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.
Dave Thompson · Monday April 11, 2011
It was a Texas-sized list of problems for some of NASCAR’s underdogs, with Front Row Motorsports leading the list. But was David Gilliland’s wreck enough to knock a second FRM car out of the top 35? And which team capitalized on the misfortune of Tony Raines and the No. 37, FRM’s “hybrid” now owned by Larry Gunselman to sneak into a “locked in” spot? Find out in this edition of the Bubble Breakdown, tracking those battling for a place inside the top 35 in owner points while giving you the race summary of cars you almost never see mentioned once on television…
LOCKED INTO THE FIELD AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
No. 21 – Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers)
Bayne has been the victim of a number of heartbreaking runs over the last few races, but the team was confident their No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion could turn that trend around in Texas. They did. He started the race from the 18th position and ran as high as second on his way to a 17th-place finish, easily his best since the 2011 Daytona 500. Bayne and the No. 21 crew had great pit work, gaining positions on every stop throughout the evening.
The Tennessee native drove a smart race under the lights in Texas, ran hard when needed and backed off when he was placed in a vulnerable position. On lap 215, Bayne skillfully avoided a three-car crash on the backstretch as he steered his way through the carnage and escaped without damage. Bayne led all drivers with 163 green flag passes in the Samsung Mobile 500, along with one other disturbing stat: hospital ER visits. He got admitted Saturday night on the way back from the speedway, suffering from an insect bite but has since been treated and released.
No. 34 – David Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports)
Gilliland came to Texas Motor Speedway with the hopes of a Texas-sized rebound and a solid finish. The No. 34 Ford Fusion was reunited with Gander Mountain as their sponsor this week, who was featured on the car twice last season and had high hopes to deliver for their part-time supporter.
Despite taking the green flag in the 40th position, Gilliland felt confident he had a strong car, picking up five positions in the early going of the race. He had been complaining the car was too tight getting through the turns, and during pit stops the team made adjustments to loosen the car up. But on lap 46, the team unfortunately would see their evening come to an abrupt end when the No. 34 blew a right-front tire and hit the wall. Gilliland took the damaged car directly to the garage where the team determined it was unable to return to the race.
Afterwards, Gilliland was brief in his comments considering the high level of frustration in the FRM camp: it was the second DNF in seven races for the No. 34 Ford. “We have good cars,” he said. “But haven’t been able to show it.”
If there’s a silver lining, though, it’s that the team is heading to Talladega, the second restrictor plate race of the season. Remember what happened the last time out? Gilliland sure does; he was sitting with a podium finish after this year’s Daytona 500.
No. 78 – Regan Smith (Furniture Row Racing)
On Friday, Smith ran his Farm American Chevrolet, presented by Furniture Row Companies and Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, around the ultra fast 1.5-mile oval in 28.731 seconds, which placed him in fifth position for the green flag. With that result, Smith has now posted six top-10 starting positions in seven races; that gives him the highest average start of anyone competing full-time on the Sprint Cup circuit.
However, bad luck on raceday continued to plague the No. 78 team on Saturday evening in Texas. Smith saw his starting position of fifth evaporate in just 20 laps, when he found himself in 23rd. The team would recover by halfway in the race and again was inside the top 20; at that point, Smith was confident he would break the bad luck streak with a solid performance and deliver a top-15 finish. But as the laps wound down, Smith again witnessed his team slowly implode.
The first mishap was a tire violation during a green flag pit stop when a tire rolled outside the pit box and across pit road. He would serve his pass-through penalty and lose a lap before one final blow would end his evening. On lap 215, Smith was involved in a three-car collision with Martin Truex, Jr. and Mark Martin that resulted in heavy damage to the right front of the No. 78. The crew was forced to push in that car from pit road to the garage, where it would remain.
No. 32 – Ken Schrader (FAS Lane Racing)
After their third top-25 finish in the past five races, FAS Lane Racing secured sponsorship from Big Red, Inc. for the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Veteran driver Ken Schrader would again be behind the wheel after posting a 22nd-place finish at Martinsville last week.
After that success and with new sponsorship added, the No. 32 team’s expectations were high for Texas. But while last week Schrader managed to avoided tire issues and stayed clear of any wrecks, this time on the 1.5-mile track at Texas would not be so kind.
Schrader started deep in the field, in 41st position and really struggled with handling; he would labor at or near the back for most of the race, a few tenths of a second slower than even the next car ahead of him on the scoring pylon. On lap 113, things went from bad to worse as Schrader would bring out the caution when he blew a right front tire that tossed debris on the track. Looking under the hood during that yellow, it was clear mechanical issues combined with bad Goodyears led to an ugly combination the Ford underdogs were unable to overcome.
While Schrader was able to rebound from the blown tire to finish in 33rd place, the team had to be disappointed after its success in the last three events.
No. 7 – Robby Gordon (Robby Gordon Motorsports)
For the second straight week, Gordon was promoting the upcoming action thriller movie, Fast Five, with a black Fast Five/Speed Energy paint scheme. Last spring at the 1.5-mile oval, Gordon recorded a 26th-place finish and had hopes to improve on that mark and remain in the top 35 in owner points.
Gordon was disappointed with starting in 39th position when the green flag waved; he felt the car had improved over their practice and qualifying performance. During the race, he did show signs of improvement but never seriously contended for a lead lap finish; with 34 laps remaining, he was in 33rd position, and he ultimately crossed the line 31st – a grand total six laps off the pace.
