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.
Amy Henderson and Jeff Wolfe · Wednesday November 20, 2013
Welcome back to Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we’re going to bring them both to you, right here, every week. Two of our staff writers will face off on an important racing question … feel free to tell us what you think in the weekly poll, and also in the comments section below!
This Week’s Question: Will Jimmie Johnson be remembered as the best ever in Cup racing when his career is over?
Jeff Wolfe, Senior Writer: Johnson Stands Alone
We might know now where Jimmie Johnson ranks among the all-time greats of NASCAR. The absolute worst place you can put him, even if he never races again, would be third. He’s got six titles and now is just one behind all-time greats Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty.
Even if you’re a Johnson hater and don’t want to admit he belongs in the greatest of all-time argument, he’s going to force his way into it and probably be winning it, too, before he’s done. Johnson is just 38, a driver for the top team in the sport and he’s got a crew chief who, at his very worst, doesn’t mess things up.
Those are all reasons to think Johnson can win at least two more titles. But here’s the real reason why: He’s not satisfied. At an interview in Philadelphia a couple of years ago, when I asked him if he thought about going for eight titles, since he already had five. I expected a typical “we’ll take it one year at a time” type of response, from a guy that many perceive as being a bit too “vanilla.” But Johnson answered in a confident, but not cocky way, that sure, he and his team have thought about it and is something they want to pursue.
That was pretty much the answer to a lot of questions there. Since he’s got the physical talent and the financial and equipment backing, it’s just a matter of how bad he wants it…and he does want it.
Sure, it’s difficult to compare drivers from different eras and Petty, Earnhardt and , Johnson each represent different eras in the sport. When Petty raced in the first half of his career, essentially, NASCAR was not regulated as closely and before 1972 raced on all different types of tracks, dirt and asphalt, with different –sized fields, ranging from 50 cars some weeks to 15 in other weeks. But that doesn’t subtract from his greatness of winning seven titles and 200 races, a mark that will never be approached in one series. Petty had a stretch between 1967 and 71 where he won 92 of the 248 races run in those years. And to be fair, Petty also had a stretch where he won 37 of 117 races at the beginning of NASCAR’s modern era between 1972-75. That’s King stuff for sure.
Earnhardt’s best five-year stretch came a little later in his career, between ages 35-39, when he won 33 of 145 races, including 11 of 29 in 1987.
Johnson’s best five-year stretch to this point came when he won his first five titles, between ages 30-34, from 2006-2010 when he won 35 of the 180 races on the schedule.
One way to compare Johnson to Earnhardt and Petty is to look at where they were at this stage in their career. So far, Johnson has 66 career victories, leaving him 10 behind Earnhardt. And Johnson has also done something that neither Petty nor Earnhardt did by winning five straight titles. His team is clearly the team to beat every year.
But here’s the thing about Johnson, he’s not done – probably not even close.
He keeps in excellent physical condition and there is no indication that the aging process is going to catch up to him anytime soon. It’s rare that a driver wins a title after hitting age 40, but there’s no reason to think that if Tony Stewart can do it, Johnson can do it, too, and maybe multiple times.
Johnson and his team also enter each season expecting to win the crown. It’s not an “if things work out, maybe we’ll compete for it” type of situation. It’s this high standard that has been met six times and one you know they believe they can meet again.
When it’s all said and done for the driver of the No. 48, he won’t only be the greatest driver of his era, but the greatest NASCAR driver of all-time.
Amy Henderson, Managing Editor: One of the Greatest? Absolutely. The Greatest? There’s No Comparison.
There’s no arguing the fact that Jimmie Johnson is one of the best NASCAR has ever seen behind the wheel of a stock car. Only two men, legends both, have more than Johnson’s six championships at the sport’s highest level, and Johnson took three years less time to reach his sixth. He’s eighth on the all-time wins list with 66 after just 12 seasons. When Johnson’s career does come to an end, will he be written in the collective minds of those who saw him race as the greatest ever?
He shouldn’t be.
