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.
Doug Turnbull · Tuesday April 28, 2009
What a weekend! The roller coaster-esque ebbs and flows of storylines and drama poured through Talladega more than at any track in a long time. The breakthrough win of David Ragan in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 Nationwide Series race was impressive enough — but it merely set the stage for what would be a remarkable finish the following day. At first, it seemed after a series of “Big Ones” it was the usual suspects who would rise to the front at the end. Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. almost fulfilled that prophecy, creating their two-car breakaway during the final restart of the Aaron’s 499. But just when you thought they had it won… something unexpected actually happened in the Sprint Cup Series, as the two-car tandem of Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski blew by them on the white flag lap. And after using some brilliant strategy, it was none other than Keselowski who scored his first Cup win, handed owner James Finch his first, and assisted in one of the wildest, scariest crashes ever.
Meanwhile, I feel we are allowed to start counting points now — after all, the season has reached the one quarter mark — and it’s about time, because the Chase race is simply bananas. Title contenders Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer were immediately eliminated from contention in the first “Big One” on lap 8, while top 12 hopefuls Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, and Jamie McMurray also found themselves further on the outside of playoff comfort.
Next, Jimmie Johnson’s chance to assume the point lead evaporated after his involvement in the second “Big One” on lap 179. That crash also set back two other drivers (Martin Truex, Jr. and David Stremme) who are already seeing their Chase window slide to a close before we’re even halfway through Spring. Finally, Carl Edwards’ 24th place finish, after his violent crash into the grandstand fence at the end of the last lap, kept him not only from the win but also from capitalizing on others’ misfortunes.
Of course, not everyone was down in the dumps after ‘Dega. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s runner-up finish helped right the No. 88 ship that seemed on the verge of sinking, while Ryan Newman now finds himself 13th in points after a horrendous start to 2009. Both have used that restrictor plate momentum to join a group of nearly 20 drivers shaping up to fight for just 12 playoff spots this season.
Not to be ignored, drivers fighting for the Top 35 also felt the effects of plate racing, too. The crashes that swept up Robby Gordon, David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, and Sam Hornish, Jr. — along with the good finishes of Joey Logano, Scott Speed, and Paul Menard — have compressed that race as well.
Phew! All that movement to talk about this weekend … and we’re not even past the intro yet. So with the unpredictability, excitement, and danger of Talladega finally put to bed until October, here are the drivers that ended up HOT, WARM, and NOT after Sunday’s race.
HOT: Brad Keselowski – Debate can exist as to whether or not Keselowski belongs on this list, since he is not a full-time Sprint Cup driver, but let’s face it… he came out of nowhere and won the race! Not only did the 25-year-old win in only his fifth start, but he did it for a James Finch team that rarely shows up in the Cup Series with its sights set on victory. Indeed, Keselowski came from the back to the front to the back of the pack several times Sunday, seeming to show that he did not have the speed to hang with the leaders up front. But on the final restart, he ended up hooking up with Carl Edwards at just the right time to take a chance at the win — and it paid off. As a result, Keselowski scored arguably the most unexpected Cup victory since Jamie McMurray’s maiden triumph while driving for the injured Sterling Marlin in 2002. For all of this — and so much more — BK deserves a HOT crown this week.
HOT: Kurt Busch – Kyle Busch radioed his crew at one point Sunday to say that Kurt Busch’s No. 2 team bragged before the race that they were going to cut the bumper cover off of the Miller Lite Dodge on purpose (he was probably joking). Though doing so releases air from underneath the race car, which creates downforce, Busch still had to soldier his machine to a sixth place finish after making several pit stops to repair damage on many other spots of the car. The missing bumper cover also made him an unfavorable partner to draft with, hampering his chances to contend. Nonetheless, Busch managed to capitalize on the misfortunes of others while surviving two wrecks of his own; as a result, he assumes the points lead for the first time since 2005 after scoring his sixth top 10 of the season.
HOT: Jeff Burton – Lost in the dust of the craziness in Talladega is Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar team’s comeback from electrical problems. One of the few Chase-contending drivers to not crash out of contention, Burton was three laps down after the midway point once the team first pitted the car to change a battery — and then did so again to change an alternator. Seemingly left to ride around the rest of the day, Burton’s luck changed as he got two Lucky Dogs due to no other cars being a lap down. Eventually, he was able to hang on at the end of the lead lap, finally placing him back in contention when a third yellow flag flew to let him circle back around. From there, Burton drove all the way back to the front, and his 10th place finish Sunday is his seventh top 15 in a row — dating back to Las Vegas in March. Burton now sits 9th in points and now sits just one spot in the standings behind teammate Clint Bowyer, who also has flown under the radar most of the year. But things aren’t perfect over in Burton’s world quite yet — he has led laps in only two of nine races this year.
WARM: Ryan Newman – His three top 10s this season have come in the last five races, with his third place at Talladega (despite scoring it with Carl Edwards flipping and collecting his car) leaving him 13th in points, just 14 markers out of the Chase bracket. Newman did not let near-misses at victory at either Talladega race dampen his spirits, and the No. 39 appears to have overcome the demons that haunted it early in the year. The Cup Series now moves to Richmond this weekend, where Newman won a race back in 2003 and can be expected to contend again.
