NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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
Monday March 3, 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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Tracking The Top 35 In Owner Points · Brock Beard · Monday October 18, 2010
Last Sunday, four Bubble drivers claimed starring roles in the 400-mile drama outside Hollywood as Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler, Sam Hornish, Jr., and David Gilliland all picked up well-deserved top-20 finishes at Fontana. Of the four, Smith received top billing in the form of a season-best 12th-place result after he briefly held the lead on old tires in the closing moments of the race. Gilliland’s 20th-place run achieved equal attention, drawing the struggling No. 38 team to within 25 meager points of the No. 7 of Robby Gordon Motorsports – a car which finally finished a race under power with ExtenZe across the hood and Kevin Conway behind the wheel.
But this small step for Conway was not enough to relieve the pressure. As the series headed east to Charlotte, the rookie driver would be sweating bullets in a second RGM car while Robby Gordon put the No. 7’s top 35 hopes in his hands.
Elsewhere, inching toward panic mode as the twilight of the season approached were the No. 71 TRG Motorsports team that parked after 76 laps around the California oval, capping off a 59-point skid since Richmond, and the No. 26 of Latitude 43 Motorsports, which now had to dig deep in the final six races after missing its third race out of the last four events on the schedule.
Could “The Beast of the Southeast” in Charlotte inspire a new Bubble challenger to take center stage? And would FRM finally wrestle its third car back inside top 35 territory? Read on to find out!
LOCKED-IN AT MARTINSVILLE
No. 19 – Elliott Sadler (Richard Petty Motorsports)
Although not as strong a performance as the one he enjoyed last Sunday in Fontana, Sadler earned 21 points of cushion, the third-highest gain this week, and climbed to 28th in the standings. The Virginian was the only Bubble driver to qualify inside the top 10, scoring a ninth-place spot Thursday for his second-straight top-10 start. He slipped out of the lead pack in the opening 80 laps and wound up two circuits behind at the finish, but he’ll come into Martinsville riding the momentum of a 217-point gain on the Bubble since Atlanta, just seven races ago, part of working hard to pad his resume for pending free agency.
No. 82 – Scott Speed (Team Red Bull)
The second-biggest gain of 42 points was that of Scott Speed, who has now finished in the top 25 in each of the last three races. Speed qualified 21st and recovered from a lap 25 pit road speeding penalty to hover between 15th and 25th for the majority of the race. Running 26th on lap 124, he held the Lucky Dog spot when the fifth yellow of the race fell on the speedway. Back in contention, Speed fought his way up as high as eighth during the final pit sequence before following his teammate Reed Sorenson’s No. 83 across the finish line in a final segment fade. The run still capped off a great weekend for the No. 82, as Speed was eighth fastest in the opening practice and seventh in Happy Hour. Although the sophomore has gained 135 points of cushion since the Chase started at New Hampshire, next week’s race at Martinsville will be a daunting task: crash damage left him 33rd there in March.
No. 77 – Sam Hornish, Jr. (Penske Racing)
Speed’s Lucky Dog came at the cost of Sam Hornish, Jr., whose fifteen-race stretch of consecutive point gains totaling 367 markers came to an unlucky end when the wrecking Budweiser Ford of Kasey Kahne clobbered his Mobil 1 Dodge. Hornish qualified a respectable 19th, but by lap 124, handling woes left him in 30th and off the lead lap. It was on that lap, as Kahne battled Hornish for the Lucky Dog position, that the No. 9 lost control and spun into Hornish, sending the No. 77 hard into the frontstretch wall. Both drivers were OK, but Hornish was left with his worst finish of 2010 and a 21-point loss in the standings.
No. 78 – Regan Smith (Furniture Row Racing)
Smith scored his third top-20 finish in the last seven races and, in doing so, narrowly missed improving on his season-best 12th-place finish last Sunday. Like Scott Speed, Smith was fantastic in practice, the No. 78 turning in some of the best 10-lap runs of the weekend: he was ninth and sixth-fastest in the two Friday sessions. The speed of his Chevrolet was invaluable Saturday night: he avoided a spinning Jimmie Johnson early, then held onto the Lucky Dog spot long enough to return to the lead lap inside the final 100 circuits. Running 18th when the final caution fell, Smith again stayed out and took the green flag in eighth. Unfortunately, as at Fontana, the final scramble to the finish was just enough to squeeze the Furniture Row colors outside the top 10 before the checkered flag fell. Smith gained another 60 points on the Bubble that night, and he has now gained 318 in total since Watkins Glen just ten races ago.
No. 34 – Travis Kvapil (Front Row Motorsports)
While Smith, Speed, and Sadler enjoyed decent finishes and Hornish struggled to finish 40th, between them sat our next four Bubble teams, who finished 31st through 34th with little fanfare. Kvapil’s No. 34 was the highest-finishing of the four, reaching the checkered flag three laps down to winner Jamie McMurray. After gaining six points of cushion, the Wisconsin driver is now tied with one of his Front Row Motorsports teammates by an increasingly-comfortable margin of 113 points over the Bubble. . .
No. 37 – Dave Blaney (Front Row Motorsports)
Blaney’s “The Andy Griffith Show Special” was also three laps down at race’s end as, yet again, two FRM cars finished nose-to-tail behind their third teammate in the No. 38. This time, Blaney and Kvapil traded consecutive positions outside the top 30 for almost the entire race, each taking turns leading the other around the 1.5-mile track. For a moment during pit stops under the lap 24 caution, we saw the No. 37 jump 22 spots into the ninth position, but apparently Blaney missed his pit stall during that chaotic opening round of stops – he was not among the leaders on the restart. Yup, that’s about it.
