Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Danny Peters And Tom Bowles · Tuesday May 18, 2010
We’re a third of the way through the 2010 Sprint Cup season (boy, time flies huh?) and just one race from the halfway point to the start of the Chase. So, with the All-Star madness this weekend at Charlotte, and the Coke 600 to follow on Memorial Day weekend, we’re going to take a look at who’s flying, who’s improving, and who’s driving around with a thousand pound anchor hanging off the back of the car.
First up in our four-part series are some basic awards. Whether it’s for skill on the track or some poor advertising off it, I’ve covered every aspect while enlisting the help of Managing Editor Tom Bowles to chime in on my opinions.
Best Driver: Kevin Harvick
The truth is at this stage of the season, I’m not sure any one driver especially stands out. Jimmie Johnson started out gangbusters, winning three of the first five races. Hamlin did likewise, winning three of the next six after the return of the rear spoiler. But with the way the No. 48 wins titles, this is all prelude until the serious business begins at Loudon in September. So with 12 races in the books, I’m giving really rather tentative Best Driver honors to Kevin Harvick for his 1 win, 4 top 5, 9 top 10s, and overall points lead. Given how Harvick struggled in 2009, not to mention all the associated contract and sponsor issues, his has been a fantastically consistent effort thus far.
Tom’s Take: Harvick’s been great, but what Hamlin’s done makes racing history in my book. Dead and buried by everyone (including me) with that ACL injury, he won a race two weeks after surgery and has combined with Johnson to win 11 of the last 19. If there’s a rival for Johnson in this day and age, the No. 11 team is it.
Best Driver (Honorable Mention): Jimmie Johnson
Things you thought you’d never see at Dover this past weekend: Jimmie Johnson in shock, and human error costing him the win.
It happened, as Johnson was caught speeding on pit road during a green-flag pit sequence in an attempt to beat Kyle Busch back on to the track. But mental mistakes aside, Johnson is still the driver to beat – even if he’s beating himself at the moment. Much has been made of the three DNFs, with all sorts of associated stats, but the simple fact is two of those came at the restrictor plate tracks and the third was a freak incident with Allmendinger. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it until I’m Lowe’s blue in the face — the Sprint Cup title goes through Johnson.
Tom’s Take: Agree with this pick, although I’d like to give Matt Kenseth some love. Gutsy move to make a crew chief change one race into the season, and yet he’s been up there contending for wins until the last month with Todd Parrott. Possible wild card to go on a tear this summer if Ford’s FR9 engine bears fruit.
Biggest Threat Not Named JJ to Win the Title: Kyle Busch / Denny Hamlin
Since the demise of the much slandered wing and the return of the more traditional spoiler seven races ago, JGR has been all but unbeatable. Hamlin’s won three times, Busch twice — and he missed out on what should have been a third win at Phoenix. Both have surged up the standings. It’s far too early – like obscenely ridiculously early – to be crowning a presumptive champion, but if there are two drivers who look like they might have something for Double J come Chase time, the two Joe Gibbs Racers are those wheelmen.
Tom’s Take: No doubt, Hamlin’s clearly the top choice. What a far cry from the emotional roller coaster of immaturity he was a few years ago.
Biggest Threat Not Named JJ to Win the Title (Honorable Mention): Jeff Gordon
The biggest knock on the original four-time is that he’s failed – time and again – to close the deal and drive all the way to Victory Lane in 2010. The good news for fans of the 19-year veteran is that he’s led laps (in some cases significant quantities) at nine of the 12 races so far this year and has five top 5 finishes. That’s the sort of consistency that wins you titles – no question.
Tom’s Take: Gordon? Too much frustration in his camp makes me wonder whether he’ll even make the Chase. To me, Jeff Burton is a close second. He’s led eight of the last nine races, the first time that’s happened in a decade while finding new crew chief Todd Berrier a perfect match. A guy that doesn’t have many years left, at some point a sense of urgency will kick in as he knows this could be his last, best chance at the title trophy.
