Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
A year and a half ago, Michael Waltrip was successfully wooing employees, a very eager foreign auto manufacturer, and several high profile sponsors to sign onto his new racing team. The pundits predicted that with the backing of both Toyota and cash-rich sponsorship, Michael Waltrip Racing was going to be a contender in Sprint Cup right away, maybe even winning a race or two.
Forty-six races later, Michael Waltrip’s three Cup teams are barely in the Top 35—and that is an improvement over last season. Two major sponsors, Burger King and Domino’s, have departed. Another, UPS, is very likely on its way out, leaving only the ever-loyal NAPA and Aaron’s, at least for now. Performance that is well below the expectations of big sponsors and a heavily invested automobile brand, combined with ethical incidents raising questions about his leadership, have led to the current bleak situation for Waltrip’s team. So as usual, the pundits were wrong.
Performance has been the obvious main problem at MWR. In 2007, Dale Jarrett missed 12 races, and could have missed as many as 18 without his champion’s provisional, a large reason why he was brought onto the team. Jarrett’s six provisionals were all used up after just nine races. And when he did make the field, he wasn’t frightening anyone. His highest finish was a 17th at Homestead, one of just three finishes inside the Top 25. In 2008, Jarrett limped into retirement with similarly unimpressive results in five races.
Waltrip himself has struggled far more mightily. With no provisional to fall back on, he made just 14 races in 2007. He did score four Top 15s, including 10th place finishes at Michigan and Charlotte, but most of the time the No. 55 finished in the 30s. The No. 55 team has also had to put Terry Labonte in the car for road courses and Indianapolis, to employ the past champion’s provisional rule once again. In 2008, Waltrip has made it into every race, but he has not finished higher than a 23rd at Bristol. At least on a per-race basis, the No. 55 car has gotten worse.
The NAPA Toyota has been running so beneath expectations that for the past year or so, Waltrip has had to endure the indignity of NAPA commercials that poke mean-spirited fun at his performance or lack thereof, something that I doubt Jeff Gordon or even Dale Jarrett would tolerate no matter how poorly they were running. That makes Waltrip a tremendously good sport, but it also suggests that he owes NAPA big time for their loyalty.
The team’s best performer has been the relatively unknown David Reutimann. He made 26 races last year, finishing 29th in the standings and guaranteeing six races for 2008. In 2008, Reutimann hasn’t finished higher than 18th. If Carl Edwards becomes available, that won’t be good enough to convince UPS to stay.
And rookie Michael McDowell isn’t likely to turn it around…in five races his highest finish is a 26th, at both Martinsville and Talladega.
It may appear as though MWR is showing improvement in 2008, but part of the reason for their making the races, at least, has been attrition of smaller, underfunded teams. Morgan-McClure closed its doors. Phoenix Racing is not on the entry list very often. Bill Davis shut down both the No. 36 and the short-lived program for the No. 27 car when it failed to qualify for Daytona. The Richmond race had only 47 entries, Talladega only 46, and Darlington will have just 45. It is easier for all to make the field. MWR may be competing more frequently, but they haven’t been performing much better.
With three wins already this year in ten races, Joe Gibbs Racing has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that Toyota isn’t the problem. It would be one thing if any of MWR’s cars were driving for single-car teams with small time occasional sponsorship and limited resources, but those conditions are hardly the case here. MWR has had the best of the best available to them.
As if the performance on the track wasn’t causing the team enough trouble, questionable ethical incidents have clouded this team from the very beginning.
Right off the bat at Daytona last year, the No. 55 team was busted for an illegal fuel additive, one of the gravest sins a team can commit. The timing couldn’t have been worse, with NASCAR having pronounced a new and tougher stance on cheating. The sport came down hard on the team, the crew chief and the owner, Waltrip’s wife Buffy. Waltrip accepted the penalty and expressed remorse about his daughter asking why he was cheating, but to this day has not figured out what happened, or at least has not revealed as such publicly. His crew chief David Hyder would eventually leave the team with no comment.
