Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
The Key Moment - Matt Kenseth got enough of a jump on the final restart so that Kurt Busch could never get close enough to the No. 17 to offer a serious challenge.
In a Nutshell - Kenseth wins the race at Homestead, Jimmie Johnson clinches the championship, and the 2007 Cup season finally reaches its end.
Dramatic Moment - Truthfully, I've seen more drama in elementary school sack races.
Forced to choose, I'd guess the only real action I saw Sunday night was the final ten lap sprint. Other than that, Matt Kenseth pretty much had it on cruise control.
What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
The Busch East series, the ARCA series, and well-heeled collectors looking for a two ton bit of garage jewelry can only absorb so many of the old-style Cup machines. Where are the rest of the teams' inventories of the outdated cars going to wind up?
In ways, the Daytona 500 feels like it was run a few weeks ago, and in other ways, it feels like it took place ten years ago. Is the NASCAR season too long, and if so, what can be done to shorten the season up?
Was this the worst season of Cup racing ever? As sorry as it was at times, I still must give that dubious honor to 1998 and the "5 and 5" disaster. But when it comes to truly lame Cup seasons, 2007 surely has a dog in the fight.
And in the endâ€¦ Sunday's race marked the last appearance of the "Car of Yesterday," the tried and true workhorse of the NASCAR fleet that at least spiritually dates back to 1981 and the beginning of the Golden Era of NASCAR. The COY's ungainly successor will be the mount of necessity for all races next season, despite a troubling test at Atlanta that indicates the new car won't race worth a damn at the banked intermediate tracks that pepper the schedule. The drivers by and large prefer the old car but others will say change is inevitable. We shall see because as NASCAR's Mike Helton is fond of chiding us with quotes like, "At the end of the day, it is what is."
Jimmie Johnson's two consecutive championships is a pretty notable achievement; no driver has managed back-to-back titles since Jeff Gordon did so back in 1997 and 1998. But the task of winning three straight titles is even more daunting. No Cup driver has ever managed that feat other than Cale Yarborough back in 1976, 1977, and 1978.
It remains to be seen if Ricky Rudd will actually retire from the sport or enter the perpetual "about to retire mode" pioneered by Mark Martin and Bill Elliott. Because of how poorly he's been running the last few years, many newer fans have no idea what a talented and competitive driver Rudd was in his day, one of the few racers who ever locked horns with the late Dale Earnhardt without being intimidated for a moment. When discussing the greatest driver never to win a title, Rudd's name must be mentioned in the same breath as Fred Lorenzen, Junior Johnson, Curtis Turner, Davey Allison, Tim Richmond, and Mark Martin. Think not? Find a tape of the September 27th, 1998 Cup race at Martinsville. Rudd, the owner/driver of the Tide Chevrolet, was leading the race but was being barbecued alive in his ride due to a failed cooling system. Despite heat that blistered his backside, Rudd remained at the wheel even after his well-meaning pit crew tried to help him out during a pit stop by putting a garden hose down Rudd's back during a stop. The only problem with that? The hose had been lying in the unforgiving Virginia sun all afternoon, and rather than cooling their driver off, the dousing scalded him. In Victory Lane, Rudd gave his winner's interview flat on his back, being tended to by medical crews; however, he never skipped a beat. For the record that day, he beat some kid by the name of Jeff Gordon by a half second.
Yeah, drivers don't come much tougher than the Rooster. Godspeed, Mr. Rudd … whichever way your pleasures turn.
Well, apparently old Kasey Kahne, put a security guard flat on his butt for denying Kahne and his brother admittance to the motor coach lot. The guard then requested medical assistance for suddenly elevated blood pressure (brought about, no doubt, by dreams of a sudden fortune earned in litigation.) No, it's not right to lay hands on the hired help just trying to do their jobs (like keeping those three creepy chicks in the Dakota out of the coach lot) but this seems to me like much ado about nothing. The incident certainly isn't going to serve as fodder for a new episode of Miami Vice.
With so few short tracks left on the Cup schedule, does anyone else really miss ESPN's old "Winter Heat" season? The series provided some quality racing for the fans as they eased through the withdrawal symptoms following the Cup season proper, and it gave us all a glance at the up-and-coming drivers forging their way towards the big leagues (most notably, Greg Biffle). Of course, these days if you want to see drivers en route to the Cup series, you only have to watch the Indy 500.
This year, Chevrolet has dominated the Cup series like no make has since Buick back in the early ’80s. To see such total dominance beyond that, one has to refer back to the boycott years of 1965 and 1966 when Ford and Mopar ran roughshod over their opponents. It doesn't matter if this was the Car of Tomorrow or the old cars, Chevys just put a beat down on the other three manufacturers this season. Why? It could be argued that Chevy has the best teams. But there's a footnote there. The best teams get the best drivers. The best teams and the highest profile drivers get the biggest checks from their sponsors. And at Helton's proverbial "end of the day," the team with the most bucks wins. Welcome to the brave new face of NASCAR. This sure isn't Bud Moore's NASCAR any more.
