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 February 18, 2011
It’s hard to believe that ten years – an entire decade – has come and gone since the day the NASCAR world stood still. That day is etched in the minds of many race fans like it was yesterday: the blue car flashing across the line as the black one spun across the track in turn 4 and came to rest in the infield. It didn’t look that bad, really; certainly not any worse than the wrecks we saw all the time. Definitely not worse than the wild airborne ride that Tony Stewart had taken earlier that day.
But it was worse.
Dale Earnhardt, the toughest hombre in NASCAR, didn’t walk away. NASCAR’s last hero was gone before the car came to rest in the grass, before Ken Schrader was the first witness to the horrifying scene. Though Earnhardt’s memory lurks everywhere, the void he left behind has never been filled. The empire he was building has crumbled; the sport he helped shape is a mere shell of what it stood to become.
In one moment, NASCAR became a sport with no hero.
Longtime Dale Earnhardt, Inc. employee Steve Hmiel said it best in the days after Earnhardt’s death: “It’s like a compass that’s lost its true North.” In that one moment, the course of NASCAR was forever altered, and without Earnhardt, the sport lost a measure of direction.
No driver since Earnhardt has had the impact the Intimidator had on race fans. He was at once polarizing and uniting – you loved him or you hated him. But everyone was talking about him on Monday, and the sport was booming. In those days, drivers still hit concrete walls, and on a day when NASCAR at last was back to drive away a long, cold winter, the chill winds of change blew cold and cruel, throwing the sport into a tailspin from which it has never been able to recover.
At a time when NASCAR needed a hero and a villain to move the sport into the 21st Century, Earnhardt was both. As blue-collar as it gets, Earnhardt represented an America that is all but gone – an America where you made your own way, and if you worked hard enough, long enough, you just might make it. We were a nation that built things, and Earnhardt symbolized the American Dream-factory worker-turned-magnate, a pauper who built a kingdom. He was everyman.
NASCAR doesn’t have that anymore. Blue-collar champion? We have that in Jimmie Johnson, but he’s not loved for it. Villain? Sure, there’s Kyle Busch, but the ire he draws isn’t the same. Juan Pablo Montoya drives so much like Earnhardt did sometimes that it’s scary, but it’s not the same, and Montoya’s not accepted because he’s an outsider from the open-wheel ranks. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. shoulders a heavy burden with his father’s legacy, and he has legions of fans, but he doesn’t inspire the same excitement on the racetrack as his father did. He shouldn’t have to, either, but there it is.
Earnhardt’s influence in NASCAR went beyond the fans who, often in equal parts, cheered and booed him. He was the driver that NASCAR listened to, the one who influenced the decisions made within the sport. Ironically, Earnhardt’s influence may have played a role that fateful day: NASCAR hadn’t yet mandated head and neck restraints, something which the hard-nosed Intimidator opposed. But his clout was undeniable, and because of that, we are left to wonder about what the sport would be today if that crash could be rewound. Would we have the Chase? The top 35 rule? On the flip side, would there be SAFER barriers at every track and head restraints on every driver? We can only speculate and wonder. Where would Michael Waltrip be today? How about Steve Park? Kenny Wallace? Dale Junior? Lives that may have been very different took the road that was dictated to them by a loss and its aftermath.
Earnhardt was 49 years old on the day he died. It’s likely he’d be retired from driving a decade later, but the race teams he was building were meant to fill that void. While you can’t really blame his widow for not wanting to run the business on her own, it also never ended up where Earnhardt intended all along – with his children, as his legacy in the sport, meant to be there long after he was gone. Sure, his name’s on the operation, but everyone knows it’s only the name, and beyond perhaps the car manufacturer the team’s aligned with, it’s Chip Ganassi’s deal now.
There is no part of the sport that hasn’t been changed since that February day. Even its core – the racing – doesn’t look the same at many tracks. Two-time champion Tony Stewart hadn’t made his first title run. Three future champions were barely a blip on the radar: Matt Kenseth was entering his sophomore season in 2001, and though he’d had a stellar rookie campaign, nobody thought he’d blow them all out of the water in 2003. Kurt Busch was a raw rookie with just a few Cup starts under his belt. Jimmie Johnson, perhaps the best of all in the post-Earnhardt era, had yet to make his Cup debut and was racing for a second-tier Busch Series team. Earnhardt never saw the Nextel/Sprint Cup trophy, never drove the new car, never saw the ugly end to his driver Steve Park’s career.
Perhaps it was fitting that the biggest rival of a large part of Earnhardt’s career won the title in 2001. Jeff Gordon was in many way the antithesis of Earnhardt – young and of a different background, but with a hard, aggressive style that made Earnhardt an admirer even if the fans loathed him. 2001 was Gordon’s last title to date, and in 2011 he finds himself no longer the young rival but the wily veteran.