It would be ludicrous to suggest that MWR is unique in having been caught for rule violations. Hendrick Motorsports especially has a legendary history of pushing the envelope. But that this happened in the new team’s very first race, and that it was among the most egregious of rule violations, immediately shined an unflattering light on the team’s owner and damaged his likeable nice guy reputation.
While the fuel additive mystery was still being talked about—and while still sitting at minus 27 points after the 100-points Daytona penalty and no successful qualifying efforts since—Waltrip flipped his street car over late one evening on his way home. According to a witness, he walked the rest of the way home in his socks even though the witness told him that 911 had been called. He was charged with reckless driving and leaving the scene.
It was never proven that he was drinking, and I am not accusing him; but he certainly would have had plenty to lose from a DUI with sponsors that were already sticking their necks out plenty for him.
Add to this “Sway Bar Gate”. Earlier this year, Jack Roush publicly stated that a sway bar had been stolen from his garage, and that he suspected it was taken for “industrial espionage”. The guilty party turned out to be Michael Waltrip Racing, and Waltrip immediately went into public-relations mode, with a series of “I don’t know what happened” statements. He said that the sway bar ended up in their garage by mistake, a dubious claim given Roush’s assertion that the custom paint had been sandblasted off the sway bar when it was returned.
It’s difficult to understand how he could both not know what or how it happened and at the same time confidently assert that it was accidental.
Waltrip did not know how his own car’s fuel was tampered with, nor did he know how a rival team’s sway bar ended up in his garage for several months. If Waltrip is telling the truth about his lack of knowledge of both incidents, then he needs to hire an informant to keep an eye on his staff.
It’s not really an ethical issue, but I strongly suspect that Waltrip or someone in his organization has instructed his drivers to block race leaders when they are about to be lapped, to keep the car and sponsor on TV. At the Bristol night race last season, Waltrip ferociously raced Kasey Kahne for about a dozen laps, despite the fact that he was two laps down. At Atlanta earlier this year, Kyle Busch was cruising towards an easy win—which would become the first for MWR’s own manufacturer—when Jarrett, running 26th and two laps down, blocked him for several laps. At Martinsville, McDowell raced his darndest to hold up Jeff Burton and several others for the last few laps of the race, much to the normally mild-mannered Burton’s great annoyance. McDowell was also running 26th and it was far too late in the race to be concerned about getting a lap back.
Holding up the leader when there is nothing to gain from doing so is legal, but it isn’t very gentlemanly racing, and it isn’t going to win Michael and his team any friends on the racetrack. It also betrays the ultimate problem at Michael Waltrip Racing: that no matter how adept a driver is at sponsor-friendliness—and to his credit, Waltrip has made quite a career out of it—a team can only go so far on charm. Those incidents may have been well-intentioned efforts to thank the team’s sponsors, but they also reminded everyone that MWR’s cars aren’t on TV very often.
Then the Richmond incident with Casey Mears called his image into question again. Plenty of drivers have lost it on the track at some time, but pushing another car halfway down a straightaway is downright dangerous, no matter how warranted it may be. Not to mention that blaming it on a stuck throttle over the radio probably didn’t make his auto parts provider sponsor very happy.
Waltrip hasn’t really accepted responsibility for the actions that got his car parked. On “This Week In NASCAR” following Richmond, he conceded only that he “lost his cool” (although Chad Knaus was there to call it a “temper tantrum”), and even took Casey Mears and his spotter to task on the show, after he had more than made his point on the track.
Waltrip was fortunate to have another tiny little track skirmish that night take over the next day’s headlines. He was still his affable self on This Week, but not nearly as many people saw that as had seen the Richmond incident (highest Richmond ratings ever), and his nice guy image is taking some hits for it. His actions at Richmond were not those of a happy-go-lucky, easygoing fellow. Michael Waltrip isn’t a thug, but he isn’t a saint either. And the more his less personable, indignant side is revealed, the more trouble he may get into with NAPA.
