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 And Tom Bowles · Thursday May 21, 2009
NASCAR’s longest and most grueling race, the Coca-Cola 600, represents a significant milestone in the 2009 season. It’s not quite the halfway point to the Chase (that comes the following week after Dover), but once the checkers fly late Sunday evening, we’re exactly one-third of the way through the 36-race schedule.
With that in mind, it’s a good time to take a step back and look at how the Sprint Cup contenders (and pretenders) have performed thus far. As you might expect here on Frontstretch.com, we’re going to conduct a proper two-part analysis of the season to date. Yesterday’s installment gave out some superlative awards; today, Tom Bowles and I team up to grade each team on their overall performance through the first three months of ’09. Feel free to not only read, but comment below and let us know how you feel your favorite teams and drivers have done!
Hendrick Motorsports (Nos. 5, 24, 25, 48, 88)
Danny: They only get the minus because of Junior. Otherwise, it’s business as usual for Rick Hendrick’s fantastic four. Grade: A-.
Tom: What they’ve done this season is so impressive, I think Junior doesn’t even matter at this point. Hendrick has formed the model of the satellite team (the way to get around a four-car limit) while drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are the ones to beat for this year’s title. Oh, and there’s a 50-year-old named Mark Martin who’s on track to win six races. What more do you want? OK, OK I hear ya Junior Nation… but if the Tony Eury, Jr. era is truly over, it’s just a matter of time before he picks it up. Grade: A.
Stewart-Haas Racing (Nos. 14, 39)
Danny: Other than the ageless, peerless Mark Martin’s pair of victories, the best story of the season has been the success of SHR. Kinda boring too, in one small way — where’s the irascible Tony of old? Grade: A.
Tom: While much of the focus has been on Stewart, don’t forget about his teammate in the No. 39. Newman’s charge from 32nd to 8th in points the last seven races reminded me of the man who once outshone Jimmie Johnson when they were sophomores. And while Tony’s talent as a driver was unquestioned, who knew he had the patience and people skills to succeed as an owner? The question now isn’t whether SHR can make the Chase … but what they’ll do when they get there. Grade: A.
Joe Gibbs Racing (Nos. 11, 18, 20)
Danny: Denny might not have won, but he’s run well and Kyle is winning a ton at all three levels. Joey’s showing signs of improvement, too, meaning the future is bright for Joe Gibbs Racing. Grade: B+.
Tom: When he’s on, Busch has been brilliant, but when he’s off … look out. This whole feast or famine thing for the No. 18 has to be corrected ASAP, otherwise we’re headed for a second straight Chase flameout. As for both Hamlin and Logano … they could both use a few lessons in confidence. Sliced Bread looks like he’s getting over the hump … but Hamlin? The monkey’s still there until he wins a race. Grade: B.
Roger Penske Racing (Nos. 2, 12, 77)
Danny: From also-ran to viable contender, Kurt Busch’s resurgence takes care of this grade almost by itself. David Stremme’s 300 points ahead of P36, and even Sam Hornish, Jr. is starting to look racy (at last). Grade: B.
Tom: Talk about a guy carrying a team. Kurt Busch is clearly the man over at Penske, succeeding in a class all his own while his teammates struggle to get up to speed. Hornish appears to have come around as of late, saving his job or a possible demotion back to the IRL. But Stremme’s sluggish start this spring (no top 10s in a car that won the Daytona 500 in 2008) will probably leave him staring at a pink slip by July. Grade: B-.
Michael Waltrip Racing (Nos. 00, 47, 55)
Danny: Reutimann is much improved, and Marcos Ambrose is one of the great success stories of the season. But Mikey is still pretty poor; a transition to owner/broadcaster (he can still run the Dream Machine in Nationwide) can’t come soon enough. Grade: B.
Tom: It’s a shame Ambrose ran a few too many races in ‘08, because he’d be blowing away the rest of this year’s rookie class. If it wasn’t for a few untimely engine failures, the No. 47 would be challenging for a shot in the Chase. Reutimann’s already doing just that, although some ugly on-track incidents have clouded his season as of late. But the real problems here surround Waltrip and the No. 55 team; with their Toyota struggling mightily, it’s only a matter of time before the owner brings the rest of his group down along with him. Grade: B-.