Most Improved: Jamie McMurray
What a start to the season for Jamie McMurray, after wandering almost aimlessly through four frustrating years at Roush Fenway Racing. “Back home” with Chip Ganassi at EGR, McMurray won the biggest race of them all, the Daytona 500, and cemented what was said to be a precarious relationship with Bass Pro Shops in the process. He’s accrued three top 5’s and four top 10’s already. One of the garage’s good guys, it’s hard not to feel happy for McMurray’s turnaround in 2010.
Tom’s Take: McMurray’s better, but you had to expect that as Roush was like a train wreck of a marriage: anything else would have been better. What’s a big surprise to me was how quickly Martin Truex, Jr. and Pat Tryson came up to speed with the NAPA Toyota. It’s easy to forget how junky that car was for the last four years with Michael Waltrip, yet all of a sudden this duo has it 12th and on the verge of the Chase. If they make it, that’s right up there with Brian Vickers and Team Red Bull sneaking in last year as the biggest Chase upset of all time.
Most Improved (Honorable Mention): Joey Logano
Logano sits in 18th spot, 102 points out of the Chase, but he’s been undeniably better in his second full season in the Cup series. Logano turns 20 on May 24 and he’s already picked up two top 5s and 5 top 10s. Comparatively, he had 3 top 5s and 7 top 10s total in 2009, so he’s well on his way to beating those rookie stats. While he might not make the Chase, there’s no doubt Logano is starting to earn the respect of his competitors, and more importantly, starting to get the all-important high finishes. One for the future, no doubt; the kid is absolutely for real.
Tom’s Take: Logano started strong, but he hasn’t been riding this recent JGR wave of success. Scott Speed and Paul Menard also faded after hot starts, so I’ll have to go with McMurray. He’s pretty much the only choice left.
Biggest Disappointment: Dale Junior
Does anything really need to be said? Aside from the final laps of the Daytona 500, Little E has been all but irrelevant. And that ain’t good for the sport.
Tom’s Take: 16th in points, Earnhardt’s been a dud but he’s still slightly better than when he bottomed out in ’09. I know health got in the way, but Team Red Bull has really stumbled after entering the Chase last Fall with such momentum. With leader Brian Vickers on the sidelines indefinitely, the only news item left is whether Scott Speed survives to 2011.
Biggest Disappointment (Honorable Mention): Marcos Ambrose
The amiable Aussie was expected to make a sustained push for a Chase berth this season. Clearly, it hasn’t happened. Ambrose has struggled mightily in 2010, with an average finish of 23.3 and just one solitary top 10 (ninth place at Richmond.) A whopping 366 points and 16 spots out of the Chase, it might just be time to start thinking about 2011 for the No. 47 team.
Tom’s Take: Danny has it nailed. Shocking to see a guy who kept his nose clean as a rookie spending this year slamming into everything but the kitchen sink.
Best Race: Martinsville
Dear Executives of NASCAR: This is why – repeat this is exactly, completely, and utterly why – Martinsville should never lose a second race date. A tremendous race and an exceptional finish from Hamlin who simply refused to lose. Great stuff.
Tom’s Take: Hard to argue with Martinsville’s Monday Matinee for the ages. Look back at this day if Jeff Gordon or Matt Kenseth fails to make the Chase, as both took themselves out of potential victories.
Best Race (Honorable Mention): Talladega
Forget the ferocious deluge of post-race stats about lead changes and race leaders, this was a classic right down to the final centimeter of the 500+ miles, with Harvick executing a picture perfect last lap pass to nail down the victory. After the processional nature of the Chase race in 2009 (due, in part, to NASCAR imposed bump-drafting restrictions) this race was a return to restrictor plate racing at its best.
Tom’s Take: If not for that stupid pothole, this year’s Daytona 500 was one of my favorite races. Handling made a difference with the plates for once, and the finish gave us a shocking upset and a grateful winner in McMurray.
Worst Race: Dover
This really wasn’t much of a race, was it? Scoring just one out of six in the Matt McLaughlin race recap rating scale, that one was a generous award for a race that featured little to no thrills whatsoever, and a hugely reduced crowd. If it wasn’t for Jimmie’s “mental mistake”, it might even have been less exciting, and that’s really saying something.
