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.
The Yellow Stripe · Danny Peters And Tom Bowles · Tuesday August 31, 2010
It’s that time again. In the first of a three part series this week, Danny Peters and Tom Bowles hand out their second set of grades – two-thirds of the way through the season – before we head into the stretch run and the Chase. Today, the focus is on the teams. Wednesday and Thursday will be a comprehensive view of the top 40 drivers in the points standings.
Stewart-Haas Racing (Nos. 14, 39)
Danny: After a phenomenal freshman year for SHR, the second season has been a little trickier. You can’t really say SHR has had a sophomore slump — Smoke is in the Chase, and Newman won his first race in about twenty years. But it’s clear performance hasn’t been quite as high as 2009, with only one of the two cars set to make the Chase. That said, don’t rule Smoke out in the final ten races. Grade: B.
Tom: Smoke stood up at Pocono after a third-place finish, spewing fire and claiming he’d make the highlight reels. Who knew he wouldn’t do it for his temper? The only thing missing from the No. 14’s resume at this point is a win, making them a darkhorse title contender. But the puzzling inability of the No. 39 team to put it all together, too, brings down their grade a bit. Grade: B.
Roush Fenway Racing (Nos. 6, 16, 17, 99)
Danny: After a sluggish start, Roush Fenway Racing has shown distinct signs of life. The Biff ended the long company winless streak at Pocono and he, Edwards, and Kenseth have run well in the last couple of months. Will it be enough to net a third title for recovering Jack Roush? Probably not, but the three will be there or thereabouts. Apparently, there’s a fourth RFR driver called David Ragan, too. Who knew? Grade: B.
Tom: Sometimes, it takes a near-death experience to bring out the best in life. Rallying around their owner’s near-tragedy, the sudden resurgence of the Blue Oval crowd has been heartwarming in the face of what seemed like an endless slump heading into early summer. Greg Biffle appears the most consistent, but don’t count out Carl Edwards heading into the Chase; that No. 99 team looks like a powder keg waiting to go off. Just don’t tell UPS how well the rest of the cars are doing, OK? Grade: B+.
Richard Petty Motorsports (Nos. 9, 19, 43, 98)
Danny: RPM has really not had a pleasant time of things in 2010. The star, Kasey Kahne, signed with HMS, Sadler continues to finish several laps down, while A.J. is hit and miss like a toddler hopped up on sugar. As for Paul Menard, well, he’s had 3 top-10s and an average finish of 19.9. More than anything with RPM, the key question is what happens in 2011. Grade: D.
Tom: Tag Sale! Tag Sale! This November, come buy RPM’s fleet at bargain basement prices as the team consolidates from four teams to two, hanging by a thread after spending the summer simply trying to line up enough creditors to keep surviving. The King takes a licking but keeps on ticking, although one wonders with this newest driver lineup just exactly how long he can roll with the punches. Am I getting ahead of myself on 2011? Absolutely. But the fact three of the four drivers currently employed won’t be a part of it provides the perfect explanation for what’s been a largely disappointing 2010. One lone bright spot: Paul Menard. Too bad for them Richard Childress and his checkbook were watching… Grade: C+.
Richard Childress Racing (Nos. 29, 31, 33)
Danny: What a transformation it’s been for RCR in 2010. Out to lunch for much of 2009, the change in fortunes for all three RCR wheelmen, especially Kevin Harvick, has been stunning. Bowyer’s Chase spot is not confirmed yet, but he’s in the catbird seat with two races to go. Regardless, this is a team that’s going places – with the snarly veteran Harvick leading the way. Grade: A.
Tom: RCR started the summer as a longshot title contender. They ended it as perhaps the hottest team, top to bottom, inside the Sprint Cup garage. Between a win from Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton scoring top-10 finishes like an automatic machine gun, and Clint Bowyer simply benefiting from Mark Martin’s self-destruction … it’s hard to find fault here. Richard … this Bud’s for you. Grade: A.
Red Bull Racing (Nos. 82, 83)
Danny: After the excitement of Brian Vickers snatching the final Chase spot in 2009, it’s been the very definition of a year to forget for RBR in 2010. The only good thing is Vickers is on the way back and Kahne will be in Red Bull equipment – albeit for a year only – in 2011. Grade: C-.
Tom: All you need to know about Red Bull Racing is both drivers likely won’t even be involved with the program at the Cup level next year. They’re without their leader (Brian Vickers), running behind on horsepower, and are suffering from a total loss of focus. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At this point, why wouldn’t you mail it in? Grade: D+.
Penske Racing (Nos. 2, 12, 77)
Danny: It’s been an up and down year for the Captain. Kurt has run well, with two wins and 14 top-10s. Hornish has been terrible (it’s surely time he went back to open-wheel) and Brad has caused fireworks, yet failed to pick up a single top-10 all year. Grade: B-.
