NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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
Monday March 3, 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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Editor’s Note: For the rest of the season, a rotating cast of characters will be sharing responsibility for Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud column, including today’s columnist, Bryan Keith. Let us know what you think in the comments section below as we search for a full-time replacement!
Key Moment – On lap 461, Denny Hamlin finally got underneath Carl Edwards’ No. 99 (who was on older tires) and held off a crossover attempt by Edwards that same lap to ride off into the Bristol sunset, scoring his third win of 2012.
In a Nutshell – The latest “new” Bristol is still not the Bristol of old. But between the buzz, the wrecks and a decent crowd, the August night race resembled its former self for the first time since the pre-Chase era.
Dramatic Moment – Matt Kenseth aggressively drove underneath Tony Stewart battling for position on lap 333, leading the two to both crowd each other exiting the corner and ending with both drivers ending up slamming the inside wall with wrecked race cars. Kenseth was able to drive away, but his damage wasn’t complete; one lap later, an angry Stewart threw his helmet at Kenseth’s No. 17 exiting pit road, nailing the Fusion decal on the front hood of the vehicle. Stewart went after Kenseth in post-race remarks, noting “I’m going to run over him every chance I get” when asked how he’d race a likely-to-be Chase competitor going forward.
What They’ll Be Talking about Around the Water Cooler This Week
No, Bruton Smith’s latest alteration to the Bristol Motor Speedway did not return the track to its old self, as the never-ending parade of cars running the top line of the track in the final 200 laps clearly demonstrated. But having said that, the smoothing job done on the top groove did narrow down the racing room on the Bristol track, and in doing so produced close quarters racing that triggered a significant number of incidents. Kurt Busch and Regan Smith hit just about everything on track over the course of 500 laps. Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth did Bruton Smith a favor and multi-tasked, filming the 2013 Bristol ticket promo while competing. Even little Danica Patrick even tried to get in with the big, bad stock car racers, pointing her finger at Regan Smith after a late-race wreck. If the measure of whether or not the Bristol night race is “back” is measured in terms of banged up sheet metal and anger, the 2012 event was the best seen since the Edwards/Kyle Busch dustup of 2008… and arguably, the most contentious since the 20-caution melee of 2003. Having said that, was it a better race? Fortunately, even with the three grooves gone, there were still two present, making passing without running over someone possible… and meaning this Bristol configuration is still an improvement over the old.
Let’s get the Stewart/Kenseth talk out of the way, since every sportswriter within 3,000 miles of Bristol, Tennessee is going to weigh in with their take on NASCAR’s most marketable highlight reel this season. Will Stewart, in fact live up to his promise of wrecking Kenseth every chance he gets? It’s a unique situation the driver of the No. 17 finds himself in now. When he won the championship in 2003, Kenseth didn’t have a rivalry brewing on the racetrack; he’s not exactly Mr. Controversial. So now, in the case of Stewart, it’s doubly troubling. For one, Smoke is firmly capable of holding a grudge, meaning when he says he intends to wreck the No. 17 every chance he gets, they’re words to be taken seriously. Compounding the situation, too is that times are not great for Stewart-Haas Racing. Ryan Newman is teetering on missing the Chase for the second time in three years, with sponsorship for 2013 to be determined, while Stewart is about to fall from a top-10 spot to a wild-card Chase slot courtesy of an ugly summer stretch. The No. 14 team is cold at just the wrong time, failing when their driver is historically at his best. That leaves Stewart pretty angry and, at fault or not, Kenseth is now in a bulls-eye he’s going to have to take very seriously.
During the broadcast Saturday night, Michael Waltrip Racing’s current upswing that placed three cars in the top 11 at Bristol was attributed to one Mark Martin, even if “the Kid” was on the sidelines in favor of Brian Vickers (who scored another top-5 result after leading 125 laps and finishing fifth at the track in the spring). Martin or not though, the level of improvement this team has exhibited in 2012 has been nothing short of remarkable. Martin Truex, Jr. is having a career year, even without a victory to show for it, Clint Bowyer has quieted all naysayers who doubted his move from Richard Childress Racing, and the No. 55 car has proven the most stout Cup ride with rotating drivers in recent memory. Now, only two events from the Chase, the question around this operation is whether or not it can go from feel-good story to contender in the same year. Because while Martin has done an admirable job getting MWR’s Toyotas up to speed, contesting the Chase is not something Martin has a ton of expertise in. The question is now whether Truex or Bowyer can find their way, together during the postseason after the heels of their success 24 races in.
How is it that Jason Leffler can be a solid contender and a reliable top-10 driver for over half a decade in Nationwide competition but wash out of Kyle Busch’s Truck ride and a Joe Gibbs Racing Cup ride in less than a season? Whatever the scientific reason, Leffler ended up looking like his usual Cup self driving the No. 49, taking only nine laps before dumping Ken Schrader’s No. 32 machine hard into the interior retaining wall (the damage was so significant Schrader couldn’t drive away, the front wheels were not touching the ground). It’s amazing how plentiful second chances are for some drivers in a sport that has so few of them.
