NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Matt McLaughlin · Thursday August 28, 2008
I’ve always been uncomfortable with “Silly Season,” the phrase used to describe the portion of the year where drivers, sponsors, and team owners decide who will drive what car backed by which financial heavyweight the following season. Not too long ago, “Silly Season” used to start in the Fall; now, it starts about 15 minutes after the end of the Daytona 500. Just ask Jacques Villeneuve, who arrived at Daytona thinking he had a Cup ride for the entire season — but found himself unemployed after having failed to qualify for the big race.
The term ““Silly Season” also implies much joy and frivolity, sort of like a middle school dance that pays really well. Fans, for the most part, seem endlessly fascinated by the latest “Silly Season” rumors, as witnessed by the success of Jayski’s site that contains that very phrase. As a fan as well as a writer, I am not immune to finding the latest rumor, gossip, and deliberate mistruths spread by agents trying to advance their clients’ futures — but I’ve also seen the dark side of the carnival. In what amounts to a huge game of musical chairs, some drivers and team members end up losing big, finding themselves still standing without a place to sit when the music stops. These are real people with real dreams, aspirations, obligations, and families who — having once been in the Big Top — find themselves abruptly tossed from the circus like a shovelful of elephant crap.
It might seem an affectation for me as a solid and proud blue collar guy to worry much about the continued employment of drivers who make millions of dollars a year. Most of you reading this, and me for that matter, would be giddy to retire on what a driver like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. makes in just one season. But the closer you get to the game, the more you realize that these drivers are real human beings… not cartoon characters. They are gifted with incredible talents, and they take a considerable amount of risk most of us would find unacceptable each time they take the wheel. Theirs is a high stakes game where the losses are far too harsh; you might run well and win a bunch of races for a few years, but when you hit hard times, you’re gone — and you’re lucky to have your health. All too often, a driver’s life is forever altered by injuries suffered practicing their craft. Ask Ricky Craven or Jerry Nadeau how it feels; although sadly, you can’t ask Dale Earnhardt, Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin or Tony Roper.
Some drivers play this “Silly Season” game better than others… and some just don’t ever play it right at all. One driver who will admit his many missteps is Jeremy Mayfield. Mayfield’s rise to prominence began about the same time I started working the garage area. I was covering the race at Rockingham in the Spring of 1998 when Mayfield posted a solid fifth place qualifying run, one week after finishing a solid third in the previous week’s Daytona 500. I asked for a few minutes of his time and in our chat, I found Mayfield to be a thoroughly likable and down to Earth fellow, willing to give me all the time I needed for an interview — even if I worked for a small paper. I wrote a positive piece after our encounter, and the next time he saw me in the garage, Mayfield went out of his way to thank me. Trust me, that doesn’t happen a lot.
Two years prior, Mayfield had decided to leave Cale Yarborough’s team to drive for Michael Kranefuss. It seemed like a sure thing, as Kranefuss was the former head of Ford Racing and a heavy political insider in Dearborn. Ford was going to see to it their new team and driver succeeded; and once the team announced a partnership with legendary Roger Penske, their fortunes just simply took off. Mayfield scored the first Cup victory of his career at Pocono in 1998, and he’d go on to win twice more with the team before deciding at the end of 2001 that the grass was greener somewhere else. A lot of insiders felt Mayfield was making a huge mistake; but for all his talents as a driver and his occasional bouts of good humor, Mayfield’s then-teammate Rusty Wallace could be an egotistical, self-centered, nasty monster. Rusty didn’t want a teammate, and he never warmed to Mayfield. So, once Kranefuss sold his share of the team to Penske during the 2000 season, Mayfield’s career with the team didn’t last much more than one more year.
Still, the veteran seemed to land on his feet with an offer to drive for Ray Evernham’s Dodge team in 2002. Ray was the guy who had helped guide Jeff Gordon to all those titles, and the team was spending freely to be sure that they had a winning program. What could go wrong?
At times, nothing … and at times, everything.
During the 2006 season, Mayfield struggled after his crew chief was pulled and teamed up with star driver Kasey Kahne; the two-time Chaser would fall far short of a third appearance, and he decided to call Evernham on the carpet. Going public, Mayfield said his boss’ involvement with Erin Crocker — and the resultant divorce proceedings with his wife — were distracting Ray from managing the team. Despite the two wins the duo had enjoyed together, Evernham canned him shortly thereafter — and Mayfield was hard up to find work somewhere else. Eventually, he found himself driving for the floundering Bill Davis organization in 2007, failing to qualify for races and driving for a sponsor that wasn’t paying the bills. By and large, he’s been on the sidelines ever since despite five Cup victories to his credit.
Every year, Silly Season seems to hinge on one monumental change. Last year, it was Earnhardt, Jr.‘s decision to leave the family team to drive for Rick Hendrick. This year, it was Tony Stewart’s decision to leave the safe and successful comfort of Joe Gibbs Racing — an organization that has helped him score two titles — to throw in his lot with a current team owner serving time in prison. (For all the rave reviews BC Hydro gets, it seems they’re growing some pretty potent whacky tobacky in Indiana, too — perhaps Hoosier Stupid Weed?)
