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.
Bryan Davis Keith · Wednesday June 16, 2010
Kevin Conway has been put in an awkward situation in 2010. With his sponsor electing to skip the Nationwide Series and tackle the Cup ranks, getting up to speed during his rookie season has proven more difficult than for most other drivers debuting as full-time competitors in stock car racing’s highest ranks. And while it’s been a trying enterprise to race against the world’s best – especially with only 25 previous NASCAR starts to his credit – Conway’s proven to be a consummate professional off the track and a dedicated competitor on it.
Frontstretch spoke to Conway at Pocono after the Coca-Cola 600, a race where he showed that dedication. Falling ill halfway through the Cup circuit’s longest race, Conway gritted out a performance that saw him vomiting in the cockpit on more than one occasion, but one that also saw him run the full-race distance for his team and sponsor. That never-give-up attitude also shines through in a talk where he establishes goals, explains how you “pay to play” in today’s NASCAR world, and subtly fires back at critics who question his ability to be involved at the sport’s highest level.
Bryan Davis Keith: You had a really gutsy performance in the Coca-Cola 600, racing while very ill in a very long race. How did you pull that off, and what does that say about you and your race team?
Kevin Conway: I think it says that we’re going to stick it out to the end, no matter what. We do finish these races. [But] that was definitely the hardest race I’ve run in my entire life. I’ve never vomited in a helmet before, and that was rough. Really, really rough. But I didn’t want to get out of the car. So I stepped it up. I felt bad for our guys because our car was way better than the finish we had, but it’s kind of tough when you’re throwing up at 180 mph. All-in-all [though], I wasn’t endangering myself or my fellow competitors, and I wanted to tough it out instead of losing more time swapping out drivers. I wanted to do the right thing.
Keith: What’s it like going to a rookie meeting and being the only driver there?
Conway: Well, John Darby and I have become pretty good friends for the three or four minutes that we meet every weekend. Really, we never planned for it to work out that way, and Terry’s back in the No. 09 car this weekend, so I’ll have some company back in the rookie meetings. It’s frustrating in some ways not to have any rookies, but in others it’s exciting because I’ll take the championship. That’s what we set out to do at the beginning of the year, to win the rookie title, and as of this moment we’re the last man standing. Terry’s not out of it yet, though; it’s far from over.
Keith: You really dove in head first into Cup racing this season. What’s it been like?
Conway: The learning curve has been more of a vertical line. We’re not trying to crest the curve, we’re trying to climb it. Our race team came together in January. It’s one thing for a rookie to come into an established team with great equipment and significant resources, it’s another to do it with limited resources, using equipment that was already in place and had to be acquired from another team. It’s really challenging. But I think the whole team, given the circumstances, has done really well to stay in the top 35 and compete for the Rookie of the Year title.
It’s been a whole team effort of David [Gilliland’s] team, Travis [Kvapil’s] team, and ours working for the good of the organization to keep all three cars in the top 35. That’s vital for keeping the resources going for all three teams. It’s been cool; we’re like the little team that could. I think everyone gets frustrated sometimes, because we’ve got a fraction of the resources of everyone else out here, but it makes everybody have to pull together and work that much harder as one. We’re one team that has three cars on the race track.
Keith: Talk about that. You’re working with two drivers that have experience together in Kvapil and Gilliland. What’s it been like, racing for an expanding race team while facing a vertical learning curve? What role have you been able to play in moving the team forward?
Conway: Well, it helps me to have them to lean on. And it’s always good to have one more car to bounce ideas off of as far as setup things are concerned. We’ve had the opportunity to test a few times, we’ve tested all our cars, and all three have gone the same speed, so it’s been pretty cool to know that our driving styles overlap. David’s style is a little different than Travis’, and I’m kind of in the middle of those two guys trying to find my own groove.
Here this weekend at Pocono, I’ve never seen this joint before. So being able to talk to them, being able to find out the characteristics of this race track, brake points, lift points, those different things. I think that’s been my biggest challenge this year, seeing these race tracks for the first time. You’ve got an hour and a half to get up to speed, and then you’re going against the greatest race car drivers in the world. It’s tough.
Keith: In terms of seat time, you’re doing it a bit differently. You don’t have a Nationwide Series ride, you’re not running ARCA. Would more seat time be beneficial, or are you trying to keep the focus on the one ride?
Conway: Seat time is seat time. Track time is good, no matter how you can get it. I would have loved to run the ARCA race this weekend, but again it comes back to resources and finances. We’re not in a position to do that right now. Because of the limited resources we have, it’s been difficult. But we try to take the opportunities we have and make the most of them.
Last year we ran 12 Nationwide races, and I have a total of 25 Nationwide Series starts over about a four-year period, so it was definitely jumping into the deep end getting into the Extenze Fusion in the Cup Series. But I think we’re holding our own. We’re learning a lot, and I think we’re starting to gain respect as well as to build our [rookie] points lead.
Keith: You haven’t been the fastest guy out there this year. You also haven’t wrecked anybody, you’ve been able to run your own races. Have you seen the perception of you in the garage change over the course of this year?
