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.
_Editor’s Note: For Part One of Matt’s retrospective on Davey Allison, click here
Robert Yates Racing and the team’s talented young driver Davey Allison made their official debut at the 1989 Daytona 500. Things got off to an inauspicious start. Davey was running well when Geoff Bodine got into his rear bumper and sent the 28 car spinning. The car rolled but came down on all four wheels, and Allison limped off to the pits, where the crew was able to repair the car well enough to get him back out there for points. Allison finished 25th in that years 500. After the race Davey had some harsh words for Geoff and a short scuffle broke out. It was just the beginning of a lot of frustration for what amounted to a new team going through some teething pains. There were some bright spots, like a sixth at Rockingham and a 2nd at Darlington, but there were also an uncharacteristic amount of engine failures that season, as Yates tried to adjust to his dual role as team owner and engine man, both of which are full time jobs.
The first win for Robert Yates Racing took place at the Talladega race in May, when Allison stormed into the lead with nine to go, and held off a determined Terry Labonte driving one of Junior Johnson’s Fords. Yates seemed to have found something special as far as restrictor plate engines, as evidenced by the teams other win that season at the Firecracker 400 in July. Even with two wins, the season was a disappointment. Davey ended up 11th in points and led 13 races, one less than the year before. Yates and Allison wanted to move forward, not backwards.
The 1990 season got off to an even slower, and somewhat bizarre start. After a pair of 20th place finishes at Daytona and Richmond, Davey had to sit out most of the Rockingham event. He had been roughhousing with a couple guys on the crew, and for reasons never explained suddenly passed out. The doctors could find no reason for the incident, but NASCAR didn’t want Allison behind the wheel until he was checked further. They finally allowed him to drive a single lap so he would earn the team points, but after that he had to have Hut Stricklin hop in the car.
The Yates team got a much needed shot in the arm at the Spring race in Bristol. Things did not look good that weekend, with a poor qualifying effort earning Davey a backstraight pit stall. Things got still worse when Allison was unable to avoid the spinning car of Robby Moroso and severely damaged the right hand side sheetmetal on his Ford. In the pits Yates made a crucial call not to come in for tires under a late caution so as not to surrender track position to those drivers pitted on the front straight. Mark Martin had fresh tires and was coming hard in those waning laps of the race. Davey was driving his guts out on badly worn tires, and coming out of turn four for the final time the two Fords were side by side drag racing to the line. It was one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history, the record books say eight inches though it looked like less, but Allison prevailed to win that day. After that great win though the team seemed to sink back into a swamp of mediocrity with only a scattered top ten now and then to show for their efforts. At Dover that spring the car was so bad, Davey wore himself out just trying to keep it out of the wall, and had to call on Hut for relief again. There was growing dissension in the team as the finger pointing game began to try to assign blame. Allison went on record as wanting a new crew chief, and even made an uncharacteristic remark that he might quit if something wasn’t done soon. That got Yate’s attention. That July, Jake Elder was hired on as crew chief for the team. While the season didn’t turn around immediately Davey did win the Fall race at Charlotte that year, and gave credit for the win to his new crew chief. Still on the whole the 1990 season was a disaster. Allison wound up 13th in points with only five top five finishes.
At the season finale at Atlanta in 1990 tragedy had struck. Mike Ritch, a member of Bill Elliott’s over the wall crew had been struck and killed when Ricky Rudd lost control coming into the pits and slammed Bill’s car. That tragedy would eventually lead to the pit road speed limits we have today. Before adopting those speed limits, NASCAR tried a bunch of different solutions, none of which worked, and all of which made a real mess of the beginning of the 1991 season. At that year’s Daytona 500 teams were not allowed to change tires under caution, leaving drivers out there on badly worn rubber hoping for the best. Allison was just one of numerous victims of the rule. Dale Earnhardt was leading the race as the pack took the green after a caution with five laps to go. Ernie Irvan passed Dale and Davey tried to do the same. The two were running side by side for several laps, until Dale’s Chevy got loose on his worn tires, and knocked into Allison’s Ford. Allison went spinning into the wall, and had to settle for 15th. The season just didn’t get better. The team went four races with a finish no better than12th, and a dead last place finish at Atlanta after a crash. Jake Elder was a great crew chief, but not the easiest guy in the world to get along with, as evidenced by his handle, “Suitcase Jake.” He had quit or been fired from dozens of teams. He and Allison were fighting, and Jake threatened to quit. Robert Yates made the decision to let him go.
