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 17, 2008
The announcement last Wednesday was hardly a surprise; the rumors had been circulating for months. But when Tony Stewart announced he was leaving Joe Gibbs Racing (an organization that has won three titles — two with Stewart — and eight of 18 races this season) to become half owner of Haas CNC Racing, I figured it was time that NASCAR drug test the little fat man in the orange and black clown suit.
I guess I understand Stewart’s mindset. It’s easy to get lured in by the idea of a new project, and it’s easy to believe — given a little elbow grease and hard work — that you might have stumbled across a potential money maker. People do it all the time in the real estate market buying “fixer uppers.” In my case, it’s always been beat up rusty old project cars I’ve proudly towed, dragged, or pushed home to the considerable amusement and consternation of various girlfriends, relations, and friends who take one look at the mess on the trailer and ask me, “What in Hell were you thinking?”
As I’ve got older, I’ve gotten better at the game. Some projects have turned out all right and made some money for me, while others were finally pushed behind the barn when the enormity of the effort and funding necessary to restore them simply overwhelmed me. Those cars and bikes sat there until someone even stupider than me offered me a dime on the dollar to haul away that mess, along with the attendant milk crates full of spare parts and the memories of the litany of horrors I’d encountered trying to work on the thing.
And that brings us to Tony Stewart. The man is richer than me. He’s more talented than me. But… I’m smarter than Stewart. Even at my most ill-considered moment, I’ve never hooked my truck up to a trailer to haul home a mess as bad as Haas CNC Racing. I know of one horror story — a ’69 Ram Air Judge project in such incredibly bad shape (honestly, the oil filter is permanently rusted to the engine) that’s it’s been principal in ending two marriages. Each new owner thinks he’s the magician that’s going to restore it to triple digit value show car; instead, they leave it with divorce papers sitting in the palm of their hands.
And trust me, that Goat leaves you in far better shape than Haas CNC.
Bear with me now: we’re talking about an organization here that has no wins, one Top 5 finish, and an average finish of 27th after seven years in Cup racing. The team principal is currently serving prison time for tax evasion, and the team manager, Joe Custer, by coincidence shares a last name with a General most famous for a fatal rout at Little Big Horn. I don’t know if George and Joe are related, but I do know to date Haas CNC’s success has made Little Big Horn look like a Smurf’s picnic.
So, enter the team’s sudden “fix all” — Stewart, the two-time Cup champ. To prove he’s ready to be a car owner, Smoke notes he already owns several race tracks, along with USAC and World of Outlaws teams. But that’s like saying that because a fellow has run a few successful ice cream stands down the Jersey shore, he’s ready to be CEO of Baskin-Robbins. The Cup series is the big time; and somehow, I doubt this man grasps the enormity of what’s he’s undertaking.
A successful owner/driver must wear many hats. Naturally, one of them is as a driver, and there’s little doubt Stewart is a tremendously talented one, successful in about any sort of race car he’s ever run. But being owner of a team means a fellow is also an employer, a businessman, a sponsor liaison, a talent coordinator, and numerous other functions. When two key employees aren’t getting along, it’s up to the owner to get everyone back on the same page. When parts start failing, it’s up to the owner to contact the supplier and put his foot down. It’s also up to him to decide how many hard-earned millions must be spent on Research and Development to keep the team competitive in the future even while fuel, transportation, and other costs soar. Even more importantly, a team owner has to schmooze his sponsor representatives and their guests, even when he really needs to be spending time with his crew chief to make the car faster for that weekend’s event. Failure to do so can cost a team a multi-million dollar backer.
And failing is something that’s not a strong point for Stewart. When things are going right, he can be a personable, funny, and even charitable guy. But when things aren’t going well… he can be a short-tempered, smart-mouthed, arrogant, hostile son of a bitch. You can get away with that sometimes as a driver, but when a sponsor calls up to complain about how a team is running, you simply can’t snap out and tell them, “Hey I’m doing everything I @#)$#ing can! What the #)$)# else do you want me to do you loathsome (##_#)%?”
It’s odd Stewart has chosen to put himself in this position. Right from the get-go, he’s been one of those drivers who just wants to pull on a crash helmet, drive the race car, and then go do his own thing. Sponsorship obligations, the media, and even fan adoration are clearly unwanted burdens to him, and he’s made it obvious when he’s losing his patience. I don’t want to be the chief engine builder working for Stewart after he blows an engine while leading a race; hell, I don’t want to be within 50 yards of that fellow when he finds him. People who work for Stewart best have their resumes updated regularly.
