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.
Though a midrace wreck took Kyle Busch out of contention early under the lights at Texas, another Sprint Cup regular made sure to lead boatloads of laps and utterly dominate another Nationwide Series event in Fort Worth. Leading 169 of the 200 circuits and not being seriously challenged after taking the lead on lap 110 (only Michael Annett and Brian Scott led during a cycle of green flag stops during that stretch), Carl Edwards easily defended his race win from last fall, scoring Ford’s first W after switching to their new CoT Mustang. Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard, Joey Logano and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top-5 finishers Friday night.
Though practice sessions on Thursday and Friday saw all three of the Roush Fenway Racing entries near the top of the charts, both Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Trevor Bayne faded as the night unfolded, both fighting ill-handling race cars that left them non-factors for the win while Edwards drove away on a rail. Though Keselowski closed to within a few car lengths during the final run to the checkers before fading himself, the only car that seemed to have the horses to keep up with the No. 60 this night was that of Kyle Busch. Busch’s night ended on lap 88, however, when Tim Schendel cut a right front tire in turn 1 and collected Busch trying to save his car.
Though an eighth-place result was far removed from what Stenhouse and the No. 6 team wanted out of the weekend, dropping through the field after topping the charts all through practice, the top 10 did allow the Roush prospect to maintain the Nationwide Series points lead, gaining ground on Jason Leffler, who finished 15th. Elliott Sadler closed the gap on the top 3 in the standings after running fifth, his third consecutive top-5 finish and highest among Nationwide regulars.
It’s amazing what a solid visit to Bristol Motor Speedway can do for Elliott Sadler, who – on the heels of another top-5 run this weekend – is now the hottest driver on the Nationwide circuit. On an evening that saw Stenhouse, Bayne and a plethora of contenders for the Nationwide crown verbally upset with their ill-handling cars, Sadler’s veteran composure shone through for the No. 2 team, yielding a fifth-place finish that was the driver’s best in NNS competition at the Great American Speedway since 2005. With Kevin Harvick, Incorporated’s No. 33 car also scoring a top-5 finish this weekend, the operation’s NNS outfit is firing on all eight cylinders, and with the team’s veteran driver now on a hot streak heading into a wildcard Talladega race and a standalone event at Nashville the No. 2 is a solid bet to be the first NNS regular to find Victory Lane in 2011.
Although Sadler deserves accolades for his third consecutive top 5, Justin Allgaier put up a whale of a fight to prevent him from scoring it. Allgaier snapped a streak of two consecutive finishes outside the top 10 with a sixth-place result Friday night, an ending all the more solid for the No. 31 team in that it allowed both driver and crew chief Jimmy Elledge to improve over the course of the event (Allgaier nearly fell out of the top 15 in the early going). With the strength displayed by Roush’s No. 6 team and Sadler’s recent surge, chemistry between last season’s unofficial Nationwide champ and Elledge will have to develop in a hurry to keep them in the title hunt. Friday night showed they’re getting close.
Allgaier’s Turner Motorsports teammate Reed Sorenson was finally able to stop the bleeding after a stretch of three consecutive finishes outside the top 10 dropped the No. 32 team from the points lead to fifth. Coming home seventh Saturday night, Sorenson scored his third consecutive top 10 at Texas; more importantly, he stayed in the thick of the points with his closest competition, making up ground on Stenhouse and Leffler while minimizing losses to Allgaier and Sadler. Sorenson earned a full-time ride in the No. 32 thanks to consistency that saw him rack up 21 top 10s in a limited schedule last season. Getting back to seventh-place finishes shows this squad hasn’t lost that yet.
It certainly appears that this new Nationwide Series car is taxing ML Motorsports. One of the most solid part-time campaigners of the past two seasons with Shelby Howard driving the No. 70, Friday night saw Howard retire 24 laps short of the finish with suspension issues in 30th place. It was the exclamation point on a tough weekend, an example of how difficult 2011 has been after qualifying outside the top 20 for the fifth consecutive event. The qualifying stats are telltale themselves; it’s the first time dating back to the start of his tenure with ML back in 2009 that Howard has gone five consecutive starts without a top-20 time trial effort. But the the finish was also the fifth of five races in 2011 that also saw the No. 70 team fail to crack the top 20 in the finishing order after a 2010 campaign that yielded eight such results. Further, it also marked the ninth time in nine attempts with the new car that ML has failed to crack the same top 20. It’s about as textbook a case as there is out there to demonstrate just how much development this new race car actually needs… and the reality of what a smaller race team can do with it.
Morgan Shepherd’s No. 89 car saw a stretch of three consecutive races run the distance snapped on Friday, with a listed engine failure sidelining them after only 23 laps. Coming on the same weekend that saw the team’s start-and-park No. 55 of Brett Rowe miss the field entirely, it was at best an unfortunate mechanical failure bringing a premature end to the squad’s race weekend. At worst, without the revenue from the second car, the No. 89 didn’t have the dollars to run 300 miles. That’s pure speculation on this writer’s part, but it’s worth noting that since Daytona, Rowe had made every race… meaning those dollars had been there, every race, until this weekend.
