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.
Matt McLaughlin · Tuesday February 5, 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 Wednesday, February 13th, 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 Five of his series, McLaughlin looks at the Petty-Pearson finish of 1976 through the fastest Daytona 500 ever in 1980. Miss his earlier retrospectives? Check out the links below to catch up.
Richard Petty and David Pearson arrived at Daytona Beach in February of 1976 with some unsettled business. It was the year of this country’s Bicentennial and the fireworks started at Daytona that afternoon, late in the race.
John Banks was hospitalized after a wreck in the first qualifying race that saw his Dodge flip 16 times. Dave Marcis drove the powerful K and K Dodge to a victory in that event edging out Buddy Baker, who was out to try to break his bad luck streak at Daytona in Bud Moore’s Ford. Dave Decker also wound up in the hospital in fair condition after slugging the wall in the second qualifier. Darrell Waltrip turned misfortune into an advantage when he fueled up while having a cut tire replaced on the fourth lap. Through timely caution flags he was able to get back towards the front and took the lead when the other drivers all had to pit late in the going. Richard Petty came home second.
Buddy Baker came from fifth to first on the first lap once again leading the Daytona 500, but once again mechanical gremlins bit him . An engine expired on the 83rd lap relegating Baker to a 33rd place finish. Cale Yarborough experienced even worse luck popping an engine in his Junior Johnson Chevy on the very first lap and finishing dead last. Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and AJ Foyt also joined the “shovel the engine into a sack and let’s get on home early” brigade. With the other front runners felled Petty and Pearson were on a lap by themselves with Benny Parsons running third probably wishing Richard would wait up again. Once again the television crews joined the race in the middle stages and Petty and Pearson treated the viewers and at home to an epic battle swapping the lead back and forth between them. With 13 laps left Petty powered into the lead. Going down the backstraight for the final time Pearson employed the slingshot move to retake the lead. Pearson had to drive so hard into turn three after making that pass his Mercury slipped high in the corner and Petty tried diving low to retake the lead. Coming out of the fourth and final turn that same lap Petty’s car skated sideways and the two cars touched. In an instant both were spinning towards the finish line. Pearson slugged the outside wall and ricocheted back towards the entrance of pit road where he slammed into Joe Frasson’s Chevy. Petty fought desperately for control seeing the finish line just ahead, but finally nailed the outside wall as well and spun into the infield grass in the tri-oval only 100 feet short of the finish line. Both cars laid stationary as Benny Parsons swept by trying to complete another lap and take the win. Pearson had managed to keep his Mercury running and began inching towards the finish line ever so slowly. The King’s car wouldn’t refire and he sat there helplessly watching as Pearson limped towards the checkered. Finally it was too much for the STP crew to bear, and they hurdled the pit wall and began pushing Petty’s car towards the finish line. Pearson crossed the line first anyway, and it was a mute point because NASCAR rules do not allow a car to be pushed on the final lap. Petty was credited with second place, while Benny came home third. Pearson wheeled his badly bashed up Mercury into victory lane, the fourth Wood Brother’s driver to make the trip. After the event Richard Petty delivered on of the all time great lines in NASCAR history. Asked what he was thinking when the car started spinning, Petty’s reply was, “Well I wasn’t exactly hollering ‘Hoo-ray for me!’”
It appeared Petty would have his revenge in the Daytona 500 of 1977. Certainly he looked strong in the first qualifying race, humbling the field after taking the lead from that David Pearson fellow on the eighth lap and stretching it out to a nearly thirty second victory in the race. Pearson took second with Bobby Allison in a Matador and Dave Marcis in Roger Penske’s Mercury rounding out the top four. After the race Pearson all but conceded the Daytona 500 to the King saying nobody had anything that could even keep up with him. Benny Parsons took the lead in the second qualifier but Cale Yarborough in Junior’s Chevy blew past him with 16 laps and was pulling away when the yellow flag flew causing the last three laps of the race to be run under caution. In a set of victory lane remarks Bill France didn’t much appreciate, Yarborough blasted NASCAR for the chintzy prize money in the 125’s (the winner got 4,600 dollars that year) and not awarding points for the race. Benny Parson hung on for second, edging out Buddy Baker who was ready to have another go at an elusive Daytona 500 victory aboard a Bud Moore Ford. Darrell Waltrip, a favorite in his own mind, came home fourth. Rookie Bill Elliott survived the race but his 18th place finish was not good enough to advance him to the big show on Sunday.
