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 October 20, 2009
Going into Saturday’s “The Word Bank is in the Title Sponsorship Name Too Much” 500, the Chase points were the tightest in the format’s six-season history. But leaving Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the seemingly bulletproof No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson now has the biggest lead of any driver through five Chase races. Talladega was supposed to be the biggest difference maker, but “The Beast of the Southeast” in Charlotte helped drive apart some of the leaders at the top of the standings. Just like what usually happens at LMS (and at its sister track in Atlanta), some oft-struggling teams found a chance to bask in the evening spotlight by running in the top 10 or 15, leaving the Chasers to beg for scraps at the back of the field. Honestly, there aren’t many truly HOT teams this week (considering the Hendrick Motorsports dominance especially abounding in these playoffs), but the WARM and COLD teams are easier to categorize.
HOT: Jimmie Johnson – Back-to-back wins, three wins in the Chase, top 10s (at least) in all five playoff races, gaining 100 points on teammate Mark Martin since the Chase started, and five career wins (including the last two races) at Martinsville. The list goes on and on… with the bad luck that struck the fast cars of Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya, Johnson’s closest competitors in the Chase, the championship is now the No. 48 team’s to lose. They’re so far ahead at this point, they could afford to press the cruise control button… but don’t expect them to. As Tom Bowles pointed out in Sunday’s Frontstretch Newsletter, this team shows up first, works the hardest, has a driver that makes both the right moves and gives the right feedback, and a crew chief that knows the right calls to make. If Johnson leaves Talladega unscathed, he may settle a bit and play in conservation mode – but conservation mode for the Lowe’s team is leading only the second-most laps. Good luck, rest of the field…
HOT: Jeff Gordon – After leading late at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon fell short of scoring either his second win or his Mark Martin-ish ninth runner-up finish this season, falling to fourth by the checkered flag. Gordon has proven a lot in the Chase since a sluggish 15th place New Hampshire finish, reeling off four straight top 10s and three top 5s. He has had great success at Martinsville, like Johnson, but has 135 points to make up in five races. In other words, if he wins every race for the rest of the Chase and leads the most laps while Jimmie Johnson averages a finish of fourth (which he more than likely will do), Johnson still wins the Cup. Gordon has never won at Homestead, by the way, another knock against his fading championship hopes.
HOT: No one else – Nope. I’m not slacking off here. The two or three other drivers that have consistently had fast enough race cars to drive into this category had tougher times Saturday night than those rebellious teenagers at Ridgemont High. Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya had top 5 race cars that experienced damage on the same restart, midway through the race. Martin’s damage was minor enough for him to tip-toe to a 17th place run, while Montoya’s twice damaged and missing right rear quarter panel repairs relegated him to a dismal 35th. Tony Stewart has avoided bad luck in his No. 14; however, he’s not regained his summer magic, as his 13th place run on Saturday showed us while rivals Gordon and Johnson ran up front. But his former teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing is worst of all in this category. Denny Hamlin has had fast enough FedEx Toyotas to keep his hat in the points ring, but lost his head behind the wheel in Cali (and wrecked), then on the radio in Charlotte after a blown motor. His title hopes are now all but squashed. Some of these drivers will contend for the HOT category next week, but this honor remains a twosome, in my book, for the first time this season.
WARM: Joey Logano – After becoming an honorary member of the Flipmode Squad (that’s a shout-out to any remaining Busta Rhymes fans) in Dover three weeks ago, Joey Logano rebounded from early problems to finish 5th Saturday night. The rookie has shown flashes of brilliance this year, besides his rain-shortened, pit strategy win at New Hampshire. Scoring solid finishes at Sprint Cup legendary staples like Lowe’s, Darlington, and Talladega, Logano has proven that he is versatile enough to be taken seriously. Here’s another thought: who would have thought that the inexperienced trio of Logano, David Reutimann, and Marcos Ambrose would be ahead of more seasoned drivers like Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin Truex, Jr. in points this late in the season? While Hendrick dominance has been heavily criticized, parity in the middle of the point standings does exist after all. Logano and Ambrose, each in their first full Sprint Cup seasons, may not benefit from much CoT testing, but they have the teams and engineering behind them to outrun others they should not be at this point in their careers. I wish I could offer a pick for the 2010 Rookie of the Year (as Logano easily has this year’s battle locked up), but no one has entered. (Let’s summon 2006’s least known rookie, Brent Sherman, to take a stab at it).
