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
Monday March 3, 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 September 13, 2013
It all changed in a single puff of smoke. When Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota spun in the closing laps of the race at Richmond, Saturday night, it forever altered the way many people will view the sport, the team, and the drivers involved.
NASCAR responded quickly and harshly, handing down large monetary and point penalties to all three Michael Waltrip Racing teams, suspending an employee indefinitely, and changing the Chase field post-point fine. MWR appears to have accepted the penalties without appeal or apology. Media and fans have spent the week digesting the developments, trying to make heads and tails of an impossible scenario.
But in the end, all anyone can do from here is to move forward.
The big question is, how does everyone do that in a manner that minimizes the damage and puts the spotlight back on the racing with ten events still to go in the 2013 season? How do the sanctioning body and the organization they caught in a web of deception put the whole scandal behind them and stop the PR bleeding? Obviously, how this crisis is handled by all involved is crucial, with major public relations and sponsorship implications as both NAPA and 5-Hour Energy are reevaluating their future participation in the sport.
So, what can each party do?
NASCAR — NASCAR put themselves in a tricky spot with the penalty. Going forward, they need to do one of two things regarding this type of infraction: enforce the same penalty every time, or develop a protocol for investigating and punishing this type of manipulation. While they did the right thing in issuing a penalty, taking a strong stand against manipulating a race, the final outcome was poor. The person who actually did the manipulating gets virtually no punishment, while the one who benefited, most likely unknowingly and without participation, got walloped.
The best thing NASCAR could do in the short-term is issue the same penalty to Penske Racing, Front Row Motorsports, David Gilliland, and Joey Logano since it’s come out that a deal made on the spotters’ stand also helped assure Logano a spot (though by gaining just one point, all he really did was avoid a tiebreaker, which Logano would have won). If the sanctioning body doesn’t investigate, issuing a similar penalty, they lose any credibility they may have gained from the original investigation.
Longer term, they need to sit down over the winter and figure this one out. It’s nothing new; Kyle Busch has come out and said Denny Hamlin pulled into the pits for an unneeded stop to help him gain points, and a few years back, then-Hendrick Motorsports driver Casey Mears was told point blank on the radio to let teammate Kyle Busch pass him in the closing laps for the points as Busch was in the Chase and Mears was not. And really, while those situations aren’t exactly positive, are they really that terrible in the long run? Underhanded and poor sportsmanship, to be sure, but there are other things in NASCAR that are both and are not penalized.
There needs to be a better policy here. A harsh penalty for spinning out on purpose is warranted because that’s a real safety issue. Bowyer didn’t collect anyone, but he could have, and that person could have been hurt. Yes, that’s a risk of racing, but it should never be a risk a driver takes because another spins on purpose. It could be argued that Bowyer wasn’t penalized enough; he’s in the Chase, even in the same seeded spot, and after the points reset, takes no hit. He could easily win the whole thing, which would be a PR nightmare for NASCAR and rightfully so.
But coming to pit road, or giving up a spot on track doesn’t really hurt anyone or put an innocent bystander at risk. It’s lousy sportsmanship, but drivers do lots of things that fall into that category: obscenity-laced tirades on the radio, intentional wrecking, and more. So in light of the penalties Brian Vickers and Martin Truex, Jr. were given, NASCAR does need to hit Logano and Gilliland with the same, because of the immediate impact. But in the long run, their violation should not be treated the same as an intentional spin, because it’s really not that big a deal, and has been going on for years. NASCAR needs a policy to cover the whole thing.
Also, there needs to be a more immediate reaction to questionable calls. Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson called for red-flagging an event if there was a questionable incident. “In my opinion, if there is a question they don’t know, they need to stop the race immediately,” he explained this week. “Red flag, pits are closed, figure it out and make the best judgment they can. Because trying to go back on Monday or Tuesday to fix the situation is just too much.” The five-time champion is right, not only in an incident like this one, but also on questionable restarts and other on-track controversies. NASCAR blew two restart calls this weekend, and — coupled with “Spingate” — that puts them in a bad light that could be avoided.
Finally, the incident gives NASCAR a real and credible “out” on a playoff system that has been a complete and utter flop with most fans. The governing body needs to take a serious look at the Chase in the offseason, and give real thought to ditching the format altogether. It hasn’t boosted attendance or ratings, the vast majority of fans want it gone, and now NASCAR has the perfect excuse to make a change back to a season-long title hunt. Will teams still make moves like this one without it? Probably, since they did it before the Chase, the way Truck Series owner Jimmy Smith put a few extra Trucks in the race to quit early if needed to help Ted Musgrave win a title. One of those extra entries wrecked point leader Brendan Gaughan during that race, a move that many have speculated was deliberate. Musgrave didn’t win the title, but neither did Gaughan.
