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 September 29, 2009
Surprise, surprise…Jimmie Johnson is the early favorite to win the Cup Series title. The 3-time defending Chase champ dominated the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway en route to his fourth win of the year and season sweep at the Monster Mile. Johnson led 271 of the 400 laps and never had a real challenge once he assumed the point. The other clear Chase favorites, Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya, finished 2nd and 4th respectively, while Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin left enough on the table to raise doubts about their title hopes.
Outside the top 12, Kyle Busch also deflated the confidence of many in his easily being able to hold the title of “Best of the Rest”. Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 DeWalt Ford, likewise, was the fastest it had been since the last trip to concrete mile. Here is a look at this week’s HOT, WARM, and COLD drivers of the week.
HOT: Jimmie Johnson – Yes, this is the same trio of HOT drivers as last week. Need proof that Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus keep a big red switch in the Hendrick shop to flip on for the start of the Chase each year? No. 48’s finishes in the six races prior to New Hampshire (since his previous last win at Indy): 13th, 12th, 33rd, 8th, 36th and 11th. Since then, Johnson finished 4th at New Hampshire and then stunk up the show en route to a Dover victory. Whether the No. 48 team simply had bad luck during this six race sluggish stretch or threw experimental setups under the Lowe’s Chevy does not matter. Johnson and the team are built to win and will, unless uncharacteristic demons drag this team to end of the season damnation.
HOT: Mark Martin – Mark Martin has been in the HOT category a lot recently and will remain here until he shows signs of weakness. The 50-year-old and the No. 5 team are on their best stretch of the year and have picked the best time to hit their stride, as they entered the Chase leading the points and still do after week two. Martin took a car barely able to run in the top 10 at Dover and nursed it to his 16th top 10 finish of the year. Martin may be getting set up, though, for another late season choke, as no driver leading the points after the 2nd Chase race has won the title. Just ask Jeff Gordon, who has done it twice.
HOT: Juan Pablo Montoya – When Kasey Kahne burst onto the Cup Scene in 2004 and reeled a whole slew of runner-up finishes, he was my pick to win a race every week for the rest of that year, though he failed to win until the Spring Richmond race in a much less-successful 2005 campaign. Montoya’s score card is starting to shape up the same way. While the No. 42 team has been consistent all year, crew chief Brian Pattie and Montoya must keep a Target-red switch in the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing shop. After failing to record a top 5 finish in the first half of the season, Montoya has scored four in the last eight races and three in the last four. Montoya and Pattie both said in the summer months that the team is just trying to run conservatively enough to hold a spot in the Chase. Now the team is a dark horse to win the title, after muscling its way to the top of the charts not only during the last two races, but in qualifying and practice as well. If Johnson or Martin falter, Montoya has now moved a rung ahead of Denny Hamlin (who finished 22nd in Dover) as the favorite to become King of the Hill (and not in a Hank Hill kind of way).
WARM: Jeff Gordon – Despite the points being tight, only half of the 12 Chase drivers changed spots in the standings and Jeff Gordon was the biggest gainer, moving up two spots from 10th. Gordon finished a solid 6th at Dover, but needs more than a bit of consistency, if he wants to make a title run. Now 122 out of the lead and 8th in points, Gordon and the No. 24 team need to set Dorothy’s home track of Kansas ablaze (with a ruby-red hue, of course). Having won twice at the track, Gordon has a good chance to do so. Jimmie Johnson was also 8th in points after race two and sat 136 points behind then-leader Jeff Burton, before making his title run in 2006. This technically is doable for Gordon.
WARM: Kevin Harvick – The RCR camp has many questions to answer for 2010 and Harvick’s rumored desired departure earlier in the year are no longer a part of them. Apparently, some performance questions are already receiving some attention, as Harvick two top 10s and three top 15s in the last four races (including Sunday’s 12th at Dover). The No. 29 team still has a long way to go before returning to Victory Lane regularly, but they have made big strides of late.
WARM: Ryan Newman – Newman has been the quieter of the two drivers at Stewart Hass Racing this season, but has made more noise of late than owner and teammate Tony Stewart. After Sunday’s 10th place finish, Newman has marked five consecutive top 10 finishes. The bad news for the No. 39 is that the team still has lost points the past two weeks to the front-running teams in points. Newman likely will not win this year, but 2009 has gone much better than many expected for the Army team.
COLD: Joey Logano – Logano’s spectacular wreck at Dover was reminiscent of what can happen at a track with such close quarters at such high speeds. Sunday’s 42nd place result puts an exclamation point a dry spell that has existed for the rookie since the June New Hampshire race that he won. Since then, he has only one top 10 and finished in the top 15 only three times. Logano’s numbers should have picked up more, since he was revisiting most of those tracks. Logano is surrounded by other struggling drivers in the points and remains 20th in points. “Sliced Bread” is also a lock for Rookie of the Year, as Scott Speed has had a nightmarish season at Team Red Bull.