With all the Chase hoopla this week, a sponsorship announcement this week didn't raise many eyebrows. Next year, longtime NASCAR stalwart sponsor Texaco Havoline will back the 42 car of one Juan Pablo Montoya for half the season while a chewing gum company will take primary sponsor honors for the other half. So what, right? The split sponsorship arrangement is becoming more prevalent in the sport as the cost of backing a team continues to rise out of sight. But in this instance, when a big oil company isn't able to pony up for the full year even in the era of $3.20 a gallon gas and record profits … that's got to a be a warning sign.
It would appear (the method of choosing a winner is too convoluted to go into here) that Juan Pablo Montoya will be this year's Cup Rookie of the Year. So that will be the first time a non-American native has won this honor, correct? Nope. Back in 1974, Canadian Earl Ross took the same award while then driving for legendary driver/owner Junior Johnson.
With Toyota locked out of Cup Victory lane this season, the only foreign make to post a win in NASCAR's top rank to date is Jaguar. Back in 1954, Al Keller drove a Jag to a convincing win on the road course in Linden, New Jersey. In fact that day four of the drivers who finished in the top 6 drove Jags and another was at the wheel of a Hudson. Jaguar? Hudson? New Jersey? What a long strange trip it's been!
I know a lot of you will now refocus your attention on the NFL and holiday preparations, skipping NASCAR coverage until next February. We'll see you all then. But before you sign off I want to once again offer thanks to all of my readers for your friendship, your constructive criticism, and all the kind words. Obviously, this has been a difficult season for me with the loss of my Mom. I want to especially thank all those who took time to write those kind notes and to all of you who offered your prayers for my family, though we never met. God bless you all, and I wish you the happiest possible Christmas season and all the best in the coming New Year.
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
Tony Stewart lost a Top 10 finish when the crew made adjustments not to his liking on the final stop. Stewart backed the No. 20 car into the wall hard, and Stewart's typical smart-ass sarcastic comments after the wreck showed his obvious displeasure.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. didn't close out his career with DEI with a win, as he and the team had hoped. In fact, he spun out entering the pits to bring out a caution, then was wrecked from behind on the subsequent restart. Kyle Busch's last ride with Hendrick Motorsports was less than memorable, as well.
Some folks don't like him, but you have to feel for Jeff Gordon. He averaged a fifth place finish in the ten Chase races, but still lost the title by a wide margin. That's the sort of scenario that has to have a guy tearing his hair out wondering what in heck he has to do to take another title. (For the record, were it not for the Chase format, Gordon would be celebrating his sixth Cup championship tonight.)
The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune
Matt Kenseth had a failing battery and felt certain he had a tire going down prior to the final restart. The battery lasted long enough to finish the race, and the tire, in fact, wasn't flat. Kenseth completely dominated beyond aside from that.
Kurt Busch lost a lap early in the race after his crew left a wheel loose on a stop. A timely caution allowed Busch to get his lap back, though, and some determined driving got him up to second place by the end of the race.
Martin Truex, Jr. slapped the wall in his Chevy in Saturday's practice and the team had to make hurried repairs. The rebuilt car was able to post a Top 10 finish, and at times, Truex actually challenged the No. 17 car for the lead.
Jeff Burton's car was awful early in the race, and his day could easily have ended when he ran into the back of the No. 8 car on a restart. As such, a Top 10 finish was a solid result.
Dave Blaney ran in the Top 10 most of the race before fading to finish twelfth late. It's been a tough year for Toyota and its teams, but Blaney clearly earned "Best in Class" honors among the Camry drivers this year.
Martin Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin earned the big checks for making the Chase, but don't have to rent tuxedos and make awkward speeches in New York like the drivers who finished above them in the Top 10.
What's the Points?
Let the final tally show that Jimmie Johnson beat Jeff Gordon by 77 points in this year's championship battle.
Kenseth’s win propelled him forward two positions to fourth in the final standings. Kurt Busch's second place finish moved him up three spots to seventh.
Kevin Harvick took the biggest hit in the points Sunday, tumbling three spots to tenth. Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart each fell a spot to fifth and sixth, respectively.
Ryan Newman earned "Best of the Rest Honors," securing 13th place in points, 52 ahead of Greg Biffle who moved up a spot to 14th. Casey Mears advanced a spot to 15th, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fell two spots to end the season 16th.
In the owner points battle, Dave Blaney and the No. 22 outfit clung to 35th place in the standings. As such, they will automatically be awarded starting spots in the first five races next season.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) We'll give it two cans of warm generic stuff with an added glass of champagne raised high to celebrate the long overdue conclusion of a less than engaging season.
