Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
The Yellow Stripe · Danny Peters · Tuesday March 31, 2009
In the euphoria surrounding his rain-shortened victory in the Daytona 500, the self-styled perfectionist Jack Roush must have permitted himself a wry smile. Winning the biggest race of all for the very first time — after 113 previous Sprint Cup victories in 21 years of ownership — must have felt like a harbinger of what was to come in 2009. No doubt, Roush thought it was an important first step en route to what he expects will be a third Sprint Cup crown.
Sadly, for the “Cat in the Hat,” it hasn’t proved to lean in that direction so far as after six rounds of action, all five of his drivers have, to some extent, underachieved. In fact during the last two weeks, at the two shortest tracks on the circuit, it’s been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. A 10th place finish for Jamie McMurray at the little old paperclip last Sunday is the highest finish of any Roush Fenway driver during that span, and the only thing worth writing home about for an organization which failed to run better than 15th at Bristol the week before.
Perhaps, though, this is simply a case of short track-itis. It’s easy, let’s not forget, to get swept up in other peoples’ messes, to see a good run turn into a horrible finish through plain misfortune or (other) driver error at the bullring that is Thunder Valley or at Martinsville, the shortest and slowest track the circuit. Mistakes are magnified, and any small snafu can become a steaming, fender-crunching mess in an instant. But for Roush, their drivers are in the midst of one too many mistakes; at the moment, just two of the five are listed in the top 12 in points (Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, hanging on for dear life in 12th). Among those well outside it include McMurray, David Ragan, and Greg Biffle, with Roush affiliate Yates Racing struggling with both Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard.
Since the Chase format artificially shortens the season into regular and postseason portions, the emphasis placed on making that final field of 12 after the cutoff race in Richmond could not be higher — especially with this economy and sponsors leery of renewing contracts. That’s not good news for Roush, though, as the historical evidence from the five previous iterations of the Chase suggests that the standings after six races tend to mirror very closely the final makeup of the field of 12 Chase drivers. With that in mind, there can be no doubt that the five wheelmen of Roush Fenway Racing need to bounce back quickly at the wide open vistas of Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.
I’ll start with Matt Kenseth. Now, I’m sure fans of the driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion will be (virtually) screaming at me over the word “slump,” especially since he went on an early season tear to win the first two races. But since then, it’s been a completely different story for the Wisconsinite. After such a stellar start to the season, Kenseth finished dead last at Vegas (his engine expired after just six laps), 12th in Atlanta (the last car on the lead lap), 33rd at Bristol (where he barely rated a mention all night long) and 23rd at Martinsville (after going a lap down early thanks to a tire miscue on pit road). The 2003 Cup champ still sits in the all-important top 12, but remains only seven points ahead of wily veteran Jeff Burton in 13th. The good news for Kenseth, though, is that he has run well at the “cookie-cutter” tracks of 1.5 to 2 miles in length — tracks that make up half of this year’s ten race playoff. As he himself pointed out after Fontana: “Really, this is the start of the type of racing that makes up the bulk of the schedule, and whether you run good or bad at these tracks has more of a determining factor on making the Chase or running for a championship.”
After a third place finish overall in 2008, much was expected of Greg Biffle in 2009. But it’s fair to say the Biff has not matched those preseason expectations at this point. The No. 16 looked like Bambi on ice for much of Speedweeks, and he was probably relatively happy to escape with a 20th place finish at Daytona. Two good weeks followed after that (4th – Fontana; 7th – Vegas), but it’s been all downhill since leaving Sin City for him. A crash in Atlanta relegated Biffle to 34th while an engine expiring saw him finish 39th at Bristol where his hauler, replete with a wrecked vehicle, left the track well before the race had completed. He then finished 23rd at Martinsville despite having started 10th thanks to the rainout in qualifying, but as Biff noted after the race: “This track is just not my track. We’ve run as good as we can here… but it’s tough for us. We could never get the thing to turn and get good grip off. Every once in awhile, we’d run good, but we’re just missing that little bit of something. We’ll keep working on it, and we’ll get it one of these days.” Mired in 23rd in the standings, a full 99 points out of 12th place, Biffle can’t afford to have too many more bad days. The hole he’s dug is not insurmountable by any stretch of the imagination, but he’ll need to scratch and claw his way back into the Chase field by leapfrogging a handful of strong contenders now ahead of him.
