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.
Huston Ladner and Jeff Wolfe · Wednesday April 10, 2013
Welcome back to Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we’re going to bring them both, right here, every week. Two of our staff writers will face off on an important racing question … feel free to tell us what you think in the weekly poll and also in the comments section below!
This Week’s Question: Is Jimmie Johnson the best NASCAR driver in the 21st century?
Jeff Wolfe, Senior Writer: Johnson is Just That Good
OK, I admit it. I understand why some fans just can’t stand Jimmie Johnson. His story just seemed to be a bit too perfect and the success, it seemed, came a little too easily. Shouldn’t everyone have to struggle a bit before becoming the best at what they do? Even Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
But no matter what your stance on Johnson may be: love him, hate him, or somewhere in between, there’s something that cannot be denied. Johnson has been, to this point, the best NASCAR driver of the 21st century. Hands down.
As we head to Texas, this weekend Johnson has won five Sprint Cup titles and has 62 Sprint Cup race wins, easily the most by anyone between 2000 and today. Sure, there have been some challengers to the top spot, like Tony Stewart, who has three Sprint Cup titles in that span. And if you want to talk about the immediate future, Brad Keselowski seems to be up to making a push, while Kyle Busch has had success across all three series, but is lacking a Sprint Cup title. As for the long-term, there’s the Dillon brothers, or possibly even Kyle Larson and maybe a handful of others who could challenge Johnson in due time.
But from what we know now, Johnson is without question on the pole when it comes to ranking drivers since 2000. And he gave others a head start, not racing his first full Sprint Cup season until 2002. Johnson, who is now 37, won three races in his rookie season and has won at least two every year since then, including a remarkable run of 10 victories in 2007. He now sits eighth on the all-time victories win list, 14 behind the legendary and late Dale Earnhardt.
And while we’re bringing up the Intimidator, whether the so-called Johnson haters like to admit it or not, there’s at least a couple of things that they have in common. One, of course, is that they both found their success driving Chevrolets. The other is that, at the height of their success, they each had more than their share of haters. When Earnhardt won, or Johnson wins, the celebrations have been marked by their fair share of boos from the crowd. Johnson’s win at Martinsville this week is Exhibit A for that; at least one beer can was fired over the fence as he made his victory lap.
At the start of each NASCAR season, when opponents talk about winning the title, they know Johnson is still the guy to beat, and they’ll be the first to tell you that, too. Also, the fact that Johnson not winning a title the past two years is considered a slump by many just shows how high expectations are.
Though many fans only utter Johnson’s name with vitriol, he earned some respect at a press conference during the season after he had won that fifth straight title. I asked him if he had thought about going for the record of seven titles shared by Earnhardt and the great Richard Petty? Many drivers would have said something to the effect that they were just taking it one race at a time, or one season at a time, and to be on the same level as Earnhardt and Petty is something you can only dream of.
But Johnson’s reply was basically, “Yes, we have thought about it, and we want to go for the record.” He didn’t say it in a way that was cocky or demeaning to current drivers, or to the legendary ones he’d be beating. But he did say it with a confidence that couldn’t be ignored because everyone knows, whether they like to admit it or not, that it’s quite possible for him to reach seven titles, maybe more. While Johnson is no stranger to controversy, it was a bit refreshing to hear him say he and his team were going to go for it — at least he was telling the truth.
Along with the titles and victories, the boos and confidence that come with being the best, there are other parts of being the best that aren’t related to sitting in the car and driving. One of the driver’s jobs in these economic times is to attract and keep big money sponsors. Johnson has had one primary backer his entire Sprint Cup career in Lowe’s. He understands how that part of the game is played because he knows without the big money sponsor, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to be a big-time winner. Johnson first had to face that reality at age 14 when he had to hunt for his own funding, and he’s never forgotten that early lesson.
The five-time champion also takes at least some value in being a team player. It was two years ago, when Kasey Kahne was scheduled to join Hendrick Motorsports but wasn’t on the team yet, that Johnson went out and ran a 5K with his future teammate the day after a Saturday night race. That also shows that Johnson takes his physical conditioning seriously. He understands that being on the top is not easy and he doesn’t take it for granted.
Jimmie Johnson has, without a doubt, made himself into the premier NASCAR driver of this century so far. And if this season tells us anything, the current points leader has no plans to do anything but continue to be the best for the foreseeable future.
Huston Ladner, Senior Writer: Not So Fast…
Jimmie Johnson. Five-time Sprint Cup champion. 62 wins. Statistically, Johnson is one of the best in NASCAR — ever. It’s not difficult to make the case that Johnson is the best driver of this era (whatever one would call this modern era of the COT and Gen-6). In fact, saying that he’s the best is like making the outrageous claim that water is wet.
But is he the best of the 21st century? Nope.
Say what? The opening paragraph indicated a testament to Johnson’s worthiness for that title. Seems all too easy. And that’s the exact reason he can’t be considered the best driver of this century. The main reason for this fact is simply that 87% of the century still hasn’t happened yet.
