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.
Doug Turnbull · Thursday June 12, 2008
Editor’s Note: Due to personal issues detailed in Monday’s Thinkin’ Out Loud column regarding his nephew, Matt McLaughlin has taken this Thursday off. In his place, our TV critic Doug Turnbull fills in … we hope to have Matt back on Monday. Until then, keep him in your thoughts during his difficult time.
The heat radiated and the sweat poured during Sunday’s Pocono 500. Drivers, fans, crewmen, and the media alike complained about the conditions throughout the long and arduous weekend. During pit stops, not only did cars stop for fuel, tires, and adjustments but also for ice, water, sandwiches, and whatever a behind-the-wall crew person could sneak through the window in under 15 seconds.
After the race, staff in the infield care center treated drivers for dehydration and heat exhaustion. They all looked tired, drenched, and ready to slip into some fresh threads in the motorhome before hopping into the jet and heading home. Some drivers, like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., were so exhausted that they gave barely understandable interviews before shuffling away from the camera.
The latter act led to some reactions in the media and by fans after the race. In my Tuesday column, I referred to Junior’s lethargic interview and received a barrage of comments in Junior’s defense, with readers challenging me to try and drive a race car in those sweltering conditions. During Wind Tunnel on SPEED Channel Sunday night, another driver complained to Dave Despain that NASCAR needs to install better cooling systems in the Car of Tomorrow because of driver discomfort in the current model. But Despain responded in the same manner that I felt, stating that he does not think that improving the cooling system in NASCAR race cars should be a priority, because he has a little bit of trouble feeling sorry for men who get paid millions of dollars to drive them little more than a few times a week.
That statement led me to start thinking about the beginning of NASCAR and the harsh conditions then that existed for drivers and fans alike.
Recently, I have read biographies on Rex White and Curtis Turner, as well as another book by Rex on early legends in the sport. These guys had it tough, and they received a fraction of the glory and compensation that drivers now receive.
White grew up on a farm in the middle of Appalachia. He survived polio and left home at 16 to escape his rigorous chores. He learned to drive on the family tractor, where he used a piece of rope as a seatbelt, and he learned automobile mechanics by monkeying around with various parts of the family car. When he left to fulfill his dreams in Washington, D.C., he was broke — so broke that he had to bathe in streams and sleep on a park bench — all the while dreaming of a career behind the wheel.
Once White began driving in races, he spent every ounce of energy working on his cars and became a chassis expert. But within a few years of winning the 1960 Grand National championship, White was out of racing and working as forklift operator. The sport was not glorious like it is now, and White was one of many rough and tumble, work ‘til you drop figures that defined its existence.
The drivers of yesteryear only had themselves to complain about, for everyone suffered and toiled in the same manner. Drivers’ wives sat in cars outside dirt tracks with kids and sandwiches, and were covered in dirt by the end of a Saturday night showdown. While they got covered in dirt, they watched their drivers beat and bang on each others’ cars, then chase each other through the pit areas with tire irons to solve disputes.
After reading this, you are probably wondering why I go so far into the past, over 50 years, to bring up the raucous days of NASCAR’s early existence. I do not have to. Think of Dale Earnhardt, who worked his way up the racing ladder, living in poverty until he hit the big time. Earnhardt did not leave the track when he flipped his car at Daytona a decade ago. As he was stepping into the ambulance, he saw that the front wheels were straight, ran out of the back of the med bus, fired the engine, and took off. He was tough as nails.
And remember Ricky Rudd? This guy made over 800 consecutive starts, won a Martinsville race in the mid-1990s under similar conditions as the recent Pocono event, and raced in the Daytona 500 after barrel-rolling his No. 15 Wrangler Ford a dozen times in the Busch Clash. His eyes were so swollen after that crash that he had to tape his eyelids open to compete in the Great American Race. This makes Dario Franchitti’s fractured ankle look like an elbow scrape.
The cars of yesteryear were no picnic to drive, either. They were just as heavy, but lacking the technology and innovation of today’s machines. Cars also used to lack power steering, which now is no longer considered a luxury. But earlier this decade, Jeff Gordon finished a Martinsville race at the tail end of the lead lap in 15th place, receiving praise for his effort simply because his car — you guessed it — lost power steering.