Roush Fenway Racing (Nos. 6, 16, 17, 26, 99)
Danny: Yes, they have three in the Chase and Kenseth won the 500, but overall, they’ve not been good, especially at the short tracks. Still, with Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Carl Edwards right in Chase contention, it’s hard to be too down on them. Grade: B-.
Tom: Clearly an A+ through the first two races; but since then, this team’s a massive disappointment, a victim of the Daytona 500 curse that’s infected an entire organization. Who would have thought preseason title favorite Edwards would be on the fringe of Chase contention — or even worse, that young hotshot David Ragan would be all but eliminated at this point? (Now Jamie McMurray, I can understand…) Biffle and Kenseth have been carrying this team, but even their consistency has been shoddy at best. And worst of all has been the laundry list of mistakes in the pits. For a team of this caliber, the constant Three Stooges routine down there is simply unacceptable. Grade: C+.
Red Bull Racing (Nos. 82, 83)
Danny: Vickers has run well enough and is in Chase contention, so that’s all good. But Speed has not lived up to his name and has struggled in his rookie season. Grade: B-.
Tom: Everyone questions Red Bull’s decision not to keep A.J. Allmendinger … but what about not adding a third car? TRB could have used a little extra input, and they come across as a team that’s constantly fighting from behind. Vickers expected this year would be the one they make the Chase, but right now that’s 50/50 at best; and with Speed struggling to even qualify, you wonder if a personnel shakeup is imminent. Grade: C.
Robby Gordon Motorsports (No. 7)
Danny: Still in the top 35 and looks like that will remain the case this year; but with all his extracurricular activities, how much longer can Gordon keep it up?. Grade: C.
Tom: Something about this team just never seems right. Not enough money, too much disorganization, and too little stock car talent … seems like a combination of the three at this point. Only a dearth of competitive teams has kept Gordon within the top 35 … and it’s still in question as to whether they’ll stay there the rest of the year. Grade: D+.
Richard Childress Racing (Nos. 07, 29, 31, 33)
Danny: This season has been disappointing so far for RCR, with only Burton in the top 12. But Clint Bowyer has done well with the new fourth car, lifting the overall team grade, and is currently just outside the Chase. Kevin Harvick and Casey Mears, meanwhile, have been statistically equal in their mediocrity. Grade: C-.
Tom: Looks like the growing pains of adding a fourth team have messed up RCR’s chemistry. Harvick’s inconsistent, Bowyer’s slumping, and Mears just looks like he plain doesn’t fit. Only Jeff Burton is carrying the torch at this point (and when is he ever not?). But the hole they’re digging has gotten so deep (just 15 laps led as a team since Las Vegas), I’m not so sure even his leadership can be enough to turn things around by midsummer. Grade: C-.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (Nos. 1, 8, 42)
Danny: Montoya has looked good at times but, unless he goes on a really hot streak, does anyone think the No. 42 is a lock for the Chase? As for Truex, he’s dug himself out of holes before, but time is running out — fast. Grade: C-.
Tom: You know things aren’t going well when you keep losing cars midseason. The Aric Almirola fiasco appeared to be a distraction at best, and the two teams left appear to be running significantly better without it. But just when you thought things have settled down at EGR … it’s contract time for Martin Truex, Jr.! Let the media circus/wild frenzy begin; and that’s a real shame, too, because teammate Montoya’s running more consistent than he’s ever been in a stock car. Grade: C+.
Yates Racing (Nos. 28, 96, 98)
Danny: Labonte was expected to run better, and Menard has only run good enough for a 33rd place position in the point standings. Failing to secure sponsorship for the ever likable Travis Kvapil was another low point in a rough year. Grade: C-.
Tom: Roush’s JV team is really suffering along with the varsity. Picking up Labonte was supposed to revitalize this organization; instead, it tore apart the chemistry established by improving Travis Kvapil. Now, Kvapil’s the one out of a ride while moneybags Paul Menard is throwing away heaps of cash by stinking it up on the race track. You always look for a ray of hope in these situations, but right now things could get worse before they get better. Grade: D-.
Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 9, 19, 43, 44)
Danny: Not good enough for Kasey Kahne and disappointing form from Sadler and Sorenson keep this grade rightfully low. Would be lower without the surprising success of A.J. Allmendinger. Grade: D.
Tom: While it’s nice to see the ‘Dinger finally find a home, it’s a place where everyone else might be about to skip town. Running the old engine has left this program behind the curve despite expanding to four cars in the offseason and starting off strong at Daytona (three top 10s). Kahne in particular has been as baffling as ever lately and appears to be looking elsewhere for work — while Sadler and Sorenson might soon be doing the same after a little visit to the firing squad. Only A.J. has provided this group with a glimmer of hope every weekend, and while he believes a turnaround is imminent … that optimism can only go so far. Grade: C-.
The Single Car Teams
TRG Motorsports (No. 71 – David Gilliland): Rebounding from a Daytona DNQ to a spot in the top 35 was simply amazing for this group. But then, the bottom fell out, and less money combined with little luck have left the No. 71 all but lost. With money in the bank on empty, it’d be a total shame for this Cinderella story to peter out … but they need to turn things around fairly quickly. *Grade: C. Tom
Phoenix Racing (No. 09 – Brad Keselowski / Mike Bliss / Sterling Marlin): What do you say about a team that pulls the upset win of the decade with Brad Keselowski at Talladega… then start and parks with Sterling Marlin two weeks later? Phoenix is part of NASCAR’s biggest feel-good and god-awful stories all rolled into one. But when all is said and done, you can’t help but crack a smile for an owner (James Finch) who won for the first time in nearly two decades of competition. Grade: B-. Tom
NEMCO Motorsports (No. 87 – Joe Nemechek): “So is it Front Row Joe or Upside Down Joe?” asked Nicole Manske, on the Monday edition of NASCAR Now, after Nemechek’s bizarre roll at the Nationwide Nashville race back in April. For that Days of Thunder moment and then wanting to get back in the race, he should get an A just for that. But in eight Sprint Cup starts, he’s finished just one (Talladega – good enough for 14th). Grade: B. Danny
Prism Motorsports (No. 66 – Dave Blaney): Hard to grade Blaney, really, when all the team does is start and park. Grade: INC.
Mayfield Motorsports (No. 41 – Jeremy Mayfield): When Mayfield made the Daytona 500, it was a truly great NASCAR story about beating the odds. Those odds caught up with him, though, as Mayfield recorded six DNFs in his next 10 attempts before that infamous drug test. With Mayfield now under suspension, J.J. Yeley will take over driving duties. Grade: INC. Danny
Tommy Baldwin Racing (No. 36 – Scott Riggs): A promising start at the Daytona 500 quickly turned sour for this hardscrabble team. I’ll tell you one thing, though: you gotta give credit to a group who refuses to start and park. It’s just a shame Baldwin and Riggs may have fallen too far behind the curve to wind up surviving. Grade: D-. Tom
Gunselman Motorsports (No. 64 – Todd/Geoff Bodine): The Bodine brothers just won’t quit racing Cup … but doesn’t part of you kind of wish they would? Grade: F. Tom
Furniture Row Motorsports (No. 78 – Regan Smith): By far, this car is the underreported success story of the year. Left for dead by DEI, Smith has found a home with this Colorado-based underdog, taking advantage of a limited schedule to throw his best punch every time out. Already, the team has more top 20 finishes in a whole season of competition than all of last year. A possible contender for a top 10 or two in the long summer stretch. Grade: B. Tom
Wood Brothers (No. 21 – Bill Elliott): Looked racy in Speedweeks, but since then Elliott has raced just three times so far this year. What’s much more interesting, to me, is his quest to break his own qualifying record at Talladega in an E85-powered Ford Mustang. Awesome Bill, indeed. Grade: B. Danny
Germain Racing (No. 13 – Max Papis): Qualified on all four attempts and completed 91.5% of his laps, with a best finish of 18th at Talladega. The man from Como, Italy is a welcome addition to NASCAR and I, for one, look forward to seeing some more from Mad Max. Grade: B. Danny
As we head into the longest race of the season and a crucial stretch of races ahead of the Chase cutoff at Richmond, it will be fascinating to see who gets better and who slips backward. At this stage, it’s hard to bet against the Hendrick A and B (Stewart-Haas Racing) teams, but don’t be surprised to see better results from the Roush camp. I’m most worried for RPM, who needs serious improvement – especially from their cash cow, Kasey Kahne — in order to retain their personnel. But with all that said, there is still time to turn things ‘round — and with six drivers less than 100 points out of 12th place, anything can and probably will still happen. Danny
I think there’s no question that at this point, Hendrick has established themselves as the team to beat. What’s more is that their biggest competition may come from the program they helped grow, as both Stewart and Newman look poised to win multiple races heading into the long summer stretch. But keep in mind that at this time last year, it was Gibbs who looked unbeatable … and where did they wind up in the Chase? There’s still a long, long way to go …
Things to watch up ahead, some of which I mentioned yesterday in my weekly column: which of the single car underdogs drop out, whether RPM still has four cars come August, and seeing if Roush can somehow dig itself out of the doldrums. I think watching how Edwards, Biffle, and Kenseth try and drag the team up by their bootstraps over the next 11 races will be some pretty interesting stuff. Tom
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Excellent job guys. I agree with most of the assessments.
