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.
Mark Howell · Thursday November 17, 2011
Much of the talk surrounding this weekend’s finale at Homestead has been about the consistency of Carl Edwards. His position atop-o’-the-points (albeit by only three) has come about because of his steady march through the 2011 schedule. The fact that Edwards won only once this year (at Las Vegas back in March), yet has been at-or-near the points lead for most of the season speaks volumes about the No. 99 team, the skill of Carl Edwards, and the consistency they’ve exhibited. Other drivers and teams have shown evidence of consistency both before and during the Chase (the efforts of Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, and A.J. Allmendinger come to mind, in addition to the postseason dominance of Tony Stewart) but it’s been the heavy foot, steady hand, and clear head of Carl Edwards that puts us where we are today. Consistency is the way to win championships, even when the new point structure has been manipulated to try and work against playing it safe. Winning races is supposed to be the ideal, but being consistent is the proven way to snag the title.
There’s something good to be said about consistency. Fear of the unknown is always unsettling, even if we’d like to think that we’re brave about such things. Consistency, on the other hand, is safe and sure; no surprises means there should be no surprises. We can rest assured in the consistency of tradition and routine, which means we can focus our anxieties on other issues. I’m less likely to worry about my day if I know that my meals, my clothing, and my responsibilities will be similar to those I’ve experienced previously. Eliminate the guesswork, and you’ve eliminated the stress.
Take meals, for example. While many people enjoy trying new and often exotic menu items, there’s an even larger bunch of us who feel best about the tried-and-true. In our house, breakfast is pretty much the same ol’, same ol’ every morning. So is lunch, which varies only slightly from day-to-day, especially if we’re out of peanut butter. Supper involves typically one of four-or-five “regular” options, and even dining out is limited by both time and availability (life in a tiny village means fewer choices of fewer restaurants).
Consistency can be even easier if children are involved. Some kids are content with eating the same foods for every meal. As long as some kind of healthy option is part of the menu (and no, jelly beans don’t count as a vegetable), staying true to a predictable course is no big deal. We know what we know because we know it; to be consistent is to be secure in your actions and decisions. When things remain the same, they exchange uncertainty for dependability.
Want proof that consistency is a good thing? Just consider the 2011 Sprint Cup season enjoyed by Carl Edwards and his Roush Fenway/Aflac team. Even with all of NASCAR’s changes regarding how points were awarded this year – tightening the points system to a level where differences in finishing positions equated to single-point increments between drivers – the Sprint Cup championship is winding down to a final race that will settle the three-point gap between Edwards’ No. 99 Ford and Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet. Consistency will be called upon one last time come Sunday afternoon at Homestead.
During the “modern”/corporate sponsorship era, NASCAR has tried to make itself all about consistency. Showing up means having being in contention. There was a time when teams would pick-and-choose the events they entered, and opt out of the ones they felt offered less opportunity. The catch there was that if a team failed to enter a race, the promoters of said race took a chance at missing out on the absent driver’s fan base. This is a reason why race promoters during automobile racing’s early years used to put up appearance money. When a recognized, “household” name like Tommy Milton, Bob Burman, Ralph De Palma, or Barney Oldfield didn’t enter an event, there was a very good chance that their absence would be felt at the ticket office. Race promoters wanted to guarantee that the big names would run in their big races – big names that would put on a good show and (more importantly) draw a good audience. Attracting top-notch talent has always been essential in racing, and setting up your points system so as to reward overall consistency (as in, showing up to race each and every week) has been the best way to make sure your starting grid is always studded with stars. NASCAR has ripped a page from this turn-of-the 20th-century playbook, and its efforts to create a high-anxiety season finale have seemingly paid off very nicely.
Putting an emphasis on overall consistency, however, hasn’t always been the key to NASCAR’s success. In past years, when the Cup championship was won on the merits of a single-win performance by a driver (think of the late Benny Parsons in 1973, and Matt Kenseth – thirty years later – in 2003), the outcry from NASCAR Nation was “The sport’s broken; you’d better fix it!” How dare a driver stink up the season by winning one race, hanging out close to the front in a whole bunch of others, and walk away with the series’ championship; such “stick-to-itiveness” was un-American, and it made for boring racing, to boot.
Consider the 1973 Winston Cup season, which consisted of 28 events. Benny Parsons won the championship after scoring one win (at Bristol), 15 top-fives, 21 top-tens, and achieving an average finishing position of 10.1 for his 28 starts. On the other hand, David Pearson won eleven of his 18 Cup starts that year en route to an average finishing position of 7.8 – good enough for 13th-place in the standings? Despite being more successful by way of scoring more victories, Pearson came up short for the overall season; Pearson made ten fewer starts than Parsons, won over 60 percent of them, and wound up twelve positions in points behind the champion. How can this happen? It’s possible when consistency over the long haul is given more credibility than the accumulation of wins.
