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.
Danny Peters And Tom Bowles · Wednesday May 19, 2010
With the season a third of the way through already following this past Sunday’s 400-lapper at the Monster Mile, we’re taking a brief moment of respite, handing out awards while grading all the drivers and teams on their performance so far in 2010. Yesterday, we covered off the awards portion (Best Driver, Most Improved, Best Race … all of which you can view here.)
Looking for Drivers Allmendinger – Kenseth? Click here to jump to the other section. And please note: the number before each driver is their current rank in the Sprint Cup point standings.
24. Brad Keselowski (-558 behind Kevin Harvick): Other than the little incident with Edwards at Atlanta and a few solid runs, Keselowski has settled into his first full season with Penske Racing without really impressing or ripping up too many trees. Still waiting on his first top 10 of the year, once Kes learns some patience he’ll have a long, likely fulfilling, Cup career. Grade: C+.
Tom’s Take: Nearly one year after his Talladega flip-to-win, Keselowski endured a harrowing wreck of his own this Spring that made national headlines. But other than that Edwards squabble, the one-of-a-kind personality seems a little tamer with the professional influence of Roger Penske. And ever so quietly, seven top-20s in the last eight races have him turning the focus back to the performance on the track instead of what comes out of his mouth. A jump inside the top 20 in points isn’t out of the question this summer, and competing for a Nationwide Series championship will only help his confidence. Grade: B-.
32. Travis Kvapil (-783): Arguably one of the greatest names in the sport (imagine how many times he’s had to spell his last name out loud) the Kvap has just one DNF and a highest finishing position of 18th at Talladega. Let’s move on … Grade: C+.
Tom’s Take: Kvapil should be one of the sport’s rising stars; instead, he’s forced to make a habit of doing more with less. Things got off to a slow start with Front Row, but he seems to be picking it up a bit as of late while adjusting back to the full-time demands of the series. It’s just with the type of equipment he’s driving, there’s only so far “up” you can go. Grade: C-.
33. Bobby Labonte (minus 823): The 2000 Cup Champion continues to make laps (and not much else). He has a high-water mark of 21st (at both Daytona and Bristol) and a string of 30-something efforts. It would be great to see Labonte in quality equipment again. That time, sadly, seems to have passed. Grade: C-.
Tom’s Take: One of the saddest sights I have ever seen in this sport is seeing a distinguished former champ park his car due to lack of funds. It’s like a star quarterback ending his career on the bench or a baseball player reduced to nothing more than a once-a-month pinch hitter. But that’s what Labonte did at Dover, part of an awkward 12-race start where he has yet to score a single top 20. Whether or not it should be Labonte’s time to retire is a matter of much debate; but for me, the cold reality is he may soon have no other choice. Grade: D.
18. Joey Logano (-436): The kid is improving with every race. Still a teenager until next Monday, and already with 51 races under his belt, you can’t help but feel this will be the year we look back on and say Logano finally began to live up to the hype. Grade: B+.
Tom’s Take: Did Danny take LSD and miss the last two months? I’m all for Logano getting better, but the second Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch took off, they left their super sophomore behind. He’s got just two top 10s and nine laps led in the last half-dozen races, a bit of a head-scratcher considering his teammates have ended four of those sitting in Victory Lane. When the season started, I thought this kid could be the upset lock of the Chase; now, I’m wondering whether he’s on the verge of the classic sophomore slump instead. Grade: B-.
11. Mark Martin (minus 293): Chugging along in 2010 with five top-10 runs. He doesn’t appear to have the magic elixir he supped for most of 2009, but this is Mark Martin here, people. He’ll be involved when it comes to handing out the prizes. Grade: B-.
Tom’s Take: To fix Dale Jr.‘s ailing team, Rick Hendrick chose to mix the Nos. 5 and 88 together in the offseason. The goal? To make better chemistry; instead, he’s spawned a catfight as no one seems to be on the same page inside that two-car shop. Alan may claim Mark is his hero, but when paired with some of the zeroes on the No. 88 side it’s enough to bring anyone down. The whole “Are you really going to drive in 2011, or is Kasey going to hop in your car?” hasn’t helped Mark much either, and I don’t expect that to die down until Kahne finally has a place for next year. How do the problems all add up? To a major, major disappointment; let’s not forget this team already had two wins at this point last year. Right now, they have none, and making the Chase is becoming more of a 50/50 proposition. Grade: C+.
17. Jamie McMurray (-422): It’s been a very solid start for McMurray in his second go-round with Chip Ganassi. Winning the Daytona 500 was the perfect start and since then, despite one or two snafus, he’s looked racier than ever following four years with Roush Fenway Racing. Grade: B+.