Conway: I think so. I think you’re always gaining respect, the more you’re racing guys clean and showing you’re not going to mess them up. We have to run our own race, given the resources we have. David, Travis, and I typically wind up within three or four spots of each other every week. We know what we’ve got, and a good day is a top 25. We’re not out there competing for top 15s, and we know that. So we’re trying to make sure that we run our own race, let other guys run theirs, and continue to grow our organization while continuing to gain experience.
So, as our equipment does get better and the resources do increase, we’re able to capitalize on that and step up our performance as soon as our equipment allows us to do that.
Keith: You come in with a marketing background, and are one of the few drivers out there that’s been able to bring a new sponsor into the sport. What benefits have your marketing background granted you, and what benefits have you been able to bring to your sponsor?
Conway: For us, it comes back to showing a path to profit, how they’re going to make money off of it. Back in the day, everyone would say this is the TV exposure, this is how many people watch the races, we’ll put your name on the race car and get people to see your brand. The strategy now, though, in an era of fiscal responsibility, people are saying, “If I’m going to spend a dollar, how am I going to get three dollars back?”
The cool thing about NASCAR racing is that it provides the best medium for marketing from the business-to-business standpoint. In the case of Extenze, we’ve been able to help them as they’ve transitioned from a direct response brand to a more retail-based brand, to more of the big-name retailers like Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, CVS, and really help them become a more mainstream brand in those channels. It’s been a vital part of their business strategy, and it’s worked extremely well for them tying the race car back to some of their retailers. Also, creating brand awareness for customers when they walk into Wal-Mart… that it’s more than just a late night infomercial that you see on TV. It’s been really cool for them.
I know it’s been frustrating for some drivers, that you can be the greatest driver in the world and never get an opportunity [because] money gets you opportunities. But you’ve got to have talent to capitalize on the opportunities.
Keith: Like you said, your background comes with limited NASCAR experience. On that, you probably wouldn’t have been able to land a Cup ride, but you had the money for it. What would you say about that trend these days, that in some ways you have to pay to play?
Conway: It’s been that way since the very first Indianapolis 500. You look at it, there’s 43 drivers here every weekend, and there’s maybe one or two guys at the max that come into the sport every few years, like a Carl Edwards or somebody like that, that’s come up the hard way.
You look back, I didn’t even have the opportunity to race a full season of Hooters Pro Cup or the East / West Series. Just that is $300,000, $400,000. That’s a lot of money, and it has to come from somewhere. Sponsors in those series are really hard to get, because the exposure is lower and the business-to-business opportunities are less.
You look at 95 percent of the drivers that have come up, their families have funded their late model careers, they’ve funded their East/West careers. They may not have the funding to run the Truck Series or the Nationwide Series, but it’s taken a significant investment to get to that point. For me, I’ve had to race where I could, and I had some success in late models. We had to keep moving along and racing out of our purses, to get rides because we won a lot. It’s taken me awhile to get here, and I didn’t get a lot of experience in the Nationwide Series, but we’ve won tons of track championships and races. All of that gives you a tremendous amount of experience to get to this level. But at the Cup level, everyone here is awesome. There isn’t anyone here that isn’t a great race car driver, and I’ve learned so much in the first quarter of the season that we’ve gone through.
We’re going to have a Nationwide car later in the year, and I can’t wait to get in it because I’ve learned so much. Not so much in terms of the feel of the car, but in terms of racing. The guys in the Cup Series race really hard every single lap.
Keith: What has been your biggest challenge so far, and what’s the biggest one you’ve got left circled on your calendar?
Conway: I think for me, the biggest challenge has been getting to tracks for the first time and getting up to speed quickly while understanding the limits of the car. A lot of the recent rookies have been able to tear up some equipment and learn the limits of the car.
We’re in a situation where we have 12 cars rotating through all three teams. We tear up a car, and it puts us in a bad spot. So it’s tough for me to go out and push it, to find the limits of the car, because if I overstep those boundaries it’s going to put the entire team in a very bad spot. That’s been the biggest challenge.
Coming up, the road courses are going to be a big challenge. I don’t have much of a road racing background, but I’m going to Infineon with Chris Cook. He’s worked with a lot of drivers in the garage. Hopefully, that will pay off on the road courses. I’m looking forward to them. Last week at VIR [Virginia International Raceway] was the first time I’d been in a stock car on a road course, and it was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it, but it’s also going to be a huge challenge.
Keith: Besides the rookie title, what in terms of driver performance will constitute a successful year for you?
Conway: Staying in the top 35 and winning the rookie title were our two goals this year. If we can accomplish that, it will be considered a successful season.
Keith: You didn’t get to run the Daytona 500, but now you’re approved. How stoked are you to get to run a Cup race at Daytona?
Conway: I’m super stoked. It was heartbreaking not to run the Daytona 500. That’s every race car driver’s dream. I’ll have to wait until February for that. But to get to run this Cup race right before they repave it is cool. I’m really looking forward to it.
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