And that is when something magical happened. To replace Elder, Robert Yates hired an owlish looking man with thinning blonde hair, more given to scribbling meticulous notes into his charts than to jawboning about fishing. That man was Larry McRenyolds, and he was the third leg of the triangle that completed the Davey Allison-Robert Yates combination. All three men respected and liked each other immensely, and that elusive “chemistry” was finally achieved. With McRenyolds on board Robert Yates Racing would move up the ladder from an occasional contender to the top tier of the sport. At the very first race Larry was calling the shots, Allison finished second at Darlington. That began a string of top ten finishes that did not end until Talladega later that Spring when Davey got caught up in the infamous mess caused by “Swervin Irvan’s impatience, that would later lead to Ernie publicly apologizing to the other drivers.
The team bounced back in fine style, winning the next race on the schedule, the prestigious World 600. Chevys had been dominating all season, so starting with that race NASCAR allowed the Fords to run an inch higher decklid. The Fords were back in the game, and Davey was leading the pack.
The team’s next win was surrounded by controversy which would dog Davey the rest of his career. Allison was leading at the road course in Sonoma with two laps to go, when Ricky Rudd got into his rear bumper and Davey spun. Racing or rough driving? It was a judgment call but NASCAR decided Rudd had been a little too aggressive and black flagged him. Allison was able to save the car and take the checkers, though Ricky actually crossed the line first. Rudd was furious as were a lot of fans. Davey was put in the position where he had to defend his victory by pointing out he had indeed had the faster of the two cars. Fortunately Allison and RYR were able to put that ugliness behind them by winning the event at Michigan only two races later, and backing that up with a third at the Firecracker 400.
A little controversy was stirred up again at Talladega that July, leaving Davey as hot as the weather in Alabama. Earnhardt was leading but Davey was leading a charge of fleet Fords hooked up in the draft, preparing to take the lead. Unfortunately after running Dale down, some members of that pack of Fords broke ranks, and the resultant scrambling amidst blue oval running mates allowed Earnhardt to cruise onto victory, while Davey backslid to 9th. After the race Allison was so incensed he punched the wall of his transporter. It was not the smartest move of his career. The transporter was not injured but Allison broke several bones in his hand.
Allison was able to put that frustration quickly behind him. He finished second by inches to Dale Jarrett at Michigan and second again to Harry Gant at Richmond. A second at the Charlotte Fall race, was the spark that ignited the RYR team. Allison responded by winning the next two races in a row, Rockingham and Phoenix. That moved him into second place in the points, and while Earnhardt had already wrapped up the title, considering the turmoil at the beginning of the year it was no small achievement for the 28 team to be that high in the points.
Allison did have a close call the Phoenix weekend, though not on the track. Flying to Arizona the cabin of his private plane started filling up with smoke. The smoke was caused by insulation that had fallen out of place and was laying on the heater, but after Allison did an emergency landing, he found one of the engines had also sprung an oil leak, and was minutes from failing. For those who know how this story ends it was a chilling harbinger of things to come.
At the final race that season Davey had a strong car, but it suddenly began cutting out on him. He dashed into the pits where the problem was diagnosed as a dead battery. It took seven laps to make repairs, and while Davey made up three of them on the track, he was obviously never a contender for the win, and his 17th place finish caused by that freak problem dropped him to third in the points, a mere four points behind Ricky Rudd in second. Again for those familiar with Davey’s finish in the season ender at Atlanta in 1992, it was a bad omen of things to come. Still five wins, twelve top fives, third in the points, and having led in a remarkable 23 out of 29 events was a sign that Davey, Robert and Larry were going to have to be reckoned with as title contenders in 1992.
They say racing is a roller coaster of a sport. One week you are at the top of the heap, and the next week you are in the valley. One week racing will make you the king, and the next week it will break your heart. Be that as it may for Davey Allison 1992 carried some career highs, but also some gut wrenching lows almost beyond what any human being should be called upon to endure.