Such was also the situation in 2003 (a 36-race season), when Matt Kenseth scored one win (at Las Vegas, like his current teammate Edwards), eleven top-5s, 25 top-10s, and had an average finishing position of 10.2. By comparison, Ryan Newman won eight races, scored 17 top-5s, 22 top-10s, and yet could finish (on average) no better than 13.9 – good enough for sixth place in points for the year. While a single-win champion doesn’t automatically result in a restructuring of the points system, having such overall consistency lead to a title has led to a rethinking of NASCAR’s priorities. Is it better for the sanctioning body to acknowledge (and properly reward) hard-charging winners, or is it more appropriate to commemorate consistency over the 36-race marathon between Daytona and Homestead? In order to address this question, NASCAR had to address its basic philosophy. Was the ideology behind NASCAR based on winning races, or merely surviving them? Consistency might be “the foundation of virtue”, as British statesman Sir Francis Bacon put it, but it’s also – in the words of the Irish dramatist Oscar Wilde – “the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
The simplest way to fix the problem was to re-invent the wheel; NASCAR would still give out points to race teams, but winning the title would require a little more gumption. First, in 1975, NASCAR went with Bob Latford’s “new-and-improved” points system . When that seemed to grow stale (as in: we can hang up the Cup title alongside our Halloween costumes, since we’re done with both by the end of October), along came Brian France’s “Chase for the Championship” format, which was first utilized in 2004. When that style of racing was mixed with Latford’s 1975 point formula, there was more jeering than cheering as “staying the course” through attention to consistency meant staying atop the Cup standings indefinitely (as Rick Hendrick, Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson, and the No. 48 Lowe’s team demonstrated over five consecutive years). While consistency was a good way to win championships, it was a lousy way to attract fans, both at the track and on television.
The even-newer-and-even-more-improved points system introduced this season changed all that. Not only did NASCAR’s new system turn positions on the track into points toward the title, but the new format required drivers to select a series in which to run for a championship. The rationale here was two-fold; while the new points system forced drivers to finish up front as often as possible, it also insured that drivers had to put their competitive eggs in one series’ basket; “carpetbagging” was relegated, once again, to history, with the emphasis being placed on staying consistent in both actions and intentions.
But how can we define or explain this thing called “consistency”? To some, it’s the “safety in certainty” idea mentioned earlier that gives us a sense of confidence (if I know that breakfast today will be a bowl of Cheerios, just like it was last year, last month, last week, and yesterday, I can rest easy in the knowledge that I’ll face no surprises when I come to the table this morning). To others, consistency is seen as a hindrance, an obstacle that impedes our ability to adapt to changes and achieve success through taking risks. The irony of consistency in automobile racing is that it is a sport often interpreted through its varied and often-unpredictable nature: the uncertainty of man and machine, where thousands of moving parts are affected by the efforts of numerous people and controlled in volatile environments by a human being who’s capable of making both wise and foolish decisions. To take this kind of endeavor and strive for consistency seems unrealistic, yet here we are yet again: Carl Edwards has taken the sure-and-steady course of consistency and put himself atop the Sprint Cup standings with one final race to run. Granted, he’s only got a three-point advantage over Tony Stewart, but he’s in the lead and dealing with a points system that turns the “Chase for the Championship” into a difference of four positions on the track come Sunday afternoon.
The question still remains: was it the consistency of Edwards, crew chief Bob Osborne, and the No. 99 team that put them in this position, or was it simply the nature of the season as 2011 unfolded over the last nine months? Under the “old” points system, Stewart would have a slight advantage over Edwards thanks to his four wins in the postseason (I’m beginning to think that Smoke may have lied to us when he said he saw his team as being “irrelevant” come the final ten events). Given Edwards’ accumulation of 18 top 5s, 25 top 10s, and average finishing position of 9.5 on the year, it looks as though it’s been consistency that’s given him the advantage going into Homestead. That observation ain’t what you’d call rocket science, but it does conjure up some interesting ideas regarding what’s consistency and what’s good luck. The two seem to have relevance as the 2011 “Chase for the Championship” winds down…
In order to be consistent, one needs to possess some semblance of good fortune. I can be a truly talented driver or crew chief, but without the good luck of achieving top-5 or top-10 finishes, I won’t be in a position to win many (if any) races. It’s no surprise that “talent” is a wildly subjective term, but consider the many talented drivers who’ve fallen short of winning in 2011. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. seemed poised to win going into the summer after an early stretch of decent finishes; there were pundits (like me) who wrote that it wasn’t a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when” the No. 88 Chevy would roll into Victory Lane to end its three-year losing streak. Yet as we approach the final race of the year, the still-winless No. 88 has moved to the “also-ran” category of Chase qualifiers who fell short over the post-season. There came a point when running consistently near the front gave way to the inconsistencies of misfortune. Sir Francis Bacon once said, “Look to make your course regular, that men may know beforehand what they may expect.” Given the direction of Dale Jr. and the No. 88 team over the course of 2011, following what seemed to be a “regular” course gave way to unexpected circumstances that ended their title run before it began.
