-30s at some tracks. Why is a Chase contender running so poorly? Also, a certain driver is finishing in the top 15 consistently, while driving for an underfunded team. Certainly, it is cool to see an underfunded team finish well at a 1.5 mile track, but is that really realistic at a non-restrictor plate track? At this point, I was seriously thinking about quitting the game and completely give up on it. Then, I started thinking how much it reminded me of my days on PlayStation 2. The days of being a seven-year-old boy enjoying life not caring about the graphics nor physics.

After spending a few hours fiddling around with the game, I began to experience the same happiness I felt as a young elementary school boy learning the ropes about NASCAR racing. Of course, NASCAR Heat Evolution is not perfect because I do not think there is a perfect game in existence.

Close your eyes, think for a minute, clear your mind, and listen to what I have to say. There is a timid boy, who is elected as a section leader in his school’s marching band. However, the other students give him a hard time because they do not think he is capable of being successful. The boy feels awful that his fellow classmates refuse to give him a chance and laugh at the fact that he is a leader. How would you feel if you were in this boy’s shoes? Personally, I would feel terrible and deeply hurt if my classmates thought of me as a leader being a big joke.

I want you to think of the game as the timid boy, who is not given a chance to show his true potential because his classmates are too quick to make assumptions about his leadership abilities. To be honest, this is how I treated NASCAR Heat Evolution and I am very ashamed of myself. My mother taught me not to be so quick to make assumptions about others or something like the video game. As I continued to play the game, I enjoyed it and made some adjustments with the AI to adapt to my skills. I cannot tell you to buy the game or not to buy it because the decision is completely up to you. If you have a special virtue called “patience,” then the game is totally for you. If you are not, then please spend your money elsewhere. Patience is definitely required.

How many of you expected this article to solely be about NASCAR Heat Evolution? If the answer is yes then I have proven my point. Never judge a book by its cover.

Cookies and Milk?

Photo: José Mário Dias

By: Kobe Lambeth

This past weekend, the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans took place. One major storyline from France concerns the future of global prototype racing.

DPi vs LMP2

It appears that trouble is brewing between IMSA and the ACO over the future of prototype racing. It was recently announced that IMSA DPi (Daytona Prototype International) cars will not be allowed to race in the LMP2 category. Originally, the American prototypes were going to be balanced alongside the ACO-spec Gibson engine.  No need to worry about this now as DPi cars will not be allowed to race. The idea of DPi and LMP2 competing together for class honors appears to be in a garbage truck heading to a landfill.

The DPi engine ban might change the minds of team owners who want to go to Le Mans. It is known that Visit Florida Racing is looking to race in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic as early as next year. The main question is, “which LMP2 chassis does the team choose?” They could run a Mazda DPi customer program, return to the General Motors family with a Cadillac DPi, or purchase the ACO-spec LMP2 Gibson. Do you think the DPi engine ban has made it easier for Visit Florida Racing to decide which car to purchase?

We will not see DPi in LMP2, but is there a future in LMP1-Lightweight? This is a very interesting idea to consider in the next few months. IMSA wants to make DPi their top class where you pick one of the four LMP2 constructors (Onroak, Oreca, Dallara, Riley/Multimatic), have the option of running multiple engines, and bodywork which will give the car identity. There is nothing wrong with IMSA’s vision as this will be their top class. LMP1 is where the ACO wants the manufacturers and rightfully so. With the four different chassis and spec engine, LMP2 is the stepping stone for teams wanting to enter LMP1. Once again, there is nothing wrong with the ACO’s philosophy because it works for their championship.

If the 2017 LMP2 regulations were the same as DPi, it would pretty much defeat the purpose of LMP1. It is completely understandable why DPi and LMP2 cannot race together from their point of view. Switching roles, what would the reaction in America be if IMSA used the ACO-spec car as their leading prototype? It would not make any sense for the two prototype divisions to be spec. The DPi formula is perfect for IMSA and they should not let the ACO dictate how they run the show. Two championships, two sets of rules, why can’t we all just get along?

A compromise between the two sanctioning would be a miracle, but anything is possible these days. Close your eyes and imagine DPi cars from the likes of Mazda and Cadillac flying down the Mulsanne straight. All you can do is dream on because this is unrealistic in the ACO’s eyes.

