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.
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) Winner
NOTE: Kahne scored his second career victory in his 76th start. His most recent victory came at Richmond last May, 29 races ago. Kahne moved to second in the series standings, 50 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Kahne, a 25-year-old driver from Enumclaw, Wash., has four top-five finishes in five starts at AMS, and he’s finished fourth, fourth and first in the past three races after opening the season with an 11th-place run in the Daytona 500. He scored a 1.928-second victory Monday over runner-up Mark Martin. Kahne led four times for 85 laps.
"Everything’s that’s gone on has been a plus for us. The Chargers they’ve built for us at Evernham Motorsports and the engines, everything is running really well. It took us a little time today. We fell back a little bit early. We were working on getting the car driving a little better, but the tires fell off real quick. It was very easy to spin your tires. With Mark Martin catching me toward the end, I was doing all I could to drive that car as hard as I could without spinning the rear tires and putting too much heat into them where he could get by me. I was worried about him. I felt Mark was going to be very tough to beat, and he was. We just ended up doing it, so it was just a great day for everybody.
"This weekend we ran second in the Busch race, qualified first in the Cup race and ended up winning it today. It was just a great group effort by the guys, and I’m proud to be driving for Ray right now, that’s for sure. He’s worked really hard to make his cars get into victory lane and up front in the points. So far we’ve been consistent enough and have enough momentum going for us that we’re there. It’s very early in the season, but if we keep doing some of the same things we’re doing we’re going to keep riding along and have a good time doing it."
DID YOU HAVE SOME IN RESERVE FOR MARK MARTIN? "I had the lead and I was trying to save my tires as much as I could. As Mark was reeling me in, I was doing all I could to go fast. When I cleared "˜em, I think Mark was doing all he could to get up to me and clear me at the same time. As far as me getting a little more, I was giving about all I had those last 30 laps there. I definitely was trying as hard as I could when Mark got there. I wasn’t about to let him pass me easily, that’s for sure. It was quite a battle. I’m very happy how it all turned out."
WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE TIRES? "I knew what our tires had been doing, and they looked good through the whole race. It was just real easy to get them hot. I was working real hard not to spin the tires. It was all about throttle control and how much you gave it and where you were in the corners. I felt pretty good about my tires. I knew it was the longest run that we were on, and I was just doing all I could to take care of them and go fast. Yeah, it was in the back of my mind that we could or anybody out there could have a little problem and have a green-white-checkered. I didn’t want that. I wanted it to keep going how it did."
TALK ABOUT THE OFFSEASON "Once the season was over, I remember leaving Homestead, leaving the trailer and telling Ray don’t call me for at least two weeks because I’m going on vacation and I’m not going to be thinking much about racing. I wasn’t happy. I was disappointed in the way I’d raced throughout the season. I was disappointed in the way myself and the team had worked together at times, and I wanted a break. During that break I thought a lot about racing and what I needed to do better. During the whole off season I got together with Kenny Francis and Mike Shiplette and just started working with the new team and setting our goals and looking at what I did wrong and some of the things that went on last year that were good maybe and some of the things that were bad and just think about that stuff. I thought a lot about the drivers that run well each weekend, too, and kind of watched what they do each weekend and learn from the best people out here. That’s people like Tony Stewart and Mark Martin. I feel like we were able to learn some things from them and put together a great race team. They’re doing a great job right now for sure."
COMMENT ON SOME OF THE GAINS MADE WITH THE CHARGER "Just getting the car more balanced, just getting it more stable. It’s not moving around as much on the racetrack getting into the corners. Today we were off early on. It was moving around too much. That’s where Kenny Francis and my team did an awesome job to figure out what we needed to do to make the car more balanced and not move around as much. It was terrible in traffic and hard to drive by myself there for a bit, and they just kept working on it and getting it better. They kept making the right changes. By 100 to go we were headed back to the front. The cars are better than they were last year, and just figuring out how to make them not move around as much has been the biggest thing."
YOU’VE BEATEN TONY STEWART AND MARK MARTIN FOR YOUR TWO CUP WINS. HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THAT FOR YOU? "Our tires looked good in the Busch race. We were wearing out the right rears, just wearing the Goodyear rubber off of them, which you do at this track because it’s so fast. The Cup car was similar. Tire wear looked good for us. I think we were running the right air pressure, the right camber. Some other teams were having trouble, but it worked for us. Beating Tony Stewart was huge. That was my first win, and it was awesome. Tony was excited for us. He would have much rather won, but he was excited for us winning and he got to run with us throughout the entire race. Today to beat Mark Martin, probably the one guy who is the cleanest, classiest race car driver out there every week… He’s also one of the fastest and hardest chargers, one of the hardest guys to beat every week. To beat those type of racecar in my two Nextel Cup wins is huge."
