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.
Kurt Smith · Friday October 24, 2008
In the wake of a seemingly inevitable third straight title for Jimmie Johnson and crew, John Close at CloseFinishes.com recently compared Johnson to the only other driver in the history of the sport to achieve that feat, the mighty Cale Yarborough. It’s a natural comparison to make, but Close was the first I saw to make it. So I decided to be second.
Close hands the “better” title to Yarborough…“hands down”…based on comparing certain statistics—total wins, Top 5s, Top 10s, laps led, poles won. In that regard, Yarborough’s numbers are better.
But to say that Yarborough scored better finishes and led more laps than Johnson did in their dominant three-year periods, while not an invalid argument, is not entirely a big-picture one. Yarborough raced in an era where multi-car teams did not dominate the NASCAR landscape as they do today. NASCAR was also less popular, paid smaller purses and did not attract the level of competition that it does today.
I’m probably gonna get blasted for that one. Fine, fire away. I probably deserve it.
You often hear talk about the dilution of quality pitching whenever expansion teams are added in baseball. Roger Maris and Mark McGwire both set single-season home run records in expansion years. But as a sport grows the talent level catches up, and the chances of a single athlete dominating become smaller. Baseball will not have a slugger who hits more home runs than most teams as Babe Ruth often did. And no NASCAR driver racing today is likely to reach 200 wins, for a variety of reasons, but partly because of the improved level of competition.
In Yarborough’s championship seasons of 1976-78, NASCAR averaged 7.3 race winners per year. In 2006-08, NASCAR has averaged 13.7 winners per year, and that’s with the possibility of Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth or even David Ragan notching a W before the season is out, which would push that number slightly higher.
Cale Yarborough won 29 races in a three-year period, which is remarkable by any standard. But of the remaining 61 races, David Pearson won 16, Darrell Waltrip won 13, Benny Parsons nine, Richard Petty eight, Bobby Allison five. That’s 80 out of 90 races, or 88.9%, won by just six drivers. Cale Yarborough had tough opponents. But so does Jimmie Johnson. And Johnson has more of them.
Johnson has won 21 races since 2006. His closest competitor there is Kyle Busch with 10. In wins at least, Johnson has more than doubled the total of his closest competitor, which Yarborough didn’t quite do. The other top five drivers in wins besides Johnson have been Busch (10), Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart (nine each), and Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne (eight each). The top six drivers account for 65 wins in 104 races, or 62.5%.
When looking at Top 5s, similar stats can be seen. Of 450 Top 5s in 1976-78, 373—more than 80%—were scored by just nine drivers. More than half of the Top 5s then were scored by just five drivers—Yarborough, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Benny Parsons and David Pearson. In 2006-08, of 520 Top 5s (so far), it took 14 drivers to score 80% (416).
In 1976, six drivers scored 15 or more Top 5s. In 2006, only Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, and Tony Stewart reached 15. In 1977, five drivers had more than 16 Top 5s, and three of them had more than 20. In 2007, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson had more than 20 Top 5s. No one else scored more than 13. In 1978, just five drivers scored more than 14 Top 5s, and only Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip scored more than 15. In 2008, with four races remaining, there are five drivers with at least 11 Top 5s and three more with 10.
And so it similarly goes with Top 10s. You can look it up.
My initial hypothesis was that the sport has many more potential winners and competitive cars on the track every week today than it did in the 1970s. That is true, although the difference isn’t as pronounced as I had initially thought.
In Yarborough’s defense, that there were fewer competitive teams also meant that there were fewer competitive rides available to a driver. For Cale to have gotten into one of those rides, he most certainly had to prove himself as a driver, which he did by plugging away for nearly a dozen teams before eventually Junior Johnson bought out Richard Howard and turned it into a championship team.
It was a little easier for Jimmie Johnson to get into a strong ride. His first Cup ride is his current one. During his Busch career, one that didn’t turn many heads (he finished 10th in the standings and won just one race), he asked one Jeff Gordon for advice. Gordon told Johnson not to accept any deals before speaking with him, and recommended him to Rick Hendrick. Johnson moved into Cup racing with one of the best teams in the business…and as it turned out, one of the best crew chiefs. The rest is well-known history.
But however many women both drivers had to sleep with to get to the top, they both performed splendidly once they were in cars that were among the best available at the time. While it was much harder for Yarborough to get there, no one can argue that Johnson has failed to prove himself worthy of first class equipment. When you teammate is Jeff Gordon and you outperform him fairly often, you’re doing just fine.
Yarborough does have a trump card. When he won three straight titles, he needed to outperform all the other drivers for the entire season, not just outperform 11 for 10 races. Jimmie won by both measures in 2006 and is on track to do so this season, but there is no argument that he would not have been champion in 2007 under the rules Yarborough followed.
It’s a fair argument. But it’s not as though Jimmie didn’t have a title-worthy season in 2007: 10 wins, 20 Top 5s and 24 Top 10s. That is a phenomenal season any way it is dissected. Whatever I may think of the Chase, and I’m on record in about a dozen articles disparaging it, it is Johnson who hoisted the 2007 Cup. Still, if Cale wants to make that case, I won’t argue with him.
