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.
After an eventful race both on the track and in the pits had removed the day’s fastest cars in Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards from competition, the white flag flew over Brad Keselowski, who appeared ready to shake off two consecutive DNFs and damage incurred in practice Thursday by scoring his first Nationwide win since Gateway last October.
Keselowski’s tires had other plans. A blown Goodyear entering turn 1 coming to the checkers sent the No. 22 Dodge into the fence, leaving the door wide open for Mark Martin, who spent much of the race’s final run saving fuel, to extend his all-time lead in Nationwide wins to 49, holding off Turner Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier coming to the checkered flag. Keselowski, Danica Patrick and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top 5.
The early stages of the event were dominated by Busch, who a race high 84 laps before spinning himself out on the frontstretch apron on lap 131, tagging the inside retaining wall. The race’s final green flag run saw Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin running away from the field late before fuel strategy came into play. While the vast majority of the field was forced to pit inside 20 to go to top off their tanks, the top 5 finishers all either were in the clear or stretched their fuel to the finish, leaving the two leading Cup contenders as well as Roush Fenway driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to finish at the back end of the top 10.
Reed Sorenson maintained the series points lead on the heels of a disappointing 11th place finish (Sorenson’s No. 30 car was a fixture in the top 10 until late race pit stops), but saw the margin narrow to two points over second place Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Two years ago, Justin Allgaier’s debut Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas was the first showcase of just what the 2008 ARCA champion could do with NASCAR’s big boys. This Saturday was another coming-out party…one that showed just what Allgaier’s going to be capable of doing with Turner Motorsports’ backing. With over 100 sponsor representatives trackside for the Vegas event, Allgaier delivered a stout runner-up performance that was tops for Nationwide regulars in the event, as well as his best finish since winning at Bristol last spring. Back-to-back top 10 finishes following a disappointing opener at Daytona have Allgaier back into the top 5 in points. With Turner teammates Sorenson and Jason Leffler also in the top 5 in points, it’s become readily apparent that last season’s ownership transfer has done nothing to slow the Nationwide Series’ premier independent team.
Fuel mileage did turn a top 10 run for Danica Patrick into a fourth place result, but there was no fluke to what was easily her best performance at any level of stock car racing to date. Working at a methodical pace all event along and keeping her No. 7 machine out of harm’s way through a field full of disparity in speeds, Patrick scored the highest-ever finish for a woman in Nationwide Series history. ESPN’s broadcast honed in on her pass of Trevor Bayne for several laps, illustrating a No. 7 team that has figured out how to coach their celebrity driver. Patrick’s run was more notable in that she ran circles around teammate Aric Almirola, who finished off the lead lap and was a non-factor all afternoon. Praise for this run is well-deserved, but Bristol will tell the tale of just how much progress the No. 7 team and driver have made.
Though teammate Trevor Bayne used fuel strategy to top his teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the final scoring pylon, it was Stenhouse that delivered a show-stopping performance for Roush Fenway Racing on this Saturday. After delivering his best qualifying effort since ORP last summer, Stenhouse proved early on to be the only Nationwide regular capable of running with Kyle and Carl, visibly frustrating Busch (who made apparently deliberate contact with the No. 6 in turn 2 at one point) early in the event as he battled side-by-side with him for position. Though a late-race pit stop relegated him to eighth in the final running order, Stenhouse still scored his fifth consecutive top 10 finish dating back to Phoenix last November, and closed the points gap with leader Reed Sorenson headed into Bristol in two weeks. Just as with Danica Patrick, Bristol will be a true litmus test as to whether Stenhouse will be a 1.5 mile contender or a contender week after week this year; he has never cracked the top 20 in his career at the bullring.
Kenny Wallace. Top 10 in the No. 09 car. Enough said.
While the TV time may have been good for sponsors IHOP and Eagle Convenience Stores, Donnie Neuenberger’s third NASCAR outing of the 2011 season was certainly not one of the prouder moments for MacDonald Motorsports or the No. 81 team. Neuenberger, who already earned the ire of a number of drivers and race fans in Daytona Beach after causing a devastating crash under yellow in the season-opening Camping World Truck Series race, spun not once but twice of his own volition, once on each end of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon. Though he avoided contact with the wall both times, the day ended with a 26th place finish, 11 laps down. Sad thing is, those spins marked the first real TV coverage the longtime No. 81 operation has gotten this season.
Josh Wise made a name for himself last year driving as compliment to Danica Patrick in the No. 7 car, quietly able to keep a car in one piece and bring it home. That steady hand hasn’t delivered the same results for Go Green Racing’s No. 39 team, as for the second time in three weeks Wise’s day ended early with a torn up race car. And unlike Daytona, Saturday’s troubles fell square on the driver. Only four laps into the 300-miler, Wise snapped loose on the exit of turn 4; though he saved the car and kept it off the wall, Wise ended up driving his Ford smack through the infield grass. And upon making contact with the paved oval in the infield grass, his Mustang lifted off the ground and landed hard enough to jar the front end of his car loose from the the passenger cab of the chassis. Though the team attempted to use bearer bond to secure the body, Wise was only able to complete 10 laps before parking his machine, making a departure earlier than even a number of start-and-parkers in the field. Two wrecked COTs in three weeks isn’t a sustainable track for a smaller Nationwide operation, especially not with Bristol on the horizon.
