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.
NASCAR Driver Q & A · Doug Turnbull · Thursday October 16, 2008
Only two men in NASCAR history can claim admission to all five Chase for the Championships: Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. But while Johnson has cruised to two straight titles under the new format, Kenseth has struggled to show the playoff consistency that won him the 2003 Winston Cup trophy in a landslide.
It was Kenseth’s dominant performance under that old point system that caused NASCAR to come up their current 10-race playoff. But while the formatting change hasn’t been rewarding to the 2000 Rookie of the Year, Kenseth remains one of the sport’s most visible, outspoken drivers with a sarcastic streak that can’t be beat. And while his ’08 Chase hasn’t gone as expected — three wrecks in five races left him out of contention — he didn’t let the bad luck affect his mood during a 15-minute interview with our own Doug Turnbull. Among the hot button topics discussed in an easygoing conversation: his pending free agency, David Ragan’s success, and what will happen to Roush’s fifth car.
Doug Turnbull: You’ve had a tough deal in this Chase. It’s been a tough stretch these last five or six races. How do you view the races coming up? You probably don’t see yourselves in contention anymore. Are you looking ahead to 2009, or are you putting it all on the table to try and win?
Matt Kenseth: We really try to put it all on the table and win every week. We are pretty much out of the championship hunt, obviously, but so are most of the cars out there. There’s 38 cars out of the championship hunt. So, we’ll go out there and race hard and try to get momentum toward the end of the year. We’ll get as high as we can in the point standings, and try to get positive momentum going for next year.
Doug Turnbull: Do you have a candidate for who you think is going to win the title? Does Greg [Biffle] have enough to catch the No. 48 [Jimmie Johnson]?
Matt Kenseth: Well, I hope so. I mean, Greg hasn’t won a championship yet. He’s a really good friend and a teammate, so I hope he does. I think the favorite has to be the No. 48, because he is the two-time defending champion and they always seem to get it done at the end of the year. The No. 31 [Jeff Burton] is really smart and consistent; if his cars run fast enough, he might be able to do it. I think Greg’s cars will run fast and maybe run as good as Jimmie’s at most tracks, and he has a good shot if Jimmie has any kind of trouble. I think the No. 31 doesn’t make any mistakes at all. I think if his cars run fast enough, he may have a good shot, too.
Doug Turnbull: Some people, especially purists in the sport, have been critical of the Chase because it can wipe a huge points lead out. They [NASCAR] brought on the Chase after you won your first championship in 2003. Do you think the Chase is a good thing? Would you rather see it another way, the same way, or what?
Matt Kenseth: I think you can find good and bad in anything that you look at. I think that the Chase, in a way, was becoming a little bit of a necessity. I think that with football starting at the end of the year, the end of our season, kids going back to school, all the different stuff that goes on in the Fall — I think the Chase was something that kind of spruced everything up a little bit. It kind of made everybody pay more attention. Our season is just so incredibly long — from February to the end of November — so by the time September rolls around, people are looking for something a little bit different. You could have someone 400, 500, or 600 points ahead, and people are still going to watch races for the competition — but there might not have been much of a points race. So this way, it kind of resets everything and gets everyone real interested again.
Doug Turnbull: After next season… I remember when Silly Season was really hot, someone mentioned that Matt Kenseth is a free agent at the end of next year and people just love to take rumors and fly with them. I just want to see what your take is on your free agency coming up. Roush has to downsize teams. What is DeWalt’s commitment? Are you going to look at other teams?
Matt Kenseth: I don’t really have any plans to. I honestly haven’t really thought about it that much. It’s more than a year out and once the year’s over, I’m sure we’ll probably look at it and think about it a little bit. I don’t have any plans of doing anything really different. I’ve been fortunate to be with the same group of guys and the same team for 10 years now. They’ve always given me really good race cars and have always been behind me. I think everybody’s goal as a race car driver is to win races and have stuff that is capable of winning and capable of winning championships. I feel like we have that here now; I think we have everything we need to do that.
