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 April 14, 2008
The Key Moment: As Jimmie Johnson came off of turn four on the final lap, he had enough of a lead he could have turned off the car and pushed it across the start finish line.
In a Nutshell: As regular unleaded approaches four bucks a gallon, superior fuel economy earned Jimmie Johnson a quarter of a million dollar paycheck.
Dramatic Moment: While there were several, my nod goes to the protracted battle between Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark Martin, two of the sport's most popular drivers. The racing was clean but spirited, and had the fans on their feet. Some more battles like that, and NASCAR might not need FM radio rock bands to tell folks racing used to be good. And it sure beat waiting to see if the leader ran out of gas.
What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
OK, so we can take Hendrick Motorsports off death watch now? Johnson won the race, Earnhardt led a substantial number of laps and even Casey Mears finished eleventh. It might have been troubling that Jeff Gordon's car appeared to be junk again early in the race, but this time the team was able to adjust it to a decent level of competitiveness late.
It's becoming clearer with each passing week; on the tracks where the speeds are lower and mechanical grip is the key to a good handling race car, the Boxcars can put on a decent show. On the high speed tracks where downforce determines handling, they're junk. NASCAR officials are adamant they aren't going to tweak the Boxcars to address the problem. Trust me, they'll do so eventually. Fans will just have to endure another dozen or so vapid races at rapid race tracks before NASCAR gets backed into a corner by angry track promoters struggling to sell tickets.
You've got to love FOX. They found a way to piss off both baseball fans and racing fans. I can imagine the outrage in sports bars in Boston and New York (and Dallas / Fort Worth, the southernmost precinct of New York) as FOX cut away from the ballgame with a batter facing a three and two count and two outs in the ninth inning. And they still missed the start of the race! Race fans can take comfort that the resumption of the ball game spared them a half hour of FOX pre-race programming that would likely have curdled their brains into a room temperature puddle of mush had it kept raining in Boston. And while FOX didn't see fit to interview the drivers of the second or third place finishers, they still managed to work in their full quota of "Digger" T-shirt plugs and the annoying music video that starts all their programming featuring DW's moronic BBB phrase.
Related to the above, it's bad enough that Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are racing nose to tail for the lead and the fans in the stands are going nuts when the network goes to commercial. Then, when FOX returns from break, they need to work in the usual compliment of sponsor plugs before showing the pass for the lead fans at home missed during the commercial break.
Marketing guys have become enamored with "one race" paint schemes on the race cars they sponsor, but the trend makes it tough for fans to quickly identify who is driving which car… particularly this early in the season. The 24, 11, 07, 42, 18, 20, 29 and 17 cars all ran paint schemes other than those that fans have learned to associate with the drivers of those cars this weekend.
For those that are wondering, it appears the official number of lead changes at Phoenix was ten. The Matt-0-Meter identifies five of them as legitimate racing passes.
Triad Racing Development would like you to remember that they built the chassis that helped Michael McDowell survive his horrific qualifying wreck at Texas last week. NASCAR would like you to forget that they cleared the track for qualifying to resume after an oil down shortly before the wreck occurred. Apparently, requiring the racing surface to be clear of petroleum-based products is still an "Idea of Tomorrow" or "IDIOT" for short.
Aaron Fike's recent admission that he raced in the CTS while under the influence of heroin seems to indicate that NASCAR's random drug testing policy designed to exclude Tim Richmond from racing at Daytona almost twenty years ago might need some tweaking. While we're at it, the introduction of the Chase to determine the Cup champion indicates that NASCAR officials need to be subject to random drug testing as well particularly in the case of one legacy employee, who is rumored to have a taste for Peruvian Pink happy powder. Seriously, it's not that tough. Throw the car numbers of entrants into a hat and draw three of them from each series out of a hat prior to qualifying each week and have them pee in a Cup. If you need to pass a drug test to get a job making minimum wage mounting tires at a chain store, you should have to do the same to race against 42 other guys at high speeds on a closed course.