Anyways, once Stewart made his choice official, the dominoes began to fall. Rookie sensation Joey Logano will take up the Home Depot colors with the No. 20 team at Joe Gibbs Racing in Stewart’s absence. As big a stir as Logano is raising, he’d be well advised to place a phone call to Casey Atwood. Atwood was once the next big thing, the can’t miss young superstar who was to follow in Jeff Gordon’s shoes and prove the missing piece in Ray Evernham’s puzzle to return Dodge to Winner’s Circle. It was great in theory … but that didn’t work out too well. After two winless seasons, the New Kid in Town found himself on the outside looking in, and he’s struggled to find a Busch, Nationwide or even Truck seat since. (see Tom Bowles’ Did You Notice article yesterday for more.)
Like Mayfield before him, Ryan Newman has also decided he has no future with Roger Penske Racing, and he’s thrown in his lot to drive as Tony Stewart’s teammate next year instead. Remember, this is the driver who won this year’s Daytona 500 with Penske — it was all was sweetness and light at the time but to date, the rest of the season has been a disaster for the 12 bunch, so much so that Newman has decided to leap headfirst into untested waters. My guess is that the water turns out to be a lot shallower than it appeared from that bridge overpass… but we’ll see.
Over at Penske, nobody has been named to succeed Newman in the 12, though rumors are rampant David Stremme might get the nod…if, in fact, the team can find a new sponsor. Alltel may decide to bail now that they’ve been acquired by Verizon and can’t be grandfathered in under the exclusive rights afforded to Nextel…err, I mean Sprint.
Some teams seem to be heading for the precipice altogether. Chip Ganassi Racing had to shut down Dario Franchitti’s team because of lack of sponsorship, and Texaco/Havoline has announced they won’t be back with the organization next year — ending an involvement decades long with NASCAR, one that included the salad days of Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan at RYR. Reed Sorenson has announced he’s leaving the team, and Target is reconsidering their involvement with Ganassi despite the success they have enjoyed with him in open wheel racing. So, it seems CGR is looking for at least two drivers and three sponsors next year in a difficult economic climate. Recall as recently as 2002, Sterling Marlin seemed headed for a championship with Ganassi at the wheel of the Coors Light Dodge before he was injured. Now Marlin is gone, Coors Light is gone, hopes of winning a title anytime soon are gone, and CGR may be gone soon, too.
DEI also seems to be on the ropes. It is very unlikely any of their three teams will be in the Chase this year, and while Martin Truex, Jr. recently signed a one year deal with the team, it was with seeming reluctance. It seemed that with all the prime seats filled for 2009, Truex apparently just decided to wait another year to see if the pastures are greener elsewhere for 2010. Bass Pro Shops also seems more married to Truex than DEI, which can only help his bargaining stance next year. John Menard and his boy are looking at what’s out there in the “Buy a Ride” market, while Regan Smith has struggled to make and finish races — and there’s no clear indication that Principal Financial is going to be around next year.
All season, Yates Racing (now run by Robert’s son Doug) has struggled to find sponsorship for his two teams, and out of pocket expenses are mounting. Supposedly, Jack Roush is trying to help keep Yates alive but, while Yates says he remains committed to his two drivers, he’s made it clear that if any driver is able to bring solid sponsorship to the table, the team is willing to listen. I can’t imagine the Yates organization surviving another year on life support.
In other news, Casey Mears is on the move from the “Fourth Beatle” status at Rick Hendrick Motorsports to fourth Beatle status with the newly formed Richard Childress Racing team. In a bit of a puzzler, he’ll apparently inherit the Jack Daniel’s sponsorship and the team points from Clint Bowyer’s potentially championship-contending No. 07 team, while Bowyer will drive for General Mills (about to depart Bobby Labonte’s storied No. 43 car). Talk about a kick in the teeth for Bowyer, who will have to qualify for the first five races next season with a new team and new crew chief. I don’t know…when thinking Casey Mears and Jack Daniel’s, the only thing I can figure is his haircut makes it appear Mears drinks a lot of the stuff and made an unfortunate phone call during a UHF “Flow-Bee” hair-cutting system ad. Meanwhile Mark Martin —- another victim of a chronically bad hair life — will once again compete for just one more full season with Hendrick in the No. 5 car. We shall see … but before this season is even over or 2009 begins, there’s already speculation as to who will get a ride in the No. 5 car for 2010.
Finally, the two most storied teams in NASCAR history — Petty Engineering and the Wood Brothers — are in dire trouble. The Top 35 qualifying rule and failure to keep up with the times might just end up sending both the way of the Dodo bird, regardless of any investors who jump in to save them.
