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.
In a Nutshell: Ty Dillon, who left Texas three weeks ago sorely disappointed in a runner-up finish, took the checkered flag 5.735 seconds ahead of Brad Keselowski, scoring his first win of the year in Thursday night’s UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway. Following a lap 113 restart in sixth, Dillon spent just a dozen laps to catch and pass then-leader Kyle Busch before leading the final 26 laps en route to victory lane. Busch, James Buescher and rookie Ryan Blaney rounded out the top 5.
Who Should Have Won: Ty Dillon. You could make a case for either Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch or even Darrell Wallace, Jr.—who led a combined 124 of 150 laps—as drivers who should have been celebrating in victory lane, but their misfortunes combined with Dillon’s late race speed put him the catbird seat. After starting 22nd, a two-tire pit stop call by crew chief Marcus Richmond put the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet inside the top 10. From there, it was a chassis adjustment on his final stop that seemed to turn the truck around. Pulling out to a lead of more than five seconds, Dillon clearly had the truck to beat in the closing laps of the race.
Did you miss the race? In this section of Tracking the Trucks, you’ll find the major storylines that went on all in one place.
Brett Moffitt Enjoys Solid Debut
Thursday night’s UNOH 225 marked Brett Moffitt’s Camping World Truck Series debut. After running outside the top 15 in both practice sessions as he tried to familiarize himself with the truck, Moffitt had a rough qualifying run, wrecking his primary truck and forcing the team to set up teammate Johnny Sauter’s backup truck without a single lap on the track. Though he started in the back of the pack, the driver of the No. 13 AISIN Toyota worked his way inside the top 25 within the first ten laps. By the time the field had run 30 laps, Moffitt had worked his way inside the top 20 and remained there the rest of the night, slowly picking off spots one by one until he settled into a solid 14th-place finish.
“I learned a lot. These things are really aero dependent so it’s a big learning curve when you come to a big mile-and-a-half because it’s all about the air. Definitely learned what not to do in qualifying—got that down and hopefully that never happens again. It was an overall good experience; I just wish we would have ended up better than we were,” Moffitt said. “We had to unload that backup truck and just get as close as we could before the race. Hats off to the guys—all three of the ThorSport teams came over to help us get it together so thanks to all of them. Thank you to Duke Thorson (team owner) for the opportunity. Just hoping I can get in some more of these.”
While a wreck in qualifying certainly wasn’t the start to the day Moffitt had been hoping for, a solid finish was exactly what he needed to earn his right to race at Michigan International Speedway in his next planned event. Moffitt never worked his way into the top 10, however a quiet night where every lap run in his first career race allowed him to gain valuable track time while learning how the trucks handle. It’s hard to say after a single race whether he’ll manage to run better than top 15, but it is worth noting that Todd Bodine’s best finish behind the wheel of the same truck was 11th twice. One thing that I am sure of, though, is that I’m looking forward to Moffitt’s next start in the series as he continues in his quest to run in one of NASCAR’s top three series.
Townley Showing Performance Improvement
Before the green flag even flew over Thursday night’s race, John Wes Townley had every reason to be happy with his trip to Kentucky Speedway. After all, he had just posted a third-place qualifying lap, a career-high for the 23-year-old driver. Starting near the front of the field, Townley remained there until the first round of pit stops when he lost several positions on pit road. And as has been the case in the Truck Series for a while now, the handling on the No. 7 Zaxby’s Toyota changed a little farther back in traffic.
Then, on lap 80, Townley brought out the fourth caution when he slid sideways on the outside of Brad Keselowski’s machine before righting his truck and continuing on without any contact to the wall. Though several drivers have been able to get themselves out of situations like those unscathed in the past, the Townley of a few years ago likely would have gotten into the wall and sent himself to the garage. Instead, he continued racing and wound up with a solid 11th-place finish, a run that allowed him to jump two spots in the standings to 15th.
“[Racing with the leaders] was a lot of fun while it lasted. We had us a great qualifying run and we stayed up there for a little bit,” Townley said. “Unfortunately we got a little bit behind on the pit stop and we were kind of playing catch up ever since. Overall, we didn’t get the finish we wanted, but we got the image out there. Now we have to stay up there—that’s the goal as we keep going on.”
Sure, Townley wasn’t really in contention for the win in the late going, but he did start off strong and ran well until losing valuable track position on pit road. Add in the impressive save that he made after skidding sideways, and it’s hard not to look at the driver of the No. 7 Toyota and see that he is making some progress. Most will say that he’s wrecked more than enough equipment for a handful of drivers in his career—and they wouldn’t be wrong—but running in the Truck Series appears to be just what Townley needs to continue improving his performance.
