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.
As is all in a week’s work for the Official Columnist of NASCAR, I watched, I listened, and I read what people had to say about the Daytona 380. Here, then, is what is left and needs to be said…or probably more correctly, what was said that needs to be repeated. There’s a lot here, gang, but please bear with me…I think it’s all worthwhile. Get yourself some coffee, print this, and take it to the can while the boss isn’t watching…it’s Friday.
Congratulations To The Killer Bees
Is it not fitting that a driver that is considered one of the more vanilla and less glamorous stars of the sport won the Daytona 500 in the least dramatic fashion?
It’s only right that Matt Kenseth’s win be acknowledged first here. One of the ongoing injustices of the motorsports world is the attention and coverage Kenseth receives compared to that of his 2000 rookie rival, especially since he prevailed in the Rookie of the Year battle, and has won a Winston Cup as well as having an equal amount of Daytona 500 wins now.
There was discussion in Mirror Driving this week about whether Kenseth is a Hall of Famer. While the general consensus was that he needs more wins, Kenseth has my vote, Daytona 500 win or not. He may have 25-30 wins by the time he retires, he’s a champion, and he’s finished in the top 10 in all but three of his nine seasons in Cup. Most of all, Kenseth was the inspiration for a ludicrous playoff. That alone makes him worthy of induction.
And not a bad debut for new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. But with a name like Blickensderfer (German for “guy who guides long suffering warrior to epic rain-shortened triumph”), you know he’s a good crew chief. Blix already has more wins than Chip Bolin, and a current winning percentage of infinity. You literally can’t beat that.
The Hole In Our Sunday Afternoons
NASCAR currently runs five races per year in the Western Time zone, two in the Mountain, and six in the Central. The remaining 23 races are in the Eastern Time zone. So 29 races—four-fifths of the schedule—are held in the Eastern or Central zones. Presumably, that would suggest that the percentage of NASCAR fans residing in Eastern and Central zones would be at least somewhere in the arena of 80%, or 60 million fans, if you believe the questionable claim of 75 million that NASCAR routinely bandies about. Call me practical, but 60 million fans seems justification for making the East Coast the priority.
A 3:40 green flag drop is about the worst start time possible. Late on a Sunday afternoon, most people’s moods are deflating as they anticipate the start of another workweek. It’s a drag having to get ready for bed shortly after watching a race’s conclusion—although NASCAR helped us out with that last Sunday by removing any possibility of adrenaline.
Does NASCAR want the Daytona 500 to be a day or night race? Right now, it is neither. If the desire is for the race to end at night, then hold the race on Saturday night, for Pete’s sake.
That is three paragraphs on start times without a single mention of the reduced chances of working in a full event during foul weather when starting at 3:40 PM. It’s not that that would have happened at Daytona, from what people tell me it might still have been called. But they certainly could have improved the likelihood of an actual finish. Most fans like Matt Kenseth, but they would also prefer to see a 500 winner earn it by outdueling another hungry driver, or two, or five. Several drivers, who had the juice to make this a classic battle for the ages, had their metaphorical legs cut off. Mark Martin was denied. Jeff Gordon was denied. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., deservedly or not, was denied.
This was a terrible time for NASCAR’s biggest race to lack a payoff, and most of the blame can be placed on the start time. That’s hindsight of course, but now NASCAR has no excuse. The Great American Rainout of 2009 is as good as any reason to learn for 2010 and start the race at 1:00 or 1:30 as it should. God willing, I’ll be here to remind them.
Restrictor Plates 10, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 1
When an accident happens on the highway or on the street, the driver behind usually is blamed, partly because they control how far behind they are, but also because they have a better view of everything. It’s no different in a race. Brian Vickers blocking Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was a reaction to what he saw in his mirror; he had only a spotter to alert him where Junior was and a split second to throw a block. Little E, on the other hand, could see everything in front of him. What Junior did could have been more easily prevented. As Kyle Busch pointed out, Junior could have lifted just a hair and got back on the track.
