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 14, 2009
Writer’s Note: I want to offer special thanks to several readers for pointing out some obvious statistical errors in last week’s column. While the errors did not change my determination of who belonged in each category, there was no excuse for them being there. Next time I wait until the 11th hour to finish this column, I now know I need more caffeine and more patience to proofread. I appreciate your support, and please, never hesitate to call me out!
The twosome of NASCAR races at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend seemed to be shaping up in the same, slow way that we have come to grow used to at Joliet, Illinois’ cookie-cutter track. On Friday, the Nationwide Series race was nothing more than a parade of small floats attempting to give chase to the behemoth balloon that is the Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota-powered team. Saturday’s Cup race wasn’t much better, as the nose of Mark Martin’s Kellogg’s Chevy inhaled clean air and simply dominated, surrendering the point only to Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson at times.
Then, all of a sudden, came those last 50 laps…
Double-file restarts gave birth to several sheet metal-shoving matches and lead swaps, although by the time the Fat Lady starting humming her scales, Mark Martin got the lead back and took the checkered flag he deserved. But the aforementioned on-track skirmishes and other factors had intense Chase ramifications, as the LifeLock.com 400 did very little to make bubble teams feel secure. Here are this week’s HOT, WARM, and COLD drivers — and trust me, you may be surprised where some of them land:
HOT: Kasey Kahne – OK, so he may not be your No. 1 pick to put in this category but check out the stats: driver No. 9 has only two finishes outside the top 20 since Darlington, collecting five top 10s and even one win in that stretch. Entering race No. 11 on Mother’s Day, Kahne sat 17th in points, but he now sits 8th in the standings, having improved four more positions because of Saturday night’s 3rd place run. Over the last five races in particular, Kahne has scored the fifth most points of all drivers and is running better than anyone else immediately around him in the standings.
HOT: Jeff Gordon – Last week’s Daytona race was the only race in the last five that Gordon did not place in the top 10. In the closing laps Saturday, No. 24 crew chief Steve Letarte chose to have Gordon pit for four fresh Goodyears and then try to pick off cars with older tires. That strategy (plus the tangling of a few cars in front of him) worked to a T, as the National Guard Chevy finished 2nd and possibly could have caught teammate Martin if the race were just a handful of miles longer. Gordon isn’t leading a lot of laps these days, but he is finishing off most races with an upswing in handling and luck to keep him second in the standings to Tony Stewart.
HOT: Juan Pablo Montoya – Earnhardt Ganassi Racing is commonly thought to be a place to leave and not stay, as Martin Truex, Jr.’s decision to defect to Michael Waltrip Racing proved last week. It’s just someone forgot to tell the No. 42 team that, because Juan Pablo Montoya and the Target Chevy seem to hang around and land decent finishes each week whether luck is on their side or not. Saturday’s 10th place effort is another example of how their quiet consistency often trumps sporadic dominance of others ahead of them. Key to Montoya’s recent surge has been the Lucky Dog; for the second straight week, he needed at least one to get back on the lead lap and eventually surge up into contention by the checkered flag. Now 9th in points, Montoya actually sits ahead of Kyle Busch in the standings, an unheard-of proposition as little as two months ago. So whatever JPM and the Brian Pattie-led crew are doing, they need to keep it up… there’s a chance this Chase may not have room for two loudmouth, fiery drivers.
Note: Before moving on, I agree that Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson are HOT… but what more can I say about them. They never let up!
WARM: Mark Martin – Alright, alright. Calm down. Yes, Mark Martin leads the Cup Series in wins and is now on the right side of the Chase line at 11th in points. But Martin has had a season of feast and famine, with little consistency to back up his four first place triumphs. Measuring his stats after each win, Martin has not followed any of his first three victories this season with top 10s. In fact, the veteran followed two of the three with finishes of 43rd and 35th, respectively. Also, Martin has all four of his wins in the last 12 races, but has only two other top 10s in that stretch. If the No. 5 team makes the Chase, even four wins in those 10 races will not necessarily erase bad finishes.
WARM: Denny Hamlin – Hamlin is another candidate that could easily be placed in the HOT category, considering his four top 5s in the last five races. The No. 11 Toyota team is peaking at the right time, but Hamlin’s driving tactics in the closing laps Saturday were questionable at best. He overdrafted Jimmie Johnson into Turn One on a late-race restart, causing the No. 48 to lose traction and, thus, track position needed in order to challenge for the win. Then, Hamlin and Brian Vickers both tried to assume command of the race before they overdrove each other and opened the door for Mark Martin to re-assume the point. Hamlin’s overaggressiveness may have been a product of his desire to win, but it also cost him and others (especially Jimmie Johnson) a bit too much by the checkered flag.
WARM: Marcos Ambrose – Ambrose has made multiple appearances in the WARM category this season, because the No. 47 team always seems to keep its head just above water while other teams seem to splash in and out of the pool. However, although this underdog team never spends time in the very front of the pack (more on that later) and is not in realistic contention for the Chase, Ambrose has led it to four top 15 (three top 10s) in the last six races at the helm. With Reutimann and Truex as teammates to Ambrose next year, expect each part of that trio to be in or near the Chase in 2010.
COLD: Greg Biffle – After a fairly consistent stretch between the Texas and Michigan races, not much has been heard of from Greg Biffle this summer. The No. 16 team struggled Saturday night in Chicagoland, finishing two laps down in 31st after two pit road penalties left him suffering right from the start. Usually a contender at 1.5-mile tracks this year, Biffle’s finish dropped the team out of the top 12 for the first time since Phoenix — and they had nothing to blame for the nightmarish run but a bad setup. Now on the outside of the Chase bracket looking in, Biffle better hope his Brickyard chassis is better than that Chicagoland piece.