WARM: Casey Mears – When Jeff Burton was commenting on Kevin Harvick’s assumed post-2010 departure from RCR, he mentioned only himself and teammate Clint Bowyer were adapting and moving forward. Was this an accidental slip-up, indicating that Mears almost certainly will not be back with the No. 07 team next season? Childress’ quotes about that soon-to-be-unsponsored team’s future were widely reported this weekend, and Childress seemed open to keeping Mears in the car. Sponsorship, of course, will dictate both the driver of the team and team’s future existence, but Mears has used the last few races as a good audition for sponsors and potentially different race teams. Mears ran 7th Saturday night, and has finished five times in the top 20 (and four times in the top 15) during the Chase. These finishes are not head-turning and likely are not enough by themselves to pull the Jack Daniel’s team off the rocks, but Mears, at least, is not running up RC’s sheet metal bill.
WARM: Matt Kenseth – The No. 17 team is still searching for consistency, but Kenseth came out of nowhere to be a legitimate checkered flag contender Saturday night, leading 45 laps and scoring his best finish (second) since winning the February California race. According to several reports, Kenseth was running a “next generation” Roush Fenway chassis. If this is what we all have to look forward to on the 1.5-mile tracks from RFR, then those in the Hendrick armada better watch their backs. But if we were talking Star Trek and Kenseth’s car was “The Next Generation,” then Greg Biffle and David Ragan’s chassis were the original Star Trek series (they finished where most Roush teams have finished this year – 16th and 20th, respectively), while Jamie McMurray and Carl Edwards must have been driving “Deep Space Nine” cars (they were horribly off the pace and in a deep hole the entire race, finishing 33rd and 39th).
COLD: Denny Hamlin – He got a halfway Honorable Mention in the HOT category, but really belongs on this side of the tracks this week. Hamlin had a great race car Saturday, leading 54 laps and staying firmly in the top 5, but the No. 11 Toyota broke a valve and the motor died a quick death. Already primed to take a huge hit in the points, Hamlin’s engine failure caused him to fall harder, as there was only one start and park team (the No. 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota) that had made the race and DNF’d. As a result, Hamlin’s awful 42nd place run leaves him 372 markers out of the lead. He has lost almost 300 points to leader Jimmie Johnson in the last two races as his title hopes quickly went up in smoke.
COLD: Sam Hornish Jr. – He has more than earned the nickname “Slidin’.” Hornish’s squirrelly No. 77 Dodge brought out the first two cautions Saturday night (like he did early in the Atlanta race last month) and sustained enough damage to go behind the wall for repairs. That meant after finishing the last two races in 18th and 12th, he could only muster 40th at Lowe’s, a track that had been good to him in the recent past. Hornish has scored more decent finishes than anyone expected of him this year, but has failed to score more than three straight top 20s all season. Clearly, the extremely successful Indy driver still has many more stock car adjustments to make before being considered successful. We can only hope that someone has explained this to Danica Patrick…
COLD: Jamie McMurray – In the 11 races since he learned that Crown Royal would be leaving the No. 26 Ford in favor of Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 team (thus, ensuring the No. 26 would be the soon-to-be-severed fifth Roush Fenway car), McMurray has run miserable, scoring zero top 10s and only three top 20s. McMurray’s confidence has to be even deeper in the crapper, too, after sources close to the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team have said he is no longer being considered for the Bass Pro Shops Chevy next season. Does McMurray pack up shop and go back to the Nationwide Series? Does he accept a less secure ride with TRG Motorsports (who may be switching to Dodge – which McMurray used to be a mainstay for at Ganassi Racing)? Or does he bring funding to RCR’s No. 07 team? This will be a rocky offseason for the eighth-year driver whose Cup future is now clearly in question.
