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.
Sunday’s race at Talladega was like something out of a Disney Channel primetime movie. This year’s fall Cup event resembled a bad high school homecoming dance; Tony was partnered with Ryan, but then he pushed Ryan away and hooked up with Joey, while Trevor asked Jeff to dance only to dump him at the last minute to go with Matt. Denny Hamlin, on the other hand, spent most of the day all alone, watching the cool kids have fun without him (as Hamlin put it: “The best I can describe it is we were stuck without a date to the prom, so I was just hitting on everyone’s mom.”). And then there was Regan Smith, whose afternoon ended with something by Wham! – a little number that had him climbing the walls and walking away in visible frustration. The only things missing were special guest appearances by Zac Efron and Vanessa Hutchens.
But aren’t such cooperative efforts (or the lack, thereof) part of the inherent nature of restrictor plate racing? It’s not what you have, but it’s what you can share with others. In this era of a recessed economy, such an attitude might seem morally and ethically responsible (help those who are unable to help themselves, and all that), but this isn’t a neighborhood food pantry we’re talking about…this is the Chase for the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship – perhaps the most closely contested run for the title NASCAR Nation has ever seen. The Cup series operates on an entirely different – and very often less civilized – set of rules. In the high stakes world of NASCAR racing, there’s a distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, between the powerful and the powerless, between the “haves” and the “have nots”. Such divisions should be obvious to even a casual observer, but the complexities of stock car racing show us otherwise. Who you like and who you help are often two totally separate entities.
At what point do the needs of a team (or a manufacturer, or an engine supplier) outweigh the wants of an individual? Is it enough for a driver (and his crew) to fight their way to the front ahead of (or behind) a more-“worthy” teammate and resign themselves to defeat by “taking one for the team” when it’s more in their best interest to strive for a victory of their own? Isn’t that why race car drivers drive race cars… because the basic nature of their occupation is all about racing harder and faster than their competition? It’s one thing to have a “wingman” if you’re a fighter pilot or looking for action at the local bar, but does such a role need to be enforced on a superspeedway?
If we’re talking about superspeedways, than the answer to the question above is most certainly “yes”. In the “modern” restrictor plate era (1987-2011) we’ve seen how essential it is for teams to draft in either large packs or (more recently) in two-car pairings. Having other cars to pull and/or push has been necessary for going fast at Daytona and Talladega, even though the potential disaster of having too many cars running too close at high speeds is too well-known. Restrictor plate racing added “the big one” to NASCAR’s dictionary almost as quickly as it hurt the sport by dividing fans into two opinionated camps. Regardless of whether you like plate racing or not, it’s been a required evil in NASCAR’s evolutionary cycle. With the advent of electronic fuel injection in 2012, plate racing will likely become a thing of the past. That’s not to say aerodynamic “teamwork” won’t be necessary at Speedweeks in Daytona come February – it simply means that teams will find new ways to generate new advantages.
But should these new advantages take the shape of what was suggested in Alabama this last weekend? Sunday’s “when-I-say-‘yes’-I-mean-‘maybe’” dust-up between Trevor Bayne and Jeff Gordon explored (or did it expose?) the not-so-autonomous nature of today’s NASCAR driver. Bayne tweeted about the specifics of his “deal” with Gordon following the race, saying that suggested actions according to team orders (not assisting drivers from other manufacturers) were “too premeditated” and affected the outcome of the event. Such may be the case, but haven’t employer demands (and employee loyalty) always been an issue regarding how people are supposed to react when faced with executive decisions?
Many of us are faced with such moments more than we’d like to admit – those times when your employer expects you to make a sacrifice for the greater good of the business. Maybe it means paying more for your health insurance (if you’re lucky enough to have it), or maybe it means giving up vacation time to cover for a colleague or to work on a new project. Maybe it means forsaking a pay raise so as to ease the pressure on the company’s budget, or maybe it means watching as the promotion intended for you goes to a co-worker. Whatever the reason, we often find ourselves playing the role of “a company man” (or “woman”, as the case may be). Our personal choices always have consequences, and the “best” choices (as in the safest) typically put your employer’s interests above your own.
