Swan Racing Announces Restructuring, No. 26 & No. 30 "Sold" Off
posted by Thomas Bowles
Wednesday April 23, 2014
After a week of uncertainty, Swan Racing’s two teams will show up at Richmond Friday night after a combination of mergers and acquisitions have kept the two teams up and running. The moves, announced in a press release Wednesday will keep rookie Cole Whitt behind the wheel of the No. 26 while J.J. Yeley moves into the No. 30, replacing Parker Kligerman effective immediately.
The solution for Whitt was rather simple: Swan co-owner Anthony Marlowe merged his portion of ownership into a deal with BK Racing. That team will now expand to three cars, with Whitt running full-time (for now) alongside fellow rookies Alex Bowman (No. 23) and Ryan Truex (No. 83). The move will also keep former Swan employees working full-time, rehired by BK as enough money was gathered up to keep the No. 26 up and running. Whitt, who has a best run of 18th this season (Fontana) will remain competing with his crew essentially intact.
“I respect Brandon Davis and everything he has done for the Swan Racing Company,” said Marlowe in the release. “Looking forward, my mission is to ensure Cole Whitt races in every NASCAR Sprint Cup event this season. My friend Ron Devine and the BK Ownership group really stepped up to enable me to keep the No. 26 on the track. Cole and Randy [Cox, crew chief] are off to an auspicious start in 2014 for a new Cup Team and we are gearing up for Richmond. In addition to the No. 26 team’s performance so far this year, the new ‘win and you’re in’ system and qualifying rules were motivating and positive factors in my continued investment in NASCAR.”
As for Swan’s No. 30, the equipment has been sold to Johnathan Cohen and his Xxxtreme Motorsports operation. That team, which has yet to make a race this season with J.J. Yeley will now run that No. 30 with their own Chevys before switching to the new Swan equipment (plus their old number, 44) beginning at Talladega. It’s an opportunity for them to gain speed and perhaps run a full race. Xxxtreme, with patchwork funding has yet to run more than 66 laps in any Cup event, start-and-parking in every race it’s made since making a go at NASCAR’s top level in mid-2012.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity in our organization,” Cohen tweeted after the purchase. “But today, made a big step in the right direction.”
Co-owner Brandon Davis, who had been MIA before Tuesday’s public announcement praised both Marlowe and Cohen in helping keep the equipment, former employees, and one of his two drivers afloat while Swan searches for funding to keep racing.
“Anthony and Jonathan are both young and ambitious NASCAR enthusiasts,” he said in a statement, later reiterating those points on SIRIUS XM Radio. “It is important to keep them in the sport for the long term. I am very relieved to know that the Nos. 26 and 30 teams will be in good hands and will continue to compete the remainder of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Most importantly, most of the team members have the opportunity to continue their employment in the sport and to support their families. This was critically important to me.”
So what happens to Swan’s other rookie, Parker Kligerman? Davis has retained Kligerman’s contract, and while the team has officially suspended operations he’s actively searching for funding to get the No. 30 back on track. Should it happen, it’ll be a one-car program with Kligerman at the wheel despite an ugly start that left the first-year driver 38th in series points.
“We are encouraged by the response we have received from interested parties,” Davis said of Kligerman. “Parker continues to be one of the most talented young drivers in NASCAR. He brought this racing team one of its strongest results in his first race with us [18th at Texas], and we are certain of his success in the future.”
The driver, in his response left the door open to run for other programs. Swan, which has partnered with celebrities like the NFL’s Bill Romanowski and rapper 50 Cent may be able to parlay those connections into funding that gets Kligerman into another car in the meantime.
“Although it’s unfortunate we are having to scale back, I look forward to the future and the exciting things that I’m confident we will accomplish at Swan Racing or with another team,” said Kligerman. “I value the relationship that I’ve had with Brandon Davis and am very grateful for him giving me an opportunity to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Whether I continue to race with Brandon and Swan Racing or end up with another team, I will always give it my all on and off track to be the best I can be.”
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Daniel Suarez to Make Nationwide Debut for Joe Gibbs Racing at Richmond
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday April 22, 2014
Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Tuesday morning that NASCAR Toyota Series and K&N Pro Series East driver Daniel Suarez will make his Nationwide Series debut in Friday night’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway. Sponsorship will be provided by Silent Circle, a global service that allows for the sending of encrypted communications and Telcel, a Mexican telecommunications company.
Suarez is thrilled to have the opportunity to race for Joe Gibbs Racing at Richmond.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to make my NASCAR Nationwide Series debut,” Suarez said in a press release. “I want to thank Telcel and Silent Circle for believing in me and making this a reality. I can’t wait for Friday night in Richmond.”
JGR President J.D. Gibbs is very excited to have an up and coming talent such as Suarez in the fold.
“Daniel is certainly someone that has proven to have a lot of talent and we are thrilled this was able to come together and allow him to make his debut at Richmond,” Gibbs said. “I think it’s exciting when you look at the young talent our sport has right now and we certainly feel that Daniel is going to be part of the future for NASCAR.”
