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 · Wednesday January 30, 2008
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines! Hard to believe that command to start the 2008 Sprint Cup season is just 10 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 are previewing the upcoming 2008 season, providing a look into the good, the bad, and the ugly expected to face the sport in the next nine months. Over the next few days, we’ll get you thinking on six different questions we’ve been wondering about ourselves; and 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 understanding enough to realize we could wind up completely wrong?
So, without further ado, here’s Part Three of our preview… and if you missed the first two parts, click the links below to catch up.
Today’s Season Preview Topic: After the success of Juan Pablo Montoya last season, the floodgates opened for a number of open-wheel stars to transition into the NASCAR ranks. But after a win and a Top 25 points finish for Montoya in his rookie season, can any open-wheeler in the rookie class of 2008 duplicate that success – especially considering most of them have even less preparation time and stock car experience under their belts?
Tom Bowles, Editor-In-Chief: (Mondays / Bowles-Eye View)
I think what happened at the Las Vegas test Monday said it all for the 2008 rookie class. No less than four rookies spun in testing – that’s right, testing – with open wheel veterans Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish, Jr. doing some serious damage to their machines.
While both those men have amazing resumes, neither appears ready to tackle NASCAR’s highest level. Heck, Hornish failed to qualify for over half the races he entered last year, and Franchitti is going into the season with zero Sprint Cup starts under his belt. Former Indy 500 and F-1 champ Jacques Villeneuve may actually be the most talented of the bunch; but unlike Montoya, he doesn’t have the funding of a multi-million dollar sponsor backing him, and it’s in question whether his team even has the money to continue beyond the first five races. And Patrick Carpentier? Please … one good race at your hometown track does not a Sprint Cup driver make.
The bottom line here is that this rookie class is going to be the worst since 1998, when Kenny Irwin, Jr. took the ROTY award despite going winless and finishing 28th in Cup points. To be honest, I think it’s going to be tough for any of the rookies to even finish that high.
Kim DeHaven, Senior Editor: (Tuesdays / Numbers Game)
The open wheelers’ racing accomplishments are quite impressive, but I don’t see any of them equaling the stock car success of Montoya. Wins and Top 25 finishes don’t come easily these days, no matter who you are; and while all these drivers have the talent, none are driving what I consider to be top notch equipment. If that wasn’t enough working against them, Carpentier and Villeneuve also have the gargantuan task of qualifying their way into the field each week – meaning they’re under additional pressure from the first practice laps at Daytona.
Cami Starr, Fantasy Racing Editor: (Thursdays / Picks ‘N’ Pans)
I don't think any of the former open wheel Rookie of the Year candidates will find the same success that Montoya did last season. Between Dario Franchitti, Patrick Carpentier, Sam Hornish, Jr., and Jacques Villeneuve, only Villeneuve has a finish in the Top 30 of any oval track event – combined, they have just seven Sprint Cup starts between them. Of course, they will all garner attention on the two road course tracks, the only place where their experience can truly help them. If I had to choose, I think the two that will emerge from the pack are Hornish and Franchitti since they most recently ran in the IRL, which runs at some of the Sprint Cup Series venues; but honestly, don’t expect much.
Toni Montgomery, Senior Editor: (Fridays / Rick Crawford Driver Diary)
The first question you have to ask is are any of these drivers of the caliber of Montoya? You really need to take a good look at who you are talking about. Franchitti and Hornish have nice resumes and good Cup teams â€” Hornish gets the edge on that, but it really doesn’t matter, as he has been less than stellar in stock cars so far. In the meantime, Franchitti will be driving for the same team as Montoya, so you'd be tempted to say, “Well, if Montoya can do it in that equipment, so can he.” However, I have not honestly seen enough of him in a stock car yet to judge how he'll adapt. Villeneuve has a resume that bears a strong resemblance to Montoya's, and he's shown some potential of picking it up fast, too – but he's at a disadvantage with the team he’s with. Last but not least, Carpentier is a great guy, but not quite on the level of the others; plus, Gillett Evernham is coming off a lousy season.
