Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
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.
Five Points to Ponder · Bryan Davis Keith · Tuesday April 6, 2010
ONE: The Cup guys were at Nashville…but where was the crowd?
For as long as I’ve been following the sport, the perpetual justification floated out there for Sprint Cup drivers to spend the early parts of their weekends massacring NASCAR’s development series is that their star power is needed to bring in the crowds and the sponsor dollars. This weekend at Nashville, the battle at the front of the field resembled a Cup race more than anything else, with that series’ regulars leading 205 of the 225 laps run.
Yet, the grandstands were easily more than half empty, and at least 10 cars had no sponsorship (or in Scott Riggs’ case, was carrying fan sponsorship). Overall, attendance dropped to just 17,000, a 32 percent decline from this same date last season.
Yes, Easter weekend isn’t always the best time to be bringing friends and family to the racetrack. Yes, the weather at least early on probably made some fans hesitant to make the trip out to Nashville Superspeedway. Nonetheless, the past weekend’s event was just another example of a trend that’s been seen countless times since a mere 15,000 fans showed up to see Fontana last February, despite having the star power of roughly a dozen Cup regulars in the field.
Bad economy? Awkward weekend on the schedule? Or is it possible that NASCAR’s short-sighted, cash cow decision to let Cup drivers run rampant all over their AAA league is now starting to bite them. For it’s created a racing product that is utterly predictable, with the same half-a-dozen drivers every week having a surer chance to win than Jimmie Johnson scoring a fifth consecutive title.
The answer, to me, is pretty clear. But there’s one thing we can all agree on: Sliced Bread, Rowdy Busch, and Happy Harvick were all on hand, and even that couldn’t pack the grandstands at Nashville. Maybe it’s time that NASCAR finally starts looking to revamp their Nationwide Series product…
TWO: Speaking of Cup Drivers in Nationwide, Carl and Brad have company
With Carl Edwards vs. Brad Keselowski hyped in the offseason as the sequel to last season’s Cup showdown in the Nationwide Series between Edwards and eventual champion Kyle Busch, another Cup regular has come to crash the party…and he’s already done the Nationwide dance twice before.
Kevin Harvick won for the second time in the last three Nationwide Series events, the third win in the first five races for Kevin Harvick, Inc. (Tony Stewart scored the W at Daytona in the season-opener). In doing so, Harvick has put himself in perfect position to, should he choose, pursue his first Nationwide Series title solely in his own equipment. While no announcement to such a pursuit has been made, Harvick has pointedly not ruled out a full-season run.
What’s more, Harvick right now has all the motivation in the world to keep running for both his Nationwide and Truck operations…he’s in a contract year on the Cup side. And while many have all but reported that Harvick is a lock to become a teammate to Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing, there’s still plenty Harvick can gain by continuing to rack up the NNS and Truck wins. With every race that his teams continue to improve, continue to win, and continue to pick up sponsorship, Harvick is fast emerging as not only a talented driver, but as a killer marketing force as well.
That not only could lead to a sweeter deal for Harvick should he choose to move to SHR (let’s not forget that Ryan Newman’s No. 39 car has over 10 unsold races for the second season in a row as it stands), it also could make the difference between Harvick’s thriving KHI operation becoming the development infrastructure at Stewart-Haas… or becoming a force in the Cup Series in the very near future.
Not to mention that should Harvick decide to run for a Nationwide title, given the way his cars are running, he’ll all but surely win it. In the last decade, there’s no question that Happy Harvick has been the most dominant and consistent driver on that circuit, no matter what car he’s sitting in.
THREE: Hamlin won’t be sitting in his car for long the next few weekends… what it could mean.
It’s perhaps the worst kept secret of the 2010 season that Denny Hamlin, barring a miracle, will be unable to run a full 600 kilometers on Saturday night in Phoenix. Chances are, at the first caution of the night, he’ll turn over the No. 11 Toyota to relief driver Casey Mears, hoping that the former CGR/HMS/RCR driver will be able to produce a solid result to keep his team within striking distance of a Chase berth.
Chances are, this story will repeat itself for a number of weeks to come; pure speculation on my part, but as I mentioned on the Carey and Coffey show this past weekend I have a hard time seeing Denny push it to go the full race distance until the Cup Series returns to Richmond, especially with dangerous venues at Texas and Talladega on the docket.
While I’m fully confident that Hamlin’s recovery time, coupled with Mears’ mediocre at best history as a Cup driver, will keep the No. 11 team on the sidelines come the Chase in September, I’m also fully aware of how talented Hamlin is, and how capable his team is of going on a summer tear through venues such as Pocono and Loudon to rack up wins and make a surprise charge toward the playoffs. And that leads to the question…what if Hamlin makes the Chase on the strength of multiple finishes that he wasn’t even in the car for?
I’m preemptively calling foul on the mere possibility of that happening. Even the far-fetched possibility that a driver could run only portions of multiple races, get credit for finishes he didn’t earn and make the playoffs as a result is enough to make me throw up my hands. It’s not like this hasn’t been seen before. Back in 2008, Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was able to stay in the hunt for an ARCA title while injured at a road course race at New Jersey Motorsports Park, where he got out of his car after less than 10 laps and was nonetheless credited for a top 5 finish that the No. 99 car earned with road expert Colin Braun driving it.
Yes, relief driving has been a part of this sport since well before I was born, but does that make it acceptable? In no other sport does an injured athlete gets stats credited for himself while out with an injury. Can you imagine Peyton Manning getting credit for the 200 yards his backup throws for in the fourth quarter of a blowout? Or Derek Jeter getting home runs on his stat line that get hit by his reliever on one of his nights off?