So, removing the Chase wouldn’t eliminate underhandedness… but it would be a popular move, and this gives NASCAR the chance to make it without outright having to admit they made a mistake instituting it in the first place. Perhaps this adjustment is the best PR move NASCAR could make in this situation: give the fans something they’ve wanted for a decade while putting the blame on the actions of the competitors. It’s the perfect out for an organization who won’t ever admit it was a mistake in the first place.
Michael Waltrip Racing — It may be too late for this organization to regain its credibility completely, but there are things they could do to at least stop the bleeding. First and foremost, the team needs to issue an official statement of apology to the other teams in the race and to race fans. The best thing MWR could do right now is to fire Ty Norris, who NASCAR suspended as the mastermind behind the Richmond plan. Norris has a history of being underhanded, and the team needs to cut ties immediately. That clears the way for a statement along the lines of, “This kind of action will not be tolerated by Michael Waltrip Racing, and the person who put our team in this position has been terminated, effective immediately.” Those are the actions of a team who wants to compete on the up and up, who wants to make amends and move forward. Continued support of Bowyer by team ownership only says that the organization condones dangerous, bad behavior.
NAPA, a longtime sponsor of Waltrip and his team, posted a message to its Facebook fans earlier this week indicating that they may pull their sponsorship from the organization. “The actions taken by Michael Waltrip’s Racing team this past weekend leading to the penalties assessed by NASCAR, are very concerning,” said the company. “We are disappointed that a partner associated with our organization would make such a significant error in judgment. In addition, we have launched our own review to determine the future of our partnership with Michael Waltrip’s Racing team. The NAPA AUTO PARTS organization is proud of its long-standing NASCAR relationship. We share a passion with our customers for high quality racing and seek to determine the best course of action for our customers, NASCAR fans, and the NAPA organization.”
Bowyer’s sponsor followed suit. “We respect NASCAR’s penalties against MWR & are addressing our sponsorship relations internally, said 5-Hour Energy via social media. “We appreciate your understanding & patience.”
Losing two of three major partners would be a huge, and possibly fatal, blow to the organization. The team needs to take a stand that tells the companies they should stick around, that they will be represented with integrity and respect. For the future of the company, Michael Waltrip needs to take a stand within the team that bears his name.
Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex is as much a victim in this manipulation as anyone. “I just want to take a min to thank my fans, NAPA AUTO PARTS, Toyota, NASCAR, my fellow competitors, & MWR for their support,” said Truex this week via Twitter. “I was very excited for my team when I learned that we clinched a wild card spot Sat night in Richmond. I drove the hardest race of my life that night & was unaware of any other circumstances other than needing to finish as high as I could to have a chance.” There is absolutely zero reason to believe he isn’t telling the absolute truth.
Going forward, Truex needs to do exactly what he did at Richmond: race hard, run his race, and get the best finishes he can without controversy. He needs to shake hands in hospitality and sign autographs for as many fans as possible. He needs to prove to NAPA that he’s still a good choice to represent their brand. Hopefully, Truex won’t be vilified forever, because he was never a villain at all.
Clint Bowyer — Bowyer is a good guy. Yes, he had a huge lapse in judgment, but here’s what it’s important to remember: he was doing what his bosses told him to do. Yes, he could, and should, have refused. But that’s easier said than done, especially in the heat of the moment. Regardless of the penalty (or, really in Bowyer’s case, lack thereof) the driver needs to make a public apology for his actions, which were dangerous and irresponsible. Should he be out of the Chase? Yes, because at the end of the day, Bowyer did spin in traffic, putting other competitors in danger and throwing his integrity in the faces of race fans.
And from now on Bowyer, like Truex, needs to go to every length to make amends and to repair his damaged reputation. He needs to sign autographs like they’re going out of style, issue an apology, and race clean. That’s all he can do.
NAPA and 5-Hour Energy — The sponsors were put in a tricky situation. In the case of NAPA, they not only are associated with the scandal, but lose the exposure of the Chase as a result. That’s huge, financially and they should reevaluate their program with MWR. However, they should stand by Truex. If that means following the driver to another team (and there are plenty of teams that would be glad to have such a package deal) then that would be a good move. Truex was involved because it was his Chase spot that was gained and then lost, but he wasn’t directly involved in the incident and likely didn’t even know about any plans beforehand. The sponsor should recognize this dichotomy even if they eschew the organization… as perhaps they should.
