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 · Friday February 18, 2011
When the dust had settled on Thursday’s Gatorade Duel, David Caraviello tweeted that race fans “gotta get over this reluctance to embrace this tandem racing.”
It was hard to disagree with him in the heat of the moment. Jeff Burton had just edged Clint Bowyer for the win by mere thousandths of a second. Coming to the checkers, Trevor Bayne and Jeff Gordon tangled after a stellar afternoon display of the rookie playing perfect teammate to one of the sport’s all-time greats. And Brian Keselowski became the Daytona 500’s biggest Cinderella story since Kirk Shelmerdine qualified for the event back in 2006, with brother Brad pushing his ancient No. 92 Dodge into his first career Cup start on the sport’s premier stage.
Yet, for those feel good stories, for the final lap drama, Thursday’s Duel was more ominous than anything in whetting appetites for the upcoming 500 and 2011 season. A day of underwhelming racing, cavernous empty chasms of grandstands and dark truths that, while concealed by the late afternoon fireworks that saw a rare underdog triumph in a sport that’s done everything it can to kill them off, will still be there when the sun rises on Daytona for the rest of Speedweeks.
For proof, one needs to turn no further than the patchy turn 4 grandstands, filled with more colorful seats than people for most of Thursday. To say that NASCAR’s crowd estimate of 80,000 was exaggerated is being kind. Those jokers are flat lying, insulting the intelligence of any race fan out there that cares enough to look a picture of the grandstands. Though to be fair, there’s probably not too many out there that even bothered to look at the stands… after all, they didn’t show to fill them. Guess they thought they could get away with it.
And for all the agony and ecstasy that made the second Duel race memorable, the first 150 miles were the bipolar opposite, a snoozer of an event that for all its lead changes was as compelling as watching a practice session, if that. The pairings up front scarcely ever changed. Nobody in the field seemed even remotely racy. And as for the event’s most dramatic moment, a last lap pass that saw J.J. Yeley take a late Lucky Dog and turn it into a Daytona 500 berth after getting past the NEMCO Motorsports duo of Joe Nemechek and Kevin Conway, it wasn’t even seen on TV until after the checkered flag fell.
To be fair, the second Duel race showed that even in the tandem pairs, the new Daytona can produce a compelling race. It was a glimpse of how good Sunday could be. But there were two races this Thursday afternoon, and the other showed just how much of a stinker the current package can produce. Daytona for all its similarities to Talladega is not its sister track in Alabama, a narrower circuit where three-wide is the exception, not the norm. The circuit in Florida is far more treacherous, leaving less room for passing, less room for aggression, and more room to ride the storm out. Just as what played out for almost the entirety of Duel race one.
With absolutely bipolar events comprising Thursday’s segment of Speedweeks, there’s a credible argument to be made by optimists and pessimists alike that their version of events is going to tell this Daytona saga on Sunday. The tale of the 2011 Daytona 500… and the tone of the upcoming Cup season… will hinge solely on what Sunday brings.
The one certainty that can be gleaned from these 300 miles is that while the racing may still be the same plate racing that Daytona and Talladega have become known for, the anonymity of the draft, the driving force behind NASCAR’s wildcard events, is gone. Where once there were packs of cars that both propelled unlikely victors such as Ward Burton to victory in the Daytona 500 or savagely destroyed the hopes of rookies and champions indiscriminately in the “Big One,” there are now pairs. Pairs with names, faces, numbers. These pairs are animated, and with them comes a reality that while true even in the days of 30-car packs, always stayed below the surface:
The individual competitor, the driver, is insignificant.
Fans would never know that, of course, listening to Cup Series regulars describing the enjoyment and excitement they derived from doing the two-step with a partner largely of their choosing as the Daytona 500 field was set. “It is a helluva lot of fun restrictor plate racing,” said Juan Pablo Montoya of his sixth-place finish in Duel #1. Finishing two spots behind him was Mark Martin, who, having been a longtime plate racing critic, called the racing “fun.” Echoing those sentiments was Bill Elliott, who called it “a heck of a lot of fun,” “like a bunch of kids playing leapfrog.”
It’s as if the pack disappearing and the drafting pairs spacing out across the racing surface has created an illusion that the driver is now in greater control of his race (though Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin may have questioned that, as both were dumped by teammates in their respective races). Problem is, take a look at any of the four races that have been run thus far through Speedweeks, and that illusion is exposed as just that – a figment of their imagination.
If anything, this dependence on pairs that Daytona racing has been reduced to has taken even more control out of the individual’s hand… because it’s made the individual driver’s ability to make his own move, to run his own race, non-existent until turn 4 of the final lap. Sure, when there were 30-car packs the individual was part of a moving mass, helplessly vulnerable to any driver’s mistake. But when it was time to take the lead, be it two laps in or with two laps to go, the individual driver was able to change lanes. The individual driver was able to block, to run his race. Now, with speed completely a product of having, as Martin Truex, Jr. coined it, “a dance partner,” the freedom to do that goes out the window. The absolute imperative to run in tandem has made something as simple as dodging one lapped car on a 2.5-mile oval a trying exercise; midway through Duel two, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton dropped from running for the top 5 to a vast distance from the lead, all because Bowyer jumped a second earlier than Burton to avoid Robert Richardson’s slow machine.