Gordon did lead a lap in the race to earn a crucial point for his team; for at this point, it looks likely they’ll battle to stay within the top 35 in owner points all season long.
No. 13 – Casey Mears (Germain Racing)
After a disappointing weekend in Martinsville, Mears found himself just outside the top 35 in owner points and needed a solid qualifying run to ensure he would race on Saturday. Mears got it done easily when he qualified in 22nd position, the second fastest of the “go-or-go homers”. And he got it done Saturday as well, with his solid performance on Saturday evening guaranteeing Germain Racing and the No. 13 GEICO Toyota a spot in the starting lineup for Talladega.
Mears and the team battled throughout the race for their hard-earned finish. He quickly fell to 31st (nine spots) before the first caution flag was waved on lap 9. During their pit stop, the team took four tires, fuel and made a track bar adjustment. That pit road tweak would pay dividends for Mears, as he not only had a better handling car but had now made his way to 24th position by lap 65.
That’s where the team stalled out, but hey; things could have been worse. He later would narrowly escape the Truex, Martin, and Smith wreck on lap 215 as he carefully maneuvered his No. 13 through the carnage.
So while the 26th-place finish isn’t worthy of breaking news, it does give the team some confidence knowing they are locked into the field and will race next week. In his post-race comments, Mears said, “Our top priority is being in the top 35 and we were able to make that happen tonight.” The question is can they maintain that for more than a week?
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
No. 71 – Andy Lally (TRG Motorsports)
TRG Motorsports announced earlier in the week they had signed Interstate Moving Services as the primary sponsor on the No. 71 Ford Fusion for the Texas race as well as for Talladega. In addition, TRG and TIFCO Industries expanded their associate sponsorship for the Texas race. Suddenly, the financial pressure was on for a rookie in Lally that is still gaining experience at the sport’s top level – but needs to start racking up the right finishes for people to keep him there.
So after successfully making it into the field at Texas on his qualifying time (43rd), Lally and the team deemed the first outing for the team’s new Ford Fusion package a success. Unfortunately for the team and Lally, they did catch an early surprise when the No. 71 blew a right front tire on lap 92. The team lost several laps but remained confident as the race continued.
In Lally’s post-race remarks, he commented that the car did get stronger as the laps ticked down and his lap times aided in proving this true. However, late in the race he reported severe handling problems and thought another tire was about to go. The team was forced to pit, causing them to lose even more track position.
The entire TRG Motorsports team were pleased with the overall results, considering the rookie went through the entire night without spinning out. But, while excited for the next race, a Talladega event where they’ll have a shot at a top-10 finish the No. 71 will need to qualify on speed.
No. 37 – Tony Raines (Front Row / Max Q Motorsports)
Raines suffered the biggest hit of the bubble teams in owner points at Texas Motor Speedway, which dropped the No. 37 team to 37th position, six points behind 35th place Casey Mears and the No. 13 Germain Racing team.
Some fans probably weren’t even in their seats when Raines brought out the first caution of the race on lap 11. As Raines came out of turn 4 and headed down the front straightaway, a cloud of smoke came from underneath his No. 37 Ford. Raines did not blow an engine, as he would return to the race, but the team had already suffered a damaging blow in the owner points.
Raines still finished a respectable 34th place considering they started in 42nd position. But the team was 15 laps down when the checkered flag waved and now must fight for a spot in the field at Talladega next week.
No. 36 – Dave Blaney (Tommy Baldwin Racing)
With a top-35 spot in owner points within their grasp, the No. 36 TBR team’s main goal was to leave Texas with a guaranteed spot for next weekend. If the team could successfully make it happen, it would mark the first time since their inception in 2009.
Blaney started from the 38th position when the green flag was dropped at Texas on Saturday. Early in the race, Blaney fought a tight car and remained deep in the field, with adjustments yielding little improvement. Blaney relayed to his crew chief that while the car was strong early, it would become tight later in the run, which caused them to drop deep in the pack.
Blaney did remain out during a caution to lead a lap at one point, but in conjunction with his 30th-place finish it wasn’t enough to break into the top 35. Blaney and the entire TBR team will need to step up their game if they ever expect to break into “locked in” territory, or else? They are in for a long season.
No. 38 – Travis Kvapil (Front Row Motorsports)
While Kvapil may have fond memories of Texas Motor Speedway, the track at which he won his first Camping World Truck Series race in 2001, this weekend will be one he hopes to forget.
Although Kvapil and the No. 38 team thought their newer cars and stronger engines would have a big impact, it hasn’t shown thus far for them. The team was outfitted with more horsepower provided by Roush Yates Racing’s FR9 motors, something they have not had before at Texas Motor Speedway. But the added horsepower did not aid Kvapil during either practice as his Ford could only manage a 38th and 43rd-best speed during the two practice sessions. Kvapil’s qualifying run was no better, although the team had made several changes to the car. The result? Kvapil and the No. 38 team did not qualify for the race and lost additional points in the owner standings.
After failing to make the show at Texas, Kvapil commented that they never had much speed all weekend. After a disappointing first lap in qualifying, he knew they would not be able to make it up on the second… and now, it’s a daunting 31-point deficit to try and make their way back into a “locked in” spot.
2011 Bubble Chart After Texas:
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Travis Kvapil was, is, and always will be a waste. Maybe he should try ping-pong instead.