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 · Tuesday November 1, 2011
ONE: Chase Overshadowing Just How Good This Race Was
Tony Stewart’s unlikely come from behind triumph at Martinsville this Sunday earned a tremendous amount of airtime, both for how dramatic a comeback the No. 14 team made over the course of 500 laps and how Smoke is having one of his patented hot streaks at just the right time in 2011… the fall, not the summer. There’s definitely plenty of story there; Stewart not only stole the win from Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps, he also fired a shot across point leader Carl Edwards’ bow in Victory Lane, saying he wasn’t going to let the driver of the No. 99 sleep for three weeks.
What got lost in the shuffle surrounding that charge is two-fold. For one, fresh tires won the day on Sunday. Jimmie Johnson got ahead on old rubber, but when the pay window opened after a late yellow, Stewart’s two tires proved the kryptonite to Johnson’s track position. After seeing race after race decided by the driver that didn’t take rubber to stay out front instead of taking Goodyears and battling back through the pack, this change was refreshing to see.
And two, Stewart passed Johnson on the outside… at Martinsville! Martinsville! I’ve been following stock car racing for the last decade, and I can safely say I’d never seen that ‘till Sunday. Smoke is hungry, he’s got momentum, and suddenly he’s got all the makings of a Chase favorite. But regardless of the points chase, Stewart gave the fans their money’s worth this Sunday, throwing caution and convention to the wind and scoring a grandfather clock for his troubles. There really isn’t a racing ailment that a trip to Martinsville can’t cure.
TWO: That Is, Except for the No. 48 Team
The loss in the last few laps notwithstanding, the No. 48 team was in the Chase form fans have been accustomed to seeing from them the better part of the last decade at Martinsville. They led 61 laps and at the point when the race went green for the final time, it was Johnson sitting in the catbird’s seat. So what happened? As the driver put it in post-race remarks, “I just didn’t get it done.” There’s nothing more to be said.
The pit call that left Johnson on the track when every other leader pitted for the final time may have seemed foolish when the move was made, but in the end it had the No. 48 right where it needed to be. The pit move didn’t lose the team the race, and the driver shouldn’t be ashamed either… Tony Stewart had more to race for, and he made a move for the ages.
Still, despite an “A” game performance from the five-time champs, it was all but impossible to ignore just how dejected Johnson seemed post-race, and how forced his words regarding crew chief Knaus’ strategy call were. Johnson’s lost close races like this one in the past (who can forget Kyle Busch’s ramrod run past him at Chicagoland a few seasons back?) but never seemed as melancholy as he did on Sunday.
Reality is, the drive for six is over and it really seems to be taking a toll on the driver. The breaks aren’t falling to the No. 48 team like they used to. Going against the grain on pit strategy isn’t yielding trophies anymore. Laying back to avoid trouble in plate races and surging when it counts just doesn’t seem to bring the checkers their way. And now it’s been two years since Johnson has visited Martinsville’s Victory Lane, a huge deal seeing as how he’d won five of the last seven races at the track before this stretch.
2012 is going to be the truest indicator of just how great the No. 48 team is. Their five championships is an incredible feat and can’t be diminished. But how they respond to losing title number six will say more. If Johnson and Co. run as an afterthought the final few races of this season, then start slow in 2012, it may well be over for one of the more notorious marriages the sport has seen in its history.
THREE: Just How Bad Is It Trying to Find a Ride?
Take a good, hard look at David Ragan. The current driver of Roush Fenway Racing’s flagship No. 6, the face of UPS and the summer Daytona winner is making a Nationwide Series start at Texas… for the start-up Randy Hill Racing organization that, until this weekend has been fielding cars for ARCA development driver Casey Roderick.
Now, for where the team sits in both the ARCA and Nationwide Series garages, there’s obviously some money flowing into the organization. Despite lacking sponsorship, Roderick has made six starts across the ARCA and Nationwide Series for the team since the summer. But let’s repeat: a driver that was hand-picked to succeed Mark Martin’s legendary No. 6 is now driving a start-up Nationwide Series entry. It’s a ride that does keep Ragan in the Ford camp, but it also demonstrates just how dry the stables of rides are out there right now.
Ragan already spoke to Scene Daily this past weekend about his willingness to accept a Nationwide Series ride should sponsorship on the Cup side not materialize for 2012. But looking at the Ford roster in the Nationwide ranks at this time, Randy Hill’s car is as good as it can get; the only other Fords in the field are those of Go Green Racing, the No. 27 entry that J.J. Yeley has start-and-parked a few times and half of Rick Ware Racing’s fleet.
