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 August 18, 2009
What a weekend for Brian Vickers! After winning poles in both the Nationwide and Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway, Vickers scored his second career Cup win on Sunday and came close to scoring the sweep Saturday in the NNS race. Now within 12 points of the Chase, Vickers’ place in this week’s column is no surprise. But with fuel mileage on the minds of many, the MIS race saw a team or two use their gas tanks to keep the momentum going, while several others saw their August success run dry before the checkered flag. Here are this week’s HOT, WARM, and COLD drivers following the 400-miler:
HOT: Brian Vickers – The win that many have been predicting for most of the past two seasons finally came for sixth-year driver Brian Vickers at Michigan. Though he won three years ago at Talladega, this victory was probably sweeter for the Chase contender simply because it was much less controversial — although in an interesting twist of fate, it took misfortune by Jimmie Johnson both times in order for the trophy to fall his way. Unable to seal the deal on Victory Lane after winning a season-high six poles, Vickers and crew chief Ryan Pemberton rolled the fuel mileage dice in order to finally finish where he started. Nearly as important as the win is the fact that Vickers is now even closer to 12th place Mark Martin than before, pulling to just 66 points behind 9th place Ryan Newman as well. Now, with no teams in between them and 12th and “Big Mo’” on their side, Vickers and the No. 83 crew are in great shape to make the Chase.
HOT: Carl Edwards – Considering anything Carl Edwards has done this season, HOT may be a bit of a stretch, but the No. 99 has not been that bad lately and “not been that bad” has been enough for Edwards to raise him to 4th in points. Sunday’s top 5 finish at Michigan is actually a highlight for Cousin Carl, considering the No. 99 team has barely been a top 10 contender at tracks like Michigan this season. Yet despite his good standing in the playoff hunt, keep in mind that due to the Chase bonus system Edwards loses all that ground should his winless drought continue through Richmond.
HOT: Denny Hamlin – A modest 10th place finish at Michigan, like Edwards’ 4th place run, was not great for Denny Hamlin, but it was good enough to keep him 5th in the standings. With over 200 points between him and 13th, that should be enough of a cushion to gamble for wins leading up to the Chase. Hamlin and the No. 11 team still are not in championship form quite yet, but they could be a spoiler for the title if bad luck strikes the quartet of front-runners above him.
WARM: Clint Bowyer – Three consecutive top 10s, including Sunday’s 8th place run, are the saving graces for the No. 33 team’s Chase chances. Clint Bowyer has come on strong in recent races, but these good runs don’t erase the fact that he has Brian Vickers, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, and Matt Kenseth in front of him, as well as Kyle Busch right behind all fighting for the bottom positions in the Chase. Bowyer runs well at Bristol (four top 10s in seven career races), which should work out to be a major plus — his main foe, Vickers, has zero top 10s at the track.
WARM: Bill Elliott – A solitary 16th place finish in Michigan Sunday may not be much to write home about for many — especially an accomplished champ like Bill Elliott — but it still deserves a nod. Driving the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford, Elliott qualified inside the top 10 and remained in contention for much of the race. Considering how much the team has struggled the past few years, the partial schedule they’re running this season has allowed them to up their competition level. Elliott has qualified the Motorcraft Ford in the top 10 over his last three starts, has finished 16th or better three times, and has ended four of his eight races on the lead lap. Again, these results are not spectacular, but are a great step in the right direction for this No. 21 team.
WARM: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Having the season from Hell, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has actually seen his performance improve… though his luck has still been fairly bad. Sunday was an exception to the rule, though, as pit strategy led Junior to push the No. 88 Chevy towards a third place finish, easily his best run since finishing second at Talladega in April. Bad luck derailed Dale Jr.’s good performances at both Indy and Watkins Glen, but promising runs in those races as well have led Earnhardt and the AMP Energy team to start believing in crew chief Lance McGrew. McGrew is still listed as the “interim” head wrench, but Junior’s continued turnaround likely will erase that moniker going forward.
COLD: Michael Waltrip – If you watched the race from flag-to-flag, you may remember one of the early shots in the race that showed drivers Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, David Ragan, and Carl Edwards trying to advance their fast race cars from awful starting spots. You may also remember a blue and yellow car in that same shot moving backwards faster than those others were moving forward. That Toyota was driven by Waltrip, whose performance this season has not made one person second guess his move to step out of the No. 55 Toyota full-time next season. Waltrip has not finished above 20th since Martinsville (17 races ago) and is running far less competitively than his teammate David Reutimann and quasi-teammate Marcos Ambrose. His decision to replace himself with Patrick Carpentier on the road courses was a good one… but maybe he should consider that on some of the oval tracks for the rest of this season (with, say, Kelly Bires or Scott Riggs – just an idea).
COLD: Bobby Labonte – The last time I compared Bobby Labonte to Michael Waltrip was when I was writing one part of a Side-By-Side article for this site, when both drivers were still in the top 12 in points after the Las Vegas race in March. Now their faults, poor results, and bad luck have made their solid starts all but a distant memory. Labonte and Waltrip each have struggled nearly equally over the spring and summer month, as since the same Martinsville race mentioned in Waltrip’s blurb, Labonte has only two finishes above 20th (to Waltrip’s zero). Adding insult to injury this Sunday, Labonte’s engine failure at Michigan came so early that even the start and park teams could not beat him to the garage.
