Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Doug Turnbull · Tuesday September 22, 2009
Was that New Hampshire we witnessed on Sunday? Was that the same track that, at times, has lent itself to single-file boredom? Especially in the closing laps, Sunday’s Sylvania 300 was a barnburner with Chasers Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, and Juan Pablo Montoya sparring against each other for the lead. And while Martin went to Victory Lane, seven other Chasers filled out the rest of the top 10 while all but Kasey Kahne finished in the top 20. Meanwhile, a couple of other drivers also had surprising runs and Kyle Busch had a quiet but solid day, establishing himself as the likely Chase spoiler of those drivers on the outside looking in. So, as the Cup Series leaves the Granite State for the final time this year, let’s take a look at this week’s HOT, WARM, and NOT drivers.
HOT: Mark Martin – No surprises here. Not only did Martin stave off two faster cars (Hamlin and Montoya) on the final restarts to win the Chase opener, but he heads to Dover with an extra spring in his step. Kellogg’s, primary sponsor of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy for a decade-and-a-half, has been rumored to be on the outs from the team, as its contract is up at the end of this season. On Friday, that crisis was corrected, with Martin and HMS announcing he would run in the No. 5 full-time through 2011 with GoDaddy.com sponsoring the majority of the races in each of the next two years. In the midst of a streak of four consecutive top 5s and armed with a great track record at Dover, Martin has every reason to believe that the title is his to lose.
HOT: Juan Pablo Montoya – If the title is Martin’s to lose, then Sunday’s race was Montoya’s to win. Unfortunately, the third year NASCAR driver experienced the same late race luck with a dominant car at New Hampshire that he did with the same speedy ride in the Brickyard 400. Montoya won the pole, led the practice sessions, and then led the most laps during the Sylvania 300 en route to what could have been a commanding victory. But during the second-to-last long green flag run, his Target Chevy lost the handle a bit, forcing him to play catch-up in the closing laps after losing track position due to pit strategy. But even when some late-race cautions bunched up the front of the field, Montoya failed to pass Martin on the final restart and then gave up second spot to boot. One strike against Montoya moving forward, though, is his overaggression on the track at NHMS. He was able to escape several bouts of contact with competitors because he had a good car, but this type of driving can come back to bite you later on. With the Chase points so tight, Montoya cannot afford to fall in the standings at the hands of a wrecked race car.
HOT: Jimmie Johnson – Johnson and the No. 48 team remained quiet for most of the race, leading only once for 14 laps. Yet despite this toned-down performance, Johnson managed to score his first top 5 since his win at Indy two months ago. After ducking out of the spotlight for the past few weeks, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus are turning up the heat and ready to freight train the competition en route to a fourth straight title. With no known controversy back at the HMS shop and plenty of playoff experience, Johnson is in the perfect spot heading to Dover.
WARM: Kurt Busch – Busch had a great car at NHMS, running near the front of the pack for much of Sunday’s event. He ended up fading to 6th at the end of the Sylvania 300, after losing a few positions during the smash mouth final restart or two. With five top 10s in the last seven races, the No. 2 team seems to be riding a significant head of steam. However, the announced departure of crew chief Pat Tryson has turned over some stones that point to a possible weakness for the team. Since Tryson is leaving the team for Michael Waltrip Racing (after some sort of conflict in the Penske organization), he is only allowed in the Penske Racing shop once a week. Though the team will remain highly competitive, expect the internal distractions to subtly pose difficulties for Busch to claim the Sprint Cup crown.
WARM: Greg Biffle – The porch of his house may have been HOT on Friday (when a gas leak back at his home ignited a fire), but Greg Biffle has only managed to hold in the WARM classification this time around. His 9th place finish Sunday was quiet and overlooked, but it was also the best run of his Roush Fenway stablemates, including fellow Chaser Carl Edwards. If Biffle wants to be part of the title talks, he needs to lead more laps and win at least two races. Remember, there’s also the lousy run he will likely have at Martinsville late in the Chase still to go, a place where he and his team have struggled mightily.
WARM: Elliott Sadler – One driver whose job may be in jeopardy, believe it or not, is Elliott Sadler. Though his name was mentioned by Richard Petty Motorsports officials as a driver traveling to the new operation with Yates Racing, Jamie McMurray, who was once thought to be traveling to Yates with the Roush Fenway No. 26 team, is rumored as a possible replacement. Sadler took the rumors in stride (if he knew about them) and drove a great potential auditioning race at New Hampshire. Rebounding from an early involvement in a crash, he finished 8th for his best effort since the Daytona 500 back in February. Sadler and Casey Mears both could be on the chopping block, yet showed tepid flashes of brilliance in scoring needed top 10 runs.
COLD: Kasey Kahne – Kablwoowee! That’s what happened to the power plant on the Budweiser Dodge barely 20 percent of the way through the Sylvania 300. The only good news for Kahne is that the five start and parkers beat him to the garage, leaving him 38th in the final rundown. Kahne has run well this year and could still rebound in the Chase, but the turmoil at RPM, with the rumors of Reed Sorenson’s pro bono driving, the departure of Mark McArdle, and the pending elimination of many engine department and chassis shop jobs leave Kahne at a disadvantage before having to overcome a now 161-point deficit in the Chase. Kahne also is very much in the dark about RPM’s leadership decisions. That means Dodge’s only two teams in the Chase are at a distraction-caused disadvantage…it’s a good thing Dr. Z is not part of the Chrysler picture anymore, or HE would be the one asking all the questions.
