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 May 8, 2009
Throughout the Richmond race, I was watching Ryan Newman run toward the front, lead, and contend for the win in a Stewart-Haas Chevrolet.
You know, those same Haas Chevrolets that consistently ran in the 30s as recently as last year. Those Haas cars that were as desperate to find driving talent as the driving talent sometimes was to find a Cup ride. Those Haas cars whose sponsors, once you got past Best Buy, had names like Hunt Brothers Pizza. That Haas team that had one car barely in the top 35 and the other in the weekly fight to make the field, a fight it sometimes lost.
One year ago Haas Motorsports had already reached obscurity, had an owner in jail, and certainly would have been teetering on the wrong side of bankruptcy in today’s climate. Today its co-owner/driver Tony Stewart is third in the point standings, but even Stewart is no longer a shoo-in to take the team’s first win, not after seeing Newman’s performance at Richmond. If any team should be called Phoenix Racing, it is Stewart-Haas.
I probably should have known better.
When Tony Stewart announced his leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to co-own with Gene Haas last season, like many others, this writer was more than a little surprised. Stewart had won two championships with Gibbs and was part of a No. 20 team that was a threat every race, every season. And he was going to a team that barely had one car in the top 35. It seemed more insane than Ray Evernham leaving the 24 to own his own team.
I was almost as baffled at Ryan Newman’s decision to leave Penske Racing for the apparent wilderness of a Haas team. Newman had just won the Daytona 500, and while he hadn’t been running as well as he had in the past, Penske was always showing signs of returning to form…and while no one knew at the time, it seems to be finally coming together for them this year. (Maybe it had something to do with firing Newman, as Rusty Wallace claimed was what really went down.) But even then, Penske still looked like a better bet.
Of course I wasn’t the only writer scratching his head at the move. I was initially going to go through articles from last year from writers who predicted that Stewart and Newman would run mid-pack at best for at least a couple of seasons, but I decided that I alone would take the fall for what was said in Happy Hour. But it certainly wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that such predictions were the ongoing “conventional wisdom” at the time. Most everyone, including me, figured the team would improve, but no one thought it would happen this quickly and this dramatically.
To put into perspective just how dramatic that improvement has been, consider that Stewart has scored three top 5s in nine races this season. He has finished lower than 17th only twice, 17th once, and no worse than eighth in the other six races of 2009. The 70 car, whose owner points the 14 took, had a best finish of 16th in 30 races in 2008—one of just three top 20s. Ryan Newman has scored three top 10s in nine races with the former 66 car, which scored three top 15 finishes all of last year—its only top 10 at Talladega, where everyone has a shot at a top 10 on a given week.
It’s difficult to believe it’s the same team.
Think of all the other recent mergers and team reorganizations—Earnhardt-Ganassi, the Roush-Yates engine program, the Childress-DEI engine program, or the newly formed Gillett Evernham/Petty team of Richard Petty Motorsports—none of them have come close to showing improvement on this scale. In fact, none have come close to showing improvement on any scale, unless you think Roush Fenway has benefited from their association with Yates, which is a fair argument.
Let this be a lesson to you the faithful Frontstretch readers. We commentators might know a tiny bit about racing, but we still can’t select fantasy teams for squat. Remember that when you’re watching season previews for any sport.
What should I have known? That Tony Stewart is a determined competitor. That he knows, after so many years, who the good people in this business are. And more than anything else, it was foolish to forget that the guy is one of the best ever to get behind the wheel of a stock car. That one should have been obvious. I’ve watched the guy outdrive his opponents for years.
By the way, one thing I didn’t consider was Stewart-Haas being just a two car operation. I did say at one time that having to get their engines at Hendrick meant that they weren’t employing the best people on their own. But it never dawned on me to think that an organization would have trouble competing with likes of Hendrick and Roush Fenway running just two cars. Nor should it have, really.
Tony Stewart, in addition to having proven many pundits wrong in a hurry, is also showing the racing world that a team doesn’t need 10 cars to be competitive on the racetrack. Right now Tony Stewart is higher in the points standings than every driver from Roush Fenway, Joe Gibbs and Richard Childress. Only one Hendrick driver is outperforming him. And Tony’s stablemate is ahead of all but one Roush Fenway driver.
It could be, and has been said, that the two SHM teams are really just two more Hendrick teams, since Hendrick supplies engines and tech support to them. But that was the case last year, too, and few people talked about Hendrick having six teams when Johnny Sauter didn’t make the field. Getting engines and/or chassis from top teams helps, but ultimately its importance to a team’s success is probably overstated. It didn’t help Petty Enterprises much to get their stuff from Evernham. Roush Fenway and Yates are using the same engines to completely different levels of success.
Even using top equipment from successful teams, you still need a driver that can navigate through a three wide tangle, a crew chief that can make smart adjustments and put together a strategy, and a crew that performs on pit road. Pit road miscues especially have cost more than a couple of drivers wins this year…and flawless pit stops helped give Jeff Gordon a victory.
Explaining all this brings one to reality. It’s much easier to describe what has happened that to speculate what will happen. Perhaps that permanent and uncharacteristic excrement—eating grin on Tony Stewart’s face this season stems from proving much of the motorsports press wrong.
But all the same, I should learn from my mistakes: never underestimate a competitor, give some credit to the driver for a team’s success, and most of all, you’re only as good or as bad as tomorrow. Crow tastes bad, but sometimes it’s good for the digestion.