NASCAR’s Questionable Caution Calls
NASCAR made a couple of questionable caution calls on Thursday night. The first came when John Wes Townley had his truck sideways and recovered with no spin. The slide reminded me quite a bit of a single-truck version of Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday, Jr.‘s synchronized spin at Kansas in 2010, where the pair got sideways and somehow managed to right both trucks and keep right on racing, all why the green flag continued to fly over the field. The question in my mind remains as to why NASCAR felt that the caution for Townley last Thursday night was needed. With no debris and no trucks stranded on the track to worry about, it seems odd that the caution flag flew with such a minor slide.
The second incident came when the sanctioning body chose not to throw the yellow when Joey Coulter wrecked as the field took the white flag. With the help of an air disturbance from German Quiroga, Coulter’s truck snapped around, hit the wall and quickly got straightened back out for a trip down pit road and out of the race. Yes, Coulter righted the No. 18 Toyota and got it out of the racing surface, but replays showed the shower of debris that flew off of his truck after hard contact with the wall, some of which sat directly in the path of Norm Benning’s No. 57 Chevrolet as he cruised around the track on the high side.
Had it been turn one or two on the final lap, I would have had no issue with NASCAR not throwing the caution. But it’s different when the leaders will come back by that debris at full speed to take the checkered flag. You could say that the debris was high enough on the track for the sanctioning body to ignore it as a hazard to the drivers on the track, especially since it was the final lap and fans definitely want to see a race end under the green flag, but in these days where a water bottle on the track causes the caution to fly, it’s hard not to scratch your head at such a no-call.
- In the late stages of the UNOH 225, rookie Ryan Blaney chased down then-leader Kyle Busch and appeared to have a truck strong enough to make the pass and take the win, but Busch wandered up the track and the slight contact sent Blaney’s No. 29 Ford into the wall, caving in the right front corner and essentially ending his run for the victory. Though Blaney didn’t blame Busch for it and the latter did back off of the throttle in an attempt to avoid the contact, Busch didn’t feel the need to apologize to Blaney. Sure, he said how much he “hated it” for the young driver, but it’s amazing what the two little words ‘I’m sorry’ will do to fix unintentional contact.
- After starting off the year with back-to-back victories, Johnny Sauter has struggled in the last few races, and Thursday night was no different. Before the green flag even flew, Sauter’s truck was without power and had to be pushed to pit road by a safety vehicle. Just as the crew was about to pop the hood in an attempt to figure out the problem, the engine re-fired and Sauter joined the field for the beginning of the race. Having gained several positions in the opening laps, the problems didn’t end there for the driver of the No. 98 Carolina Nut Toyota. He was busted during the first round of pit stops for a loose tire and was forced to restart at the tail end of the longest line. Though he was able to work his way up to a respectable 12th-place finish, Sauter dropped another spot in the standings and now finds himself tied with rookie Ryan Blaney for fifth, 47 points behind teammate and leader Matt Crafton.
- Cale Gale, who won last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, made his first Truck Series start of the season Thursday night behind the wheel of the No. 30 Rheem Chevrolet, fielded by Turner Scott Motorsports. After starting 18th, the 28-year-old had an uneventful race and spent some time running inside the top 10 before dropping back to an eventual 13th-place finish.
Truck Rookie Report
No. of Rookies in the Race: 8 (add Danny Efland, CJ Faison and a debuting Brett Moffitt)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 3; Ryan Blaney, finished fifth; German Quiroga, finished eighth; Jeb Burton, finished ninth
Rookie of the Race: Ryan Blaney
“What a night it was. We sat on the pole and finished in the top five with a damaged Truck. I am so proud of everyone on this team, they always fight until the last possible second. Looking at the big picture, we continue to make strides in a positive direction. I can’t wait to get to Iowa — It’s one of my favorites.” Ryan Blaney, finished fifth
“I’m very happy for the Red Horse Racing 77 Otter Box Toyota Tundra was very good. We were fast and practice we were sixth and fourth in both practice and we qualified eighth. We knew we could take a risk of putting the truck loose. We’re good and I’m happy with a top-10 and hopefully we can get better with every weekend. This was good for the rookie points, so that’s what we’re looking for and hopefully and hopefully we get a top-five next race.” German Quiroga, finished eighth
“It wasn’t the finish we wanted, but the team worked so hard and did great tonight. A top-10 finish is never a bad thing. It’s just tough not being able to get these guys a back-to-back win. It means a lot to have everyone’s support. It only makes me more determined to win.” Jeb Burton, finished ninth
“It was just hard racing going into (turn) three. Me and Ryan (Blaney) — just a little tight right there and I got loose. I thought I had it saved and I think if he wasn’t there and already gone that I might have saved it and just lost more positions. Just hard racing. I’m still trying to figure these trucks out — I’m a rookie, that’s what the yellow stripes are for. Thanks again to Toyota, Good Sam, Camping World — we’ll be back. We had another truck to beat and we were out running the boss, so that’s pretty fun.” Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished 28th
Biggest Loser: On the strength of five straight top-5 finishes, Brendan Gaughan came into Kentucky Speedway third in points and 35 markers behind leader Matt Crafton. Hoping to capitalize on another mile-and-a-half track, Gaughan started fourth and looked like he just might be able to continue his top 5 streak. But that all came crashing to a halt when smoke began billowing out of the back end of the No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet. Relegated to the garage area for 34 laps, the team discovered that the oil pump on the truck had failed. After replacing it, Gaughan returned to the track in 32nd place and spent the remainder of the race logging laps and gaining positions through attrition en route to a 27th-place finish. As a result, Gaughan dropped four sports in the standings and, perhaps more importantly, lost 17 points to leader Matt Crafton.