Tom: There seems to be a two-tier system within the Penske Racing Shop: Penske, and Penske Pretend. The Real Team Penske (Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski’s Nationwide team) performs at the level everyone expects, challenging for the championship while becoming the flag-bearer for a Dodge emblem hanging by a thread within NASCAR’s top three series. For those worried about Kurt Busch’s latest slump, don’t be. We saw this last year, and he ended the season a healthy fourth in points. As for Keselowski-Cup and Mr. Hornish? It’s like Penske makes cars out of scrap metal, puts their logo on it and decides to go see what happens. Or, if that doesn’t work, Hornish does a good job at turning other teams’ equipment straight into scrap metal for them. Grade: C+.
Michael Waltrip Racing (and JTG) (Nos. 00, 47, 56)
Danny: It’s been a relatively solid year for MWR. Truex Jr. has settled into the NAPA car, the Reut won a race, but Ambrose has disappointed (especially at Sonoma) and will move on next season with Bobby Labonte slated for the ride in 2011. All told, though, not bad. Grade: B-.
Tom: A little good, a little bad, and pretty much everything in between. The Good: David Reutimann winning Chicagoland, and driving Kyle Busch crazy before earning runner-up at Bristol while reclaiming his place as No. 1 shoe within the three-pair MWR camp. Mr. Truex? Somewhere in between. His Chase chances got lost within an ugly incident that set a quiet guy afire, just like the colors of one DuPont Chevrolet’s front bumper. And Mr. Ambrose? Lost within an ugly web of terrible wrecks, poor engines, and bad gas – a nightmare that ends with a trip to the land of Richard Petty come 2011. When you have three teams going in three separate directions … that’s not exactly the definition of the word chemistry. Grade: C.
Joe Gibbs Racing (Nos. 11, 18, 20)
Danny: Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch will head into the Chase knowing they can win the title, while Logano has learned massive amounts and shown he has some nuts. These three are always entertaining, no question and between Denny (5 wins) and Kyle (3 wins) JGR has won a third of the races run this year, which is no mean feat in a series as competitive as the Sprint Cup. Grade: B+.
Tom: Didn’t JGR learn their lesson about peaking too soon? Through the middle of June, there was no one better with Hamlin and Busch collecting trophies like they were kiddie awards at the dollar store. But Infineon came with a troubling inability to execute both left and right turns, and after that tough weekend on the road course nothing has been quite right ever since. Sure, Kyle Busch swept Bristol, and Joey Logano discovered girls and their firesuits … but is that really enough to make anyone championship material? And what’s to make of Denny Hamlin, who’s made more news for what he tweets than what’s he’s doing on the racetrack as of late? Joe Gibbs’ Redskins are ill-positioned to start the season with Donovan McNabb. I’m worried we’re about to witness a similar letdown here. Grade: B.
Hendrick Motorsports (Nos. 5, 24, 48, 88)
Danny: The real grading of HMS will come at the end of the season (when the big prizes are handed out) but compared to last year, they’ve slipped slightly by their own very lofty standards. Junior has flat out disappointed; Mark Martin hasn’t shown anything like the form he had last year; Jeff G couldn’t win a race if he was the only participant, and Double J has been uncharacteristically error prone. Still, with the 24/48 it’s all about the Chase. Grade: B.
Tom: A Tale of Two Cities … err, two race shops. The No. 24 and the No. 48? They’re spending their time playing with house money, fooling the public by getting aggressive and pulling a win it-or screw it philosophy that hides their hand. But their teammates at the Nos. 5 and 88 are like those guys at the blackjack table that have already reached into the ATM machine five times, but just can’t stop gambling and can’t catch a card to save their life. You know their night is going to end ugly … you just don’t know how it happens quite yet. Grade: B.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (Nos. 1, 42)
Danny: Montoya certainly won’t make the Chase and McMurray has an outside chance at best, but the simple fact is this team has looked so, so, so much better than last year. A rejuvenated McMurray won the 500 and the Brickyard whilst Montoya picked up a second Cup victory at Watkins Glen. Both teams have had the speed necessary, they’ve just both suffered with some bad racing luck. All in all, though, the signs are bright for EGR. Grade: B.
Tom: How can you argue with a season where your team wins the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, and a road course race? “They’re not in the Chase,” says Brian France. So? Jamie McMurray sure ain’t worrying about it, so why should we be sitting here sweating? The sport’s biggest wild card that could easily play spoiler, winning two, maybe three races come Chase time. Grade: B+.
