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 November 16, 2012
It’s hard to believe that the NASCAR season ends in just two days-it goes by so fast, and so much has happened since the engines fired in Daytona last February. Anticipation for the end of the title hunt is in the air, but so is the realization that the engines will be silent for the winter. A lot has happened this season, and, looking back, there are a few things that I’ve been thinking about this week as the season closes on a slightly anticlimactic note, with at least two of three championships all but decided before the teams even unload this weekend. So, for one last time during the 2012 NASCAR season, here’s what’s on my mind:
There is no such thing as a bad champion It always makes me scratch my head when fans say that such and such a driver as champion is bad for the sport. This year, the last few weeks have provided a mixed bag of this kind of reaction. One faction says that Jimmie Johnson is bad for the sport because either he’s too vanilla, or his team is less than fair in its dealings. Another group fires back that Brad Keselowski is an arrogant, overbearing type who talks too much about subjects he should leave alone, and that’s just not good for NASCAR. Both sides threaten to stop watching if the other driver wins.
In reality, though, people are allowing one driver to have too much influence over their enjoyment of the sport. The old “but he wins too much” argument has always puzzled me. Anyone who has ever competed seriously at anything will tell you that you can’t ever win too much. Winning isn’t easy and it gets harder as you move up the ranks against stronger competition-if you’re winning often at the top level of any sport, it’s because you are just that good. But here’s the thing I don’t understand…why stop watching a sport you love just because you don’t like the guy winning at the moment? If anything, it makes seeing someone else beat him all the more enjoyable.
Take this season, for example. Headed to Homestead, three drivers are tied for the most wins this year, with five apiece. That means that even if you think that’s too much…someone has beat each of those guys 30 times so far. Even in 1998, when Jeff Gordon was winning 13 races, he also got beat 20 times. If anything, wanting to see that guy get beat should be more motivation to watch. Even if the Red Sox are having a terrible year, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as seeing the Yankees get beat…and I never quite understood why that attitude isn’t always present among racing aficionados.
But as for a champion being bad for the sport? That’s pretty hard to believe. There have been a lot of drivers who a large part of fans didn’t like—seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt comes to mind. Earnhardt won a lot. He often drove in a manner which many fans found distasteful. He was immensely popular among one group of fans, loathed by others. Yet nobody would suggest that Earnhardt was bad for the sport. The same goes for Richard Petty, who was oft accused of cherry-picking races in an era where drivers didn’t run every single race on the schedule and of cheating on numerous occasions, some of which were later admitted. Darrell Waltrip certainly wasn’t known for quietly watching the sport go by. But not one of these drivers, arguably the best of their respective time in the sport, was bad for the sport. Neither were the guys who defied the odds while those guys ruled the roost: champions like Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte, Alan Kulwicki, and Kurt Busch won titles at times when someone else was dominant.
Not liking someone doesn’t make them bad for the sport as a whole. Jimmie Johnson is deeply respected within the garage as one of the best of his era. Brad Keselowski takes some heat for being brash and outspoken or for being arrogant…but he’s not only running with several of the best drivers of an era…he’s beating them, and his outspoken nature certainly bucks a trend. Keselowski, in particular, stands out because he isn’t afraid to speak his mind, something that is sorely missed in today’s sponsor-controlled environment. If anything, he’s good for the sport because he’s a breath of fresh air. He races others with respect. Maybe he was over the top in his post-race remarks last week, but he wasn’t wrong in what he was saying, either. The funny part to me is that I find Johnson and Keselowski to be very much alike in very many ways, and more importantly, both are remarkably talented drivers. When did being an outstanding talent, or saying what one feels needs to be said become a bad thing?
Jeff Gordon’s fine sets an unpleasant precedent Whether or not Jeff Gordon’s retaliation move against Clint Bowyer was justified, NASCAR overreacted. Many people are making a comparison between Gordon’s action and that of Kyle Busch last fall at Texas instead of a more relevant incident, the race in Atlanta a couple years back when Carl Edwards intentionally wrecked Brad Keselowski, sending him airborne in the process. That incident happened under green, Edwards was not on NASCAR probation at the time, and it wasn’t the case of a driver from another series affecting the championship in one where he’s not even eligible for points, as the Busch incident was. Edwards had gone to the garage after tangling with Keselowski (a tangle which Edwards admitted was his own fault), but came back on the track with the sole purpose of exacting revenge. For doing so, at a high speed oval, and sending Keselowski into the air, Edwards received three races’ probation and no points penalty.