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU HAD TO CHANGE FROM LAST SEASON? "Today for example, we started on the pole and by lap 150 or so we were maybe ninth or 10th and struggling. The car was sliding around a lot and doing a lot of weird things down the straightaway. I didn’t get upset. I told the guys we were going to keep working hard and get a top 10. They kept doing great pit stops and we ended up passing cars again and going back to the front. I think maybe last year I would have been so upset starting on the pole and getting passed by eight or nine or 10 cars and knowing guys other guys behind me were faster, too, I would have worn my tires out quicker or spun out or maybe hit the wall in turn four. Little things like that, getting over aggressive. You can’t get over aggressive in a 500-mile race if you want to finish strong in the end."
ARE YOU AT THE POINT NOW WHERE YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE AND CONFIDENT WHEN YOU GET TO THE TRACK? "I think I’m getting closer to that. I’m definitely getting to the stage where I feel like we can run in the top 10. It’s so early in the season, yet we’ve had an 11th and three top fives. I feel like we’ve got a great race team, great people building the engines, great people building these race cars and it’s just up to us at the race track. I work as hard as I can giving information in practice and figure out how I want my car to handle on what part of the racetrack and where. That’s all we can do now. I feel like it’s definitely helping."
DO YOU LOOK BACK ON LAST SEASON AND THINK WHAT IF? "I think you can look back at last year and think if I had done that maybe we would have done this for sure. You can look at that. There were also some other things going on last year. I had my struggles and I had my things I needed to learn. There was some preparation that’s not nearly as good at this year. There were just some little things going on that weren’t nearly as good, and then there were some races that were perfect. We had the results. I can look back at that and I think the best thing is to look back at that and try to learn from what I did right and wrong and keep improving from that."
WHAT MADE YOU MAKE THE CALL TO TAKE OUT THE SPRING RUBBER? "At first I made the suggestion. They weren’t sure because it would take time. We would lose four or five spots on pit road. About 20 laps later I told them we needed to do it because I thought that was one of the things we needed to do to get better. It was the change we did Friday, and I knew exactly what it did Friday, how it changed the balance on the car. I think by focusing on practice days and trying to learn from that stuff I was able to make that call today. Last year I might not have been able to make that call. Today I felt strong enough about it that I said we needed to do it. A lot of times when a driver can be wrong at that point, too, but I got lucky today. I think I was right and for the team to take the time and trust me was also a great call by Kenny Francis."
WERE YOU IMPRESSED THE TEAM WENT WITH YOU ON THAT CALL? "They went with me, and they were behind me. Sometimes you ask to get a spring rubber out and they can’t get it out. It’s shoved in that spring so tight they can’t get it out. I said, "˜just make sure you get it. I don’t care how many spots we lose. We’ve got to get that thing out.’ They did it. Our rear tire changer (Kyle Turner) did a good job. We only lost three or four (actually two spots). That was cool they did it. That’s not what won the race. That’s what got the car closer to comfortable, and then the three changes that Kenny and Mike Shiplett made after that were what won the race."
RAY EVERNHAM (Car Owner, CEO Evernham Motorsports)
"I’m proud of all the guys in our new team structure and how Kasey and this team came together. He did make a good call on what he needed for the rest of the race. I think the track started out away from us a good bit. It came to us as the race went on. The pit crew had a great day. It’s great to see this team finally get what it deserves. They had a great day today, they did everything right and it was good to see them finally get to victory lane.
"Kenny and our engineering group worked really hard during the off weeks doing a lot of testing to find what the Charger wanted. It still has a fine line of adjustment. I think you saw that today. Some guys were really good, and they were a round of wedge away from not being so good. The way we’re running these cars now, 15 of 20 cars in a row, it’s just a matter of a little bit of air pressure or a round of wedge. Our guys have been working hard to make sure they make the right adjustments."
"Kasey is different this year. We talked about things I needed to fix in my organization for him to give him better equipment and give him what he needed. We also talked about things that he needed to do like finishing races if his car wasn’t so good rather than crashing. I think he worked on that. I think he worked hard on some of the things he needed to do on his own, and he has come out really, really focused this year. He’s worked on his communication, and he’s been a tremendous player to work with. Kenny can tell you he’s working hard to give the team the effort that they need. He comes to the meetings, he’s at the shop. He’s thinking about the car, so not only has he done the things we asked him to do, but he’s gone over and above and done some things we couldn’t imagine."
COMMENT ON THE CHARGER WINNING ON A MILE AND A HALF TRACK "It’s been kind of hard to get all the Charger teams on the same page, period. It’s important to us. Mike Accavitti, the new Dodge VP was here today, and I think it’s been 29 years since Dodge won here at Atlanta. It’s very encouraging. We had a decent run at California and Vegas. Kenny and his guys have worked extremely hard on getting these things right, and I’m hoping that it’ll keep our balance. We’ll see. We ran pretty decent here last year, and we just keep hoping and praying it’ll stay that way the rest of the year."
