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.
Countdown To Daytona Beach · Matt McLaughlin · Friday February 8, 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 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 Six of his series, McLaughlin looks at Richard Petty’s seventh and final Daytona 500 win in 1981…and beyond. Miss his earlier retrospectives? Check out the links below to catch up.
The 1981 Daytona 500 marked the debut of the so called “little” cars, with a 110-inch wheelbase as opposed to the 115 inches on the old reliable Monte Carlos and Cutlasses most teams had been running for years. The teams and drivers approached that year’s event with a large degree of trepidation. Early tests on the new shorter cars had not gone well, and the new cars turned out to have an alarming tendency to get twitchy at high speed and get airborne once they were out of shape. One team, Harry Ranier and Bobby Allison, showed up at Daytona with a “secret weapon,” a Pontiac LeMans, which was more of a two door sedan than a coupe like the other teams' entries. Most importantly, the LeMans had a sloped rear window, which put more air on the rear spoiler and helped keep the car both stable and on the pavement. Right out of the box, Allison showed the other teams that he was the man to beat, winning the pole then running roughshod over the field in the first qualifier. But even more attention was focused on two wrecks that occurred during that event than on Allison’s dominance. John Anderson spun on the 28th lap and the car rose up off the ground, flipped over backwards and rolled five times. Three laps from the end Connie Saylor’s Olds got sideways on the back chute; the rear of the car lifted straight up in the air and Saylor wound up on his roof as well. Fortunately, neither driver was seriously injured, but both said the cars got out of shape and took off with no warning. As a reaction to all the acrobatics, NASCAR decided to let the teams increase the size of their rear spoilers for the second time in a week, hoping that would lead to a permanent fix of the problem. Meanwhile, Darrell Waltrip won the second qualifier in his new ride, Junior Johnson’s Buick, with a daring last lap pass on Benny Parsons. After the race, several drivers were extremely critical of Waltrip’s kamikaze driving style during the event and his “take no prisoners” passing, especially in light of how high strung everyone else was about the instability of the new cars.
Engine problems ruined the debut of the Johnson-Waltrip team at that year's 500, although the duo would go on to achieve much success in the future. Like Baker, Waltrip seemed to have lousy luck at Daytona. Meanwhile, Geoff Bodine was involved in a scary wreck when he spun his Pontiac in turn four, went up and over an embankment and into the infield on lap 48. Spectators ran for their lives as Bodine’s errant race car hit a car owned by reporters from a local television station there to cover the event. Miraculously, no one was hurt, and Bodine managed to wind his way back to the pits and get repairs, winding up 22nd, 22 laps off the pace.
With the Waltrip sidelined, Bobby Allison dominated the event and seemed headed for another Daytona win. With 27 laps to go, Allison ducked into the pits for two tires and fuel, with Buddy Baker and Dale Earnhardt following his cue. Dale Inman, crew chief to the King, decided the No. 43 team had one last shot to win and decided on a gas and go stop. The strategy put Petty into the lead and he managed to hang onto it, despite the badly worn tires, taking his seventh win at the Daytona 500. Ironically, it was also Inman’s last race with the Petty team that year. A few short days later, he announced he was leaving the King, a driver with whom he had shared incredible success, moving over to rod Osterlund’s team to become Dale Earnhardt’s crew chief. The top six finishers showed there was a changing of the guard going on in the Winston Cup ranks. Legendary veterans Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and Buddy Baker finished 1-2-4…but newcomers Ricky Rudd, Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott took positions 3-5-6, respectively.
A brash newcomer made quite a splash at the 1982 Daytona 500. J.D. Stacy owned two teams outright, with drivers Joe Ruttman and Jim Sauter at the wheel, and sponsored five more teams that fielded entries for Terry Labonte, Benny Parsons, Jody Ridley, Dave Marcis, and Ron Bouchard. All the teams carried his name on the quarter panels, giving Stacy sponsor logos on nearly 20 percent of the field at that year’s race. 1982 was also the first time that the Daytona 500 was the first event on the Winston Cup calendar. Until 1982, the annual road race at Riverside in January had held that honor.
Defending Winston Cup champion Darrell Waltrip was loudly criticized by his colleagues after more controversial driving in a qualifier for the 1982 Daytona 500. DW found himself out of the draft and about to lose a lot of positions as rain began pelting the track threatening to end the event early, so he just cut over back into line, shoving Dale Earnhardt out of his way. Judging by Earnhardt’s remarks after the event, he was none too happy. Neil Bonnett, who nearly got caught up in the mess, was equally angry. (Ironically enough, he would later wind up as DW’s teammate.) Buddy Baker won the race with “Buttinski” Waltrip on his tail, followed by Ruttman, Earnhardt, and Kyle Petty. While the first qualifier lacked the second’s controversy, it did provide a memorable finish, with Cale Yarborough passing Bobby Allison down the back straight with help from Terry Labonte who drafted with him on the last lap. Yarborough ended up crossing the finish line first, with Labonte second and Allison relegated to third after having been leading at the white flag.