So well done Tony. And in the future I’m going to try easier predictions until I get the hang of it.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I too am very surprised to see how well SHR. I figured the best case scenario was that it would take them at least half the season to be running competitively. While a lot has changed with the team since last year the only conclusion that I can reach is that the previous drivers, Sauter, Riggs, etc, just aren’t that good. This may be the best case ever as to how important the driver is in the old debate “is it the driver or the car?’.
I think the “is it the driver or the car” question has been answered in part by the success of SHR and the lack of success of Dale Jr. at HMS.
Don’t forget that Tony spent 10 years learning lessons from Joe Gibbs on how to run a successful operation: Hire the right people and stay out of their way. Tony’s done all that this year.
Tony hired the entire #8 pit crew for Ryan’s team. He brought in a Hendrick engineer to be his crew chief, and he hired one of the best managers in the business (Hutchins) to run the show. Not to mention leveraging Newman’s engineering expertise.
Gibbs, Gibson, Grubb, Hutchins, and Newman. All big reasons why SHR is red hat. And Tony put them all together.
SHR is doing some impressive things, but let’s not forget when Stewart is doing well things are wonderful, but when things don’t go so well he is a guy you don’t want to be around, as we’ve seen in the past.So as long as SHR continues to have top 15 finishes things will be good, but if there is a string of bad luck look out. Tony will not stay calm if questioned as to what is wrong with the team.
While I’m surprised that both cars are in 3rd and 10th respectively, I’m not surprised that there was marked improvement. I would say I’m more surprised at the #33 Cheerios. As a “new” team that was supposed to get RCR leftovers, they have proven without a doubt the skill and talent that Clint has as a driver and a communicator of what his car is doing and what it needs.
I hope the crow was good, Kurt. From personal experience, a lot of salt and ketchup help. I didn’t make a public prediction, but I’m not surprised. Then again, I had an edge. I had watched Tony from his TQ days and known him as a friend in his USAC days. It was apparent even then that this kid was something special.
Good article Kurt, but I have to agree with Dan from above. Stewart has shown us what a brand new team can do, and for that, he deserves all sorts of pats-on-the-back. But when Lady Luck turns against him, and he gets caught up in a couple of wrecks or has an unfortunate pit stop or two during a race, we’re going to see the real Tony Stewart emerge, and we all know that’s not a pretty sight! And God forbid if it’s his own driving that causes him to finish in the top 30 (or worse). If that’s the case, who will he blame then????
The 14 team has had bad pit stops alot this season. At least 1 a race. And everytime that has happend Tony has gotton on the scanner and said “it’s okay guys. Just take your time and be consistent and I’ll get these spots back.” And remember Daytona?? Talk about having bad luck and while he ranted about Goodyear he was still pretty calm and didn’t blow up. As for how well SHR is doing this year. It doesn’t surprise me one bit. I predicated that Tony would make the Chase and that Ryan would be right there fighting to get in. After following Tony for all these years I have learned that he has been successful at everything he has done and that things just always seem to work out for him.
For anyone who’s interested, here are the staff predictions that were made at the beginning of the season. I had to look because I was pretty sure I had chosen Tony to make the chase, but I wasn’t so sure about Ryan Newman. It’s interesting to look back even at this point in the season and see who everyone chose. Would you believe that actually seven of the writers chose Tony to make the chase and only one picked Newman?
Tony Stewart’s success is not suprising. He is this good. He is also smart enough to bring in the right people. The tools were there last year. The right people were not. As has been mentioned Tony brought in crew chiefs and engineers that were not with Haas last year. I am not suprised by Newman either. He was being held back by inferior equipment at Penske. The new Dodge engine has helped alliviate that situation there, but only Kurk Busch is taking advantage of it by being competative. Newman is much better off where he is. I bet Scott Riggs would have been in the top 15 in points with this team this year too, if he had gotten the chance. Tony Stewart has made that kind of difference. He knows how to run a business and he sure knows how to drive a racecar.
The ONLY reason Stewart is having success is because his team is an extension of Hendrick’s. The chassis, engines, engineering support, and everything else is ALL Hendrick. It’s very obvious that Stewart and Newman are great drivers, but without the equipment they drive, they would be toiling mid pack or worse. Stewart made the right call partnering with Hendrick as he knew that would get him up front fast, but until they break away and do their own engine program and chassis program, they won’t win a title.
I can’t think of any team in the last 20-30 years that has won a title with leased engines and chassis. The guys running the leased stuff never get the very best stuff in the arsenal.
Newman has not made the Chase in two or three years now. Why would anyone have picked him to make it this year, driving for a new team? Especially after the first four races, he and Mark Martin were in the 30’s in points. Since that time, both of them have set the pace and made huge strides up the standings.
Well Kevin since I’m the one that picked Newman to make the Chase, I’ll hop in and answer your question. I picked Newman to make the chase simply because he joined Stewart. I felt like Stewart being back in a Chevy would be great, and his team all around would benefit. And maybe part of it was just me being hopeful of Tony Stewart succeeding as an owner/driver. You can call me crazy when we get back to Richmond in September if Newman doesn’t end up making the Chase.
Hey Tony, HAAS was mid pack at best last year. They had all the Hendrick conections for years and have nothing to show for it. So I don’t buy that the ONLY raeson why Tony is doing so well is because of having HMS support. If that was the case then Jr would be right up there with the rest of the HMS crew.