Doug Turnbull: Speaking of the same group of guys, you had Robbie Reiser as your guy [crew chief] for years, but he moved up into the Director of Competition role this season and you’re with Chip Bolin instead. How’s that relationship forming? Do you see even better things for 2009?
Matt Kenseth: I hope so – every year you hope to improve from the last one, no matter how you did. Chip and I, he was our original engineer on the No. 17 team. I’ve been working with him for 10 years, so there wasn’t anything to really learn about him. It hasn’t been that big of an adjustment for me; but I think it has been an adjustment for him. He used to just worry about the car going fast and that’s it, now he has to think about people and schedules – all kinds of different things he didn’t have to worry about before. I think that’s taken some getting used to. He’s never been great at delegating; he likes to do everything himself, and I think it has taken him awhile to realize you can’t do it all yourself, you need some help. We’ve got some good people to help us out, and I think things have been going pretty good.
Doug Turnbull: Max Jones was the guy that Robbie Reiser replaced. He went over to Yates Racing; they are kind of an umbrella team for Roush Fenway, and you all share the engine and chassis departments. How does that setup work, and how do you think the teams have benefited — or do you think your [Roush Fenway] teams have even benefited at all from that setup?
Matt Kenseth: The goal was to have everybody help each other and make it that much stronger. I probably shouldn’t say it, but I don’t think, at this point — this being in the first year — that [the Yates] teams have benefited the Roush teams yet. We give them everything we have and vice versa — they share information. There’s a few things they’ve helped with. Yates has always been really, really good with superspeedway stuff and they’ve helped us on our superspeedway program.
The [long-term] goal is to have all the teams running good, and to have them all sharing information and trying to learn something from everybody.
Doug Turnbull: Roush is going to have to drop one team after next season. Do you all have any inkling of how that is going to work? Will one team end up under the auspices of Yates or what?
Matt Kenseth: First of all, nobody’s told me. From what I think, if I have to guess, the goal for Jack [Roush], since they [NASCAR] made the rule to go down to four teams, is to have eight teams under the Roush umbrella. So, I wouldn’t be surprised, with Menard coming over next year and that being the third team for Yates, that after ’09 with one of the five teams having to be shut down or moved, I would assume that it would get moved to Yates. If I had to guess, the way everything is kind of being set, it looks like that is kind of the direction. I don’t know if that’s what’s going to happen… but that would be my guess.
Doug Turnbull: NASCAR announced this week that they are not going to make any changes on the Car of Tomorrow for 2009. Is that a good move on their part, and if it’s not, what changes would you suggest they make to get a more racy car? What has been the biggest issue with most drivers?
Matt Kenseth: I don’t know. When you build something like that, there’s going to be some good things, some bad things, and some struggles. In a way, it has been good they haven’t changed anything this far into it. Yeah, we would like it to drive a certain way, maybe a little bit better. With this car, the tire has been real important, for whatever reason. At Dover, they [Goodyear] gave us a little softer right side tire that was a little racier, and that made the racing way way better. I think this car has so much less downforce than the old car and handles so much worse in the corners and the corner speeds are so much slower, we need to be on a softer tire that has more grip and that drops off as we run. That would make the racing better. I don’t think the racing is bad now, but I think that would make it better if they could figure out how to make a softer tire.
Doug Turnbull: Goodyear’s had several races this year where there have been problems. What do you think Goodyear should do about these issues, and do you think they are doing the right things now?
Matt Kenseth: I think they are constantly working on it. I think they make a great product. They have been in business for a long time. They’ve done stuff for the highway, aircraft, all kinds of things for years with lots of success. This new car kind of threw them for a loop. I think they were too conservative with tires on this car, because they don’t want to blow tires all the time and be hitting the wall. I think they were on the conservative side, especially at Atlanta. But I think they are getting a handle on it; I think they are figuring it out. I was just in Indy for three days testing with them and we seemed to get a lot better on making some tires last and still handle decent. They’re gonna get it; there’s just going to be some growing pains with that car. They’re trying to build a tire for a totally different car, with a totally different downforce, center of gravity, heights, all kinds of stuff. It just takes a little while to get it right.
