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.
Happy Hour : The "Official" Journalist Of NASCAR · Kurt Smith · Friday November 21, 2008
When a few of the Frontstretch gang get together for Mirror Driving on Monday nights, what happens in that room gets chopped and mangled and edited before its airing on Wednesday. Conversations are stitched together for coherence, off-topic rants are removed, and a sincere effort is made to ensure that at least most of the words are spelled correctly.
We don’t have much time to discuss the questions that are laid out for us, and no one knows what they are beforehand. So, when the question “what is the biggest news story of 2008” came up, plenty of things came to mind in the short time provided for answers. Easily, Jimmie Johnson’s third straight title was the winner, but there were other memorable moments, including: the mess at the Brickyard; the meteoric rise and fall of Kyle Busch; a winless season for Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth; and Johnny Benson and Clint Bowyer winning titles in the lesser series.
However, after our chat I got to thinking (always a dangerous thing). Memory is short, and we tend to forget things at an astonishing rate. Most of us couldn’t remember what we wore two days ago, unless we had set clothes for each day of the week. With that in mind, there are some memorable moments in the 2008 season that we’ll have most certainly forgotten by 2013.
So, as a public service to you — the intelligent, savvy, and born of high taste Frontstretch readers — I’ve picked out some of the better stories of 2008 while we all still remember them. Save this column somewhere, and if you are bored with the racing in 2013 (and who can imagine what things will look like then?), you can pull it up and reminisce.
In fact, maybe I’ll do this every year.
OK. Without further doo-doo, here are some of my favorite not-so-obvious highlights of the 2008 NASCAR season, in no particular order:
Michael McDowell Flips Over His New Ride While Qualifying
Usually, the wrecks we remember the most happen during the biggest races. Daytona 500s in particular seem to produce some of the most colossal episodes, in no small part due to that confounded restrictor plate. But rookie Michael McDowell wasn’t in a race, nor did he have a restrictor plate on his car at Texas. Instead, during what was supposed to be a harmless qualifying session, he lost control and smashed head-on into the wall with an impact that was promptly followed by multiple flips. At one point, McDowell was airborne long enough to radio in for a landing.
Michael Waltrip, his car owner, had to be near soiling his pants watching this unfold. I can’t imagine what an owner who loses a driver goes through, and Mikey has already had more than his share of ownership headaches. Even his brother, at the time in the booth for SPEED, had trouble watching it all. But McDowell walked away from the incident, immediately provoking praise for the new car in the booth.
However, I always was puzzled at how people could praise the safety features of a car that lost control and hit the wall that easily. As Jeff Dunham’s Walter might say: “Helllllooooooo!”
Closed Doors On Open Wheelers
Heck, you’ve probably forgotten about these guys already, haven’t you?
Following the relatively successful first season in NASCAR for Juan Pablo Montoya, including a win at Sears Point, several open wheel stars saw an opportunity to drive in the most popular series in America and maybe make some decent coin. It was like Sir Robbin at the Bridge of Death… “that’s easy!”
Combine this with a dearth of developing talent in the Nationwide Series thanks to the abundance of Cup drivers competing there every week, and you have the surprising NASCAR rookie class for the beginning of 2008: Jacques Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, and Sam Hornish, Jr. all made the jump from Indy Cars to fenders. It had to be a stressful time for the hard line proud rednecks, who as it is are still getting over the rise to prominence of that polished kid from Indiana.
But by the end of 2008, only Hornish remains in Cup racing, with few noteworthy finishes to his credit. Villeneuve’s ride was nixed by Bill Davis immediately after failing to qualify for Daytona, Franchitti lost his ride when Ganassi had to close up a shop and chose the 40 (ignoring the star power of Ashley Judd) and Gillett-Evernham replaced Carpentier in October after a season’s worth of disappointing performances. Most evident from them all was a clear inability to navigate short tracks, where it was a struggle to simply keep their car in one piece.