For Suarez, the 2014 season has been very successful so far. He started tke K&N Pro Series East season with two wins in three days in New Smyrna Beach, FL and Daytona Beach, FL (as part of the UNOH Battle at the Beach). Despite a crash at Bristol, Suarez still ranks second in points behind Ben Rhodes. In the Toyota Series, Suarez came from behind to win the season opening Toyota 120 at Phoenix International Raceway in front of all the Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams. Another win in Chiapas and a second-place finish at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez’s oval gives him a nine point lead over Antonio Perez.
This will be a very busy weekend for Suarez. With the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown moving to South Boston Speedway this year, the K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100 will be held immediately after the conclusion of the Nationwide Series ToyotaCare 250. In addition, the Toyota Series will have their fourth race of the season at the Autodromo de Monterrey in Suarez’s hometown on Sunday.
Gene Haas' Formula One License Application Accepted By FIA
posted by Phil Allaway
Friday April 11, 2014
This morning, the FIA announced that the license application submitted by Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas had officially been accepted. As a result, provided that everything comes together financially and technically, Haas’ new Formula One team will have a spot on the grid at the start of the 2015 season.
Upon receiving the news this morning, Haas released the following statement.
“Obviously, we’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula One license by the FIA,” Haas wrote. “It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One.”
“Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid. I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our license application come to fruition.”
Haas’ team would be the 12th team on the Formula One grid for the 2015 season if all the current teams return. Much like the failed USF1 team that Peter Windsor was involved with, the team would partially be based in North Carolina with an additional European base.
Stewart-Haas Racing is setting up a press conference for Monday to further discuss the move. We’ll have more information here at Frontstretch as soon as it becomes available.
Speeds Approach 220 MPH At Michigan Test
posted by Phil Allaway
Thursday April 10, 2014
On Wednesday, Goodyear held the second and final day of their tire test at Michigan International Speedway. The overall goal of the test was so teams could come up with a solution that would encourage better racing on the two-mile, D-shaped oval, while at the same time allowing for a compound that would not blister.
Much of the headlines from the test seemed to stem from high speeds reported. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tweeted a computer readout that stated he reached 215.2 mph. Clint Bowyer went a little bit faster at 217 mph, which Bowyer later described as “whites-in-your-eyes fast.” Greg Biffle told ESPN’s Shannon Spake on NASCAR Now that he reached 220 mph and a 204 mph average.
Despite the high speeds, the drivers who tested Tuesday and Wednesday believe that there will be better racing this year in the Irish Hills. Michigan winters are a bit harsher than in most locales on the Sprint Cup calendar. As a result, there is more weathering from year to year.
Earnhardt Jr. appeared to be quite happy with the track.
“I enjoy racing here,” the two-time Michigan winner said. “It’s a fun track. The asphalt is really aging well and it’s just going to keep getting better and better over the next couple of years.”
As is the norm for Goodyear tire tests, no official speeds were announced. However, Earnhardt Jr. stated in the Media Center that while he was going anywhere from 212-215 mph at the end of the frontstretch, he was only dropping down to 180 or so in the turns.
Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman echoed Earnhardt Jr.’s sentiment when asked about the track surface. They expect the track to support multiple grooves for racing when the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series return in June.
As for track management, they definitely appear to like the high speeds. Michigan International Speedway President Roger Curtis spent part of Wednesday retweeting top speed posts. However, Curtis understands that going fast is not the only thing that matters.
“The drivers are posting 200 mph. That’s awesome,” Curtis said. “The fans get very, very excited about that. But at the end of the day, on Sunday when the green flag drops, the numbers ‘two zero zero’ they’re not anywhere in the fans’ minds. It’s lead changes, it’s the competition…”
Since the track was repaved prior to the 2012 season, the number of lead changes at Michigan International Speedway has been relatively flat with the years before the repave. However, the number of cautions are up as well, which can skew the lead change numbers a little. Complaints have come more from a rock hard tire compound, made by Goodyear for safety reasons which has made passing more difficult and actual “wear” (which leads to speed dropoff) hard to come by.
Sherwin-Williams To Sponsor No. 51 Cup Car At Darlington
posted by Phil Allaway
Thursday April 10, 2014
On Wednesday, HScott Motorsports announced that Sherwin-Williams will serve as the primary sponsor of Justin Allgaier’s No. 51 Chevrolet this weekend at Darlington Raceway. The No. 51 will primarily be advertising the automotive finishes division, in addition to the AWX Performance Plus Waterborne Refinish System the company makes.
Allgaier is very happy to have Sherwin-Williams onboard.
“I’m thrilled to have Sherwin-Williams on the car at Darlington,” Allgaier said in the press release. “They are a big supporter of HScott Motorsports and NASCAR. I can’t wait drive the No. 51 with the Sherwin-Williams colors on it at one of my favorite tracks.”
Sherwin-Williams has a fairly extensive history in NASCAR. They currently serve as the “Official Automotive Paint of NASCAR.” Prior to that, the company served as a primary sponsor for a number of cars in what is now the Nationwide Series.
As for Allgaier, Saturday will more than likely be his first career Sprint Cup start at the historic oval. However, in five Nationwide Series starts, Allgaier already has two top-5 and three top-10 finishes. His average result is an excellent 9.8.
