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.
Brendan Gaughan · Friday June 28, 2013
The last time you heard from me was right before the Charlotte race. Charlotte was a great weekend for Shane and me. It was the first time we were able to test together at that racetrack, because we had a test day. We got a lot of things with the truck just the way we like. We followed our test plan and things went perfectly in the race. We were actually faster than Kyle (Busch). Kyle is an extremely smart race car driver—I don’t think he gets enough credit for that some days. He knew how to slow my momentum just enough that we came home second.
Then we headed on to Dover and Texas. In Dover, we just got a top 5. It was one of those days where we really had to earn it. We had to drive pretty hard. It wasn’t the best set-up we had, but it worked. We had a couple of good restarts at the end. I love my restarts. So we got a top 5 there.
At Texas, doggone it, we had the fastest truck there. We went to Texas earlier this year and tested. We led a lot of laps, and Ty led the most laps. At RCR, we led 120 out of 140 laps. Oh, man, we were the team to beat. Near the end, we found out that we had a spring rubber fall out after one of our pit stops, when we got back on the track. Those are things you just don’t know about at the time. We made adjustments to try to tighten it back up, but we were never able to tighten it up enough, but we came home with a top 5.
We had a scary moment in that race. I got grass packed into my grille with about ten laps to go. Everybody is talking about motors right now with Dale Junior and with the Joe Gibbs Toyotas. Everybody is arguing about motors and horsepower and durability. But in that race, my motor ran 320 degrees. We have what’s called a pop-off valve on the radiator, and it popped off at the checkered flag. That basically means you’re done; you’ve pushed water. Unless you come in and fix it, you’re done; you’re not going any further. We made it nine laps with the grille clogged up completely, fast enough to get a top 5, but it was strong enough to live at undeniably insane temperatures. I have to give kudos to the ECR boys. The motor guys never get a good rap—you always hear about the bad rap, because if something blows up, you hear about it. If something goes right, you never do. So, I have to make sure I give them a big shout!
After that, I went to Road America in the No. 21 Nationwide car. We came home 11th. It was a long day; we had a little bit better race car than that. We definitely weren’t able to contend for the win, which bummed Shane and me out, because I love my road racing, and Shane likes calling road races because the strategies are so much fun. We got up to about sixth, then got spun out from behind and came all the way back from 26th to 11th, so we had a decent run back through the field; we just couldn’t eke anything else out of it.
It’s been very good racing lately, though-we have five top 5’s in a row in Trucks and had a good day at Road America—not a great day, but a good day. Life is good!
People think my best track is Texas, but my best track statistically is Kentucky. It’s not so much that I have a secret at Texas, though. The track just fits my style of racing. Shane Wilson got me to like those tracks early in my career. Shane and I were together since 200, through my Winston West Championships and cutting my teeth on the bigger tracks. Shane is the one who got me to drive a certain way and to like a certain feel. It works well because he gives me the feel that I like, and he knows the feel that I like because he invented it. It makes life really easy for both of us. It’s like Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus; Jimmie is a great race car driver, but Chad got Jimmie to like what Chad builds. It makes life really easy when Jimmie has a feel and it’s what Chad knows how to build. Shane and I have the same thing. It’s that chemistry and the way we get along like that that makes life really easy.
Normally, the crew chief has to do what the driver likes. But Shane and I started out together so early in my driving career—and his career as a crew chief; we were his first crew chief gig—that he got to have a say in what he wanted and he had the dumb kid who would do whatever he told me to. If Shane told me to go drive it and go do this, I would do it. In the off-road world, I had a crew chief named Randy Anderson who would do the same thing. When I was sixteen years old and he was my crew chief, if he had told me that I could drive a race car through a brick wall, I’d have closed my eyes and driven through the brick wall. When Shane started saying, “You are going to like this, this is how you’re going to drive it, this is what we want,” I said, “OK. This is what we want and this is how I drive it.” He created what I like. Whether I adapted to it or he made what fit me also—which one is the cart, which one’s the horse, which one’s the chicken, which one’s the egg? But for me, it’s what Shane wanted to build, I drove what he wanted, and we were successful with it. So now that we’re back together, he still has that same theory.