Next Up - At long last, the NASCAR community settles in for a long winter's nap after the perpetual train wreck that was the 2007 Cup season. At long last, we can all dream of saddle time on Sunday afternoons and glasses of beer. Of course, there's the banquet, a three hour commercial occasionally interrupted by commercials to "look forward to.” And preseason testing starts in just a few weeks.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Considering that complete snoozer of a final race for the aero-monstrosity, I don’t want to hear one word about the COT creating boring races next year.
I blame the rock-hard tires. Consider 2004, when the aero-monstrosity had the soft tires the short-spoiler version was designed for. That Homestead event was a race for the ages with Championship contenders being put to the back by misfortune and then being able to race their way up through the field to the front.
Tires that wear = good racing.
For the record ,as you put it , the Chase format is the only one there is , so it doesn’t make the slightest difference what might have been . Gordon will celebrate a fifth title when he wins it under the same rules as everyone else . If he was counting on winning with a 5th place average , then he was ignoring his team mate outperforming him at every race .
Margo L –
I give props to Clint Bowyer – he did a fantastic job this season. But to imply that Jeff Gordon shouldn’t be recognized along those same lines is insane. He had the most top tens and the most top fives – I would say he performed “tremendous” all season long. But your bias probably won’t let you recognize that.
No question that the 24, 48 and 07 all had “tremendous” seasons, by any measure. Best of the best, and all that.
I am certainly happy the “aero-monstrosity” is gone for good…now, just need to get rid of it in the Nationwide Series.
Softer tires would…umm…Rock :) I don’t think there can be any question that Bad Tires = Bad Racing. No amount of aero-manipulation can change that.
Here’s to hoping the folks at GEM (9,19,10) get their engineering woes sorted out!
Even though i stopped watching races this year, i still enjoyed reading your monday column all year and i look forward to reading it next year. The sport has become something i cannot watch. I’ve been to either a busch or cup race every year since they opened the gates to homestead in 1995 and this year i passed. That bad
Matt – I am glad this season is over. Just didn’t have a good feel to it.
The bright spot was your articles. Always look forward to your commentary. Have a great off-season.
Tide FORD Matt ;)
yo matt, you give a nice far well to Rudd, yet you forget about the 1999 winston cup champ, Mr. Dale Jarrett. Man, ya let me down brother :(
Jarrett will be back for a few races early next season. When he leaves for good I will give him a nice send off despite his defection to the evil empire of Toyota and the intolerable NAPA and UPS commercials that he has done this year since joining the Village of the Damned, Michael Waltrip Racing.
In a contemplative moment in the garage as DJ was fading badly with RYR in relief for Ernie Irvan after gathering his comments for Mike Calinoff’s site I offered DJ this sage advice based on Bob Dylan:
And when the bottom finally fell out,
I’d like to think that that sage advice turned his career around. Of course to do so I would have to ignore the fact after my classic literary reference he looked at me as confused as a purple ass babboon trying to change the voltage regulator on a Panhead. I had that effect on a lot of people in the day with my scything rock quotes born of dreaming of women and glasses of beer. But maybe it sank in later?
Matt, this has been the year that this 45 year old lifetime fan has thrown in the towel. It used to be that 11:00-12:00 on Sunday was reserved for the couch and a few cool ones while tuned into the real Nascar on the Real ESPN back in the day waiting for the start of the weekends Winston Cup race. This weekend I asked the wife if she wanted to catch a movie Sunday afternoon not even giving a thought to the last race of the season or the crowning of this years mega team champion. I used to rail against the new order of Nascar in hopes that changes would come and that the Powers That Be of Nascar would come to see the errors of their ways, but it has all been for naught.
I’ve said for the last couple of years I would start spending time in the garage building rods and just basically getting work done with the race on in the background, and that time has now come. I’ve probably seen maybe 10% of the racing this year and really didn’t miss a thing, as Nascar is just a thin veneer of what it once was. If you told me 20 years ago that Nascar would not get me cranked on any given Sunday I would have called you crazy. I just can’t see wasting a whole day on the new manufactured and fake Nascar.
I’m sure Brain France will find someone to fill the empy seats at the 3 races per year I no longer attend, and all the pousers will be happy that I have given up on the sport I used to love as they have all told me that if I don’t like the new Nascar I should stop watching and do something else with my time. Well, it’s all yours now. My new sport is watching the ratings tank and reading the old timers on Mondays giving their learned perspectives on the downward spiral of the shell of the sport I used to follow.
Nice tribute to Ricky Rudd. He is indeed one of the best ever to not win a title. That, combined with not winning a Daytona 500, probably kept him from the superstar status he deserved. But his all-too-brief stint in the 28 car proved that with the right equipment, he was easily a threat to win the championship. Also of note was his impeccable record on the road courses. More than anything though, he should be remembered for his class, his smarts on the race track, and of course his unbelievable toughness.