That’s not because of Johnson’s accomplishments, which aren’t even all complete yet. While he’s not going to top Richard Petty’s 200 wins (David Pearson’s 105 would be a stretch), he could well eclipse the rest. He’s already a certain first ballot Hall of Famer.
The simple truth is, it’s impossible to make a comparison among the greatest the sport has seen because the sport itself isn’t the same. The season schedules, the points system, and the technology have changed drastically over the years, and because of that, comparisons of drivers from the beginning of the sport until today are just not valid.
Even if you narrow the comparison to the three drivers with the most titles—Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Johnson—there are not enough valid points to put up next to each other. There’s a time span of more than 50 years between the beginning of Petty’s career and Johnson’s latest title. In that time, the way points are awarded has changed. The way the champion is determined has changed with the Chase. The race car itself has undergone several drastic transformations.
Many of Petty’s 200 wins came in an era where the season schedule was much longer, and teams had the luxury of missing a race or two and still contending for the title, so they could skip a track they didn’t do well at, or show up at a race they knew their stiffest competition was sitting out. Simply running more races than the competition was part of winning a title. There were fewer teams capable of winning every week. NASCAR’s inspection process was much more relaxed than it is today, making it easier to creatively engineer speed (and Petty Enterprises, in its heyday, put today’s teams to shame in the “creative engineering” category). Does any of that diminish Petty’s accomplishments? Not at all; he was simply playing the game as it was played at the time, and playing it better than anyone else.
The game had changed by the time Earnhardt was in his heyday. The modern era schedule was much shorter than it was before 1972 and largely shorter than it is today. That meant there were fewer opportunities to win races and one bad race was a bigger part of the whole season than it was before. Titles could be won on consistency. All the serious competitors ran every race, and while competition has tightened up, there were fewer cars in realistic contention for the win week in and week out as there are now. Like Petty, though, Earnhardt won his titles under the rules he was given. He was racing against racers who were all playing by the same rules, and like Petty, he was beating them.
Earnhardt didn’t live to see the Chase change the game into the one Johnson has mastered. Petty sees it as an owner, but hasn’t driven the last two generations of Cup car. It’s not a format that can be compared to anything before it, and it’s really incorrect to say the season results would or would not have been different with or without it, because teams in serious contention use a different strategy for the Chase than they would running a season-long format. It can be said that Johnson would have had fewer titles without benefit of the Chase; it can also be said that Earnhardt would have had fewer with it if the points are simply retallied to fit the other system. Neither of those statements is truly correct because the teams simply would have adapted differently. As long as all 43 teams are running under the same rules at the same time, the game is open for anyone to take, if they can.
If Johnson has the benefit of the Chase (which I’ve already said merely changed how teams approach the season), he has the disadvantage of running in quite possibly the most competitive era the sport has ever seen, where sometimes 12 to 15 teams are legitimate contenders for race wins every week, more than at almost any point in the past.
There are just too many variables to use the numbers as the only way to choose a “greatest” driver ever. And the only other way—watching them race—is equally impractical as it’s far too subjective. Observers all have their opinions about what makes a driver talented, so while one might cite Earnhardt’s aggression on track, another would use Petty’s consistency or Johnson’s smoothness.
While Jimmie Johnson will deservedly go down as one of the best ever to sit behind the wheel of a stock car, the sport has changed too much to call him the greatest. The sport has seen many good drivers, a few great ones, and even fewer truly exceptional wheelmen. Johnson is one of them, and so are Earnhardt and Petty…but none of them raced head-to-head in the prime of their careers, and there’s just no way to say who stands alone, because numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Connect with Jeff!
Connect with Amy!
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Jeff Wolfe and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I might consider Johnson the best when he wins a championship without Chad Knaus. When you have the best car week in and week out, it’s easy to look good.
It is fun to argue but in truth there is no way to win the argument. Petty, Pearson, Earnhardt, Johnson and Gordon are all amongst the greatest. I’m guessing Jimmie is satisfied with that.
If based on wins & championships, I’d say the ‘greatest’ includes Petty, Earnhardt & Johnson (all over 5 wins, over 65 wins [and we know Jimmie will win more races]).