If the DPi cars are not welcomed to Le Mans, then why should ACO-spec cars be welcomed to Daytona? Why is IMSA’s new prototype called “Daytona Prototype International” when there is absolutely nothing international about the formula? Why are we even discussing this topic?

There are so many questions concerning the relationship between IMSA and the ACO. Maybe we need to go old school and have both parties sit down in a room with cookies and milk until a common idea can be reached. The ACO needs IMSA and vice versa. A divorce will not benefit anyone. It will hurt both series, teams, drivers, officials, and everything that makes sportscar racing beautiful. Please, I am begging for the sanctioning bodies to get their act together or we will not like the outcome of the situation. We should definitely be worried about the future of sportscar racing. Do we risk losing the link between America and France?

Will cookies and milk save this rocky relationship? Only time will tell.

 

Fallout from the GEICO 500

Photo: Talladega Superspeedway

By: Kobe Lambeth

The race was fierce at Talladega from start to finish. With a threat of rain throughout the day, the drivers had to race like every lap would be the last. The intensity of this race was remarkable and truly unbelievable. This was one of those restrictor plate races where I did not see the long single file line near the wall at any point during the race which was pretty shocking.

I must admit that the GEICO 500 was the best race that I have witnessed all season long. We had three and four wide action throughout the race. Today’s racing reminded me of spectacular pack racing from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

However, it appears that spectacular crashes will overshadow the great racing we witnessed. The first scary incident of the day occurred when Chris Buescher rolled down the Alabama Gang Superstretch. There was nothing Buescher could do as he was a passenger along for the ride.

Next, The “Big One” struck as Kurt Busch got into the right rear of Jimmie Johnson, which took out more than half of the field. Luckily, every single driver walked away. The next accident was only of the scariest yet.

Michael McDowell was giving Danica Patrick a heck of a push, but everything went wrong when she got into Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth as his Toyota Camry was sent sailing into the air, before sliding on his roof and coming to rest on all fours.

For me, Kenseth’s crash was one of the most frightening incidents in recent memory at Talladega Superspeedway. However, it was nothing compared to Austin Dillon’s spectacular crash last July. First, I want to applaud NASCAR for everything they do to keep our drivers safe. It was hard to believe that Kenseth walked away from such a scary crash.

Unfortunately, crashes are a part of racing and they are more than likely going to happen at places like Daytona and Talladega. There is nothing we can do to prevent it. I must admit that I turned my television off on the final lap because I was sick to my stomach. After watching Buescher and Kenseth have frightening accidents, I was afraid of witnessing another spectacular crash coming to the checkered flag.

Naturally, there was a crash and everyone survived thankfully. NASCAR has done so much to make the sport safer, but you are never going to stop cars from flipping over. It is basic science.

I absolutely love restrictor plate racing and hope that it stays around for many years to come. Today, it was almost a little too much for me to watch. However, today’s mayhem will not stop me from watching these events in the future.

Racing is a dangerous sport. Of course, some of the accidents were difficult to watch, but we must move onto a brighter future. The best drivers in the world risk their lives each and every week behind the wheel. Some fans love this form of racing while others believe that it is equivalent to playing with fire.

We might not agree about restrictor plate racing, but we should all be thankful that everyone survived the chaos. Thanks to NASCAR’s improvements, the drivers involved were able to walk away and go home to their families. I am positive that they will continue to search for answers to improve SAFER barriers and better ways to keep cars from going airborne.

I never thought I would say this, but I am so happy that Talladega Superspeedway is behind us and am looking forward to Kansas. The threat of rain caused the sense of urgency today and it produced some amazing pack racing, but the crashes will stick with me from this event. There are better days ahead for the sport and I will be ready when NASCAR returns to the superspeedway in October. Safety is once again the hot topic.

What did you think of the GEICO 500?

 

Talladega: Where Dreams Come True and Chaos Occurs

Photo: Talladega Superspeedway

By: Kobe Lambeth

When some people hear the name, “Talladega,” they think of complete chaos, edge-of-your-seat racing, and destruction. Look at this beautiful photo above and tell me this gorgeous scene is a place where you often see the carnage. If you follow NASCAR often, then you know that “looks can deceiving.”

Many years ago, one of NASCAR’s founding fathers, Bill France Sr, wanted to build a track bigger and faster track than Daytona International Speedway. His dream finally came true as “Alabama International Motor Speedway” was built. As time passed, the track name changed to Talladega Superspeedway.