Doug Turnbull: The new car is being tested in the Nationwide Series, granted not the same Car of Tomorrow, but a Car of Tomorrow-type vehicle. Have you had an opportunity to test that, and have you gotten any feedback from David Ragan and others who have tested it?
Matt Kenseth: I haven’t tested it yet. From what I have heard, from Carl [Edwards] and David and a couple of other guys, they seem to like it. They said it drove pretty good. The splitter is a lot higher on that car, which is what everybody kind of wanted on our Cup car and it doesn’t have bump stops, so they’ve been able to travel them a little bit farther. They said that helped them drive tremendously better. That’s kind of what we were looking for originally on the CoT was to have the splitter a little higher, a little taller, four inches or something like that so the suspension wouldn’t have to be crushed as hard and it might turn a little bit better. That is one of the things that has been so hard to work around.
Doug Turnbull: Speaking of the Nationwide Series, that’s a series that a lot of fans have looked at with a bad taste in their mouth. Some people don’t like Cup drivers double-dipping, and they don’t like the start and park teams and some of the underfunding and sponsorship allocation. Should NASCAR do something to fix the series? If so, what can they do?
Matt Kenseth: You just hit on two things. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You say they don’t like the Cup guys that come and race, and you say that you don’t like the start and parks. If the Cup guys don’t come and race, then there’s only 10 or so fully-funded teams right now that run and you’re gonna have a whole bunch of start and parks because they can’t afford to race. They can’t afford to buy tires. They’ll start the race and get the $10,000 start money and make a couple thousand dollars in a weekend. You can’t have both, you know. If the Cup drivers don’t come over there and race, you’re not going to have a full field. It all depends on what you want to see. The sponsors in the last few years have gone with the Cup drivers, and that’s the only way the owners can afford to race and not lose a ton of money is to have a sponsor that will pay more to have a Cup driver in there to run that team competitively. That’s been the problem. It’s become expensive, just like the all the rest of the racing we do. It’s not like back in the day when I ran in the Nationwide Series. You could run it on not a ton of money and you could get a sponsor for [cheap], because the companies weren’t spending that much and they would take a chance on somebody. It just seems it is hard to do that now.
Doug Turnbull: When I asked you about David Ragan last year, the results were mixed because there were lots of crashes and mediocre results. But he had a breakout year this year. What do you see as his development now and in the future?
Matt Kenseth: I think David’s done really well. He’s overdue for a win, especially in the Nationwide Series, and in the Cup Series he’s been really good. He’s got a lot going on. He’s got good equipment at Roush and he’s got one of the best crew chiefs there’s ever been with Jimmy Fennig working on his stuff. It doesn’t matter how good you can drive; if your car’s not fast, you’re not going to the front. I think you can see him grow up in his driving style and get smarter and make better decisions and finish races and he’s done a really good job of that this year. I think he’s really come a long ways.
Doug Turnbull: Even though he’s wrecked you a couple of times, right?
Matt Kenseth: (laughs) Well, we did have that accident at Daytona that would have been nice for us both not to have. He probably would have been in the Chase, too, if we wouldn’t have had it. That would have been nice for that not to happen.
Doug Turnbull: Did you see the pictures of your teammate Carl and [Kevin] Harvick scuffling in the garage?
Matt Kenseth: Oh yeah! I enjoy seeing stuff like that all the time, as long as I’m not in the pictures.
Doug Turnbull: What do you think this does for the sport?
Matt Kenseth: I don’t know. I think any kind of conflict always creates some excitement in the media. Obviously, it means a lot, because people want to see it, read it, look at it, and all that. I think it makes it exciting. I think it was unfortunate timing to happen to Carl because I think it probably doesn’t help his chances much. But I think it was interesting to see.
Doug Turnbull: How do you and Carl get along?
Matt Kenseth: We get along alright.
Doug Turnbull: Do you feel like you still owe him something from Martinsville?
Matt Kenseth: Nah. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t really keep track of stuff like that. I mean, I’m sure in his opinion, I’ve done more wrong to him than he’s done to me. Everybody has different opinions, so I don’t really worry about it. Everything’s been fine. That was a whole year ago, so everything’s been good – everything’s been cool.