The next level of ‘great’ drivers would include Pearson, Gordon, Waltrip, Yarborough, Stewart & Lee Petty (at least 50 wins [I’m guessing Tony will get there in a year or two] and at least 3 championships).
The third tier would include drivers with close to 50 wins or more plus a championship or two; I’d include Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace, Ned Jarrett, Herb Thomas, Bucky Baker, and Junior Johnson.
I’d move Jeff Gordon up to the first tier if he won that fifth championship.
Preach on, Reverend Carl D. When he does something outside of the Hendrick/Knaus cocoon, then we’ll talk. Ten-plus years of having the best of everything (from the shop to the control tower) doth not the greatest make.
All Johnson has to do is get in another car for somebody else and win. Put someone else in the 48 with Knaus and see how he (or she) does. All the other great drivers (except Petty)won for multiple owners. Until Johnson does he’s just a good driver in a “legal” car.
A good driver in a good car will win races. A good driver in a bad car will do better than the car deserves. A bad driver in a good car is still a bad driver.
Right now Brian designed a system to favour Johnson and Hendrick.
I’d like to know how he’d do if every race meant the same, pointwise. Right now, he’s the master of a 10-race chase. How would he do in a 36-race chase? I’d like to see it.
Jimmie’s not the best ever. I’d say he’s third behind Dale Earnhardt and Richardt Petty. Another thing to consider is how Petty and Earnhardt helped increase NASCAR’s popularity, while it waned while Johnson is winning.
I still say, get rid of the stupid chase, and go back to a decent point system. Whoever devised the old system, knew what he was doing.
Amy…you said without the chase, they would of raced differently. Do you mean like 100% every race, and not just points racing? I still think Johnson would of really only won four championships so far.
To me, the two best in my mind to ever step foot in a race car are Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, it doesn’t matter what Jimmie Johnson does either. Back when Richard Petter and Dale Earnhardt ruled the sport of NASCAR, they had to actually work really really hard, which is why they have that span of titles (16th for Dale Earnhardt & 19th for Richard Petty). Back then, they didn’t have all this fancy stuff you have now. They didn’t have high tech equipment or power steering even when Petty was driving. You compare that to today’s era of NASCAR, drivers have it a LOT more easier. They have the technology and equipment and power steering and so have you, that for a guy to click on like Jimmie Johnson, it’s easy for a guy like him to just run away with it all. And on top of all of that, you bring this Chase thing into it all and it don’t help not one bit. To me in my heart, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty were the best drivers in NASCAR, giving they set the record books and they truly worked hard for it all, regardless of what Mr. Showoff does. Least we know who Hendrick favors the most.
I think it could be argued that Johnson/Knaus are the best driver/crew chief combination ever, but it has yet to be seen if Johnson can go it alone. I believe the time will come when Knaus is tired of the long work hours and quits the crew chief game. Only then will we know if Johnson is really as good as the numbers suggest now.
I don’t think Knaus will get tired. I think what could happen is after 8 championships are won ,which will probably happen in the next 3 years, Knaus will be offered a new challenge. By then Gordon will be ready to retire and Chase Elliott will be ready to take over the seat of the 24. Knaus will take the crew chief job on the 24, build a team and groom that kid into a winner. If that all happens then we will see if Johnson is as good under a different crew chief. Remember what was said about Gordon and Evernham in their times together. Split them up and Gordon doesn’t win as much. Yep, one more championship after Evernham was gone and that was it for Gordon.
Yes, Johnson is the best professional wrasser ever in the new “World Wide Wrassing” (WWW)series created by Brian France in 2003. He’s the Hulk Hogan of Wrassing.
He’s won six “Chase” Championships. Chad(practice during the year and race for the Chase) figured out early that the Chase tracks were the only ones that mattered for the Championship. You have to respect that level of forethought. If the Chase is so important, let’s change the tracks every year and see if the drivers and crew chiefs can adapt. If so, then crown them the Champ!
Recent articles from Amy Henderson:
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.