NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
The Starr Report · Cami Starr · Monday June 18, 2007
Each year, Dads everywhere eagerly await, or dread, what their kids will get them for Father's Day. Some get ties, cologne, power tools, or handmade cards; but if your kid happens to drive a Ford in the Nextel Cup Series, there is a good chance they're going to be getting you a trophy and a salute in Victory Lane instead.
For the seventh time in the last 11 races at Michigan International Speedway, a Ford driver took home the hardware, and this year, it was Carl Edwards that kept the streak alive. That's not to say the other manufacturers didn't have their fair share of success; well, except for Dodge, but we'll get to them in a moment. Chevy had seven drivers in the Top 10 in the standings after Sunday’s race, and even Toyota managed to secure a Top 10 finish. But if your kid was driving a Dodge or your Dad is a Mopar guy, it wasn't a very happy Father's Day; the highest finishing Dodge was Reed Sorenson coming home with a disappointing 23rd.
So, what other Dads were celebrating in the audience this weekend watching their teams run strong, and which ones were embarrassed and left wanting to buy their crew chief’s son a new calculator? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not in Nextel Cup to find out.
Martin Truex, Jr.: Ever since Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced his plans to leave DEI prior to the race at Darlington, people have speculated as to whether or not Truex is capable of being the flagship driver for the organization in 2008 and beyond. Well, in those five races, Truex’s answer has come through loud and clear: yes, yes, and more yes. Before the announcement, Truex was 20th in the standings; now, with three Top 3 finishes, including his breakthrough win at Dover, he sits 10th, the highest ranking driver within the DEI stable. Either the pressure of being the top dog at DEI or the win at Dover flipped a switch with Truex, and right now that switch is turned up to red hot.
Casey Mears: Like Truex, Mears was seemingly the forgotten member of his team and struggling to turn in good performances. And, like Truex, Mears’ first career win has taken him from pretender to contender in no time flat. In the three races since his first career win at Charlotte, Mears has a 13th place finish at Dover and back-to-back fourth place finishes at Pocono and Michigan to lean on. While it's nearly impossible for Mears to steal the limelight away from his superstar teammates (and future teammate), he is showing lately that at least he does indeed belong with such a powerhouse team.
Carl Edwards: You may not know the name Tom Giacchi, but I can guarantee you know his face…until the hair all but disappeared. Yes, the now clean-shaven motor coach driver for Carl Edwards fulfilled his bet, and then some, to a promise he made back in late 2005 that he wouldn’t shave until Edwards got his next win in the Cup series. Well, thanks to Edwards’ win at Michigan on Sunday, Giacchi was able to lose the beard it took 19 long months, and 52 races, to grow. Even if Edwards hadn't won on Father's Day, you had a feeling that a shave was coming soon. In the last five races, Edwards has scored three Top 5s and had no finish lower than 15th, all while managing to lead at least one lap in each of those events. Currently sixth in the standings, if Edwards can feed off his momentum like the guys listed above have done, Matt Kenseth may not be the only title contender coming from the Roush Fenway camp.
Michael Waltrip and David Reutimann: In what can only be described as a year full of frustration and disappointment, Michael Waltrip Racing finally found something to smile about Sunday at Michigan. After qualifying for only his third race of the season, Waltrip did what this team desperately needed; finish strong. He managed to stay out of trouble, stayed off the wall, and ran in the Top 20 the majority of the day before bringing home his NAPA Camry in tenth place. Ironically, Waltrip's last Top 10 finish came at Michigan almost exactly two years ago.
Meanwhile, Reutimann has had better luck in qualifying this year, he hasn't had any decent finishes to show for it. That finally changed Sunday when he came charging hard from 40th starting position to finish 15th, his best career finish to in the Cup series to date. While one good weekend isn't going to magically erase the past and turn this team around, it's a solid start…it's just too bad that Dale Jarrett didn't make the race and had to see the results from home.
Kyle Busch: Unless you've been living in a cave somewhere the last week, you know that Busch was granted his release (i.e.: given his walking papers) from Hendrick Motorsports this week. That could have given him an excuse for turning in a ho-hum performance this Sunday at Michigan, but you get the idea he wants to show the boss exactly what he's thrown away. Following back-to-back races at Darlington and Charlotte where he failed to finish higher than 30th, Busch has bounced back a 17th place finish and two straight Top 10s. Still in the running for a spot in the Dirty Dozen at the end of the year, Busch needs to keep this consistency going and not fall back onto the roller coaster he was on the last two months.