Marcos Ambrose came up four spots short of scoring a second win in 2012 and becoming a serious player for a Chase berth, but it’s abundantly clear that Richard Petty Motorsports put some real emphasis on this race. Ambrose scoring a top-5 finish at Bristol was not a surprise… his aggression has always parlayed well to the high banks. But more notably, and tragically as well was how strong Aric Almirola ran in the early segments of the race. During the first runs of the event, Almirola was the only car short of eventual race winner Denny Hamlin’s capable of making passes on the bottom of the track. That had the No. 43 car seemed poised to pick up where it left off at the last concrete race in Dover (finished sixth). Alas, this ending wasn’t to be, as contact with David Gilliland put the No. 43 into the wall en route to 35th. While plenty of Chase contenders juggled their running order Saturday night, the one Cinderella story in the bunch died a quiet death much the same way Almirola’s unheralded run did.
On the same thread, if one is looking for larger metaphors in this race for the Ford camp, Carl Edwards’ Chase hopes are sunk. The No. 99 car unintentionally got off pit sequence after Edwards missed a call to pit road, and as a result had older tires and a dry fuel tank cost them the ability to hold off Denny Hamlin for the win or even able to be running at the finish (limping is the more accurate term). Still 12th in points, it’s tough to see the speed out of this camp they’ll need to have in order to contend at Atlanta or Richmond.
If past history is any indication, Ryan Newman ought to be thanking his lucky stars that he got wrecked in the Bristol night race with a Chase slot narrowly hanging in the balance. Rewind back to 2005, where Newman got run over in a retaliatory move by Dale Jarrett that all but destroyed his No. 12 Dodge. Newman ended up squeaking into the Chase that year, even with lackluster 18th and 12th-place finishes in the two races that followed. But didn’t it seem just a bit hypocritical to have Dale Jarrett refer to Juan Pablo Montoya’s wrecking of the No. 39 as uncalled for? After all, despite the acres of past history between Montoya and Newman, the video of Montoya’s hands didn’t suggest malice the way Jarrett’s 2005 job did.
It was decent for Phil Parsons and his No. 98 team to actually race a full distance after driver Michael McDowell delivered in the invocation for Saturday’s 500-lapper. Start-and-parking after being part of the opening ceremonies would be like saying “Hail Mary, Amen” for a prayer.
It’s no secret that Sam Hornish, Jr. wants to be back in the Cup Series full-time. Considering the way Bristol went, one has to ask the question why? In a span of less than 10 laps leading up to the third yellow flag of the evening on lap 122, both Kurt Busch and David Ragan all but bowled over the No. 22 car. If one didn’t know better, both about Hornish, his current tenure in that car and the prestige of the Cup Series, it’d be hard to imagine anyone would want to leave a Nationwide Series ride for that kind of experience. Having said that, his fault or not, Bristol took some of the luster off Hornish’s strong past couple of weekends. Returning to Atlanta, the track he scored his first top-15 finish ever in NASCAR competition, has even more significance as a result.
Interesting observation… despite an announcement back in May that the BK Racing team would field a third, No. 73 car for David Reutimann in all races that he wasn’t driving the No. 10 for Tommy Baldwin Racing, Reutimann wasn’t on-track at Bristol, and hasn’t been for several other races. It’s hard to imagine it’s financial… the BK team has been showing up week after week with full tire allotments in the pits for both teams, indicating there’s at least some cash flow. What happened here?
It’s interesting that Bristol reported attendance went down from 156,000 to 145,000, seeing as how the stands looked better than they have in years. Maybe NASCAR’s estimating techniques get more realistic the better the attendance actually is?
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Brad Keselowski started on the outside of the front row, but it was clear even on the first run that despite having the paint scheme of nine-time Bristol winner Rusty Wallace (gee Rusty, before this latest broadcast we never knew you did that) that the No. 2 was not in the same form it won two consecutive Cup races in. Keselowski fell back from the front row starting spot early; then, on lap 271 he got turned by Bobby Labonte into the interior wall in much the same way he wrecked in Friday’s Nationwide race. Keselowski finished 30th, snapping a seven race top-10 streak.
After being the slowest car in first practice and starting in the back of the field, Danica Patrick managed to ride out the storm for 434 laps in much the same way she finished ninth in Friday’s race. Lap 434, though, saw Regan Smith tag her No. 10 and destroy it. Whoops! Having said that, seeing as how Danica-mania is all about marketing, there’s something to be said about just how much airplay that pathetic finger-pointing gesture at the No. 78 is going to get. It’ll be front and center, both this week and for however long she stays in NASCAR racing as an example of her ever-growing development as a stock car driver. Yes, that’s sarcasm…
Jeff Burton’s rare strong performance got derailed on lap 271 when the No. 31 proved unable to avoid Ryan Newman’s pulverized race car. Instead of a top 10, Burton finished 33rd; the result made five finishes outside the top 20 in the last six races for the Caterpillar team.