Tom’s Take: Some say McMurray’s only a plate driver; well, then, how do you explain that runner-up finish at Darlington? I’m a firm believer sports is as much mental as physical, and after the bad marriage with Roush running back to an old girlfriend has to be like a sigh of relief for him. The Chase might be a bit of a stretch, but a second win? How about Daytona this July? Grade: B+.
23. Paul Menard (-551): Started well, sat in a Chase spot for a few weeks, allegedly complained in private about having to make additional media appearances, then faded back into midpoints standing obscurity. That’s where he’ll remain unless something remarkable happens – which it won’t. Grade: B–.
Tom’s Take: In the real Cinderella story, she had an absolute blast at the ball. For four hours, suddenly everyone recognized who she was; but all of a sudden, the clock struck twelve, the coach turned into a pumpkin, and her glass slipper shattered with the gutcheck of reality that it was all over.
How did she feel the day after? You know, we really should ask Paul Menard. Those two really could learn a thing or two from each other, you see … Grade: C+.
19. Juan Pablo Montoya (minus 446): Montoya is another driver who has vastly improved results since the return of the rear spoiler which may, or may not be, a coincidence. After such a fine effort in the Chase in 2009, much success was predicted for the Colombian in 2010. He’s still got a way to go to live up to those high expectations, that’s for sure. Grade: B-.
Tom’s Take: Danny failed to mention the awful start of two 37th-place finishes in the first three races, peaking in a wreck with Jamie McMurray that left the Montoya clan so pissed off, his wife Tweeted in Spanish the No. 1 car was being driven by a clown. Since then, the two have kissed and made up, pairing together to form a powerful force as the Colombian marches up the points ladder. Four top six finishes over the last six weeks have him suddenly knocking back on the door of the top 12; there’s too much bad luck and too many mistakes to put him there. Some drivers enter the summer stretch with a bit of a margin for error; know this year’s trendy sleeper pick for the title is left with none. Grade: C.
40. Joe Nemechek (-1305): Eleven starts, eleven DNFs. ‘Nuff said. Grade: F.
Tom’s Take: See Joe start. See Joe park. Wash, rinse, repeat. Grade: F.
13. Ryan Newman (-364): For the second straight year Newman started out slow, but since the return of the rear spoiler he has four top-10 runs, including a win at Phoenix, which snapped a 77-race winless streak. He’s positioned nicely to make a sustained bid for a Chase berth. Grade: B.
Tom’s Take: Tony Stewart’s right-hand man has been a rock during his driver/owner’s shocking sophomore slump. That ugly start got replaced by a burst of momentum that’s all too familiar to NASCAR fans; the No. 39 rode a similar surge all the way inside the Chase last year. Doesn’t history always have a way of repeating itself? Grade: B.
38. Max Papis (-1259): I love the mad Italian with the broad smile and fantastic attitude. Shame his season-high finish is 22nd, but all things considered, Papis is holding his own. Grade: C.
Tom’s Take: If it were another driver in another ride, Papis would have been fired long ago. But both team and sponsor realize his limited oval experience, which is why they’re willing to put up with more DNQs (two) than lead lap finishes (zero). If I were in his shoes, though, I’d put together a few top-5 finishes at Infineon and Watkins Glen to be on the safe side. Grade: C-.
22. David Ragan (-541): It’s been more of the same pedestrian form in 2010 that we saw from Ragan in ’09. With the way McMurray is running, Jack Roush might be regretting his decision to stick with the kid. About the only good thing you can say is that his UPS ads have been fantastic. Yeah, scraping the barrel, I know. Grade: D.
Tom’s Take: No top 10s at unrestricted tracks? That’s just not cutting the mustard, as the say. About the only good thing going for Ragan is everyone who’s aiming to replace him in the No. 6 car is falling flat on their face. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.? Going steady with the outside wall. Colin Braun? All but holding a pink slip in his hands. Kasey Kahne? Gave Roush the middle finger on his way out to Hendrick Motorsports. That leaves … who, exactly, to take his place behind the wheel? It’s amazing that after Jamie McMurray’s ugly four-year stint, RFR would follow up with a sequel so quickly. Grade: D.
20. David Reutimann (-506): The Reut has not had the best of luck in 2010, but a morale boosting fifth-place finish at Dover was his best since a fifth-place effort in the Daytona 500. A threat to make the Chase for much of the first half of 2009, Reutimann has regressed this year. Grade: C.
Tom’s Take: The second Martin Truex, Jr. came on board, Reutimann was knocked back to No. 2 on the totem pole at Michael Waltrip Racing … and it shows. Four straight top 15s have things headed back in the right direction, but three DNFs before that may make it too little, too late for this one-time Chase contender. Grade: C-.
29. Elliott Sadler (-718): He’s still racing Cup? Really? Wow, I hadn’t noticed. The white shades are almost as embarrassing as his lack of form. Grade: D.