Not surprisingly, NASCAR's Mike Helton said NASCAR is pleased with how their random drug test policy works, and no changes are anticipated. There seems to be a trend over the last few years. A serious problem is identified: drivers, team owners and the media address the issue and propose solutions. Then NASCAR weighs in and says they are pleased with the current system and no changes are anticipated, so everybody should just shut up and live with the status quo. Brian France said earlier this year he wants drivers to show more personality and speak their minds. He might have added that when they spoke their minds, NASCAR wasn't going to bother listening. If a situation like flagging ratings and attendance last year becomes critical, NASCAR does leap into action by developing a new marketing campaign. Well, you can spend all the money you want on marketing but you're still not going to convince astute consumers a turd is a Baby Ruth bar. Repeat after me; "At the end of the day, it is what is, and we are not going to react for the sake of reacting."
Related to the above, let's recall that Prozac is not a controlled substance that should exclude a driver from racing. The Home Depot has invested a fortune in marketing their driver. Speaking of marketing, if Subway sandwiches’ claim to fame is producing fast food that doesn't make you fat, why does their corporate spokesperson look like Santa Claus after receiving a gift pack from Just For Men?
Nationwide series ratings have been sagging this year. Something tells me starting a race at 10 O'clock on a Friday night isn't going to help the matter any. Nor is positioning Cup qualifying against an original episode of CSI on Thursday night. And there ought to be a law against any automobile race ending after midnight Eastern Time.
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
It seems every race with the new Boxcar, one former champion of unquestionable talent suddenly looks like he spent the hours leading up to the race partying in Aaron Fike's bus. At Las Vegas, it was Jimmie Johnson. At Texas, it was Jeff Gordon. Saturday at Phoenix, Matt Kenseth's car was so flat out awful he ran into the wall early in the event, and spent the rest of it nursing a badly wounded Ford around the track. Getting involved in a second wreck was just icing on the cake.
Ryan Newman won the pole and led the first thirty laps of the race, but a blown power steering hose connection ended his chances of winning.
Mark Martin likely had enough gas to finish the race, but cowboyed up and pitted when he was told to. While clearly annoyed at losing a shot at the win, immediately after the race he gave a terse but politically correct interview to the TV folks a few minutes later.
Tony Stewart had a strong run, but ran out of gas and couldn't refire the car on pit road. The resultant lengthy stop left Stewart with a 21st place finish.
*The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune *
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was clearly subdued and upset with his seventh place finish, but he was lucky to finish the race. Junior was leading under caution and swerving side-to-side to clean off his tires when he nearly collided with teammate Jeff Gordon, who was speeding past the pace car to get his lap back under the Lucky Dog rule. Now that would have ignited an epic firestorm in the grandstands!
Carl Edwards lost a lap pitting just before a caution, and then got penalized to the end of the longest line when a crewman went over the wall early. But he somehow rallied back to a fourth place finish.
Jeff Burton spun out in the fluid of Ryan Newman's wounded race car, but didn't hit anything, and drove on to a sixth place finish.
Casey Mears came away from Phoenix with a much needed good finish just outside the Top 10. Petty Engineering desperately needed a decent finish as well, and Bobby Labonte pulled it off with a twelfth place result.
What's the Points?
Jeff Burton holds onto the points lead for another week, and is now 80 points ahead of Kyle Busch, who moved up a spot to second in the standings. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. moved up a spot to third in the standings, six points behind Busch. That’s the highest Earnhardt has ranked since after the Joliet race of 2006.
Inside the Top 12, Clint Bowyer had the best points day, vaulting forward three spots to eighth. Jimmie Johnson moved up two spots to fourth in the standings. Denny Hamlin moved up a spot to sixth, while Kasey Kahne eased forward a position to 11th.
On the flip side, Kevin Harvick fell three spots in the standings to fifth. Three drivers inside the top 12 fell two positions: Tony Stewart (now seventh), Greg Biffle (now tenth), and Ryan Newman (now 12th).
Jeff Gordon moved up a spot to 13th in the standings, and now lurks just eight points out of the top 12. Martin Truex Jr. moved up two spots to 14th, ten points behind Gordon. Matt Kenseth's miserable day dropped him two spots to 15th.