Bass Pro Shops Primary Sponsor For Austin Dillon In Two Cup Races
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday April 9, 2014
Announced Tuesday in a ceremony and car unveiling at their Concord, NC location, Bass Pro Shops and Richard Childress Racing made it official that the national outdoor sports retail giant will be the primary sponsor of Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet SS for two races during the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season at Talladega (May 4th) and Daytona (July 5th).
Bass Pro Shops has been associated with Dillon’s career dating back to 2010, when they sponsored his No. 3 Chevy Silverado in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and also followed Dillon to the Nationwide Series as a sponsor for his No. 3 Chevy Camaro for RCR. The two won a pair of NASCAR championships together, and the retailer has also served as an associate sponsor for Dillon’s car in the NSCS this season.
During the announcement, Bass Pro Shops noted that the retailer has been involved in the sport of NASCAR since 1998, when they became an associate sponsor of RCR’s No. 3 Chevy Monte Carlo driven by legend Dale Earnhardt.
Now, the sponsor is back on the Cup level, paired with the No. 3 once again and hoping to elevate the program to Victory Lane. Already, Dillon has one pole to start the season at Daytona, where he posted a ninth-place finish, his best result to date during this rookie campaign. 21st at Texas last weekend, he’s currently 11th in the Sprint Cup championship standings.
For the Bojangles’ Southern 500 this weekend at Darlington, Dillon will have Dow Chemical on board as the primary sponsor for the No. 3 car.
Ruud To Sponsor Buescher, No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday April 9, 2014
RAB Racing announced that Ruud, heating and cooling brand, will be on board the No. 99 Toyota Camry as primary sponsor this weekend at Darlington for the VFW Sport Clips Help-A-Hero 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. The brand joins Rheem as a primary sponsor of the car during the 2014 Nationwide Series campaign. Ruud will also sponsor the No. 99 of James Buescher in several other races this season, according to a team statement.
Buescher, the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion, is driving full-time for RAB Racing and making the transition from the Truck Series to the NNS this year. The No. 99 team was recently penalized by NASCAR at Bristol for a P3 penalty (illegal weight added to the car improperly, which was lost during the race), which led to crew chief Chris Rice being fined $10,000 and placed on probation until December 31st. Car chief John Guerra was also placed on probation by the sanctioning body for the incident.
Sitting ninth in points thus far in 2014, Buescher’s best finish this season has been 12th at Phoenix. The 24-year-old, Plano, Texas native has one career win and 14 top-10 finishes in the NNS since his first start in 2008.
Five Sprint Cup Teams Test At MIS For Goodyear
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday April 9, 2014
After a long winter in Michigan, five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams visited Michigan International Speedway for a Goodyear Tire Test taking place both Tuesday and Wednesday this week. To prepare for the test, MIS reported having to use the track’s jet dryers to clear and melt snow and ice from the two-mile track.
Due to the snow melt, frost, and rain on Monday night, MIS had to delay the tire test for most of the day because of weepers around the track’s surface. The track crew worked throughout the afternoon to dry up the moisture so that testing could get safely underway. Finally, Greg Biffle took his No. 16 3M Ford Fusion to the asphalt at MIS around 4:00 PM ET as the first driver on track.
In addition to Biffle, Goodyear has scheduled drivers Clint Bowyer; Trevor Bayne; Ryan Newman; and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to take part in the tire test, which is open to fans from 9 AM to 5 PM today.
Michigan International Speedway is in for a busy summer in the Irish Hills as the track plays host to the Quicken Loans 400 on June 15th, then the Pure Michigan 400 on August 17th.
Logano's Four Tires Triumph Over Jeff Gordon's Two At Texas
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday April 8, 2014
Joey Logano would overcome Mother Nature and a green-white-checkered restart with four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon to win the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Logano, with his trip to Victory Lane Monday afternoon also became the seventh different Sprint Cup driver to win in 2014 in as many races.
Logano, who led a race-high 108 laps on the afternoon, appeared to be on his way to a dominating victory until two laps to go. That’s when Kurt Busch blew a left-rear tire on his No. 41 Chevrolet, spraying debris all over the track.
“When you got like 40-something laps after the last pit stop, you got a pretty sizable lead, really all you’re thinking is, ‘Where is the white flag? Where is the white flag?’” Logano said after the race. “Then, you go into turn one, you see the [No.] 41 up against the wall. You’re like, Please no caution, please no caution. Boom, it comes out. You got to be kidding me. You get so mad you can barely control yourself.”
This incident, the third for Busch on the day would set up a decisive yellow-flag pit stop before the final restart. Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 team then rolled the dice, jumping from sixth to first with only two tires while Logano and his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski would take four. Keselowski, who was second coming in would then get caught speeding while exiting pit road, eliminating him from contention. The Penske Racing driver, after leading 85 laps in his own right dropped to a disappointing 15th on the afternoon.
“That last caution was a shame,” Keselowski said, who lost a chance to become the series’ first two-time winner. “I was just trying to get a little too much on pit road, wanted to get us out front to be able to win the race and tried a little too hard.”
That left Logano dealing with Gordon and Brian Vickers directly in front on the restart. As the cars accelerated, he wasted no time dispatching Vickers for second and set his sights on the bumper of Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet. On the white-flag lap, Logano was able to take advantage of his four fresh tires to get underneath Gordon, clearing him by the exit of Turn 1.