5-Hour Energy is in the unenviable position of making the right decision, and there are no easy answers. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they decided to move to another team and driver. However, taking Bowyer to another team could also be an option that might not carry too much backlash, especially if they subscribe to Bowyer doing what he was told without time to think about it, and if they consider that the driver issued a heartfelt apology to Ryan Newman after the incident. That says volumes about his character. But does it say enough? That’s what 5-Hour Energy will need to decide.
Leaving MWR would probably be a good move by both sponsors, but it’s hard to say that Truex, in particular, deserves that punishment, and leaving outright could put NAPA between a rock and a hard place with fans. 5-Hour Energy could go either way with Bowyer, who was directly involved and had the opportunity to say no, regardless of who told him to spin.
The minute Clint Bowyer spun, NASCAR and its fans lost a lot of whatever innocence they had left. That can’t be changed nor can it be gotten back. But what all involved do going forward could go a long way toward forging a brighter future out of the ashes… or to forever taint themselves with the stench of underhandedness and lack of integrity. The next days and months are critical for NASCAR, for MWR, the drivers, and the sponsors. The decisions they make will shape a sport, drivers’ careers, and the fans’ perception of the sanctioning body, the team, the drivers, and the sponsors. They have to get it right; there will be no second chances.
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I don’t know if I agree with all of your points; I need some time to consider them at length. However, it’s apparent that you’ve given them a lot of thought and I think you’ve done an excellent job on today’s column. And I don’t need any time to consider one valid point that you made… This the perfect opportunity to get rid of the damned chase once and for all.
The challenge for Nascar is to define what drivers can and can’t do to help another driver once the race starts.
Spin to bring out a caution? Obviously not right. Pitting? Allowing another driver to pass without putting up as much of a fight as possible?
They’ll also need to establish when help is no longer allowed. Will moving out of the way be allowed in the first half of the race but not at the end when things get tight? In some races, but not at Richmond or Homestead?
And will there be exceptions for teammates, and if so, where does one define ‘team’? Another car from the same manufacturer? A blood relative? Someone you go hunting with on off weeks?
And finally, since after this episode, I expect teams to not be as blatant on the radio as was Norris, how will Nascar police it? Will they use statistical analysis, such as they did in determining that Gilliland and Vickers’ times were way off their early lap times? Require teams to preserve the evidence of a tire allegedly going flat in the closing laps?
Nascar also has to be prepared for drivers trying to find loopholes in whatever system is set up. If a driver spinning out is too easily detected, what about a driver who is a bit too aggressive in trying to pass another car and causes an accident? It would be ironic if there were more such crashes because drivers were forced to try and hide the evidence that they were helping out another driver.
It’s a tough task, but unless Nascar wants to go back to the anything goes attitude of the past (which they seemingly can’t do in light of the penalties they handed out this week), they’ve got to come up with a set of rules that the drivers can easily understand.
Finally, getting rid of the Chase doesn’t make this problem go away, although over the course of a 36 race season, it’s less likely that a point here and a point there will make much of a difference. On the other hand, were it not for the Chase, we wouldn’t all be talking about Nascar as much as we are this week, and Richmond would have just been another relatively boring race.
It’s time to bring in Russian President Putin. A true leader to figure out this mess.
Thanks for pointing out that Jimmie Johnson is a five-time champion. I wasn’t aware of that fact.
And it’s sad that MWR doesn’t have the crediblity of better teams like say, Hendrick Motorsports.
Lets hope it all gets worked out.
Good column, I think it hit the big issues spot on. Despite all this controversy, NASCAR has a chance make something positive out of the situation. Will they? Who knows? It would take a lot of ‘crow-eating’ for them to scrap the Chase.
I think all the talk of “putting other competitors in danger” for Boyers spin is taking things a bit far.
We know of three cases where drives most likely have or admitted to spinning on purpose, Boyer and Menard at Richmond and Jr at Bristol. None of them collected any other drivers or damaged their cars. I think that any driver in the series is capable of spinning without putting themselves or anyone else in danger.
If we REALLY want to “clean” up the sport, then nascar needs to define what’s “cheating” or “unfair”.
Is letting a teammate pass you to collect a point fair? How about those “debris” cautions that come out?
Seriously, from top to bottom, all those questions need answers. And there’s LOTS of examples and questions.
