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 June 30, 2009
Writer’s Note: Before we begin this week’s column, I want to thank a couple of readers from last week who took me to school. Thanks to Ginger for pointing out my glaringly obvious error on Brad Keselowski’s Nationwide Series sponsorship. For some reason, I said that he was still sponsored by NAVY (a total brain freeze), but she reminded me, of course, that GoDaddy.com is the main backer of his No. 88 Chevy. Thanks also to James Edwards for schooling me on Elliott Sadler’s plight during last week’s race.
Now, we move on to this week’s matters…
Joey Logano stole some history at New Hampshire on Sunday, becoming the youngest driver to win a Sprint Cup race by not pitting his No. 20 Home Depot Toyota during the last round of pit stops, taking a gamble and hoping for rain at his home track. Crew chief Greg Zipadelli’s decision quickly made up for Logano’s run-in with Ryan Newman, as well as the resulting flat tire and spin that resulted from it midway through the race. But while Logano’s upset victory continues to be the big story, there were a few other upstart runs, as well, considering that rained-out qualifying placed the top points contenders in the top starting positions. And while few relinquished their top spots Sunday, there were some that broke through and in hopes of reversing their unlucky trends so far this season. Here are the HOT, WARM, and COLD drivers for this week… the first of the ten races that precede the advent of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
HOT: Tony Stewart – The points leader and 5th place finisher Sunday has five straight top 10s, finishing 11th or worse a total of only four times this season. Stewart wrecked his primary No. 14 Chevy in practice, but kept his top starting spot because the team did not change their motor and wrecked the car before qualifying was supposed to take place. Stewart’s hot run should continue Saturday in Daytona, as he always runs well at restrictor plate tracks and his Hendrick horsepower should make him the class of the field.
HOT: Kasey Kahne – Kahne remains in the HOT category despite not setting the world on fire in New Hampshire. Still, he kept the No. 9’s momentum moving forward by scoring a 10th place finish Sunday to follow up his impressive win last week. Kahne is not known for dominating at restrictor plate races, but a good run next week at Daytona should elevate him into the top 12 in points. Right now, he sits 13th, just one point behind Juan Pablo Montoya in 12th and six points away from Matt Kenseth to enter the top 10.
HOT: Jeff Gordon – Yet another driver that will stay in this category for a second consecutive week, Jeff Gordon had one of the cars to beat Sunday, leading the second most laps and getting incredible jumps on close challengers on restarts. After hitting a small slump, Gordon and the No. 24 team are back to early season form and are sitting 2nd in points, just 69 markers behind Stewart and 100 points ahead of 3rd place Jimmie Johnson. Gordon has also won plenty of restrictor plate races throughout his career, leaving him to be a threat in Daytona on Saturday.
WARM: Joey Logano – Yes, the winner is usually in the HOT category, but Logano and the No. 20 team are not quite at that level right now. As mentioned before, Logano and crew chief Greg Zipadelli did exactly what David Reutimann and his crew chief Rodney Childers did to sneak away a win in the Coca-Cola 600: stretch their fuel mileage and not pit when everyone else does to inherit the lead. That move turned the win into a colossal upset, as Logano not only cut a tire and spun out during the race, but he also fell off the lead lap before that… simply because the Home Depot Toyota was ill-handling. Logano is WARM, though, because this is the second decent race he has run in a row. Remember, the 19-year-old rookie was en route to a top 5 at Infineon before contact with fellow rookie Scott Speed derailed his race. Congrats to Sliced Bread on his first win… and on the fact that he got to do it at his home track!
WARM: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Like Logano, Earnhardt Jr. was en route to a good finish at Infineon before getting spun out by David Ragan, who received a love tap from teammate Carl Edwards in the process. Junior followed up that disappointment by driving the No. 88 Chevy from the middle of the pack to the top 10 and keeping it there the whole event… almost! Earnhardt Jr. ended up 13th, simply because several teams did not make their last pit stops before the rain. Still, before that the Lance McGrew-led team held a position near 7th for most of Sunday’s event. Junior almost snuck into the lead, thanks to Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart mixing together in a battle for the lead on double-file restarts. And with Daytona on the horizon … perhaps the No. 88 is on the verge of a turnaround, after all.
WARM: Casey Mears – There’s most certainly hotter drivers on the Sprint Cup circuit, but Casey Mears’ 11th place effort at New Hampshire deserves a mention. The No. 07 was one of three Richard Childress Racing cars involved in the multi-car pileup triggered by the chain reaction of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s spinning of his tires — which resulted in Kyle Busch’s spinning of Martin Truex, Jr. Mears sustained some damage, but remained on the lead lap and made what should have been a disappointing run into a good one. Mears now sits seven spots ahead of teammate Kevin Harvick in the points — who would have guessed that going into 2009?
COLD: Jeff Burton – The great beginning to 2009 that teammates Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton saw has soured greatly. While Bowyer and the No. 33 team have begun running better, Burton’s team has struggled and had lousy luck. Burton was also caught up in the lap 176 melee that Mears was caught up in, but he was forced to go to the garage for repairs and returned to the track with a No. 31 modified-looking car instead of the full-bodied COT. Burton settled for a 31st place result and fell another spot in the points to 16th, but still sits only 108 points out of 12th.
COLD: Paul Menard – Two more bad races were added to Menard’s resume this weekend in New Hampshire. After losing an engine in the Nationwide Series race Saturday, Menard got caught up in some trouble on Sunday, finishing six laps off the pace in 30th. However, a restrictor plate race may be just what the doctor ordered for the struggling No. 98 Yates Racing team and Menard. His last top 10 came at Talladega in October of 2008.