And it’s that incident NASCAR should have been comparing this one to. And for the simple reason that the sanctioning body had already set precedent in that incident, taking points was over the top. And while you can argue that this race affected the title race more, there is a flaw in that logic. If a driver were to miss the Chase by the number of points cost him by an intentional hit from a competitor in February, that would have no less of an impact than this one.
But the real issue is the slippery slope the penalty sets up. One, there are already rumblings that once the Chase starts, the drivers not in contention don’t race the Chasers as hard as they should, and it makes the Chase races less exciting. If drivers have to walk on eggshells around the Chasers for fear of wrecking someone lest it look intentional, that’s not going to improve things. It also sets up a scenario where a Chase driver, as long as he’s not mathematically eliminated, can take ten weeks to run over someone not in the Chase for whatever reason, knowing that driver can’t do a thing about it. And I have no doubt that there are a few drivers who would take advantage of that situation.
Finally, race fans spent a long time complaining that drivers were getting penalized unfairly for retribution, so NASCAR instituted the ‘boys have at it’ method of allowing drivers to police themselves. Should the sport go back to the way it used to be, allowing a driver to run over another but penalizing the second driver when he decides not to stand for it? And what about the young drivers, who have traditionally been leaned on until they decide not to take it, stand up for themselves, and earn the respect of the veterans for doing that…should NASCAR stop that step in their learning curve. It’s just too hard to separate out the variables; either NASCAR should let the drivers police themselves, or they should penalize everyone who does, in any situation…that would be consistent all right, but is that what people really want to see?
And since I’ve heard a few people say that Hendrick Motorsports should have appealed Gordon’s penalty because they have Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook “in their pocket…”
Nobody complained about the other three penalties Middlebrook reduced prior to the Hendrick Motorsports hearing this year It would be one thing to complain if Middlebrook had reduced only the one penalty, but that’s not the case. Middlebrook also reduced fines and suspensions for Richard Childress Racing crew chief Shane Wilson and the No. 33 car chief after that car failed a post-race teardown following a win at Loudon in 2010. He also reduced a fine for JD Motorsports owner Johnny Davis after an infraction in the Nationwide Series in 2010 and earlier this year lifted an indefinite suspension on driver Peyton Sellers after Sellers had a physical altercation with a NASCAR official in a regional series.
So, while it’s fine to disagree with Middlebrook’s decision on the Hendrick car, saying that he reduced the penalty out of nepotism isn’t supported by the facts, especially when you also include that Middlebrook is a close personal friend of NASCAR President Mike Helton as well and was once considered a NASCAR advocate in Detroit. In fact, of the five cases he has heard as the highest appeals judge in NASCAR, Middlebrook has reduced four, upholding in its entirety a penalty against the No. 27 team of RCR after the car was found to have modified frame rails on a chassis that had already been certified with NASCAR.
I sort of feel sorry for Danica Patrick No, not for her woes on the track; she’s a rookie, and those will work themselves out. Remember when I said earlier that a rookie will get pushed around until he (or she, in this case) stands up to it? That will happen. That said, I don’t think Jeff Burton turned her intentionally at Phoenix. I think he meant to move her out of the way, because she was holding him up (and moving a car that’s holding you up has always been an accepted practice), but I don’t think he meant to wreck her, and certainly not just because she’s a female.
I’d have expected the same move from Burton no matter who was in the slower car at that point in the race, and yes, he messed up…but he didn’t put Patrick in the wall on purpose, or on purpose just because she’s female. That’s just not the type of driver Jeff Burton is. Burton, incidentally, is a driver who would make a really excellent champion, but it looks as though the days of being a top contender are, unfortunately, behind him.
But that’s kind of beside the point. I feel sorry for her because as of 2014, her teammates will be the three biggest jokesters in the garage. Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, and Kevin Harvick all have a wicked sense of humor. Think Dale Junior gives her a hard time in the Nationwide commercials? Yeah, it’s sort of like that. I kind of hope she gives as good as she gets on that one, because it would make for some great stories.
Finally, the sport could use a few more sponsors like the Miller Brewing Company Seriously, here’s a sponsor that has been in the sport a long time and with the same team to boot. There aren’t a lot of companies that have shown that kind of longevity or loyalty. They could have easily balked at having a then-unproven Brad Keselowski in the Blue Deuce; they had signed on for Kurt Busch, and when Shell-Pennzoil joined Penske Racing and wanted Busch instead, Miller would have had every right to make a scene…but they didn’t, and their decision to stick with the No. 2 and Keselowski is about to pay a huge dividend as he’s poised to bring them the prize that not even Hall of Fame driver Rusty Wallace could in his prime. The company couldn’t ask for a better driver or a better year, but the sport couldn’t ask for a better example of what a sponsor is supposed to be.
