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.
Frontstretch Staff · Monday January 28, 2008
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines! Hard to believe that command to start the 2008 Sprint Cup season is just 12 Days Away … and counting.
But as fans anxiously anticipate the end of another offseason, it’s time to get the blood racing and your mind fixated on another year of NASCAR. For the third straight year at Frontstretch, your favorite writers will take the next week to preview the upcoming 2008 season, taking a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly expected to face the sport in the next nine months. We’ll get you thinking on six different questions we’ve been wondering about ourselves; as we try and find the answers, the staff you know and love will come at you with our usual blend of facts, opinion, and most of all … good humor. After all, what good are predictions if we’re not balanced enough to realize we could wind up completely wrong?
So, without further ado, let’s look into the crystal ball as this 2008 version of the Frontstretch NASCAR Preview officially begins…
Today’s Season Preview Topic: As Hendrick Motorsports comes off another year of dominance, the big question will be how much better they are now that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has entered the fold. Emerging from the shadow of DEI, will NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver succeed in his first year with the new team – or will the pressure of high expectations set him up for failure?
Tom Bowles, Editor-In-Chief (Mondays / Bowles-Eye View)
All indications are that Junior is coming into this season more focused than he's ever been. While the expectations are high, it seems like he's relishing the chance to do his talking on the track, rather than deal with making life-changing decisions off it. Carrying a new, clean-cut image to the media throughout January testing, there's no question Junior is ready to subscribe to the Hendrick way of doing things, regardless if some of his personality gets lost in the process.
That makes the driver an easy fit; not only does Junior have the talent, but the chemistry with his teammates is already there. In particular, expect Casey Mears to become Junior's new best friend, and really benefit from the newfound partnership between their two teams. But keep in mind a driver will go only so far as his equipment these days, and my worry for the No. 88 isn't for the man behind the wheel, but the support system around him. Even with some extra time to adjust at the end of ’07, I think crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. - with all due respect - may not be used to the rigorous hours the Hendrick head wrenches keep during the season, and I expect he's in for a bit of a wake-up call. However, as long as that happens quick enough, expect Junior to make the Chase and potentially finish around 5th in points – matching Eury's prediction of four wins along the way.
Kim DeHaven, Senior Editor (Tuesdays / Numbers Game)
Hendrick get better? They’re already great; the addition of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. isn’t going to have a major impact on the performance of such a dominant dynasty. The truth is that lots of seasoned, level-headed drivers could find success behind the wheel of a Hendrick Chevy, and Junior happens to be the lucky one that landed in the seat.
But what Junior will bring with him to Hendrick Motorsports is fans – and lots of them. That wider acceptance will become a blessing for one of the most successful – but most hated – organizations on the circuit. On the track, Junior should have the best season of his career, easily making the Chase and possibly contending for the Championship.
Cami Starr, Fantasy Racing Editor (Thursdays / Picks ‘N’ Pans)
Will Junior's arrival signal an improvement at HMS? Possibly. They may add an extra win or two to their already large tally… but clearly, the driver is the biggest winner in this scenario. While Hendrick will benefit from Junior's popularity and merchandise sales, his driver will reap the biggest rewards of having a reliable, proven product underneath him. After a tumultuous final season with DEI, the dependability of Hendrick powerplants alone will produce a turnaround from last year's results for Junior, when a total of six engine failures took him out of races early. No longer saddled with the excuses of inferior equipment to explain away the lack of wins and titles, we will get to see how great of a driver this guy really is – or isn't.
Well, the pieces appear to add up to what should be a watershed year for NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver. I'm not labeling Junior great yet, but I see a solid year ahead of him with a win or two under his belt, perhaps in the Daytona 500 and a position in the Chase. However, don’t expect a serious title charge in his first season.
Toni Montgomery, Senior Editor (Fridays / Rick Crawford Driver Diary)
Hendrick is a case of where the driver augments the team, not is the team. So, from that standpoint the question is more how much better will Junior be now that he's with HMS? I’ll say this: the pressure of high expectations setting him up for failure would certainly be nothing new. That's been the case at DEI for the last few years now; but I think in all honesty, Junior’s chances of doing better at Hendrick than he's done at DEI – even given the learning curve of a new team – are pretty much a given considering the circumstances.
Amy Henderson, Assistant Editor (Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel)
I don't think it's a matter of HMS being better – they gave up a huge talent for Junior in Kyle Busch – but the move will certainly benefit Junior, personally as well as professionally. I do think one overlooked factor is that his presence benefits the other three Hendrick drivers in specific areas. If Junior can work with Jimmie Johnson on the plate tracks, watch out … and keep in mind that the biggest beneficiary of Junior's move as far as HMS is concerned is Casey Mears. Mears got promoted to the No. 5 team and veteran crew chief Alan Gustafson when Earnhardt came on board, and because of the move to grab Junior, HMS may well find four teams in the Chase in 2008.