Despite a lackluster start to his season, Juan Pablo Montoya advanced three spots to 16th. Bobby Labonte rebounded three spots in the standings to 18th.
Drivers of note heading in the wrong direction include Kurt Busch (down two spots to 17th) and Elliott Sadler (down three spots to 23rd).
It's been a tough year for the rookies so far in 2008. 33rd ranked Sam Hornish is the top ROTY candidate in the points.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) Well, we finally saw some real racing, occasionally and briefly, but the outcome was based on fuel mileage and the race ended after midnight Eastern Time… so I'll give it three cans of Red Bull…
Next Up: What in the blazes? The Cup series takes a weekend off so a nation's lonely eyes can focus on the Nationwide/Busch series annual foray down in Mexico. I don't know about you, but I'm hoping it's sunny in these parts next weekend so I can do some serious cruising on Sunday. What happens down in Mexico stays in Mexico.
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Stewart finished 14, not 21.
Don’t confuse him with facts Ryan.
And BTW, Matt you did know NASCAR released the permanent ban, but refused to allow Richmond to drive again until he surrendered his medical records.
Tim refused the request and he never drove again. He died just over a year later. (Aug. ’89)
You did know that right and just misplaced that knowledge, right?
FOX showed Stewart finishing 14th immeadiately after the race but if you go and check various results on various sites including the official one today you’ll see Stewart listed as finishing 21st. The results there are still listed as “unofficial” so I guess we’ll have to wait until the official results are released this afternoon to see if it’s 14th or 21st.
With the race Mark Martin and Truex had , it makes you think the problem at DEI was JR and not the cars .
I just so much enjoy the columns you put together!
So much covered in so little space!
And as regards the now “infamous” CoT! As you call them the ‘BoxCars”! Doesn’t the fact that NA$CAR in refusing to make any changes to this Car Of Tragedy is really slap in the face to the fans??
The fans that want to see REAL race cars race?
I’m a little surprised that Aaron Fikes’ admitting to heroin use during actual races was taken as the gospel . Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t , but how reliable is his word . As any addict can tell you , an accurate memory of the past is very unusual .
Seems to be a lot of confusion….even within Nascar.com
Could some one have mixed up the 20 and the 15, given the similar paint schemes?
Every other place I’ve looked shows the 20 in 14th!
Heck, maybe Nascar should have all the drivers shoot it up and Let’s see what kind of race we would have then!
Since the NASCAR race broadcasts are so bad , here’s an idea . How can we convince a broadcast network to take over the race broadcasts , and totally eliminate announcers . Keep the same cameras , but just open the mikes and listen
Speaking of networks, why did fox delay the race for a meaningless baseball game?
Hmmmm…just wondering not stating it as a fact but perhaps Stewaert was too fast entering or leaving pit road (with the engine out of fuel you have no tach) and was penalized to the last car on the lead lap? In thier rush to get off the air the TV folks might have missed it.
Re Tony Stewart and Prozac: One of the Indiana Happy Pill’s side-effects is weight gain. But it sure helps to alleviate a depressed person’s surly, punch-throwing disposition.
Regarding FOX —
Um…I think the technology is called ‘split screen’ or maybe ‘picture-in-picture’…you get the idea.
That was criminal to leave baseball fans hanging on a 3-2 count, 2 outs, top of the ninth, home field advantage in the biggest rivalry in major league baseball.
It was also equally criminal to miss the start of a race in NASCAR’s top series.
Like you said, Matt – FOX managed to do both.
In this day and age of high tech media operations – that was inexcusable!
At least I got to see A-Rod whiff. That was a consolation.
And if you think the 99 crew’s got issues…look no further than the 17 team. When you can’t figure out how to hook up a lousy sway bar, that’s when you got some real problems.
Wayne said: “Speaking of networks, why did fox delay the race for a meaningless baseball game?”
And a baseball fan would say: “Why did FOX cut away from the Yankees/Red Sox for a stupid NASCAR race?”
It goes both ways.
Stewart was 14th.
Wayne, this article is a perfect example of what I was saying. Check out those comments from baseball fans.