So, why would Stewart make such a risky move? It always goes back to Alan Kulwicki. Most of you know that Kulwicki earned the 1992 Winston Cup title as a driver/owner, the last to accomplish that feat. But keep two things in mind. While 1992 doesn’t seem all that long ago to those of us who graduated high school in the ’70s, it was eternity ago in the sport of stock car racing. Everything involved with the sport — the cost, the attention, the competition — has grown exponentially. How primitive was racing in the 1990s? There was no Internet race coverage and dang few cell phones at the track. It was a kinder, gentler, more laid back era when single car teams could still compete, and one fellow could handle the owner and driver duties. Hell, sometimes Kulwicki drove the rig to the track, too. But nowadays, even seasoned business professionals who are self-made millionaires need to hire people just to do things like shop personnel motivational classes and sponsorship chases.
Secondly, even back in 1992, what Alan Kulwicki did was remarkable and out of the ordinary. Through some once in a lifetime cosmic convergence worthy of a Grateful Dead song, Alan beat the big dogs at Junior Johnson Racing and Robert Yates Racing; that’s why we still remember and discuss that title. Trying to duplicate that one shining moment in the sun is like cashing in your retirement savings to buy Powerball tickets. It could potentially pay off big, but most likely you’ll end up gumming Jell-O in the squalor of the country poorhouse when you’re old.
Other notable drivers were tempted by the notion of being their own boss and collecting checks from both sides of the equation. Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd, and Darrell Waltrip all tried and failed as owner/drivers, and ended up selling their assets at fire sales. Newer fans might think these three drivers aren’t of Tony Stewart’s caliber — trust me, they were, before they tarnished their images late in their careers by starting their own programs. All eventually returned to driving for other teams when things just didn’t work out.
Some might note that Stewart is receiving half ownership at the team at no cost, so the gamble is worth it. He’s not taking money out of his pocket, but he’s putting his future and reputation on the line. Why would Gene Haas offer Stewart half ownership in his team for nothing? (In my opinion, it’s worth half that.) Because Stewart is a big name and he can potentially bring big sponsors to the team — at least, at first. Already, it seems Office Depot and Old Spice are among those willing to gamble on this thing with Stewart at the wheel. But this is a cruel business where the name of the game is “What have you done for me lately?” If Stewart stops winning and contending for titles, he’ll be yesterday’s news in three years.
Look at Michael Waltrip. I feel he’s a poor example because, in my estimation, Michael rode his brother’s coattails into the Cup series and never was much more than a journeyman driver who proved a purple assed baboon could win a plate race at the wheel of a DEI car in that era. But Waltrip is media friendly and camera smart. Somehow, he duped Toyota into dumping a lot of yen into his new team. Big name sponsors followed, and the results have been an unmitigated disaster of oedipal levels. Those big name sponsors are now likely to bail, leaving Waltrip with a bunch of half-assed race cars and used equipment to auction off. In truth, the fact NAPA hasn’t dumped the fool yet has me half convinced he has pictures of the CEO consorting with underage hookers in Guadalajara.
Others will cite the example of Richard Childress, a former Cup driver who turned team owner and went on to win six championships. But there’s a key difference here. When Childress became team owner, he got out of the driver’s seat and ran his business. Even more importantly, Childress ended up with Dale Earnhardt at the wheel of his cars at Chevy’s urging. Dale Earnhardt was a once-in-a-generation talent. I respect what Tony Stewart can do at the wheel of a race car, but saying Stewart is at the same level as Earnhardt is like saying Phish is a better jam band than the Dead. Those who can, formulate. Those who can’t, imitate.
It seems evident to me that Stewart’s success to date this year has been hampered by the off-track distractions concerning his plans for next year, just as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. basically squandered 2007 as he dealt with this year’s career move. The difference is Earnhardt ended up at Hendrick Motorsports, and Stewart ends up at “Desolation Row Motorsports.” It’s likely the continued distractions of getting his new team ready for 2009 — and if you think Stewart can stop worrying about getting Stewart-Haas Motorsports up to speed until November, you badly underestimate what it takes to train a jackass to be a thoroughbred — could play a factor for much of the rest of this season. Off track distractions, be it a career move, a divorce, or involvement with another series, have jettisoned many an opportunity for talented drivers.