But one could also argue that the pressure is greater with a Chase. (I’m not saying I support it. I’m just talking about the pressure here.) What I say here is speculation and not fact, so dispute it if you like: Tony Stewart’s 2005 title notwithstanding, the Chase may give the advantage to a driver who is patient, controls his emotions, and doesn’t incur a costly DNF or lose positions making mistakes. That is Jimmie Johnson in every respect. The Chase may reward luck more than the proper points system did, but what the 48 team has done in the last three Chases has not just been luck. They’ve accepted the rules, no matter how misguided they may be, and learned how to flip on the switch when it matters.
Temperament-wise, the two drivers could not be more different. Yarborough was fire, Johnson is ice. But Yarborough could be patient when needed…as he was until the last lap of the 1979 500. And Johnson can turn on the desire, like in his determination to pass Matt Kenseth for the win at Texas last season, when a second place finish would have been easier, less risky and most likely acceptable. Both qualities can serve a driver well on the track. Compare Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth, another two nearly equally successful drivers with completely opposite temperaments. Or look at how well Carl Edwards, a driver who could almost be classified as bipolar, performs on race day.
In the end, both Johnson and Yarborough stood head and shoulders above the rest of the NASCAR competition for three straight seasons. A case could be made for either driver’s three-year run being a greater accomplishment. A similar case could be made that neither driver would have been as successful in the other’s era, although both probably would have been.
But since I took the ball and pitched this evaluation, I can’t just vote “present”.
I’m going to give the edge to Jimmie Johnson. Johnson dominated and still dominates in an era where domination is more difficult. If you list any of the multiple race winners in a season in Yarborough’s day, many of them won Cups of their own, some multiple times: Petty, Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Pearson, and Parsons. Dave Marcis, Neil Bonnett, and Donnie Allison were the only others to win multiple races in any of those three seasons. The last three seasons have seen multiple season wins from Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kasey Kahne. None of them have won a Cup. For any driver to rule the series for three straight seasons is much more difficult to conceive today, when the talent is more plentiful and the cars are more spec.
No one’s denying Yarborough, but should Johnson win his third straight, it will be a greater achievement.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Nice writing, good back & forth stuff!
But really, JJ is not in the same league as Yarborough, not by a long shot!
Just ask yourself the “mostest” basic question:??
WHO WOULD YOU RATHER WATCH DRIVE A RACE CAR?
And: “The Camping World Truck Series eh? Not bad; fits in with the NASCAR devotees that spend whole weekends at racetracks. Not gonna be the same without Craftsman though…”
Of course I hope Camping World sells tents, as that dwindling fan base can no longer afford motels!
HEY! Wait a minute! Just wait a durn minute here!
Quote: “The Camping World Truck Series eh?”
Isn’t this contrary to what our beloved Brian is trying to accomplish in attracting & codling to, the “wine & cheese” crowd?
We are at both ends of the spectrum here, but maybe Brian is feeling the pinch and will accept whatever donations become available!
Quote: ““I have been watching Jarit for a while. Despite being the brother of a Sprint Cup star, he has been working hard to make it in this tough game on his own merit,” said team owner Armando Fitz”!
Never mind he has a brother that is LOADED with cash & sponsors!
Good article. How come no one mentions that each of Jimmie’s championships (assuming he wins this year) have been run using different cars? *2006 – old car *2007 – old car/COT *2008 – COT
Everybody says Jimmie Johnson would have won in 2006 with the old points system. I disagree.
Most people say that Johnson beat Kenseth by one point in the old points system that year, BUT there was a five-point bonus for winning added in 2004. If you’re talking about the “old points system” technically I think you have to use the 2003 points system WITHOUT the 5-point bonus. Johnson won one more race than Kenseth that year, so under the old points system, Kenseth would win by four points, and this would be the first year Johnson had scored the most points under the old points system.
Of course the teams would have adjusted their strategies competing for a 36-race championship.
Way off base, Kurt. Cale raced when men were men and cars were cars. Now the men are robots, and the cars, are well, just what are they? I think Douglas will sound in on this one. The Woods Brothers, among others, built cars for Cale based on their ability and not their pocketbooks.I still don’t think Jimmy would make a decent patch on the seat of Cales britches. Cale drove sideways and half turned over, which kind of resembles the “car of now”, but he did it with two wheels in the air and his foot on the gas. And he never, ever was content to ride in the pack and make points. Checkers or wreckers, that was the standard. And he had to race all season long to win.
On Bill Elliott’s Most Popular Driver: Yes he won many but unlike Dale Jr’s since, where you’d see a sea of red at the track to go along with the honor, Elliott’s were more of an indication of the organization of his fan club than his popularity. Elliott had a MPD machine behind him that was unmatched. And this was before the advent of the modern Internet and the ease of online voting. His fan club was rabidly competitive in pursuit of that award, so much so that even when Dale Sr died they refused to back off, prompting Elliott to remove himself from contention from that and future competitions so that Earnhardt could be memorialized.
Granted, he was a very popular driver, but when he was winning over drivers that the t-shirts in the stands and memorabilia sales were clearly showing as more popular, it made a mockery of the Most Popular Driver award.
“Way off base, Kurt. Cale raced when men were men and cars were cars.”
Nothing more be said about today’s totally “vanilla” drivers, err, sorry Tony, your not included in the vanilla thing! or you Kyle Busch!
And Kurt, FYI! One of your fellow writers thinks the most exciting thing JJ has done in his racing career is to “toilet paper” a competitors motor-home, and a close second was falling off a golf-cart!