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 October 18, 2013
A champion owner who risked everything he had to take his team in a new direction. A popular crew chief who never really had an opportunity to shine. A driver whose once-bright star had tarnished. If they were characters in a movie, it would end in Victory Lane, with everyone smiling. The story would be almost too perfect to be believable.
No, they haven’t made it to Victory Lane yet; that part of the script remains to be written. But the people are real. Bob Germain has two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series titles and certainly could have competed for more in that series. Instead, he made the move into the ultra-competitive Sprint Cup arena where his team was no longer a big fish but a terribly small one… the kind that the big fish have been known to eat for breakfast.
Robert “Bootie” Barker is one of the most popular crew chiefs in the NASCAR garage, thanks in part to his television presence on the old SPEED Channel’s NASCAR Performance show. Barker called the shots for teams like Haas CNC Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing, before the latter was a Chase contender, and has the reputation as a smart, forward-thinking head wrench. Still, he has never had the chance to work as part of a large, upper-echelon organization.
Casey Mears is a Sprint Cup winner and a top-15 driver, but in 2010, he was wondering if that was all in the past. He bounced from organization to organization after losing his ride with Richard Childress Racing his team shut down due to lack of funding. He was enduring the hardest season of his career, running for backmarkers just to stay in the game, when Germain came calling, looking for a driver to replace part-time wheelman Max Papis in the No. 13.
Mears remembers the days when the Cup team had to hide their equipment from poachers at the Truck shop. “When I first came over here, there were 100 employees and about 93 of them worked on the truck teams, and we were in the other shop; we were kind of the stepchild,” he said last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We were just scrapping together parts, trying to put together a decent program. When we first started, it’s kind of funny now, but we were such a big organization (overall) that we felt like the tagalong program when they had full Truck programs. A lot of times, when we were out of town, we had to lock things up because we’d come back and our sway bars would be missing and all that kind of thing. Bob has really put a lot of focus on this 13 car and restructured the whole team to be focused on it.”
It would get much, much harder before the team finally began to see the light of day. With only enough funding from sponsor GEICO to run a partial schedule and few other sponsor prospects, the No. 13 often pulled into the garage early in 2011 and ’12. It was the hardest thing that Mears ever had to do in his racing career. He and the team knew why they had to do it, but they still hated hearing the call on the radio. It was especially difficult when they were having a solid run, passing cars and moving through the field… something that began to happen as the team found its footing in the sport.
2013 saw marked improvement. Seeing the potential that the team had so carefully fostered, GEICO signed on for enough races that the No. 13 car could run to the finish every week. And as the season got underway, the finishes started to get better. Mears had some terrible luck on track in early spring, but he also had some serious success, climbing as high as 17th in the driver standings at one point. Mears is currently 23rd, the best among those running for single-car and other smaller teams. For these underdogs, plastered across NASCAR’s national touring series, being “best in class” is a big deal, a goal to be reached and an accomplishment to be celebrated. The team knows how far they’ve come, how much of a success story they’ve been.
“This year, being able to run our first full season was a big step in the right direction,” says Mears, “But at the same time, it was one of those things when we were all very excited about it and, all of a sudden reality set in. We were like, ‘How are we going to make this work? Logistically, how are we going to make sure that we have all the cars prepared and ready, on time with the guys we have?’ Our guys have stepped up and done a great job. To see it build to this point, we’ve been hugely successful, really, in how we started out to where we are now.”
But how much further could this single-car team take things? As good a team as Mears and Barker have become, without input from other drivers, other crew chiefs, they were limited. At the top of their own tier in Sprint Cup, they were still a big leap away from the next one. A second team wasn’t an option; the team had tried that in 2011, with little reward, and without the resources, it would only drain what they did have faster. Sure, Germain was successful — for an underfunded, single-car program. Germain, Barker, Mears and the entire team knew they could be better than that.
“To see it build to this point, we’ve been hugely successful, really, in how we started out to where we are now,” Mears says. “But to make that next step and crack the top 20, top 15 on a regular basis and have an opportunity to win races… That’s one thing I really have to compliment Bob on. Slowly, over these last three years that I’ve been here, at the end of the day, every time it was time to step up and reaffirm his commitment to what he’s doing, he always has. And he did it again this year; he’s made another big step financially and personally to the program. It’s exciting. We’re getting close to being a viable race team.”
By now, every race fan knows the story of another single-car team, Furniture Row Racing, who formed a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing in 2013 that gave the team an open book with RCR’s teams for information, as well as race chassis and Earnhardt-Childress power under the hood. The team went from limited success — they did win at Darlington in 2011 — to a Chase berth in the span of one season. It was a wonderful success story, a once-in-a-lifetime deal for a small race team. It was exactly the kind of deal the Germain bunch needed to move to the next level.
And last week in Charlotte, they got it.
Germain and RCR formally announced a deal to form a similar alliance beginning in 2014. It’s a deal that in today’s NASCAR is perhaps the only way for a single-car team to advance beyond small-time status, offering full access to RCR’s technical information as well as equipment. RCR driver Kevin Harvick is currently within striking distance of this year’s title, so the parts and pieces they’ll provide are as good as any.
