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 · Monday October 25, 2010
What makes racing at the Martinsville Speedway special is how incompatible the 60+ year old facility is with the modern behemoth that 21st century NASCAR has become. The facility is old. It’s in the middle of nowhere, Virginia. Train tracks run through the RV lots outside the track. An official from the NASCAR Media Group once told me it was the most difficult site to set up the massive mobile TV complex.
I’ll never forget the first race I covered at Martinsville professionally, only hours removed from drenching rains that muddied the rolling hills which serve as the track’s parking lot. Everyone from reporters to PR reps arrived filthy, dirtying the media center even before we started work.
Between the uniquely tiny infield and the tight confines of the racing surface itself, 21st century NASCAR takes an absolute pounding. And there’s no better illustration of that then seeing 43 beautiful cars all but junk by race’s end. A weekend at Martinsville is old-school. It’s out of the way. And it’s absolutely magical.
Much ink will be spilled in the coming days leading up to Talladega about how Denny Hamlin’s latest victory on the Virginia bullring has officially made this “the closest Chase ever” after six races, waving a magic wand over a championship format made a dead fish by Jimmie Johnson in recent years. But the spell that Martinsville cast this time around had a far bigger impact than on a title race whose legitimacy will be questioned by a plethora of race fans, just as they have since Kurt Busch took the 2004 title courtesy of the Anti-Kenseth Act. This weekend, NASCAR once again took a beating.
Because Sunday’s 500 laps were governed by one rule and one rule alone…every man for himself.
To be fair, Martinsville has seen its share of such tussles play out over the years. No one will ever forget Ryan Newman punting teammate Rusty Wallace out of the way late in the running in 2005 for a spot in the top 5. There was also the ever-replayed battle between Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson a few years back—the epitome of teammates seemingly at odds, if only for a little while.
On this Sunday, those type of incidents were epidemic.
Again, there were tensions between Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, with Gordon at one point asking if his teammate in the No. 48 car actually had a spotter as the two made contact racing for position. Those tensions, however, were nothing compared to the feuding both on and off the track between Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton. The two were battling for the lead for much of the first 250 laps, resulting in an inordinate amount of contact for a pair of drivers that have remained largely devoid of conflict since joining forces at RCR. Sunday, each driver snapped.
Both chastised each other over the radio for the way they were racing. Jeff Burton exclaimed, “I’m a good teammate, and I’m not going to stand for him [Harvick] hitting me.”
Kevin Harvick equally fired up, snidely dodged a post-race question about his teammate by smirking, “It’s just racing.” He also had no problem drawing attention to the apparent rift in the RCR camp between him and his previous pit crew, stating immediately following Sunday’s event that he was going to “kiss Clint Bowyer” because of how fast the former No. 33 pit crew performed on pit road. He made no reference to his teammate’s struggles or the sacrifice the No. 33 team had to make in yielding their crew. Harvick remained focused wholly on Harvick…Bowyer’s fortunes and Burton’s Chase chances be damned.
Speaking of Jeff Burton, Sunday’s performance was one of a raw aggression rarely seen out of a driver referred to as “the Mayor.” Burton led the most laps and appeared as the class of the field before fading to ninth late, but it was how he did it that was out of character. Burton, in fact, made contact with his teammate in the No. 29 on numerous occasions. “If he thinks I did anything wrong, then we can’t race,” he concluded in post-race remarks.
Burton also drew the ire of much of the field—including the officials in the tower—for reportedly brake-checking the field on a number of early race restarts. The Virginia-native spurned the information, when informed by his crew chief, stating, “I’ve seen people penalized here before, and it’s not going to be me.” Burton for Burton, no apologies and no quarter given.
Robby Gordon is fighting for both his career and the life of his Cup team, with a top 35 position and a locked-in spot in the field. With all this on the line Gordon, for the second week in a row, pulled Kevin Conway, the driver of choice for the sponsorship keeping his No. 7 car running, out in favor of himself. Gordon then pulled another rabbit out of his hat, recovering from a mid-race flat tire to finish 22nd, moving up to 34th in owner points and giving his team a 49 point cushion over 35th headed into Talladega. Gordon for Gordon, still fighting an impossible battle and making it to the next week.
Not to mention also that Gordon’s one-man, “I’m going to do it myself” tact topped the “three cars, one team” approach that had Front Row Motorsports convinced their No. 38 team was going to knock out the No. 7 car this weekend. Because despite all the efforts of the Front Row team, efforts that included parking Tony Raines’ No. 34 car nearly 60 laps early to give Travis Kvapil and the No. 38 team a chance to pass them, the No. 38 still lost ground. Kvapil broke a rear end with less than 20 to go and ended up finishing 35th.