Sunday dawned a blustery day, and 30 mile-per-hour wind gusts plagued the 1977 Daytona 500. The wind blown sand pitted windshields and the hot dog wrappers and other trash clogged grilles leading cars to overheat and lose engines. Bobby Wawak had a gas line split in his Chevy on only the third lap turning the car into a fireball. Wawak dove out the window with the car still doing around 40 MPH and rather then wait for an ambulance ran all the way to the infield care center with serious burns. A gust of wind caused pole sitter Donnie Allison to wreck before the halfway point of the event. Once again engine failures plagued many top contenders, most notably Richard Petty. Also eliminated by mechanical failures were Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Neil Bonnett. Buddy Baker didn’t lose an engine that year but spun trying to avoid Salt Walther on the 114th lap, taking himself out of contention. It came down to Cale Yarborough battling Benny Parsons but it turned out Cale had the stronger horse that day. Cale won the race, and once again Junior Johnson got to visit the familiar turf of Daytona 500 victory lane. Parsons held onto second ahead of Buddy Baker and Coo Coo Marlin. Darrell Waltrip wound up seventh. Rookie Ricky Rudd managed a 22nd place finish. With bonus money Cale earned a record 63,700 dollars, the first Daytona winner to earn more than 50,000 dollars. Yarborough was only the second man to win more than one Daytona 500.
The 1978 Daytona 500 didn’t produce a great finish, but it did have a sentimental favorite make his first trip to victory lane. The 125 qualifiers were run on a foggy afternoon. In the first 125 Bobby Allison and the perennially jinxed Buddy Baker wrecked while fighting for the win. Buddy had left the Bud Moore Ford team to drive an MC Anderson Oldsmobile, and ironically enough Allison had taken his old seat in Bud Moore’s Ford. AJ Foyt made a power move David Pearson on lap 19 and drove a self owned Buick to the victory. Pearson wound up second, Donnie Allison third and Cale Yarborough fourth. The real surprise of the event was Bill Elliott who stayed in the hunt with the leaders throughout the event and opened a few eyes finishing fifth in a Mercury owned by his dad.
Richard Petty was in the second qualifier and Petty Enterprises was having a time of it that Speed Week. The King’s trusty Dodge Chargers had finally had to be retired due to the age, and the Mopar replacement was a deformed beast called the Dodge Magnum with every disco era styling cue present and accounted for. Still Petty managed to make a horse race of it, battling tooth and nail with Darrell Waltrip swapping the lead for most of the event. Waltrip prevailed in the end. It was one of the few bright spots in the abortive racing career of the Dodge Magnum. Benny Parsons came home third. Newcomer Harry Gant finished a respectable tenth. Ricky Rudd had a rough day, wrecking his last race car and hanging up his crash helmet as a resultâ€¦temporarily as it turned out.
The 1978 Daytona 500 appeared like it was finally going to be Buddy Baker’s day in the sun. He had the dominant car and held off pesky but determined charges from Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough. Richard Petty was eliminated in a wreck and took David Pearson and Darrell Waltrip with him. Benny Parsons also fell victim to a blown tire . AJ Foyt got on the binders trying to miss Parsons but was nailed from behind. Foyt’s car got sideways and rolled violently . He was removed from the wreck unconscious and taken to the hospital for observation. (And no doubt to teach the doctors and nurses new profanities.) Cale Yarborough dropped a cylinder eliminating him from contention for the win though he remained out there running. Baker’s once dominant Olds also began to slow and Allison was able to pass him. Moments later Baker’s engine once again exploded and he had to push in the clutch and glide around the track helplessly watching as car after car passed him. Baker slid back to seventh place, while Allison took the win by a comfortable margin over Cale Yarborough in his ailing Olds. Bobby Allison, a once dominant driver who had not won in two previous seasons, and a perpetual fan favorite, celebrated his first Daytona 500 victory. Once again Baker was left in the garage area, face buried in his hands wondering what he had to do to win a Daytona 500. Benny Parsons recovered from his blown tire to come home third. The impressive Georgian rookie, Bill Elliott bought his Ford home eighth.
1979 marked a special occasion in the history of the Daytona 500. For the first time ever the race was being broadcast live, flag to flag. CBS was to conduct the experiment which many industry analysts thought was rather risky. The conventional wisdom of the day said stock car racing was a regional sport, and even loyal Southerners would not endure the tedium of a 4 hour race. Of course those same folks endured the tedium of extra inning scoreless baseball games that seemed to go on forever, but media savvy pundits had their doubts. CBS was clearly nervous and hoping something exciting happened. They got that and more.