But even with those improvements in mind, it's clearly Junior who gets the most out of this deal. He’ll be under a huge amount of pressure to perform, of course; but one could argue that racing for the team that bears his name, as well as his father, was a pressure situation, too. If he can keep his cool with crew chief Cousin Tony, Junior will return to both Victory Lane and the Chase without much of a problem. But realistically, making the Chase and winning the championship are two different things, and Junior will have to get in line behind Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson for that.
Matt Taliaferro, Assistant Editor: (Thursdays / Fanning The Flames)
Click here to email Matt your questions for Fanning The Flames this season!
Junior will be fine at HMSâ€¦ in time. Although he could very well come in and win Daytona right off the bat, he'll require a transition period on the 1.5-milers (as any new driver / team combo does). That said, the best thing Tony Eury Jr. did was go to HMS with a month left in the 2007 season. His being familiar with how things work at Hendrick will inevitably be more important than Dale Jr.'s comfort level in his new digs.
Matt McLaughlin, Senior Writer: (Mondays / Thinkin’ Out Loud)
If there’s ever been a case of too many roosters in a henhouse, it’s this year’s HMS team lineup. Though they profess themselves friends, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson ruffled each other’s feathers more than once in 2007, most notably at Martinsville. That having been said, I expect Earnhardt to do just fine at Hendrick, mostly for psychological reasons. Over the past couple of years, Earnhardt has vocally questioned whether his equipment was up to snuff – sometimes in profane terms. He intimated that DEI wasn’t spending the R & D money necessary to keep up with the rest of the pack, one of many issues that led to his departure.
Expect there to be no such criticism here. Going into this season, Junior knows he has top flight equipment and that Rick Hendrick isn’t shy about spending money to improve his teams. Having Tony Eury, Jr. as his crew chief also gives Earnhardt a huge comfort factor as well, which means things ought to get interesting as early as Jump Street at Daytona. Earnhardt is a proven master of the plate tracks, and he’ll be at the wheel of the same equipment that’s been routinely winning on those plate tracks the last few seasons. Anything less than a win will have the Earnhardt nation wringing their hands, already wondering if Junior made a mistake in signing with HMS.
Jeff Meyer, Senior Writer: (Thursdays / Voices From The Heartland)
The question – as so aptly stated by so many – is not how much better Hendrick Motorsports will be with Junior, but how much better Junior will be with Hendrick Motorsports.
With that said, the most important thing is that Junior can now focus his attention exclusively on driving what is arguably the best equipment out there instead of dealing with off-track issues. Just look at his dad, the late Dale Senior; he may have owned DEI, but he drove for someone else. With the exception of the race that tragically took his life, when Dale Sr. was in a race car, he was simply driving to win and nothing less. Being with Hendrick Motorsports now gives that same luxury of simply driving to Dale Jr., and he will exceed expectations in 2008 because of it.
Mike Neff, Senior Writer: (Thursdays / Picks ‘N’ Pans)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will have more success this year than he did last – there is no question about that. Had it not been for the reliability issues at DEI, in my opinion he would have been solidly in the Chase and in the Top 5 in points by the end of the year.
Seeing as it is his first year with a new team in 2008, Junior probably won’t have a shot at the Championship with Hendrick, but he will win more than one race and be in the Chase.
Tommy Thompson, Senior Writer: (Wednesdays / Thompson In Turn 5)
Popular writer Tommy Thompson couldn’t look into the crystal ball this year – he was too busy having a ball of his own getting married! Congratulations on your marriage, Tommy, from all the Frontstretch Staff … to the fans, Tommy sends his regards and looks forward to returning to the fold next week!
Beth Lunkenheimer, Frontstretch Truck Series Expert: (Fridays / Tearing Apart The Trucks)
I thought a lot of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for making the decision to leave DEI, and I wasn’t that surprised to see him land at Hendrick Motorsports despite owner Rick Hendrick’s insistence there was no room in the stable. Every team change comes with some sort of adjustment period; however, there’s no doubt in my mind that period will be shorter since time won’t have to be spent building the crew chief / driver relationship Earnhardt and Tony Eury, Jr. already have. While expectations for this season are high, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Junior win a couple of races and solidly make the chase, but I don’t see him making a strong run at the championship … yet.
Vito Pugliese, Senior Writer: (Tuesdays / Voice Of Vito)
I look at this a little differently; the way I see it, Rick Hendrick has no choice but to ensure that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is successful, particularly early on - and I think he will be. NASCAR's Most Popular Driver combined with NASCAR's most successful racing organization will need to post results that their sponsors and fans expect to see immediately. Because of that, gone will be two "chosen" teams labeled Nos. 24 and 48, once combined with two cars that often appeared to be little more than R&D machines working by themselves. While Gordon and Johnson adjust, things should fall into place for Junior, as the infighting and behind the scenes drama of working with a reclusive, absentee owner is over for him. Meanwhile, Tony Eury, Jr. has been overwhelmed with the new resources he has at his disposal at HMS – all of which gives Junior the ammunition he needs to be strong right out of the box.