“That was not the finish this South Point Chevrolet team was looking for or deserved. We had a great qualifying effort and Shane (Wilson, crew chief) made some big changes before we went out there,” Gaughan said. “We were good in the race and just finding our rhythm and stride when we ended up in the garage. But, like I knew we could, we were able to fix it to get back out and earn some points.”
While it certainly wasn’t the strong finish the driver or team had hoped for, the hard work spent in the garage area to make repairs to the No. 62 truck paid off in the form of five more points in the all-important championship battle. There was no way for Gaughan to win this race. However, those additional positions he gained while running 34 laps down could end up making the difference between a trip to this year’s awards banquet and sitting at home while other drivers go in his place. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible for Gaughan to the win the championship at this point, but what I will say is that he definitely can’t afford to have another disappointing run like he did in Kentucky.
Points Update: Matt Crafton maintains his spot atop the standings, but Jeb Burton has managed to knock another point off of his deficit, bringing it down to 22 just eight races into the season. Race winner Ty Dillon jumped three spots to third on the strength of his win. Defending champion James Buescher, who moved up a position, and Johnny Sauter, who dropped one, round out the top 5.
Rookie Ryan Blaney moved up another spot to sixth, while Brendan Gaughan dropped four positions to seventh following his 27th-place run. Miguel Paludo’s fifth top-10 finish on the year moved him up to eighth. Darrell Wallace, Jr. dropped a spot to ninth and is followed by Timothy Peters to round out the top 10.
“Man, what a night. I can’t thank my guys enough for everything they do for this team. Marcus (Richmond, crew chief) made some awesome calls that put us right where we needed to be to win this race. We started off with a not-so-great qualifying effort, but the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet became a rocket there at the end. The last five laps were the longest ones of my life. To beat Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, two of the best on four wheels right now; they’re winning everything right now, I look up to those guys and I want to be like them. To be able to beat them was really special. I’m so happy to be here in Victory Lane, have this opportunity to race for my grandfather and put on a great show for all the fans. I’m truly blessed.” Ty Dillon
“We had an interesting night for sure, had a couple of ups and downs. It just didn’t come together. We still had a shot at it and I think that just goes to show how everyone on this team is fighting hard to get a win. it would mean a lot to me. We’ve got a lot of these second [place]‘s but we don’t have a win. It’s coming soon. I just appreciate everybody’s hard work. The truck wasn’t drivable early on. I thought something was wrong and thought I might have screwed it up, but when I came in and put new tires on it, then it was okay. We were really fast in practice, just came up a little bit short to [race winner Ty Dillon], who did a great job. I made one or two bad moves that hurt us, and we needed to be just a little bit better in a couple of other areas.” Brad Keselowski, finished second
“The ToyotaCare Tundra was really fast — we didn’t make a good enough adjustment on that last pit stop and we put two tires on it to get it tight enough to hustle the truck through the corners. I was just fighting for what I had.” Kyle Busch, finished third
“It was a great night for our Fraternal Order of Eagles team. We have been having great runs all season long, but we just haven’t had the finishes we were looking for. I feel like we are finally starting to get the results we deserve, and I am confident that we’ll be in victory lane very soon.” James Buescher, finished fourth
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes a week off before heading to Iowa Speedway on Saturday, July 13th. Last season, Timothy Peters started on the pole and led four times for 87 laps en route to his fourth career victory. The American Ethanol 200 will be televised on live SPEED beginning at 8:30 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.
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