Tom’s Take: I love, love, love Las Vegas. But after hosting one of the best races of 2009, this year’s edition was like losing $1,000 in Blackjack, then backed into the corner of the casino and forced to stare at paint drying for three hours. Thanks a lot, Jimmie and Jeff, I was really entertained.
Biggest Surprise: Ford’s Lack of Success
No wins in any of the top three series, 2010 is shaping up to be a bad year for the beleaguered automaker. Messrs Edwards, Kenseth, Biffle, Kahne et al will be looking to change this before the year is out, you can bet your bottom dollar.
Tom’s Take: I’m going with Kasey Kahne getting signed by Hendrick. Unusual to have Silly Season start this early, and amazing that Ford let one of their best talents get away not once, but twice. Rick Hendrick has become like the New York Yankees of NASCAR with all the talent he’s swallowed up.
Best Ad: Sponsafy Campaign
I’ve said it before, I know, but any ad that has Kyle Busch wearing a pink fire suit with fluffy animals and talking about love just rocks in my book. A genuinely innovative campaign idea from the Japanese automaker.
Tom’s Take: Not going to argue. Who doesn’t love love? I love love.
Best Ad (Honorable Mention): Coke – We’d like to teach the world to sing
I didn’t comment on this ad in my Commercial Review following the Daytona 500, and realize now it was a mistake. This is a terrific spot.
Tom’s Take: I don’t have a runner-up (being at most of the races, I miss a lot of the commercials) but I will say if I hear NAPA Know How jingle one more time, I might need a new TV – ‘cause this one will be out the window.
Best TV Show: Trackside Live
Trackside Live is still the standard, in my humble opinion, for non-race NASCAR broadcasting. The hosting crew — Hammond, Byrnes, DW, and Larry Mac – know how to make this show work and week-in, week-out, that’s exactly what they do. If you don’t watch, you really should.
Tom’s Take: Staying out of the TV discussion, but I will say RaceDay is really clicking on all cylinders with Kyle Petty.
Best TV Show (Honorable Mention): Inside NASCAR
When “Inside NASCAR” was announced as the “replacement” for the long-running, now defunct “This Week in NASCAR,” I was a little peeved. But I’m now thoroughly convinced by the new show. I realize there are many of you that don’t have Showtime (nor, have intentions to get it) so if you’re not watching, trust me, you’d enjoy this show which gets better week to week.
Worst TV Show: Fast Track to Fame
I watched ten minutes of the first show and nearly gouged my eyes out. If there is a worse-conceived, less entertaining, more excruciatingly painful hour of television on any of America’s million channels – well, I haven’t seen it yet, and I’ll admit to watching some tosh. Please, someone in power at SPEED; get rid of this excuse for a show. I’d rather watch an hour of paint drying.
Best Broadcast Moment: Not so much Digger
For the most part, I’ve quite enjoyed FOX’s coverage this year. Yes, it’s an acquired taste, and when matters get dire there’s always the “mute” button, but like I say, FOX has been OK this year. The best moment, though, has to be the relative invisibility of Digger. Ubiquitous last year, the FOX production team finally listened to the clamor of the fans and relegated Digger to a much reduced role. Not before time, chaps, not before time.
Worst Broadcast Moment: A Slice of Pizzi
Part of the NASCAR on FOX pre-show, which is in many cases only marginally worse than “Fast Track to Fame,” this segment is just embarrassing and the drivers seem to agree — talk about awkward body language. Thankfully, we only have one more “episode” of this nonsense before FOX exits stage left after Charlotte.
Most Dramatic Moment:
The Edwards/Keselowski incident at Atlanta – which for one minute looked like it was going to be horribly serious. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
Tom’s Take: That was my top choice, until I saw Dennis Setzer get launched into the wall like a flipper hitting a pinball at Talladega. By the time that car came to rest, it’s the first time in a long time I virtually assumed a driver was seriously hurt. How he came through it unscathed is miraculous.