However, one thing has not changed about this historic superspeedway. This is a place where dreams can come true and chaos is also lurking in the shadows.

Sprint Cup drivers, Brad Keselowski, and David Ragan will tell you about the true beauty of Talladega as both drivers scored unbelievable wins in recent years.

In 2009, Brad Keselowski was battling Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Carl Edwards for the victory when contact between Edwards and Keselowski ended with a spectacular crash as Edwards car went airborne, crashing into the catchfence upside down.

Certainly not the way to win your first career Cup race, but this victory showed the world that Brad Keselowski had the potential to hang with the best in the business. Look where he is today as a champion in NASCAR’s top series.

BK Racing’s, David Ragan, also had a remarkable victory in the 2013 Spring race when he and teammate, David Gilliland, led a Front Row Motorsports 1-2 finish. A great day at Talladega can be huge for smaller teams in the field.

Restrictor plate racing is definitely a unique form of racing, which gives every single driver the chance to pull into victory lane. Drafting is the “great equalizer” and gives underfunded teams an opportunity to have a dream day in the tight, pack racing environment.

images (1).jpg

Although Talladega Superspeedway is a unique track that can change your life forever, it can also break your heart. Whenever NASCAR goes to the “superspeedways” Daytona and Talladega, there is always a chance for the “Big One,” which is a multi-car crash that happens almost every single restrictor plate event.

The reason for these spectacular crashes is due to the intensity of the tight pack racing. Drivers try to make the move to the front and things happen. Unfortunately, they are unlucky at times. You could ride along in the pack almost the entire race, but get caught up in someone else’s mistake to end your day. It is safe to say that it might take a little luck to be successful at Talladega Superspeedway. There is nowhere to hide.

Restrictor plate racing is risk versus reward.  The best stock car drivers in the world will take the green flag in the Geico 500 as 40 drivers will battle for glory at one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks. The event should provide great edge-of-your-seat racing from start to finish. Will someone battling for the win on the final lap make a mistake and send the field into flames? Is it worth taking that kind of risk just to get the reward?

Some drivers go into Talladega race weekend with the goal of surviving and others see it as an opportunity to make or break their career. When the checkered flag falls on the Geico 500, will we see the usual suspects from Joe Gibbs Racing or Hendrick Motorsports in victory lane? Can an underdog pull off an upset?

Whoever pulls into victory lane will definitely have earned a hard fought victory. The ingredients to success on restrictor plate tracks: stay out of trouble, be confident, make bold moves, hope that lady luck is on your side, and make smart decisions.

No matter what a driver does, it is extremely difficult to put together a “clean” race at Talladega. 188 laps of intense three and sometimes four wide racing in a tight pack is a recipe for disaster. We have 40 soldiers ready to go to battle. Every soldier has a shot to be victorious and make their dreams come true. On the other hand, others might not survive to see the checkered flag as the “Big One” is lurking in the shadows.

This is Talladega.

 

Hildebrand Ready for 100th Indy 500; Optimistic about future

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

By: Kobe Lambeth

As previously announced, JR Hildebrand will return to the Indianapolis 500 with Ed Carpenter Racing as he will have another attempt at one of the most prestigious prizes in all of motorsports.

“It’s the holy grail, particularly for open-wheel guys but I think really for almost anyone on 4 wheels,” said Hildebrand.

“In doing it, you become aware of just how many ways there are to NOT win, how many things you have to not screw up, let alone things you need to do exceptionally well. But it’s for racing immortality, which makes it all worthwhile.”

The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 is going to be an epic event. With Hildebrand joining a strong lineup of himself, Josef Newgarden, and Ed Carpenter, look for all three ECR entries to challenge the likes of Penske and Ganassi.

“I’ve had a great experience with Ed Carpenter and his team over the last two years, notching Top 10s in each of my efforts with the team at Indy,” said Hildebrand.

“I know from that experience that I can win in one of their cars, and I think they feel the same way.  Last year we grew the program to include the Angie’s List GP, and we were looking to grow to even more races from there coming into 2016. Everyone was very much on board with that, but as often happens in racing, we had to manage some financial constraints and refocus on getting things at least just lined back up for the same program we ran last year.  So it was an ongoing conversation since Indy last year that I’m very glad finally came together.”