COLD: A.J. Allmendinger – Not that RPM needs to be poured upon, but A.J. Allmendinger spun out enough at New Hampshire that Maytag should sign on as a sponsor of the team. Allmendinger got turned at the hands of Marcos Ambrose, after aggravating the Aussie not long before that. ‘Dinger was also involved in a tangle with David Stremme just before lap 200 and then brought out the race-ending caution on lap 300, spinning out alone. Allmendinger has made tremendous strides in his NASCAR career, but is now in the midst of longest stretch this year without a top 10 (his last one was at Sonoma back in June). With sponsorship up in the air for his team and with the brass at RPM having about as much patience as Donald Trump in waiting for drivers to develop, Allmendinger needs to keep his nose clean and step up the effort ASAP.
COLD: Michael Waltrip – The end of the season cannot come soon enough for the NAPA team. Waltrip was involved in a multi-car wreck Sunday, sending him off the pace early and en route to a seventh straight finish outside the top 20. This lack of focus is nothing new for Waltrip and the No. 55 team, and it shows in the washed-up driver’s thinking. While announcing Saturday’s Truck race, MW seemed more interested in sponsors and their exposure than actual racing itself. With Pat Tryson now on the VIP list of those joining the team next season, Waltrip will have much more to brag about to potential sponsors than his one top 10 in 25 starts this year.
Here are the HOT and NOT issues of the week:
HOT: The resurgence of the small team – While bigger teams are merging, surging, and sometimes struggling, some lower-budget, newer teams are elevating to the hype that surrounded them earlier in the season. In particular, the No. 71 TRG Motorsports car has seen its popularity and sponsorship increase significantly since adding Bobby Labonte for seven of the final 12 races. With money on board, the team has been able to run the distance and has outperformed much “better” organizations with more resources at their disposal. As a result, this car may be the sexy pick to forge an affiliation with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing or Richard Childress Racing if either of those teams want a satellite team to share notes with (TRG already has some assistance from RCR). Meanwhile, Tommy Baldwin Racing has not run well, but has worked to secure sponsorship for some races while Furniture Row Racing and the Wood Brothers’ hopes are looking up. Joe Nemechek’s No. 87 team is even rumored to be close to securing sponsorship for next season. As the economy slowly works to turn around, these smaller teams are starting to benefit, which is good for the sport.
NOT: Harvick’s whiny Truck Series race – Kevin Harvick, Ron Hornaday, and Kyle Busch put on a heckuva show in Saturday’s Truck Series race at NHMS. Unfortunately, Harvick’s team owner bossy pants must have cut the circulation off to his head. For a large portion of the second half of the race, Harvick battled hard in the part-time No. 2 with teammate and employee Ron Hornaday, Jr. in the No. 33. Harvick was able to drive to Hornaday’s inside, but could not make the pass. The team owner then tried hopelessly to relay to Hornaday’s spotter that the championship contender should pull over and let him go, just so he could chase down Busch’s No. 51 Toyota. For his part, Hornaday thought he was giving Harvick the room needed to pass, but it was not enough. So while the two squabbled, that allowed Kyle Busch to skip away with the checkered flag for the event. After the race, Harvick complained to both Hornaday and the TV cameras, calling a driver and crew meeting in his hauler to settle the matter. Hornaday said he had no idea of the team orders … after Harvick said something to him in private before the cameras got there.
Huh? In the heat of the moment, Harvick must have forgotten that Hornaday is running for a championship and, though he leads by a hefty margin, needs every point he can get. Remember, Hornaday lost the championship last season after teammate Ryan Newman passed him for the win at the Fall Atlanta Motor Speedway race. Harvick the team owner should know more than anyone about big picture points racing, and even fired now-foe Matt Crafton for not racing aggressively enough for wins. Hornaday held his position and did not hold up Harvick from passing him; but even if he did, Harvick had little right to demand that from his employee.
Plenty of drama is already playing out in the Chase as the Cup Series heads to Dover. Not only is the points title on the line, but many teams’ and drivers’ futures hold in the balance based on their season-ending performances. Turn here next week to see which teams keep hitting — or missing — their marks during the season’s final stretch run.
Listen to Doug this Saturday as he co-hosts The Lead Lap: North Georgia’s Racing Leader with co-host David Chandler, on ESPN 1240 The Ticket in Gainesville, GA and online at racefanradio.com.
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i would have to list JR as hot for his on-track racing this week and his spirited interview after he was wrecked. Are we seeing a “new” JR, more in the mold of SR, rather than the mister nice guy we all know and love. Can’t wait to see which Jr shows up at Dover, and which car they bring, the usual mid-pack also ran or the “wild thing” he ran this past weekend.
Kablwoowee! HAHAHAHAHA You’ve been watching Duck Tales.
I agree with you on Elliott Sadler needing a few good runs to finish out the season to either solidify his position with RPM or to audition for another ride? According to Elliott himself they have been using him in pre-race practices to test things in an effort to help Kasey not only to get in the Chase but during it! This has hurt his qualifying efforts as well as given him little chance to work on things that might help him run better? That is what make this past weeks run even more surprising? His Crew Chief Wally Roger had to make wholesale changes to the car before the race and it looks like they hit on something that helped Elliott run much better Sunday? Even on older tires, he was still able to hold off most of those who got fresh tires before those last 2 restarts! I feel this race allowed him to show he can still drive with the best of them!!!!