For the No. 13 team, it’s a thrilling opportunity, and the energy it brings them was palpable at Charlotte. “It’s a huge step in the right direction for our program,” says Mears. “The biggest thing that we’ve lacked is quality teammates and partners to be able to gauge ourselves off of. I know from being with big teams in the past that there’s just so much information coming through in practice; having that firsthand knowledge of what the other cars have in them and what guys are doing for tire pressures, what they change throughout practice. All that stuff is going to be a huge benefit. What we understand we’re going to get is a ‘wide open’ book. If that’s the case, it’s going to be a really, really positive step in the right direction for our team.”
Will it be easy? No, and nobody expects it to be. At the next tier of competition in NASCAR, there are a lot of teams fighting for top finishes, and they’re all good, all capable of taking a top 10 or top 5 away from the elite teams. It won’t be a cakewalk… but it will be a chance.
For Mears, what looked like a last-ditch effort just to stay in the game now looks like an opportunity to prove himself as one of the best. He’s proud to have been a part of building the No. 13 team to the level they’re poised to take; he’s an integral cog in the wheel here, something he didn’t always feel driving for the big teams at Ganassi, Hendrick, or Childress. Now, someone from one of those high-level programs respects him enough to go out and take a second chance on his ability.
“It’s not just me, for sure. I feel like I’ve been one of the components, but all these guys on this team have contributed a lot,” says Mears of the differences with Germain – and what happens next. “I’ve had a good relationship with Richard even before I ever drove for him. He’s always been one of those guys — it’s kind of funny — he’s always kind of kept his eye on me. Whenever I had a good run in the 41 car, he was one of the first guys to stop me and say, ‘Man, you did a hell of a job,’ or really give comment, so I always appreciated that from him. When I started driving for him, I really enjoyed it. He gave us all the tools to figure out how to go fast. I really enjoy driving for Bob (Germain) right now, but to have the alliance with RCR and to know that there’s that level of confidence from that organization in my ability is exciting for sure.”
But this team won’t be content just seeking out RCR’s information. They want to be the ones getting sought out, too. “They need to know that we’re taking what they’re giving us and doing good things with it,” Mears continues. “We don’t want to be a team that is just taking from them. We want to contribute to the whole program. The only way we can do that is to utilize that information the best we can and make it to where our program is a viable program to look at from their end, to look at and gain something from as well.”
Germain Racing expects to be able to do that. After all, Barker has made a career out of making more out of less, of turning what a driver tells him on the radio into what the driver needs on the track. His calls have helped the No. 13 take home their first-ever top 10 on an oval this year as well as a handful of top-15 finishes. Mears says the RCR deal gives Barker the ability to do much more.
“Bootie has never really been in that situation before, so I’m excited for him,” says Mears. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of some big organizations where you had guys to lean on. But Bootie’s never really been in a situation like this. When he was a crew chief with Haas, it was just growing and they didn’t really have the same level of alliance with Hendrick at that time. He worked for Bill Davis in Nationwide with Scott Wimmer, and they had some success, but they did a lot of things on their own. I think it’s exciting on a lot of fronts, but Bootie’s excited about it as well because he’s never really been in a situation where you get all that information and he’s excited about it.”
There’s a lot of work ahead for the team; the alliance means they’ll move from Ford to Chevrolet, their second manufacturer switch in two years, and that means changing out many parts and pieces while building new bodies for the race cars. It takes time away from getting chassis ready to race, because they have to start from scratch in some areas. It won’t be as simple as it sounds on the surface.
But it’s a chance. The team is already competitive among its peers. “I would say that we are probably 90% of the time beating the guys we should beat,” Mears says. “Probably 30 to 40 percent of the time, (we’re) beating guys that we probably shouldn’t.”
Now many of the teams that Mears and Co. shouldn’t be beating become the teams they should be competitive against. That will require them to set a new goal for 2014.
“We’re hoping this relationship with RCR really puts us in that next tier where we’re viewing ourselves as a viable, consistent top 20 to top 15 team,” explains Mears. “In my mind, that’s what we need to do. At that point, if we can get running there on a consistent basis, you can start looking at lap times. Usually, the lap times from fifth to 12th or 15th aren’t that different. Once you start getting in that range, you really have something. Once you can say you can run top 15, that means that you can make the right calls, make the right decisions, qualify a little better than the next guy, and have a legitimate shot of being inside the top 10 or top 5 or wins. That’s really where we need to be setting our goals for next year.”
Can they get there? With a lot of hard work and a little luck, yes. Mears is a proven winner. Bob Germain is a proven winner. Barker is hungry to prove himself a winner. If this was a movie, they’d be in Victory Lane at Daytona.
But this is real life, so only time will tell how far Germain Racing and Mears can take the opportunity they’ve been given. At least they have a chance to compete now. Someone believed in the team enough to give them that chance. No, it’s not the silver screen, but for one small team, a sliver lining is plenty.
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Whether they will have any success is down to how you define success.Most likely the best they can hope for is something akin to RPM. Even Furniture Row while running well isnt winning races or seriously on the level of the HMS, JGR, or RFR teams. Childress will however make more money and the show will go on.
As a followup – every time one of the mid pack teams announces a technical connection with a megateam it is big news. This, it is touted will be the key to making that midpack team a race winner. Unfortunately it never works out that way. One could point to the SHR teams championship as an exception. But was it really? Odd how poorly the HMS teams ran during that Chase and how well the #14 ran. But since then the bloom is off of that rose, and none of the other sattelite teams has done anything to speak of. Should we expect anything different here? Or just more of the same.
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