Ed Carpenter Racing is looking to expand JR Hildebrand’s schedule, but will it be possible to add more races? Will Hildebrand return to IndyCar full-time in the immediate future?

“It’s difficult to say – it’s not been for lack of interest, it’s a conversation I have often with teams, but at the end of the day it comes down to funding in most of the situations that have existed recently,” Hildebrand responded.

“I’m confident based on the opportunities that I’ve discussed with people that I can be back racing full-time very soon.”

Although there is a lot of uncertainty about Hildebrand’s plans beyond the Indianapolis 500, he remains focused on the task at hand: winning the Indianapolis 500 and proving that he belongs in the series full-time.

“Well, I feel that I’m racing for a team that can definitely put a car on track capable of winning, with a good crew and good engineers,” said Hildebrand.

“So, my personal expectation is to have a shot at winning the race – we will prepare with that clearly in focus.  I expect the race itself to be one of the most impressive events anyone has ever seen.”

2016 appears to be a special season in the making for JR Hildebrand and where he will head in his young racing career. If he is unable to return to IndyCar full-time soon, what will happen to the talented California-born open wheel racer?

“There’s a lot of interesting racing out there, from the WEC to Global RallyCross,” said Hildebrand.

“I’d jump in just about anything, and am looking forward to opportunities to do so over the coming year.”

This is just pure speculation, but how cool would it be to see an American sensation named JR Hildebrand to have the opportunity to drive in the FIA World Endurance Championship later this season in an American muscle car?

It was recently announced that Larbre Competition will run a driver evaluation program for potential future factory drivers for Corvette Racing. Could this possibly be Hildebrand’s ticket to sportscar racing as a future Corvette factory ace?

I hope to see JR Hildebrand return to IndyCar as a full-time driver, but it would very intriguing to watch him perform in a Corvette C7R on the world stage.

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From The Eyes of a Professional Journalist

By: Kobe Lambeth

When I first launched Daily NASCAR Scoop and More, I thought my website would be just something that I would do for like a couple of weeks and stop after I grow bored when nobody reads my articles. However, writing articles has become my number one hobby as I have built connections with a few people in the racing community. It does not matter if I receive “zero views” on an article because my hard work is satisfying enough. I love motorsports and my goal is to share that “love” with race fans worldwide.

Sportscar365 was one of the leading factors in my decision to start my website. Lead journalist, John Dagys has done an amazing job by making Sportscar365 one of the best motorsports websites in the world. Going to many races and reporting news to the public appears to be a possible career choice for me, but I am currently weighing all of my options. I had the honor of interviewing a role model for young adults who want to pursue a career in journalism. John Dagys was kind enough to share how he made it to the top of the ladder.

“My passion for journalism and motorsports are closely linked with each other. In fact, it was motorsports that turned me on to journalism. I started a sports car racing Web site, The-Paddock.net, during my senior year of High School with a friend from Germany. I don’t know the exact reason we did it. At the time, it looked like something different and a bit of fun.”

“But I quickly realized that I enjoyed reporting and that I could potentially make a career out of it. We ran the site for 2.5 years, going to races out of our own pockets and not really having any advertising. At the same time, I started taking journalism classes in college and began to learn the ropes of the industry.”

“I decided to stop operating the site in order to pursue higher-profile opportunities, such as working for Motorsport.com, and then by my senior year of college, I was picked up by SPEED Channel to be their sports car racing reporter for SPEED.com. That’s something that lasted a fabulous and memorable 5.5 years before the network’s transformation to FOX Sports 1.”

Dagys came a long way from a high school senior flirting with the idea of becoming a journalist to a well-known figure in the sportscar racing community. For anyone out there considering making motorsports journalism your career, I bet you all are wondering “What does it take to be a well-respected professional journalist?”

Dagys explained, “It takes an extreme amount of dedication and a lot of personal sacrifices. I can’t count the number of holidays or family events I’ve missed over the years in order to be covering races around the world. For me, I put my job as one of my top priorities and that obviously has positives and negatives. But I think one of the keys is being available at all hours and always digging for news.”

“It’s also about building respect and trust with your contacts. Half of the key of being a successful journalist is having a diverse and wide-ranging set of sources that you become close to. Once you build that trust, they can sometimes help you with off-record information, and when you’re able to collaborate that info from other, separate sources, you’re often able to uncover some big stories.”