Most Amusing Moment:
This award is given with the full benefit of 20/20 hindsight to Carl Edwards, who tried to sound not so very bothered as he inquired as to whether Keselowski was out of his car and OK after the above incident. For all his “aw shucks” act, Edwards is a cold-blooded competitor when he needs to be.
Tom’s Take: Rick Hendrick saying Joe Gibbs Racing has “lapped” him last week. A true car salesman if I ever saw one.
Best Paint Scheme:
It’s got to be the Mike Bliss piloted No. 36 car that was sponsored by the new “Kim Kardashian” fragrance. Not only was it a bizarre sponsorship, in and of itself, the car looked just ridiculous which I guess was half the point. Shame, really, then that Bliss stuffed the car into the wall well before the halfway point of the race.
Tom’s Take: Gotta go with the old school ’80s Kasey Kahne Bud scheme at Richmond. Too bad it ran like it was built in 1985.
That’s it for now! Come by Wednesday for Parts II and III, when Managing Editor Tom Bowles joins me as we give the top 40 drivers in the Cup Series their early report card.
©2000 - 2008 Danny Peters And Tom Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
NaNaNaNa NAPA KNOW HOW! That coke commercial sucks!?! Maybe I should come up with some convoluted story(like the regular commenters on this site) that Tom Bowles owns a Coke Machine in Northern Illinois and that’s the only reason this website supported that commercial.
Also, watch how these guys will get no complaints because they called them “most dramatic moment” instead of “sweetest wrecks of the year”. Color me surprised but let me follow this PC approach:
All-Star race this weekend. Can’t wait to see who gets dramatic momented at 180 MPH with a million dollars on the line. One of the hardest… Err, dramaticist moments I’ve seen in Nascar was a Mark Martin wreck coming out of turn 4 at Charlotte. Should be sweet!!!
1. Who knew Truex Jr. was a Couger Chaser? I mean, he’s standing in the (older) chicks bedroom, already dressed with his drivers suit on (ala the Waltrip commercial a few years back) claiming of her “broken heart” that “[he] can’t help it”.
She should have known. Coming from a fellow Cougar, we know what the deal is.
2. Of course Truex can’t help you “get to the moon” (although that may be the cause of Subject #1’s “broken heart”). We all know Ryan Newman is the ONLY driver with a Bachelor’s degree. And NASA is bad enough as it is.
#3. The duet is as telling as anything. I’ll be more forviging next time NAPA botches my order. I mean, they aren’t staring at computer screens trying to find parts – those are karaoke machines to help pass the time.
P.S. Again, with lady #1. I’m pretty sure Truex Na-Na-Na-Na-knows what to do. He could “crank a round of wedge” in my left rear any day!
“Na-Na-Na-Na-NAPA KNOW HOW!”
Mother of Dan, “Truly you have a dizzying intellect.” Quote is from the Man in Black. No, not Earnhardt. No, not Johnny Cash either. Nice awards gentlemen. Pay no mind to the “cougar” who doesn’t know the difference between wedge and a wedgie.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but I enjoyed the race from Dover. There were no GWC attempts and, unless I’m forgetting something, not a single debris caution! It was just a good, enjoyable race to watch and thankfully it wasn’t ruined by a bunch of cautions at the end.
I only have one problem with the awards. Martin Truex is chosen as a surprise to run well in the NAPA car? Now I have to wonder if you guys watched NASCAR before DW entered the boot. The only problem with the NAPA car, going all the way back to 2001 was MICHAEL WALTRIP. He was a lousy driver and his record proves it.
Dansmom with a wedgie… hot!
Noel… was that a joke on the Raven’s? As a Baltimore Raven’s fan I take offense. And it’s JOE FLACCO.
Even though they won a Superbowl with Trent Dilfer
It was Jocko Flocko, a monkey in Flock’s car.
Isn’t it Hamlin who loves love? I guess he never met DansMom.
I am going to go out on a limb and say DansMom sounds like a HOT couger.