And even in the case of those final lap in turn 4 situations where there is still some control being exerted by what one competitor does, time and time again this Speedweeks trying to make one’s own move has been an exercise in futility. The Budweiser Shootout was not determined solely on Denny Hamlin running all over the yellow line, but because Jamie McMurray decided that out of all the drivers up front, he wanted to see Kurt Busch win. Just today, Regan Smith proved powerless to do anything with Kurt Busch after the pair had run nose-to-tail for the better part of their Duel. And while Clint Bowyer came within a hair of stealing the second Duel from his partner Jeff Burton, the amount of time he was forced to spend pushing Burton down the frontstretch to hold off the charging duo of Michael Waltrip and Kyle Busch was enough to render his charge futile.
The necessity that plate racing puts on having partners, having teammates, having to work together, may have always been there. Problem now is, it’s all the more visible, for the draft is being governed not by a nameless gaggle, but by duets. What was once an anonymous reality is now an elephant in the room; an individual competitor can’t win on his own, or for that matter even perform on his own driving on stock car racing’s most hallowed ground.
For on this Thursday, Trevor Bayne didn’t have an impressive rookie debut… he was the new “Wonderboy” pushing the old. Jeff Gordon didn’t drive an admirable race; he was owing his solid performance to the skills of a talented rookie. Brian Keselowski didn’t overcome the odds and resurrect his racing career, his brother did him a favor. Brad Keselowski played the good sibling, but only after spinning out and getting mired in the back of the field. (For all the emotional heartstrings the Keselowski brothers scene tugged at, it was also the most poignant example of just how meaningless the Duels have become in the top 35 era; once in the back of the field, Brad committed to pushing around his brother’s ride… a five-year-old patchjob of a car that was nearly 20 mph off the pace in the week’s practice sessions. A risk that paid off, but also one complacently aware that he was locked into the Great American Race).
Any sense of an individual driver controlling his own destiny, of putting his needs above every other car in the field, hell of earning his own win on the high banks is now gone, even it was just an illusion in the day of the pack. Just as the superteam era has made cooperation, data sharing and teammates not an option, but a requirement for success, now stock car’s greatest prize will visibly be determined not just by talent…but by the driver that can play nice.
This blatantly visibly need for teaming, for working together as much as competing, has now become the face of Speedweeks 2011. That’s as big an adjustment as the tandem racing itself.
So getting over, as Mr. Caraviello termed it, “the reluctance to accept” this new reality of Daytona is just the latest battle in what has been a nearly-decade long battle between the sanctioning body, a sport that has become an industry and a fanbase that has been marginalized, alienated and confounded time and time again.
Given the grandstands seen on Thursday, it’s still a losing one…no matter the feel good stories on the surface.
Connect with Bryan!
©2000 - 2008 Bryan Davis Keith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The though of using water temp as a way of controlling speed is absolutely the most asinine idea they have come up with yet.To force a driver to watch his temp gauge while racing is unsafe. the outcome of the race will probably “boil” down to whoevers partner is able to run the coolest.
Great article, I agree 100% and would like to add that the alienation started ‘in earnest’ with the start of the top 35 rule. When NA$CAR chose money over the fans and in the process lost the very money they were reaching for. Run the numbers, and look at the charts and you will see that the money and fans exodus started when the top 35 was picked as a priority over “racing”.
I tried to enjoy the races but I fell asleep twice. I could save a lot of time if I just knew when the last lap would run.
I think I will save my money and my race watching time for some real racing this season like…..ARCA at Salem IN or Toledo, USAC at Winchester or World of Outlaws at Eldora.
You know, “real” racing! This “duet” racing surely isn’t what I would consider even meager, automobile racing, at best. Even watching the inside of your eyelids, is a big improvement over what will be happening at Daytona on Sunday!
I watched the re-runs last night. Not terribly exciting. What I found most amusing was the breathless comments about how many lead changes there were (“maybe a new record!) as the leading duo at the time swapped places to keep the motors cool. It was REALLY funny!
I applaude Nascar for being proactive in trying to provide a better safer show.
A very good article.My husband and I had discussed most every thing you wrote about and agreed with you almost 100% Glad to have all of you FRONTSTRETCH people back.
Well said Bryan! I feel the same way. The drafting pack was a abstract entity. This pair thing is too personal. The pack was always there with equal opportunity for all to make the right moves. Now, if you don’t have a partner to take to the dance you are a wallflower in the race.