“That’s how I was fortunate enough to have helped break the ALMS-GRAND-AM merger news in 2012, prior to the official announcement. It was about building up trust with specific industry contacts and knowing you will never give up your sources. Trust is a two-way street and I think is absolutely pivotal in this industry.”

I had no idea that you had to make many sacrifices as a journalist. However, if it is something that you love to do, then follow your dreams and go for it! According to Dagys, there are unfortunately some ups and downs to journalism.

“While I was fortunate to have had a big break in joining SPEED.com at the height of network and website, once that all went away, I was forced to re-invent myself. It was a real tough time for me, but looking back, it was a major turning point as well. While I had offers from other publications, none of them fit the criteria I was chasing. So I decided to go on my own.”

“I started Sportscar365.com less than one month after the network changeover in 2013, as a shot-in-the-dark. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have any investors or advertisers lined up before the launch. I was out there willing to take a risk and see if there was a market for a dedicated sports car racing website.”

“I quickly found out there was and within two weeks of the launch, had a verbal commitment from our first major partner. At that point, I knew there was some serious potential. Sitting here, two-and-a-half years later, Sportscar365 has surpassed my wildest expectations.”

For every risk, there is a reward. Dagys was truly rewarded with the fantastic, well-known Sportscar 365 website, which is popular among the sportscar racing community. With a successful website, comes tons of fun even with the serious nature of running a business.

Dagys stated, “My favorite part of the job is digging up scoops in the industry — items that are not yet officially announced by teams, drivers, series, etc. It’s a huge rush when you can be the first to break news, whether it be a driver moving to a new team, or a change in the regulations.”

“Believe it or not, I very much enjoy the industry-related news over actual reporting of the races, because following and writing about a race is something almost everyone can do. To be among the first to discover a groundbreaking new car, team or series in the works, is something unique and requires much more of your reporting skills.”

It takes talent and skill to be able to do some of the things that John Dagys is able to accomplish. Working hard behind the scenes to bring the latest breaking stories to the public is definitely a talent that makes John Dagys very successful. Being a journalist might be fun and games to the naked eye, but there are a few difficulties, according to Dagys.

“Things such as advertising proposals, contracts, website maintenance, booking travel, taxes, managing staff on multiple continents, etc, can take so much time out of your day and actually detract from the time you could be reporting.”

Also, one problem that I have experienced with my opinionated articles is “lack of views.” Sometimes, it is disappointing when you spend days on an article and nobody pays attention to it. Dagys could relate to this problem.

“There’s been so many articles I’ve written — that I’ve spent a lot of time on — that weren’t hugely popular. But that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

“Strangely, it’s often a lot of the stories that you don’t think would be popular that end up being hits. That’s why it’s important to have a nice mix and balance in reporting.”

As we all know that John Dagys is a great journalist. I began to wonder if the well-respected writer receives some criticism often.

“Sure, I think especially in the Internet age, everyone does. The most public level of criticism is always in the comments section. Not everyone agrees with things, especially when you share your own opinion in articles, which at Sportscar365, we are extremely selective of doing. The goal of the Web site is to provide news and analysis and not tell people what we think is good or bad.”

“But sometimes it doesn’t matter. The biggest thing I’ve learned is not to take it personal. As long as you have the confidence in yourself in your reporting, it will shine through in the long-run and you will become more respected in the industry for stating the facts, or in select cases your opinion, and not change it based on popular belief.”

Professional journalism definitely appears more difficult than it seems but looks like an interesting career choice if you earn the respect that you deserve.

As we end this piece, I want you to see what life is like “From The Eyes of a Professional Journalist,” thanks to Sportscar365’s John Dagys.

“It’s a lot of work. I’m usually up by 5 or 6 a.m., or sometimes earlier, everyday to catch some of the news from the morning in Europe and I often work through 5 or 6 p.m. on weekdays, usually at the computer or in very close reach during that entire time. You never know when news breaks. I also end up having to spend a lot of that time on the business side of things, things I mentioned above.”

“Travel can get pretty intense. I’m usually at tracks between 30-35 weekends a year, totaling more than 200 days on the road annually. It ends up being a lot, but one thing I’ve learned is that in order do the best at your job, you need to be on-site, talking to people and building those relationships. Covering the sport from afar, or watching it on TV doesn’t give you the same results, and I think my dedication to at-track reporting has really helped my career.”