Continuing this mediocrity tour, Jamie McMurray sits one place and four points ahead of The Biff in 22nd place overall. With Donnie Wingo back atop the pit box this year and the threat of contraction at the end of the season (Roush will have to scale back, per NASCAR, from five to four teams), the incentive was more than there for the Joplin, MO native to get up on the wheel from the drop of the first green flag at Daytona. And although he hasn’t had a disastrous start to 2009, it’s not been the all guns blazing effort fans of the driver might have hoped for. 37th in the Daytona 500, a hapless victim in the Earnhardt-Vickers “battle of the scruffy bearded egos,” was followed by a 16th place run at Fontana, an encouraging 9th place at Las Vegas, and a 15th place effort in Atlanta. But the good “mo” evaporated at Bristol, where McMurray mirrored his Daytona finish with a 37th place run — dropping him all the way down to 28th in the standings.
So, in the context of his season, 10th at Martinsville was a solid effort tempered, a little, by his post-race comments: “We started so far in the back, and typically I run well here; but I always qualify well, and it makes it so much easier when you’re up front [he started 28th]. Our car had a tremendous amount of speed in it, but I just could not pass. I could catch guys pretty easy and I just couldn’t pass them, so we struggled just to get track position.”
Now, correct me if I’m wrong here, but I saw plenty of passing all day at Martinsville. And if McMurray is complaining about passing at short tracks… I can’t wait to see his comments next weekend (or at other upcoming cookie cutters). The simple fact is a weak beginning doesn’t bode well for McMurray, it really doesn’t.
Another driver who’s struggled is David Ragan. Much was expected of the Unadilla, GA native, the youngest man in the RFR stable at 23 entering 2009. After a 13th place overall finish last year, new sponsor colors courtesy of UPS, and a fantastic new TV ad, many pundits expected Ragan to kick it on this year and make the Chase for the first time — perhaps even picking up a maiden win in the process. A 6th place effort at Daytona was a solid start for him; but since then, a 17th in California and 19th in Atlanta were sandwiched by a 42nd place finish in Vegas where, like Kenseth, the team’s engine expired. Killing any leftover momentum from last year, the last two weeks have not been much prettier for Ragan with two consecutive 27th place finishes. It doesn’t take a math genius to work out that more of the same is going to put the kibosh on his Chase chances before we even get to the All-Star race.
Last but not least is Cousin Carl, who finished 26th Sunday at a track he traditionally does not run well at. A pit road miscue, followed by a cut left rear tire courtesy of David Reutimann, translated into a bad points day for the man with the toothiest smile in professional sports. Edwards started last season like the proverbial “bat out of hell,” winning two of the first three races. 2009 hasn’t been quite so kind, though; an 18th at Daytona, 7th at Fontana, and 17th at Vegas were followed by his best run to date in Atlanta, where he finished third. A 15th place effort at Bristol (a track he won at last August) was the preface to Sunday’s ho-hum finish for Edwards. As a result, last year’s championship runner-up sits 8th in the overall standings, 51 points ahead of 13th. Maybe marriage isn’t quite the boost to the results he’d been told it was…
So, what’s wrong here then? Is the poor early season in part due to lack of testing at Roush? Kenseth disagrees. “It depends on the week for me,” he says of his opinion towards that rule. “I think though, seriously, overall, I think it’s a great idea. I think with the amount of practice we have here with this car that’s been the same rules for two years — a full year and a half of racing going on the third season without moving splitter heights, or changing any of the aerodynamic balances, none of that stuff we mess with anymore, so I don’t think it’s a big deal. We’ve all been working with the car and everybody has a basic idea of where to start… and I think the practice at the track is really adequate. It’s not like the old car where you could put two totally different bodies on the cars and go to the track and test and say, ‘Oh yeah, this one drives way better than that one.’ I mean, those days are kind of gone, unless they ever open the rulebook back up again. All of the cars are pretty close to the same, so you just bring a car to the track and start working on it.”
So, a season that started out with great expectations hasn’t exactly turned out as scripted so far for Jack Roush and his Roush racers. The rapture of the first two week’s worth of wins from Matt Kenseth has well and truly been consigned to the bucket marked “past history.” Yes, Edwards and Kenseth (just barely) sit in the top 12 in points, but the Biff, McMurray, and Ragan are very much on the outside looking in. And none of the three, not even Ragan, who is 145 points out of 12th place, are done yet in terms of the Chase — but many more bad weekends like we’ve seen in the past couple weeks and their 2009 campaigns will be over no sooner than they had begun.