Injuries are part of sports. They’re unfortunate, and they ruin seasons. Wrecks and blown motors can do the same. That’s the nature of the business. Yet wrecks and blown motors go right on the stat sheet for any driver out there. An injury should be reflected the same way. If Denny gets into the car at Phoenix and can only run 30 laps before the pain becomes overbearing, credit him for 30 laps and give him a 41st place finish or whatever he earns.
Because like it or not, the Chase is about the drivers, not their teams. NASCAR made that abundantly clear when Mark Martin and Aric Almirola had the No. 8 car challenging for a top 12 spot in owner points back in 2008. And while Casey Mears scoring even top 20s could keep the No. 11 in the owner title hunt, that’s not justification for Denny Hamlin to somehow manage to stay relevant in the Chase picture – assuming he has to partially run a number of races over the next few weeks.
FOUR: Unlike Mears, this Hendrick cast-off gets to come home again
With JR Motorsports now patching together sponsorship as they can find it to keep their No. 7 car on track (and Danica Patrick in the Nationwide Series race at Loudon come June), former Hendrick development driver and 2008 NNS Rookie of the Year Landon Cassill will get to make a long overdue return to Nationwide competition this weekend at Phoenix and three other races. It’s hard to argue against JR Motorsports putting this youngster behind the wheel; not only did Cassill win the ROTY title for the organization while showing marked improvement running a limited schedule in 2008, he’s also got the charm and polish off the track that will keep prospective sponsors interested.
Cassill also has some big-time shoes to fill, and frankly should not be expecting any patience regarding his performance, development driver or not. Why? Because Scott Wimmer did one hell of a job for JR Motorsports in his two-race stint driving the No. 7 car, leading a number of laps at Nashville and scoring back-to-back top 10 finishes that undid all of Danica’s damage and returned the team to the top 30 in owner points.
Cassill certainly got the short end of the stick when sponsor dollars dried up at JRM, and he’s very much deserving of his four-race deal. But so is Scott Wimmer, who’s played the short-end-of-the-stick role in the Nationwide ranks far longer than youngster Cassill. Landon’s performance better reflect that.
FIVE: Does the Nationwide Series have a new villain on the rise?
In back-to-back Nationwide Series races, James Buescher has managed to get into some ugly confrontations with fellow Nationwide regulars. Back at Bristol, Buescher appeared to come across Trevor Bayne’s nose, only to take out Bayne later in the race with his banged up car. Fast forward to Nashville, and Buescher again lost control, snapping loose in turn 2 and collecting Jason Leffler in the process.
Now, was the Leffler spin intentional? Absolutely not. But it still ended any chance the longtime Nationwide veteran had of following up his top 10 effort at Bristol, and left him still mired well outside the top 10 in points.
A number of writers out there have tried to draw parallels between the Leffler/Buescher episode to the season’s earlier conflict between Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards and Atlanta. On paper, they are similar; one driver intentionally retaliates and gets parked by NASCAR, but there’s little chance of any severe penalties outside of probation being laid down.
The differences between them, though, are numerous. For one, Buescher has been at fault in incidents two weeks running. This wasn’t like where Edwards took out Keselowski because of some perceived lack of respect… Buescher screwed up and Jason Leffler paid for it. And unlike Keselowski, who for all his ruffled feathers has earned and maintained the respect of a number of influential figures in the garage, such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Roger Penske and his teammates at Penske Racing, Buescher’s history of getting along with his peers hasn’t been so hot. Need proof? Just look at how well he and former teammate Rick Crawford played together at Charlotte in the Truck race last May.
As I wrote in my Nationwide Series Breakdown on Monday, all the Leffler/Buescher incident amounted to was another example of NASCAR still managing to over-officiate despite insisting that the boys be boys. But Buescher needs to be careful, because in a matter of weeks he’s gotten into it with rookies and veterans alike, in incidents he triggered, and damaged cars that still don’t have a sponsor on them for his troubles.
Maybe that’s villainous, maybe not. It’s certainly not pleasant, either way.
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I understand your point..Buescher has ruffled alot of feathers…but you fail to mention Leffler has ticked off a number of drivers in his storied career too. BUT..this to me is not the issue..the issue is the intent..the “stalking” of the intended victim by a driver who is many many many many laps down…who obviously is not back on the track looking to make up points…and who obviously is only out for one thing…revenge. I love racing..the beating and banging and trading paint and fists and middle fingers and side swiping and even a verbal or physical rumble here or there on pit road after the race…but you can’t compare an honest mistake to out and out intent…no matter how much a driver is disliked..or liked. If the drivers want to continue this “bash em if you can catch em boys” then I think NASCAR needs to stay out of it…EXCEPT giving the owners the same “have at it boys” by allowing the owners to send a bill to the retaliating driver and owner. You gonna play the game..you gotta pay the piper!
I don’t even watch the Nationwide races anymore. I’m sure I speak for a lot of other people when I say this. The series should have a new name. CUP LIGHT.
It seems to me the solution is simple. Only allow drivers to collect one purse paycheck per weekend. The teams can still get their share and contingency, but once the cool $50 grand bonus for running a N’wide race is gone, I doubt very many Cup drivers will still run, and if they do, the N’wide only drivers still get their share.
I was shocked that Leffler only got probation. I don’t know who his sponsor is since he’s rarely, like most lower tier teams, shown on TV. I figured NA$CAR would lower the boom since they have little regard for smaller teams, ref: Carl Long, and could do so since it wasn’t the Big Boys involved.