There was quite a bit of controversy in the 500 itself. Bobby Allison’s rear bumper fell off his car early in the event after being brushed by Yarborough. It was Allison’s first race with DiGard, and many accused DiGard crew chief Gary Nelson with purposely rigging the bumper so it would fall off, including Darrell Waltrip, no fan of the Gardners after his stormy tenure there. The rear bumper was known to create a lot of drag and Allison’s car was a rocket ship after the bumper came off, leading almost three quarters of the 200 laps as contenders fell by the wayside. Favorites Benny Parsons, Richard Petty and Neil Bonnett were all eliminated in a single wreck; Petty got the worst end of the deal, breaking his foot. Waltrip was once again snake bitten at Daytona, losing an engine on lap 151. Other notables who lost engines included Dale Earnhardt, first time Daytona 500 participant Mark Martin, and Rusty Wallace. Allison cruised on to an easy victory, beating Cale Yarborough, Joe Ruttman, Terry Labonte, and Bill Elliott to the line. Once again, the veterans had prevailed.
The 1983 Daytona 500 added yet another fairy tale finish to the Daytona record books, but at the same time was marred yet again by horror. In the first qualifier journeyman driver Bruce Jacobi was involved in a terrible wreck that left him paralyzed and comatose. Four years later, he died of the injuries he sustained that day. Rusty Wallace was also injured in a frightening looking wreck that saw him rolling several times down the backstretch; luckily, he made a full recovery after being hospitalized overnight with a concussion. Dale Earnhardt managed to win the event itself, with Buddy Baker tailing close behind. The second qualifier provided one of the closest finishes in Daytona history, with Neil Bonnett passing Richard Petty on the last lap and holding off the King’s determined charge to regain the lead by a fender length at the line.
Cale Yarborough had retired from running the entire Winston Cup circuit back at the end of 1980, and only ran the big events. Of course, they don’t come much bigger than the Daytona 500. Earlier in the week on pole day, Cale had blistered his first lap at an average pace of 200.502 miles per hour. On the second lap, the car got sideways, rolled over and slammed the wall. Yarborough was lucky to avoid serious injury, but the car was totaled. Under NASCAR rules if a team goes to a backup car, their qualifying time is disallowed and they must start the race at the back of the field. The team had run Pontiacs in 1982, and didn’t have a back up superspeedway Chevrolet like the one that Cale had wrecked. Thus, the team had to resort to a Pontiac backup car, ironically enough one that had started life as Bobby Allison’s dominant car at the 1981 Daytona 500. Yarborough’s wreck left a surprise pole winner claiming the top spot: Ricky Rudd.
The ’83 Daytona 500 was slowed for caution flags six times. Darrell Waltrip had an unsuccessful debut in Junior’s new Pepsi Challenger when he popped the wall racing back to the yellow trying to make up a lost lap. A car ahead had slowed down for the flag, DW rearended it and hit the pit wall hard; he was hospitalized overnight with a concussion. The caution had flown for Dale Earnhardt’s blown engine, ending his hopes for his first 500 win. There was a long list of contenders felled by mechanical problems as well, including Richard Petty, Benny Parsons, Tim Richmond, Harry Gant, Ricky Rudd and Sterling Marlin; Mark Martin was also eliminated, but in a wreck. While all those cars ended up in the garage, the finish turned out to be a thrilling one. Buddy Baker was leading on the last lap, but Cale Yarborough in his backup Pontiac, was in a three-car draft with Joe Ruttman, who led the most laps that day, and Bill Elliott. The trio ran down Baker and Yarborough blasted into the lead, leaving Ruttman, Baker, and Elliott to stage a thrilling door handle to door handle scrap for second. Bill Elliott got runner up honors, Baker recovered to come home third, and a dejected Joe Ruttman, who had had easily the fastest car on the track that day, had to settle for fourth. It was Yarborough’s third Daytona 500 victory, each with a different team owner and each in a different make of car. Aboard for the ride was a prehistoric in-car camera, providing the CBS viewers at home a passenger seat vantage point from the race winning car.
Cale Yarborough returned to Daytona for the 25th running of the event in 1984 with the Harry Ranier team once again, but this time, he was driving a Chevy. Cale put everyone on notice that he meant to be a contender by taking the pole for the event at 201.89 miles per hour. In the first qualifier, Cale followed that up with an impressive show of speed. Buddy Baker had been passed once too often by the slingshot move on the last lap and decided that he wanted to be in second, not first when the white flag flew, so he could use the same trick. He let Cale by early and, well, Cale just motored away from Buddy’s fleet Ford. In fact, once he lost the draft Baker fell into the clutches of Bill Elliott, who took second place. “That didn’t work too good, did it?” a red faced Baker asked reporters after the event.