Jimmie Johnson: Before you Lowe's Lovers get all bent out of shape, I'm not saying that Johnson is washed up or isn't a title contender. But, despite his experience beyond his years, he has suddenly found himself in unfamiliar territory. For the first time since September of last year, Johnson has gone three weeks without a Top 10 finish. That's not to say that the team is running poorly, they are just unable to avoid the bad luck they seem to usually dodge so easily. At Dover and Pocono, flat tires were the culprit for Johnson’s late misery, resulting in finishes of 15th and 42nd. At Michigan on Sunday, it was a bad call in the pits about fuel mileage that cost Johnson a shot at a Top 5 when he ran out of gas with seven laps to go and resulted in a 19th place finish. But don't jump of the Johnson Express just yet. Last year he went six races without a Top 10 then went wild in the final six races of the year, scoring just one finish (ninth at Homestead) worse than second to bring home his first Nextel Cup title.
Kurt Busch: With all the talk recently of the resurgence of Penske Racing, you wouldn't be able to tell looking at purely Busch's record over the past four races. After leading 107 laps in the Coca-Cola 600, he crashed out of the race and finished 32nd. At Dover, he was involved in another wreck and then parked by NASCAR, finishing 42nd. Pocono was a little bit better, but he still couldn't find the Top 10, ending the day in 16th. This past Sunday at Michigan, Busch seemed to be in position to finally get a good result. But a vibration caused by loose lug nuts forced Busch to make two green flag pit stops, the last coming with just 18 laps to go. So what could have been a Top 5 or 10 goes down in the books as another disappointment and a 25th place finish. Thanks to a 100 point penalty, combined with some bad luck, Busch now finds himself 16th in the standings, 144 points behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in 12th…and losing momentum quicker than he can achieve it.
Scott Riggs: After missing last year's Daytona 500, Riggs came out strong in the remaining races and managed to finish 20th in the overall standings in 2006. This year, he scored a Top 10 and 11th place finish in a four race span, but then two races later, failed to make the show at Darlington. While the unintended week off might have given the team more incentive and determination to run better, those results haven't shown up on the track. In the four races since his DNQ, Riggs has an average finish of 23.5 and still finds himself 41 points on the wrong side of the bubble. However, to be fair; you can't put this all on Riggs and the No. 10 team. The entire Evernham has been running poorly all year and even tried to pull out last year's car this weekend at Michigan, only to once again find dismal results.
A.J. Allmendinger: While the rest of the Toyota camp has had at least one race with moderate success this year, Allmendinger has yet to be so lucky. Making just eight starts this season, his best finish has been 31st at Charlotte and this past Sunday at Michigan. Obviously, the majority of the Toyota teams were behind the eight ball when the season started, but Allmendinger has suffered most with a lack of track time to try and get better. The fix won't be an easy one. Even if the Red Bull team catches fire in the second half of the year, getting back to the Top 35 in points is nearly mission impossible. That means not only will his rookie season be one of frustration and extra stress to make the show on speed each week; likely his sophomore season will bring more of the same.
David Stremme: In the first nine races of the season, things seemed to be looking up for the second year driver. He was 14th in the standings following his second Top 10 finish of the year at Talladega and he appeared solidly entrenched in the Top 15 of the Nextel Cup standings. Then came back-to-back DNFs at Richmond and Darlington and the Coors Light Express has seemed to have derailed. In the six races since Talladega, he has no finish higher than 17th and an average of 31st. Currently 22nd in the points, a spot in the Chase is no longer an outside shot, but a hail mary at best. Like Riggs at Evernham, you can't put this squarely on the driver. After a strong start to the year, all three Ganassi drivers have taken a dive as of late. For Stremme, staying afloat long enough to earn a Top 20 in the final standings would be a job well done.
Johnny Sauter: Add Sauter to the list of drivers who have seen a promising start to the year take a plunge as of late. He wasn't exactly lighting up the field, but his ninth place finish at Phoenix along with other strong runs in the CoT had people thinking that the Haas CNC team was onto something this year. But a wreck at Talladega triggered a downturn that hasn't seen Sauter finish on the lead lap in the last seven races since. He has been lucky enough to hang onto the all important 35th position in owner points, but if he keeps running like this; that bubble is bound to burst sooner or later.
This week, the Nextel Cup Series heads to wine country for the first road course race of the year at Infineon Raceway. Will Jimmie Johnson be able to right the No. 48 ship and get back into the Top 10 in points? Can Tony Stewart finally score his first win of the season after coming oh, so close? Can Casey Mears and Martin Truex Jr. keep up their torrid pace while turning right and left? Or will one of the road course ringers come in and spoil the party? 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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