“I mean, coming in sixth, you’re in that position that you can gamble,” said Gordon, who did earn a consolation prize — becoming the Sprint Cup points leader for the first time since the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 (see below). “You’re not going to win it with four tires, you’re not going to win it with none. I knew it was going to be hard to hold those guys off.”
After clearing Gordon, Logano was able to cruise to his fourth career Sprint Cup Series win, his second with Penske in a little over a season with the team. The driver’s confidence is high, stemming from crew chief Todd Gordon whom the 23-year-old was quick to praise after the race.
“He (Todd Gordon) made a last-minute decision to put fuel in it, gave me better balance for what I needed and the guys made the ‘money stop,’” Logano said of the ending. “I was the first guy out with four tires on.”
Behind Logano and Gordon in the top 5 were Kyle Busch in third, followed by Vickers fourth and rookie sensation Kyle Larson in fifth, the only rookie to run inside the top 20. Greg Biffle was sixth, Matt Kenseth seventh, while Clint Bowyer earned his second top-10 result in eighth. Paul Menard earned his fourth top 10 in five races, running ninth while pole sitter Tony Stewart rounded out the top 10.
Monday’s race started in bizarre fashion, under a rare, green-yellow flag condition for ten laps to ensure that the 1.5-mile quad-oval was dry and fit for racing. Jet dryers were still on the track during this period to help the process. Unfortunately, the air from the dryers managed to get inside the wheel wells and affect the hood and roof flaps of several cars. Keselowski’s Ford actually ended up with a damaged hood hinge, resulting in four pit stops during this period for repairs. Many additional cars came down pit road to fix the flaps as well. NASCAR allowed the cars affected to make their stops without penalty, provided that they not add fuel or change tires in the process.
Then, shortly after going green Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s day ended prematurely after just 14 laps when he misjudged his positioning and clipped the grass in Texas’ quad-oval. The miscue resulted in the car digging in, popping a wheelie and shooting the No. 88 Chevrolet straight into a SAFER-less wall, resulting in a fiery crash. Not only did that ruin Earnhardt’s day, but it also impacted the race of Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson. Johnson wound up with windshield damage and a bent left-front corner of his No. 48 Chevrolet. Losing multiple laps for repairs, Johnson ended up 25th on the day while Earnhardt Jr. was scored dead last (43rd).
“You can’t run through there they way they have these cars on the ground,” Earnhardt said of the incident. “Just a mistake on my part. I just didn’t know I was that close to the grass, and made a mistake.”
Kevin Harvick had another fast race car, one capable of going up and taking the lead away from teammate Stewart on Lap 25. However, Harvick’s run of bad luck continued after blowing an engine just a couple of laps later. Harvick ended up 42nd, sitting just 31 points inside the top 30 needed to make the Chase after his win at Phoenix.
A look at the Duck Commander 500 by the numbers. There were 18 lead changes among nine drivers, while seven cautions for 49 laps slowed the pace to 134.191 MPH.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series heads to legendary Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500. The Green flag is scheduled for 6:45 PM ET on Saturday night.
Keselowski - Busch Feud And Other Martinsville Sidebars To Follow
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Monday March 31, 2014
Keselowski, Busch Feud
Two former Penske Racing teammates didn’t play the part Sunday, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch starting a feud that almost kept the latter from Victory Lane. It all started during the competition caution, on Lap 43 when the two cars made contact on pit road. Keselowski claims Busch turned into him, breaking the front suspension on the Miller Lite Ford in an accident that also included Kasey Kahne.
“I started to check up and I just barely got in the back of him and Kurt (Busch) just accelerated and drove through us, absolutely drove through us,” Keselowski said inside the garage. “I tell you what, I’m about tired of his recklessness.”
So Keselowski went back on-track, found Busch’s No. 41 car and promptly slammed into its right side. Trying to flatten tires, it seemed the endeavor ultimately failed but still fired up Busch to the point he started ranting inside the car.
“Welp, guess we’re going to get in a fight afterwards,” Busch said. “I’m going to **** that dude’s ****ing face!”
After that, Busch got focused, starting a drive that would end with him in Victory Lane. Keselowski, meanwhile ran 38th and still remained frustrated after the race.
“Tell him come here. I’m right here,” he said when told Busch was OK with fighting. “He knows where I’m at. Leave Victory Lane and we’ll go.”
“He does awesome things for charity and he’s probably the most talented race car driver, but he’s also one of the dumbest, so put those three together.”
Busch’s response, initially was to downplay the incident. But when pressed in the media center, post-race he finally broke down a bit. Calling the contact by a damaged Keselowski a “punk-ass move,” Busch said he’d be enacting revenge at a time of his choosing.
At press time, Keselowski had calmed down a bit, claiming he wasn’t trying to wreck Busch on Twitter and that the rivalry would not continue into Texas. No penalties from NASCAR, by the way occurred during the race or are expected for either side.
Crafton Claims Rain-Delayed Kroger 250 Victory
Due to Saturday’s complete washout, the Camping World Truck Series held their second race of the season immediately after the Sprint Cup Series’ STP 500 wrapped up. With a 5:30 PM start time, some feared the race would be called early due to darkness. Ultimately, that was not a concern.