I just think that out of this bunch, when you study them in-depth you see Montoya has the most natural talent to start with, and also had a team decent enough to back him up. So, I just don't expect the rest of these guys to be able to duplicate his feat; Montoya had just the right combination to make it work, and in each of the other cases, there's something missing.
Amy Henderson, Assistant Editor: (Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel)
On paper, the open wheelers coming into the series can duplicate Montoya's success – they are every bit as talented as many drivers on the circuit and among the best drivers in the world. However, it's unlikely that any of them will have that chance. Dario Franchitti has the best shot – he's in the same equipment that Montoya won with last year – but the equipment most of the other open-wheel defectors will take over is second-tier at best. That will be a far bigger handicap than the learning curve…
Matt Taliaferro, Assistant Editor: (Thursdays / Fanning The Flames)
Click here to email Matt your questions for Fanning The Flames this season – our weekly Fan Q & A column!
I do not expect any of the open wheelers coming into the series in 2008 to equal â€” much less surpass â€” Montoya's 2007 results. Montoya is simply a more talented driver than any of the '08 rookie crop. A couple â€” Carpentier, Villeneuve â€” may give it a go on the road courses, but JPM is Tony Stewart-esque; he'll wheel anything with success, no matter what the car is. I don't think we have that type of talent in the incoming class – not someone who can be a winner immediately, anyway.
Matt McLaughlin, Senior Writer: (Mondays / Thinkin’ Out Loud)
Success in one avenue of motorsport is no guarantee of success in a different discipline of the sport. Montoya is the exception, not the rule; and even he floundered at times last year, particularly early in the season. You know, it wasn’t that long ago that Cup owners thought they’d mined gold in the Featherlite Modified and Busch North series; at the time, drivers in those series were moving south and taking the wheel of premiere rides in Cup. With the possible exception of Geoffrey Bodine, that didn’t work out too well, did it?
Jeff Meyer, Senior Writer: (Thursdays / Voices From The Heartland)
The short answer is NO. This open wheel invasion is simply an extension of Brian France's vision to capture the casual fan; now, we have the “casual driver.” All these drivers, Montoya included, drive for second rate teams at best, with the Penske camp probably being the strongest for Sam Hornish, Jr. However, Penske is making no friends whatsoever with the points transfer scam that they are pulling this year. In fact, when you think about it, the whole thing (the No. 2 owner points going to the No. 77 to lock Hornish in the first five races), it’s a clear indication of how little confidence the Penske camp has that the new No. 77 team can compete on its own merits.
Mike Neff, Senior Writer: (Thursdays / Picks ‘N’ Pans)
In two words: no chance. Montoya is an elite talent, and none of these drivers compare. It’s true that Villeneuve is a F-1 champion; but that series is more about engineering than driving ability, and Bill Davis is not elite enough to overcome his rookie mistakes. Speaking of mistakes, Hornish has already proven that he is not ready to be at the front yet after going through the struggles he had last year. As for Carpentier, he has also shown that stock cars are a steep learning curve, one he’s not mastered quite yet. The only outside shot for a rookie win will be Dario Franchitti on a road course; but even then, he’ll be hard pressed to beat his teammate Montoya to the checkered flag.
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 was one of the biggest skeptics when Juan Pablo Montoya moved to NASCAR. I thought his arrogance would overshadow his talent and end up hurting him; but boy, was I wrong! After his 2007 season, it’s hard to put guys like Patrick Carpentier, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Jacques Villeneuve on the same level, and it’s likely the expectations set forth by Montoya will prove higher than what any of the open wheelers will manage this season. One thing is for sure, though; they won’t have to work hard to have a better attitude on and off the track.
Vito Pugliese, Senior Writer: (Tuesdays / Voice Of Vito)
Consideration has to be given to who these open wheelers are and what teams they will be driving for. In particular, with the hire of Dario Franchitti owner Chip Ganassi seems to be making the transition on his team from Good Ol' Boys like Sterling Marlin and Jimmy Spencer to a multi-national contingent of open wheel aces. Now, Roger Penske is bringing his boy Sam Hornish, Jr. to fendered country, providing Indy 500 experience to a team once led by old school NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace.