No. 71 – Andy Lally (TRG Motorsports)
Coming in just 18 points away from top 35 oblivion, TRG Motorsports managed to collect enough funding from two sponsors (ModSpace and Savory Thymes) for Andy Lally to run the entire distance of a Cup race for the first time since Watkins Glen. Unfortunately, while the No. 71 did finish under power for the first time since Richmond, bad luck and cosmetic damage left Lally 19 laps down at the finish, dropping the team three points closer to the Bubble.
The repairs likely stemmed from damage suffered to the right-rear of Lally’s Chevrolet, an issue which occurred sometime during the first half of the race. It may have been inflicted during either the chain-reaction behind Ryan Newman’s lap 2 spin or the cycle of pit stops that followed it, where Lally was penalized for removing equipment from his pit box. This rookie’s future status in the car is unknown, but with unpredictable Martinsville next on the schedule, TRG knows that if they are to stretch their meager 15-point cushion over the final five races, overcoming on-track adversity will be just as important as finding enough sponsorship to encounter it.
No. 7 – Robby Gordon (Robby Gordon Motorsports)
Although the initial entry list named Kevin Conway as driver of the No. 7 at Charlotte, on Thursday Robby Gordon returned to his ride while Conway climbed into Robby’s “go-or-go-home” No. 07 for the first time this season. Conway missed the show, turning in the second-slowest time among Charlotte’s six DNQs, while Robby didn’t fare much better with a 39th starting spot. His neon pink Toyota dressed in full red-white-and-blue ExtenZe livery for Saturday’s race, Robby hoped to earn a solid run, as he had at New Hampshire, but fell well short.
Unable to stay out long enough to lead a lap during the first green-flag pit cycle, Gordon ended up two laps down by lap 95, apparently losing time when the valve on his crew’s gas can malfunctioned – spilling Sunoco on his pit box during ESPN’s crew cam segment. Mired in 33rd with 96 to go, he then lost control off turn four and slid through the grass, choking the radiator with infield turf. Repairs cost him four more circuits, but fortunately no positions as Andy Lally and the rest of the field still trailed him by 10 laps. Unfortunately, by coming across the line in that same position – two spots worse than Conway did last week at Fontana – his team is now a hair’s breadth away from slipping out of the top 35 for the first time since Pocono in June.
NOT LOCKED-IN AT MARTINSVILLE
No. 38 – David Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports)
Gordon’s loss was Gilliland’s gain as, also for the first time since Pocono, the No. 38 has a more-than-realistic shot of knocking out either RGM or TRG out of the top 35 with five races still to go. However, Gilliland, who timed in 36th, almost saw those chances go away less than five miles into Saturday’s race. It was then that he locked his brakes to avoid a wrecking Ryan Newman, causing the No. 38 to slide into the rear of Tony Stewart’s Chevrolet. But the veteran continued on unimpeded and entered the top 25 by the 120th lap. Having already stayed out to lead lap 26, this marked the third time the No. 38 has paced the field in the last four races. Though he finished two laps down by the finish, Gilliland gained 20 points on the Bubble with a second straight top-30 performance in the car. Unable to earn the two more spots he needed to lock the team in at Martinsville, though, next Friday’s qualifying session promises to be the team’s most critical of 2010.
No. 26 – Patrick Carpentier (Latitude 43 Motorsports)
Even with an intimidating 49-car entry list (that was up to 51 cars Monday before two teams withdrew), Carpentier overcame the disappointment of last week’s Fontana DNQ by qualifying right next to Gilliland in the 35th position. As with his FRM competitor, Carpentier scored five bonus points of his own, repeating his Kansas strategy to lead lap 83 during a round of green-flag pit stops. Unfortunately, the Canadian’s evening was all downhill from there. Damage from an undisclosed on-track incident sent the No. 26 behind the wall for 58 laps, dropping the team well outside the top 30. He returned to the track briefly, but called it a night after 217 laps with “accident” as the listed cause of Latitude 43’s first DNF since David Stremme’s crash at Daytona in July. In a cruel twist, this disaster actually set the team another seven points back behind the top 35, creating what has become a three-car race between the Nos. 71, 7, and 38 for the final two locked-in positions.
2010 Bubble Chart After Charlotte:
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I just dont get why TRG is installing Hermie Sadler into their #71 car at Marlinsville this weekend. With his low skills and rusty driving abilities, its like throwing in the towel ahead of time, and then blaming their dropping out of the points on Hermie. Perfect scape goat because no one else wanted the blame …
Hermie has a fairly respectable short track resume, in spite of his recent inactivity. That, plus the hope that some one-time sponsor might step in with a little money for a native Virginian at this race might be a factor.
I’ve been watching this three way fight for the final top-35 spot shape up for the last couple of months, you could anticipate by the trends it was going to get close down the stretch.
I was a little surprised that Robbie Gordon remained in the #7 after Kevin Conway DNQ’ed in the #07 at Lowes, I figured they might do another driver switch. Apparently ExntenZe has agreed to let Robbie carry their branding himself under the circumstances? I expect RGM to attempt dual entries for the next few races, regardless of which driver ends up in the #7 seat when the green flag waves.
When Robbie told us fans last summer before Musgrave DNQ’d Pocono ‘that RGM has never missed a race’, that wasnt true. David Gilliland DNQ’d Kansas in 2009 in RGM’s #204 entity.
Now RGM has an entire rash of DNQ’s.