However, I say respectfully to anyone trashing Dale Earnhardt, Jr. this week: yes, he got back on the track recklessly; yes, he triggered a Big One with a split second of poor judgment; and yes, he could have been more standup about taking responsibility. While I’m at it, he should have taken the number 28 like I suggested. But he does not deserve to be held responsible for an 11-car wreck any more than Carl Edwards did at Talladega.
At best, Junior was responsible for one car’s skid. Mandated horsepower-sapping put a careening No. 83 car into the path of nearly an entire field of racecars. It isn’t any one driver’s fault that we run four completely insane so-called races a year where each car runs at the same maximum possible speed. What is amazing is that there aren’t more big wrecks.
Remarkably, no driver that was interviewed during the race, to my knowledge, pointed out that such is life in the restrictor plate jungle.
A plate race is only as good as its most error-prone driver that day—at Daytona it happened to be Dale Earnhardt, Jr. After Talladega it will be someone else, and that driver will have vicious abuse heaped on him for at least a week for not racing 500 miles without a single trifling miscue. Don’t take it out on Junior or Edwards, people.
Saturday: “You in The 38, You Sit for Five Laps.”
It’s not easy to make split-second judgment calls in the moment on gray area aggressive driving penalties. We get that. But when a relative nobody gets penalized five laps and the sport’s biggest star gets penalized nothing for moves that were virtually identical, and these two incidents take place just 24 hours apart—well, let’s say at the very least it smells just a little bit, like low-magnitude flatulence after a bowl of peanuts. I am not accusing NASCAR of favoritism but I will say this: if NASCAR officials pondered Junior Nation’s reaction to an aggressive driving penalty for longer than it takes to say “WWE”, then they need reprogramming.
This is, of course, nowhere near the first time that NASCAR has been accused of leniency towards a popular driver, or even an unpopular one, but this incident will probably linger for a while in the minds of fans, like the aforementioned peanuts. It’s hard to think of other examples of selective rule enforcement that were almost obvious as this one was. Getting away with passing the pace car in Michigan wasn’t this bad.
The operative word in the Leffler-Earnhardt Controversy is “aggressive”. Aggressive does not mean intentional. Without getting into a driver’s head you can’t know for certain what’s intended, so that isn’t for NASCAR to decide. One could make the case that neither Leffler nor Earnhardt intended to wreck the driver that they clipped at Daytona this past week.
There has to be some officiating in NASCAR events…they can’t just let guys wreck other guys for the entertainment value of seeing steam come out of their ears or to sell a sponsor’s auto parts…but sometimes, as in both of these cases, perhaps NASCAR should just let the drivers police themselves. Or find an alternative to the plate…see above.
Junior’s Loss of Grace – and Subsequent Loss of Support in the Press
One thing emerging in the fallout from Daytona is this: rarely have so many legitimate NASCAR pundits (for whatever that is worth—trust me, this job isn’t very difficult) been asserting that Junior’s achievements on the track are far eclipsed by his popularity, especially in recent campaigns. For years Junior has gotten a bit of a pass on this, because he truly has been a great ambassador for the sport and because he handled a sudden and glaring spotlight as well as it could have been handled.
So such inflamed pontification had been mostly relegated to website comment sections in the past, but now it has infiltrated the works of media members themselves. Headlines like “Another Race, Another Excuse For Junior”, “For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Results Fall Farther Behind Reputation”, and “Spoiled Brat Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Ruins A Great Race” all appeared Monday on websites nearly as prestigious as the Frontstretch.
It’s doubtful many of the No. 88 critics out there could do a better job in a racecar. All drivers make mistakes on the track. The Big One has been triggered by the very best in this sport. But Junior’s interview afterward was mind-boggling…and, I might add, very out of character for him. It’s as if he’s had racer’s assertiveness training. He has rarely sounded more defensive and contemptuous of another driver before, and judging from comments in racing articles this week, it’s cost him supporters.
Junior has a tough road ahead. Another incident like this and the sentiment may grow to a point where he becomes branded as a phony or golden boy or worse. He’s already racing for a team whose drivers are unfairly labeled as such. And NASCAR certainly doesn’t need that. It’s been hard enough on the ratings that he hasn’t been contending for titles, in spite of NASCAR’s efforts to make that happen with an expanded Chase.