And not only has the company been one of the few who has been in the sport since the boomtime of the 1990’s (and much longer), and one of a handful who still sponsor an entire season, they are also a rarity in one other aspect…they don’t stifle Keselowski the way other sponsors do their drivers. That’s a huge part of why Keselowski stands out so much today-he’s allowed to. Many of the drivers who have long been tagged as boring are really toeing the company line. They can only say so much, and they can only say it in a way that won’t offend anyone. That is boring. Between the sponsors and the marketing firms the teams or drivers hire, they’re so watered down it’s hard to tell what they’re really like, and that’s a shame, because a good many would probably surprise a lot of people if they were allowed the rein that Keselowski has to work with.
Keselowski isn’t the first driver Miller has had who speaks his mind and damn the consequences; Wallace and Busch were that way too. But instead of being afraid of it as some companies seem to be, they’ve run with it-and it’s worked. Other sponsors should look at their example-talent is one thing that’s important in a driver, but so is personality. Miller lets theirs have one, and it’s paid off for years. Imagine how much fun the sport would be if all the sponsors followed Miller’s model of letting the drivers be real.
So, it begins and ends this weekend. The final leg of the championship is underway, but the season is coming to an end. It’s bittersweet as always-the excitement of the title hunt countered by the letdown of the end of another year. And, some of the racing aside, it hasn’t been boring.
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Danica was holding up Jeff Burton? I think you are giving him too much credit.
I’d argue that Brad will be bad for the sport if he wins the Championship. But not because I hate Brad. The reason I say he will be bad is because he doesn’t score very well on likeability with most people. I’m not talking about avid fans or the press, but more about his ‘Q’ scoring.
He may be the nicest person on Earth but he just comes across as being unlikeable to the average person. Even Kyle has higher likeability scores than Brad. At this juncture in Nascar having someone not even in the top 10 of popularity amongst Nascar drivers isn’t as helpful as Johnson who is one of the more popular drivers among the average person.
@ SUE -Even I, a long time supporter of the fine MILLER products, don’t much care for Brad K. But, I’m not going to hold that against the MILLER Corp. And, truth be known, I have a weakness for M&Ms also.
As if anyone really cares about the ‘Q’ scores of the cup winner. Please.
@DonMei: Sponsors care about ‘Q’ scores. Television shows try to book people with the highest ‘Q’ score so they can increase their ratings and grab more ‘sponsors’. I can go on and on about who cares but it’s a rating of popularity and Nascar is Entertainment first and foremost. That is the reason it matters.
I wonder what Darell Waltrip’s ‘Q’ rating was in his heyday. Or Cale Yarborough’s. Or Junior Johnson’s. I wonder what Brian France’s ‘Q’ rating is among Nascar fans.
IF Brad wins the championship he’ll be a great champion, and it won’t have anything to do with Madison Avenue alphabet ratings.
Amy, I kinda see your point. Maybe Johnson’s domination of the sport in the chase era (or “because” of the chase era?) hasn’t been a bad thing. Certainly, Tiger Woods dominance of the PGA brought in new fans and help the sport achieve its highest television ratings ever. Not too many people would say Woods was bad for golf.
Still, right or wrong, you can’t argue with the fact that a lot of people are just tired of seeing Johnson win. Maybe it’s because he is the face of the current state of Nascar, which many fans find dreadful. Whether it’s the current cars, the cookie-cutter intermediate tracks, the chase, the bland drivers (or the arrogant ones), whatever… Johnson epitomizes all of the above to a lot of fans. Of course, it’s not his fault, and I suspect in time he will been seen in a more respected light, but you can’t deny the facts. Ratings are down, attendance is down, the sport has been floundering, and Johnson is the catalyst for many fan’s ire.
Hey Sue….what do you think YOUR Q score is on this forum??
@ Joe: Pretty low …But as I always say “I think your confusing me with someone that cares what others think”.
Sometimes reading Amy’s stories is like trying to watch the White House spokesperson defend the latest Obama BS.
Take off the glasses and get real.
the best thing for me ,with brad wining the championship,he can look at carl,denny and kyle an and say..revenge is so sweet.. he got the championship,before, any of the three,who thinks they are such great drivers, and who drove dirty with brad! who got the last laugh on them!!!
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