I really don’t have a problem with slowing down or speeding up to help a team mate position wise. That’s racing. What I do have a problem with is purposely spinning out, something that could hurt someone else. I would have bounced Boyer for pulling a Piquet.
Have not heard a word from
Have a question? Throw a red flag!
Jimmie and you are both wacko.
Knee jerk reactions like yours is part of this problem. The radiogate nonsense, is business as usual, to now say in the middle of the game it illegal and therefore cheating and needs to be penalized is just flat out wrong. You cannot change the rules in midstream which only satisfies the low information nascar race fan. Shame on you. Lumping these two incidents in the same package is part of the problem the media is grossly negligent in fostering. I fear this is nothing more that a show, in the end this is about getting the underperforming HMS driver in the Chase, and young Logano will be the sacrificial lamb.
I agree with all except the penalty to Lagano. Like Truex he had no idea what was going on.
But… Finishing one point ahead of Gordon —- Lagano in the chase
The solution IMO is to leave Lagano in the Chase but deduct those 3 bonus points Then fine the hell out of Front Row and Penske owners.
Firstly I believe race winners trump non race winners any day but what the 38 did has been done for a long time without penalty. Should a backmarker car be fined if they move out of the preferred race line to let a lead lap car pass?
I agree with your post 100% Tom. The only concern I have is that to calm the idiots who don’t know what they are really raging about, they will now penalize the 22 team to save face. But you don’t change the rules in the middle of the game.
I don’t think I agree with all your points. I’m not even sure I agree with the “put this behind us” concept. NASCAR is allowing Bowyer to compete & possibly win their 10 race trophy. He, along with his organization, were major players in this event. If Bowyer should win the trophy, then how does that look to everyone? Is NASCAR really going to parade him around on TV? I can just hear the late night TV comics making fun of this now!
I agree that NASCAR needs to be more consistent in its enforcement & they need to take a good hard look at their own shortcomings when it comes to manipulating things.
Lastly, its time for the experiment with a “playoffs” to end. Let’s face it, the 48 team has gamed the 10 race trophy system for multiple years now and other teams obviously thought it was time for them to stack the deck, too.
I doubt that I will watch much of these last 10 races. For one thing, my guy is out, not in and the majority of the tracks for these 10 races produce ho-hum events. The weather is the best it ever is in Sept & October where I live, I’ll go outside & enjoy it instead of wasting time on this nonsense.
1 car per owner will correct the problem.
“They just threw out the debris caution? I don’t see no debris nowhere! Throw the red flag!”
“Why is that 48 able to pass everybody and nobody else can do it? Throw the red flag and inspect that car NOW!”
Because you need a scorecard to keep up:
IN then OUT – Martin Truex – because of nothing he did but something his teammate did;
IN – Clint Bowyer – Even though he’s the reason his teammate is out;
OUT then IN – Ryan Newman – Because he might have won if not for something Bowyer did although Bowyer is still in;
IN – Joey Logano – Even though someone else did something that benefitted him and screwed Jeff Gordon;
OUT then IN – Jeff Gordon – because he might have been in except that someone screwed him by helping someone else.
And you thought the Million Second Quiz was complicated…
I’m so sick of Jeff Gordon I hope he wins the championship this year and NA$CAR really see how bad things have gotten!
Jeff Gordon ought to be embarassed, a grown man whining for a sub par season and a ending that might have been if the caution didn’t come out. It pays to be a whiney HMS driver. Oh and the smoke and mirror show of the Logano Radiogate, Nascar got nothing on them and admitted it but the put them on probation for the rest of the year because they talked to another team which has been standard practice for decades…insanely nuts. These idiots have no idea what they are doing.It good to be King Rick…
I think your assessments are pretty harsh.
Sorry for the updated post.
Another perfect example of “I’m making this up as I go.” (Indiana Jones)
Deliberately spinning is REALLY BAD .. but deliberately wrecking someone (cf Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Bush) is .. just sorta bad?
I’d like to see ONE writer here at frontstretch have the guts to go back over the season and tell us which drivers gained extra points when a leader let them by to lead a lap and how those extra points affected the Farce .. err .. Chase.
Let’s not pretend Richmond happened in a vacuum. It was the very predictable outcome of points racing and what NASCAR has become.
And though I’ve never been a Hendrick conspiracy theorist, the latest actions by NASCAR make me believe if it had been, say, Gordon deliberately spinning to help Junior make the chase …. NASCAR would have ignored it.
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