COLD: Kevin Harvick – Harvick has been perpetually trapped in COLD Purgatory since his last top 10 finish back in Atlanta in March. Sunday was yet another solid run ruined for Harvick, for he, too, was caught in the big crash that ruined Burton’s chances at contention Sunday. The No. 29 has now sunk to 27th in points, behind such notables as Sam Hornish, Jr., Casey Mears, Joey Logano, and Marcos Ambrose. This team’s poor runs and bad luck have gotten to the point that primary sponsor Shell, in the last year of its contract with the team, is rumored to be looking elsewhere (possible the No. 5 of Hendrick Motorsports, which is searching for a sponsor and is running much better than the No. 29). After starting their relationship as strong as they could, with a win in the 2007 Daytona 500, Shell and Harvick have not visited Victory Lane in a points-paying race since. Not many were expecting that.
Here are some other HOT and NOT issues from the week in racing:
HOT: Fire – That sounds redundant, I know, but seeing several drivers get fired up after crashes during the weekend’s events was refreshing. Martin Truex Jr.’s fake helmet throw and subsequent critical comments about Kyle Busch’s impatience after their tangling Sunday added some excitement to the already good racing action. Brian Vickers jumped on the same train as Truex and made similar comments following an on-track incident with Cup teammate Scott Speed during the closing laps of Saturday’s Nationwide Series race. While these comments may not amount to rivalries down the line, seeing drivers actually show emotion (without destroying a trophy) is a great flashback to how NASCAR used to be and a direct contradiction to the politically correct, sanitized personas that owners, sponsors, and NASCAR want out of their wheelmen.
NOT: The future of the Truck Series – 13. That is the number of teams listed as “out” of Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race in Memphis. While a couple of the teams may have had legitimate problems, most of them started the race and then parked before the halfway point. With manufacturer support for the series lessening and sponsorship money not exactly flowing like wine, questions have risen about the health and longevity of what has become NASCAR’s most competitive series. NASCAR VP Steve O’Donnell reassured drivers during their meeting Saturday, and fans during a SPEED interview, that the series is moving ahead strong and will run in 2010. Camping World has also spoken in support of the Trucks and affirmed that they are remaining the title sponsor of the series. But although the NCWTS may run next season, the number of competitive teams is dwindling… and that is never a good sign for any series.
HOT: Waltrip’s impending departure from the No. 55 – Michael Waltrip has had a long but unillustrious Cup career and, with a July 7th announcement from Michael Waltrip Racing pending, it appears to be coming to an end. Early this year, Waltrip said that he was seriously contemplating stepping out of the No. 55 NAPA Toyota and would consider remaining in his own car if he made the Chase. Now safely out of title contention, and with hot shoe Martin Truex, Jr. on the free agent market, Waltrip seems to have found the perfect time to retire and simply stick to being an owner and TV personality. It’s a move he should have made long ago …
Much like Kyle Petty was in the closing years of his career (assuming that he is retired from Cup competition), Michael Waltrip has been a moving chicane since he started his own Cup team. An extremely disappointing first venture in 2006, followed by failing to qualify for almost every race in the first half of 2007, to not contending at all for wins and crashing a lot in 2008 and 2009 are signs that Waltrip is long overdue to retire. With David Reutimann’s No. 00 team contending for the Chase and Marcos Ambrose’s No. 47 team running better than expected, MWR needs the best driver in position to drive and share information from the No. 55 Toyota. Unfortunately, Waltrip is not the guy. Kudos to him, though, for doing one of the hardest things a driver can do… stepping aside in favor of progress.
NOT: Reckless reporting of rumors – Following legitimate Silly Season rumors is one of the most fun things to do as a NASCAR reporter (especially if you get to break them), but reading some of the unfounded, unlikely rumors that are being published lately brings some thoughts to mind. Simply printing rumors without any base, or printing information as fact that may not actually be, can be very damaging to the parties discussed. Take the Danica Patrick to NASCAR rumors — the scenario printed this weekend that had Patrick replacing Earnhardt, Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports and Junior leaving that team to drive his own JR Motorsports Cup entry is preposterous. Despite what one source might say about something, a writer should weigh the probability of that thing actually happening.
Last season, ESPN reported that Martin Truex, Jr. had re-signed with DEI’s No. 1 team, but that was not actually true. Truex, who at the time was talking with other teams about a ride, was quite perturbed by the publishing of that rumor as fact. Eventually, he signed with DEI, but that news bit could have ruined his chances with another team had the DEI negotiations not panned out.
In a crazy economic time like this, rumors will run wild and writers will mention them. We all, though, should take caution in what we report, since so much is at stake for both drivers and sponsors.
That wraps things up for this week. Turn here next Tuesday to see who heats up under the fireworks in Daytona Beach, and which teams fizzle out like bottle rockets this July 4th.
Have a great week!
Listen to Doug on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 Racing Show with Captain Herb Emory from 4-5 p.m. this Saturday on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and online wsbradio.com. You can also hear Doug as a pit road reporter for the Georgia Asphalt Series this Friday at 7 p.m. on racefanradio.com, as the GAS Series runs at Lanier Speedway in Braselton, Georgia.
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Well, I would have thought Kurt Busch would have made your list, but…..
Michael out of the #55.
How will we ever get through a race without hearing…. “Trouble in turn 4. Waltrip…..”