With the next races on the schedule being Kentucky, Iowa, and Eldora, you could say that the Truck Series is the most eclectic race series around. When you look at the next three races, that is an awesome analogy. You go to the flat mile-and-a-half, the last of what we used to call the cookie cutter tracks, and now it’s the only one left that’s like it. It’s my favorite mile-and-a-half track. Then you go to Iowa, a Rusty Wallace-designed short track that has a Richmond feel that is one of the finest built facilities in recent memory, and then you go to Tony Stewart’s Eldora. It’s the dirt track of all dirt tracks, and NASCAR is bringing us back to the dirt after 40 years. NASCAR has definitely got a sense of humor when you look at how they scheduled the next three races. I’m proud of them. I just wish they’d add a few more races. I’ve said it before; they need to add a couple more races to the Truck Series to get get back to 25. But if you look at the series that they have put together, with Eldora, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Canada, with the mile-and-a-halfs, Talladega and Daytona, the short tracks that we run—this creates a great driver to go to the next level. The Truck Series definitely gets you ready.
The Cup Series is a different thing. The argument right now is whether there should be a road course in the Chase. I do believe there should be a road course in the Chase. But the argument then becomes, who loses a race date? I don’t think it should be Sonoma or Watkins Glen in the Chase; I think it should be Road America, Montreal, or Laguna Seca…so, who gives up a date? There’s a whole lot that goes into those decisions. You couldn’t take Iowa into Cup; Iowa doesn’t have the facility in terms of grandstand size to be able to fit a Cup race. At Eldora, you definitely couldn’t do a Cup race there. It’s neat, it’s got a quirk to it, but I don’t think you could do that in the Cup Series. I think the Cup schedule is a good mix. It would be awesome if you could add a couple of other things, but there are so many logistics that go into the Cup schedule that I’m glad I’m not NASCAR! I just nod my head and say, I’ll race where they tell me.” I wouldn’t want Mike Helton’s job—I like Mike Helton a lot, but I wouldn’t want his job! It’s like the motor guys; you only hear the bad and you never get the good. Nobody ever says, “Great job on your schedule,” or “great job” on this or that. They say, “man, you suck. Why did you do that?” There is always somebody questioning you. It’s one of those jobs that I don’t want and I would never wish to have!
We worked through most of the most recent CWTS schedule break. I went to the Ron Fellows high performance driving school out in Nevada—I got to go home for that. Chevrolet sent all their Camping World Truck drivers to the high performance school to get some practice in. One fun thing I did was I got to bring my niece, who turned 13 this year, back to North Carolina with me and taught her how to SCUBA dive with the Lake Norman SCUBA group. She is now a PADI-certified junior open-water SCUBA diver. I’ll take her on a trip later this summer with her sister, who I certified a couple of years ago. I brought her to Road America with me, too. I’m big about my nieces and nephews and being a part of their lives and trying to be a good influence on them. I had a guy that I called my uncle who was a very big influence on my life at that age, so I always promised I would do those things. I’m doing that with the oldest two, Emily and Abigail. They have both learned how to SCUBA dive with me and I take them all over wherever I can to go SCUBA diving. In the winter, I try to take them snow skiing. Those are just some things I do to try to stay close with my nieces and nephews.
Crazy Off-Road Story of the Month
I haven’t gotten to do any off road racing since the last time, so I’ll have to pull some older stories out. Have we talked about spending the night off the cliff? Well, in 2003, right after Homestead, I was racing the Baja 100. Normally, it’s the same week as Homestead, but this one year, it happened to be the following week and it worked out that we could race in it. We got in with my buddy Dr. Fellcamp and his son, who asked us to race with them.