Brad Keselowski won the championship last year and it can be argued that he hasn’t even reached his full potential. In a lot of ways, Keselowski brings a similar intellectual, thinking-man’s elan to the track that Johnson does. That’s not to call Keselowski Johnson 2.0, though, as much as it is to claim comparable traits. Does that mean that the 1x champ can equal what Johnson has done? Who knows – this column isn’t about predictions.
Then there’s the confounding Kyle Busch whom pundits laud as having the most talent of any driver on the track – it’s just that his brain gets in the way sometimes. Remember, Johnson didn’t become the driver he is now until he reached his 30s and started laying down championship seasons. Kyle Busch, currently is age 27. Once again, not saying that he’s the man to take the title of century’s best driver and ride home with it, but there’s also a chance that he could.
The real trick to the question is recognizing the talent that is in the pipeline. Even Joey Logano, sitting at a wizened age of 22, finally looks to be rounding into the form of a respectable driver – and he’s already been in Cup for 3 years. Maybe given the time to figure out some things, he’ll turn into more of what was expected of him.
It is difficult to remember that auto racing has existed for only the past 110 years. The Milwaukee Mile opened in 1903 and is largely acknowledged as America’s first oval. Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn’t come about until 1909. Heck, even the Martinsville paperclip began its racing in 1949, and exists as the oldest track on the NASCAR Cup schedule.
What does all that mean?
It means that in 110 years, auto racing has gone through a lot of evolution, but in the grand scheme of history, it’s barely even a baby. So there’s no reason not to anticipate another driver falling into a time and age and becoming the face of that age. Richard Petty. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Jeff Gordon. Jimmie Johnson. In many ways, they are the same story just told anew.
It’d be flat out against historical trends for another driver not to take on the title of driver of the 21st century at some point in the next few decades. Michael Schumacher was roundly considered to be the class of F1 for the latter part of the 20th century. But when he returned, granted, in subpar equipment, it was clear that things had changed, and his skills and talents no longer allowed him to make a mockery of the field. And now there’s Sebastian Vettel.
With new talent now flowing through the Nationwide and Trucks pipeline there is reason to believe that these drivers, now filled with a different sense of knowledge, won’t create new standards for excellence. All it takes is a mix of the right elements.
And looking off into the future of NASCAR, no one knows what those elements might be yet. (Though there probably still won’t be speedometers in the car to gauge pit road speed.)
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Johnson “The Best”? I hold reservations. All we have seen Johnson do has been in the Hendrick 48 with Chad. Could he hold his own without Hendrick’s money and Chad’s expertise. I would certainly say he has been the most successful however, that doesn’t always translate into being actually “The Best”.
I always will say that Johnson was the best during the “Chase” years.
He’s always had the sweetest setup with Hendrick and Chad.
There’s no doubt that had other drivers gotten that deal, they too would have gotten more wins.
JER hit the nail on the head. Johnson owes most of his success to Chad Knaus, who is the best in the business at setting up a car and getting away with cheating. You can only assess the #48 team as a team, because without Chad’s talent and Hendrick’s money, Johnson may be just an above-average driver in a premium ride.
I agree with the 48 being the best in Chase years..but by the “48” I mean Knaus. I know if you go back some try and refigure the stats and say Johnson would have won the Championships even if there was no Chase…I say you can’t go back and play the redo game…if there was no Chase…you can’t say he still would have won…no one knows! (make sense?). JJ is great with Knaus…but can he do what Earnhardt and Gordon and even Stewart did..win with various crew chiefs? We’ll probably never know the answer to that question either. As far as greatest driver (not just NASCAR..let’s face it there are many many many forms of racing) I have to give that to Stewart..hands down..he is the greatest “driver” of this generation.
Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson have had success driving for the same team. Most of the other top drivers won races for multiple teams, including their own. Bobby Allison won in a Mustang and a Javelin. David Pearson wanted a championship ring for each of his sons and stopped after three championships in four years. Johnson would have to win six races a year for seven years to be one win behind Pearson. Pearson won a race as a substitute for Earnhardt.
Schumacher won most of his titles because he had the best car and the blessing of Bernie. Even he was out-qualified by Rubens. It’s the same with Johnson having the blessing of Brian. Petty got special treatment too.
For me the measure is what you do in sub-par equipment. Johnson has never known anything but Hendrick and Knaus dominance. I’d be more likely to say Mark Martin, Tony Stewart or even Kurt Busch (before he lost his mind) before I’d say Johnson.
I remember the days when Gordon could take a terrible car and still drive it to victory. Those days seem to be over and it started with the COT.
I can’t recall when Jimmie has done this. If his setup is off, he doesn’t win.
I have, however, seen Kyle Busch take a car that sucked ( and the COT did suck) and take it to victory lane.
One other note: Notice now that Kahne is with Hendrick how well he’s doing? Only Jr. can’t say that.
Hendrick’s ultra deep pockets and Knaus’s ruthlessness are what make Jimmie so good. The deck is stacked in his favour that, even if Knaus gets caught cheating, the at-track inspectors will do nothing about it, as The Felon is good friends with Brian France, and he also has his good friend from Government Motors as the NASCAR appellate who has to hear the penalty appeal, and he’ll just throw it out anyway, so why would the inspectors waste their time and effort.
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