Mike Lovecchio, Senior Writer: (Tuesdays / Who’s Hot And Who’s Not)
The main thing that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. brings to Hendrick Motorsports is the intangible of adding another mature, veteran driver to that mix. Unlike the man he replaced, Kyle Busch, Junior won't throw anybody under the bus and will be more of a teammate then Busch ever was – all while finding the same level of success on the track. I don't expect Junior to come in and instantly compete at the level of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, but I do see him making the Chase and winning three or four races – solid numbers for his first season with the team.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch NASCAR Rookie Expert: (Mondays / Rookie Report)
While I expect good things from this new combination, remember that the Junior and Junior crew chief / driver duo is taking over the lone Hendrick team that was constantly out to lunch over the past 15 years or so (the old No. 25 car). So, you can expect vast improvement … but not a miracle. I think the new No. 88 team gets two wins, a Chase berth, and about an 8th place finish … really not bad for what’s supposed to be a year of “transition.”
Nikki Krone, Senior Writer: (Fridays / David Starr Driver Diary)
As so many have said, I don’t know if it’s how much better HMS is with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. as much as it is how much better he is with them. Before Junior, it was Kyle Busch, who was no slouch and had a few great seasons with the organization. I’m sure I’ll hear it from the Junior fans, but in recent years, I really haven’t seen that he’s a better driver than Busch – so it remains to be seen if he will be more successful than Busch was at Hendrick.
Obviously, HMS can only make more money off of the popularity of Junior – something he most definitely has more of than Kyle Busch – and with his presence, I think there may be a much better chemistry between all the teammates. Junior most definitely can and will make the most of this opportunity to be successful â€¦ I just don’t know if he, performance-wise, can outdo teammates Gordon and Johnson. They have the benefit of being much more comfortable at HMS – having been there so long – and probably will always be the “favorite sons” of Hendrick.
S.D. Grady, Newsletter Contributor & Fan Columnist: (Tuesdays / Fan View)
We’ll see some success for Dale Jr., but I don’t think we’ll see as much as the Junior Faithful would like, though… keep in mind, this is still a new team.
Will Junior visit Victory Lane in 2008? Yes. Will he make the Chase? Probably. Will he be competing for the Cup? No. In 2009? Quite possibly. Again, time is what’s needed for the No. 88 crew to get settled and prepare for a run at the Championship.
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I am a huge Dale JR fan and support him as a driver through everything to come. I personally think Jr will be very strong right out of the box, and am predicting JR to take the championship! I know Jr has it in him to produce race winnings, he now has the proper equipment to do just that. And with also having Tony Jr as his crew chief, I expect wonderful things out of the two of them.
I agree with several of the reporters here. #1-I do agree that Junior is with the one team at Hendrick that has not done well. #2-I do feel Junior is as good a driver as Hendrick drivers of the present and past. Remember…they have really good equipment. Nothing against Kyle Busch or Jimmie Johnson, but would they have been as successful in DEI equipment. #3-Junior in all honesty is with a new team. They make a take a while to gel. At any rate, I hope he is happy & relaxed and knows now that he is genuinely cared about because of who he is, not because he is a “cash cow”.
As a Jr. fan I kinda wanted Jr. to end up with someone else for a crew cheif. Someone he would respect more. I believe Jr. had his best years with Tony Sr. not Jr. His performance went down when Sr. was promoted at DEI. Jr. needs a crew cheif he respects and won’t squabble with like brothers. There is no doubt Tony Jr. has talent but he is too close to Dale Jr.
The press is trying to ratchet up the pressure on Jr. by constantly yapping about all the pressure he’s under. Racing luck and the competition will play as big a role in how well Jr. does on track as anything. Toyota looks like it is through playing possum and is ready to kick butt. Rousch blundered last year by not testing the COT on other tires and is determined to do better. Maybe with Evernham stepping back, Dodge can refocus. And the 24 and 48 aren’t going to roll over and play dead.
But the most important thing to remember about Jr. is the huge grin on his face. He’s happy where he is. He’ll be just fine.
i am a huge dale jr. fan, and i am not a fan of any of the other hendrick, drivers, that being said, i am also glad he went to the place, where he has the better chance of wining races again. i am concerned , that he is taking over the old ‘25’ team!! everone knows, that, was the worst race team over at hendrick“s! any way, i will always be ajr. fan, wher he wins or not. go get them ,jr.!!!!
He’ll match his career averages. Two wins, seventh in points. And the die hard fans will cry out regarding the great triumph of Junior leaving DEI for HMS to reignite his career and show such great improvement. And the naysayers will cry out about how the stats are nothing special and actually disappointing.
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