Scott Wimmer’s engine failure was well documented during ESPN’s telecast (by Key Motorsports standards, anyway – they actually got shown on TV this weekend), and was a disastrous result on two fronts. One, it marked the third time in six races so far this year that the No. 40 car has retired with a failed motor. Second, the 33rd-place result dropped Wimmer and the Key team out of the top 30 in owner points, leaving them and their struggling motor program to race their way into the show at Talladega. It’s safe to say this bunch will be paying close attention to this weekend’s entry list…
Anyone watching the scoring ticker as the race wore down would have noted that Jeff Green took Eric McClure’s place behind the wheel of the No. 14 for the final stretch of the event (he start-and-parked his own No. 44 entry after two laps) and would have been waiting all night for ESPN to explain the driver swap, which they never did. McClure’s car earlier in the race had started smoking thanks to a failed fuel pump seal (the team reported that the part failure was officially a “leaking fuel pump cable adapter),” and fumes filled the cockpit before McClure was able to get the car to the garage. The driver reported feeling ill and dizzy from the chemicals as the team made repairs, prompting NASCAR to ask the No. 14 team to find another driver to finish the event. Green brought the car home a distant 31st.
While ESPN’s broadcast crew couldn’t spend enough time describing how nice a job Carl Edwards did avoiding disaster and how unfortunate it was for Kyle Busch to get wrecked as a result of Tim Schendel’s blown tire on lap 88, there was no such attention paid to the driver of the No. 52 unfortunate enough to actually cut the tire down and wreck his own race car. While ESPN’s pit reporters were visibly seen talking to Joe Gibbs Racing PR reps during the race broadcast about when they’d be able to speak to Kyle (and presumably waiting by the No. 18 hauler for said remarks), nobody bothered to track down Schendel in the garage to get his take on what happened. No one bothered to note how unfortunate it was for Means Racing, who already had to borrow a car simply to race after a practice crash at Daytona earlier this season, to have another one of their cars suffer heavy damage. That’s an ugly state of affairs there. Sure, it sucks that Carl was deprived of another Buschwhacker to race against, and it sucks that Busch was unable to go for another minor league trophy, and it sucks for a multimillion dollar giant in Joe Gibbs Racing that they have to fix a car now. But they’ll all be back next week. That’s not such a sure thing for the No. 52 bunch. Then again, apparently the No. 52 doesn’t make for very good TV.
Underdog Performer of the Race: Sam Hornish, Jr. It’s hard to classify a Penske Racing entry as an underdog, but Sam Hornish’s current situation is certainly befitting of the title. A driver demoted from a full-time Cup ride to a 10-race Nationwide Series slate, Hornish was back in a stock car for the first time since Daytona two months ago this weekend. Overcoming a vibration and working with a crew that all have other full-time positions within the Penske Racing organization, Hornish kept his nose clean and finished 16th, his best NASCAR result ever at Texas. For a driver who was all but forced into a Cup ride while trying to learn stock cars at the wishes of sponsorship, runs like Friday night are solid examples of driver development. Whether they’ll translate into a job, though, remains to be seen.
Start-and-parkers took 7 of the 43 spots in Friday’s field, taking home $103,419 in purse money.
Cup regulars won Friday’s race, scored five of the top-10 finishing positions, occupied 9 of the 43 spots in the field, and took home $282,838 in purse money.
Year to Date
84 of 255 starting positions occupied (32.9%)
Who You Didn’t See
David Starr, Blake Koch, Shelby Howard, Jeremy Clements, Danny O’Quinn, Mike Bliss and Eric McClure were all entries that did not start-and-park Friday and were not mentioned in any capacity during ESPN’s telecast. Further, Morgan Shepherd was only mentioned in passing and was never confirmed as an engine failure or start-and-park, Timmy Hill was only mentioned as giving way to the leaders once, and both Jennifer Jo Cobb and Derrike Cope were mentioned only in passing for penalties or wave-arounds, with no camera time given to their cars. The driver swap between Eric McClure and Jeff Green was not reported. That’s 11 of the 28 entries in the field Friday that did not start-and-park and were not wheeled by Cup regulars (39.3%).
In addition, Scott Wimmer, Tim Schendel and Robert Richardson were all only featured during the broadcast as a result of their involvement in on-track incidents. Despite being involved in a wreck that took out the second-place driver, Schendel was not interviewed. So if you’re scoring at home, that’s an additional three of the 28 entries in the field that didn’t start-and-park or Buschwhack (10.7%).
How does that total out? 50.0% of the field that didn’t start-and-park or field a Cup driver was not mentioned or mentioned in passing on Friday.
The Final Word…On Who You Didn’t See
The Final Word
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Another week of lousy broadcasting by the ESPN2 crew. We were so upset with them over not telling us anything about the #52. I finally went on line to see who he was.From what we could see it was not his fault.There have been some nasty things written about the guy in reply remarks on another column.Was glad he had gone to talk to Carl and had tried to talk to Kyle. Hope he can come back and have a better race another time. Appears to be a find you man.
CLASS ACT OF RACE/SERIES
And a Shout out to Jennifer Jo Cobb for continueing to run all the laps she can. I will spend more money on her sponsers then I would ever spend on a Start and Park cars sponser.
I don’t understand why anyone would make anti-52 comments. I mean jeez… sure it wasn’t the best thing that could have happened (that would’ve been if this had been a plate track and his issue caused all the Cup guys in the race to pile into each other and let us watch a NATIONWIDE RACE for once.) But it’s not his fault. I just wish he would’ve clipped Edwards too so we could’ve seen a competitive race.
Disclaimer _ I am a Kyle Busch fan and Carl Edwards supporter in their endeavours, but as far as Nationwide goes, I would prefer they wreck every race they enter, along with all the other buschwhackers.