In fairness to these fellows, it was a big adjustment, and none of them were in the top notch equipment supplied to the likes of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. Still, it seems like the open wheel invasion was extremely short-lived — unless Scott Speed has something to say about it.
This racing with fenders stuff ain’t as easy as it looks, is it, boys?
Jeepers, Creepers, Where’d Ya Get Those Weepers?
Auto Club Speedway in Fontana has been the object of vilification from many NASCAR fans and commentators. Some of it is justified, while some isn’t always fair. In February of 2008, though, the girl didn’t make much of a case for herself.
As we know, the second and third races of the season are in Fontana and Vegas, respectively, resulting in a major logistical migraine for North Carolina-based racing teams. So, NASCAR was already under the gun with a late start time at ACS; then, there was a rain delay, followed by an ugly crash involving Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Casey Mears that ended the evening for both drivers. But things would get worse; the cause of the crash turned out to be a “weeper,” one of many wet spots caused by cracks in the track. Failed attempts to fix the “weeper” problem, combined with more rain, finally prompted NASCAR to run the race the next day. The fans in the grandstands must have been thrilled to hear that after sitting in the rain for 10 hours while the sanctioning body tried in vain to get the race restarted.
So, thanks to a late start time, track cracks, and a baffling schedule, NASCAR had to pre-empt a race because people who had to work on Monday couldn’t watch… and ran it on Monday afternoon, when people who had to work on Monday couldn’t watch.
Someday, I swear, someone will get to the bottom of why Auto Club Speedway hosts two NASCAR races every year.
Si Senor, Gracias For Your Pesos
This summer, NASCAR mercifully chose to end the yearly Mexico City experiment for 2009 after four races of rapidly plummeting attendance. In response, relieved drivers, crews, and truckers finally were able to put away their industrial-size Kaopectate.
The last event in Mexico City was marked by mediocrity largely attributable to the venue itself. Busted walls needed a red flag to repair, yellow flag periods were frequent and unacceptably long, and ESPN even lost the broadcast feed for several minutes. By the way, Kyle Busch won that event, in case you were no longer awake at the finish.
But as we know, mediocrity never stops NASCAR. It took meager attendance, dropping to nearly half that of the first race, for the sport to finally declare Mexico City no longer worth the trouble for the Nationwide Series teams.
So, was going south of the border a mistake then? Not if you consider the exposure gained by racing there, resulting in the formation of the NASCAR Corona Series in Mexico!
Finally, a decent beer sponsoring something in NASCAR. If only Sam Adams would sponsor the No. 9…
Lepage LeWrecks The Talladega Field
Whatever your opinion of restrictor plates, they certainly make things exciting at Talladega. Apparently, the sight of the big pack sailing by in the Aaron’s 312 was so exciting for Kevin LePage as he was coming out of the pits that he couldn’t wait to join the fun and jumped right in.
Sixteen destroyed race cars later, LePage was interviewed and asked what in the world he was thinking. He originally showed no contrition, suggesting that NASCAR had said in the driver’s meeting to merge in Turn 1. Seconds later, commentator Allen Bestwick demonstrated better knowledge of the rules than LePage, pointing out that it is actually Turn “2,” a subtle but important distinction. LePage later apologized for causing the incident, and promised to have a right side mirror put on his Nationwide car. For the record, he finished 35th that day.
That’s plate racin’.
NASCAR Implements “No Complaining” Rule
OK, maybe we will remember this one. But it’s too great to take that risk!
Shortly after a diatribe from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. following 500 miles of maneuvering the Snow Plow of Today at Pocono Raceway, NASCAR called the drivers together and asked them nicely to please stop complaining about having to drive this mandated nightmare.
At this point, the “you need us more than we need you” speech probably didn’t wash, since it was the sport’s most valuable star vocalizing his displeasure. But NASCAR did attempt to get across that drivers’ complaining about the car had an impact on fans and was hurting attendance.