It’s hardly surprising that Ragan’s clock in the Cup ranks is seemingly about to expire. Ever since finishing 13th in points back in 2008, the No. 6 car has been completely irrelevant on the Cup circuit, UPS’ mega-dollar sponsorship has yielded next-to-no TV time, and Ragan’s inconsistency will all but likely doom that high-level career after this year. Still, he’s a Cup driver with a huge sponsor, a Daytona trophy only three months old in his case at home and someone that Roush Fenway Racing has stuck with for five years… and this option is what’s he able to get for a ride to sell himself in NASCAR’s AAA?
It’s not a knock on Randy Hill Racing at all, who as an organization is to be commended for finding a way to enter the sport at this challenging time. But it’s hard to imagine this set of circumstances playing out the same way a few years ago.
FOUR: Time for NASCAR to Adopt the Three Yellow Rule
Out at the local Winchester (VA) Speedway, a 3/8-mile dirt oval 20 minutes from my parents’ house, there’s a rule in place that once a driver is involved in three yellows over the course of a feature, they’re parked for the night. Considering that the track plays host to plenty of drivers making their first start of any kind in a race car, there are times when the rule is needed. After all, when the guy running 24th in a 24-car field is spinning every two laps and slowing the whole field, that doesn’t do anyone any good, be they in the stands or behind the wheel.
Where was that rule this Sunday, and why shouldn’t it take part in Cup racing? The much-ballyhooed incident with Matt Kenseth notwithstanding (one that may well cost Kenseth a shot at the 2011 Cup), Brian Vickers hit just about everything he could on Martinsville’s racing surface this Sunday. Out of 18 yellows that flew over the race, the No. 83 car was involved in six of them. Six yellow flags involving one car, including one inside of 10 laps to go that had a dramatic impact not just on the competitors directly involved in the incident, but the outcome of the race itself.
The way the Cup points system works, there’s absolutely every reason to keep a wounded car on track to log laps and score points. But six yellows, including as many as the No. 83 were involved in Sunday that weren’t spins, but contact and scuffles with other competitors, is just far too much. Vickers took out a number of other cars, had a hard time keeping his own machine in a straight line, and triggered an event that ultimately decided the race.
If someone wants to carve out an exception to such a rule that wouldn’t count yellows not of a driver’s making towards a three-strikes policy, so be it. But Vickers did absolutely nothing to add to the show, nor to his race team’s efforts, with the performance the No. 83 car exhibited.
FIVE: It’s All About the Wins
Fellow writer Tom Bowles pointed out yet another Chase fallacy in explicit detail in his column Monday by describing how Tony Stewart, despite having three wins in seven races, with no DNFs, is failing to lead the standings in a playoff system meant both to fuel NASCAR’s late-season drama… and to ensure that no driver could do what Matt Kenseth did in 2003 and ride top-10 finishes to a title with only a Vegas win in the W column. Yet, Carl Edwards is the points leader after playing defense to the tune of 11th and ninth-place finishes the past two weeks.
Which begs the question, why not just determine the championship based on the win column? What would be so wrong with saying any driver that contests every race all season and wins the most gets the Cup? It would place less of a premium on consistency, sure, but I don’t know many race fans that head to the track to see their guy run seventh — unless, of course, they’re pulling for an underdog.
What’s more, just look at the past eight years of Cup racing, who the drivers that won the most races are and the type of seasons they had:
2003: Ryan Newman (11 poles, 8 wins, 22 top 10s, 6th in points)
Where’s the shame in crowning any of those drivers champion for any of those season-long performances? There’s no need to make this system more complicated than it is each week… laps in a circle, first guy to cross the line wins. The sport in its most boiled down sense is simple. Why shouldn’t the means of crowning a champion be?
©2000 - 2008 Bryan Davis Keith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Bryan, since you’ve only been watching for a decade you missed the spring race in 1998. Bobby Hamilton in the 43 car (Robbie Loomis was crewchief) passed on the outside all day. Over and over he passed guys on the outside. If I recall it was ran on a Monday due to rain. BTW he won the race.