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This looks good on “The Jerk In The Hat”! Roush has made a total joke out of the Cup series with his five teams. Kenseth’s undeserved Championship was another Roush joke! A joke that lead to another joke called “The Chase”, which has cost a true Champion his fifth, and possibly his sixth Championship. Although th last three years did produce a most deserving Champion! None of Roush’s drivers are not only championship calibre drivers, but they aren’t even deserving of being in NASCAR at all, let alone racing at the Cup level! I hope all five of those losers drop out of the top-35 by Talladega, and after that, I hope they all miss every race after that! And then, I hope Roush gets out of NASCAR and leaves ownership to true deserving people like Rick Hendrick, the greatest car owner ever! Look’s good on Roush, the loser!
Hey Mike, would I be correct in assuming that you don’t particularly care for
The Rat in the Hat, is not on my Xmas card list either, but to call Matt’s Championship undeserved. Shows colossal ignorance. Until this bogus, made for TV. So-called Chase is replaced. Matt is the last of the real Champions. Then a team needed to be on their game for an entire season. Now the first 26 races are just a qualifier. Luck played a very large part in Kurt Busch’s Championship, while Matt’s was hard earned. If you’re referring to the fact that he only won one race. If Jr. were able to win a championship, while winning one race (still possible, by the way) people would be falling all over him. About how he’s validated his greatness. So get over it!
Mike, you are not a very informed Nascar observer. Matt Kenseth earned his championship over a whole season. You say none of the Roush drivers deserve to be in Nascar. That is just stupid!!! Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle have all won CHAMPIONSHIPS in Nascar divisions without the chase. I think Jeff Gordon should have six championships too, but to say the Roush drivers are not deserving is true ignorance of the sport.
Roush and Martin were fined out of a Cup Title when NASCAR took away points for a spacer that not only had been used several times it met the height limitations for the carb spacer….several other cars used the two piece spacer, at least until then.
I don’t believe Jack Roush needs me to defend him, but I would like to point out a few facts.
I’ve been doing some top secret investigating and came to the conclusion that Jack Roush is Digger.
IMO, Ragan took the worst dump (so far) and looks to be Nationwide-bait. Too bad too, cuz he’s got some talent. The other four from that camp will be fine, they’ll just get a big RFR stimulus bailout thrown at them.
Hendrick runs two teams in Nationwide. The 5 car was always his, and the 88 is a joint effort between Hendrick and Earnhardt Jr now that Jr is driving for Hendrick.
Also, this is probably a newbie question, but how did Biffle’s car and hauler leave Bristol before the race was over? I thought the infield was only accessible by crossing over the racetrack, there is no tunnel underneath. Am I wrong?
Biffle’s Car hauler did no more leave the infield before the race was over than I flew outta my seat there and landed on the moon.
Where he got that I’ll never know. I was there and sat in the stands until the deputies ran me out and watched all the car haulers leave.
It would have required a red flag and we all know that didn’t happen.
Hey Mike, did Roush steal you old lady or something? Or are you just a Hendrick groupie? Not very informed there dude. I know its what ifs, but if Edwards didn’t get bumped by Root-a-man, he would’ve run Top 5 easy. That car was on rails; sadly, his crew was on something else. The 99’s pit crew effort has been sub-par so far, but the on track performance has been good. Carl was up front at Daytona when Jr had his brain-fade, and ran well everywhere else except for Bristol. Sometimes the results don’t ad up though. Still plenty of races left to get back to the front.
Does Mike need to be reminded that a RFR car (the # 99) did win the most races in 2008, and finished 2nd in the points. The Hendrick camp isnt’t exactly running away with things this year so far. The RFR boys will regroup and be a force to reckon with along with JGR and RCR.
Seems like Ford is struggling overall. I think they’re down to like 7 cars now. We’ll see if they do any better with that new engine later in the year but I’m not sure what to expect.
Dawg and Joe have it right. Silly Jack has done a lot of things to bring negative attention to the sport (tire-gate, sway-bar-gate, his incessent bitching about toyota, etc.), but Kenseth won that champ fair and square with downright frightening consistency. Ticked me off big time back then when I was a Jr fan (back when he could drive because he respected pops and had a few wild racing hairs up his arse – too whipped and mellow and distracted now). Anyway, Matt is a very legit champion, and in my opinion Kenseth, Stewart, Gordon, and Labonte are the only legit full time drivers who can call themselves champs. Don’t get me wrong, Johnson could have won a championship by now IMO, I just can’t call this Chase format champion a real champion. Not Johnson’s fault. France’s fault. Hope somebody cleans up the mess of a leadership the sport has and we can get back to some real racing, real drivers, real personalities, real rivalries … sigh, the good old days.