Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday August 27, 2010
In late August, summer is in its last glorious days in many parts of the county; cooler weather has already begun to creep in and the once balmy evenings carry just the tiniest taste of autumn’s chill. But with just two races left until the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the NASCAR season is heating up.
The final three months of the season are the most intense. Drivers, teams and fans are caught up in the urgency that builds as the late summer heat fades-urgency to earn an edge in the Chase, urgency to make the Chase, urgency to find some magic or hold onto a ride when it’s clear the Chase is an unreachable goal.
In short (and, given the nature of the sport, in a rather unfortunate cliché) it’s crunch time.
Everyone feels the heat of the Chase. Teams firmly in the top twelve are already working feverishly to find the edge that might yield a season championship. Teams still within reach pull out all the stops to get in. Teams on the outside jockey to salvage their season, to find momentum for next year, to woo a sponsor. But amid all the hoopla, there are five drivers who need to shine in the closing laps of 2010 more than any of the others.
Their reasons and motivation are vastly different. Three will make the Chase and vie for the title. Two will look in from the outside; one from a great distance. One has the title of champion. Three have been contenders, but haven’t been at the top of the mountain. One is trying to hang onto his ride. One is loved and four know the sting of fans’ ire as much as the comfort of the cheers. Two race for a juggernaut team; one fell from that team’s grace. One is racing to return a team to former greatness. One races for a team still building its identity and legacy.
All have one thing in common: a desperate need to distinguish themselves in the final third of the season. They are five who must find something deep inside, must overcome their obstacles. In short, they all have something to prove.
Kevin Harvick Harvick will likely enter the Chase third or fourth in points, barring a pair of wins at Atlanta and Richmond. But he’s also led the points for much of the year. After missing the Chase altogether in 2009 and finishing a dismal 19th in points last year, this in itself can be considered a major accomplishment for Harvick. But this year, it’s also not enough. Harvick has made three of six Chase fields, an inconsistency that is a microcosm of his career. Harvick fluctuates between a menace in the points standings to being a nonfactor, sometimes within the same season.
And that simply has to stop.
Harvick, once the 25-year-old phenom with the unenviable task of piloting Dale Earnhardt’s team after the seven-time champion’s untimely death in the 2001 Daytona 500, is now a 35-year-old who has often verged on greatness of his own-but never quite found it. Oh, he has success-he has wins in all three national touring series, many of those in his own equipment in an era where the winning owner-driver has all but slid off the collective radar. He’s grown up, gone from the kid who tried too hard to be like Earnhardt to being a better, smarter racer who understands the business of racing.
But Harvick isn’t getting any younger, and this year is the best shot he’s had at a title in his career-he must capitalize. No team has shown it can hang onto a hot streak, and that gives this Chase the possibility of being a game of consistency rather than sustained brilliance. Should that play out, Harvick has to be the title favorite-his average finish of 8.8 this year is superb, and nearly four full spots over his previous season best of 12.2. He’s just always there. But should the Chase turn into a battle of victories, Harvick must step his game up a notch, and he hasn’t shown a hot streak like that. As of now, he’s probably the title favorite-but that also means it’s his to lose.
Kyle Busch Busch has proven he can win races at a torrid pace-in NASCAR’s minor leagues. Like Harvick, he has wins in all three national touring series. He has a Nationwide title and has won at every type of track on the circuit. He’s only 25 years old. But Busch also has a big mouth and a less-than stellar attitude, and that coupled with his ability in the Nationwide and truck series means that sooner rather than later, Busch needs to put his money where his mouth is.
The biggest knock on Busch is his apparent lack of focus on his Cup team-and there have been times when he followed up a stellar Nationwide or truck race with a less-than inspired Cup run, making the critics wonder how badly he really wants to be at the top of the most elite series rather than being at the top in a series where it’s much easier to be there. That’s a stigma that Busch needs to put behind him-that while he’s out winning in the development series hand over fist, he’s been an also-ran in Cup. That’s not a good perception.
Busch is enjoying a solid Cup season, but he’ll have to be more than solid in the Chase. For Busch, that’s not as easy as it might be. Busch can be impatient in his drive for glory, and he does have a tendency to be less than willing to give and take with midpack cars. The problem with this is that he may be making enemies with nothing to lose-something a title contender can’t afford. Busch has the talent to make it to the top, but he needs to prove he also has the maturity.
Jimmie Johnson The four-time defending champion has had a miserable summer. His best finish since winning at Loudon is 10th, and he’s been outraced by the likes of Elliott Sadler and Marcos Ambrose-good drivers, but not championship caliber ones. He’s also finished 20th or worse five times in that stretch-well below and dragging down his career average finish. His average finish this year is nearly five spots below even his lowest championship year. In short, he doesn’t even look like a contender.