COLD: Robby Gordon – There are two sides of the coin to consider when sizing up Robby Gordon’s venture into team ownership. On the one hand, he has managed to stay in existence by attracting sponsors and running just well enough to stay inside the top 35. On the other hand, Robby Gordon Motorsports seems to have made little progress the past couple of years and is in the top 35 by default, since there really are not enough competitive teams to oust him from that spot. Gordon has only one top 10 this year, choosing not to pit before the rain at Charlotte and finishing 3rd, and regularly totals his race car in a wreck. Maybe Gordon should pick and choose the races he runs (like the road courses) and place better talent behind the wheel of his own car on the ovals — now known as the Michael Waltrip Theory — so his team can move forward.
COLD: Dave Blaney – Even mentioning drivers of start and park teams in this category isn’t fair, but here is a funny stat: Blaney has led three laps this season (by staying on the track while leaders pitted during early cautions before going to the garage). Yet despite the No. 66 Prism Motorsports’ team ducking out of every race early enough to catch Sunday Night Baseball, Blaney’s three laps led are more than Marcos Ambrose (18th in points, zero laps led), A.J. Allmendinger (27th in points, zero laps led), Jamie McMurray (19th in points, one lap led), and Brad Keselowski (one win, one lap led). Blaney also has led as many laps as David Ragan, Casey Mears, Sam Hornish, Jr., Paul Menard, and John Andretti. Blaney’s three laps led are also more than any other fellow start and parker on the circuit. Hey, if you’re going to be good at something… shine. For when it comes to actually running the race, Blaney also has the worst average finish of any driver that has started more than one event so far this year.
Here are this week’s HOT and NOT topics:
HOT: Double-file restarts – Jeff Burton and others may be complaining about the consequences of double-file restarts, but that format may have been the saving grace in Chicagoland. The LifeLock.com 400 was a certified snoozefest until the last few laps, when drivers turned their intensities up while gunning for as many spots as they could get. Burton’s complaints are understandable, as he has gotten the raw end of several of the shootout-style restarts, but they help correct for the passing difficulty caused by the Car of Tomorrow. Without double-file restarts, Jimmie Johnson likely would have waltzed to Victory Lane, and we would all be talking about how lame the race was. Instead, Johnson lost the lead to Hamlin and Vickers (both with long winless streaks), then yielded the lead back to winner Mark Martin. Johnson, meanwhile, drove like a bat out of hell to get back to the front, but side-swiped Kurt Busch (the 2nd on-track incident between the two in four weeks). This prompted Busch to retaliate, cut down a tire in the process, and settle for 17th instead of a top 10. What a finish!
Yes, double-file restarts pose a restrictor plate-like danger and restrictor plate-like quick change in results – but they also generate restrictor plate-like excitement, and every driver is on an equal playing field with them. NASCAR…don’t you dare change a thing.
NOT: TNT’s swan song – TNT sure threw in the towel Saturday night. The crew missed several crashes while the commentators in the booth remained silent during some exciting in-race sequences, including one late pass for the lead. Ralph Sheheen’s presence in the booth as a fill-in for Bill Weber has been a breath of fresh air, but he did show his greenness Saturday night, at times failing to really take the announcing reins and lead Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach in discussion and calling. The TNT team also had the opportunity to talk about some drivers back in the pack when the racing up front was stationary — but chose to refrain from that. However, TNT’s coverage was better than FOX’s at face value, simply because annoying figures like DW and Digger were out of the picture. However, the team — now in its third year — should be building more chemistry together despite the absence of Weber.
Summer vacation for the Cup Series began Sunday and will last until the July 25th race at the Brickyard in Indianapolis. I will be on vacation for that one, but do not let that keep you from turning here to see which drivers leave Indy in decent shape while which other ones could have used another week off from the circuit.
Listen to Doug weekly on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 racing show with host Captain Herb Emory Saturdays from 2-4 p.m., on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and online at wsbradio.com You can also hear Doug as a pit road reporter this Saturday for the Georgia Asphalt Series race in Cordele, GA. David Ragan will be in the race. Listen-in on racefanradio.com or ESPN The Ticket 1240 AM WGGA in Gainesville, GA at 8:30 p.m.
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Hamlin’s driving style costing Johnson track position is a good thing.
If you’re trying to keep your competitors comfortably running well, I wouldn’t want you driving my car, and I’m sure Joe Gibbs feels the same.
For the Not category…the lucky dog…cheap attempt to make the racing appear better, and while I am om it, the chase. why a playoff when you race the same teams each week
Please check facts before printing article.
That error has been corrected … thanks for writing and reading the Frontstretch!
I was SO happy to see Hamlin FINALLY grow a pair and repay the favors to Jimmie.
At least three times this year Jimmie has bumbed Denny out of the way in the closing laps.
And now Jimmie has to worry not only about Denny but Kurt as well.
I LOVE IT!
We’ll see how well double file restarts are liked after a couple of short track races if some of the chosen few get laps down. I think the off week is done in hopes that viewers’ memories will dull and the ESPN coverage will not seem so bad after the good job TNT did.
Who the champion will be from your point of view? Choose either Johnson or Steward – http://www.votetheday.com/nascar/nascar—chase-for-the-sprint-cup-results-440/