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.
Beyond the Cockpit · Bryan Davis Keith · Wednesday February 24, 2010
Charlotte Motor Speedway, October 2009
I’m in a small but comfortable hauler in the Nationwide Series garage, chatting it up with an owner that’s happy to call it a second home. It doesn’t take long for two racing men to start swapping stories, and I talk about a close call I’d had just two weeks earlier at Dover – my first near-death experience with a 3,400-lb stock car that didn’t see me coming. In a split second, my life had been left to the mercy of a fleet of start and park cars, ones that unexpectedly poured off the track before I could see them and nearly clipped me in their race to obscurity inside the back of their haulers.
I didn’t find it the least bit funny. Jeremy Clements did.
“It was a race back to the garage, huh?” he quipped. “Looks like you’re the one that got beat.”
It was easily the most laid back conversation I’d had with any driver in some time, and for good reason – Clements was on cloud nine. Just one week earlier, he scored a 12th place finish at Fontana, the best of his Nationwide Series career, in a race that his team had never even planned to make the trek out west for.
What’s more, even after deciding to make the 3,000-mile trip, that top 15 was never supposed to happen – with Clements planning to be part of that “race to the garage” himself.
“It’s funny,” he said to me then. “Last week we were talking about start-and-parking California, just to get the money for this race so we could buy six sets of tires.”
Instead, the racer in the team got the best of them. They found a way to stretch their dollars, and turned in one of the best underdog performances of the 2009 Nationwide Series season for their effort. Suddenly, people were taking notice of a name they hadn’t heard much about.
Clements’ newfound confidence carried over in a big way later that afternoon in North Carolina. Driving what was then the team’s only race car, he took a machine that was near the bottom of the practice charts and turned in a top 20 qualifying run that left most within the garage simply stunned. It was only the team themselves that didn’t flinch – because just like their driver, they believed in their ability to succeed in the face of adversity. Against teams and drivers with 10 times the resources, they had every intention of coming to this track to race against them.
That Friday, race against them they did.
Daytona International Speedway, February 2010
It’s a rainy Friday, and I’m sprinting through the Nationwide Series garage, jumping inside the same Clements hauler that I had been standing in five months before. Five minutes earlier, I had learned that the No. 0 team, despite being in the top 43 in owner points for 2009, was going to be sent home from the biggest race of the Nationwide Series season. Why?
The answer is simple enough: NASCAR’s rule book bases setting the last few spots in the field on “current calendar year owner points.” But since no team had any points for 2010, NASCAR followed their procedures and decided to set the rest of the field based on qualifying draw instead. It’s a rainout rule designed in the guise of fairness but inevitably rewarding the rich; while the top 30 teams were set in stone, 31st in last year’s owner points could wind up loading their car and heading home. For many people, that’s exactly what happened, while a number of teams that had made no attempts prior to 2010 were welcomed into the show – including the No. 97 start-and-park car that Jeff Fuller and NEMCO Motorsports later that day made a killing off of, selling their spot in the field to Paul Menard and the Roush Fenway organization for nearly $50,000.
On the other side of it all was the Clements crew, who was left kind of dumbfounded – as I was. Sure, the rulebook laid it out in black and white that qualifying draw was the procedure to be used in that situation, but how did it make sense that the top 30 teams got in because of their 2009 points and not positions 31-43? The ruling came with disastrous consequences for them; now, a team that came to Daytona with a sponsor, a borrowed car, and hopes of using the big purse to allow them to contest the first five races of 2010 in a bid for one of those top 30 slots was sent home not because they weren’t fast on the track, but because some NASCAR official picked a pill near the bottom of the qualifying order for them before they ever came to Daytona.
It was a devastating blow. As Clements told the Spartanburg Herald Journal, “We were planning to go to California and (Las) Vegas, but now we’re going to look into that.”
“We spent big money to get down here and not even get to try. It cost us a big payday, and it’s really just not fair.”
The team made the decision to try and run Fontana nonetheless, and things were looking up at the same track where Clements scored his career best finish. In practice, the team was 20th-fastest of the 49 cars that showed up out west, leading to some cautious optimism another solid weekend was in the works. But disaster struck during his qualifying lap; tire smoke was visibly evident as his No. 04 car came down the frontstretch, and be it because of a soft tire or the distraction of a smoky fender, Clements spun on the exit of Turn 2. Dating back to Homestead in November of 2009, it was his third DNQ in a row.
The team still believed in him. But belief only gets you so far.