Doug Turnbull: Do you like the idea of what they are doing with testing next season, where you get to test at more tracks, or is it better this season where you go to five or six places?
Matt Kenseth: I like it how it used to be. We used to get seven tests per team. We could go wherever we wanted and test. Seven days, besides Daytona, that was plenty. We are supposed to get [next year] 24 days or something like that and all four teams can test. That’s gonna make you test at every track. It’s gonna be a huge load, in my opinion. It’s a huge expense for the owners. I don’t know how we’re gonna get time to do everything if we’re gonna test 24 days, plus Daytona three days, that’s almost a month of testing. And one day of testing…you could spend one day in Sears Point and one day in New Hampshire, you know what I mean? You can go anywhere you want. I think it’s gonna be pretty huge. I think it’s gonna be a lot.
Doug Turnbull: Roush was one of the first teams to do a fusion of primary sponsors to fund a team, such as Greg Biffle’s No. 16 car. With the economy the way it is, are DeWalt and your other sponsors committed to still funding your team, or are you going to have more of a package deal with the sponsors?
Matt Kenseth: DeWalt has always owned the whole car [the entire sponsorship space] and they’ve sold space to sponsors. They’ve got partners, like R+L Carriers, Carhartt, USG Sheetrock, Rinnai Water Heaters – all people that’ve been in their industry, that they have done business with, to sell off some of the sponsorship, to make it more affordable. And they have partnerships with other people in their industry.
Doug Turnbull: What’s your take on the diversity controversy in NASCAR, since issues such as the Mauricia Grant lawsuit have come up this season. It probably does not affect you directly, but have you seen actions similar to some of the accusations and allegations in the suit? Does that really ever come up around you?
Matt Kenseth: I don’t really pay much attention to that. It doesn’t really affect me that much. I don’t really have an opinion on it. I don’t know what went down; I don’t really know a lot about what came up.
Doug Turnbull: At least partially due to the economy, we’ve seen ticket sales slump a little bit, sponsors go. We’ve seen purists complain about how the racing action is. What is the state of NASCAR? Is it still a vibrant, growing sport?
Matt Kenseth: I think that you have up years and down years. Everything, obviously the economy, fuel prices, energy prices all make a difference. I think it’s good and competitive; it’s the most competitive form of racing there is. It all depends what your expectations are. If your expectations are to have a three-wide fight for the lead and have a photo finish every week, that’s not gonna happen. Being a purist, you talk about that, I used to watch ESPN Classic a lot and watched a lot of the old races and I used to see one, or three, or five cars on the lead lap. So, if racing is so much better back then… I watched a race from Daytona right after I heard someone saying how bad one of the races was because someone won by a second and a half. I watched it and it was Daytona, everybody drafts, and the leader was ahead by a straight away. That’s a plate race, you know what I mean? It’s like, if you’re not four-wide across the finish line, it’s a bad race. I think expectations have become probably a little unrealistic. I think NASCAR has done a lot of things to make sure it stays competitive: giving away free laps, to keep more people on the lead lap, and keep more people in contention. They’ve done a lot to try and keep things competitive with this car, and now there’s more cars closer to the same speed now than there’s ever been.
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Thank you Doug and thank you Matt for a great interview!
Brian thanks you Matt, great political answers, nice to know your in “lock-step” with the powers to be at NA$CAR!
No wonder people are concerned about on going car counts at NA$CAR events!
Yep Matt, the roses smell nice! (only if your part of the party making your $$$millions each and every year)!
For the average fan, just for your information Matt, NA$CAR now SUCKS!
Actually you can consider this a “non-interview”! (you can give the script back to Brian for the next driver now)!
And by the way Matt, may the CoT your driving, the one you love so much, be fitted with GOODYEARS at your next pit stop!
I really don’t get it. If the new Nationwide CoT drives so much better, why isn’t NASCAR making changes to the CUP cars for 2009? Do we really have to suffer through another Indy Brickyard JOKE/DISASTER of a race before the Royal/Resident Idiot Brian and his Jesters finally allow improvements to the CUP cars so they can actually be driven/raced through the corners?