You can’t start a season out much better than winning the Daytona 500. Allison followed in his father’s footsteps into the hallowed victory lane in Daytona, by escaping a wreck triggered when Bill Elliott, Sterling Marlin and Ernie Irvan got together at the front of the pack. In all 14 cars were involved including not only those listed above, but other favorites including Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Kenny Schrader, Mark Martin and Darrell Waltrip. Allison snaked his way through the mess and held off a late race challenge to take the win.
Bill Elliott recovered from the disappointment of Daytona, with four straight wins. Davey was never far behind, with a second, third and two fourth place finishes to his credit, allowing him to stay comfortably in command of the points standings.
Bristol was a different story. After being penalized by NASCAR for stopping beyond his pit box, Allison’s Ford blew an oil line sending him hard into the wall injuring his shoulder. Despite the pain he climbed back into the car at North Wilkesboro, and despite spinning out went on to edge Rusty Wallace out for the win. A week later his luck changed again A blown tire at Martinsville sent Allison into the wall hard yet again, breaking some ribs. And of course his luck changed again and Davey won the next race of the season at Talladega. A pattern was emerging. Davey could very likely win the championshipâ€¦..if he survived the season. In addition to holding onto the points lead despite the misfortunes, the wins at Daytona and Talladega put Davey in position to claim the Winston Million. His first chance would come at the World 600 in Charlotte that May. Robert Yates Racing arrived loaded for bear, carrying Davey’s favorite car, the storied old 007.
The 1992 Winston was the first one held under the lights. Humpy Wheeler had prepared a fireworks show for the fans after the race, but nothing matched the fireworks on the track that night. Dale Earnhardt and Kyle Petty were involved in fierce battle to win the final segment of the race, with Allison waiting back in third to capitalize if the other drivers were to get into each other. Dale and Kyle did indeed wreck, and good fortune allowed Davey to win the Winston. But in the blink of an eye his luck changed again. Kyle’s out of control Pontiac drilled the 28 Ford just past the start finish line, putting Allison hard into the wall. 007 was totaled and Davey suffered a bruised lung, severe concussion and abdominal bruising. He had to be transported by helicopter to the hospital and never saw victory lane.
Allison would later tell family members and close friends that wreck had had a profound effect on his life. After the crash Davey said he had an out of body experience and felt he was hovering above the car, watching himself be removed from the wreck, convinced he was dead. That eerie experience changed Davey’s life. He had a fashion model beautiful wife he had been neglecting. He had two wonderful children he did not spend enough time with. He had drifted slowly away from the core of his life, his Faith in God. After that night Allison vowed to get his priorities back in order. Those who knew him said he much more at ease after that evening, almost serene. It was a blessing, because with the cards fate still had to deal Davey, it was going to take every bit of faith and the support of his family to endure it.
The fact Allison was able to drive in the next week’s 600 and run the whole race was a miracle in and of itself, but he was not a factor. His chance at the Winston Million would have to wait until Darlington. Still he hung onto that precious points lead by finishing fourth. Another win at Michigan helped open his gap over Elliott just a bit.
It seemed like Allison was due a good weekend at Pocono that July. He won the pole for the event, and led early and often, his car showing a lot of strength. A miscue on pit road put Davey towards the back of the pack for a restart after a caution, but he was still on the lead lap and there was plenty of racing left ahead to allow him to reassert himself. He never got that chance. While charging through the pack Davey attempted to go low on Darrell Waltrip who did not see him. DW moved down the track and the two cars hit. What followed was one of the most brutal accidents in NASCAR history. Allison’s black Ford launched into a sickening series of flips, shedding parts with each tumble, and almost landing on a safety truck before coming down on a guard rail. Watching the wreck it was impossible to believe anyone could have survived it. Somehow Allison had lived but not without injury. He had suffered head injuries, and a broken arm, wrist and collar bone. Chillingly he was taken by helicopter to the same hospital his father had been transported after Bobby’s career ending injuries. Of lesser consequence, for the first time that season, Davey had lost the points lead to Bill Elliott.
