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.
The Starr Report · Cami Starr · Monday May 14, 2007
How the best laid plans can quickly go up in smoke; well, for everyone but Jeff Gordon, that is. NASCAR learned that lesson the hard way – again – when they saw their plans for running on a Saturday night drown in a flurry of raindrops. For the second straight week, rain forced another postponement of the Cup race, leaving Moms all around the country to be treated to a 500-mile gift at Darlington Raceway Sunday afternoon. When the Dodge Avenger 500 did get underway, it saw the usual suspects up front and leading from the drop of the green straight till the final laps. Jeff Gordon was not among them at first; but after some sly pit strategy put him squarely in the front of the pack, he soared ahead to score his third win of the season, thanks to the gift of an engine that held on to the finish instead of blowing up in a puff of smoke. Right behind him, Denny Hamlin recovered from a present he'd love to return, one in the form of two dropped lugnuts on pit road that cost him a shot at the win once again.
But all in all, the Mother's Day race provided a bouquet of surprises and disappointments. So, which drivers presented their Moms with a welcomed gift of on track performance, and which ones left Darlington wanting to run and cry to Mommy? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not in Nextel Cup to find out.
Jeff Gordon: Capturing his third Cup win in the last four races at Darlington, Gordon once again showed that sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good. It's not that Gordon didn't run well all day long…but there's no way he should have won that race with an engine so overcooked even a junkyard wouldn’t want a piece of it. Heck, even Gordon's own parents didn't think he would make it until the end, deciding to beat the traffic by leaving early. But when things are going your way, you tend to have risky situations fall exactly right, and at the moment everything is turning up roses for Gordon. Heading into the All-Star break, the driver of the DuPont Chevrolet has already built a 231-point lead over teammate Jimmie Johnson, all while surpassing his total number of wins from 2006. Can anything derail the Dupont Express? It doesn't look that way, as even their own engine couldn't stop them from winning on Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson: It's been business as usual for the No. 48 team over the past month following a 38th place finish at Texas. Four straight Top 10 finishes have helped Johnson claim the second spot in the standings, leaving him chasing his teammate, Jeff Gordon, both on and off the track. At Darlington on Sunday, Johnson lost the lead when he pitted late in the race, yet still managed to rally back for a solid third place finish. He might be getting tired of playing second fiddle to Gordon, but that will likely change once they hit the track at Lowe's Motor Speedway. It’s a track that Johnson has turned into his own personal playground over the course of his six-year career, with five wins in eleven tries leaving him in the envious position of passing out valuable track advice.
Ryan Newman: If I told you only three drivers have finished in the Top 10 in the last three races, I'm sure you could easily come up with two of them (here's a hint: they are listed directly above you). But how many guesses would it have taken you to come up with Ryan Newman? The No. 12 team's recent turnaround is no joke; after finishing 32nd or worse three times in a four race span, Newman has done a total 180. At Darlington, he even flirted with the chance to get back into Victory Lane for the first time in 18 months before fading to fourth in the final results sheet. It’s clear the team continues to improve; now, the big question is whether Newman will stick around to reap the benefits … or is he just auditioning for prospective new employers?
Carl Edwards: Other than an engine failure at Talladega that earned him a 42nd place finish, things have been going pretty smoothly for Edwards as of late. In the last nine races, the Talladega event was the only time he failed to finish in the Top 17, scoring three Top 10 finishes in the process. That's quite a difference from this time last year, when Cousin Carl racked up three DNF'S after only 11 events. Currently tenth in the standings thanks to a fifth place run at Darlington, Edwards seems to be an early candidate for a spot in the Chase Dozen by the end of the year. Whether or not he can do anything once he gets there depends mainly on if the Ford teams can get their act together as they try to stay in the same zip code as the Chevys around them.
Kurt Busch: Both Penske teams are experiencing a resurgence of late. Busch has run very well at times this year, only to have an ill-timed caution come back to haunt him like it did at Texas and Phoenix. At Darlington, he was running in the Top 5 when he joined then race leader Jimmie Johnson and other drivers on pit road. The decision for tires might have been a good call at that time…if not for all the lap traffic needed to work his way back up front. Busch couldn't make much progress and had to settle for a 12th place finish, good enough to move him up to seventh in the standings. Overall, in the past three races, he's climbed up six positions in points, as Penske seems to be getting a handle on the CoT. Perhaps it will be a blue Dodge that will finally end Chevy's domination? We’ll have to wait and see.
Tony Stewart: A late race wreck at Talladega is the only thing that has kept Stewart from claiming four Top 10 finishes in a row. Still searching for his first win of the season, Smoke is now sixth in the standings, earning a hard fought sixth place finish at Darlington after a cut tire put him two laps down with just over 150 laps to go. That moral victory of getting his laps back helped reinforce the team's commitment to winning just when it seemed like Bad Boy Tony might be on the verge and doing more harm than good. With four Top 10s in the five CoT races, Smoke should be a contender at those events later on in the year, and we all know about his tendency to get on a roll in the summer months that lie just ahead of us. Could it be that Tony is just stalking his prey before taking a big bite out of the competition?