Like I’ve said, racing’s a tough business these days. Good sponsors are getting harder to find and even harder to keep… and when you do get one, chances are they’re pickier than ever. Pity poor Scott Wimmer, who recently heard that RCR will no longer require his services in the Nationwide Series next year after having also been passed over for a chance in the seat of the fourth RCR car. Wimmer was once the next big thing: he and his then crew chief Bootie Barker won four of the final eight Busch races in 2002 driving for Bill Davis, and Davis decided to capitalize on a sure thing by moving Wimmer to the Cup series. But shortly before the 2004 season began, Wimmer was involved in a DUI accident and abruptly fled the scene. Despite an emotional apology that had even MADD back off their demands he be fired, Wimmer’s stock has been in the hopper ever since; and now, he’s on the outside looking in again, despite being a loyal soldier at RCR these past two seasons.
Hiring and firing is always a messy and unseemly process. Relationships between team owners and drivers usually start with such high promise and praise, predictions of near-immediate success combined with a slew of titles down the road. I’ve never heard a driver announce he was making a career change in an effort to post more Top 15 finishes, and I’ve never heard a team owner predict his new driver will be somewhat less mediocre than the one he’ll replace. Sponsors buy into the dream and want to see their cars running up front; but if they don’t, all too often relationships that start with such optimism dissolve into bitter acrimony, finger pointing, and violations of duly witnessed contracts. A slew of crew chiefs and crew members are sacrificed on the altar of expediency, trying to show sponsors that team owners are trying to turn things around however they can. And if nothing improves, the relationship usually ends with a tersely worded press release that states Team Owner A and Driver B have agreed to a “mutually agreed upon parting of ways” and “wish each other all the best down the road.” When the first one breaks, the music starts up, and everyone starts scrambling… looking to fill seats. And when that music stops, there’s always someone without a seat and — to that fellow — there’s nothing silly about this season at all.
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Target isn’t reconsidering anymore, they just signed a deal with CGR, so that old saw can be put to bed – until next year… FS and CG have to be the most egotistical owners, and most obnoxious, in the sport, and they treat their drivers like crap from what I’ve seen, and their cars aren’t very good anymore because a lot of talented people have left (or been fired) due to the craziness there, so why would anyone want to race for him at this point unless they had no other options?
Scott Wimmer on the outs at RCR had nothing to do with his past with the DUI. It has everything to do with RC’s nephew Austin Dillon moving up to Nationwide and RC needing a place for him, and the fact that Wimmer got one win last year in the same car Jeff Burton got five of them in, and hasn’t done any better this year.
Bowyer probably won’t be qualifying next year – per RC, they’re looking to snag points from another team for the 33 car by buying them, but we don’t know how that will turn out. I think it highly unlikely, however, that RC would roll the dice on Bowyer getting in the top 35 after five races. And if he does have to qualify, Bowyer’s not a bad qualifier – a lot of rained out qualifying races would be the only risk. And given the reduced number of entries due to teams shutting down, not a lot of risk. A couple of races of late have had only 44 people attempting to qualify for 43 spots, after all. Next year could wind up being the easiest year in a while for getting a new team qualified and above the rain-out-go-home line.
Somebody give Jeremy Mayfield a Cup ride – please. He really deserves a shot, he’s learned his lesson to not tell the truth about his employer to the media! And Jeremy, try to get a NW or Truck ride until then to stay in the public eye – it is better than no ride at all.
“Scott Wimmer on the outs at RCR had nothing to do with his past with the DUI. It has everything to do with RC’s nephew Austin Dillon moving up to Nationwide and RC needing a place for him, and the fact that Wimmer got one win last year in the same car Jeff Burton got five of them in, and hasn’t done any better this year.”
austin dillon is childress’ GRANDSON.
Great piece Matt, and this is an indictment of how the money above all else attitudes have degenerated the integrity of our sport.
Can someone explain to me how having teams and drivers constantly on the financial brink improves the quality of the racing, which is suspect at best?
Nephew..grandson..it’s all relative. ;)
In the interest of accuracy, and not to pick on Mike, but Wimmer didnt have any wins last year to Burton’s five. He won once this year, so far.
But the point holds… it’s about wins, not good points days, at least at the NW level. Ya gotta win in NW to get a shot to move up… unless you’re Brad Coleman. Or Michael McDowell. Or Marcos Ambrose. Hmm. Maybe you don’t need to win after all, you just have to look good not doing it. :)
It’s all about money and not really talent. The sponsors want the young, pretty-boys. All these guys can drive race cars, but they have to have the equipment and money behind them. It really is silly season and it gets worse every year. Just a few years ago, you could pretty much count on a driver and team being together for a long time, while sponors came and went. Now sponsors dictate most everything.
“John Menard’s boy” … ouch !!
I’ve only been following this sport for 5 years, but each year I keep hearing how Mayfield has,
a) screwed up a good thing yet again
b) feels real bad about it
c) wishes like heck he could be given another chance again
That tune is played, it’s old and scratchy, it’s over.
Mayfield and what’s his name Sauter both have the same problem. They’re p*ssy-whipped weaklings with egomaniac wives.
Well said Matt, nothing silly about this game of musical seats at all. I also agree, give Mayfield a ride