Buddy Baker had switched teams yet again and saddled up a Harry Ranier Oldsmobile for the first qualifier. Cale Yarborough was the only car that could run with Baker and in the end Baker was pulling away from Cale. Benny Parsons was third in another Oldsmobile, Bobby Allison fourth in a Ford and David Pearson bought the Woods Brothers’ Mercury home in fifth. In seventh place was Richard Petty, who had finally abandoned the doomed Dodge Magnum halfway through the previous season and was making his first Daytona start in a GM product, yet another Olds. The second qualifier was a hard fought affair, with Darrell Waltrip, AJ Foyt, Dick Brooks and newcomer Dale Earnhardt in a Roy Osterlund Olds battling for the win. Waltrip was leading with AJ second when Dale tried to pass them both on the last lap, got out of the draft and fell back to fourth behind Brooks.
The network folks must have been sweating bullets when it rained at Daytona the morning of the 500. Fortunately the rain stopped and the start of the race was only delayed 10 minutes. To accommodate the TV crews who needed to show something happening NASCAR had the first 15 laps run under yellow to have the race cars help dry the track. Early in the going Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough made contact and both slid off the track taking Donnie’s brother Bobby with them. The infield was still a muddy mess and both Allisons lost a lap, while Cale lost three laps when he got stuck in the mud. Miraculously all three drivers were able to make up the distance and contend again for the lead thanks to some well timed yellows. Buddy Baker started from the pole but at least that year his misery was short lived. The car never came up to speed and finally lost an engine on the 38th lap leaving him 40th in the field. For a change he was the only front runner to lose an engine. Dale Earnhardt raised a few eyebrows leading briefly five times. Petty, Donnie Allison, AJ, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip emerged as the front runners. Of that group Donnie and Cale began separating themselves from the others. Allison took the lead on lap 178 and Cale seemed content to draft him awhile to help the pair make a breakaway from the others, all the while setting Donnie up for a last lap slingshot move. But Donnie Allison had seen that trick done before. Cale used the draft to get a nice slingshot down the backstraight. Donnie moved low to block him. So Cale dove a little lower not wanting to lose any momentum. So Donnie dove a bit lower to block him. And so on, until Cale was on the grass at 190 miles per hour plus. Even at that the stubborn South Carolinian refused to lift. He came back onto the track and hit Allison hard enough the rear wheels of Yarborough’s car left the ground. Donnie tried to cut back to keep out of the wall and the two cars hit again. Still locked together the two Oldsmobiles went up and hit the wall and spun back down into the infield. That left DW, Richard Petty and AJ suddenly battling for the lead while their spotters hollered at them to go. AJ lifted a bit seeing the wreck leaving Petty and Waltrip to fight it out for top honors. Richard Petty won by about a car length to claim his sixth Daytona 500. As if that was exciting enough there was still more action. Donnie and Cale got out of their cars in less than pleasant moods with less than cordial attitudes towards one another. Bobby Allison pulled up to check on his brother Donnie, to see if he was all right. Cale said something to Bobby who said something back, and Cale responded with a fist. Moments later the three of them were rolling on the ground throwing punches while the stunned audience at home, many of them seeing their first race, watched courtesy of CBS.
Tragedy once again struck the 1980 Daytona Speedweek. In the second qualifying race Ricky Knotts was killed in a freak accident. The hood of his Olsmobile flew off and the car veered crazily slamming first the outside and then the inside walls hard. It was the first big track start for the Michigan native. Donnie Allison won the tragic race rather easily over Richard Petty. The first qualifier also saw a big wreck, though fortunately there were no serious injuries. Nine cars, most of them rookies including Richard’s boy Kyle, got swept up in a 25th lap wreck. Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker were battling for the win, when Neil Bonnett came charging out of nowhere and made quick work of them in short order. Cale finished second and Buddy third.
Baker was once again the class of the Daytona 500 field, taking an early lead with only Dale Earnhardt, the 1979 rookie of the year able to hang with him. Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip both lost engines. AJ Foyt just parked his car, hollering it was too slow and evil handling to continue. Earnhardt seemed to be getting stronger, but his pit crew failed to install a rear lug nut, and Earnhardt was black flagged back to the pits and lost a lap late in the going. Baker was out there running with a comfortable lead, and no doubt gritting his teeth waiting for the engine to blow on him again, but that day fortune smiled down on Buddy as warm as the Florida sun. The race finished under caution and Baker cruised to a win, having set a blistering 177.602 average speed record in the relatively caution free event. Bobby Allison finished second and Neil Bonnett third despite having lost an engine on the last lap and having to coast it around to the finish. Dale Earnhardt wound up fourth. Earnhardt had a teammate for the 1980 Daytona 500 as well, Janet Guthrie, who finished 11th. The prize money to the races winner exceeded 100,000 dollars for the first time but more importantly for Baker it was an end to all those years of frustration stretching back to his first Daytona 500 in 1961 when he wound up fortieth, 45 laps off the pace despite having run the entire race. The Baker curse at Daytona was finally over.
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