Perhaps Gordon should be the hero, then; he’s the one driver who raced with Earnhardt when both were in the best years of their careers, at once loved and hated, admired and admonished. The obvious choice behind that is Dale Junior, but that’s not fair-he’s his own man, and the legacy shouldn’t be thrown in his face, shouldn’t be the burden it often is. Sure, it’s a part of him, but it doesn’t define him – and it shouldn’t. Perhaps it should be Stewart, then, who is as bold and brash as Earnhardt but isn’t as easy to identify with. Or maybe Busch, who, like Earnhardt, takes the shortest way around the track, often regardless of who is already there? Busch is even harder than Stewart to identify with, though, coming across as spoiled and with an air of entitlement that Earnhardt didn’t share. Maybe Johnson, who grew up in a trailer park and is as blue-collar as anyone in the sport? No, because Johnson is well spoken, and doesn’t seem like that kid from the trailer park anymore, even though at heart he is.
In many ways, Earnhardt’s death was the beginning of the decline of NASCAR. Oh, the sport boomed alright, and boomed for a few more years, but when Bill France, Jr. also passed, there was so little left of the NASCAR that he and Earnhardt represented that many fans found nothing left of the sport they once knew. New rules followed, and the attempted transformation of the sport into something it wasn’t. That, perhaps, was the last straw. Even as he built an empire in the sport, Earnhardt didn’t change much in the eyes of the fans. He was still blue-collar, still everyman, the guy everyone felt like they somehow knew. Someone they could relate to. Today, the sport is different, and fans don’t have that feeling anymore – they don’t know these drivers, not like they knew, or thought they knew, Dale Earnhardt. Maybe, really, that’s the crux of the decline – the heart of the sport is gone.
There is no hero in NASCAR anymore.
Since that February day – the one that at first made the heart of winter seem like a sunny day in Florida – when the NASCAR we knew changed forever, irrevocably and undeniably, nothing has been quite the same. Something from the heart of NASCAR was taken ten years ago today, something that can never, ever be put back. The sport changed forever in an instant, and the impact of the instant has reverberated through a decade.
But it still seems like yesterday.
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
A very well written column, and a very touching read, Amy. Evrything that you say is true.
Great article Amy
Its to bad that newer fans who know little if anything about the history of the sport and some of its greatest drivers have to always open their mouths/use thier fingers and show their total lack of intelligence.
If we are talking about superior equipment lets look at 2 extremes Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick both in superiour equipment one has 5 championships and the other is luck to finish.
Dale has been the only Driver to win Rookie of the year and follow that up with a Championship.
Yes I was a Big Earnhardt fan, and can only dream about how different nascar would be today if he was still alive.
Randy Goldman is entitled to his opinion and God knows he’ll give it to us even if we don’t want it, but that attack on Dale Earnhardt made me nauseous. Dale didn’t shove his philanthropy down your throat the way the Pettys and some of the others do. Dale Earnhardt did more for improving the sport than anyone in its history had ever done or has since his death. Dale spent so much time in Big Bill France’s office advocating for the drivers that he probably had his own office.
Randy, you can spew counter-opinions for everything that is written on The Frontstretch, but you’re still an asshole who can do nothing but hate and try to anger and stir up controversy. Maybe if you pulled your head out of Danica’s panties for a few minutes and did some research before running your mouth, you’d get a wider view of the sport. You really strike me as a guy who has no friends and uses forums to vent anger. I’m sorry your life sucks.
Randy I wasnt even a fan of Earnhardt, but your post infuriates me.
I cant hardly read an article about Earnhardt without wanting to shed a tear. Thats right a guy I despised and loved to see on jackstands in the garage in the middle of a race, yet missed more than words can express.
You are right Randy, his impact on the sport was simply skewed by his untimely death. Why dont you do everyone here a favor and just go crawl back under the rock you came out from under.
If I ran this site, you would never be allowed to post here, EVER!
You want to assign blame for Earnhardts death, look no further than Nascar. I have been involved in motorsports of both the two wheeled and four wheeled variety since 1964. Over the years I have been a rider, driver, sponsor, race director with any number of responsibilities related to safety that go on and on. What’s the point? Simple; everyone who is or has been involved in motorsports over the years knew back then that Nascar’s record on safety was ludicrous compared to Cart or Formula 1. Medical crews, crush zones, helmets and neck restraints….I could go on and on. Its sad that it took Earnhardts death to move them off the mark.
It has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with the “The right to refuse admittance”
I am all for free speech. However, free speech doesnt grant you the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. You should learn to respect your elders and the ones that have passed before you.
Randy I think you need to kick back and get comfortable and pour yourself a nice big glass of STFU!
Amy….What a wonderful column. That’s the reason I read Frontstretch.