Be it money, equipment, or a sheer lack of rides, there are a considerable number of glass ceilings keeping development drivers today from going, well, anywhere. Two of the last four Rookies of the Year in the Nationwide Series are still shopping for a permanent home … and both of those drivers came from powerhouse organizations at Roush and Hendrick. A lack of sponsor dollars have kept former Roush development driver Erik Darnell, former Gibbs development driver Marc Davis, former Childress development driver Stephen Leicht and many more off the track, on the outside looking in at the marquee teams they once were a part of. The list goes on and on.
Jeremy Clements knows of this harsh reality all too well. He’s hit just about every obstacle out there, trying to make his way from the ARCA ranks to NASCAR’s big time.
And he’s come close on more than one occasion. Late in 2007, Clements was put behind the wheel of the No. 36 car for the now-defunct McGill Motorsports operation, running the final five races of that season. Though the team was adamant that they wanted to continue racing with Jeremy, even in a limited capacity, the sponsor dollars never materialized despite a best finish of 23rd. With no money and no prospects, the team shut down and equipment was sold, eventually giving Clements one of its race cars for his efforts behind the wheel.
Back then, it was a start, and the up-and-coming driver was willing to take whatever he could get. And despite financial resources limiting him to only four Nationwide Series race attempts in 2008, the driver still landed a huge break in the form of a foot in the door with one of NASCAR’s best. With Kyle Busch pulling double duty between the Nationwide and Cup Series, it was Clements who was tabbed to practice and qualify Busch’s vaunted No. 18 Toyota.
He measured up in a big way at Kentucky; tasked with racing the No. 18 car into the field on time, he not only locked Busch into the show, but delivered a top 10 starting position doing it. The car proved so stout, Busch took the lead after starting 43rd in less than 40 laps.
Clements also practiced the No. 18 at a number of standalone Nationwide Series races in 2008, with quite the carrot dangling in front of him … a chance to actually race one of the two finest cars in the field.
But that chance never came. The team only had one car open for one race (Memphis), and that went to Marc Davis. Right around that time, word also came out that Busch was going to attempt a full Nationwide Series schedule, leaving him with no choice but to volunteer his services to practice and qualify Kyle’s cars again in 2009.
Those services were never called upon. Busch arrived early at both Nashville and Kentucky, in time to practice and qualify his own cars. As for Milwaukee, JGR instead chose to enlist Johnny Sauter, who had more starts and experience at the Mile.
Clements has heard very little from JGR since.
“They haven’t talked to me, so I’m sure I’m not [in the running for a ride],” Clements said the week prior to Daytona. “I haven’t heard anything.”
So the driver was left to his own devices, which in his team’s case was their only Nationwide Series race car – the gift from McGill.
And the team did what they could on their budget, qualifying for all six races they attempted, including a top 20 finish at Gateway in July. Looking to start more races, the team then struck a deal with JD Motorsports, running their own car as Johnny Davis’ No. 0. The arrangement was fruitful; Clements qualified for six of the season’s final seven races, and ran the distance for what had been a start-and-park number the entire season.
Despite missing the year-end finale at Homestead, the Clements Racing bunch was on a roll. Making a full-time run at 2010 was on the agenda, and fortunately, a longtime racing sponsor came calling with some help.
“Boudreaux’s Butt Paste gave us enough money to put their name on the car,” said Clements the week of the deal, citing Days of Thunder while clearly excited about the prospect of being at Daytona for the season-opener. “It’s not millions, but we’re planning to go to the first three races to see how it goes.”
“We’d love to try and go to these first five and somehow get locked into the top 30. And I think we could. Last year, we were a 20th-25th place car when we didn’t mess it up.”
The team and driver may not have messed it up, but the first two weeks of 2010 have been disastrous for them nonetheless. Despite making all the right moves — aligning with a team in the top 43 in owner points to deal with rainouts, signing a sponsor, and working out an arrangement with JD Motorsports to borrow a plate car for Daytona — Clements and his race team are nowhere near locking into the top 30. They haven’t even made a race since last November at Phoenix.
Any observer out there, be it a casual fan or an informed observer that just doesn’t know much about this racer and the team around him, may well think that being 0 for 2 on the season, with sponsorship money running out, may force the group to go back to start and parking – and ultimately, that Clements may join the ranks of so many development prospects before him.
Well, those fans don’t know Jeremy Clements. Because hidden in his past is a story that says one thing very clearly: This driver’s going to make it.