The same was true for Jimmie Johnson. Whereas consistency in the Chase had always been the No. 48 team’s strong suit, the momentum of past seasons fell victim to the fortunes of other teams capable of capturing and developing consistency of their own. Carl Edwards, while notching top 5s upon top 10s, watched as his fellow competitors overdrove their cars and second-guessed their strategies in an effort to claw their way up the point standings position-by-position. The drawback to the new points system is that falling backward is as simple as moving forward; each position – whether ahead or behind – equates to a point in the Cup standings. Thinking about potential achievement, instead of possible accomplishment, might be the difference between chasing a championship and/or allowing the title to find its way to you.
This is a form of self-actualization as explored in the writing of Abraham Maslow, the legendary psychologist out of Brandeis University. Maslow stated that there was a difference between self-actualizing people and others, from which it would “be useful to make a distinction between living and PREPARING to live [the caps here are mine].” (“Motivation and Personality”, 2nd edition, p. 159) This is not to say that all non-Chase contenders – and that’s all but two Cup drivers going into Sunday’s race – lack the motivation to strive for consistent performance. This is hardly the case. The idea is that striving for the title breeds excellence across the overall team in question; when Edwards speaks of how his crew is going the extra distance to work hard and make wise decisions, might this not be an example of a race team making an effort to succeed on its own terms, and not just doing what it can to accumulate points and maintain its position in the standings? Is the No. 99 out of Roush Fenway Racing “living” in its quest for the championship, while the well-intended preparations of its competitors caused these other teams to fall short of their ultimate goal? Is it attention to consistency that allows the No. 99 to hold its point lead and make a final push to the title? It’s a matter of being consistent, but it’s also a matter of enjoying some very good luck.
The No. 14 team has been enjoying good fortune of its own, especially once the Chase got underway and Stewart drove his way to victory for the first time in 2011. Tony Stewart is where he is in the standings for two reasons: 1) his team worked its way into the Chase by doing whatever it could short of winning races, and 2) his team took full advantage of its newfound good luck. Once you achieve a condition of good fortune, it seems as though you’re more apt to embrace self-actualization. As Smoke declared after his recent win at Texas, “We’re [his #14 team] controlling our destiny…” Such thinking follows the logic of Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th-century British statesman who once said, “A consistent man believes in destiny, a capricious man in chance.” To recognize the difference between good luck and overall consistency is to achieve the means by which to make necessary gains. Is being consistent tied to being fortunate? Does having/making good luck allow a race team to achieve consistency? Perhaps these two elements are more closely related than we know….
NASCAR has finally achieved its goal of developing a nail-biter of a season finale. An increase in television ratings over the 2011 season proves that there is a benefit to such a resolution – a showdown between two popular drivers, fierce competitors who race their peers – and each other – fairly and cleanly (at least when compared to the actions of others racing around them). As 1999 Cup champion Dale Jarrett put it: “I actually think it [this year’s Chase] is perfect; there should be something [a points system] in place that rewards both winning [the No. 14] and consistency [the No. 99]. Carl has done it his way; Tony has done it his way. I think it’s the perfect scenario.”
Regardless of the outcome come Sunday evening, my guess is that NASCAR, and the majority of fans, will think so, too…
P.S. On a purely “late-adopter” note, allow me to announce that I am a-twitter with excitement. I now have a Twitter account so I can stay in touch with the world of motorsports. I’m new to such technology, but it seems (for right now) to be pretty useful. I probably won’t have much to add that’s very significant, but it’ll give me a place to rant about the state of NASCAR Nation, and maybe some other topics. At the risk of sounding all connected and important, I’m tweeting like a canary at @DrMarkDHowell.
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Consistency is boring, winning is exciting, and racing is supposed to be exciting. Too often what we call consistency is just riding around and not taking risks. Thats not what I want in a champion, be it Nascar or Indycar. Until the point system is revised so wins mean a hell of a lot more than First Loser, consistency Nascar style will be boring.
I am in agreement with Don Mei. Points racing leads to being passive, and fewer passes for position on the track.
I don’t pull for Stewart or Edwards, so I have no bias involved. But 4 wins trailing 0 wins just isn’t right.
Stewart has had only 2 mediocre races and no DNF’s, but his 4 wins still are not enough.
One virtue of the new point system was to help alleviate points racing, but in this Chase, it’s been all about points racing for Edwards.
In it’s defense, this points system (at least for this season) has allowed for both styles of racing to achieve the primary end game of the Chase; the opportunity to win it all.
That said, I believe more emphasis should be put on winning races and making passes for position.
> Well said JIM!
Thanks, SHOEMAN! I really appreciate that!