Here are this week’s HOT and NOT issues:
HOT: The debate over the Hall of Fame picks – Fortunately, at least three of the first five picks in NASCAR’s inaugural Hall of Fame class were fairly uncontroversial – Bill France, Richard Petty, and Dale Earnhardt deserve their places in the upper echelon of the sport’s history for many different reasons. Bill France, Jr. and Junior Johnson also were healthy picks, though holding off on France Jr. and replacing him with David Pearson may have been more appropriate. The best part of the Hall of Fame picks debate, though, is that historical NASCAR figures that are rarely discussed by new fans of the sport got thrown into the NASCAR media lexicon these past few weeks, likely prompting at least a fraction of the sport’s fan base to learn more on names like Pearson, Yarborough, and even Raymond Parks.
NOT: “Gentlemen, start your enigmas.” – On Saturday night, I had the opportunity to host the racing radio show I am on (and the executive producer for) weekly, The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta. Toward the end of the show, I saw a pre-race quartet voice the command to start the engines – and half of this group made me sick. The Hall of Fame inductees were the Grand Marshals for the race, but three of the class were dead, so stand-ins were deployed. In place of Bill France, Sr. and Jr. was current NASCAR head Brian France, one of the most beleaguered sports leaders in the U.S. The other was Teresa Earnhardt, the highly unpopular widow of The Intimidator.
I personally would not feel great about any living France standing in place of the others, but couldn’t Lesa France Kennedy have stood in, too, at least? Something. Brian has inherited a lot and the last thing he needs in his trust is two Hall of Fame parking spaces, even if this was symbolic. And regarding Earnhardt, wouldn’t having Taylor Nicole, Kerry, or even (somehow) Dale Jr. as the honorary starter be a better option than the woman whose coldness toward her stepson and utter obsession with her own bottom led to the downfall of the once-mighty DEI? This is yet another deterrent to die-hard fans pining to find reasons to still simply like the sport they once loved.
That covers this week’s picks and issues. The Martinsville paper clip now lies on the horizon this week for those trying to catch Jimmie Johnson — but they’ll have their work cut out for them. Turn here next Tuesday to see who enters Talladega with time on their side in terms of the title… and those who have too little time on their hands. And if you play fantasy racing, be sure and check out my shot turn at Frontstretch’s Fantasy Racing column, out on SI.com this Friday.
Listen to Doug on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 racing show with host Captain Herb Emory on Saturday, from 2-4 p.m, live from The Moonshine Festival in Dawsonville, on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and online at wsbradio.com. You can also hear Doug and David Chandler co-host The Lead Lap: North Georgia’s Racing Leader, Saturday’s from 10-11 a.m. on racefanradio.com and 1240 ESPN Radio in Gainesville, GA.
©2000 - 2008 Doug Turnbull and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Doug, gotta disagree with you on that last point. It’s always good to see Teresa.
Call it coldness if you want, but you can’t let your driver take over your business even if he is related. Blame her for DEI’s fall from glory if you want, but she was a pretty darn important part of bringing it up in the first place. She’s also the only member of the Earnhardt family with a car in the Chase right now.
But really, the only thing that matters is that she was Dale’s wife, and that’s certainly a good enough reason to give her the honor of standing in for her late husband to give the call to start engines.
I absolutely must challenge you on your statement: “the honorary starter be a better option than the woman whose coldness toward her stepson and utter obsession with her own bottom led to the downfall of the once-mighty DEI?”
WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
Theresa was the one that understood and realized just what “JR.s” commitment to racing really was!
And you want to dis her?
Go back and read what Jr. said about “not being in a competitive race car”! And what ugly Sis said also!
Now, fast forward to this year!
Just what has Jr. “accomplished”, driving the ABSOLUTE BEST EQUIPMENT in the series?
And you want to further degrade Theresa because she knew this kid was a joker?
She is SMART! Very SMART!
Can you imagine what would have happened had she caved? Where would DEI be then?
Can one spell TOTAL DISASTER?
And thank you RamblinWreck, right on baby!
I have full faith in your comments I agree with everything you said, Fireball… What does Theresa know about racing anyway…