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.
Andy Hollis · Friday May 11, 2012
Following on from comments around last week’s piece I’ve been cajoled into that most subjective, most impossible of tasks. The top ten drivers. To simplify matters somewhat I’m going to restrict it to the limitations of “in my lifetime….that I remember.” So for the purpose of argument, we’re going to go from Gilles Villeneuve onwards. Let’s call it 1979.
On the matter of bias, I have always favored foot to the floor drivers like Senna over smoothies like Prost or Button so that rather influences some of my choices and positions. Forgive me on that!
So here goes – feel free to argue, disagree, nod sagely or shake angrily – it’s always one to raise debate…
10 – Sebastian Vettel – Number 10 was perhaps the hardest of all the numbers to allocate. I had an idea of who would form the top 9, it was just a question of what order. However, at 10 – which of Vettel, Hamilton or Button should creep in ahead? I’ve plumped for Sebastian by dint of the fact he is a double world champion, and moreover a consecutive champion. Granted the Red Bull has been much the superior piece of machinery over the past couple of years (and it’s advantage as such has actually been underestimated through engine conservation and tyre management. If the cars were flat out, 100% of the time, the Bulls would have been streaks ahead), but then, show me a champ in a slow car. Vettel has the talent to go on to break many more records – he’s fearless, quick in all conditions and for one so young makes very few mistakes. Hence he beats the others to that number 10 spot, with a keen eye on moving further up this table as the years progress.
9 – Nelson Piquet – I’m trying to take the human element out for the next two, as you’ll find few people in the F1 paddock who genuinely warmed to my number 9 or number 8 as individuals, but with that aside, you cannot deny a triple world champion a place in the top 10. Piquet, if nothing else, was a quick and mighty clever driver who would look for any advantage, be it fair or otherwise, to get his car across the finish line first. A master of mind-games and friend to few (other than that most powerful of allies, a certain B. Ecclestone). Put him in a 2012 car, would he be as quick as Vettel? No, probably not. But three championships in an era of some true greats of the sport can’t be sniffed at. Get in at 9 Nelson.
8 – Nigel Mansell – What can we say about Nigel, or Il Leone as the Italians called him. We Brits used to call him “Our Nige” and he engendered a fervent following like few others. In fact I remember going to British races in the 80’s that felt more like the experience (good and bad) of soccer matches that was generated purely by the presence of Mansell. And beer. When it came to bravery and flat-out driving in it’s most violent form, Mansell was peerless. Subtlety and politics, less so. But hey, this is about driving, and just for his raw, unadulterated breakneck pace, “Our Nige” comes in at 8 despite my personal reservations.
7 – Gilles Villeneuve – The man’s gone mad, I hear you scream. The bottom three slots of my top 10 are filled by drivers with a minimum of two driver’s championships apiece, and yet here at 7 we have a man with no championship to his name. Well, many people say that Stirling Moss was the greatest driver never to win a championship. In my lifetime, that unfortunate accolade would most certainly sit with Gilles Villeneuve. Had his life not been tragically cut short following a testing accident at Zolder exactly 30 years ago, then this statistic I am quite sure would be very different. Championships do not always give us a true barometer of talent, and I am sure that Gilles son, Jacques, would tell you that his father’s natural ability was greater, despite the fact it is Jacques that boasts that most desirable trophy.
The reason I put Gilles in ahead of a few multiple champions here though, was his gift for the extraordinary. People most often remember the three-wheeling, wild Gilles, but he was also capable of the most incredible sensitivity with his race car, and his tyre management was equal to his gift to wrestle the most unwieldy of machinery. Just pure talent.
6 – Niki Lauda – Another three-time world champion comes in at number 6 for me. I have a huge bias towards those who come from adversity back to triumph (hence my man at number 4 which I’m sure will be debated) and Lauda perhaps personifies that trait more than any other driver in history. Having been given the last rites following his crash at the Nurburgring in 1977 (yes, I know we’re meant to be going from ‘79 on, but cut me a bit of slack here okay!) Lauda returned despite horrific injuries and burns a mere six weeks later, finishing fourth in a blood-soaked balaclava at the Italian Grand Prix. After retiring at the end of the 1979 season to run his airline business, he returned to the sport in need of cash in 1982 and went on to win the third Grand Prix of his comeback, along with his third title, from team-mate Alain Prost, in 1984. Although it falls slightly outside of the original remit, the ’75, ’77 and ’84 champ comes in at 6.
5 – Fernando Alonso – Alonso for me is the most “complete” of the current crop of drivers (including the post-comeback version of Michael Schumacher). You don’t see the man have a bad race.. He’s exact in his precision, relentless in his pace and has that incredible ability to drive far beyond the capability of the car he is racing in. Moreover, I can’t stress enough how in the hands of ANY of the other drivers around at the moment (and yes, I include Hamilton, Vettel, et al in that statement) you would never, ever have seen that Ferrari on the top step of the podium this season. With Alonso behind the wheel though, it becomes possible, no matter how very unlikely. A double world champion to boot, give him a competitive car and that number will increase exponentially.
