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.
Matt McLaughlin · Monday February 4, 2008
Editor’s Note: With the 50th running of the Daytona 500 just days away, we’re proud to present Frontstretch Senior Writer Matt McLaughlin’s “History Of Daytona” series. Starting February 1st through Speedweeks Pole Day on Sunday, February 10th, McLaughlin will profile all 49 Daytona 500s – and whether it’s Pearson and Petty spinning through the grass or Dale Earnhardt finally getting the monkey off his back, he’ll have you feeling as if you’re back in the middle of the action all over again.
In Part Four of his series, McLaughlin pulls apart the 500s of the early 1970s. Miss his earlier retrospectives? Check out the links below to catch up.
The Grand National Circuit, in the process of becoming Winston Cup, was very different than it had been when the drivers and teams had been there in 1970. The Factory Wars were over: Ford had announced it would not run any factory teams in 1971, and Chrysler was supporting only two cars, Richard Petty in a Plymouth and Buddy Baker in a Petty Enterprises Dodge. Among those left out in the cold as a result was Bobby Isaac, who had claimed the 1970 championship for Dodge. NASCAR had some new rules as well; The winged Mopars were all but banned, with a rule stating they had to run a 305 cubic inch engine as opposed to the 426 and 429 big blocks of the time in other cars. Restrictor plates had also been added between the carbs and manifolds of all cars to slow them down, as the speeds were once again beyond the capabilities of tires of the time.
Defending Daytona 500 champion, Pete Hamilton, won the first 125 qualifier race of ’71 in his new ride, a Plymouth out of Cotton Owens’ shop. Also in the race was Fred Lorenzen, attempting a comeback in a Plymouth sponsored by STP. Lorenzen actually led during the race itelf until A.J. Foyt got by him in a Wood Brothers Mercury. On the final lap of the race Foyt had a solid lead on Hamilton when Ron Keselowski rolled his Dodge directly in front of them. Foyt got out of the gas while Hamilton made a kamikaze dash past him, avoided the wreckage and took the win. The second qualifying race seemed like it was going to be a Buddy Baker/Bobby Isaac show until a flat tire ruined Isaac’s chances. In the closing laps, David Pearson in the Holman-Moody Mercury entry came out of nowhere and calmly blew away the field to take the win. Baker took home second place honors, while coming home third was Dick Brooks, driving a Dodge Daytona with the tiny 305 cubic inch engine the rules mandated for the winged cars. During Saturday practice, Pearson was caught with an oversized restrictor plate, which called the legality of the car he drove to the win in the second 125 qualifier into question. NASCAR fined the team 500 dollars, but Pearson was allowed to start and race t he 500.
Early in the Daytona 500 of ’71, rookie Maynard Troyer set a record of a dubious sort. After popping an engine in the second corner on lap nine, Troyer managed to roll his Ford 16 times. He was rushed to the hospital in serious but stable condition. Back at the ranch, A.J. Foyt was leading the event when a miscalculation in the pits or possibly sabotage caused his car to run out of gas with 39 laps left to run. Glen Wood claimed after the race they found that the fuel line had been twisted and crimped, by person or persons unknown, a configuration which did not allow the car to use all the gas in the tank. Donnie Allison then took the point and was leading when the caution flag blew for a blown engine that ended Pete Hamilton’s day. While running under the yellow flag, Allison’s brakes locked up, putting him into the wall and wiping out any hopes for the win. A surprised Buddy Baker then found himself in the lead; Richard Petty and his new teammate swapped the lead a few times the rest of the event, but in the end, it was Petty who took the checkered. Some folks contend that Baker was told to back off and let the boss take the win, a problem that did plague Baker during his career with Petty Enterprises. Meanwhile, Fred Lorenzen staged a successful comeback, bringing the STP Plymouth home fifth, and Dick Brooks was seventh in what would be the final 500 with a mini-motor Daytona. After the race, NASCAR promptly reversed their decision and outlawed the winged cars all together.
1972 bought a lot of changes to the Winston Cup scene. Races of less than 250 miles were taken off the schedule, leaving the tour with 31 dates, down from the previous year's 48. Among the casualties were the Twin 125’s, which had been points paying events until that year. From 1972 on, the 125’s helped determine the starting order of the Daytona 500, but they no longer paid points. Meanwhile, Chrysler had withdrawn their support from Petty Enterprises and the factories were officially out of the racing business.