Being good company men, most of them complied, and with drivers’ criticisms of the SPoT no longer influencing opinion, over time the world of NASCAR fans gained a newfound appreciation — dare I say love — for NASCAR’s mandated automotive creation. You can just see it in the lack of sheer numbers in the grandstands…
Tony Stewart Sounds The Alarm After Atlanta
Any Tony Stewart rant could probably be found on YouTube, but his diatribe after the first Atlanta race, galling as it may have been for NASCAR and Goodyear, turned out to be prophetic. If it was not obvious that the tire had not been worked out for the SPoT, Tony (and several other drivers in agreement) tried to make that clear.
NASCAR let Stewart’s rant ride without penalty, well aware that their heavy-handed reputation for enforcing vanilla in drivers was costing them fans. But Tony’s desire to call serious attention to the tire situation wasn’t quite successful enough, as we would soon see at Indianapolis.
I promised Tom (Frontstretch’s Managing Editor) I would try to be less negative in the future, but there isn’t any excuse for what happened at the Brickyard. In seven years of research, one of the most important parts of the car was not researched thoroughly enough, or even sufficiently when looking at the results. Because Stewart’s Atlanta rant was not given its due weight, NASCAR spent all day at the Brickyard stopping the race out of safety concerns…with a car that is touted for its attention to safety.
And so there it is, gang — the best stories that you won’t remember from 2008. There were some other ones that space prohibits me from discussing: Carl Edwards going after Kevin Harvick in the garage and the subsequent photo-gate; the slowing of the Toyota engines; Joey Logano winning in just his third Nationwide start. But I think I covered the ones we’ll want to remember.
Onward to 2009, with seemingly no place for NASCAR to go but up.
Kurt’s Shorts – Obrigado
Thanks to Tom Bowles, who took me on as a writer here at the Frontstretch despite probably all of his better instincts screaming at him to pass on this guy. Not to mention his praise for what I sometimes thought was work of dubious quality, and especially for his permission to submit articles that potentially could have hurt him professionally. I will remember that in 2013.
Thanks to the rest of the gang at the Frontstretch, particularly Danny Peters for his linking my articles to his on occasion, Ren Jonsin for unfailingly ensuring that I was able to submit articles on time, Amy Henderson and Toni Montgomery for running the show for Mirror Driving — no easy task with us riding off on several tangents constantly (I always marvel that the finished product of Mirror turns out as clean as it does), and all of the editors who publish my articles virtually untouched — as well as the ones who touch them some and spare me embarrassment. Oh, and thanks to Bryan Davis Keith for the can of pork brains with milk gravy that I proudly display on my desk. It is probably the only can with contents of its kind in the entire state of New Jersey.
See you all next year, God and our troops willing.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Hey Kurt, very nice writing, as usual.
And your “However, I always was puzzled at how people could praise the safety features of a car that lost control and hit the wall that easily. As Jeff Dunham’s Walter might say: “Helllllooooooo!”
is probably the ABSOLUTE BEST summation of the Car of Sorrow ever writtn (myself excepted as I said the same thing after it happened), NA$CAR had to make the car safer, cause it sure doesn’t handle very well!
And while your congratulating the Staff at “THE FRONTSTRETCH”, let me do likewise.
THANKS TO ALL OF THE FRONTSTRETCH WRITERS for an absolutely outstanding job each and every day!
It is with great anticipation that every morning when the computer warms up, just what I might find for the days topics!
A BIG THANKS PEOPLE!
(too bad it is NA$CAR you have to write about)
You bet your bippy, I remember the “shut up & drive meeting. That’s when NA$CAR, yet again, slapped their fans in the face. Suggesting that the fans were too dumb, too uninformed, or both. To notice that the racing sucked. Provided that the drivers, & owners didn’t tell us. Come on Brian, Mike, & Jim, either give us a product that’s worth the price. Even if the price, is only 4-5 hours in front of the TV. Either that, or you’ll have to face the fact that the economy isn’t your only problem.
