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!
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.
Cami Starr · Monday June 25, 2007
There were plenty of twists and turns this weekend at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma…and I'm not just talking about the ones that were taken on the track. Robby Gordon got bumped off the pole by Jamie McMurray, but managed to lead the most laps in the race, only to see McMurray take control towards the end with a pit strategy gamble. Unfortunately for both, their fuel tanks rolled the dice on the craps table and came up short; while neither could make it to the finish without an extra splash of gas, the win went to a surprising recipient who fooled them all by going the distance…rookie Juan Pablo Montoya. In the meantime, several drivers saw Top 10 finishes evaporate as their own fuel tanks hit empty, painfully coasting along the Northern California countryside as a penalty for coming up short. And through it all, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson fought through the biggest penalties of their season to date, fighting through inspection failures to Top 10 finishes despite knowing the giant axe of suspensions, fines, and point deductions lay looming over their heads in what could be one of the biggest stories of the year.
So, who left Sonoma with a buzz of good fortune, and who left with a hungover feeling after sampling one too many bottles of Merlot at the winery tour? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not to find out all you need to know.
Clint Bowyer: 2007 is shaping up to be the year of the first-time winner, and Bowyer has spent the past few weeks positioning himself to be the next driver to visit Victory Lane for the first time. In the last seven races, the sophomore sensation has scored five Top 10 finishes, including his team’s first Top 5 of the year at Sonoma on Sunday. While the Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet has certainly had its pitfalls at times, literally starting the year upside down at the Daytona 500 finish line, the No. 07 team has never stayed down for long to put themselves in Chase contention. The only knock on Bowyer’s season so far is the fact he hasn't led many laps this year…only 23 to date. But if the team keeps up their current performance, the laps up front will come, and so will that illustrious first win.
Jeff Gordon: In a season that has been pretty much smooth sailing for Gordon, this week had more than its share of ups and downs. Wednesday, Gordon and his wife celebrated the birth of their daughter, knocking away a contingency plan that would have seen Mark Martin behind the wheel of the No. 24 and allowing Gordon to focus on another road course win. Plans for a relaxing weekend at the track came crashing down, however, when Gordon and teammate Jimmie Johnson were banned from qualifying after failing Car Of Tomorrow inspection. That forced the Rainbow Warrior to the rear of the field…but when the going got tough, the tough get going, and Gordon overcame adversity to shine on Sunday. Coming back from 41st starting position, he scored Top 10 number 14 at Sonoma to keep his point lead at a healthy 271. Even with a possible 100 point penalty heading down the pike on Tuesday, he should still retain the top spot in the standings by a wide margin over Denny Hamlin. Up to this point, the No. 24 team is one of the hottest on the circuit; but the question now becomes, will a possible crew chief suspension penalty extinguish their progress towards that elusive fifth title?
Kevin Harvick: The roller coaster of a season for Harvick and his No. 29 team is once again on an upward climb. Following a three-race span with an average finish of 19th, Harvick has come back strong with more "Chase-like" finishes of 11th, seventh, and now second at Sonoma on Sunday, his first Top 5 since Bristol in March. His runner-up finish kept him eighth in the standings; on the surface, that seems like solid positioning for a run for the title, but Harvick lies just 150 points from falling out of the Chase race. Is that a good enough cushion to make sure he's in the Top 12 come Loudon in September? That depends on which Harvick shows up in the next ten races; the one who won at Daytona and has scored seven Top 10 finishes, or the one that has six finishes of 20th or worse.
Robby Gordon: You would be hard pressed to find a more disappointed person leaving Infineon Raceway on Sunday than Robby Gordon. After starting on the front row, Gordon paced the first 34 laps of the race before giving up an almost three second lead to stop for fuel and tires. Gordon quickly found his way back to the front before making his final stop of the day on lap 75, forced to pit in order to know he had enough fuel to go the distance. Unfortunately for Gordon, other teams didn’t need an extra stop, and the time lost in the pits proved far too much to make up on the track this time around. But all wasn't lost; Gordon didn't bring home the hardware, but his 16th place finish was good enough to move him up five places to 24th in owner points. He has also scored finishes of 16th or higher in three of the last four races, putting him back on the Nextel Cup map as one of the sport’s best single-car programs on tour.
Ryan Newman: Depending on if you're a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person, Newman is either warm or cool. In the last five races, he has three finishes of 20th or worse, including two of 39th and 37th. But if you go back eight races total, Newman has five Top 10s, including two runner-up finishes on his resume. Like many drivers out there, fuel strategy that didn’t work out put Newman in the back this weekend after running in the Top 10 for most of the race. On the bright side, his 20th place finish was good enough to move him up to 13th in the standings, just 96 out of the coveted Top 12 with ten races left before the Chase. Should they keep momentum on their side, Penske Racing’s No. 12 machine should be in a good position when the checkers fall at Richmond.
Bill Elliott: When Elliott was brought on board at Wood Brothers racing, his objective was clear - get the team into the Top 35 in owner points. Five races into his part-time stint, the No. 21 is still on the outside looking in; but Elliott has done his job, cutting the deficit to 159 from 35th-place Johnny Sauter and the No. 70. However, the most important stat for the 51-year-old veteran is that he has used just one of his allotted past champion provisionals. In the last two races, Elliott has finished especially well, scoring an 11th place run at Michigan and a 19th at Sonoma. Whether or not Awesome Bill can accomplish his ultimate mission remains to be seen…but the team is showing signs that they are heading in the right direction.