While it paid no points, the first 125 qualifier in 1972 did cost a driver his life. Friday Hassler was killed in a 13-car pile up caused by Dave Boggs’ flat tire on a restart. Making his way through the carnage, Bobby Isaac drove to an easy win over Coo Coo Marlin, Sterling’s dad. The second race was run caution free, and Bobby Allison in a Coca-Cola sponsored Chevrolet owned by Junior Johnson and Richard Howard returned the Bow Tie brigade to Victory Lane at Daytona. A.J. Foyt finished in second place, driving the now legendary Wood Brothers Purolator Special Mercury with the white and red paint job that would become a trademark on the Winston Cup scene for a decade. Purolator had signed on with the Wood Brothers in 1971 to help with expenses after the Ford factory withdrawal.
The 1972 Daytona 500 was one of those rare events at the track that was about as exciting as watching paint dry. A.J. Foyt and Richard Petty were in a class by themselves; when Petty blew a motor on lap 80, Foyt cruised ahead to an easy victory. A.J. even admitted in victory Lane he had gotten bored out there running with no one to challenge him. Charlie Glotzbach was in second place, almost two laps down; Jim Vandiver finished third, and Benny Parsons bought his Mercury home fourth. Also of note that year, Roger Penske made his first Daytona 500 start as a car owner with Trans Am/Can Am/Indy car legend Mark Donohue at the wheel. The car was a double ugly red, white and blue AMC Matador, and fans were probably greatly relieved when the hideous circus wagon retired on the 18th lap with a bent push rod. Donohue and Penske were credited with 35th place. By winning the 500, Foyt became the third Wood Brothers’ driver to win Daytona, joining Tiny Lund and LeeRoy Yarbrough. It was also the beginning of a period when three or four “super-teams” with heavy financial backing dominated the sport for a decade.
Buddy Baker had quit Petty Enterprises after 1972 and took the seat in the K and K Dodge. He made the most of his new ride in the first qualifier of ’73, holding off a determined Cale Yarborough in the Johnson/Howard Chevy for a win in the first qualifying race. The second qualifying race produced one of the biggest upsets in Daytona history: veteran independent driver Coo Coo Marlin took the win after Bobby Isaac lost an engine in his Bud Moore Ford. It was the only Winston Cup checkered flag Coo Coo would ever take, though, of course, his boy Sterling has done all right at Daytona since then. The pundits looked at Isaac’s blown engine as proof of conventional wisdom: ever the innovator, Bud Moore took advantage of NASCAR’s new rules, giving small block engine equipped cars a substantial weight break and installing a 351 cubic inch engine in the Torino. Most folks felt that was like showing up at a gun fight with a knife…and they were right.
Once again, the outcome of the Daytona 500 was decided in large part by mechanical failure for some of the top drivers. David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough all were sidelined by engine failures, leaving Buddy Baker to appear to be driving to a comfortable win. But the master of Daytona, Richard Petty, was in second and wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. On the last pit stop, Petty decided to forego new rubber for track position and went with gas only. That allowed him to make up the gap Baker had opened, and actually took the lead despite being on older tires. As the laps wound down, it seemed like a classic battle was brewing between Petty and the driver that had quit his team as Baker began to reel Petty back in, lap after lap, trying hard to win his first 500. Unfortunately, it was not to be. With six laps to go, Baker’s engine went up in a cloud of smoke, and Richard Petty drove to an easy victory two laps ahead of his closest competitor. Bobby Isaac knifed his way to a second place finish in the mini-motor Ford. Baker, whose bad luck streak at the Daytona 500 was very much like Dale Earnhardt’s, was visibly despondent after the race. (I crave your indulgence here – but on a personal note, among the 103,000 fans in attendance that day was a skinny little runt of a 13-year-old kid screaming himself hoarse at his first stock car race watching his hero Richard Petty win – yours truly).
The world had turned topsy-turvy by the time the Winston Cup teams arrived in Daytona for the 1974 event. The Arabs had shut off the spigot that provided the life blood of the American economy, cheap oil. The most visible effect of the oil embargo was the Daytona 500 being cut back ten percent to the Daytona 450…but there were other problems as well. The economic turmoil had caused many large companies to reconsider their involvement with motorsports, and even the big teams were struggling to find sponsors. The American auto industry was in chaos. The sudden gasoline shortage had turned traditional V8 powered cars into dinosaurs that sat unsold on dealership lots, overnight. Americans were clamoring for smaller cars from Japan and Germany that got better mileage. The only American entries in the “economy car class” were the three ugly sisters – the Pinto, the Vega and the Gremlin. Any support from the factories was a thing of the past.