It’s a big change; however, it's hard to argue against this formula, and it makes it easier to sell sponsorship (Franchitti notwithstanding) when you have drivers who have won marquee events and championships in other series. Hornish and Franchitti are with top flight organizations, but the wake of carnage left behind from Hornish's early Busch Series efforts don't engender much in the way of expectation from him in his rookie year. Franchitti probably stands to have the best shot at success, as he’s paired with Montoya, who now has a full year of NASCAR under his belt and is on equal footing in the COT.
Mike Lovecchio, Senior Writer: (Tuesdays / Who’s Hot And Who’s Not)
I just don't see it. Guys like Jacques Villeneuve and Dario Franchitti may have similar credentials as Montoya, but I don't feel their teams are as focused as Chip Ganassi’s was last year at getting Montoya up to speed quickly. The Colombian may have been a rookie last season, but the No. 42 team was clearly Ganassi's top car; Franchitti won't have that same opportunity. Neither will his rookie compatriots; Bill Davis Racing will be more focused on keeping Dave Blaney inside the Top 35 then helping Villeneuve succeed, and with Gillett Evernham's struggles last season, I don't see Patrick Carpentier having the equipment to regularly finish in the Top 20.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch NASCAR Rookie Expert: (Mondays / Rookie Report)
Each one of these former open wheel standouts are capable of stealing a road course win. As for the rest of the year, Hornish and Franchitti have the best shot at duplicating Montoya's points success because of the Top 35 car owner points position that they are inheriting. We've seen in the past how easy it is to start out behind the eight ball when a driver is not guaranteed a spot in the field; furthermore, once you fall behind, the snowball effect kicks in, and it's difficult to dig out of that hole. Carpentier and Villeneuve will face uphill battles this season because of that.
Nikki Krone, Senior Writer: (Fridays / David Starr Driver Diary)
I think Montoya is almost in a class by himself when you are talking about these incoming open wheel guys. Stock cars have probably been the biggest transition of Montoya’s career, so I was really surprised he did as well as he did in his first season. But now, he has shown that not only can he win regardless of what he’s driving, but he can kick some butt doing it, too.
I think it’s definitely going to be harder for the other guys to follow that, and I don’t expect anyone to burst on the scene the way that Montoya did. Not to say that these other drivers aren’t extremely talented and deserving of the opportunity… I just think it’s going to be very difficult.
S.D. Grady, Newsletter Contributor & Fan Columnist: (Tuesdays / Fan View)
I don’t think so. Even Montoya’s success was sporadic, and his talent was sorely tested by ovals where side-by-side racing never let up. None of the incoming open-wheel class looks comfortable around these monstrous stockcars; this might be an extremely talented rookie class, but they have a steeper learning curve compared to the young men who climbed NASCAR’s developmental system. As a result, I predict a great many wrecked cars and bruised egos to come …
Editor’s Note : Not subscribed to the Frontstretch newsletter yet? Don’t miss your chance; it comes back full-time on Monday, February 4th. Click here to view the archives – including S.D.‘s column from yesterday – and make the move to sign up so you’re all set to go for 2008!
Want a chance to win a FREE Frontstretch T-Shirt! How about a shot at a FREE membership to our Ultimate Fantasy Player Program? Well, Frontstretch has a new 2008 survey out just for YOU! We’re attempting to see what you like about us the most, and what areas you’d like to see improved. Click here to take the survey and do your part to help make one of your favorite websites a better place to be!
It’s that time of year again; are you ready to flip the ignition on another fantasy season? Well, Frontstretch holds the keys to start your dream team, with a long list of new games to go along with the return of our popular Game Of Tomorrow. Check out what we have to offer by clicking here – and don’t forget to come back next week and sign up for our season-long championship. That’ll give you a chance to become the Ultimate Frontstretch Fantasy Player – and win the season-ending trophy and multitude of prizes that go with it!