Kyle Petty: It's been a fairly quiet season so far for Petty. But with the problems some of the other big name drivers are having this year, he might be happy with consistent mediocrity. He's yet to earn a Top 15 finish this year, but he has managed to stay out of the DNF column, something few others around him could ever lay claim to. His best finish of the year came just three races ago when he finished 18th at Talladega, and two 25th place finishes after that haven't dazzled anyone, but it's been good enough to keep Petty on the plus side of the Top 35 bubble line. Currently 31st in the owner standings, he has a 175 point cushion over 35th. Maybe that will give the team a bit more incentive to not worry about qualifying setups and work on the race, a much-needed change as they continue to search for their first Top 15 of the season.
Tony Raines: Actually, Raines was anything but cool Sunday; he was one of the unlucky six drivers that failed to finish the race due to an overheating engine. Still, you have to give this team credit; it was their first DNF of the '07 season and Raines’ first in almost a year. Following two Top 15 finishes at Texas and Phoenix, the Hall of Fame racing team has stumbled in the last three CoT events, finishing with a pair of 22nd place finishes before winding up 39th at Darlington on Sunday. While the team may be a bit down right now, they certainly aren't out of making their bid for a Top 20 spot in the standings by the end of the year. Currently 24th, Raines has made big strides after not even being on the radar at this point last season. They have the potential to be consistent, but they need to keep striving for that elusive Top 10 finish.
Elliott Sadler: Just when this team shows a small glimmer of hope that they are getting their act together, things come crashing back down to reality for the No. 19 bunch. In the last seven races, Sadler has just two Top 20 finishes, and the tell-tale sign of this organization's woes is the fact that neither of them came in any of the five CoT events held during that time. Sadler is still top dog at Evernham Motorsports, sitting 17th in the standings, but it has been a slow and painful slide down the standings since he left Daytona sixth in the points. Perhaps they can get some relief in the new few non-CoT races ahead on the schedule, but with the slump they are inâ€¦I wouldn't bet on it.
Robby Gordon: The CoT is a more durable car, but Gordon has really been testing its limits as of late. At Richmond, he was cutting down tires left and right and at Darlington it seemed like he couldn't make a lap without kissing the wall. He started off the season in decent shape, with no finish worse than 21st in the first four races; but since that point, the bottom has seemed to have dropped out. After Atlanta, Gordon was 16th in the standings, but thanks to five finishes of 33rd or worse in the past seven races he now finds himself dangerously close to falling out of the Top 35. That could prove fatal to this team, especially considering that Robby has qualified in the Top 25 just twice this season to date. If the No. 7 thinks he has sponsorship issues now, just wait to see what happens if he should miss a few races. And with many more finishes like he's had lately … that is exactly where he is heading.
Scott Riggs: Oh, how the once “almost” mighty have fallen. Last year, Riggs was one of the biggest stories on the circuit, climbing back to a Top 20 finish in the standings after missing the season opener at Daytona. This year, he made the Daytona 500 but just ten races later has missed his first of what could be many races in 2007. Riggs’ struggles simply highlight the deep hole that Evernham has found itself in this season; he has one Top 10 and an 11th place finish to his credit, but that wasn't enough to mask his other tough luck; he currently sits 85 points out of the Top 35 and a guaranteed spot each week. To Riggs' credit, he had qualified in the Top 10 for each of three races prior to Darlington, but he failed to capitalize in two of the three, putting him in the solemn predicament he is in now. The Coca-Cola 600 should be a good character test for this team: will the DNQ hurt their morale and see them continue to struggle, or will it serve as a wake up call and see them come back stronger than before? P.S. – Don’t forget – the No. 10 car and Riggs were your Charlotte polesitters around this time last year.
David Gilliland: If you asked Gilliland, I bet he would love to see the entire 36-race schedule be run on restrictor plate tracks. Had it not been for his Top 10 at Daytona and Top 5 at Talladega, he would be even further back than the 27th position he currently finds himself in the standings following Darlington. Back to back DNF's at Bristol and Martinsville, and again at Richmond and Darlington have been daggers in the heart for this team and its young driver. I think it's safe to say you can add Robert Yates Racing to the list of teams who wouldn't mind seeing the CoT on the shelf for a few extra races this year.
Next up for the Cup drivers is a wild night under the lights at Charlotte for the Nextel Cup All-Star race, an event where the sport’s best and brightest will be gunning for big dollars instead of big points. After that, the longest race of the year will take place Memorial Day weekend with the running of the Coca-Cola 600. Will Jimmie Johnson once again dominate at "his house”, Or will his teammate Jeff Gordon steal the limelight with his continuing pursuit of 100 wins? Can Denny Hamlin dish up a big, heaping plate of irony and finally beat Hendrick at a track they have been so dominant at in recent years…or will a Ford or Dodge team finally score one for the underdogs? We'll just have to wait and find out Who's Hot and Who's Not in two weeks.
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