Tony Stewart says he wants to own a Cup team to prepare for his future, beyond when he climbs out of the driver’s seat. My guess is he ought to focus on making sure that day comes later rather than sooner by sticking to what he does best. If Stewart wants to remain involved with NASCAR racing beyond his days at the wheel, he always could have joined the media when he retires. That’s so simple, even I can do it.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
If Tony were planning to run the Stewart-Haas team by himself as you often suggest in this column , then you would have a point . But as you very well know , a Cup team of any size is a team project . The Stewart -Haas team will be run by a number of the best and smartest people in the sport . Some are already in talks to join Tony , many others will come along later . Tony will also have HMS cars and engines . Their cars haven’t proved to be very good this season , but the engines are always great . And to top it off you have the driving talent of Tony Stewart . I think the Stewart Haas team will be just fine .
As usual, you nailed my feelings exactly about this, Matt! Even the best driver cannot make a mediocre team into a winner. In this day and age, the driver really doesn’t make that much difference. Not to mention how many crew chiefs and other employees Tony will go through when he loses his temper because he is not winning.
We can’t really see into the future, so it does little good to ruminate as we all do. Every situation is different. We just have to wait and see if Stewart is successful or not. He could be the one who does it right, or he could fall on his face as Matt says. Time will tell us.
Hey!! Lay off Mikey will you? I like Mikey! No, no, not as a “driver”, or as an “owner”, (gee, come to think of it, why in the world did Toyota pick Mikey??), BUT!!
I like Mikey, because he is, after all, MIKEY!
When NA$CAR falls flat on it’s face, which they are prone to do, day in, and day out, who is there to make us smile???
Actually I nominate Mikey to become CEO of NA$CAR!! Sure would do better than Dear Old Brian for sure!
Replace an idiot with a joker! Might make for a fun season of racing!
As far as Stewart becoming an owner?? Why not? A logical step, and sure is better merging into an existing “team”, than trying to start one from scratch! And with ZERO DOLLARS out of Tony’s pocket!! A no brainer as far as I am concerned! He can only go UP!
You say “Sponsorship obligations, the media, and even fan adoration are clearly unwanted burdens to him,” but I haven’t seen any evidence to back that up. He has a good relationship with Old Spice and Home Depot, and I’m sure one will develop with Office Depot, too. As for fan adoration, no, he’s not into people coming up to him and drooling all over him, but I’ve seen how he gets along with fans who treat him like a regular guy, and he’s absolutely wonderful with the kids – he REALLY cares. As for the media, well, if you walk up to him in the heat of the moment, and ask him a stupid question, yeah, you’ll get a blunt answer, and that’s as it should be, frankly. I don’t understand how some of these drivers put up with the idiotic questions they get and still smile. Yeah, you can say he’s paid to behave, but look at Jimmy Johnson and the latest version of Kurt Busch – great racers, and about as much personality as the cardboard cutout of them in the store. No thanks, give me real people like Tony anytime.
Tony has been an employer enough to know that you won’t keep people or be able to find new ones if you’re constantly biting the heads off of them. Reports from his tracks and teams say that he’s a fair guy who expects good hard work, isn’t afraid to do some himself, and rewards those who do their jobs. Not really much more an employee can ask for.
Tony is a very smart guy, and smart people tend to get bored doing the same old thing after awhile. They need new challenges. Will he succeed? Who knows? But at least he won’t be bored!
Nothing has been announced yet, but I can’t imagine Home Depot not having an “out” clause in their contract with JGR that they could use if Tony wasn’t driving for them. Home Depot has spent the past decade basically making Tony the face of their company. So I really can’t see them renewing with JGR. At best, they’ll go through next season with Gibbs before signing back with Tony, if they don’t leave JGR before then.
“TONY STEWART BOLDLY GOES…” is one helluva good article, Matt. The best I’ve read in ages.
Who says Tony is going to be in charged of calling the supplier and all the other crap you mentioned?? He will hire people to handle that. And I think you are forgetting that Tony is not the sole owner of Haas. He is walking into a place that has everything in place to be a great team. The only thing they are lacking are good drivers and better workers. Tony is going to be able to bring better people in and we already know the drivers will be great. And if you think Tony’s preformance is lacking because of off-track distractions YOU are the one who needs to be drug tested. Every year him and that team have had to deal with off-track distractions and they have done a damn good job of having that not affect them on raceday. Make no mistake what Tony is doing to get ready for next season will not effect his weekend deal with the 20 car.