While Davey’s determination allowed him to start the next two races, the extent of his injuries would not allow him to run the entire race. At Talladega Bobby Hillin stepped into the car as a relief driver and did a masterful job finishing third. In doing so Hillin put Davey back into the points lead. Things did not go as well at Watkins Glen and the team of Davey Allison and veteran road racer Dorsey Scroeder were credited with 20th.
Allison was slated to drive his first full race the next weekend at Michigan. But that weekend a terrible tragedy struck the racing community, and the Allison family in particular. Clifford Allison, Davey’s little brother was killed in a crash while practicing for the Busch event at the track. Davey was right there and tried to run to his brother’s car but was kept from doing so by track officials. They told him to go to the hospital. It was only once Davey and Liz had reached the hospital they learned Clifford had died while being transported there. Body still badly bruised, and heart broken somehow Davey still climbed in his car that Sunday, and managed a fifth place finish. As soon as the race was over he headed for his plane, and home to his family to bury Clifford.
While nothing could compare with the loss of his brother it seemed fate had chosen Davey Allison as her whipping boy that Summer. Allison wrecked again at Bristol while running third. Then came the Southern 500 and Allison’s chance at the Winston Million.
Allison clearly had the muscle to win that race. He led three times and was never far from the front of the pack. But dark skies were threatening, and it became apparent rain might fall on the parade. Allison tried to stay out on the track as long as possible fearing the race would be red flagged, but when Mark Martin chose to dive into the pits the rest of the front runners hands were forced. It was either pit for tires or allow Mark to build up a hopeless lead on fresh rubber. Darrell Waltrip decided to gamble in the opposite direction, thinking that the race would end early, and trying to stretch out his fuel load to remain out on the track as the leader. And of course the rain did come, a lap before DW would have run out of gas. Wishing to get in all the race if at all possible NASCAR held off on declaring the race official as long as possible hoping the rain would let up and the racing would resume. Those who watched the race on TV that day recall a hilarious exchange between Darrell and Davey in the garage area as they waited for the weather to break. Asked what they both thought the chances of the race resuming were, Darrell looked up at the sky and replied it looked like the storm was getting worse and they ought to call the race immediately so everyone could go home. Davey looked up at the same sky and joked, “I think I see some clearing to the West. It’s going to get better.” And he managed to smile. You had to wonder how this poor guy who just buried a brother, was still healing from some bad injuries, and was watching his chance at a million dollars running down the storm drains could possibly smile. But that was Davey Allison. When asked how much fuel he had left in the car, DW winked and said “Oh, about a million dollars worth” and Davey Allison managed to laugh out loud. The rain continued, and the race was called official as a result. Allison was credited with a fifth place finish.
The points race that year was the best one in decades. Allison and Elliott scrapped for the title week in and week out. Both knew their share of good and bad fortune as the season wound down. But it seemed fate felt she owed Davey one at Phoenix. Not only did Davey win convincingly, Elliott lost an engine and wound up 31st.
The blown engine actually dropped Bill to third in the points with Alan Kulwicki taking over second. But the championship was Allison’s to lose. He needed to finish fifth or better to take the title, even if Alan won the race and led the most laps. Fate had one more joker in the deck for Allison. He was running right where he needed to be in fifth in the waning stages of the race, when Ernie Irvan lost control. Davey got swept up into the wreck and crashed hard into the inside wall. While the 28 crew would repair the car, Davey’s title hopes were dashed. He could only watch from the sidelines as Alan Kulwicki edged out Bill Elliott for the Winston Cup Championship Davey had wanted so badly , and struggled so valiantly to win. “ It wasn’t meant to be. We’ll get em next year.” Davey told reporters, and he managed a weak smile for his fans.
The 1993 season got off to a slow start for Davey and RJR finishing three laps off the pace at Daytona, and enduring a number of other substandard runs. Still it was an up and down battle for most drivers that year, and Allison hung in there in the points. The team had enough confidence they knew they weren’t out of it by any means. As proof they needed to look no further than Richmond, where Allison took a convincing win. I don’t recall what Davey had to say that day in victory lane. If I recall correctly I was helping a buddy replace a timing chain in his van, and we had the TV on in the corner of the garage. We sat down and had a beer to see the end of the race, then got back to work so he would be able to use his truck for work Monday. It didn’t seem to matter. Davey was such a talented driver certainly he had a lot more victory lane celebrations ahead of him. Richmond was in fact Davey’s last win.