Dale Earnhardt wasn’t a hero and he never tried to be one. Like all the drivers, he just wanted to win races and championships, and he had his own intimidating style of getting that done. I never met the man, but from what I have read, he was a decent man who was greatly respected by his peers (though not always immediately following a race). You might not pull for him, but as long as his car was on the track, you could never count him out. Despite the bleatings of the ignorant, his 76 wins and his 7 championships are evidence that his legacy is secure.
Earnhardt died of a Basilar skull fracture which is precisely the kind of injury the Hans device and others of the same type were designed to prevent. The device was available I would guess about the mid nineties or so. Mr Earnhardt chose not to wear the device which was later mandated by Nascar.
Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Adam Petty, Neil Bonnett, Kenny Irwin, Jr., J.D. McDuffie, John Nemechek, Tony Roper, Bobby Hamilton, Rob Moroso and Tim Richmond were all unavailable for comment.
One of the things I hate in relation to Dale’s passing ( and comments relating) is the fact that so many people view NASCAR as a horrible entity since his passing. There are so many negative comments related to the circuit these days that I wish those who constantly bitch about the sport would simply stop watching or shut the hell up. As much as I respect Dale and his legacy, he was not bigger than the sport. Those fans who can’t get past the fact that change in any vevnue is inevitable—and Dale is not coming back, either need to accept that and move on or find other means of entertainment. I think the racing today is as good as any we’ve seen.
Some of Randy and Jacob’s comments have recently been removed from this thread due to the personal attacks. At this point, I’d like to remind everyone of the rules on this comment page; the next time I have to remove comments by either one of them, it will be the last time they post on any thread within the website. Randy, your posts frequently contain not just your opinion but calculated, controlled messages designed to push the buttons of other people on this website. It’s one thing to disagree, another to be disagreeable and certainly a third to be downright rude. Jacob, you’re no saint either and I’m tired of hearing other people refrain from commenting and/or complaining about each column devolving into a petty argument between the two of you.
Please, everyone keep your attacks to a minimum as we’ll be watching intently going forward. Thank you.
Randy is hit it on the head regarding Sr. (but has a way overblown admiration of Danica). Sr. was an ass. But someone aggressive these days like Kyle Busch is vilified.
Wreckless vs. reckless. Look it up. The spelling police did catch that one…
Randy Goldman is obviously a newbie fan. Dale Sr. was amazing to watch drive a racecar. I saw him do things live and in person at Bristol that NOBODY else could do. You are uninformed and biased. And guess what I’m neot even a Chevy fan. I’m a Ford guy and big Dale ticked me off from time to time but he was a great driver and did a lot for many careers. Dale Jr has won 18 Cup races and he won TWO Busch Cahmpionships for his father. Who knows how good Steve Park could have been if not for his accident. Dale Sr. was not a lousy car owner. You just don’t get it at all do you. Maybe you didn’t like him, that’s fine but the garbage you put on her is unacceptable. You need to look in the mirror and see what kind of person you are because you acome across very bad to most of us. Think about it.
Woah there Jake. Anger isn’t a good thing right now. Put the gun away.
JACOB I DO NOT appreciate your language. This is a FAMILY friendly forum. If you can’t find other vocabulary words to use then maybe you should take your potty mouth to another forum. Apparently someone is uneducated.
Mmmmmm margarita chicken. That sounds good. I’ll have that.
Hey, Jacob, no one asked you to save this web-site or elected you to be oracle-of-the-world.
You now have the chance to take your egotistical and juvenile rants somewhere else where, hopefully, you can bond with people as shallow-minded as yourself.
Editor: It’s time you pulled Jacob’s plug.
Is Dale SR posting from heaven or hell?
Earnhardt’s death ten years ago is still being felt, like you wrote. But it didn’t hurt as much as losing Richie Evans. It’s been 25 years since his death and consider what has happened to the modified tour since. Richie was the same as Dale in that his opinion was important but he always wanted what was best for the series.
Amy, this is another really good column.
What most people do not know is the late great Smokey Yunick designed, patented and built soft walls over 20 years but Bill and Billy France said no way to them. If anyone is to blame for the deaths it is NA$CAR.
What most people do not know is the late great Smokey Yunick designed, patented and built soft walls over 20 years ago but Bill and Billy France said no way to them. If anyone is to blame for the deaths it is NA$CAR.
Great article Amy and to most who posted their comments to. Dale SR was a great driver, SAFETY became a #1 priority with NASCAR since his death and God knows the untimely deaths of Adam Petty, Kenny and more who hit those hard barriers made a big impact by NASCAR mandating softer barriers. As a fan of NASCAR since I was 5, a long time ago, I have been a fan a little over 35 years. I remember when so much was different. If Dale Sr was still with us, a LOT would be different. When he spoke, NASCAR listened. He will always be missed, like him or not…Forever the 3!
Recent articles from Amy Henderson:
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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