At a press conference at Atlanta Motor Speedway a couple of years ago, Donnie Allison and other drivers from his era had a promotion going on and held a press conference. At that conference, Allison was quoted as saying that the cars he had to race in the past were so hard to drive that he could compete in one now without a problem. That would be a sight to see. And speaking of Donnie Allison, the drivers of the past used to know how to throw a good fight when they felt it necessary. Allison, his brother Bobby, and Cale Yarborough threw the fight that pushed NASCAR into the national spotlight at the conclusion of the 1979 Daytona 500. Now that was a conflict; while I do not condone violence of any kind, if a fight is going to happen, it needs to amount to more than recent scuffles have.
The arguments of today tend to emphasize style over substance. For example, Jeff Gordon shoved Matt Kenseth after the 2006 spring Bristol race while both drivers still had their helmets on. Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya’s pitter-patter during the Watkins Glen race in 2007 is the closest we have come to a knock down, drag out fight in years, but they just exchanged a few obscenities and shoves… with their helmets on. The same story goes for Harvick vs. Joe Nemechek in 2006 at Lowe’s, and for Kyle Petty vs. Denny Hamlin’s visor at Dover in 2007.
There was a lot of press surrounding Kyle Busch’s triple duty run of races this past weekend. That schedule is hectic for today’s drivers, but does not pale in comparison to the schedules run in past years. The Cup schedule was used to tour the southeastern United States and the entire country in short amounts of time. There were 62 races on the Cup schedule in 1964; and while most drivers did not compete in every event on the schedule, there were many who came close and several that did. It was not unusual for a short track driver in those days to hold a regular job, work on his car during the night, and race four times a week. They also did not have the luxury of flying corporate jets from track to track. Instead, they drove, usually towing their race car on two wheels behind the family car. Things have certainly changed these last few years…
With all of this being said, the drivers of today should not see their abilities undermined because they struggle to handle in-race hardships. The competition in the sport has exponentially increased, and the costs have soared. Because of this, drivers not only have to be wheelmen, but they also have to be corporate darlings and make appearances throughout the week. These drivers also are on the road almost 80 percent of the weekends of the year, which can take its toll on family life and sanity.
Because of this schedule, the shelf life for drivers is shortening. Many drivers that will turn 40 in the next few years, like Jeff Gordon, say that they do not want to race much past that mark. The days of seeing drivers like Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip race into their early 50s are likely over. There will always be the exceptions, — like Morgan Shepherd, Joe Ruttman, and James Harvey Hilton — but they won’t be the rule.
The drivers of our time are heroes, and so are the mechanics who have helped advance racing technologies; but when some of them, like Tony Stewart or Kyle Busch, constantly complain about their crappy cars, let’s not forget those who shaped this sport’s past, giving them the opportunity to make racing possible. Those whiskey-pushing, tail-hauling, bench-sleeping, wrench-turning daredevils likely would put today’s drivers to shame. And it is a shame that we cannot reincarnate some of those wild souls, putting them in a head-to-head matchup with today’s stars for all the marbles. There would clearly be a draw for some television ratings there … but for now, it’s nothing more than simple wishful thinking.
©2000 - 2008 Doug Turnbull and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Matt, For the most part I think you are right but there are notable exceptions. Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart would have held their own with the guys of yesteryear just fine. Think about the things they do for fun and you will come to the same conclusion.
Great column, Matt. When I hear them complain about the heat or their car, I think about those who did their own work and hauled their own cars to the races, or even drove the car to the race. I think about the really tough guys like Jr Johnson, Curtis Turner, and, of course, the Fireball, who literally “herded” those big, heavy cars around the track, often in 90+ degree heat. Granted, they didn’t have on heavy firesuits and full face helmets, but the car and the heat more than made up for that. Those days are gone and the new guys for the most part, reflect society today. They want everything given to them easily, even a good racecar on Sunday. If they don’t get it, they complain all day like Jr and Gordon. It’s a “sign of the times.”
AMEN! Todays drivers are for the most part a bunch of whinny sniffling crybabies. Shut up and drive boys or go back home to mommy.