©2000 - 2008 Frontstretch Staff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Everybody is so hyped about these open-wheelers. The only reason their here is because they bring money. They have talent, but they don’t have the fortitude to succeed in Cup. If he can get good equipment, I think the next rookie of the year will be Michael McDowell. He has adapted to stock cars really well and he actually understands what it takes to make them fast. Eventhough he want make an appearance until the 6th race, he will be the most consistent and have the best finishes if Waltrip can give him good cars. All you have to do is look at his credentials last year in ARCA. Forget the HOTDOGS from open wheel, and keep your eyes on Michael McDowell.
If there is another Montoya, we’d better be prepared for lots of wrecking and fighting! Montoya is a hazard on the track!
I think folks are cutting Carpentier a little short. The short answer to the question is “no”…Montoya is a special talent who can drive anything. However, Carpentier in Champ Car was considered an “Oval Specialist”…now you kick him over the fence and he’s a “road course ringer”? It may take GEM time to get their equipment right, and Carpentier will obviously need time to adjust. But, in what was obviously subpar GEM equipment at Phoenix and Homestead last year, he qualified. If not for poor fuel strategy, he could have easily won at the Glen.
I don’t think he’s gonna set the world afire, but I think he’s likely to not look totally out of place fairly quickly as well.
Michael McDowell has been impressive as well!
The short answer is no. The long answer is that Juan Montoya is something special. Heâ€™s one of those drivers that you could throw in any type of race car at any track in the world and before too long he will be competitive. While the four top ROTY candidates have a wealth of talent, none of them are Juan Pablo caliber drivers.
Dario Franchitti did manage to tie Juan Pablo for the CART title many years ago, but the truth is that when CART had strong full fields and ran a mixed schedule, Dario won one oval event with a pass on pit road. Racing for the premier team against questionable levels of talent in IndyCar he managed to win the championship and the 500 (thanks to rain). He has the advantage of driving for Ganassi, who did it last season with Montoya, and having Montoya as a teammate for assistance in development.
Sam Hornish has the advantage of being the true oval racer in the bunch. Anyone that thinks he has a chance at Sears Point or Watkins Glen actually hasnâ€™t paid much attention to his career. He also races for Penske, and Roger seems to have more faith in Hornish than any driver since Mears. I discount his qualifying troubles last season because Iâ€™m not sure how many times the top 35 rule locked him out when speed could have had him in. The race is obviously between Dario and Hornish since they are the two with the qualifying advantage at this point. Penske seems to be a bit resurgent going into 2008, no one has shied away from picking Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch to make the Chase. Hornish will benefit from their experience and talent the same way Casey Mears has at Hendrick.
Patreeeek? Likeable guy, but he was a career disappointment in CART and ChampCar, and that is where is talent lied. This will be a lot like former F1/CART driver Christian Fittipalidiâ€™s NASCAR effort.
Jacques Villeneuve would have been interesting in 1998, not 2008. Since leaving Williams he has spent his F1 career wanking around the track for a check. He did seem to show some fire again while driving for Peugeot at Le Mans and he is as hard headed and arrogant as anyone, but necessary tools for success in Cup. But the team is 3rd tier at best, they lack funding, and his teammate is another failed open-wheel convert (although this one came from dirt). He has the oval experience and talent, the move is just too late.
The driver talent is there, although not on par with Juan Pablo, but it takes more than just driver talent.
The rookie people are overlooking is Michael McDowell.
Hey Gray.. Of all your notes, I still ponder Hornish’s ability to get it done.. he hasn’t done so in any series in NASCAR.. but then he may have that luck I call “RPWT” – Right Place, Wrong Time. He kept getting caught up in incidents or was having qual problems. We’ll see if this year is his break out year.
I’m really not a fan or Hornish, or Penske at this point. But Roger seems more committed to seeing Sam succeed than anything else. I don’t think he will set the world on fire right away (he was mediocre in Atlantics and most of IRL success is against very weak fields). But this is the age of the cookie cutter and the COT. Enough money and time and he can win…
Want to comment on this article? Visit our Message Board!