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.
Nuts for Nationwide · Bryan Davis Keith · Friday June 19, 2009
”Look, I’m ready to go. Put me in a car and I can go up front, no doubt. I’m not trying to be cocky or anything, I’m ready.”
- Jeremy Clements
Rewind back to last season’s Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway. Much like last year, Kyle Busch was the talk of the circuit…would he or would he not declare his intent to run for a Nationwide title?
However, on this Saturday one year ago, much like this past Saturday, Busch was absent at Kentucky Speedway only hours before the green, for he was racing a Truck race in Michigan. And with Kentucky qualifying being broadcast and no Kyle Busch to talk about, all the hype centered around Busch’s No. 18 Toyota instead. Who was behind the wheel with Rowdy gone? And would this guy get the No. 18 Toyota into the field?
That guy was Jeremy Clements, and the he lived up to the hype. After playing it safe on the first lap, Clements posted the seventh quickest time on the second lap, wowing the broadcast crew and securing a solid pit selection for the No. 18 team.
“Last year when I did it [drove the No. 18], they were really worried after what happened with Denny at Darlington.” (Hamlin failed to qualify.)
“That car had the pole in it, if I had run it 100 percent. I probably only ran it 75 percent. Had to get in, that’s all that mattered.”
Clements’ talent shone on more than the speed charts that night. Once Kyle Busch got behind the No. 18 Toyota that Clements set up, he made his way from the rear of the field to the lead in less than a quarter the race distance, leading 85 laps before wrecking himself.
With those kind of results, it’s not surprising that Joe Gibbs Racing called upon Clements again for his services as a substitute driver. Unfortunately for Clements, however, 2009 has not made the opportunity to return as Joe Gibbs Racing’s practice driver a fruitful one.
Thanks to adverse weather in Pocono and Cup qualifying being rained out, Busch was able to return to Nashville for Nationwide practice, meaning Clements didn’t get to drive the No. 18 even for a few laps. Then, at Kentucky, Clements was scheduled to practice Joey Logano’s No. 20 car, but 24 hours before practice was to commence, the last minute decision was made for Logano not only to fly back from Michigan to qualify the Nationwide car…but to practice it, too.
Two race weekends…zero seat time. What’s more, even though the Nationwide Series is hosting another standalone event at Milwaukee this weekend (meaning Kyle Busch will be unable to qualify and practice his No. 18), Clements will not be the relief driver.
“[Jason] Ratcliffe wants a driver that’s been to Milwaukee before, has experience there. They’re getting Johnny Sauter. Which sucks, it’s not my fault I haven’t been there.”
“I told them I felt fine going there. But I can’t override his [Ratcliffe’s] decision. I’d never been to ORP last year and I practiced Kyle’s car there last year on his old tires…and he dominated that race.”
“But they’ve got to do what’s best for him [Kyle].”
In speaking to Clements, there’s no question he understands the value of the experience that Sauter will bring to the No. 18 team this weekend. But there’s no question as well that he’s frustrated; frustrated not just because of his lack of a ride this weekend, but of how his career is idling, thanks to the state of both the economy and NASCAR today.
For the truth is, Clements’ performance in the No. 18 last season did turn eyes, not just in the broadcast booth in Kentucky, but among the big names at Joe Gibbs Racing as well.
“Last year, they did [talk to me about development stuff]. They were telling me I could have a chance of being the test driver Joey was last year, where he was doing all the COT testing. Well, then NASCAR made the no testing rule, and that pretty much got canned.”
Don’t look for Clements to end up behind the wheel of a JGR Toyota in a points race this year either. Between the heavy schedules of Cup regulars Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, as well as Brad Coleman’s newfound sponsorship, the team’s Nationwide stable is well spoken for.
“Kyle is a racer just like myself, and he wants to race every day, as much as possible,” says Clements of his fellow driver. “I don’t blame him for doing it [running a full Nationwide schedule.]”
“But I think it comes to a point where where you’re taking away opportunities from people like myself, because he’s hogging everything.”
“It sucks. To be honest about it, it just sucks.”
With no openings at Joe Gibbs Racing and the testing ban keeping a plethora of young drivers like Clements and fellow young guns such as Kevin Hamlin, Peyton Sellers and others on the outside looking in at development contracts and funded rides with NASCAR’s elite, the cold hard truth in Nationwide Series racing today is simple: cold hard cash.
“All it is right now is money,” says the Spartansburg, SC driver. “If you can bring money to a team, you can drive anything you want. And that’s really disheartening, because I don’t have a big check I can bring.”
“It doesn’t even matter if you can drive anymore.”
Clements is blunt in speaking about how the all mighty dollar has trumped even talent in big-time stock car racing, and there’s no reason for him not to be…because he’s proven all too well that he can drive.
Driving the No. 3 in the ARCA Re/Max Series since 2002, Clements has attempted partial schedules for each of the last seven seasons, driving in family-owned cars, with a “thrown-together” pit crew and even engines built by his father. And the results have been head-turning. Focusing on the longer circuits—even in the ARCA ranks they have been largely saturated by super-team farm squads and teams with far larger budgets—Clements proved to be a threat for top 10 finishes every time he took to the track.