Back in the old days, the prize money wasn’t what it is today either. Sometimes the promoter disappeared with it. Other times, the purse wasn’t enough to buy the tires for the next race. It wasn’t that unusual for the winning team to get a free steak dinner at a local diner as their reward for winning a race. Driver’s would work on their own cars and had a volunteer pit crew for every race. The working conditions were hard to believe when compared to today. The lucky teams had a local garage to work out of. Some worked on their cars while they were towing them to the next race. All of this was being done in scorching heat or pouring rain. No air conditioned, multi-million dollar shops that are sterile like an operating room.
Would any of today’s drivers be behind the wheel of a race car if they had to work under the same conditions for such paltry amounts of money? I doubt it. There might be a few brave souls who would. Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon are the only two who come to mind. The rest? They’d probably be selling insurance, doing some white collar executive job, or maybe even selling their souls in some other occupations.
Minor Correction, only Gordon was wearing his helmet in the shoving incident…
Plus, I think that we often forget that the racers of yesteryear didn’t have nearly the non-racing committments that the current drivers do. They were focused on racing, period. A lot of the current drivers’ time is spent doing appearances, completing obligations to sponsors, and filming commercials.
Just a note … as you might have read at the top of the article, Doug Turnbull wrote this column filling in for Matt … Matt had to take this one off due to personal issues.
Great comments all!!!
To make thing even tougher on most of the drivers of the past is if they did not finish in the $ their families did not eat the next week or they had a hard time getting home after the race.
Just one small point. The older cars were designed to have manual steering. When the power steering goes away it is much harder to drive.
Nice article. I have just one comment. It is not the same thing to drive a car with a broken power steering unit and a car that does not have a power steering pump. The former has been done by some of us dinosaurs the latter should not be underestimated.
I used to think the same way all of you do – they get paid enough so no sympathy. But then I found that the temp inside the new car was getting to 130 degrees or more. Sorry, no amount of money justifies letting anyone work in those temperatures. It’s a health hazard – people just aren’t built for those temps, heat stroke is a serious thing – and a safety hazard, as anyone working those conditions is not going to perform well, and that will lead to accidents. The new cars are measurably hotter than the old ones, and that needs to be fixed before there are casualties.
This topic is over-rated! Truth is people and styles evolve. Babe Ruth, John Wayne and Rocky Marciano are gone, lets deal with whose relavent not Cale Yarbo“rough” Jimmy “Dispencer” or even the “Terminator”!Last I checked the tough guys are the “pretty” Metro-sexual type .
Oops! I didn’t pay attention to the author’s name. Good column Doug and we continue to think of you and your family, Matt. Cale Y. is pretty and metro-sexual? I’ll bet you wouldn’t say that to his face, and he doesn’t belong in the same sentence with the likes of Jimmy Spencer.
Which one of the old guys said they used to ride around with the windows up and the heater on in preparation for the Southern 500? Talk about getting your game face on!
To put things in perspective: Think of the conditions that people lived in 100 plus years ago – no air conditioning, indoor plumbing, without the advances of modern medicine and nutrition. Most people today would have a hard time living in those conditions, as they have grown too accustomed to our higher standard of living. I realize it’s probably a bit of hyperbole. Still, NASCAR has evolve to a point where these drivers are highly conditioned (well, for the most part) athletes whose whole life is centered around racing. We should celebrate the fact that these racers, who put their lives on the line every week for OUR entertainment, can make a good living driving these cars. It serves no purpose to disparage them by trying to compare them to old school drivers.
did y’all ever hear the stories of Darlington back when it was still dirt? they had 110 degree July heat and Southern humidity for those races. not to mention to mosquitoes that bit everyone and everything in sight. yeah, this past Sunday was hot, but let’s not try to compare toughness — most of us have our heroes regardless of what generation they came from.
I agree in most of your points Matt, but I disagree on the power steering issue. LOSING your power steering and running a STANDARD steering box are two completely different things. A standard steering box is stiff and strong, but as speed goes up, it gets easier to turn—when you LOSE power steering in a racecar, as I have, you’re basically fighting all the hydraulics without any help. It’s WAY WAY harder to muscle it around the turns than simply driving a Standard box.
Junior Johnson used to drive around during the week in the summer with the heat turned up full blast just to accustom himself to the heat in the racecars he drove. Mark Martin, drove a race car with a broken ankle, and worked on his own racecars until he couldn’t hold onto the tools anymore because his bleeding fingers made the tools too slippery. Show me a current day racer that would do that.