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 · Sunday February 20, 2011
Thursday, February 17th was all a blur for Brian Keselowski, a single day that, for at least one weekend, put the oft-forgotten older brother of superstar Brad Keselowski on the same playing field. This Thursday saw a Speedweeks miracle unfold, as the former Nationwide Series regular took a five-year-old Evernham Motorsports car, built on nickels and dimes, and turned it into the most unlikely Daytona 500 berth since Kirk Shelmerdine broke into the field five years earlier.
Even in the days following his monumental upset performance, the elder Keselowski still isn’t quite sure how he made it happen on the race track. “He [Brad] pushed me so hard and so fast that you just had to go and hope,” recalled Brian. “You hopefully just have it pointed in the right direction, because the guy behind you is steering for you. It was like, ‘is it going to work? Is it going to work? Oh, it worked.‘”
Just because the brothers’ drafting tandem clicked didn’t make everything clear for Brian, though. Post-race, as race fans across the country saw Brad lean in to Brian’s car to congratulate his brother on pit road, everyone pondered what was said, what could be said, at such a dramatic moment for one of racing’s hardest working families. Truth be told, no one may ever know.
“I just said thank you,” said Brian when asked about the words the two exchanged. “Thank you so much, you know. To be honest, I don’t know if he could hear anything I said. I could barely hear anything he said; I had my helmet on at the time.”
Yet when euphoria finally gave way, this modern NASCAR marvel became grounded in a big-time hurry. Moments after the media carousel stopped and a torrent of unprecedented publicity for him began, reality suddenly set in for Brian Keselowski as to just how big a deal this was… and how unprepared he was for it.
“[My first concern was] where am I going to stay?” he explained. “Honestly, that was it.”
The man and the driver who now guaranteed $250,000 for last place was preoccupied with if he could even get a room for the night. Fully expecting not to qualify this Thursday, the entire K-Automotive operation had checked out of their hotel rooms that morning before heading to the race track, leaving their chances to get a replacement slim and none.
Of course, that wasn’t the only thing on his mind.
“What’s for dinner tonight?” he explained matter-of-factly was the second question that entered his head. “I hadn’t eaten much all day, I don’t deal well with the heat and food in my stomach. First thing we did was we went and ate at the Olive Garden outside the race track here, started making some phone calls, and we couldn’t find a hotel room. So my truck driver said hey, my sister lives near here. Called her, she said we have a couple rooms, come on over. So that’s what we did.”
- – - –
“Go and hope” may be how Keselowski described the late-race charge he and brother Brad made to score the duo top-10 finishes in the second Gatorade Duel race, but it’s also an apt descriptor of what brought Brian and the scarce resources he had to the high banks of Daytona this February. Following a disastrous 2010 campaign in the Nationwide Series that saw Keselowski start-and-parking both of his cars on a number of weekends (his two primary machines last year combined for 16 DNQs), recycling 1,000-mile-old parts and motors meant any semblance of competitiveness went out the window.
Economic realities were harsh as well. For all his investment in the Nationwide Series, Keselowski was struggling to make any kind of ends meet between the missed races and the continually declining purses available for running the series. With a number of old Cup COTs sitting around his shop, Keselowski opted to make a number of Cup starts late in 2010…and the results were disastrous. The team missed every single Cup race it attempted, including an attempt at Texas that saw the machine nearly 20 mph off pole speed.
The struggles of his Nationwide effort, along with the disappointment of missing Cup even on the short tracks he made his name on, left Brian questioning whether even showing up for Daytona was worth it.
“Honestly, for the last week I’ve been saying we don’t have a chance in the world,” admitted Keselowski when asked what he thought his chances were headed into Speedweeks.
“I didn’t even want to come here, because I knew I wasn’t going to be competitive.”
In the end, though, the racer in Keselowski won out. For all the fiscal risk and the undeniable truth that he was bringing the equivalent of a knife to a gunfight, Brian still opted to defy the odds, making the trek to the world’s center of racing.
“It’s the Daytona 500, and everyone’s got their shot,” he says of his thought process. “You get the chance to race your way into the show. You don’t have to be fast, you have to be lucky, you have to be good.”
“If this had been Talladega in a couple months, I wouldn’t have even showed up. There’s no way. With what I had to offer, it wasn’t fast enough, it wasn’t even close.”
- – - –
For all the ecstasy of making the world’s biggest stock car race, for suddenly becoming the darling of Speedweeks (even ESPN’s Jamie Little walked up to shake Brian’s work-stained hand as we were speaking outside of his hauler on Friday afternoon), those that know and have followed Keselowski in his seemingly-futile quest to establish himself in NASCAR on his own terms know that blunt realism and honesty have defined every step he’s taken to get to this Sunday. And that’s perhaps the best way to explain the reaction he’s had to the reality he’s now in; one of 43 men with a shot at motorsports immortality, a quarter million dollars richer no matter what happens once the green flag flies.