Matt wrote: << Aaron Fikeâ€™s recent admission that he raced in the CTS while under the influence of heroin seems to indicate that NASCARâ€™s random drug testing policy designed to exclude Tim Richmond from racing at Daytona almost twenty years ago might need some tweaking >>
Matt – intended pun or Freudian slip? Becca
You have my undying admiration, sir. Paragraph 11 was a masterpiece.
Want to talk about promoters struggling to sell tickets? I was surprised to see a ‘buy one get one free’ coupon in the monthly Val-Pak mailing for either Pocono Cup race. It must be a really tough sell if they have to give away a free ticket with every ticket purchased.
Well, Marc, when all Richmond tested positive for was Sudafed and Ibufrofen, NASCAR had to do a pretty abrupt about face. Funny thing was Richard Petty drove with a broken neck, Ricky Rudd raced with his eyelids taped open, but NASCAR green lighted them. Bottom line is NASCAR’s drug policy was and is a total farce and you know as well as I do it’s going to take a driver plowing into the grandstands or running in reverse for a lap or 2 for NASCAR to change and do the random test.
Margo, you may be on to something there with Fike. Maybe he sees the money, book deal, interview circuit, and attention that the Jose Canseco’s and Brain Macnamee’s are getting for spilling the beans on baseball’s drug use and trying to figure if he can parlay his “knowledge” into some bucks for himself, just like Tyler Walker. I mean what redeeming social value does Fike or Walker have. I know Walker’s parents are pretty wealthy, but in an ESPN article, he said he knew of other drivers who use drugs recreationally, right? Sounds familiar. Name names and offer proof or shut the heck up.
I honestly don’t know how a stock car driver can drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but perhaps I’m naive. I get speed, or uppers, as truckers do it, but heroin? I’m amazed he could get in the car and maintain. I think the history of NASCAR’s drug policy would be a heck of an article for McLaughlin to write about and I think the timeline of drivers/crew members tested would blow you away. It’d probably be 1988 then 2002 and a few spatterings here and there. No big names except for a guy who drove the Folgers car who had a headache and a cold and probably took too many Advils and sped up his demise by staying off the AZT. Funny thing was the testing back then was not good enough to show quantity, and the guy who administered the tests was fired by the NFL for testing improprieties if memory serves. Granted, Richmond did himself no favors, but he was still blackballed and even you Marc, cannot deny that. Again, why were no other drivers medical records requested. When Earnhardt had that fainting spell at Rockingham where he fell asleep on the pace lap and smacked the wall, no one asked for his medical records or for him to pee in a cup. I think it came out after his death that he had surgery to take a piece of metal out of his forehead prior to that.
If I remember correctly weren’t there some whispers about Kenny Irwin around the time he died. I remember Jeff Burton making a rather cryptic comment the day Irwin died that got some immediate airplay but then got lost in soundbyte space.
Tim Richmond did not release his medical records, because he did not want the world to know that he had contracted AIDS. The only two assumptions were that he was either an intravienous drug user or, God forbid, gay. Neither was the case. As crew chief Harry Hyde put it several years later, “He was scared to death of needles, and Tim wasn’t exactly into ‘the girl-next-door’, let’s put it that way.”
Again, it was obviously a witch hunt on the part of NASCAR as they did not demand any other driver’s medical records at the time. What I remember when this was all going on was that the rumors were that he had AIDS or had lung disease from free-basing cocaine. Look at the time too, I remember the little vignette he did during the 1984 Daytona 500 where he was doing aerobics and hopping waves on his speedboat. He was not the normal NASCAR driver and he was successful. Again, the funny thing was, he was probably the only driver that worked out back then.
I mean what would have happened had Richmond tested positive for AZT? No real reason to take it unless you’re fighting AIDS. NASCAR was banking on the fact that Richmond would not do the drug test and when he did, they had to do something and come up with alternatives. The saving grace for NASCAR back then was that it was not the giant sport it is now or there’s no way they’d have gotten away with what they did.
Their arrogance is shining through now as they feel there’s no problem with the current testing format when it is way behind even the WWE.