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 May 12, 2009
As the curtain closed on another Southern 500 Saturday night, the Lady In Black shined brightly on three of the four cars at Richard Petty Motorsports. Elliott Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger, and Reed Sorenson persevered to hard-fought top 20 finishes, battling back from miserable starts as they looked to turn their seasons around.
As for their teammate Kasey Kahne?
He was simply nowhere to be found. The final results listed the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge the first car one lap down in 23rd… nothing to write home about on a night in which the red and white car wound up all but forgotten at the finish.
And that has very much been the story of Kasey Kahne’s season to date. Yes, he led some laps at Darlington (45, to be precise) after one lap led all season, but ultimately bad luck led to his third straight poor finish, following a 36th place effort at Talladega and a frustrating 29th at Richmond — good enough to place him 16th and 81 points out of Chase contention nearing the one third mark of a difficult 2009. Looking for answers, the team’s top driver has become a top target for the Cup Series’ Biggest Disappointment of the Spring.
It’s a spot he knows all too well.
At this stage last year, Kahne sat 14th in the standings, just two points out of 12th place in the midst of a season-long bout with inconsistency. But a fan vote-in turned surprise winner in the All-Star Race, very much against the odds, turned the tide for the No. 9 team in late Spring. Their upset was followed by a win in the Coca-Cola 600 the following Sunday, the team benefiting when Tony Stewart cut a tire late. Two races later, Kahne was in Victory Lane again at Pocono, and a second place run the following week in Michigan saw him rise to 7th in the overall standings before a midsummer slump saw him fade right back out of Chase contention.
Still, that streak leaves reason for optimism for Kahne as he heads into that same stretch of favorable tracks in the next month. He finished first and second (not to mention the All-Star win) at Lowe’s last season, so if there’s anywhere the Enumclaw, Washington native is likely to get a kickstart in the standings, it’s at NASCAR’s “home” track. But it’s the race at Dover that will perhaps be the pivotal point of his 2009 season. Last week, RPM’s Robbie Loomis announced that one of his teams’ cars will run the new Dodge engine at the Monster Mile; it’s the same engine, don’t forget, that has proved so speedy for Kurt Busch in leading his Penske Racing Dodge to the top of the standings earlier this month. Now, it’s true Loomis did not confirm it will be Kahne who runs the new powerplant, but who do you really expect it to be? A.J. Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler, or Reed Sorenson?
By all accounts, it’s not a moment too soon for the No. 9 team to snag some extra horses under the hood, especially when given the relative lack of power of the RPM motors vis-à-vis the competition at Talladega. Qualifying a dismal 35th, Kahne clocked in faster than anyone else within the four-car organization before they all went to the rear after faulty parts forced them to change motors. Getting involved in the first “Big One” just seven laps into that event, Kahne was never close to being in contention at a track where he’s finished as high as second place.
That poor showing left the usually vanilla Kahne more than a little outspoken when it came to criticizing his vehicles. “They’re starting to listen, but my concerns have been the same for awhile,” he said in response to rumors he was losing his patience with RPM’s management. “Sometimes, early in the year and the end of last year, I’d tell them my concerns and they’d look at you, it would go in one ear and out the other and they’d go about their day. But in the last three weeks [prior to Darlington] they have really started to think about it and said, ‘Our cars are really heavy and our engines really don’t run’ and they’re starting to work on it.”
It’s easy to see how some of Kahne’s frustrations can be traced to the preseason decision by the head honchos to stick with the status quo and soldier on with the old engine. But it was a decision prompted by a surfeit of stock, not to mention the vast uncertainty surrounding the future of Dodge in the sport. After all, it didn’t make much sense to spend vast sums developing the new engine only to end up having to make the move to a different manufacturer for the 2010 season. And with George Gillett planning a possible move to Toyota, the team was poised to do just that before a last-second merger with Petty kept their loyalty to Dodge intact — albeit a bit behind the curve.