I hope na$car pulls their head out of the sand and realizes that they have real problems. While you can point to the economy having some impact on the attendance at races, I’d like to hear their spin on the major drop in tv ratings. When you combine the caroftrash, bland race tracks, bland drivers who are so disconnected to their fans, lousy tv coverage, etc, you have a recipe for disaster. It’s real simple. Listen to the fans and give them a good product and they will come. All na$car has done is dig in their heels and shout, “this is my toy and you can’t play with it.” Wake up na$car before it’s too late. This is coming from a long time fan who has teken to watching football while occasionly switching channels to check on na$car, then switching back. Thanks for listening.
Wow, I got a mention, I feel honored!
In my opinion, it wasnt the car’s fault Michael McDowell lost control. It was the speedy-dry left on the track combined with his lack of general experience on the race track in a Cup car.
Among the open-wheelers, you forgot AJ Almendinger, but I dont think he has a ride for ’09 yet.
About CA rain in February, did you complain this much last year when Dover, Michigan, etc were postponed to the next day due to rain, last year? I’ve already forgotten. CA Speedway has two dates for the same reason NASCAR has a Chase and the CoT was brought about: Brian France. CA didnt ask for a second date like Las Vegas did, and it certainly didnt ask for the Labor Day date, but it was thrust upon us anyway.
Lepage is a back-marker, and might pass for an idiot on a good day. His spotter ranks around the level of a catfish.
I would rather the drivers go to NASCAR in private and discuss their concerns, but we all know the squeaky wheel gets the grease. NASCAR wasnt going to do anything unless the drivers spoke up in public to the media about their dislike for the car.
Tony was right, of course. NASCAR stupidly decided to make the car heavier, to try to slow them down some more, and even more stupidly, they made the teams put the extra weight on the right side. That put extreme loads on the right front and right rear tires. Goodyear brought the same tires as last year for the new car, and all hell broke loose.
Have a good off-season, and here’s to 2009 being better than 2008!
hahahah that Brave Sir Robin quote was SPOT ON.
Kurt, you’ve done it again! Another good article, especially for people like me with short-term memory loss. How great to remember because of your words!
I have to comment on the California track – it will never leave my memory! I was at the very first race there, sat close to Turn 1, and loved the rumble of the engines, the shaking grandstands (no, it wasn’t an earthquake), the rush off of pit road, and the excitement of the crowd. Fantastic! And of course, I wanted a repeat, so like a dummy, I went to another race there a few years later. How sad… Lots of empty seats (oh yeah, I forgot – the fans were under the grandstands shopping), the cars were just going around & around in one long line, Mikey was bringing up the rear on 7 cylinders, it was hot (hello sunburned knees – now I know why they said “don’t wear shorts”), and the whole thing was boring as heck. They needed to give the second race to Vegas.
As for Tony, he was never my favorite, but I sure do respect that he spoke up when it was needed. Same for Jr. The fans are outspoken, some of the drivers are outspoken, so how do we get Brian’s ear?! If he favors Southern California, then let him stay there – just turn over the reins to someone who cares!
Special thanks to you, Kurt, for all your articles, and to the staff who makes this site possible. We love all!
Now, for the off-season, you really have to keep writing – I can’t add to my NASCAR withdrawals by not finding your words of wisdom on the net. There are plenty of stories to cover about NASCAR, the drivers, the owners, the crews – even without a race. Like, how about tackling the Nationwide problem? You know, the one we’re facing this next year when testing is not allowed. It doesn’t just screw up the COT in Nationwide, it also means that ALL the Cup guys will want to enter the Nationwide races in order to prepare for the Cup races the following day. Bet NASCAR didn’t look that far forward, did they? Since I love stockcar racing, I want the Cup guys banned from the Nationwide races. Bet the ratings wouldn’t suffer a bit! (When you’re at the bottom, you can’t fall any further.)
Waiting for your next article, Kurt – don’t let us down!
“Open Wheelers”…you mean like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kane, Robby Gordon, etc.
indy car is one thing, that f-1 crap is another. goodbye and good riddance