Richard Petty still had his STP sponsorship, with the oil additive company suddenly advertising how their product helped cars get better mileage, rather than better performance. He was an odds on favorite at the 450 as a result. Even the qualifier races had been shortened to 112.5 miles. In the first event, Bobby Isaac piloted a Banjo Matthews’ Chevy to the win, edging out Trans Am star George Folmer who had replaced Isaac in the Bud Moore Ford. Donnie Allison, driving for the DiGard team, finished third ahead of his brother Bobby, with Darrell Waltrip coming home fifth. Petty’s 1974 effort did not have an auspicious start. He took the pole for the second qualifier, but hand-grenaded an engine on the 26th lap. Cale Yarborough in the Johnson/Howard Chevy continued Junior’s tradition of strong runs at Daytona, taking the win in that race.
The 1974 Daytona 500 came down to a battle between Richard Petty in his Dodge and Donnie Allison in the DiGard Chevy. The advantage seemed to go to Allison when Petty suffered a cut tire and had to pit, returning to the fray 38 seconds behind Donnie. Then, the pendulum swung the other way. It seemed like the 500 was about to crown one of its biggest surprise winners; but all of a sudden, circumstances changed on a dime. Allison was coming up to pass a lapped car when the engine in that car expired, blowing shrapnel all over the track. Allison cut down both front tires driving through the debris and had to limp to the pits with 11 laps to go. Petty streaked on for his 5th Daytona 500 win and became the first man to win two in a row. Coo Coo Marlin almost finished an outstanding second, but he thought the race was over when he took the white flag and lifted off the gas. That allowed Cale Yarborough and Ramo Scott to streak by him before Marlin realized his mistake and recovered to finish fourth. Darrell Waltrip also enjoyed a Top 10 finish bringing the Chevy he and his wife owned home seventh. Attendance was down to 85,000 people that year, owing to a government mandate that gas stations be closed from 9 Saturday evening until midnight Sunday. To help make up for the last ticket revenues, ABC paid 300,000 dollars for broadcast rights to the race: The first half was taped to show highlights while the second half was shown live, the first TV live broadcast of the Daytona 500.
The energy crises was over by the time the 1975 February Classic was held in Daytona Beach. Buddy Baker’s foul luck continued in the first qualifier race that year when he blew a tire while leading; Bobby Allison in a Penske Matador and Dick Brooks in a Ford lined up behind the pace car to settle things in a three lap dash to the checkers. The finish was an anticlimax in that Brooks missed a shift, allowing Allison to drive the most ungainly looking car ever into Daytona’s victory lane. Brooks held on to take second place. The second qualifier came down to a shoot-out between the two drivers who dominated on the big tracks in those days, Richard Petty in the STP Dodge, and David Pearson wheeling the Wood Brothers’ Purolator Special Mercury. It came down to a chess game, with Pearson drafting past Petty on the last lap, then blocking the King’s attempt to return the favor out of the last corner. Cale Yarborough came home third and Dave Marcis finished fourth as the latest driver of the orange K and K Dodge.
Every once in awhile in Daytona history, a surprise winner makes it to Victory Lane in a major upset. Such was the case in 1975. Buddy Baker’s Daytona curse stayed alive as he lost a timing chain after having led for several laps. Richard Petty had a strong car, but his run was hampered by a series of tire failures that resulted in unplanned pit stops and left him hopelessly out of contention. With Petty hobbled, David Pearson winning the race was almost a foregone conclusion. Pearson was stroking, holding more than a five second advantage over surprising Benny Parsons; no one thought Benny’s LG DeWitt Chevy had the horses to run down the mighty Wood Brothers Mercury. Into the fray rode the King, who must not have thought much of someone making a daring last lap pass on him in his kingdom during a qualifying race. He motored along side Parsons and waved for Benny to tuck in behind him. Parsons did so, and the two cars drafting together began cutting into the lead of Pearson, who was running by himself out at the time. Seeing the Petty/Parsons freight train coming, Pearson turned up the wick. That turned out not to be a good plan; while trying to get by the lapped car of Cale Yarborough, who was trying in turn to get by the lapped car of Richie Panch, Pearson and Yarborough got together, sending Pearson spinning. Both drivers blamed the other for the incident. Meanwhile Benny Parsons streaked on for the win, beating Bobby Allison, Cale, and Pearson who recovered to finish fourth. Petty came home in seventh place. It was one of the most jubilant Victory Lane celebrations in Daytona history with Benny celebrating the upset win, although the presence of Bebop Hobel, Miss Winston, would have been enough to celebrate even without the big check.
Pearson was clearly miffed after the 500, one prize he had yet to claim, and not only with Cale. He had some unkind things to say about Richard playing favorites as well. Thus Richard and David had a score to settle when they returned to Daytona Beach in February 1976.
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