In a quick event, Matt Crafton took the lead from local favorite Timothy Peters on Lap 209. From there, Crafton held off the rest of the pack through two green-white-checkered restarts to claim his first career Martinsville grandfather clock.
In the scrum on the final restart, Darrell Wallace, Jr. rose up to second, while rookie Ben Kennedy was third. Johnny Sauter finished fourth while using the front end of his Toyota Tundra in a manner similar to a battering ram. Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-5 finishers.
For more on Sunday’s Camping World Truck Series race, please check out Kelly Crandall’s Tracking the Trucks race recap at Frontstretch.
Tires Fail To Adhere to Track
Goodyear tire engineers stated Sunday that it takes a track temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit in order for their tires to lay down a proper groove in the turns. On Sunday, the track temperature never reached that point during the race. As a result, tire wear was very high on Sunday. Rubber chunks would shear off, early during green-flag runs and gather just outside the racing groove.
Drivers would ask for new tires every 20 laps or so. If there was a caution, nearly the entire field would come in for fresh rubber. There were examples of
“The track conditions today were extremely challenging with the marbles,” said Kenseth, who recovered to run sixth while Stewart wasn’t so lucky (17th). “They just wouldn’t clean them up — I don’t know why. If you had warm tires and you got pushed up in there then you were going to lose 15 spots sometimes — it was that bad.”
If the story sounds familiar to readers, it should. Last Fall, track temperatures struggled to reach 80 degrees through much of the race. However, the tire issues that resulted were not quite as severe.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
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Doug Turnbull · Monday November 22, 2010
In case you haven’t heard, Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s team won the 2010 Sprint Cup championship on the strength of a second-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Sunday’s Ford 400 – his fifth straight. And while the ESPN crew and pillars of the media that cover NASCAR release stories lacing him with words like, “incredible,” “historic,” “unbelievable,” and “all-time great,” NASCAR’s ever-growing pool of dissatisfied fans just grew another notch disinterested. Is one side right? Are both points of view spiraling away from each other? With sponsors fleeing the sport, ratings bottoming out, and NASCAR spinning every positive event into a string of platitudes that makes stomaching them hard for even the greatest of optimists, one can’t help but have a few reservations about Johnson now winning a half-decade’s worth of championships under the Chase format.
But is this feeling the right one to have?
Drivers like Petty, Earnhardt, Yarborough, Waltrip, and Gordon all rang up astronomical numbers and championship hardware. However, Johnson’s efforts seem cheapened by the points reset that takes place after race 26 every year. That could be overlooked if Johnson were more relatable. Unlike Petty (The King of giving back to the fans), Yarborough and Earnhardt (who each personified blue collar, rags-to-riches rises to fame), NASCAR nation has had trouble grasping Johnson’s vanilla, corporate image. Despite the fact that Johnson grew up poor, didn’t buy his ride with Hendrick, and lost four championships before winning one, his domination has not jived well with many in both the media center and the grandstands. NASCAR’s numbers began to fall in 2006, the same year Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus began their string of success. Chisel Rick Hendrick’s face in with this duo, and you have the Mount Rushmore of the problem that NASCAR has become, the dynasty of driving interest in stock car racing… elsewhere.
Then again, Johnson’s drive for five is historic. No NFL team has won five Super Bowls and only select teams have only been able to match the feat in the MLB, NHL, and NBA. In racing, only F-1’s Michael Schumacher (five championships from 2000-2004) and NHRA’s John Force (ten championships between 1993 and 2002) have accomplished five in a row. Johnson is the only driver in NASCAR history to come close to five crowns, and is only two short of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt (seven each) to tie for the all-time lead in Cup championships. Shouldn’t we respect this achievement? Johnson could crash through the ceiling of most all-time records in the series. If he quit tomorrow to start modeling in beard galleries and fixing stop signs with Kobalt tools, he likely would go down statistically as one of the sport’s ten best… at least. But instead, we yawn and flip the TV to see how many interceptions Favre has thrown or if his wife swapped his iPhone for a 2002 Nokia without a camera. We just can’t grasp history when we see it.
Who’s to blame? Is NASCAR’s fan base taking out its frustration with Brian France and his leadership group’s poor decisionmaking in the last seven years on Johnson?
The answer, to me, is a little bit yes and a little bit no. Fans reacted poorly to some of Dale Earnhardt’s domination in the late ’80s and early ‘90s and also to Jeff Gordon’s surge from 1995-2001. So naturally, Johnson raking in five rings and doing it with ease in the previous four years is going to rub more than a few skeptics the wrong way. But combine the most dominant run in Sprint Cup history with rampant disapproval of the Chase, along with many other mitigating negative characteristics of the sport, and this perfect storm morphs into a hurricane that washes the allure and excitement off of Johnson and the No. 48 team’s accomplishments.
Like it or not, agree or disagree – that’s a shame.
Almost everyone outside of the Johnson camp, whether they admit it or not, has a bad taste in their mouth today. Despite one of the most exciting stretches of races in awhile, Johnson’s should-be inspiring fifth straight Sprint Cup crown actually mars what was an exciting 2010. After a season full of comeback stories (see: Richard Childress Racing, Jamie McMurray), verbal comebacks after races (see: “She wears the firesuit in the family,” Joey Logano; “He’s starting to piss me off,” Jeff Gordon; Kyle Busch’s tirade against Hamlin after wrecking in the All-Star race), and an airtight points race through most of the Chase, the 2010 season’s lasting memory will end up being just another Cup falling into Johnson’s hands.