About 40 miles into my section, I got into the race car running third or fourth, and I got into the mountains. This truck had a really stupid power steering thing on it. If you’re technical bout it, the power steering was off of the trans-axle. It was really just a bad design. So, we were on these mountain roads and going very slow. When you go slow, there is no power steering, and these have big huge tires and don’t like to turn when there’s no power on them. I slid off the side of a mountain, and just being a foot or so off the mountain, I told my co-driver, the guy riding with me who is also my spotter in NASCAR, The Batman, “I think we can get back on, Batman; we’re not off the cliff yet.”
So I hit the gas and we fall about 20 feet. I was like, “hold on, I think I can do it one more time. I think we can get there.” I tried and we fell another 20 feet. Before he could protest, I did it one more time. So then we were about 80 feet off the side of a cliff that had probably a 20-degree grade. It wasn’t sheer, but another 20 feet below us, it was a sheer cliff for 100 feet. We were 80 feet off the edge, there was no way off. We were stuck. The race car was in one piece, but we were stuck.
While we were waiting for somebody to come get us, we were sleeping in it with our helmets on and our buckles on. The right front tire was about two and a half to three feet above the left rear; that’s how high it was, just all jacked up. A guy came along in the middle of the night, and he had a pick-up truck with a winch on it he was going to try to winch us up this mountain. Batman decided he was out, so he got out of the car, and I was in the car. I am not ashamed to say it, I cried like a little girl. The guy hooked the winch up, and the first thing he did was hook it up incorrectly. Think of a bungee cord; if you hook it one way, the bungee tightens itself, but if you hook it the other way, it unsprings itself. Well, the way he had it at first, it was going to unspring itself. I was not really happy about that move to begin with.
But now, think of a rocket ship. And when a rocket ship is getting up to speed, you’re facing straight up and down. Well, I was on a cliff that was damn near straight up and down. So when he pulled me out, I was looking at stars and the moon. I mean, I was looking straight up. I had both feet on the brake trying to hold the thing, the motor running, and this guy started winching me up. Every time it hit a rock, it went further back and I was looking at more moon and sky. I was screaming at the Batman. I mean, I was crying—crocodile tears, scared to death, crying at the top of my lungs. I just sobbed. Well, he almost pulled the truck off the cliff, so then they had to unhook me while I was pointing straight up and down. I had both feet on the brake pedal, and my foot was shaking so bad I looked like Thumper being twitterpated. Finally, they got me about three feet from the top, and he had to unhook me and hook it to the rear and tow us up. The problem was, I couldn’t get on the road, and I had about 30 feet before it became a sheer cliff around the corner. He was towing me, and I kept sliding back down the cliff. Finally, about ten feet from the end, I just turned it hard right and gassed it. I landed on the other side of the mountain and then bounced back onto the road. As soon as we stopped, I was shaking. Batman came up with the flashlight—he had been standing about 20 feet away with the flashlight asking if I was okay because he didn’t want to get close in case the car fell on him. He jumped in and said, “hey it looks good, are you ready to keep racing?”
It took me a minute to compose myself. I was a little shaken up. But the best part is, we were on that cliff for about seven hours. We were hungry— starving. We finally got out to the highway and found some Mexican truckers. We got some flatbread and an old can of tuna from them, and we devoured it like it was our last meal. Then we drove up the highway and stayed at a hotel that night with some of the guys on our team. We drove the next four hours to the hotel where the team was. Our crew chief said to us, “I bet those burritos came in handy!” We said, “Burritos? What burritos?” He opened up one of the tool bags right behind my head, and there were three carne asada burritos, perfectly in their zip=lock bags, clean, covered with tin foil, ready to be eaten. We were starving; we spent seven hours in the desert. We ran out of water, no food—we were starving…and there were burritos two inches behind my head. I was like, “next time, tell the driver where you hid the burritos!”
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