I’m really surprised at RCR, and I’m wondering if there are some management problems there. First they add another car to the stable, which suggests this team wants to be competitive and win…but then they put a persistent underachiever in the car, and on top of that, they’ve fallen way behind on the intermediate track program. Since that’s most of the schedule, you’d think they’d be on it.
I agree with gordon82wins: I’ve been a Jeff Burton fan, and have added Clint Bowyer to my list of root-fors; but when RCR announced they were adding a fourth team, and got Cheerios sponsorship, I was hoping for the addition of Bobby Labonte, but Casey Mears? It seems most pundits agree that he is the penultimate underachiever (next to, maybe Reed Sorenson or David Stremme). He couldn’t excel with Ganassi, or even Hendrick (!) What made Richard think he would add ANYTHING to their program? I’ll bet ole Jack Daniels is none too happy right about now…
I think you put a little too much emphasis on nebulous stuff like “chemistry” & “confidence” and not near enough emphasis on the basic stuff that you must have to win races. You know, things like… horsepower. You think adding Bobby Labonte to the Yates stable actually hurt them? I’ll tell you what… give Bobby enough horsepower to run up front, and I guarantee you that’s what he’ll do.
I don’t get the hype about Allmendinger’s performance so far this season. Sure, he finished 3rd in the Daytona 500, but look at the standings now. The guy’s tied with the underperforming Sadler and 30 points behind the equally underperforming Sorenson, so why is he considered the “glimmer of hope” for the team?
Also, there is NO surprise to Robby Gordon’s inability to perform. He’s gone through 4 manufacturers in 4 years and many more crew chiefs in the same time span. Until he can learn to settle with what he’s got and do his best to build on that, he’s only going to slip further back in the standings every year.
Finally, I share with everyone’s sentiment that RCR had a major brain fart when it decided to hire Mears. When will owners finally learn to look past his last name and finally figure out that the guy can’t do squat in a race car? Now thanks to him the RCR organization is going down the drain.
You can’t place ALL the blame on Mears. Yeah sure he’s sucking, but Kevin Harvick has just been a **** show and Clint Bowyer has tumbled 10 spots over the last eight races. So it is silly for you to place sole blame on Mears.
Oh, and as for Robby Gordon? Yeah he’s been sub-par at best but with each manufacture change, he has improved, be it by only a slim margin. He was missing races with Chevy, finished 34th I believe with Dodge and Ford, and now with Toyota, 31st. Do you honestly believe that he hasn’t gotten any better? He’s not struggling to make races, and he’s been competitive at tracks other than road courses. I’d like to see you start a single car team, just to see what happens. I bet you would do the same thing.
For the record, he never should’ve been fired by Childress. It was the only organization he has won at, and possibly the only.
“I’ll tell you one thing, though: you gotta give credit to a group who refuses to start and park”
That’s not quite true, after Scott Riggs crashed at Talladega TBR has start and parked at both Richmond and Darlington.