Twenty years hence, when Johnson likely has retired and some other hot shoe is at the apex of their career, another points format is being criticized for the same problems the Chase has, and no one else has won five straight championships, we likely will sit back with our kids and grandkids and reminisce about the greatness of Johnson and his team. Little will be said about how much it rubbed us the wrong way after, say, 2007. Don’t we do that about Earnhardt and the No. 3 team now? Don’t we already do that about the Jeff Gordon-Ray Evernham dynamic duo that led the Rainbow Warriors to four championships in seven years? Unfortunately, those good feelings are going to come long after whatever solution is born that will resurrect this sport from the doldrums in which it sits – because they are not around to save NASCAR now.
Johnson, Knaus, and Hendrick deserve major props for what they have accomplished. Nonetheless, here’s to whoever rises to the occasion next season and gives the No. 48 team a run for its money.
Listen to Doug weekly on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury Speedshop racing show with host Captain Herb Emory each Saturday, from 12-1 p.m. (or whenever the Georgia Bulldogs are not playing) and daily as a traffic reporter on AM-750 and NOW 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB in Atlanta and on wsbradio.com. Doug also hosts podcasts on ChaseElliott.com and BillElliott.com and is co-track announcer at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, GA.
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Don’t forget Tony Schumacher has six straight Top Fuel Championships. 2004-2009
If my math serves me well, and I have several degrees of education, #48 would only have TWO Titles if the old scoring system were used insted of this really BAD “Chase,” or should we call it the “Jimmy’” NASCAR shoves off the dwindling attendance at the tracks to the “Poor Economy.” Has the “Poor Economy,” caused those at home to save electricity by not trning on their TV’s to watch the races for free. F-1 and Indy Cars traveled down the “Stupid” road and almost became extinct before they pulled their “Head’s out of their shorts,” and started listening to the fans. Dump the Chase!! Few like it, and most will not return as fans until they do. The teams are crying that they can’t get sponsers, of course not. Why should they put up all that money to help advertise Lowes and Kobalt Tools. Five in a row just sent another two dozen sponsers packing, count on it.
Doug, you and Randy are both just dead wrong! Rick “the felon” hendrick has bought and paid for every chanpionship he has.That man has NEVER done anything on the up and up in his life!! I and sure he and brian farce spend many a night together playing with each other and Randy. If jimmy drove for ANY other team, including another hendrick team he would be a start and parker now..The reason for the loss of interest in nascrap is that most people are smart enough to see a sham, it’s a pity that you and Randy can’t!
Doug, I can guarantee that I won’t be reminiscing fondly about the amazing streak of Jimmie Johnson 20 years from now.
This era is fraudulent, and beneath contempt. Granted it is not Jimmie Johnson’s fault that his championships come as the sport’s management has spit in the face of the very people that took it to such lofty heights, but that becomes his legacy by default.
Good article Doug! I stopped being a Jeff Gordon fan when he jumped ship on Bill Davis, but he was screwed out of several championships because of the miserable “Chase” format!Harvick had a big points lead in the regular season and Hamlin wins 8 races and isn’t the champion…the “Chase” just sucks! Not to say that Jimmie Johnson wouldn’t be extremely competitive in any format, but the “Chase” has certainly aided his cause!
We shouldn’t be hating on Jimmie. He’s just competing with the system put before him. Most fans just don’t like the Chase and what Brian France has done to this sport. The most needed change is obvious, revamp the driver’s point system. It’s 30+ years old and outdated, especially for the Chase era. Formula-1 provides the basic model.
Those are some pretty strong claims.
Do you have ANY evidence to back them up?
I would like to propose that everyone on this site make a New Years resolution to post on this site in 2011 with a bit less stridency and at least a modicum of intelligent thought. One can dream cant one??
Agree with don mei – this website has become a high school schoolyard, sometimes less mature than that. We really need to ignore the more obvious morons. Just ignore them. They know who they are (one IP-multiple post names).
Randy…are you really Brian France in disquise?
Just once I will make an exception to my policy of never talking to or responding to idiots. Pay attention Goldman, take notes if you have to…OK…ready? Lets see if you can grasp this concept…most of us unhappy with the direction that Nascar is going do so because we are serious fans and care about that direction. Its essentially analagous to caring about ones children.Not to try and correct them would be the real tragedy. Clear now? And please dont bother responding to this post, youll just look like a jackass…again.
One moron has singlehandedly turned the focus of attention towards himself. Let’s take the focus back to comments on the articles by not addressing or referring to said moron anymore. Tired of his (their) drivel……………
JJ is an illegitimate champ. In many people’s opinions, he not only hasn’t surpassed Cale Yarborough, he hasn’t even tied him. Cale was a season-long champ three years in a row. Jimmie is a contrived champion, forced down our throats by NASCAR, Chevy, and the networks. In the real world of having to actually race ALL SEASON for a championship, Jimmie would have 2. As it stands today, he is not a legitimate champion to many, many fans. And we’re tired of hearing how awesome he is, when – in reality – he isn’t. Its not the same system. Not the same points. Apples and oranges.