The 2007 season was what could only be considered a breakthrough. After a stellar run at Daytona that saw him in contention to win the first stock car race of Speedweeks, Clements endured a rough stretch that included a disappointing run at Nashville and mechanical failures at both Kansas and Kentucky, with two finishes outside the top 30. He shook it all off though, and went on a tear that saw him score seven top 10s in his final eight starts of the season, including his first career ARCA win…at the same Nashville track that he failed to crack the top 10 at the first time.
Clements’ ARCA resume is one that stacks up with just about every development driver that’s gone through that series’ ranks…except he’s done it all in his own stuff. And with opportunities like the one he all but had at Gibbs drying up across the NASCAR scene, Clements is now doing NASCAR in his own stuff.
“We only have one Nationwide car. It was given to me from McGill Motorsports, from John McGill, when I drove the No. 36 car and he sold out,” says Clements of the No. 50 car he’s campaigned part-time in the Nationwide Series since last season. “When I started driving for him, [McGill Motorsports] was going under anyway, so after the end of the year he gave me one of his cars and sold the rest.”
Clements has made the most of his one car, and in more ways than simply not wrecking his only Nationwide car. Still using engines built by his dad, Clements qualified for the CARQUEST 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway earlier this season …a race that, with 51 cars, had by far the most competitive field the Nationwide Series has seen in 2009.
“That was a competitive field,” recalled Clements when asked about the Charlotte race weekend. “And we had a bad practice because we blew up the first practice, five laps in. The second practice was only an hour, that goes by quick.”
“[That said], it was pretty cool to get into that race, especially to qualify 26th (the No. 50 team was contending for a top 20 finish before a loose wheel on the final pit stop relegated them to 27th). 26th doesn’t sound great, but we’re racing a car that’s five or six years old. You’ve got to be realistic when you go to these races with that kind of equipment.”
Clements’ realism carries past how he expects his No. 50 team to perform on the track: Much like Peyton Sellers told Frontstretch last month about his own future prospects, he knows his future in this sport is best served by landing a development deal with a big-time team. After all, what else could motivate a driver to park his own car in favor of practicing someone else’s?
“We were going to race Nashville and Kentucky, but this relief deal came up,” spoke Clements with regard to his own operation (the No. 50 team is now planning to enter the race at Chicagoland in a few weeks).
It’s got to take a lot for a competitor to sacrifice a chance to race to let another competitor do just that. And before one gets the wrong impression about Clements’ deal with JGR, there’s no guarantee, even if Kyle Busch or Joey Logano finds themselves unable to make a trip from a Cup race to the Nationwide track, that Clements would in fact get to drive a JGR entry in competition.
“To be honest, that’s actually never been said,” said Clements when asked about the plan for he and the No. 20 car should inclement weather have influenced the Kentucky race. “I’m assuming it’d have to be.”
What’s for sure, is that the future for Clements truly is in the hands of a big team like JGR. Just like every smaller owner out there, Clements has felt the pinch of trying to scrounge up money to race.
“This past winter, [NASCAR] came by twice to our shop out of the blue, checking the car and wanting us to come to the track.”
“But even with these rules they’ve got, the motor running three times, the tapered spacer, even the six tire set rule, that’s still $12,000. For a small team like us, we really can’t afford that. Racing just costs a lot of money.”
Plus, the situation is further complicated for Clements because his team only has one car. That’s rendered a substantial portion of the Nationwide schedule all but off-limits for the No. 50 team.
“We try to go to tracks I’ve been to, and the bigger tracks, too” says Clements, referring especially to his old ARCA stomping grounds. “We can’t take the one car to Bristol and bang it all around.”
With Johnny Sauter in his relief seat and the Milwaukee Mile a track that could prove treacherous to a literal single-car team, Clements will be sitting on the sidelines, along with his No. 50 machine, this weekend. And he’s certainly not happy about it…but that’s not to say this prospect is holding a grudge towards anyone or anything.
There’s certainly no ill-will held towards a sport that has knocked him around a bit. When asked what one race track he would add to the Nationwide slate, Clements quickly replied “Pocono.”
“I’m sure some people are like, Pocono? That place sucks! But it’s a fun place for the drivers.”
This coming from the same guy who lost what would have been his first career ARCA victory in the most heartbreaking fashion imaginable on the same Pennsylvania triangle, running out of gas on the front straightaway with the checkered flag in sight,.
And despite how disheartening it’s been for Clements to see promising opportunities at Joe Gibbs Racing go by the wayside, he’s still actively campaigning for a spot in their fold, ready to truly take one for the team.
Need proof? After hearing of his affection for racing at Pocono, I asked Clements if there was any chance I’d see him dust off one of his ARCA cars for the Pennsylvania 200 to be run in August. Clements was very non-committal, as if he’d never even considered it.
Because that’s the same weekend that the Nationwide Series is hosting a standalone race at the Iowa Speedway. And the idea of practicing and qualifying the No. 18 Toyota at Iowa wasn’t just an attractive possibility…it was tattooed on this driver’s brain.
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