Of course, this is all just my opinion. As we all know, everybody’s got one.
And that’s all for Daytona. For better or worse, it is history now.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Great analysis! Just one little tidbit. Chip Bolin DID win a race with Matt…as a substitute crew chief in the 2007 Auto Club 500.
Jeremy, there’s always a better expert than me out there. Thanks for the info, and my apologies to Chip, who in fact did a more than credible job as crew chief for the No. 17 last season.
A fitting tribute to the current state of NA$CRAP:
TV RATINGS FOR DAYTONA 500 DOWN 10%!
And to carry the following forward a bit, your: “It’s not easy to make split-second judgment calls in the moment on gray area aggressive driving penalties.”
Unfortunately their also appears to be a lack of “gray matter” on International Speedway Blvd.!
Kurt, no matter how you spin it (and not that you were) or how anyone else spins it, Earnhardt got a free pass last weekend. And his fans will all say he did nothing wrong and didn’t deserve any punishment. And, had they slapped his wrist, his fans would have said the same thing… he did nothing wrong and didn’t deserve any punishment. That’s the way fans are, all of them, regardless of the driver they pull for.
One would think that the majority should or would prevail. But, because NA$CAR is more concerned with the all mighty dollar…well, that then becomes the majority. Don’t look for NA$CAR or the TV networks to move any start times to accommodate the fans, whether they are the majority or not. They will move a start time (or in the case of the Daytona 380) the end time when it becomes more profitable for them, and only them!
Remember this: NA$CAR and what it stands for now a days:
Nascar’s management is obviously on par with the leadership of many of the other major industries. Wonder if they bonus themselves too?
Their manipulation of the start times to cater to the west coast is very inconsiderate to the rest of the fans that live furhter east. Result, lower ratings.
Kenseth did not exactly win the Daytona 500, he lucked into it. Dale Jr was guilty as hell in starting the big one and NA$CAR was equally guilty in not punishing him. All in all, it was a race and a day that needs to be forgotten asap.
I keep waiting for NA$CAR to come out with a penalty for Junior’s front tire changer that shoved the NA$CAR official out of the way, when he was standing there trying to help them by pointing out that Junior’s tire was over the white line. How many times would a pit crew member get away with shoving a NA$CAR official without some kind of a penalty? Hardly anybody has even mentioned this, and it was quite obvious on the TV coverage of the incident!
Where have you been for the last five years? Jr has been the media’s whipping boy since the end of 2004. And where have the fans gone? We’re still here and will be until he retires. Don’t hold your breath waiting for fans to flee. We know a good thing when we see it.
I have one thought here on the difference between Dale Jr. and Leffler when it comes to punishment. It is called the history of the athlete. How many times have we seen this in other sports. Another words one person gets away with something because he has a better reputation and record than the other one. Dale Jr. is not a dirty driver. He has rarely been accused of such. Look at Leffler’s record in stock cars. He causes wrecks all the time. It is a fact. Carl Edwards was not punished last year at Talledega and he should not have been. He, like Jr. has a record of being a good driver. Leffler has the record of being a “tool”. It is just that simple.
Regarding Kurt’s Shorts, its too big to quote, but thank you for your honesty about CA Speedway. I feel the same way. The racing is no better or worse than the racing at most other speedways, yet it is the scapegoat for NASCAR’s decision to take the Labor Day date away from Darlington.
Kurt seems to always miss the obvious, Jr had a clear view in front of him, so did Vickers when he took is own team mate along with JR, again Vickers was awarded his only win and no penalty for reckless driving. Lets look at Kyle at Richmond, when he took JR out, no the Waltrip mafia said it was just racing, when Kyle was trying like heck to punt Tony into the wall the night before, was that dirty racing, naw that was Kyle. This is what happens when the race turns into who can lay the best blocks, probably everyone that has raced restrictor races before in any number greater than 6 has made a boneheaded move “according the the great insightful arm chair racers, who have the power to delve into their psyche”! It was a stupid “but legal” move on Vickers part and JR trying to get back up into the groove he misjudged his position and Vickers went spinning out. If you watch any plate race you see this all the time, most time it just collects one or two sometime half the field. Unless Kurt put has a magic cap that allows him to see other people thoughts saying it was even close to on purpose is pure unsupported conjecture. It isn’t like JR when accross the track and hunted Vickers down, like Mikey did pushing Casey Mears down the track full throttle with the rear wheels of Mears car off the ground. Any of the top 20 drivers have done stuff that makes you wonder “what were they thinking”, Think back to Matt running into the stack of tires on the entrance to pit road and getting stuck. So you have all the armchair “greats” stating what should have been done after they have pondered on it for hours where drivers (JR included) have milli-seconds to react!! So for the Cali race I am picking all the great “arm-chair” racers to take it all!!!