It’s difficult to conceive that MWR will be able to continue to compete at this level and still maintain the support of their remaining sponsors and Toyota. Unless things improve drastically and quickly on the track, and there aren’t any more occurrences removing the shine from Michael’s halo, the team may very soon find itself in a situation similar to Petty Enterprises, desperately trying to stay afloat in the unforgiving business that is auto racing.
Not all is lost. Waltrip is still one of the more marketable drivers in the sport, even with his days of occasionally respectable finishes at DEI long gone. He has probably starred in more commercials than champions Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, and Bobby Labonte combined. NAPA left a team that was putting up decent if not remarkable numbers to join Waltrip not only at a third-tier Bill Davis team but also at his own venture. It didn’t seem like a bad business decision at the time, in fact it looked obvious. Now NAPA may be wondering what they were thinking, but it still could turn out well for them, if Waltrip can get things together.
The bright side for Waltrip is that there doesn’t seem to be much worse that could go wrong. His team hasn’t been and still isn’t challenging for strong finishes, his sponsors are bailing, and he is uncharacteristically losing his cool on the racetrack.
It will take a mammoth effort for his and his team’s fortunes to improve, but at least there is little direction to move in but up.
Thanks for reading Happy Hour…enjoy the newly blacktopped Lady in Black.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Wow, I’m a MWR fan and I know our situtation is bad. But to actually say those guys racing the leader hard is to get the sponsor on tv, that’s foolish. McDowell was ont he lead lap and Martinsville, and Kyle Busch nearly wrecked Dale on the last lap.
Also, the incident at Richmond was definitely Michael’s fault and he said he probably should have been parked. But the fact that Mears just drove him into the wall was outrageous at the same time.
WOW! I’m not a MWR fan, and after reading this I think the best thing he can do is sell the team ASAP! Maybe sombody with some money and some business experience can save it!!
Quote: “gentlemanly racing”????
Did you really say that?
Who are you to make a comment about “gentlemanly racing”?
Does that term cover the entire “field”, on every race day?
If so, then why single out Michael??
We could of course start with Dale Sr.! How would you describe his “revered” driving style?
And please remember, a driver is a driver, whether he is a winner or loser, just yet another driver!
Must be nice to sit behind a keyboard and think up sick descriptive terms and apply them randomly to whatever driver you want to showcase for the day!
Oh! And just who makes the call to a particular driver: “Hey driver! Move over and let the car behind you pass! Please give up your (precious) track position! I know, I know, it’s only money, position, and points”!
And!! In closing! That really sums up the racing in NA$CAR anyway!
Moving billboards! Nothing more! Nothing less!
I have to think the MWR drivers are driving for every point they can get at this point, since all three occupy the 30-35 range in the owners points, but in general the slower cars will move aside fairly quickly for the leaders, and the MWR cars should do the same.
Maybe MWR should see if they can get their engines from JGR, like Haas gets its engines from Hendrick – they just don’t seem to have the horses that the JGR cars do. That way they can concentrate more on handling. But you’d think that the millionaire investor MW landed last year must be getting a bit concerned at this point – he didn’t invest to see two major sponsors – BK/Dominos is one company – leave without a replacement in sight (though there are rumors about Office Depot coming on board an MWR car).
His team needs wins to make people forget about the potential ethics issues (winning cures everything).
It’s about time someone told the truth about MW.He gets a huge free pass by FOX/ SPEED because of his big mouth brother. Time for him to sell and find a new job, not on TV.
700 races and 4 wins. Duh
Sheesh you all but have MWR buried with the first shovel of dirt thrown on top of them. JGR is a established race team and they were expected to do well. MWR is still getting off the ground, last year was a disaster and the #55 has not done as well as they would like, DR has run great but had engine problems, UPS would do well to stay with him, McDowell is getting his feet wet, but has great talent. I respect writers who do not show a obvious dislike for a certain driver, so I have NO respect for you, your article about MWR was really below the belt, really a low class article, and if you are the offical columnist of Nascar, I feel sorry for Nascar and I am not even a big MWR fan, but your hate for him really shows, some of things said were a personal attack. If Nascar is to stay healthy, we all better hope that teams like MWR and Petty stay in business or it will just be a four team race and just watch the fans leave then.