Front Row Motorsports (Nos. 34, 37, 38)
Danny: The No. 34 car is toast – you know, the one with the cheap Viagra sponsorship that lapped the track like it was a milk float. The No. 37 car of Gilliland has 20 starts and an average finish of 28.8, while Kvapil has run 23 races for an average finish of 27.7. Let’s move on, shall we… Grade: D.
Tom: Sometime this month, the middle-aged Front Row Motorsports team thought they could get by without their Extenze pill. I understand why they did it, but their bank account certainly doesn’t – and that could be a story to watch going forward. Clearly, nothing on the racetrack has been worth noting for about the last five or six weeks. Grade: D.
Furniture Row Racing (No. 78)
Danny: FRR recently announced a contract extension for Regan Smith through 2012 (running the full season in both years). It’s good news for the Cato, NY native – one of the sport’s good guys. Still, with a top finish of 14th at Atlanta, there’s still a long way to go. One final thing: I loved that Farm American paint scheme he ran earlier this year. That was quality. Grade: C+.
Tom: Regan and Furniture Row are made for each other, an underrated single-car team paired with what’s a vastly underrated driver. But considering they’re running A-level RCR equipment, that zero in the top-10 column has to be rated at least a minor disappointment. Grade: C-.
Robby Gordon Motorsports (No. 7)
Danny: You have to feel it must be a little like trying to dam the Amazon with a couple of house bricks for the irascible Robby Gordon as he struggles to keep his head above water. The second place run at Sonoma certainly helped, but the long-term prognosis for Gordon isn’t pretty. Grade: D.
Tom: Oh, Robby. Using a sex pill to keep your team alive? Really? You’re better than that. Grade: F.
Whitney Motorsports (No. 46)
Danny: Terry Cook, J.J. Yeley and now, apparently, Michael McDowell. As with the start-and-parkers, there’s nothing to see here, people; let’s move on. Grade: F.
Tom: You knew when J. J. Yeley started DNQ’ing for oh, about a month, that wasn’t going to end well. Can Michael McDowell be the one to salvage this program? Umm … those aren’t exactly fightin’ words around these parts. Grade: F.
TRG Motorsports (No. 71)
Danny: The primary driver for the No. 71 in 2010, Bobby Labonte, will move to Marcos Ambrose’s seat in the No. 47 car next year, and you have to say it’s a good thing for the 2000 Cup champ to be back in competitive equipment in 2011. Other than that, there’s not a lot to say about this team. Grade: D.
Tom: The team that did everything right, and still doesn’t have the money to show for it. Come study their story in How NASCAR is Broken 101 this Fall; we’re not sure if there’s going to be a class Spring semester. Grade: D.
Tommy Baldwin Racing (No. 36)
Danny: It’s been quite the potpourri of drivers behind the wheel of the No. 36 car this year: Mike Bliss (5 races), Casey Mears (4 races), Johnny Sauter (3 races), Ron Fellows (1 race), Geoff Bodine (1 race) and Steve Park (1 race.) And speaking of Steve Park, his fantastic 13th-place run at Daytona was easily the best finish for this team in 2010, and the lone bright spot, all told. Grade: F.
Tom: Tommy Baldwin’s another good guy who’s determined to start a team even if he does die trying. Man, am I worried about his health. Grade: D-.
Germain Racing (No. 13)
Danny: I have to say I’m a little sad Mad Max is no longer in the No. 13 GEICO car. He’s a real character with a true racer’s heart and a genuine love for stock car racing. His replacement is Casey Mears, who will run at least 7 more races in 2010 before sliding into the seat in 2011 as well. In short, though, not really a lot to see or talk about here. Grade: D.
Tom: From Mad Max to Casey at the Bat? We all know what happened in that poem. Is GEICO even paying attention to this team anymore? Because, if they did, they’d realize even Loren Wallace might be a better option at this point. Grade: F.
Latitude 43 Motorsports (No. 26)
Danny: Another team with an uncertain future, David Stremme recently quit the ride after 11 races behind the wheel alleging that team principal, Bill Jenkins, had failed to meet “financial obligations.” Patrick Carpentier is being lined up for Atlanta and possibly beyond, but the simple fact is this team is just doing all it can to stay alive. Grade: D.
Tom: Now THIS is a team running on house money. Seriously, the cops will be outside any minute now. Grade: F.
The Start And Park Teams:
Danny: Honestly, I have nothing to say about the Start & Park teams. They’re not truly competing so, simply put, they don’t deserve a grade when compared to those that do actually try and run the full complement of laps. Grade: N/A.
Tom: Business-wise? Grade: A+. Otherwise, I think the appropriate grade here is Z.
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grade Z? pretty creative stuff there Tommy
i don’t know how you can say he (Papis) was fired when they are sponsoring him for a full-time truck ride