Hey Ginger! Your “We know a good thing when we see it.”
Me thinks NOT if it is Jr. your seeing!
An overrated, a never has been, and a never will be!
He is proving his talents, or lack thereof, every weekend!
So much for dissing Theresa and going to Hendrick!
That boy can sure ruin a good thing!
Ever heard that one about being the “turd in the punch bowl”?
RJ, regarding the Vickers 2006 incident, funny you should mention that, since just last week I mentioned that he had too much lead in his foot. I didn’t absolve him but nor did I say such errors are never to be expected. Judging from your comment, you seem to agree.
Kurt, no when these guys are running 6” away from each other and a milli-sec to decide on a move that might mean a pass or a win or not so I put JR and Vickers in the same boat but in opposite roles depending on which race you pick. In the case of Kyle trying to jack Tony up the night before at the Nationwide race, that was dirty racing, not rubbing or trying to get someone loose but intentional trying to spin them out, Ron Hornaday is another that I have no respect for since he tends to jack the leader of the race up and spin them out on restarts, even though the rules state the leader of the race sets the pace for the restart. Clearly intentional is when Carl came up out of pit road to slam into Jr on the caution lap, I am sure you can pick any of the top drivers and find a repay where it was so obvious that there was no denying it was payback, in the case at Daytona with JR that was not the case, it was a racing deal nothing more nothing less.
You are right about one thing. I have never seen Dale Jr. that defensive about an accident that was clearly his fault. Granted, restrictor plate racing breeds blocking and causes wrecks. But most drivers own up to their mistakes. Blocking is is one of those things that’s part of the landscape and most drivers have grudgingly accepted it. I think the two pit lane errors played a huge role in his state of mind. Pure frustration set in. Jr. has pretty much been given a free pass for awhile. I think that’s about over. One other thing. These late starting times only contribute to the whole mess. If they had that race start at 1:00 pm, we would have gotten the whole entire race in. I have tried to come into this season with a clean slate, but my patience is already being tried. I hope things improve and quickly because I have steadily lost interest in a sport that the powers that be have done everything they can to screw up. Start these races at a decent time and get rid of that rodent. First thing is let’s put all this business behind us and move on.
Is it RJ or JR? I don’t know they both seem to have their craniums burried in their nether regions. Great commentary. You left out the time JR jacked up his teammate (Waltrip) on the straightaway at Charlotte because Waltrip had JR’s crew chief at the time and was making JR look like a fool. By the way, I don’t care too much for Kyle Bush, (I put him in the same category as someone like JR) but I don’t recall him wrecking Stewart on Saturday like a certain 7 time champ was known to do.
I know it’s dangerous, but the incident involving Jr. at Daytona got me to thinking. For years Jr has, for better or for worse, worn the white hat. Tell me, did Dale Sr. ever where the white hat? Think about it. IF they had actually penalized Jr. it would have added some excitement to an otherwise boring race. It might actually light a spark under Jr’s rear end. God knows, he needs something to take his mind off the pressure of being Jr. nas$car seems to be afraid of it’s own past. When Dale S. died, so did nas$car’s soul. This kind of “bad press” could actually work in their favor. I know I“M rambling, but it’s a thought.
I don’t have anything personal against Jr.
But personally I’ll be glad when he’s not racing anymore.
Doesn’t matter to me if he gets a championship or another free-pass from nascar. I’m just plain tired of the whole thing.
Move on. And please remove that awful green from my eyesight! LOL.