I think the majority of the fans are more upset about the Chase than they are with Jimmie. Insert another driver in as a 5 time 10 race champ and you will get the same response from disgruntled fans.
At least Jimmie winning 5 in a row will show everyone how this Chase is not working. Instead of enacting a Chase format, wouldn’t giving more points to the winner but less of a points distribution overall determine a real champion without the Chase? Food for thought
Personally I am SICK AND TIRED of the ENTIRE #48 Team and their arrogance. They are NOT anything special and how dare they compare themselves to Earnhardt !!! On their best day they couldn’t hold a you know what you know where !!! I am DONE with NASCAR. Brain-less is an embarrassment to his own family. Sober up and pay attention, Jerk – - – nevermind – - -you’ve done lost it now !!! It’s too late to come back now, too bad too !!!
Steve: Amen to that! Awarding additional points to the race winner is the only thing that has ever made sense to me. Since it is so very difficult to win a Cup race, additional points should be awarded!
NASCAR nation should congratulate the 48, but demand change from Brian France and his cronies. The vast majority of the fan base has rejected the Chase and wants it gone. I found France’s comments this weekend insulting. Another spoiled rich kid, maybe Bill Jr. didn’t hug him enough.
Do I think the points system needs to be revamped? Yes. I hate the Chase, as it mainly makes the first 2/3’s of the season irrelevant, and puts all of the focus on making the Chase for the second half of the regular season. It also only focuses on the Chase drivers. I did not watch the end of the race yesterday, and had to check 3 different race sites just to find out who actually won the race in Homestead. I do not buy the sentiment of whoever wins the most races should win the Championship. Nascar has never operated on that premise and there needs to be some room for just consistency. Some races just taking a bad car and getting a good finish shows a winning mentality, both for driver and team.
The year Matt Kenseth won in 2003, he had two wins to Ryan Newman’s 8 I believe. Even though Matt had the championship more or less sewn up I watched to see if my driver or team would win the race. The media would still focus on the drivers winning races, not just the accursed Chase.
As long as Johnson and Knaus are a tandem team, I will never think he is the best. If Hendrick wanted to show some cajones he would move Knaus to the 88 car and see if he can work magic with him. We would have answers on both.
There is nothing I have liked about this whole Chase since it was formulated in BF’s tiny mind…
I voted “no” he is not the best driver ever. However if the question were “is Chad Knaus the best crew chief ever”, that would be a big yes.
They are not always the fastest, or most powerful, or most consistent or win the most races, but they start right now today with a plan to save their best cars, best engines, best “tricks” for race one of the chase. they know it makes no difference what happens prior to that, they just need to finish each race and they can be in the top 12 in their sleep. Wins don’t matter, qualifying doesn’t matter, just snooze their way until race 27 and pull all the tricks out of the bag. the other 42 teams just have not taken that theory to heart yet. The other 42 are happy to take a chance on wrecking a car for a meaningless position gained or a meaningless win.
That’s all. No big secret.
Kind of makes most of the season irrelevant and boring doesn’t it?
Let’s see if I can say this simply enough that some of those posting on here can understand.
EVERY SINGLE DRIVER AND TEAM RACE UNDER THE SAME POINTS SYSTEM AND RULES. THEY HAVE ALL RACED UNDER THE CHASE FOR 7 YEARS. IT IS WHAT IT IS. JIMMIE, RICK, CHAD NOR THEIR FANS ASKED NASCAR TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM. AGAIN EVERY DRIVER AND TEAM HAVE THE SAME SYSTEM AND THE SAME RULES. They all have had the same opportunity to to adjust how they approach races and the Chase and learn how to win with what they are given.
JJ, Chad and the 48 are plain good. They would be multiple time Champs and most likely still be several time in a row champs no matter what points they raced under. They finished 5th in points rookie year and 2nd sophomore year under your blessed/never ever been anything in the world as good as that/Nascar went the h*ll when it went away points system. They most assuredly would have won many championships under that system had it stayed. Jimmie and Chad and their team out work everyone else in the sport. Even Mark Martin said that last year.
All that said if fans don’t like Jimmie and the 48 team’s reign… too bad, so sad. Let the other drivers & teams step it up and beat them.
Ok, one last thing. If Chad were Jr’s CC he’d probably have killed him already. I LIKE Jr and he’s a nice guy but he does not know how to tell his crew chief what the car is doing in detail and then let the crew chief and team adjust. I’ve listened to him.
Jimmie truly is that talented of a driver, a student of the sport, and a very very calm detailed perfectionist when describing what his car is doing. Chad is truly a talented crew chief in taking that input and checking against his notes and between he and Ron M deciding on adjustments.
It’s not the JJ haters that’s the problem here. Dynasties in sports have been around for ages. Look at the Yankees, Celtics, Lakers, Red Wings and the SEC in the NCAA. So, what’s the difference? Sports is driven by love/hate relationships. People tune into watching the teams they hate hoping to see them get their butts kicked. I know I tune into the Lakers and Notre Dame hoping to see them get a good azz whipping. But when it comes to Jimmie Johnson, I just yawn and fall asleep. There’s nothing to cheer for and he’s someone you really can’t hate. He’s just a boring, white bread, robotic, corporate licking driver with barely a personality.