The entire racing community was shocked and saddened that Spring by the loss of our champion Alan Kulwicki in an airplane crash. But the show went on that week at Bristol, and Davey finished fifth.
That summer a brutal heat wave engulfed the Northeast of the United States. It was over 100 degrees in New Hampshire for the inaugural Winston Cup race at Loudon. Davey was hot that day as well, though he lost second place in the closing laps and came home third behind Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin. The series was slated to return to Pocono for the second event there that year, the following week. Davey told his friends he would see them that weekend, and flew off back to Alabama to be with his family.
If you were a fan of Davey Allison’s or even just a fan of racing in those days, you’ll probably remember where you were when you heard the news. I had just gotten off work early, and was heading home to pack for a weeks vacation in the Poconos that naturally included the race. I got gas at the corner filling station, a Texaco naturally, and had bought a Davey Allison diecast that had just arrived at the station. When I got home my roommate had the TV on to ESPN and told me Davey had been hurt in a helicopter crash. The next update was grim. Davey had received extensive head injuries and had not regained consciousness. The doctors were not optimistic. I remember my eyes misted up, and I remember praying that Davey would be spared, wondering how much grief any family could be asked to endure, and adding a prayer for the Allison family.
The turbojet helicopter Davey had been piloting was a newer purchase. Outside of racing, aircraft were one of Davey’s few passions in life. His wife Liz had never much cared for the chopper and asked Davey to please be careful with it. Davey was not yet fully accredited in the helicopter. But he had one of those rare afternoons off, and called family friend Red Farmer to ask if he would like to fly to Talladega to watch another close family friend, Neil Bonnett practicing for a return to Winston Cup racing, and Neil’s son practice to make his debut in a Busch car. Farmer agreed and the pair took the helicopter to the track. They were within feet of setting down when the chopper suddenly went out of control. perhaps because the tail rotor had struck a fence. The chopper went up a bit, but lower than Davey’s car had flown during the Pocono race, and crashed down on it’s side. Red frantically hollered to Davey they had to get out of there in case of fire, but got no response. Davey Allison never regained consciousness.
A man must not presume to know the mind of the Lord, and early the next morning Davey Allison passed away at the age of 32. Once again the racing community prepared to assemble for the burial of one of the sports favorite sons. Though obviously grief stricken Bobby Allison’s faith was not shaken. “I been working all my life to get to Heaven,” he told a family friend, “ Now my two boys have gone and beat me there.”
Before the funeral there was the matter of a race that weekend at Pocono. The Robert Yates team withdrew from the event. “We can’t race with tears in our eyes.” Yates said quietly while grieving the loss of not just a driver but a friend.
I debated myself whether I still wanted to go to that race. In the end I decided I would. It seemed every car and camper in the lot had a black 28 flag hanging from it, a sort of funeral shroud, NASCAR style. Many cars also still carried the number 7 flag as well. It had been a tough year to be a race fan. The American flag flew at half mast and there was a brief ceremony in honor of Davey prior to the race. Then 40 cars took to the track, not to mourn the loss of Davey Alllison, but to celebrate the sport he had devoted his life to. It was one whale of a race, with Dale Earnhardt just holding off Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott to take the win. After the win Dale spun his car around, and the entire RCR crew joined him on the track for a moment of prayer to their fallen friend. Afterwards Dale unfurled a big 28 flag in honor of Davey, and did a slow reverse victory lap in honor of Alan. There wasn’t a dry eye in the stands, and while he was not everyone’s favorite driver, Dale earned a lot of respect and gratitude that afternoon at Pocono, because in the end Davey would have been embarrassed by the big fuss prior to the race, but he had to be grinning watching a snarling race car and the assembled fans cheer his memory.
It has been fourteen years now, and time has dried away the tears, if the pain still aches time to time. If you believe as Davey did, he is in a better place now, the Ultimate Victory Lane. There’s no telling how differently the record books would read if Davey was still with us, but one thing is for certain. Whether he had just won a race, or finished dead last, Davey would be smiling as he walked from the track.
The one thing to do now is to retain memories and try to prepare ourselves to live every day the best we can. Sometimes we have to play the cards we are dealt.
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