COLD: Jamie McMurray – One driver auditioning for a ride next season may need to re-memorize his speaking lines. Jamie Mac has not at all been immune to the Roush Fenway Racing struggles this season, as his 28th place run Sunday at Dover helped show. Though he has had a top 15 run here or there, he has zero top 5s this year, three top 10s, and zero top 10s since the Richmond race…in May. With the Yates-Richard Petty Motorsports merger still left in the air and McMurray’s presence on that team still a possibility, he needs to do more to convince the brass at RPM, Yates, RFR and Ford that he deserves to roast marshmallows in that camp. If that is not enough pressure, he also has to compete with likely or certain free agents: Bobby Labonte, David Gilliland, Elliott Sadler (maybe) and Casey Mears (maybe) for a select number of open rides. Good luck…
COLD: Robby Gordon – A lack of hard liquor sponsorship next season will not alleviate hard times for Robby Gordon Motorsports. Jim Beam announced last week that it would leave the team to sponsor Kid Rock (another washed-up veteran of his profession) and his world tour. Gordon says that he has already talked to sponsors and likely will fill that void, but that will only keep the team alive, not competitive. A decent amount of money does not erase a team’s problems necessarily, just like a stiff drink does not get rid of any problems in life. Gordon is still unwilling to merge with another team (after the disaster last season was as “partners” with Gillett Evernham Motorsports) and still tears up too much equipment to make much progress. No matter the color or the crew chief on the No. 7, expect the same results in 2010.
Here are this week’s HOT and NOT issues:
HOT: The downfall of PC (with apologies to Mr. Gates) – You may have noticed these past two weeks the sudden spring-up of rivalries in the Fall. Last week, Juan Pablo Montoya did not take kindly to being blocked by Mark Martin at the end of last week’s New Hampshire race and Dale Earnhardt Jr. held very little back in reference to being unceremoniously dumped by David Reutimann at the end of the same race. In the Nationwide Series this week, not only did Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski have a dust-up both on and off the track Saturday, but Denny Hamlin went far enough as to call Keselowski an ‘idiot’ in his TV interview…and that was after he had time to cool down. And in the Truck Series last week, Ron Hornaday and Kevin Harvick had to give each other post-race attitude adjustments. Prior to the start of the 2008 season, Brian France promised that the sport would allow drivers more leeway in this regard, because it wanted the series to “return to its roots”. A year-and-a-half after the fact is better late than never. Political correctness will always persist in NASCAR, as long as big money is involved, but at least we have seen more fire this year, it seems, than in the past couple before.
NOT: Complacency from behind the catch fence – It is hard to compliment NASCAR without tagging on a complaint. The aforementioned France does not seem too concerned about a dying interest in the Chase races. After seeing ratings increase significantly over the races prior to the Chase (in comparison to the same races last year), the Chase TV ratings for New Hampshire were down from 3.8 in 2008 to 3.2 last week.
In the words of France: “It’s one race and I think if we keep having the kind of racing and the Chase unfolds the way I think it’s going to, that will take care of itself. We don’t have a concern about that. & The Chase has got the right storylines, the right things going on [and] the racing is very good.” Maybe the racing is good (at least it was at New Hampshire), but the Chase storyline is extremely over-played by the media (including us here at Frontstretch). Maybe the Chase story has enough facets that it has become a crutch to lean on when we get “storyline block”. Nonetheless, the continuous bombardment of the “NASCAR playoffs” combined with Jimmie Johnson’s continual dominance of the format will not help NASCAR stop losing ground to the NFL on the ratings front.
Kansas Speedway is next on the docket. As the Chase standings take form, the race for the top 35 and the status of many drivers and teams hang at least slightly on the balance of the results garnered over the rest of the year. Turn here next week to see leaves Kansas with a whirlwind of momentum and who sees any chances at salvaging a good season blow away like dust in the wind.
Listen to Doug weekly on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 with host Captain Herb Emory Saturday afternoons on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and online at wsbradio.com. You can also hear Doug as a co-host with David Chandler on The Lead Lap: North Georgia’s Racing Leader, Saturdays from 10-11 a.m. on racefanradio.com.
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The right storylines huh? Too bad these clowns play editor in chief all too often with the mysterious debris cautions and arbitrary penalties. The only good racing to be had probably involves Helton and fat Brian running to the corporate buffet line. Theses clowns only have to look in the mirror to see why the sky is falling. Poorly thought out schedule, preponderance of poor racing venues (with 1/3 empty grandstands), pricey tickets, etc., etc…. At least its football season again.
Im surprised Brian hasnt played his trump card yet; the one that emulates baseball and football. Of course Im speaking about the new program…“THE CHASE TO THE CHASE”. Heres how it works. The first 23 races qualify you for the Chase…lets say 20 cars. then ten races are run to Qualify for the SUPER Chase. Only 5 qualify…and they duke it out in the last three races. Hence Chase for the Chase. Neat, eh??