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP THE 10 CAR? "He finished 11th today didn’t he? That’s a brand new team. We’ve got a ways to go there, but for a team that’s only three weeks old"¦. They didn’t make Daytona. They had a car that was fast enough to make Daytona, but they had some human error. At California they ran decent. At Vegas they had a really good car and had some trouble in the pits and got caught speeding on pit road, but they started behind today and finished 11th. I’m proud of the way the teams are working together. We’ve got to work on getting the 19 and 10 a little bit stronger, but we know we’ve got good equipment and all we’ve got to do is continue to work together and share that information. I’ll breathe easier if they’re all in the top 35. Right now the 10 and 19 could still be in a little bit of trouble, so we’ve got to continue to run good. I think we bring top 15 equipment every week and that’s where we’ve got to get those two guys finishing."
COMMENT ON MAKING THE CHASE "We’ve got 3 teams, and we’ve got to work together to win as many races and gather as many points as we can. Our team is big enough and we have enough resources to keep everybody on an equal basis. We do the same thing week in and week out. We run as hard as we can. If we’ve got a 15th-place car we run 15th. If we’ve got a winning car, we need to win. What we don’t need to do is wreck a 15th place car trying to finish fifth with it. It’s all about performance. It’s pure performance. We really can’t worry about who’s in the Chase and who’s not in The Chase. We’ve just got to take it week by week and make sure we’ve got those Chargers as strong as we can get "˜em."
WHY AREN’T ALL THE DODGE TEAMS WORKING TOGETHER? "I don’t know why we can’t seem to agree. I really don’t. I can’t answer that, but in the end you’ve got your own responsibility in things that you believe in. We believe in going one way and some other teams believe in going another way. Right now, I don’t think we’re going to go to NASCAR. We’ve had to try to get the cars better ourselves and that’s what we’re doing. Right now it’s on us. We’ve got equipment. We’ve got resources and we’ve just got to keep making the cars and motors better on our own. The new VP of Dodge, Mike Accavitti was here. Maybe you guys can track him down and let him answer that question."
KENNY FRANCIS (Team Director No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
"We started out a little too loose. About halfway, Kasey wanted to take a spring rubber out of the right rear, and we had to give up track position to do that. He drove back up there pretty good after that. I think we were concerned the whole race. We really didn’t get any long runs in practice. Everyone was nervous about these tires. Our tires were looking really good, but after 10 laps you never know. It turned out we had a pretty balanced car. I think you’re always nervous if your setup is going to last on a long run, no matter what the race is. Today was no exception, but it seemed like after we worked on the car it got better on the long runs. It actually was better on the short runs than I expected, but it seemed to be pretty good on the long runs, too.
"I don’t talk to a whole lot of them (other Dodge crew chiefs). I talk to a couple of them a little bit. The ones I talk to are on the level we’re on. We’ve got a year under our belts with the Charger. We’re finally starting to get somewhat comfortable with it. We’re not totally comfortable with it. To try to validate aerodynamics, it’s not easy to say something is better than something else. That’s a very difficult task to figure out what’s better. We tried the ’04 car at Homestead and we felt it was about the same or worse than the 2005 car. Like Ray said, we’ve just got to do what’s right for us. In the end, we’ve just got to work on our equipment and make it better.
"We were still trying to make sure he wasn’t running the tires off of it (when Mark Martin challenged late for the lead). This place is so abrasive on tires. I was telling him the lap times and lap times of the guys behind him. I think he was using that to run just fast enough to stay ahead of them. I assume that’s what he was doing. That looked like what he was doing because he’d drop off a little bit and then pick it back up. I was keeping him informed about what everybody else was doing."
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 National Tire & Battery Dodge Charger) "" Finished 8th, 24th in points.
"That was a really good run. Our guys did some good pit stops today. We’ve been struggling with pit stops, but our guys stepped it up today. They’ve been working really, really hard and it paid off today. We’ve had four good race cars at four races and didn’t have anything to show for it. We had a good run today. Paul (crew chief Andrews) made some good calls early in the pits. We adjusted wrong one time. I told him to go wrong. It was my fault. He should have known better than listening to the driver. Once we got it fixed we got good again. We were off in the middle of the race, but we got good again at the end.
"I hate it for Bobby today. He was going to be real good. I followed him in practice yesterday and he came in and asked me how he looked. I said, "˜virtually perfect.’ Bobby gets around this place good. That’s the first time I’ve seen the top 10 in about 20 years, so that’s a good run for me.