In the “old” days, you had the likes of Earnhardt, Wallace, Waltrip and the rest, hating on each other, having hot tempered personalities—-guys who fought to the end on the track. Regardless of what fans say now, Earnhardt had a ton of haters, and those people came to the track and turned on the TV hoping to see him get punted off the track, hoping to see Waltrip take a swing at him. You don’t have that with today’s Nascar. The drivers who are winning now have the personality of a blade of grass.
Can you all imagine what would happen if the current hot heads in the sport were fighting for a Cup? Can you imagine Busch, Montoya, Hamlin, Harvick, Stewart all fighting for a Cup, NOT in the Chase format? Like I said, sports survive on love/hate relationships, and since there’s nothing to either love or hate about Jimmie, fans are just yawning and turning off the TV.
You know what would be interesting? Have the crew chiefs and teams prepare a car, without any decals. Then have a lottery to see which driver gets which car. After that, you decal the car, you practice and qualify with that car and then it’s impounded——no working on it until the race. I wonder how Jimmie would do with a car not prepared by Chad? Would he still be as dominate?
20+ yr fan who follows many racing blogs and articles but has never responded or participated – so give me your time to read what I have to say, please. This article was exceptional; however, it hit on one of my ‘sore’ points regarding JJ’s 5th championship.
1st for all of the Chase haters, I’ve withstood too many years of championships – spending countless $$$ to attend many races, all of which when the championship was determined far too early in the season. Old point system didn’t work because it was always too often non-competitive. Chase hasn’t always been optimal but better than the old system and this year proved it was ultimately the right decision by NASCAR. This is one area where if we had the ‘old’ format still in place, NASCAR would be seeing even worse track attendance and TV ratings. Tell me I’m wrong?!
2nd this entire season, and the Chase itself, was one of the MOST exciting in recent memory – perhaps because of the “boys have at it” directive, who knows? – but real fans should have nothing to complain about. Long-time fans remember when racing was not so corporate and family-oriented and there was truly anticipated excitement from the occasional ‘just racing bumps’ and post-race altercations from the competitors. Think this year’s Texas race – if you’re honest with yourself and watched the entire race – who could argue that race was everything anyone could want? Yes, I endured the Jeff Gordon era and, in retrospect, that was great compared to the JJ era. This was one of the best seasons in a very long time and I commend NASCAR and the competitors! There were many opportunities for fans to determine new favorites, who they could ‘despise’ and become ‘haters’ of – THAT’S NASCAR! The ‘old’ NASCAR many loved is BACK and needs to be embraced!!!
Lastly and why I’m compelled to respond on my ‘sore point’ : To the article’s point in commending HMS/JJ’s accomplishment in winning 5 Cups and comparing this to other very worthy, admirable sports teams, I ask WHY AND HOW can you seriously make this comparison? I definitely will descent and wonder why I’ve not read similar debates.
When the going got tough for HMS/Knaus/JJ, they got rid of their TEAM – the TEAM they worked with all season long and they were allowed to bring in a SUBSTITUTE TEAM as a ‘corporate-entity! In a sport where an “even playing field” is PARAMOUNT; where you have teams, templates, inspections, etc. – how can NASCAR allow this to happen? Also, with all of the other worthy sports teams you compare JJ’s team to, did they ever ‘sub’ or ‘replace’ their teams with two races or playoffs to go? The analogy I ask you to consider re JJ and other teams’ successes: Did any of these teams replace their entire team except i.e. the coach, QB, driver, etc.? Come on – you know the answer is “no” and I don’t need to spell out the analogy more – it’s TRULY not even comparable. NASCAR should not have allowed HMS/Knaus/JJ to replace their yearlong pit crew with Jeff Gordon’s in the championship chase – mid-race nonetheless. For that reason, I strongly dispute recognizing or heralding JJ’s 5th championship and any comparison with other sports teams’ successes and hope that is one of the FIRST changes NASCAR looks at in 2011. HMS/JJ plays a good NASCAR corporate game and because of their previous accomplishments and support have the confidence and leverage to play a successful game, however, Hamlin and Harvick deserve much more recognition and heralding given their TRUE TEAMS’ season accomplishments.
Look at the facts… The sport is around for 50 years with one points system and then drastically changes it. Then all of the sudden a guy wins 5 championships in a row. No one ever came close to that in the past. Johnson fans will, of course, claim it’s because he’s so great but how coincidental. IMO, Johnson is a great driver but the five in a row has more to do with the chase format than how great he is.
In 5 years this will all be a moot point when NA$CAR has to go bankrupt because there are no fans in the stands, nobody is watching at home, and no teams can afford to race because they can’t find any sponsors.The only way it can be turned around is by replacing NA$CAR’s leadership with some competent people who actually care about racing and the folks who buy the tickets and watch at home. Otherwise, it’ll be R.I.P. NA$CAR in about 5 years.
The chase is a hoke. Harvick has a 200+ points lead after 26 races. Johnson is a great driver, but the chase has cheapened the championship.