Eventual 1996 and ’97 Busch series champ Randy LaJoie was entered in the second qualifier back in ’83. Well, he bought out a red flag that lasted over an hour by rolling his car end over end and tearing down a section of pit wall. Any more questions why Randy doesn’t want to move up to the Cup league? Bobby Allison ran away with the race, beating Harry Gant. Terry Labonte, Benny Parsons and Tim Richmond were third, fourth and fifth.
The newcomers had more top five finishes in the qualifiers than the veterans; but in the 500, experience prevailed. Not all the veterans had rosy afternoons, though; Baker and Allison went out early with mechanical problems, while youngster Rusty Wallace was involved in another nasty crash. As the race wound down, the battle for the win was left to Cale and Darrell. Waltrip and Yarborough had been feuding for years, and there was no love lost between them. For most of the race, there were only inches between them as well, as the crowd held its breath. Waltrip had often ridiculed Cale for being too old to handle the heat of a race, but that day Cale demonstrated a trick he had mastered along the way. He patiently waited in second place until the last lap, then used one of his trademark slingshot moves to take the win. Cale became the second man to win the Daytona 500 two years in a row. Cale brought Dale Earnhardt with him when he blew past Darrell, and Dale took second while DW had to settle for third. Neil Bonnett finished fourth, and Bill Elliott scored his third straight Top 5 finish in the 500. Chalk up another one for the veterans.
The 1985 Daytona 500 can be summed up in two words; “Bill Elliott.” Right from the first practice session that year, Elliott had the dominant car, and he stunned everyone by posting a 205.114 qualifying lap. The first qualifier wasn’t much of a race; Elliott had almost lapped the field by the time that the checkered flag flew to end the other drivers' misery. Veterans Darrell Waltrip manning Junior Johnson’s Chevy, Benny Parsons in the Jackson Brothers Olds, and Buddy Baker in his first race as an owner-driver finished a distant second, third, and fourth. Cale and David Pearson upheld the old-timer’s honors, finishing first and second in the second qualifier. Richard Petty, driving for Mike Curb, finished fourth, right behind his son Kyle making his debut in the Wood Brothers 7-11 Ford. For the first time since ’65, there was no Petty Enterprises car at the Daytona 500. Daytona rookie Davey Allison, Bobby’s boy, didn’t fare as well as Kyle. He finished dead last in the second qualifier after blowing a clutch on the first lap and thus didn’t make the field for the big show.
Well, in hindsight perhaps Davey just spared himself the embarrassment of being grist in the mill for Elliott’s Coors Thunderbird like the rest of the field. The green flag dropped and Elliott checked out, with only Cale Yarborough able to run even near him. Cale popped a motor on lap 62, and that was about all she wrote. Elliott ran an astounding 192 mile per hour pace for the first 100 miles of the event, and engines began blowing like popcorn as other drivers twisted the tigers tail a little too tight trying to keep up. Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Benny Parsons, A.J. Foyt, David Pearson, Harry Gant, Terry Labonte, and Sterling Marlin all lost engines in plenty of time to watch Bill streaking towards victory from atop their trailers. NASCAR did add a little drama to the proceedings. Elliott pitted for the final time on lap 145 and made a quick stop, but NASCAR officials noted a headlight block-off plate was ajar and ordered the crew to call Bill back in to repair it. Ernie Elliott used racers' tape to fix the hole, but the stop consumed nearly 42 seconds. Elliott charged back out onto the track and reclaimed the lead in 11 laps. Neil Bonnett in another Junior Johnson Chevy made one final charge but blew his engine, too. Second place and “best in class” fell to Lake Speed. After the race, a reporter found Darrell Waltrip rubbing his chin and staring at the front end of Bill’s car. Perhaps thinking DW was onto something illegal about the car, the reporter asked Darrell what was wrong with it. “Nothing,” DW muttered. “I just wanted to see what the front end of this car looked likeâ€¦. I ain’t seen it all week.” Afterwards Darrell (who finished third for the third year in a row) launched into one of those “Why NASCAR has to slow these Fords downâ€¦” deals that had become the norm for this decade.
Bill Elliott claimed a monster payday of 185,500 dollars for the win. To put that in perspective, Richard Petty claimed almost as much prize money for finishing 34th that day as his dad Lee did for winning the 1959 Daytona 500. More importantly, that win was the first leg of the new Winston Cup Million that Elliott went onto claim later that year in dominating style. And at last, the newcomers had beat the old timers. The torch was being passed.
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