This bold move, makes me think of Giles Villeneuve.
After winning the F1
I kind of agree with Melissa there, I mean does anyone believe Rick Hendrick personally deals with every single supplier issue that occurs at HMS? Doubtful, I think he’s more concerned with the dealerships and has capable people in place to handle those things. I think Tony Stewart at Haas will be similar to when Michael Jordan took the job with the front office of the Washington Wizards. He came in lending his reputation and perceived credibility and you knew there was a great chance Jordan would suit up for the Wizards, which he did. When DW, Rudd, Elliott played the owner-driver game, they were all textbook micromanagers. They had to be as it was a different NASCAR than it is now. Also, and not saying you need an MBA from Wharton to have a business acumen, but these three guys just knew racin’ not the business of racin’. There’s only so many hours in a day to run things, then you’ve got to step in that car and race and get some sponsor exposure, hopefully not in a crumpled heap of metal. DW admittedly did not have the business acumen to run a team and drive it thus some questionable sponsor decisions (hello Speedblock, Tabasco, Builder’s Square). Anyway, I see Stewart as somewhat hands on during the offseason, then he will ideally have learned while at JGR how to build a team and hire the right people. There’s a hell of a lot of Peter Principle in NASCAR. Everyone thinks they can do it better than the next guy but when they get in CEO’s seat, it’s a different game.
As for Mikey, Toyota knew what they were doing but I doubt they thought things would reach Hindenberg proportions right out if the box. Who was the driver from 2001 til 2006 who seemed to always be on TV in one fashion or another with the feminine drawl, hawking NAPA, Aaron’s, FOX and everything else plus was the ambassador for NASCAR after the Daytona 2001 race and had the idiot older brother in the booth propping him up to boot? Mikey. They also had a respected elder statesman in DJ who in my estimation once he got rid of Quality Care and the mullet and ‘stache turned into a driver and not a racer as well as a product pimp. What can brown do for you? Get you a past Champion’s provisional apparently.
In summary, Tony will probably have a few good runs next year, but as far as making the Chase? With Chevy sucking and reducing dollars toward their motorsports program, I think the best he can hope for is to be Chevy’s 3rd option after Hendrick and RCR. Now if DEI folds and Haas gets their sh!tboxes, he may have a chance at the plate tracks, but that’s about it.
With all the Hendrick ties this team has, does it not seem at least possible that things may be going on for this to essentially be Hendrick teams 5 & 6 (since the limit is now 4…like Roush does with Yates)…does anyone not think Stewart will not be hobnobbing with Jr & the rest of the Hendrick crew even more now that he’ll essentially be driving Hendrick cars?!? Along with Chevy’s involvement to make all this happen, I can;t see Hendrick or Chevy letting this team flounder, regardless of what it’s done to date with cheap or no sponsors, and dare I say, mediocre driving talent? Just some counterpoints to ponder.
But who’s going to keep GM from floundering? Things are pretty rough for the General right now. They’ve already said cuts in the racing budget are likely. Truthfully compared to the billions they are losing the racing budget is a pittance, but it’s very high profile and something worried stockholders might see as easily expendable.
HA! Your “Mikey” paragraph is a classic. Another great article, Matt.
Write this down and keep it:
I’m going to go on record right now and say that Stewart does something unusual next season (well, for him anyway) and wins at least one race before the weather warms up…In fact, Stewart will win at least one of the first 10 Cup races (maybe even the Daytona 500). Then he’ll go on and win another race later in the year and squeeze himself into the Chase.
@dawg: I believe you mean Jacques Villeneuve, not Gilles. The parallel isn’t quite there, as BAR was owned by JV’s manager, not JV himself. But the deal was about money and ego, and never led to on-track results.
Wow Matt, racist much? Aren’t you smart enough to write an article without being a blatant racist? The Toyota yen comments are getting old and stupid, just like those people writing articles and posts using those together.
Just remember Tony’s got something Mikey didn’t have, the PCP. That should help him a bit. Will he make it as an owner, doubtful. He doesn’t have a deep pocket investor like Mikey has. Tony will be hard pressed to find one considering how he’s shown he can be bought.
“dawg”, surely you mean Jacques not Gilles.
Good article Matt, but you forgot to consider how desperate he was to get out of a Toyota that he would take such a deal and make the move.
Plus he’ll get Hendrick equipment, so he’ll be okay.