Tom’s Take: For the last 16 months, Sadler’s been in bed with a wife that tried to give him divorce papers, only to get suckered back in when he complained about hurting the kids. You just get the feeling that when this sucker breaks apart – and it will soon – it’s not the type of ending that’s going to be all squeaky clean. Paging Mark Geragos … Grade: D-.
31. Regan Smith (-758): He has led three laps on the season so that’s something, I guess. An average finish of 26.4 for the fledgling outfit probably isn’t too bad, all told. Grade: C+.
Tom’s Take: For a driver who made a habit of keeping his nose clean, Smith has sure gotten into his fair share of ugly wrecks this season. The No. 78 car has run much better than where they’ve finished, and a new fleet of Richard Childress Racing chassis will only help them during the months ahead. Grade: C+.
26. Scott Speed (-583): Started well, futzed with his hair and it’s all been relatively downhill since. Speed’s a great character – the sport needs those, no doubt – but he’s still not really giving you the sense he’s about to put it all together. Grade: C+.
Tom’s Take: He’s really come into his own this year off the track, showcasing his quirkiness with a Twitter page that’s quickly become a fan favorite. But as Casey Mears showed, personality can only keep you in the sport for so long. At some point, this ugly slump that he’s in needs to be snapped, or Speed will be taking his variety show on the road for 2011. Grade: C-.
14. Tony Stewart (-371): Like his teammate, Ryan Newman, Smoke has had a so-so year with just one top 5 and four total top 10s. His win in the All-Star Race in 2009 really kickstarted things for the owner-driver, so he’ll be hoping for a repeat performance under the lights at Charlotte this Saturday evening. Grade: C+.
Tom’s Take: One thing to keep in mind about Smoke: he traditionally gets himself off to a slow start. But only one pole and one lone podium finish (second – Bristol) is certainly a little slower than most years, isn’t it? The fact he’s been taking some PMS out on the media this season hasn’t really helped matters much, either. It’s his first real crisis as an owner, and how Smoke handles it will speak volumes as to how competent he’ll be running this team for the long-term. Grade: C.
39. David Stremme (-1294): An average finish of 28.0 in six races – not even the loquacious Tom Bowles will be able to write anything about this dude. Grade: E.
Tom’s Take: Danny, what the heck is this “E” business? What goes on over on the other side of the Atlantic? Here in America, “E” means excellent … and Stremme is far from it. Driving for a team that purportedly has more checks bouncing than one could count, simply surviving to the end of the next stretch would have to be considered a moral victory. Just don’t expect any actual results, OK? Grade: D.
12. Martin Truex, Jr. (-334): It’s been a pretty solid first 12 races in the NAPA car with his new organization for Truex. He’s a threat to make the Chase, for sure, but if I was a betting man, I’d guess he’ll fall a little short. Grade: B.
Tom’s Take: Easily one of the pleasant surprises of the new season. Truex and crew chief Pat Tryson have really built a solid chemistry around each other, turning around a team that languished for years under driver/owner Michael Waltrip. He may not know how to sing karaoke, but four top-10s combined with Tryson’s experience have them building a foundation for a deep run towards the Chase. Grade: B+.
27. Brian Vickers (-610): It’s not been a banner year for the man who made his first Chase in 2009. With just three top-10 runs in 11 races, and now with the blood clot situation, it looks like his Chase hopes for 2010 look well and truly scuppered. Get well soon, Mr. Vickers. Grade: C+.
Tom’s Take: Everything changes with a health scare that could change Vickers’ life forever. Best wishes to one of the sport’s quality drivers, and a little bit of advice: stay out of the car! Better to let this one heal a few weeks than risk it when your future and perhaps your life is at stake on Coumadin. That’s my biggest fear; not that the team can’t turn it around, but that its driver marches back too soon, wrecks, and encounters a serious physical problem that could turn things into an even bigger mess. Grade: C.
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It seems Brad Keselowski is finding out that all tracks are not as easy to drive as Talladega. Do the words “Sliced Bread” mean anything? A long time ago a new driver was told it takes three years to learn how to win in this league and it still takes at least that long for consistency. And a lot of luck helps too. Sliced Bread is doing better but he’s still learning.
Maybe Johnson’s luck is finally changing.
Overall I agree with most of the comments, but I do have to disagree about David Stremme. Let’s think back to the first 5 races when Boris Said drove that car and battled Kevin Conway every week to see who would be the slowest car at the track. Stremme has been impressive, collecting some solid finishes around 25th that have pulled the team back to within striking distance of the top-35!
But hey Tom, you keep insisting the #88 problem is Dale Jr. Now you say, “Alan may claim Mark is his hero, but when paired with some of the zeroes on the No. 88 side it’s enough to bring anyone down.” So is it Dale Jr or the #88 zeroes?
I beleave It should be “ THE CHOSEN ONE” instead of “sliced bread “. Hell yea!