Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Doug Turnbull · Tuesday July 7, 2009
The July 4th bash at Daytona International Speedway literally ended with a bang, as Kyle Busch’s attempt at blocking Tony Stewart from taking the race win sent him bouncing off the frontstretch wall. While the finish stole the headlines, the plights of Chase-contending drivers permeated other post-race storylines. Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, David Reutimann, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, and Brian Vickers now sit in spots 11th thru 17th in points, and all of them were involved at least somewhat in wrecks or spins Saturday night. At the same time, the race atop the point standings opened up, as Tony Stewart took the checkered flag and Jeff Gordon got caught in the first “Big One” early in the race. The ability of drivers in this wreck-filled race to bounce back into contention is a major factor in determining this week’s HOT, WARM, and COLD drivers.
HOT: Tony Stewart – Saturday’s race winner expressed more remorse than exuberance after his triumph because of the consequences to Kyle Busch, but the fact remains that Tony Stewart earned the race win. With red, white, and blue Burger King colors on the hood of the No. 14 Chevy for the first time Saturday, Stewart led a race-high 86 laps and took a modern day, textbook shot at Kyle Busch’s lead on the final lap. As a result, Stewart’s point lead increased significantly to 180, as Jeff Gordon had a problem-plagued night.
Stewart’s season-to-date has had that championship mojo, as evidenced by his pit crew’s perfection during the race. Whether this good luck can last or not will weigh heavily on Stewart’s championship chances. Remember last year? Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s team clicked like clockwork until the Chase… when it melted under pressure with the title almost in hand.
HOT: Jimmie Johnson – Johnson didn’t lead any laps Saturday night, but he kept the nose of the No. 48 clean and finished 2nd. The 3-time defending champ has five top 10s in the last six races and is within 14 points of catching teammate Jeff Gordon for second in the standings. Johnson has never won at this week’s stop in Chicagoland, but does have six top 10s in seven starts at the track.
HOT: Denny Hamlin – After suffering through a stretch of six races without a top 10, Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 team have put together three top 5s in the last four races and might have finished better in New Hampshire had the rains stayed away. Daytona’s strong performance was a big step in the right direction; in the past, Hamlin has been able to run well in restrictor plate races but struggled to put a bow on a good finish, mainly because of his tendency to play rough in the draft (especially with teammates). Sitting sixth in points, Hamlin’s spot is still not comfortable in regards to the Chase, as he is only 136 points ahead of 12th place — an amount surmountable in a single race.
WARM: Elliott Sadler – While Sadler struggled in New Hampshire, he and the No. 19 team have run noticeably better the past few weeks. Sadler has scored two of his three top 10s this season in the past three races, and scored a 12th the week before that stretch in Michigan. While one can argue that these three top 15 finishes are anomalies (Michigan was a fuel mileage race, Sonoma is a road course, and Daytona is a plate race), the fact remains that Sadler has not run this well since scoring back-to-back top 10s last Fall at Kansas and Talladega. With money getting tighter and Silly Season about to swing into full effect, this spark of consistency is exactly what Sadler needs.
WARM: Regan Smith – The media tide is turning in favor of hard-luck driver Regan Smith. The supposed heir apparent to the Army car took a backseat at then-DEI last year, when Aric Almirola joined the team and became Mark Martin’s fill-in on the No. 8. Forced to the hardly-sponsored No. 01 ride, Smith struggled through his first full season, but still managed a Rookie of the Year crown and a near win in the Fall 2008 Talladega race. That lack of sponsorship forced Smith from newly-formed Earnhardt Ganassi Racing to a part-time role with Furniture Row Racing, where he has flourished in the No. 78 Chevy, joining Bill Elliott and the Wood Brothers as the faces of “The Benefits of a Small Team Switching to a Part-Time Schedule Movement.”
Smith continued this role by guiding his car from a last place owner’s points starting spot to the top 15 — and left it there. Smith now has gone 51 starts, his entire Cup career without a DNF. Let’s tip our hats to this overachieving driver and team.
WARM: Juan Pablo Montoya – JPM appeared to be out of contention twice in Saturday’s race, after sliding through the grass during the race’s first caution and then cutting a tire and pitting under green awhile after that. But Montoya, running better than he ever has in his Cup career, still soldiered the No. 42 to a 9th place effort. With four top 10s in the last five races and a 12th during that stretch in New Hampshire, Montoya has managed to find the perfect, sweet spot combination of running well, good luck, and an ability to bounce back. The Target crew has a bulls-eye on their back for a Chase spot, as they sit 11th in points. But, the No. 42 team has more fight than it ever has in the Montoya years, and is performing stronger than other organizations that were thought to be better.
COLD: Kyle Busch – Not only did Kyle Busch give the cold shoulder to the media by not offering his take on his last lap loss of the win and subsequent crash, but Busch’s luck and decisions on the track have been downright poor as of late. If the No. 18 team peaked too early last year, they are losing their luster at a bad time now. Busch has finishes of 34th, 6th, 23rd, 22nd, 13th, 22nd, 7th, and 14th since his win in Richmond back in May, but still has managed to hang on in the top 12. Since teams sitting near Busch in the standings are running on the same roller coasters of inconsistency and mediocrity, Busch may be able to earn a Chase berth without much thought. However, simply trying to make the Chase should not be the conversation being had about the No. 18 team…
At this point last season, Busch had as many wins as he has top 10s this season. Busch and Carl Edwards (winner of nine races in 2008) were supposed to be igniting their rivalry this season, stealing checkered flags from one another and carrying on an epic battle for the championship. Instead, parity reared its head, opened up a bottle of 2007 glitter, and spilled it all over Hendrick Motorsports (which has leant a significant portion of the sparkle to Tony Stewart). As said in this column early this season, drivers in the past 10 years have rarely scored big win totals in consecutive seasons — and Busch is the latest example of that.