WARM: Reed Sorenson – The No. 43 team holds another page in the book of Aaron’s 499 comeback stories. Running midpack for much of the race, Sorenson cut a tire late in the event, sustained damage, and fell off of the lead lap. But a series of late cautions allowed the Lucky Dog to fall at the feet of the young driver and he capitalized quietly in the King’s car, ending the race a surging 11th. Paired with last week’s 12th place finish, Reed heads to Richmond with his best two-race run of the season after falling flat on his face following a Daytona 500 top 10.
WARM: Marcos Ambrose – Even though he was on this list last week, Ambrose remains because his consistency is unchanged. Doing the opposite of what I predicted last week, the Australian’s 4th place run was more than unexpected from the rookie and vaulted him seven spots in the standings to 19th. In nine races this season to date, Ambrose now has no finishes below 22nd (other than two mechanical failures) in the remaining seven events. This No. 47 team was predicted to struggle this year… but is doing everything but.
COLD: Jamie McMurray – The only drivers who have fewer points than McMurray in the last five races (that have run each of them) are John Andretti, David Gilliland, and Robby Gordon. McMurray has been unable to put good finishes together as of late, racking up results of 37th, 10th, 38th, 11th, and 42nd in this quintet of races. While Sunday’s wreck for this driver can be attributed to little more than bad luck, a reunion with old crew chief Donnie Wingo has not been the potion to cure the ills of inconsistency for McMurray or the No. 26 team.
COLD: Scott Riggs – Tommy Baldwin Racing qualifying into the Daytona 500 was a huge victory, and the 25th place effort by Riggs in the Great American Race did little to dampen the new team’s optimism. But since then, the No. 36 has missed four races and has finished no better than 30th in the ones where it qualified. Riggs’ ride has also been without a sponsor for the last two races despite timing it into the main show both weekends. Sunday’s lap 8 crash and 41st place finish didn’t help on that front, possibly spelling a bad ending soon to one of the best stories that’s left from Daytona.
COLD: Jeremy Mayfield – The plight of Mayfield Motorsports has been more dreadful than that of the TBR team. Beginning operations just before the season, Jeremy Mayfield’s car actually has financial backing, something most startup teams beg for. The driver then raced his way into the Daytona 500, sparking the surprise and excitement of many, but crashed out and finished 40th to end that honeymoon rather quickly. Since then, the No. 41 has missed five of the eight races and has a best finish of only 32nd — which came after crashing out in Talladega Sunday.
There is not enough room in this column to give justice to all of the big happenings of this tumultuous Talladega race week, but here are some other HOT and NOT stories to leave you with this Tuesday…
HOT: Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. taking a stand – These two veteran drivers have a more-than-keen understanding of the intricacies of restrictor plate racing, as evidenced by their running 1-2 in the final laps of both Saturday’s Nationwide race and Sunday’s Cup race. After Carl Edwards’ crash in the catchfence, the 2nd and 3rd place finishers both made clear that NASCAR needs to change the oft-criticized CoT — not the yellow line rule to try and prevent cars from flipping. Newman suggested looking into reevaluating the design of the roof flaps and other aerodynamic pieces on the race cars, while Earnhardt Jr. actually suggested the cars be allowed to go faster, making handling more of an issue and breaking up the tight, treacherous packs.
If NASCAR doesn’t want to listen to those two men, it should listen to the opinions of almost everyone else that has tackled the titanic oval — for they all agree that something needs to be done about airborne race cars. Seeing the ease that Kenseth’s and Edwards’ cars flipped Saturday and Sunday helped galvanize these opinions even more. Since banning stock car racing at Talladega will not happen — and should not — the drivers should get out front of this issue and make their biggest stink about the danger of the cars in order to force some changes. After all, Talladega’s always been a place for that type of rebellion; most of the series’ top drivers boycotted the track’s opening race in 1969 due to safety concerns.
NOT: The main reason that drivers needed to take a stand – Carl Edwards’ near entry into the grandstands was the closest that a car has come to the fan area since Bobby Allison’s horrifying 1987 Talladega crash, which prompted the arrival of restrictor plates to NASCAR race cars. Sans a few instances where debris has flown into the stands, fans have been able to watch the sport closely without much worry since then. Clearly, our thoughts and prayers at the Frontstretch go out to the eight injured Sunday and their families.
The Sprint Cup Series gears up for the season’s third short track race of the year at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night. That track has been known to produce good luck for underdog drivers and teams (remember Jeremy Mayfield in September 2004?). Turn here to see who escapes Virginia bearing riches and who leaves this exciting short track wearing rags.
Listen to Doug host the Captain Herb Emory’s Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 racing show this Saturday from 2-3 p.m. on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and online at wsbradio.com. Doug is also a pit road reporter for the GAS (Georgia Asphalt Series) Radio Network, and their next race is Saturday night at Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, Ga. Listen online at lanierspeedway.com/gas.html.
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I would have to give a HOT to the whole 88 team for flawless pitwork, race calling and staying out of trouble to finish their best race of the year. Oh, and a hot(no caps) to the driver for finding his pit everytime he came down pitrow.
The only possible cure for these big tracks or any race track for that matter is to move the stands more than the current twenty feet from the track. Expensive? Compared to no telling how many deaths that would occur if a car goes into the stands…CHEAP!
Earnhardt Sr. said it for years…if you want to break up the packs and avoid “the big one”, then move the stands back 100 feet, take off the plates, and let ‘em race.