311 Speedway, 2004
Racing on a legendary track known to some as the “Daytona of dirt,” a late model race turned disastrous for Clements. “The driveshaft broke, came clear through the car,” he recalls, a common occurrence during wrecks with those vehicles but one that comes with disastrous consequences. Unable to react in time, the driveshaft went straight into his right hand, causing massive injury.
“It was a 30-minute ride to the hospital and I remember every bit of it. It was terrible.”
“At the hospital, they were going to cut it off, they were like ‘we’re not saving this‘” Clements says of his hand. “And my dad said ‘[then] this isn’t the place for us.’”
“They took tendons from my right foot, bone from my hip, it’s amazing,” he told me when speaking of his hand at Charlotte last fall. “I can’t get in a fight with it, but I can drive and shift no problem. I can shake your hand.”
After shaking it, all I could tell him was I’d have never known he got hurt.
Despite having such a compelling story, one that goes a long way towards demonstrating the bond between Clements, his dad, and racing, Clements more often than not wears long sleeves, hiding the scars that the sport he loves has given him. And those scars show in far more than just a physical means – missing the first two races of 2010 has obviously taken a mental toll on him. It’s not hard to understand why, as even at the point of his greatest success in the sport, at Fontana last October, his team still faced the cold truths of racing at this level as an independent on a small dollar.
“Johnny Chapman start and parked out there, got $21,000 for doing that,” recounts the driver. “We got $25,000 for finishing 12th. And the money we spent extra — tires to run the rest of the race — cost more than $4,000, or all of the difference between what he made and what we made.”
What’s more, his gutsy performance went unnoticed on the TV broadcast that Saturday. Having been in the camp of the best of the best, even if just to practice, Jeremy has a keen sense of the reality of getting exposure in today’s NASCAR.
“The only way to get recognition is to run in the top 5, if you’re affiliated with a Cup team, or if you wreck,” he explained. “They’ll talk about that.”
“It sucks, because what are you supposed to do? We can’t run in the top 5 on a shoestring budget, we can’t compete with Joe Gibbs and all them. I’ve driven those cars, I know what they drive like and I know what we have. We just can’t.”
“And how else can you get recognition? That was our best, I doubt we can top that 12th. I mean, we didn’t even have a pit crew. I don’t know what you’ve got to do anymore.”
Fortunately, just as he can’t hide his frustration, he can’t hide the real reason he’s going to make it in this sport: Jeremy Clements has already made a career out of doing things that he shouldn’t be able to do.
The doctors told him he’d never race again after his horrific wreck at 311 Speedway. He’s run at least 50 races between the ARCA and Nationwide Series since.
He came within a hundred yards of scoring his first ARCA win at Pocono in 2007, only to run out of gas with the flagman waving the checkered flag, losing the race at the line. The very next race, he led the most laps and won at Nashville.
In Charlotte this past October, Clements was 47th on the practice charts heading into qualifying. He qualified 20th, picking up over four miles an hour, the biggest jump of anyone in the 50-plus car field.
There aren’t many drivers out there that make a habit of doing things like that at the track. At least not many that aren’t driving for a living.
As fellow Frontstretch writer Tom Bowles and I walked up to the Clements Racing hauler in October to meet Jeremy for the first time, we found him cleaning out the back of his hauler. I told him how I’d had a similar experience with Peyton Sellers earlier that day (having never seen Sellers, I’d actually walked past him because he was busy cleaning his own trailer).
“I’m always cleaning stuff up,” Clements said. “This isn’t a glamorous life.”
“It’s certainly not life on the other side of the garage,” I acknowledged.
“But why are we all here?” asked Tom, engines blaring in the background. “We love it.”
“That’s right,” said Jeremy as he shook our hands for the first time. “I don’t know what else I’d do.”
Photography for this article was provided by The Hot Lap’s Phil Cavali
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Here’s a major problem I have with the Nationwide series. It used to be called the AAA of nas$car, a step below the cup series. A place to DEVELOP young drivers. Now it is completely dominated by cup drivers. That’s like letting a huge baseball star go to a AAA baseball team while a up and comer stays at the lower levels. The system is out of whack. Did you see all the empty seats for the Danicawide race on Saturday. I tried to watch the race, but it’s getting harder and harder to watch a race dominated by two cup drivers with unlimited funds while the “develop” drivers all languish back in the pack. A lot of other drivers with potential don’t even get a chance to hone their skills. It’s happening in the ARCA series too. If nas$car is looking to chase away even more fans from the sport, they’re going about it the right way. My love for all things nas$car has waned the last few years and this is just one of the reasons. I want to come back all the way, but I have to be convinced they will actually listen to their fans and not just give them lip service. Thanks for listening.