COLD: Ryan Newman – After reeling off consecutive top 10s in six races, Ryan Newman has finished 17th or worse in the last four, including Saturday’s 20th place result. Newman has had rotten luck of late and at least managed to drive his damaged Chevy through the Daytona carnage to that top 20 finish, which was a fairly remarkable comeback. Newman is 7th in points and has won and run well at Chicagoland, but needs to finish races more like his points-leading owner if he wants to gain daylight on 12th place.
COLD: David Stremme – Caught up in numerous crashes this season and running miserable of late, you could say that David Stremme is the “Paul Menard” of Penske Racing. Stremme has surpassed Menard (if you can call it that) as the lowest-ranking driver in points (33rd) that has competed in every race. Both drivers have zero top 10s, and both have led only three laps all season. Stremme has only one top 20 since the Coke 600 and only two top 20s since Phoenix. The main difference between Stremme and Menard, though, is that, unlike Menard, Stremme’s father is not sponsoring his team. Even though Verizon’s touch on the No. 12 is in the paint scheme, the wireless giant has to be thinking that even green up-and-comer Justin Allgaier, who is a major part of their Nationwide Series marketing and running fairly well, is an upgrade over a journeyman driver who has never won in NASCAR national competition.
Here are this week’s HOT and NOT topics:
HOT: Limited commercial interruptions – For the third consecutive year, TNT offered its “Wide Open” coverage of the Daytona night race and it did not disappoint. The network came up with an innovative way to adjust the graphics to accommodate the in-race commercials. With positions changing so quickly at restrictor plate races, this type of format needs to be put in the works and discussed by FOX and ESPN as well. There is only one big problem, of course: NASCAR will not let them do it, according to a source I spoke with. I guess that is just another move to please the fans, right NASCAR?
NOT: Trimming back Leffler’s schedule – Jason Leffler has never set the world on fire as a driver, but the veteran sure has paid his dues at Braun Racing, having kept the No. 38 team running near the front despite the presence of Cup teams and drivers. Leffler has also been a great poster child for longtime sponsor Great Clips, sporting a Mohawk for nearly his entire duration with the team. Last weekend, Leffler was paid back by receiving news that former No. 38 Great Clips driver Kasey Kahne is extending Richard Petty Motorsports’ partnership with Braun into 2010 — by taking the wheel of Leffler’s Toyota for eight races of the 35-race schedule. This leaves Leffler with 27 races, which is not enough to let him contend for a championship (although he will run eight more in another, companion car for Braun). Regardless, the move is enough to help everyone forget that he is no longer of great enough importance to the team.
The fact is, of course, that 27/8 split with Braun is his best option for a NASCAR ride. What is he going to do? Drive for Armando Fitz or Jay Robinson? Leffler instead is going the way of Scott Wimmer: a non-successful Cup veteran demoted to decent Nationwide team, with no chance to be a star because successful Cup veterans attract Nationwide Series sponsors. Braun Racing has to strive to survive, and Leffler has to struggle to remain on the radar just because of these simple words: “I’m Jason Leffler, and I drive in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.”
All of a sudden, we have reached the midpoint of the 2009 season and many questions have been left unanswered, while many answers have only produced more questions. What result will the economy really bring to some struggling teams, and how much money can the big teams keep spending to outrun each other? Meanwhile, Silly Season is set to begin today, with the big announcement at Michael Waltrip Racing about the team’s future in 2010. Turn here to see how this and Saturday night’s race at Chicagoland affect all the struggling and Cup Series teams.
Listen to Doug every Saturday from 2-4 p.m. on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 with host Captain Herb Emory, on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and online at wsbradio.com.
©2000 - 2008 Doug Turnbull and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Doug , you apparently missed the part of Lefflers career where he was setting records of all kinds in midgets , sprints , and dirt champ cars . He did in fact set the world on fire as a driver . Stock car racing isn’t the only form of racing .
I read he was going to run the 8 races in the 10 car, but, it still really isn’t good for him to have to switch cars for part time drivers.
Ummmm…how exactly did Kyle busch win Darlington the same night as mark martin?
You’re right … that part of the story has been confirmed and corrected. Thanks for writing and reading the Frontstretch!
Some stats correction, Kyle Busch did NOT win Darlington, as Hank pointed out. You were actually referring to Kyle’s win in the race before at Richmond.
And as for Stremme, check the stats again also. That guy has ZERO top-20s since Phoenix! Now that’s a long time. Verizon has to be thankful that their logo’s not on his car since you only see him on TV when he wrecks, which has happened way too often this season. That’s pretty much expected for a guy who never cracked the top-25 in standings and zero experiences in the COT before this season. However, if Penske promotes Allgaier too fast (he’ll need another year plus a few wins in Nationwide before he’s ready), that 12 car will continue to be a backmarker.
Regan actually won the fall 2008 Talladega race. It’s just that nascar took it from him. Too bad he wasn’t named Jr.
The main difference between Stremme and Menard? Menard doesn’t wreck his cars. Stremme does. He has been involved in incidents in 12/18 races this year, receiving significant damage in nine. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, it is only what he has done continuously in his NASCAR career.
Thanks for pointing out the error. It’s been corrected … thanks for writing and reading the Frontstretch!
We all know that one thing that Nascar is famous for is the only thing you can depend on is that nothing says the same forever and your good luck will eventually run out? Tony Stewart has had the luck of not getting caught up in other drivers messes and at having several races where Rained out Qualifying has left him starting at or near the front. Of course, a good driver like Tony is will use that and the good cars he has been getting this year to his advantage! It will be interesting to see if he can continue to have all these good cars and be able to continue to avoid the problems others have had?