Those traits tie in to a discussion of his season plans, more specifically next weekend’s Cup race. Because while Keselowski told the media assembled in his post-Duel press conference that the payday his 500 start would bring meant he could be able to go to Phoenix, he never actually said he would.
“I don’t even know if we’re going to be able to go yet,” noted Brian when discussing his plans for his six-figure payday. “I put my entry in, but it was kind of like ‘well, if this doesn’t work maybe we’ve got a car that can go to Phoenix.‘”
“Now, the car’s beat up a fairly good amount. And when you come to the track, you’ve got to be right. They’re going to make sure we’re right now [in Daytona], and that’s fine. That’s the way it goes and it’s the same for everyone. But I don’t think I can get the car repaired enough to be right for Phoenix. So, it takes another car, and I don’t have one yet.”
Asked point-blank if his remarks meant that he was contemplating a partial schedule, as opposed to running on a shoestring week after week the way his operation did in Nationwide competition the past two seasons, Keselowski answered in the affirmative. If anything, the struggles of his past two years have clearly given this owner/driver perspective that few in the garage today have.
“If I can get something that I think is competitive and go to Phoenix, I’ll go to Phoenix,” he stated of his plans. “If I feel like I can get something competitive to go to Vegas, I’ll go to Vegas. [But] I’m not going to go if I don’t think I can make the race. I’m not going to go just to say that I went. I don’t have enough money to do that.”
“[The payday] gets us back to zero. That’s about it. Maybe a little better than that, but not a lot. And that’s the best thing that could happen at this point. Now, I can look at all the people in the eye that have been helping me the last two years and say it worked.”
To be able to say that is no small feat for Brian Keselowski. For all the time and effort he put into last year’s struggling effort, he’s very conscious of just how far in the hole he was trying to run a two-car operation last season. “It’s a terrible way to have to do things,” the driver remarked of his practices last season.
“I felt like my family name got me a long way, because we built so much in this sport, that I could use that to my advantage and get to where I needed to get to. 2009 ended the season, we did OK, but last year we did so bad, I kind of felt like it dragged everything down with it. I think we can build that back up again. All it takes is getting everything back to zero again, and I’m not going to get myself in that kind of hole. I’m bound and determined that that won’t happen again.”
- – - –
Truth be told, as hard as he worked, as many risks as he took, and as much as he did right both on Thursday and in his racing career, Brian Keselowski was one of the luckiest men in sports in pulling off the feat that he did. He’s fully aware of that fact. And he’s comfortable with it.
Because for as much as it may have been luck, the confidence being exuded from one of NASCAR’s most pronounced underdogs is undeniable. Ever since taking the checkers Thursday, there’s been a grin on Brian’s face that would rival even that of his superstar brother in terms of conviction. This sport has taken him to what any racer would define as hell. Now, he’s back, on the biggest stage racing has to offer… and on his own terms.
“I think I’ve spent $35,000 on this car from ground zero to where we’re at now,” said Brian as we stood in the Cup garage. “There’s not a single person in this garage that can say they did it for near as cheap as I did it and say they made the Daytona 500. Not a single one of them can say it, and they’ve all got to be shaking their heads, saying that shouldn’t have worked. There’s no way.”
“It shouldn’t have [worked], but it did.”
“And I didn’t just fall into it,” he continued. “I didn’t finish 18th in a 24-car race and somehow still get in. I finished fifth in the 150. In my first ever Cup race. To me, that makes me very proud, that’s perhaps the proudest part of it. I didn’t just fall into it, I made it work. I had a lot of help, but I made it work.”
“I earned my way into the Daytona 500.”
Even for such an open and honest driver, truer words have never been spoken.
All photos courtesy The Hot Lap’s Phil Cavali.
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Bwad called Kyle Busch as “Shit”. Well, perhaps he is. I do not care. Give me 1 half a chance I would wreck both Bwad and Brian (and I have no thing against Brian except his blood; I wish him the best). Just to get Bob to fight ME. (and I’m Bob’s age or older).
As was said by Leo DiCaprio to Daniel Day-Lewis is “The Gangs of New York”; “Challenge (Bob)?”
Doubt Bob will take me up.
I doubt he will say, as Daniel Day-Lewis did: “Accepted”
And that is probably all to the good. But ‘Twould be fun to see two old guys go at it over something other than who is first in line for the Senior Special.
Nothing pisses off a big-dollar sponsor quite like seeing a car with a plain white hood and quarter panels getting the bulk of the publicity. I’d like to see Brian do well, but I doubt he has the car to make it 500 miles. I could be wrong, though… I never thought he’d even make it into the Daytona 500.
With the 500 winding down, the best story of the race is #21 Trevor Bayne. I thought Waltrip were idiots when they let him go. Whatever “it” is, he has “it”. Mark my words, this kid is a future star. With Burton getting long in the tooth, Bayne is my future favorite>
Since Brian was caught in a wreck today, does that mean that he doesn’t go to Phoenix…?