Right on. The whole blocking the leaders for TV time is right on the money. I’ve been angry about this for almost 2 years now. Glad you pointed it out for showing why some of us have lost ALL respect for a guy who used to be fun to watch.
It’s amazing to me that any credible sponsor would wish to be associated with them.Their entire corporate
You know, I really think that MWR needs to get together with the people at JGR to find out what they’re doing and what parts they’re using. Mikey may also want to consider the possibility of needing to do what Richard Childress did long ago and step out of the car and be a full time team owner. There are plenty of talented drivers, both veterans and rookies who he can get to drive for him. He’d be better off spending his time running the team. Heck, if it works then maybe Kyle Petty might finally do the same as well. PE needs Kyle in the office more than in the 45 car.
I wonder if the addition of JGR has stretched TRD too thin for the other ‘yota teams. Last year sans JGR, most of the Toyotas showed at least a hint of promise at times (except the 44 and 84), whereas this year it has been basically the #83 out of the non-JGR teams and that’s it. Another indicator of that is Toyota putting 3 cars in the top 5 spots at Talladega qualifying (where it’s basically horsepower and that’s it), yet the #22 and #96 missed the show being beat (again, almost entirely by motor only) by among others, Sterling Marlin in the 09, Kyle Petty in the 45, and Jon Wood in the 21.
This just in; the blue flag means get the hell out of the way.
They should start enforcing that rule.
When you say “lie, cheat, & steal”!! Are you actually referring to Hendrick Motor-sports??
After all, year in, year out, Hendrick Motor sports has the blackest eye of all!
(maybe Jr. realizes unless you cheat you don’t win, thus moved over to the Hendrick camp!!)
In reading your article, the thing that became the clearest to me is that you sir have no idea about motorsports, what happens on and of the track, or business. It is imbecilic of you to have written an article that personally attacks someone who is trying his best to make a go of a business.
MWR is dead they just don’t know it yet.
I imagine DW is the reason MW is on every Fox/Speed show – Talk about over exposure!!
Very nice article, clear and concise. Sorry, all you Mikey lovers out there, but MW has reached as far as his talent level will take him. Reutimann is faster and is the real star of the team. MW is vastly over-rated, despite having big brother sing his praises. Give credit to Toyota, they realized that with MWR as their “name” team, they were nothing but a joke, and they took action ASAP to bring a team capable of winning into the fold. I’m not a Mikey hater but I will say that I’m sick of seeing him every time I change the channel. 30+ in the standings will not sell a lot of parts for NAPA.
MW’s 15 minutes of fame was up years ago. Sent the twerp and his big brother away to somewhere we don’t have to listen to them. Driver/owners need talent and/or integrity to stay in business. Michael has neither. Take his big mouth away and you have a big empty suit left. PLEASE leave.
I believe JGR has its own engine builder. MWR does not get engines from JGR, but from TRD. Every JGR driver thanks the engine buider by name after winning, have you noticed?
I think you could certainly take the old adage “so much has been made of someone who has done so little for so long” and definately apply it to Michael Waltrip…….
When Toyota signed with MW, I knew they were not serious about winning. My, were they fooled by his by his slick words. Then they redeemed themselves by getting serious and signing Gibbs. MW’s company is worth .10 on the dollar, all a bunch of hot air…
If Michael wants to save the team, I think he should step out of the car and get a hot driver, a real lead foot, another Kyle Busch. That way Mikey concentrates on running the operation and that is all. Others have tried the dual role of ownership and driving, and for the most part, failed. There is no shame in admitting he is not a top level driver. Please let him be a car owner and not a TV commentator.
All the sleezy Waltrips need to GO AWAY