Yet following the manufacturer officially filing for bankruptcy at Richmond last weekend, their long-term solution is assuaging some of the very real concerns RPM had. Now, it appears that the worst is behind them and the company is in the sport for the long haul. “[The] Chrysler guys contacted us and said they were going to continue to support NASCAR,” said Roger Penske, fellow Dodge owner and the head of several Chrysler dealerships. “Hopefully, they can do that based on what the government allows them to do. We’re cautiously optimistic right now… really, quite honestly, if they get the capital and have a smaller company they’re going to be more viable than before. Hopefully, motorsports turns into a marketing opportunity.”
So, assuming manufacturer stability, the new engine appears to be the next most logical step for RPM — and Kahne its most logical recipient. The key question now is, will it pay dividends in the way that it has for the blue deuce of the hitherto forgotten man, Kurt Busch?
The answer, at the moment, is not so clear. Running his sixth full season, Kahne has nine wins in 191 attempts, 36 top 5s, and 65 top 10s. Six of those wins, though, came in the 2006 season, and despite what has to be considered a very strong start to a Sprint Cup career, it’s reaching a point where Kahne needs to push onwards and upwards before he ends up being labeled a one-season wonder. An added pressure for the 28-year-old, especially in these troubled economic times, is the support from his primary sponsor Budweiser. The long-term NASCAR backer’s commitment to Kahne would seem unwavering — especially since the split with the sport’s poster child, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — but there can be little doubt the brewing giant expects better results than what he is currently posting. And with the company facing financial troubles of their own, their continued participation in motorsports could depend on whether Kahne gives them enough of a reason to stay involved.
No matter what, it’s clear for the short-term the results for this driver will have to come at Richard Petty Motorsports. With no obvious top line rides available next year, he said in late April, “I made a commitment to race with [the team] through 2010, so I’ll do that for sure. I told them from the start that if we can get our cars where they are right and competitive with the best teams out here, then I don’t know why I would ever want to move from that company.”
But if Kahne is to translate that optimism into reality, it needs to start soon, real soon, and end with a place in the Chase leaving Richmond in September. The good news is that he’s a scant 81 points out of 12th, far from an insurmountable deficit and not all that far off the one he had entering this weekend last year. There is not enough of a difference in the standings approaching the halfway point to the Chase that a good run of races and a string of top 5 finishes can’t vault the diminutive driver back into the coveted top 12. Atop the pit box is one of the best head wrenches in the business in Kenny Francis, and despite all the commotion over the offseason, the No. 9 team remained largely intact around him. That cohesion can only benefit them now, coming in a season where pit road mistakes are making a crucial difference each and every week on the track. It takes a settled team and strong veteran leadership will, at the very least, to provide the safety net of experience and right the ship before it’s too late.
There is still much to like about Kahne these days. Sure, he’s not a Kyle Busch larger than life type character; but he’s popular with fans, drivers, and sponsors alike, and when given solid equipment, has shown he knows how to wheel his way around a racetrack. But the man who has run a full schedule for each of the five years of the Chase has still only made the Big Dance once, in 2006. Even after last year’s sizzling summer, four finishes of 30th or worse in the next 11 races were what saw him fall out of Chase contention for the second straight year. To fall by the wayside for a third? That’s a hit this driver can’t afford to take.
So, as we head back to the track Kahne’s quite literally owned these past two years, the No. 9 team is the one to watch with their season approaching make-or-break status. A strong finish in NASCAR’s longest race might be just the fillip this beleaguered team and driver needs. And if it doesn’t work out at Charlotte, there’s always the new engine to look forward to at Dover… perhaps the last, final chance for them to keep from fading into the sunset.
One way or another, the next few weeks will likely decide how Kahne’s 2009 season will ultimately be remembered. Will this be the point at which we look back and say that’s where the charge for the Chase began to gather steam, or the moment when Kahne’s hopes for a playoff berth nosedived? With the clouds of uncertainty swirling, it’s time for him to get going; and just as it was this time last year, the only way to go is up.
©2000 - 2008 Danny Peters and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Nice article Danny.