Though Steven Wallace turned heads with a solid run in the Daytona 500, the start of his Nationwide Series campaign has been anything but remarkable in 2011. After closing out the 2010 season with four consecutive top 15 finishes, Wallace has yet to score a single one this year, or even finish on the lead lap for that matter. Though Saturday’s 16th place result was his best of the season, for Wallace it didn’t come without scratches; coming off of turn 2 on lap 137, Wallace made contact with Ryan Truex’s No. 99, spinning himself out and doing damage to his own front end. On a date where teammate Michael Annett had some speed for Rusty Wallace, Inc., the damaged car and lackluster result by Wallace was just that; further, Wallace still finds himself outside the top 10 in points headed into the season’s first off-weekend.
While Danica Patrick’s top 5 finish certainly was a high point for racing’s ladies (for crying out loud, it had Jamie Little saying emphatically saying “girl” throughout her post-race remarks), the other female in the field delivered a performance Saturday more in-line with Deborah Renshaw’s 2002 performance at Lowe’s Motor Speedway that left Eric Martin dead. Though she did nothing anywhere near as egregious as that wreck, Jennifer Jo Cobb was well behind the on-track chaos that saw Kyle Busch spin across the frontstretch grass on lap 131, yet still woefully failed to slow her car down in time and ended up bowling over Timmy Hill in the process. The only poetic justice was that Hill was able to continue while Cobb’s machine endured the heaviest damage. Cobb finished 31st, but more importantly, her No. 79 team is now down a car, and with Bristol likely to field a full set of Nationwide Series entries for the first time since Daytona, qualifying is going to be an issue for this team again as well.
Underdog Performer of the Race: Morgan Shepherd They may call Las Vegas “Sin City,” but good deeds by Morgan Shepherd apparently paid off this weekend. At a Wal-Mart near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier in the week, Shepherd ended up assisting police officers chase down and detain a shoplifter in the parking lot. The favor was returned on Saturday, as Shepherd came home 18th in the final running order despite suffering cosmetic damage to the front nose throughout the 200 laps run. His first top 20 finish since Gateway last October, it was Shepherd, and the new two-car Faith Motorsports’ operation’s best showing of the 2011 season.
Start-and-parkers took 8 of the 43 spots in Saturday’s field, taking home $115,936 in prize money.
Cup regulars won Saturday’s race, scored 4 of the top 10 scoring positions, occupied 8 of the 43 spots in the field, and took home $235,455 in prize money.
Year to Date
40 of 126 starting positions occupied (31.7%)
Who You Didn’t See
Scott Wimmer, Carl Long, Shelby Howard, Jeremy Clements, Derrike Cope, Mike Wallace, Eric McClure, Mike Bliss, Kenny Wallace, Robert Richardson and Morgan Shepherd were all entries that did not start-and-park on Saturday and were either not mentioned in any way on ESPN’s telecast or were mentioned only in passing as lapped traffic. That accounts for 11 of 34 entries that did not start-and-park, or 32.3% of the field.
In addition, Timmy Hill, Jason Leffler, Donnie Neuenberger and Jennifer Jo Cobb were all only mentioned in passing, with most having their cars only shown on TV if involved in an incident. That equals an additional 4 of 34 entries, or 11.7% of the field.
44.0% of the field was either not mentioned or mentioned only in passing.
Danica’s Running Better, But at What Cost? It’s been a pretty dramatic turnaround in terms of performance for Danica Patrick in the first three races of 2011, as she’s gone from an average finish of 34.0 to 11.7, with no DNFs. Meanwhile though, teammate Aric Almirola, the only driver that JR Motorsports has contending for the 2011 title, has absolutely floundered; though seventh in points, the No. 88 has yet to crack the top 10 and has been an also-ran from the plate tracks to the intermediate to the flats. Which has to beg the question…for all the improvement behind the wheel, how much focus in the JRM shop has been put on that No. 7 car? For all the sponsor dollars from GT Vodka and TaxSlayer, there’s no question that Danica and GoDaddy are the cash cows keeping that organization afloat…and so far, the No. 7 team is running like it. Can’t help but wonder if by the time Danica has to put NASCAR on the backburner to go run IRL, Almirola’s 2011 season will be already mailed in.
Technically, the Field was Full Yes, there were 43 cars that took the green flag for Saturday’s event, up from the 40 that showed up at Phoenix. But to say that this was an improvement for the Nationwide field as a whole is not an easy argument to make. The new entries were; the No. 97 of NEMCO Motorsports, which ended up racing the distance only after the team start-and-parked its No. 87; Tim Andrews’ No. 68 team, which start-and-parked after running all of their 2010 race dates to completion; and Charles Lewandoski’s No. 03 team, which ended up being nothing more than R3 Motorsports’ making an at-the-track decision to roll out their back-up car for a few laps. Filling the field with start-and-parks does not a healthier field make.
Where are the Regulars? Nationwide regulars had their best showing of 2011 at Vegas in taking six of the top 10 finishing positions, but perhaps the most glaring stat of all reflecting their inability to compete with the double-dippers is in terms of laps led; they’ve led no laps since Daytona, and only 11 of the 520 run this year. Not to mention the current points leader hasn’t led a lap all year. Weren’t Brian’s new points supposed to put a premium on winning?
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it is to put a premium on winning!after all you wrote about ill-gotten gains and you question the point system? it ain’t perfect,but at least it will prevent the cuppers from a NAT title!
“Martin, who spent much of the race’s final run saving fuel, to extend his all-time lead in Nationwide wins to 49….”
Don’t you mean 96 career Nascar wins. If the media is going to compare Kyle’s wins using all 3 series, we need to do the same for Martin as well correct?
Funny how this wasn’t mentioned by the networks, but they love to throw those numbers out when Kyle wins a race.
You also might add that 14 of the 30 Top 10 finishing positions so far this season were Cup regulars (46%) Boy that new rule change sure is discouraging these guys from racing in the series aren’t they? sarcasm over