I’m going through such a situation at my place of employment right now. With the economy being what it is, and as health care costs continue to rise, my colleagues and I are being “asked” to assume more of our insurance premiums. Come January 1st, 2012, we’ll be paying about 20 percent more toward our health benefits. Notice that I used the verb “asked” in this example. The truth is: we’re required to assume the additional premiums – we have no real choice in the matter. What came across as a request was actually a demand. This scenario is not intended to complain about my employer, but it may shed some light on the Trevor Bayne/Ford Racing/Roush Fenway situation at Talladega. Even if Jack Roush and/or the folks at Ford Racing merely suggested that it’d be nice if Ford drivers could be on the lookout to assist other Ford drivers who needed drafting help, only as a reminder that they’re all in the race together, the company’s overall position was obvious. If you had a blue oval on your car, you were going to assist other cars carrying the same blue oval.
Now there’s nothing wrong with such strategy; this is how the team concept works and there’s nothing new here – such strategy has been part of Formula One racing for decades. As according to one of the sports clichés I referred to in last week’s column, “there’s no ‘I’ in “team”; that’s usually how people interpret “traditional” sports of the stick-and-ball variety. Automobile racing is unique in that individual teams can either run independently, or they can exist within the confines of a larger organization (notice how people who work for a team based within a larger, multi-car operation refer to that collective assembly of race teams as a “company”?).
The point here is simple: if you drive for a multi-car, title-contending NASCAR team, it should come as no surprise that team orders will come down from on high. Such orders extend from specific team demands to include manufacturer loyalty, as well. Are these kinds of orders above-and-beyond the traditional, late-season sense of “You owe it to your team,” as Clint Bowyer explained after his win on Sunday? The idea of “taking one for the team” is not a new concept, but today’s version has more equality at its core than it did a century ago.
I’ve dedicated many bytes of text on this Web site to the career accomplishments of Barney Oldfield. As I’ve written before, Oldfield was America’s first professional racing driver – meaning that he operated as a hired “hotshoe” who drove cars built and owned by other people (typically manufacturers). Regardless of his “for hire” stature, Oldfield was a central figure in the early development of automobile racing as we know it today, and the philosophical separation between “team” and “self” was never so murky as it was during his years driving as a “barnstormer” while on probation from the American Automobile Association back in 1910.
Barney Oldfield began his automobile racing career as a “factory” driver for Henry Ford back in 1902, from where he branched out to “rides” with companies such as Winton and Peerless during the first decade of the 20th Century. Despite his racing successes and recognized persona (or maybe because of those things), Oldfield was sometimes singled out as a “target” of sorts – a skilled athlete who sorely needed a piece of a high-speed humble pie. Most anything Barney did with a race car back in those days attracted the media’s attention, so when world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson boasted in 1910 that he could drive faster than America’s “Speed King”, Oldfield accepted Johnson’s challenge and organized a match race to settle the score between the two.
Oldfield was not the only driver challenged by Johnson, who had unsuccessfully petitioned the newly-opened Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the chance to enter a number of fall races scheduled there. “Papa” Jack had also challenged other top drivers like George Robertson (lead driver for the Benz racing team in 1910) and Ralph De Palma (a life-long rival of Barney’s in his own right). When Johnson announced a $5000 “bounty” for the driver who could defeat him, Oldfield – ever the opportunist – agreed to race against the heavyweight champ on October 25th, 1910 at the Sheepshead Bay race track in Brooklyn, New York. The best-of-three series was handily won by Barney Oldfield in a Knox that gave Johnson’s car a thirty-horsepower advantage. Barney easily outdrove “Papa” Jack by winning the first two races before an estimated crowd of 6000, an audience that also got to see Oldfield set “speed records” in his 200-horsepower “Blitzen Benz” between heats.
In an insightful essay by automobile historian Michael Berger about Oldfield’s “match race” versus Johnson, it’s implied that the event marked a significant moment in national race relations because Johnson was an outspoken African-American athlete who had called out one of America’s most beloved and popular sports celebrities. While Oldfield saw the exhibition as a financially-profitable opportunity to quiet a “wannabe” race car driver, the rest of the country considered the New York event to be a battle for racial dominance (the headline in the New York Sun following Oldfield’s best-of-three-heats victory said it all: “Oldfield Saves White Race”).