*J.J. Yeley:*After scoring a second place finish in the Coca-Cola 600, the rumors regarding Yeley's possible ousting at Joe Gibbs Racing seemed to have quieted down. But his performance in the four races since have gotten the rumors started all over again. Even his pole-winning performance at Michigan last week hasn't done much to silence his doubters. But can you really blame them? While his teammates are running solidly within the Top 10; Yeley is fighting to simply stay above the Top 20 cut. Since his only Top 10 of the year at Charlotte, Yeley has finished no higher than 17th, curbing momentum and making it difficult to prove he’s improving with time in his second season on tour. With the inability to keep anything going off of a solid run, it won't be a shock to hear of a driver change in the No. 18 for next year, unless Yeley can pull off a sudden turnaround.
Jamie McMurray: McMurray's crew chief can bear the brunt of this rating; after scoring the pole at Infineon Raceway on Friday, McMurray should have easily scored a Top 5, or even a Top 10 with a conservative run to the finish. Instead, the team opted to make the gutsy call to try to make it to the end of the race on fuel. That gamble failed; instead of having two Top 10 finishes in a row and likely a spot in the Top 12 in the standings, McMurray finished 37th and possibly doused any momentum the team had been carrying forward. The No. 26 caught fire earlier this season, ripping off four Top 10s in a five-race span; but ever since, they have fallen back into obscurity, with McMurray appearing to fall into the same old slump that got him in trouble with Roush in the first place. Sunday presented the team another chance to get on a roll, building off an eighth place at Michigan…but, with victory starting them straight in the eye, they simply couldn’t capitalize. Of course, this begs the all-too-easy question: like McMurray's gas tank, has his Chase chances begun to run dry as well?
Bobby Labonte: Add Labonte to the list of drivers who saw a good run go south when the fumes ran out Sunday. He was running in eighth place on lap 109 before the needle hit the â€˜E'; so instead of finishing strong, he wound up 33rd, his second such sub-30th place finish in a row. What has to especially hurt for this team is that they were running well until the last two weeks. They hadn't scored a Top 10 since Phoenix, but they weren't shooting themselves in the foot, either. In the meantime, Labonte took a two place hit in the points and currently is 19th heading into Loudon, looking to get back on track after a recent slump.
Kasey Kahne: Has anything gone right for this team this year? Kahne’s six win season last year has to seem like a lifetime ago for a No. 9 group that finds themselves 26th in the standings and with just one notch listed in this year’s Top 10 column. Just when they seem to take one step forward, Evernham Motorsports takes three or four steps back, it seems. Kahne was 12th at Talladega, but came back the next three weeks with finishes of 40th, 20th and 23rd to reestablish limited momentum. He seemed to bounce back at Dover, finishing 11th, until once again, in the last three races, he has failed to even find the Top 20. Old nose, new nose, old car, or Car of Tomorrow, it just doesn't seem to matter for the No. 9 bunch; Kahne just can't get anything going his way, and things don't look to change anytime soon.
Reed Sorenson: While his teammate was celebrating in Victory Lane, Sorenson was left lamenting over a disappointing 40th place finish with Chip Ganassi’s No. 41. It was his fifth finish of 40th or worse this season, a disappointment for a sophomore who’s failing to live up to expectations. Reed was another driver who got a surprising good finish in the Coca-Cola 600 and, like Yeley, he hasn't done much with that momentum. In the four races since, his best finish came last week at Michigan, where he was 23rd. Sadly, it would seem that judging by these results, Sorenson is smack dab in the middle of the dreaded Sophomore Slump. At least his good finishes at Charlotte and Atlanta showed that he is capable of getting the job done. Now, it makes his subpar performances look all the more disappointing.
Brian Vickers: Put Vickers in the list of drivers who have fallen off in the month of June. He ended May with an exciting run at Charlotte, leading 76 laps and scoring Toyota's first ever Top 5 finish in the Cup Series. But it's been a slow downhill slide ever since. In the three races following the 600, he finished 19th, 35th and 41st, with the downturn cumulating in yet another DNQ this weekend at Infineon. We all know Vickers can get the job done if he can make races, but these poor finishes and DNQ's continue to be a killer for this team, one that desperately needs track time to build their fledgling program.
Next up for Nextel Cup is a trip to New Hampshire for their second Car of Tomorrow race in a row. Will we see new faces on top of the No. 24 and No. 48 pit boxes? Can Denny Hamlin or Tony Stewart finally win a short track, Car of Tomorrow race? Or will they just lead the most laps as they usually do, only to hand over the win to someone else? Meanwhile, can Jeff Burton get win number two at a track he has dominated in the past? Will Robby Gordon get revenge for his bad luck at Sonoma by getting another win at NHIS?
Well, we'll just have to wait until next week to find out Who's Hot and Who's Not in the Nextel Cup Series.
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Harvick is actually 245 points from falling out of the chase, not 150.
Another reason for bringing Bill Elliot on board is he is a chassis specialist. He did most of the chassis set-ups when he was racing the Melling 9 car (the most successful portion of his career).
Bringing Elliot onboard gave the Wood Brothers someone that’s especially adept at making a car handle. Given that anything that will make a COT handle better is going to have come from the chassis and not aero I’d say the Wood’s made brilliant choice in getting Elliot.
While I think McSwaim’s return to the top of the pit box is significant, I believe Elliot has more to do with 21 car’s improvement.
Now they need to get him to stay awhile
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