The wily veteran Ken Schrader, while not the fastest guy on track anymore, at least knows full well how to stay out of trouble, threw caution to the wind on the lap 394 restart when he and the No. 26 team chose not to pit and took the green flag out front on older tires. Schrader dropped like a rock through the field, suffering a cut right rear tire and triggering a chaotic two laps that also cut a tire on Tony Raines’ No. 34 before the yellow flag waved again on lap 399. Still, Schrader’s run not only yielded the No. 26 team with some TV time, the first laps they’ve led on a short track this Cup season, and eventually the operation’s best finish ever on an oval at 18th. It was just in a far more brash and even reckless style than you’d expect from Ken Schrader. Schrader for Schrader, the leaders be damned.
Getting away from single car teams to another case of teammate turmoil, AJ Allmendinger’s frustrations from Charlotte last weekend were not alleviated, as his new teammate in the No. 9 seemed to rub him the wrong way. Late in the going, the Dinger had it with Aric Almirola for whatever reason, and blurted over the radio, “The No. 9 car is going to get dumped.” That the car he was racing with and threatening to wreck came out of the same cash-strapped shop his No. 43 team calls home never once entered his mind over the course of this tense radio communication.
While on the topic of the No. 9 team, perhaps the very best example of the rule of the day came when Aric Almirola saw a likely top-10 run disappear when he was forced to pit under green for a flat tire. As a result, the avid short-tracker was left with a disappointing 21st place result. Meanwhile, the departed Kasey Kahne beat his old team, finishing 14th on a short-track that is by far the favorite type of venue for Red Bull Racing’s No. 83 squad. Agree or disagree with the righteousness of Kahne’s actions at Charlotte last Saturday night, his was a self-serving move…and he came out on top this weekend. Kahne for Kahne…though that’s been clear since last Saturday.
And since no matter how much fans, writers, etc. bemoan the farce that is the Chase, the question must be asked as to what implications Sunday’s “every man for himself” theme has to say about the eventual Cup champion that will be crowned next month. Frankly, a lot.
Listening to Jimmie Johnson’s radio in the middle portions of the event, Johnson radioed into crew chief Chad Knaus that his car was in need of adjustments, proceeding to describe the direction he felt his car needed to go. Knaus’ response was not one fans were accustomed to hearing:
“We’re pretty much tapped out there man. You’re going to have to carry us. I’m sorry.”
The No. 48 team, whose partnership with the No. 24 team has resulted in four straight Cups and Hendrick Motorsports going from giant to juggernaut in Sprint Cup racing, told Jimmie Johnson he was on his own. On his own yielded a top 5 result that saw the No. 48 car dropping back at Martinsville when the grandfather clock was on the line and saw the four-time defending champion’s lead reduced to a mere six points. It wasn’t good enough to keep the No. 48 up front, or the No. 11 team at bay.
What’s more, even the yellow flag didn’t come running to the rescue this time. The race ended on a 98 lap green flag run, despite a final 15 laps of racing that had Travis Kvapil lose a rear-end and drop fluid all over the backstretch, both he and Ryan Newman slapped the wall in turn 2 and Tony Stewart, Marcos Ambrose and others all cut tires that spewed debris on the racing surface that was visible even from the press box. For once, the debris caution didn’t fly. Denny Hamlin was free to ride into the sunset, while Jimmie Johnson was left to do nothing but continually radio to his crew that he saw debris, oil, and that there needed to be a caution that for once wouldn’t have been phantom.
That caution never came. Jimmie Johnson was on his own, and the stars aligned behind another driver at Chase time.
“Every man for himself” may have been the rule of the day at Martinsville. But under this reign, Jimmie Johnson fell short for once.
©2000 - 2008 Bryan Davis Keith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Nice column. You were spot on about the theme of the day at Martinsville. Kinda makes you wiish the last three races of the chase were short track races.
Carl D: It makes me wish there was no chase, and 30 short tracks!!!
… and a couple of Darlington races.
Randy, do you ever have anything good to say about anything or anybody? Come on I dare you.
Hey Randy, I also think there should be more short tracks in the Cup series, and more specifically in the chase. I would love to see some of these so-called stars handle something like the old Trenton Speedway with its infamous dog-leg back stretch! And I think it’s high time that there be at least one dirt track on the schedule! That wil separate the pretenders from the true drivers!
Harvick is a total a$$. Didn’t the pit crew he had give him a huge point lead after twenty six races? Then he bounces them, essentially stealing a teammates pit crew. Talk about no gratitude. I have a feeling that his two teammates are a little resentful.
“Snide” and “smirk” are good words to describe Harvick. Jerk would be another. Be fun to see if ole Kevin goes missing a lug nut or two in the next few races. Wont take long for this crew to “frag” him Nascar style.
Carl D: I’m with you on that one.
The race was scheduled for 3 and a half hours. The actual time was 3:40. They didn’t need any Pierre Debris cautions. They used all of their commercial time and probably couldn’t use them any more. Too bad for a Hendick car.
Isn’t it amazing that DansMom and RandyGoldman seem to wake up at the same time?