4 – Mika Hakkinen – This may be my most controversial selection at number 4, but perhaps I should let others sing the praises of the Flying Finn to explain my reasoning. If you speak to one Michael Schumacher, who knows a thing or two about Formula One, and ask him who his biggest rival was, who he respected the most, who he feared the most, he will always without hesitation tell you it was Hakkinen. Speak to team-mates such as Martin Brundle, and they will tell you that when looking at the telemetry after a practice session, there was always two drivers who could do things with the car that they couldn’t explain. Senna….and Hakkinen. Over a single lap there are few that would argue the point that he was quicker than Schumacher, and across the late 90s to 2000, he was the only man that could hold a candle to the great German driver, and often beat him.
Coupled to that, Hakkinen had returned to the sport after an horrendous crash in practice at Adelaide in 1995 – having had an emergency tracheotomy at the trackside, Hakkinen lapsed into a coma, where upon waking his first “signs” (for he couldn’t speak) were to mime a steering wheel – “when can I drive again?” The damage to his hearing amongst other neurological symptoms continues to this day, but regardless, he came back to win consecutive world championships in 1998 and 1999 (and was unfortunate not to claim the 2000 title as well, but for reliability issues). Bravery, resilience, searing pace. Hakkinen sneaks ahead of Alonso for position 4.
3 – Alain Prost – ‘The Professor’ is my sole concession here to the smooth, effortless style of driving. When you watched Prost, you never got the idea that he was trying awfully hard – no lurid slides, no snatched brakes and locked tyres. It just looked easy. Coupled with this, he held his own against Senna – sometimes through political maneuvering, but more often than not on the track. Never the most comfortable in the wet, he was a sublime talent, and his tally of four world titles means it would be folly not to find a place for him in my top 3. Welcome to the podium Alain, a place you know so well.
2 – Michael Schumacher – Never in the history of Formula One has there been a man so capable of building a winning unit around him as Michael Schumacher. A destroyer of records and holder of a quite incredible 7 world titles, like Alonso now, Schumacher was capable of metronomic precision in a race car and retained the ability to think with an absolute clarity whilst driving at 200mph. Although the Schumacher Mk II currently racing is not quite of the same caliber as his first incarnation, his talent is undeniable. Some may question the quality of the era in which he won his titles, but let’s be honest here. Anyone capable of bringing home the bacon seven times has to be up near the top. Number 2 it is.
1 – Ayrton Senna – Rather than writing a lengthy eulogy about Senna in this piece, my thoughts on the man can be found in last week’s column. All I will say though is that unlike every other position in this list, I never had any doubt over who would fill my top spot. He was the best and it will take an awful lot to shift him from that position in the mind of this writer.
Over to you….!
©2000 - 2008 Andy Hollis and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Oh boy, here we go…
First off, I agree completely on Villeneuve. I’m Canadian, so some might say I’m biased, but anyone who watched him drive wouldn’t know it. People don’t realize how poor the Ferraris were in that 2-3 year span. It would be like someone winning in an HRT this season. Repeatedly.
The fact you started your list in 1979 is soooooooo cheating! It sure makes it a more interesting list…
If I start where I started watching (1990), my list would be quite short—after all, there was a period from the late 90s through early 00s when there was almost no truly GREAT talent other than two drivers.
10. Micheal Schumacher – I know, low on the list for 7 championships, but sorry, when you have tires made specifically FOR YOU, and a policy of having a teammate who won’t race you.
9. Tazio Nuvolari – Many amazing victories, which came in the pre-F1 championship days. Known for making a crappy car to unbelievable things, he scored what many consider the greatest upset victory in racing history:
Driving a beat up old Alfa P3 to victory at the Nurburgring in 1935… Beating Caracciola, Fagioli, Lang, von Brauchitsch and Geyer in factory Mercedes… And Rosemeyer, Varzi, Stuck and Pietsch in factory Auto Union… at the German Grand Prix… in front of a livid Hitler and 300,000 Germans.
8. Gilles Villeneuve – Pretty much what was mentioned above. Drove a car that had no business even in the top 5 to multiple victories. Was 11 seconds faster than everyone else in the rain at Watkins Glen. Last victory in Spain in 1981 had him holding off five faster cars for 2 and a half hours by pure skill and determination alone.
7. Nigel Mansell – People can call him a whiner but mostly it was headhunters in the press that were responsible for his reputation. Only one championship but had either horrible cars or the worst racing luck take away two, possibly three other possible championships. Probably second only to Senna as the QUICKEST pure driver ever. And one of the few never to be intimidated by Senna. Was usually massively quicker than any teammate he was put up against—even despite Nelson Piquet’s political schemes. Once found his car with inferior components to Piquet’s, and demanded he be given Piquet’s backup car. Despite the wrong setup and not being able to fit in the seat, promptly went out and beat Piquet’s lap times by over a second with it.