COLD: David Ragan – David Ragan’s season is going so badly that even his good runs end up in the tank. Ragan and the No. 6 UPS team used pit strategy and a strong race car to race into the top 5 at Michigan before contact two different times in the race (neither one of his making) cost the team crucial track position. Nursing a wrecked car to the finish, 30th place on Sunday goes down as yet another result in which Ragan’s team performed well below expectations. Maybe 2010 will bring better luck for a 2009 that has been nothing but disappointing.
Here are some of the HOT and NOT issues of the week in racing:
HOT: Dale Jr. speaking out – Though he doesn’t speak very loudly or emotionally, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has sent some hard-hitting charges toward NASCAR in recent days. At a media event in Atlanta last Thursday, he not only made highly publicized criticisms of the CoT but also talked in-depth about how races should be shorter and that the Cup Series should not travel twice a year to places like Pocono and Dover — especially if places like Atlanta Motor Speedway are rumored to be losing dates. While these statements were meant as constructive criticisms of NASCAR, Junior also applauded the sport for enacting double-file restarts, saying that drivers now look forward to “phantom debris cautions” many times because they can then make up spots on the track easily. Junior did say, though, that double-file restarts likely will not cure the spreading out of the field at AMS. Hearing Junior speak about more than his poor season was nice, to say the least.
NOT: Kyle Busch whining out – I know that everyone and their mother has written or is writing about this, but Kyle Busch’s crybaby attitude is so bad, I wonder if maybe he does it on purpose just to get a reaction. His complaints about Brian Vickers racing him too hard for the win and allowing eventual race winner Brad Keselowski to pass them by on the last lap of Saturday’s Nationwide race were lame. He even went further to take a jab at Junior Nation, saying he was sure that they were happy Keselowski won. As for Vickers, he retaliated well, saying he thought they were supposed to race hard and that he was unaware the race was renamed “The Kyle Busch Show”. Busch made himself look bad even before the comments, however, by confronting Vickers on pit road and trying to start a sissy fight with him still in his car. But while the drama is fun to talk about and watch, seeing Kyle Busch complain again and again has to make you sick.
HOT: The next three races – As Dale Jr. mentioned in the same set of comments he made Thursday, the summer stretch in July and early August is dominated by tracks that do not always lend themselves to good racing and can be a bore for both drivers and fans. While the road courses can be fun, Daytona is exciting, and the Brickyard is very historical, the rest of the summer race schedule is by and large very… blah. The next three races, however, may help to change the complexion of summer’s closing weeks. Bristol, though it has not been as exciting the last few races (after the track’s repaving) will definitely produce more action than some more recent races at other tracks on Saturday night. Next up after that is Atlanta Motor Speedway, which will be hosting its first race under the lights and make for higher speeds and more excitement in the air. Then there’s Richmond, one of the best tracks on the schedule and the final race before the Chase. The normal excitement level at the track will only be elevated this year with so many drivers left vying for Chase spots.
NOT: Continuing problems with TV coverage – The length of pre-race shows has been a much-discussed issue this season, since green flags seem to fly later and later. But if pre-race coverage is going to last so long, then at least the networks should cover all of the big NASCAR news stories. On Sunday, ESPN dropped the ball on several of those, including Dale Jr.’s comments on the CoT, Mike Bliss being fired from Phoenix Racing’s NNS team but still being retained as driver of their start and park Cup operation, and maybe, most importantly, not mentioning that there was rain near the race track (weather that ended up stopping the race for about 20 minutes). Why can’t ESPN fill their show with some more good reporting instead of endless commentaries and promos?
Looking ahead, that thunder you hear in the distance is the sound from the Valley of Bristol, ready to host all three of NASCAR’s top series this week. With just three more races remaining before the Chase, turn here to see which drivers get a short track boost and which ones leave the bullring in need of a Band-Aid.
Listen to Doug Saturdays from 2 to 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. You can also hear Doug as a co-host on The Lead Lap from 10-11 a.m. every Saturday on ESPN 1240 The Ticket in Gainesville and online at racefanradio.com.
©2000 - 2008 Doug Turnbull and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Nice column Doug! Continue to enjoy your writings!
In regards to Michael Waltrip stepping aside for the rest of the year I think Travis Kvapil could breath some life back into this team.
Tim – Good call on Kvapil. I’d like to see him driving again.
Also, I’m a Junior fan and I agree with what he said on the COT and about Pocono, but the racing at Dover is pretty danged good, so I hope Dover keeps its two races a year.
I love frontstretch and speaking in tongues because it doesn’t remind me of anything.
I heard part of the Dale Jr. interview on your radio show, and I think he would be expelled from speech class. He’d probably be kicked out of “Humpy’s Heros” too for poor interview skills.
Kyle Busch whiny? Ya, along with most of the other CUP and NNS drivers. Listen to them all. Spoiled brats.
BBQPro and Keith?…you’re both moronic idiots!!!
I doubt it is all Michael Waltrip’s fault in the 55 car, I think alot has to do his CC, Bootie Barker. The car doesn’t even come off the hauler fast and that is the CC’s responsibility. Even Patrick Carpentier had trouble with the 55 at Watkins Glen. Bootie’s a good guy, but I don’t think he is much of a CC or Tony would’ve kept him when he brought into Haas.