Kasey could do some “improvement” to his patience when being behind either by his driving (15-20%), sub par racecar (50%), or his pit crew/crew chief hurting him in the pits(30%-35%).
But let’s get this straight. Kasey Kahne is not the reason the 9 car is not in the top 12. That rests solely on Kenny Francis shoulders. He needs to crack the whip more on the race pit crew, as he had Darlington won. He came in first and came out like 19th that one time. Even with the twelve guys that stayed out he should have been 13th –15th instead of being back there with the scrubs laps down that helped create his flat tire.
He was faster than Biffle, or anyone the remainder of the race. The points difference between 1st and most laps led, and 23rd and one lap down is 96. That not only makes up that 81 but puts everybody else another 3-5 pts. back. Just in this race alone, why was Kasey pitting with the leaders and having to start at the end of the longest line for at least 8-10 yellows?
Now Kenny Francis might be the one of the best wrenches like you say, but than why does his guy keep getting bettered by Letarte, Greg Erwin, Darien Grubb, Blikensderfer, Knaus, Fenning, Addington, Zipadelli, Ford, McGrew, Gustafson, Wingo, Childers, Mannion, Miller, Wilson, Gibson, Pattie, Kerr, Barker, Geisler, Osbourne. Somewhat ironically Gibson and Ford used to Chief the #9.
Perhaps he’s as good as we are told, although some head football coaches just get in with the wrong org. or chemistry doesn’t quite work, but it is his job to make it work. Perhaps the hiring of a coach or chief who does nothing but crack the whip on the pit crew is in order. This would help one guy concentrate on just the proper stop mechanics or function, and also help “free” Francis to focus on what he is good at.
The new engine will definitely help, but the pit stops definitely need tuning up. All that it takes in Cup racing is just that little bit to go from having to run in the pack and race around the other cars or to get out front and race away from them.
Here’s to that improvement.
I think it’s interesting to hear someone talk about poor management at a company called Richard Petty Motorsports. Even Petty said he’s just a figurehead there and everyone pretty much knows that, but it’s hard to imagine a company named after him not listening to drivers.
Good piece DP.
When a team doesn’t run the best package available, It’s probably time to pack it in. By the time Kasey becomes a free agent, his value will be greatly diminished. He needs to make himself available NOW. Surely his contract must have some performance outs. Bud as a sponsor isn’t looking so hot either.
I’m still not convinced that the mergers and satellite operations have helped any of the teams involved with the exception of Stewart-Haas. It certainly hasn’t helped RPM, nor has it helped Doug Yates. And HOF racing, with a talented driver like Bobby Labonte behind the wheel, sits 29th in points.
The big dogs in the show will continue to be the Hendricks, Gibbs, Roush, and Childress teams. Stewart-Hass and Penske appear to be knocking hard on the door this season. All the rest are merely, well… the rest.
P.S. – I don’t think it matters one iota what tracks are coming up on the schedule… Kahne has the proverbial snowball’s chance in Hell of making the chase this year.
Kasey is like an NBA player that enters the pro’s straight out of high-school. He has a bright future but it will take a little while to gain that consistency. He also needs to stop shooting so many commercials and being such a baby face media whore and focus on the track.
Anybody who dresses in purple with pink hearts and dances a tu-tu dance doesn’t deserve to win.
Actually there was problem with the throttle on the #9 car & that was the cause of the 2 laps down. Kahne’s on track talent is equal to many of the top drivers but the equipment he has dealt with since 07 has been far from competitive. He may be in commercials & wearing purple fire-suits but at least he knows where his pit is & he has been to Victory Lane a few times in 08. That’s more than some can say.
Kasey led 45 laps or something like that and if I remember right DW called him the “class of the field” or something like that. RPM refused to put the new engine in the car because they had too many old engines, what alot of people also don’t know is that RPM is still running one of the heavier bulkier COTs like when they first came out. RPM will soon be racing with the next generation COT like Hendrick and JGR is racing right now.