What’s wrong with giving the championship to the driver with the most wins? Beats me! I have always thought that would be the best way to determine a championship. Racing really is a very simple sport; finish the specified laps first and you win. Easy. And the fact that the first year I followed NASCAR was 1985 made the points system all the more problematic for me. Bill Elliott wins 11 races, DW wins three, and DW gets the Winston Cup. OK………that makes sense…NOT! Then we have 1993, Rusty Wallace wins 10, Earnhardt 6, Dale gets the championship. In 1996, Jeff Gordon wins 10, Terry Labonte gets the trophy. Weird science.
The explanations for this seem to revolve around the sacred cow of “consistency,” but you are right, how exciting is it to watch consistency when you can have the thrill of victory instead? Would I mind a champion who won 10 times and had 10 DNF’s? No. Would I mind a champion who had NO wins in a season? Very much.
I think it really comes down to NASCAR’s desire to create an artificial sense of drama at the end of the season. And it did not start with the Chase. The powers that be always feared a guy running off a string of wins early on and coasting to the championship. But the result is that we have guys running off a string of top 15’s (Cousin Carl) and still leading the points. I would rather have given Carl the championship in 2008 when he deserved it than this year when he doesn’t. But I have always been out of step with NASCAR on this point, and expect I always will be.
Wake up NASCAR fans. NASCAR = Wall Street Greed. NASCAR IS NOT MAIN STREET. Nobody I know likes what the “banksters” GREED did to our economy. Brian France is exactly the same. He is an oligarch and has ruined “our” sport!
Awarding the championship to the racer with the most wins always boils down to this question: Is the racer with 18 wins and 18 43rd place finishes better than the racer with 36 2nd place finishes?
I see the point of Carl having an average season and being a champion, but what about last year. The drama was real and Johnson was considered a legitimate champion. He had one less win than Hamlin and Hamlin choked under the pressure at the end. Had Hamlin been given the championship based on wins alone, we would have not witnessed the choke and Hamlin’s failure to be a true champion. Also, Carl may become this years champion, but Tony Stewart is going to make Carl go out and earn it. If Tony is shooting for wins and Carl is shooting for top 5s, Tony will win the championship. Maybe Carl will come out and win the last two of three and shut everybody up. Who knows. I like the points as they are and I even enjoy the chase. It might not be old school or cool to admit, but I’ve enjoyed the last ten years of NASCAR.
Is Nascar and ESPN “ doctoring” the tv ratings and the attendance numbers for the chase.I smell something fishy even if ESPN
You know, I hadn’t ever thought about a “wins” column only. That’s how every other sport does it, the most wins at least make the playoffs, and then the most wins win the championship. Can’t win the world series if you don’t win the series before it. So simple…yet so great. Shorten all the races by 100 miles (except for the world 600), and count wins only….then, we’d see a season.
So Mr. Keith — are you suggesting your favorite driver should have been the champ in 2010? Can’t help but agree…. :)
I have been boasting a wins-only championship system for a decade now. Right now, it would be between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for the title.
Using a wins-only championship, if there is a tie, then Top 5 Finishes (2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 5th place finishes) should be the tiebreaker. I think that would be fair. In the words of the late Al Davis: “Just Win, Baby!!!”
Points, at most, should be awarded to the top 5 finishers, with a premium to the winner. No points should be awarded for leading a lap (anybody can do that).
One problem with determining the championship by wins is the likelihood of it being decided too prematurely.
Who cares if it’s decided early. A race is a race a win is a win. Or at least that’s the way it should be.
You know, if there wasn’t an AFL and an NFL, an American and National League, and there weren’t divisions within the league, and every team played every other team the same amount of times, there wouldn’t even be a need for playoffs in those sports. But since who teams play are weighted by divisions and leagues the only way to determine the champion is to have some kind of playoff system.
That’s what makes so many people hate the chase and the concept of a playoff in NASCAR… every team is out on the track every week. They all race on the same tracks. There shouldn’t be a need to have a playoff to determine who is the best.
To answer Kevin in SoCal, I would definitely give the championship to the guy who won 18 times over the guy who finished second 36 times! Anybody who finishes second that often is definitely lacking the character or cojones of a champion.
Since NASCAR will never go that route, I would be satisfied to weight wins even more heavily than they do now – it should be a HUGE incentive to win over finishing second. And cut off the points at P15. Other forms of motorsports do not award points for very poor finishes. Does it really mean anything that you finished 35th instead of 36th? Why is that worth the same as the difference between 2nd and 3rd?
Only in the twisted mind of NASCAR is it a good idea to have battered cars 100+ laps down running for positions in the 30’s.