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 · Thursday July 10, 2008
The jumbled pieces of this year’s silly season puzzle began falling together at Daytona this week, presenting a clearer picture of next year’s Cup lineup. It had already been announced that Casey Mears would be leaving Hendrick Motorsports and the 5 team next year. Rumors were rampant that the open seat in the 5 car might allow Tony Stewart to return to Chevrolet as part of a four car super-team — the likes of which we haven’t seen since Carl Keikhafer ruled the roost in NASCAR racing.
Instead, it was announced this weekend that Mark Martin would take the wheel of that 5 car next year for one more Quixotic stab at adding a Cup championship to his already stellar racing resume.
Some folks, even some media sorts, reacted indignantly to the announcement. At least one scribe all but demanded Martin refund the dollars fans spent on “A Salute To You” merchandise issued after one of Martin’s many retirement announcements. My guess is those people wouldn’t understand the word “passion” if you laid a Funk and Wagnell dictionary opened to the correct page with the definition highlighted in yellow. I’m of a different mindset. As a middle-aged guy still running down his dreams here at this keyboard, out in a the garage near nightly and out riding on the backroads of Chester County, weather permitting, I’m thrilled to see Martin taking another stab at his dream. I feel the sport will be better for Martin’s participation, win, lose or draw. While the focus in the Cup Series these days tends to focus on younger men like Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, demographics seem to indicate the NASCAR fan base itself is graying (Any more questions why Just For Men and Viagra have become omnipotent sponsors of NASCAR broadcasting?) It’s nice for us older fans to have someone our age out there competing, and competing well, even as sponsors desperately scour the quarter midget tracks for the next good looking young upstart. While writing about this sport requires a certain degree of journalistic detachment, I’ll be upfront about this much…if Mark Martin somehow succeeds against long odds in winning the 2009 Cup championship, we’re going to celebrate with kegs and fireworks here at Eyesore Acres.
I understand some folks hesitation about Martin continuing to compete even as he approaches his 50th birthday. Legendary drivers like Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip stayed too long at the fair and greatly tarnished their racing reputations. If Martin was sticking with the game just for a paycheck (and running poorly these days pays better than winning did a decade ago), I’d question his continued career. But Mark Martin is cut from a different bolt of cloth. In victory, he’s remained humble, and in defeat, he’s remained gracious. That’s a lesson some of Martin’s younger competitors would do well to study.
Once upon a time when the earth was still cooling, Mark Martin was a young superstar winning track championships before he was legally able to drive on the roads. Martin made his first Cup start way back on April 5th, 1981 at North Wilkesboro. In just five starts that year, he won two poles and posted a pair of Top 10 finishes highlighted by a third place run at Martinsville that Fall after having led 40 laps. Martin was 22 at the time. To put things in perspective, Kyle Busch wasn’t born until four years after Martin’s first Cup start.
Martin’s first big break occurred in 1983 when a villainous conman by the blighted name of JD Stacy invited the young Arkansasan to compete full time on the Cup schedule that year at the wheel of the No. 2 car. Martin and his father shut down their own team, sold their cars and equipment and chased their dream to the Big City Bright Lights. Despite a third place run at Darlington that Spring, Mark Martin found himself out a ride after just seven races. The easiest option would have been to return to Arkansas and take a job with his father’s successful trucking company while washing his hands of the whole Winston Cup dream, but that wasn’t Mark Martin. He simply let it be known he was available to drive for any other team interested in him
Martin’s big break finally came in 1988 when NHRA and SCCA stalwart Jack Roush decided to go NASCAR racing. It was the start of one of the longest and most successful partnerships in that era, and Roush and Martin would become friends closer than most brothers…a friendship that has transcended their professional parting of ways. To this day, I’ve never heard Martin say a cross word about Roush, and never has Roush had anything negative to say about Martin. Together, the two of them celebrated their first Cup win at Rockingham late in the 1989 season.
1990 was the first of Martin’s “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” championships that got away. Martin and the No. 6 team were penalized 46 points at Richmond that season for an unapproved carb spacer after his win at Richmond. (Ironically, if that spacer had been welded in place rather bolted it would have been legal.) It was early in the season and only hindsight tells us how monumental that penalty would be. Still, Martin arrived at the penultimate race that season, Phoenix. Martin entered the event with a somewhat comfortable 45 point lead in the standings. Or a 45 point lead might have been somewhat comfortable were it not for the fact the late Dale Earnhardt was second in the standings. Questionable pit strategy consigned Martin to a 10th place finish at Phoenix. Dale Earnhardt led virtually flag to flag that day and headed to the season finale at Atlanta with a six point lead over Martin.
Hindsight is 20/20. Jack Roush and his team were in their first championship battle. The Intimidator and his boys had stood in the flames of that sort of battle before. Ford was desperate to win that year’s driver title. While Earnhardt played head games with Roush and Martin, the team panicked. Rather than relying on one of their own tried and true mounts, Martin drove a Robert Yates prepared Ford at Atlanta. His team ran him out of gas twice. Earnhardt finished third. Martin soldiered on to a sixth place finish and lost the title by 26 points.