6. Jackie Stewart – Three championships, all in dominant fashion, in cars that really weren’t all that amazing or innovative—just reliable, and solid. Was the best driver of his generation in the wet, and despite hating Spa and the Nurburgring for safety reasons, was frighteningly fast at them, especially the ‘ring. He was the first real hardcore thinking man’s racer, like Prost later would be, always getting tire choice right, always getting setup choice right.
5. Stirling Moss – Greatest driver never to win a championship, though he basically had one sewed up until he argued FOR his opponent to have a penalty lifted for what he thought was unfair treatment. Probably would have won 2-3 championships if he wasn’t such a gentleman. Fangio’s protege, limitless balls and speed to match. Won a huge number of Grand Prixs despite mostly driving for small, underfunded and underpowered British teams. Won the 1961 Monaco GP in a thrown-together privateer Lotus, beating the two championship-leading Ferraris to the line in one of the closest races in a sport where close races rarely happen. Just as famous for winning Endurance and Sports Car races.
4. Alain Prost – Four championships with two different teams. Yes he typically went wherever the fastest car was, but let’s not forget all the races he won driving for Renault, at a time when the things barely stayed together. A master strategist, he would lay down record-breaking laps while looking like he was out for a Sunday drive. Always picked the right tires, always got the setup for the race right, didn’t care much about qualifying. The only man Senna ever really feared.
3. Ayrton Senna – Would be higher if he wasn’t responsible for some of the worst, most unsportsman-like racing in history. Probably the quickest pure driver in racing history, turned driving into a religious experience (for himself anyway)… Won a billion Monaco Grands Prix in a row, and also managed to win races in an uncompetitive Lotus. The true measure of driving ability is going fast while driving junk, and he basically won his first Monaco start in the rain while driving a Toleman…
2. Juan Manuel Fangio – Like most of the great champions he drove whatever car would win him the most races—even changing in the middle of the season to Mercedes when they debuted! Won 5 world championships and 24 races in an era where the vast majority of cars didn’t even finish races… 47% winning percentage, still the greatest of all time. And did it all at an age when most racing drivers were retiring! Responsible for the greatest comeback in racing history, losing the lead on a botched pit stop at the Nurburgring in 1957, falling almost a full minute behind the leading Ferraris. Broke the lap record 9 times in a row to catch and pass both of them and win the race.
1. Jim Clark – Absolutely demolished the competition. Driving a Lotus certainly helped, but the guy didn’t even need a chassis setup—whatever problem the car had, he simply drove around it. The purest NATURAL, effortless talent to ever drive an F1 car. I have him as number one because he won 25 races and two championships in an era with only 9-10 races a season—and he only drove full time for 6 years! Frequently drove underpowered cars against bigger ones to win, and dominated at his most hated track, Spa. Surely had another couple championships ahead had he not died at Hockenheim. He simply never made mistakes. Whenever other F1 drivers of the era were asked who was the greatest, his name was always the answer.
hmm, I seem to have stopped talking in the middle of Schumacher. Oops. Should read:
*10. Micheal Schumacher * – I know, low on the list for 7 championships, but sorry, when you have tires made specifically FOR YOU, and a policy of having a teammate who won’t race you, it means less for your victories.
Andy: You haven’t lived long enough.
Here we go again! I know many of us were not born then, but there are things like books and videos. That list is almost insulting to a knowledgeable fan! About three of them belong there.I’m pretty much with John except that I would put Fangio at the top of the list. Didnt get to europe until he was almost 40 and won about50% of the races he drove in and did it driving at least four different marques. He also won a pile of sports car races, which at that time, were as important as the GPs. Clark, Stewart, Nuvolari, Moss all belong on that list. I know Mario didnt drive all that much in Formula 1 so we probably could leave him out, but when we do the top ten of all time regardless of series, hes in.
Settle down Don, he DID say “10 best between 1980 and present”…
I remember reading that Gilles would spin in corners so he would know exactly the speed through the corner.
I’d sure like to see Michael drive one of Fangio’s cars.
Haha, yes, sorry Don – this is a list of drivers in my lifetime. Of course in any complete Top 10 list it would be crazy not to have Fangio/Nuvolari/Clark – I quite agree – but don’t be insulted! This isn’t that list!
No doubt… If I went with my lifetime, it’d be something like Senna, Prost, Mansell, Hakkinen, Alonso, Vettel, Button, Schumacher, J. Villeneuve, and uuuh… I guess DC.
DC ahead of Kimi there John……really!?????
Damn right. Two Monaco wins, and spent most of his career being stifled by team orders. Had he been the #1 driver we’d be talking about two or three-time champ DC.
I think you overestimate the supposed damage done to DC from team orders John, as he tends to overegg it himself. He probably genuinely “suffered” from such twice in his career (specifically McLaren) – once an irrelevant race at the end of a season, and another due to a misheard radio call from Hakkinen (who was showing DC his exhaust during that race anyhow) due to the hearing issues Mika had….other than that he was basically just not quick enough and suffered in comparison to Mika as a result. I always considered DC a “decent” driver who until he went to Red Bull was incredibly fortunate to be driving the best cars on the grid (give or take). He for me is a slightly better version of Eddie Irvine, and I’d put Kimi streets ahead of both of them.