It’s odd to think of one of the most decorated drivers of this generation as having to prove himself, but Johnson needs to do just that this fall. He’s ninth in points right now, and purists will say that unless he would erase that deficit in real points without the benefit of the Chase reset, that he doesn’t deserve to contend for the title at all.
What Johnson has on his side is a Chase record that is nothing short of spectacular. His team also historically has a summer slump as they prepare for the title run, though it’s never been as dismal as this one. If Johnson and his team aren’t yet showing their hand, he could go back to making the Chase his personal playground and win an unprecedented fifth straight title. But if they don’t have much in reserve, Johnson could also be looking at his worst points finish ever. He needs to show that he can figure out the spoiler-era COT and his team needs to prove that they can overcome adversity like they once could. Otherwise, Johnson’s season is likely to end on a disappointing note. As defending champ the last thing Johnson needs is to go out with the whimper he’s looking to make of late.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. While not mathematically eliminated from contention, realistically, Earnhardt is going to miss the Chase again. Here is a driver who needs to find some magic. He’ll be 36 in October and apparently no closer to a Cup title than he was a decade ago. But NASCAR’s perpetual Most Popular Driver doesn’t need to think about winning the Cup-he simply needs to think about winning.
To that end, missing the Chase may work to Earnhardt’s advantage. He doesn’t have to worry about points racing, only winning. Checkers or wreckers. He doesn’t need to make enemies of Chase contenders, but he needs to show a little of the old fire, the controlled aggression that has made him an 18-time Cup winner. And without having to worry about points, he can do that.
But Earnhardt hasn’t shown that fire, that desire to win, to prove himself, to uphold the Earnhardt name in the record books. Don’t believe for a second that it’s gone, but it’s become a few tenuous embers instead of an inferno. Earnhardt probably has more pressure on him than any other two drivers combined-pressure from media, from fans, from himself. If he can channel that, can find a way to prove the naysayers wrong, he can set up a turnaround that could see him a contender for wins once again. But it needs to happen now.
Scott Speed Speed is the darling of his team ownership, but it’s a team in transition. At the moment there are three drivers and two cars, and Speed the owners’ darling could still be Speed the casualty of the business if he doesn’t give a compelling reason for Team Red Bull to expand to a third team for Kasey Kahne in 2011. Kahne is a marquee name, and the still-growing Red Bull team can use the star power. They made the Chase a year ago with Brian Vickers, proving that the equipment is up to par with the best. Vickers’ ride is safe as he’ll return at Daytona after nearly a year off due to blood clots and subsequent heart surgery-replacing Vickers after he announced his medical clearance would be a PR disaster, with good reason.
If the equipment is up to par, then it’s clearly Speed who hasn’t been, running consistently in the middle or back of the pack and not making a lot of friends. He ran off Vickers’ hand-picked fill-in driver after a run-in of mutual fault, which didn’t make him look like much of a team player, and despite his brash predictions of how easy NASCAR would be after he came to the Cup Series from Formula 1, he hasn’t performed well enough for that to be overlooked.
Speed needs to put together a hot streak and quick if he’s to convince the powers that be to field a third team instead of simply filling his seat with multiple Cup winner Kahne. Even if his ride goes away, Speed can’t afford much less than a stellar fall to beat out the considerable competition for a ride next year. In a nutshell, while the focus is on the drivers gunning for a title, Speed needs to gun for simply a job.
Crunch time is here, and everyone wants to win, to build momentum for next year, to survive this year. But for some drivers, the need to prove themselves is even greater. For these five drivers, a shining close to the season isn’t a plus, it’s a necessity. The time is now. And they have to make it happen.
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“a few tenuous embers…” lololol
He lost the fire with one too many buckets of Bud splashed on him and AMP couldn’t relight the flame and even those embers are out…
Prediction… Jr bales from HMS in 2011 because of another losing season and Sir Rick says “I tried”…. the last hold outs of the Red Army surrender … and RCR says “comon’ home boyiee”
NASCAR….. please give JR back his traction control so he can start winning a few races again.
I saw an interview Dave Despain did with Scott Speed a few years back, Speed is such a conceited jerk. I am so glad to see him fail. RIP Scott….
Even Jimmy Spencer, not a fan of Jr., even said a few weeks ago, that Jr. is driving his behind off. I have heard other announcers say the same thing. Mark Martin has said it. Have you ever seen the 2588 car at HMS be competitive for a championship? HMS is going into this chase behind, so Jr. is running the R&D car, at Bristol KB said something broke on the rearend of Jr.‘s car. At Michigan the announcers said that all of the HMS cars had the engine for the first time. How did they R&D it? Jr.‘s engine blew at Pocono.
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