Kurt Busch’s hard driving ended up being driving over his head at Bristol on Saturday, a track he knows full well how to race on. Contact with cars on lap 80, the wall on lap 121 and with Regan Smith on lap 321 went a long way to bang up the No. 51, which ended the night in 28th.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Casey Mears scored Germain Racing’s first Cup Series pole courtesy of a well-timed rainout on Friday and actually did well to lead the first 26 laps before starting his descent through the field. It was a watershed moment for the No. 13 team, even if it was obvious early that Mears was obstructing a lot of cars at the front of the pack. Despite losing positions early and an encounter with the wall on lap 413 that brought out the yellow flag, Mears finished in the 21st position on Saturday to break a stretch of four consecutive finishes outside the top 30 on ovals.
Brian Vickers only led one lap after leading 125 in the spring race, but his fourth-place finish was his third top 5 in only six starts this season and equaled his season-best result. Of note, Vickers has scored as many top 5s in those six starts with MWR as he did in 36 races with Red Bull Racing a year ago.
Red Bull Racing may be no more, but Travis Kvapil’s quietly throwing some quality results together with the team’s reincarnation as BK Racing. Finishing 18th on Saturday night, Kvapil has scored consecutive top-20 performances and four top 25s in a row driving the No. 93, the longest such streak for the team with any driver in 2012.
What’s the Points?
Despite finishing a quiet 19th, Greg Biffle managed to maintain the points lead over Jimmie Johnson (who finished second and led 52 laps). Biffle leads the No. 48 team by 11 markers heading into Atlanta. Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains third, while Matt Kenseth’s scuffle dropped the No. 17 team to fourth. Martin Truex, Jr. and Clint Bowyer both passed Brad Keselowski after his wreck, with race winner Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart rounding out the top 10. Stewart leads Kasey Kahne by 16 markers for the last spot in the top 10.
The wild card leaders following the night race are Kasey Kahne with his two wins and Kyle Busch, whose sixth-place result has him ahead of both Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman by 16 and 19 points, respectively.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and six being an instant classic) — We’ll give this one four cans of cold domestic on a Saturday evening. The last weekend before football season really kicks off, this Bristol race was one of the better ones seen in recent years, with plenty of action and bent up sheet metal even for the wreck happy amongst the crowd. It still wasn’t the old Bristol and it was on ESPN, but overall this one was far from the worst 500 laps of the season.
Next Up – Atlanta, one of the few tracks on the circuit that hasn’t been repaved or reconfigured in recent memory. Think of it as a poor man’s Labor Day 500.
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I liked the multi-groove Bristol and was prepared to like the new öld“Bristol. But this one had lots of action for the classic fans, and two good grooves to allow passing. Bruton got this one right.
Glad this one was on broadcast TV, wish the next one was Darlington instead of Atlanta.
I was pleasantly surprised that the race had as much fire as it did. With the chase looming drivers aren’t usually as interested in mixing it up but this year they did.
New Bristol, old Bristol, or new-old Bristol? Everybody has an opinion. I believe it was Kyle Petty who said just fill it with water and stock it with bass. Personally, I’ll take any Bristol configuration over most of the intermediate tracks on the schedule.
The Stewart/Kenseth Wreck: Tony can blame Matt and Matt can blame Tony but does it really matter? It was just short track racing. I have no problem with Stewart promising to wreck Kenseth every chance he gets, but I hope he’s smart enough to know that Kenseth has a bumper too.
Yeah, Danica’s finger-pointing at Regan Smith looked kind of silly but at least she didn’t drop an f-bomb this weekend. Or throw a helmet.
Can we just skip Atlanta and go straight to Richmond?
Excellant recap. Best on the net!
Tony throws like a girl. LOL.
You think ole Matt Kenseth can’t run over Tony the way Tony says he’ll do to him?
I enjoyed the race. I like the changes. Now if we can do something about the effect of the Chase and conservative points racing Bristol will be the hot ticket again.
The race’n was not a good as the wreck’n.
Well done! It’s a pleasure to read a column by someone not burned out on NASCAR.
JPM isn’t good enough to carry DJ’s microphone to the booth for him.
DJ= hell of a champion NASCAR driver.
JPM=another cast-off from open wheel who just runs into people because he can’t do any better.
old farmer… Hell, JPM even runs into jet dryers!
1) I don’t think that it is fair to give Travis a shout out for 2 top 20’s without giving David Gilliland a shout out for 3 top 20’s. These two guys are by far my favorite drivers, but David’s streak is more impressive considering that FRM has much less sponsorship than BK.
2) Reutimann specifically said that he did not want to be in the 73 so he would not disrupt the great runs that BK has been having with the 93/83. That is VERY kind and smart of him as I do not think that BK currently can field three solid teams. It would be like FRM in 2010 where FRM overextended themselves far too much.
Interesting observation about Kvapil’s consecutive Top 20 runs. David Gilliland has done the same, but has 3 Top 20’s and 4 Top 25’s in a row. Not bad for a team that is the most underfunded yet runs full races.
I really miss the Nascar realist who used to write the recaps. If I want Pom Pom shaking kool aid drinkers I can go to Nascar.com.
Ready to write again…
It was good to see some hard racing at Bristol again. I agree with Tim, if we could get rid of the effects of the Chase on the night race – we might see some “old” Bristol yet!
All in all, I know it was an improvement and despite all the hype there were actually passes made without wrecks!