"I wasn’t really concerned after Bobby had the engine problems. We have very, very few engine issues. That’s a rarity with Evernham engines. The guys that do our stuff are good. Any time something happens with the 9, 19, 43, 45 or 10, it’s a freak deal. We never even think about engine problems. I will say after I saw the 19 I was concerned, but they told me what was going on there, so it was OK.
COMMENT ON KASEY KAHNE’S VICTORY IN A CHARGER "That’s good. For all the Dodge Dealers out there, maybe this will put that dreaded Intrepid thing to rest. I tell you what, this used to be a Ford track. It matched the Ford engine and Ford horsepower and what the Ford was. If you look at qualifying and some of the other stuff, this might be a Dodge engine track now. It matches our torque curve, and it matches what we’re doing. The bodies compliments it. It doesn’t hinder us right there. All the Dodge teams have worked hard to get better, so maybe the Charger is the way we need to go.
"Maybe this needs to be the DaimlerChrysler 400 instead of the one at Vegas. Maybe they should swap Vegas and Atlanta."
COMMENT ON BRISTOL "Bristol is Bristol You’ve got what you’ve got when you unload and that’s what it is. You’ve just got to stay out of trouble and hope you bring it home in one piece. Schrader always says if you can get to the last 100 laps and you’ve still got the fenders on it you’re going to finish in the top 10, and that’s the way it is man. If you’ve got fenders on you’re going to finish in the top 10."
WHAT KIND OF RACE WAS IT FOR YOU TODAY? "Today was basically tire management. We never had a tire issue all day long. I know some other teams had issues, but the Goodyear Eagles for us were absolutely perfect. We never had any problems."
CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) "" Finished 21st, dropped to fifth in series standings.
"We just never got the car right today. We lost a lap early and then got the Lucky Dodge and struggled to stay on the lead lap the rest of the way. We ended up a lap down in 21st, and that’s about as good as we’d been all day. This was a new car, and we just never got it moving in the right direction today. We started strong this season, and we’re going to Bristol and try to survive and get a good finish there."
SCOTT RIGGS (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge Charger) "" Finished 11th, moved up six spots to 32nd in points
"We kept making changes, and I think the first couple of changes we made may have hurt the car. We went the other way on pressures and got the car pretty good. About the time we started moving to the front we came in and put a set of tires on. We didn’t make a change and all of a sudden it was way free. We put another set of tires on and drove up through there. We didn’t make any changes on the car, but the tires made a big change on the way it drove. I’m proud of Kasey and those guys. They were on the pole and then to win it was great for them. We’re slowly but surely getting there, and it’s great to have good teammates running good because you can learn from each other and be better next week."
REED SORENSON (No. 41 Target/Fujifilms Dodge Charger) Finished 10th, top rookie of race. 25th in points. Best career finish in 6 Cup starts.
"We weren’t as good here as we were at California and Vegas. We still finished 10th, so that made me feel pretty good. We had to go to the back a couple of times. We passed a lot of cars and felt pretty good about it. We had a couple of long runs and the caution came out and helped us because we felt like the tires were wearing out. They tell me we were running short on fuel at the end, but there was no way I was coming in. I don’t know if I really have a hometown track, but this is a tough place. It’s lost a lot of grip over the years. It rained and washed all the rubber off, so it was really tough today. Right now it’s not my favorite track. Bristol is my favorite track, but ask me again about midway through the year and I might change my mind."
BOBBY LABONTE (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge) "" Qualified 4th, led once for 13 laps, finished 43rd. 38th in points.
"We had a good run started there and then we fell back a little bit. I’m not sure if the motor was seizing up a little bit then or not. We ended our day pretty soon, but for the time we ran it was pretty decent and I want to thank everybody for that. It was one of them deals. That’s part of it, that’s racin’ so we’ll just go on to next weekend. It’s exciting for all the guys who work in the shop that have been there for so many years.
"We came out here today and ran really good, and that’s a good indication of things. We also have to make sure we do it week in and week out. We’re not going to get there overnight. It didn’t get the other way overnight, and it’s not going to get fixed overnight. It takes a lot of hard work by a lot of the guys. Fortunately we didn’t tear up this car when the motor blew, and that’s one good thing and we can take it to Texas.
"A lot of guys probably just took it a little easy at the beginning. I say that and almost nobody takes it easy any more. The car felt good and we were going all right. We got caught back there a little bit. It was pretty good from the beginning, and we just need to keep working on it. The guys are doing a great job and we’re having a tough go on the finishing part but we’re gaining on the running part. That’s a good thing.
"It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the process we’re going through right now. We’re trying to get consistent week in and week out. We’re going to have weeks that aren’t consistent. It hasn’t been a fun start to the season, but it’s been a promising start in some forms and fashions. We’ve just got to keep ourselves above water and know we’re gaining. That’s just the way it is."
©2000 - 2008 Kim DeHaven and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.