The moral of the Oldfield/Johnson match race saga is that the Contest Board of the AAA officially disqualified Oldfield from competing in future AAA-sanctioned events. The organization’s reasoning was that it considered the New York event to be little more than “a circus act” – a race between two powerful egos, regardless of their skin color or experience. Barney Oldfield enjoyed a not-so-much love/whole-lot-of-hate relationship with the AAA throughout his career, so such an outcome was not surprising. Barney made due during his suspension by “barnstorming” around the nation putting on speed trials and/or exhibition races against a band of worthy and talented “challengers”.
Finding such “challengers” was simple. Oldfield would hire a “starting field” of rival drivers who would tour with him around the country. The racing show would stop at county fairgrounds and race tracks and put on a combination of time trials and match races, not unlike the event that occurred at Sheepshead Bay against Jack Johnson. Oldfield would try to “beat the clock” in attempts to establish new speed records for the various tracks where the show stopped (always easy to do when the guy manning the stopwatch was one of your employees), and he’d also compete in match races against his “traveling band” of hired drivers.
These exhibition races would always be closely contested, with Oldfield – in a car sponsored by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company – battling lap-after-dusty-lap against the other three-or-four drivers (all of whom were on Barney’s payroll). If you’re concerned about team orders, try this one on for size: if you raced against Barney Oldfield in these “barnstorming” events, you were to never win. Even if your car was superior to Oldfield’s, it was your implicit order to let the boss win. The closer the finish, the better, as long as the “Speed King” crossed the line first. Oldfield was the main attraction – the star of the show; the “supporting cast” was always talented and very often capable of leaving Barney in the dirt, but to do so would mean immediate dismissal. If you liked your job as a race car driver, you did what the man doling out your pay said.
In that respect, not much has changed over the past century. As a race car driver, you tend to know your place, who’s paying the bills, and what you’re expected to do, even if it means sacrificing your own success for the betterment of your entire organization. Just because Trevor Bayne admired and respected Jeff Gordon didn’t mean that Bayne was free to use his #21 Ford to lend Gordon’s #24 Chevrolet an aerodynamic assist to the front; no matter how much 20-year old Bayne wanted to help one of his racing heroes, the oval on his car trumped the bowtie on Gordon’s.
In the corporate culture of NASCAR, what you drive means more than who you are. A driver is only as flexible as his handlers, benefactors, and providers allow him to be. It may not seem right, nor may it be totally ethical, but who are we to judge? Such is life when you’re a “company man”.
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Apparently Mark, you believe that auto racing is a team sport, just like baseball or football. When the team wins a championship, everybody gets a ring, from the superstar QB to the backup punter. Also obvious is that not all fans and participants buy into that theory in racing. It seems to matter a whole lot more where you are in the pecking order than “one for all and all for one.” Trevor Bayne has to obey orders because he is low man in spite of his Daytona 500 victory. OTOH, Carl Edwards gets Greg Biffle to do his bidding, and Kyle Busch can scream at the Joey Logano’s crew to “fix the car, I don’t care how many laps down he goes, I need a drafting partner.”
I doubt that Dale Earnhardt Sr. would ever have followed team orders if that involved giving up his own shot to win. Matt McLaughlin’s column notes that Bill Elliott abandoned Davey Allison, an “unofficial Ford teammate” back in 1992. To me, the sport was purer and more truly competitive in those days.
This is NOT a food pantry. It is a sport which recognizes individual accomplishment by giving ONE drvier a big trophy and big bucks and his name in the record books at the end of the year. I don’t care what F1 drivers do for the team. This is good old American capitalist individualism at work, or at least I used to think it was.
And when my boss asks me to lie or break a committment, is it really the better thing to follow orders? I still refuse to believe it is. You have your conscience; I have mine.
Mark everytime you write about Barney Oldfield my respect for Dale Earnhardt goes up another 10 points.