Earnhardt was unusually gracious in victory, saying that Roush and Martin had forced him and his team to rise to a new level. The pain and disappointment was clearly evident on Martin’s face as he climbed from his car knowing he’d lost the battle. There was plenty of blame to go around, and Martin could easily have let loose on his crew chief or car owner. He could have bawled his eyes out and wrung his hands over the penalty at Richmond. Instead, Martin took a deep breath, and in a gracious statement said he was honored to have been beaten by the best in the business. While Martin would become Ford’s Knight in Shining Armor and Dale Earnhardt was Chevy’s Shining Star, the two unlikely and dissimilar men would remain close friends with the highest degree of respect for one another.
1998 was another near miss for Mark Martin. In most seasons, seven wins and 22 Top 5 finishes in 33 races would have been enough to earn a fellow a title. But in 1998, Jeff Gordon had an absolute dream season, winning 13 races and posting 26 Top 5 finishes in those 33 races. Once again Martin could only reflect on what might have been. In commenting on Gordon, he was effusive in his praise without a hint of bitterness or envy. In fact, when late that season Jack Roush publicly accused the 24 team of doctoring their tires to win all those races, Martin distanced himself from the allegations.
So in 2009, Mark Martin will make one more grab for the brass ring. Can a 50 year old man win a Cup championship? I doubt age will be a factor. Martin’s workout ethic is legendary in the garage area. If Tony Stewart, who is a decade younger, and Martin were to run a foot race down the length of pit road at Daytona, my money is on the old man. It’s somewhat ironic that Martin is leaving a team founded by the man who beat him for the 1990 title to compete for the organization that cost him the title in 1998. But it’s a given that driving for Rick Hendrick Martin will have some of the best equipment to roll off the truck every weekend. My guess is he’ll win some races and those wins be loudly applauded. Even if Mark Martin isn’t your favorite driver, and there’s dang few fans who dislike him, he’s got a legacy for the decades of class he’s shown in our sport. A championship might seem a long shot, but whether he finishes second in the points or 22nd, I am certain Martin will continue to display class, determination and humility chasing his dream. That’s a lesson that ought to savored, not only by his younger competitors but by his older fans. He is certainly someone we can learn from. When I was 23, a 50 year old man was ancient. As I stare down the barrels of the big five-oh, (and I don’t mean the Holley carb atop a FOX bodied Mustang), if I can checkout of this mortal plain showing the class, dignity and determination of Mark Martin, it will have been a life well lived. Go get em, Old Man!
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Good review of Martin’s career. One of the few drivers today that I watch for during a race. Martin is another Harry Gant. Still competitive at 50. Why would anyone get their nose out of joint at his continuing to race? It’s really no one’s business except Martin and Hendrick. I doubt that Hendrick would sign him, if he thought he would run in the back consistently.
My Crystal Ball, Is Crystal Clear.
MM will make the chase next year.
MM will have his usual good run in the chase, but come up short.
Good on you mate.
I couldn’t agree with you more Matt…another nice job. Mark Martin has weathered many a storm and one can only look to his furrowed brow to see that. I doubt that the “stars” of today have half of the fortitude. I wonder what the hacks will say when THEY hit 50 and someone says it is time for them to leave…?
Mark Martin is “milking the cow”!!
I used to be a MM fan, but no more! Yep! He “retired”, then came back, and now back again!
Give it up Mark, the time has come!
And how silly is it to have Four (4), count’em, FOUR (4) drivers in the same group vying for the CHUMPIONSHIP of NA$CAR?
I wonder how Jr. feels? I wonder how Jimmie feels, and I wonder how Jeffie boy feels with all the emphasis now shifted to MM as it was to Jr. when he arrived at HMS?
I’m angry and happy at the same time… As a die-hard Mark Martin fan, I’m overjoyed to see him in another top-flight ride, and a great shot at winning the Cup. I also work for Carquest, so he’s now “our” driver, which is awesome.
But it also means I’m forced to actually watch all the races and follow the entire season next year, instead of only watching the watchable races—I don’t know if I can manage that, Mark Martin or not. :(
“Milking the cow”? Yeah, right. The man still has more talent than most. As far as having four (4) drivers contending for the cup, whats your problem with that? Isn’t that what the Cat in the Hat has been doing for years?
Wondering how much fun the guys at Mark Martin Ford are enjoying watching him compete in cars with Chevy decals on them?
He’s a great driver, and I just can’t stand that he has never won a Cup, yet. Maybe this will push him over the top.
Great article Matt, yet again. It also helps that I am a die hard MM fan. If you really want the scoop on his lifelong quest at racing excellence and passion to win get the book Mark Martin: Driven to Race. It’s a must read. And yes, I must concur, “Go get em, Old Man!”
Anybody happen to notice where the “old man” ran most of the night at Daytona? And in a DEI car at that. Roush could never quite give him the equipment, DEI never will, so why not take your talent to the best equipment. Plus NA$CAR loves Hendrick, unlike Jack, so no carb issues.
Well done Matt!