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!
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 October 16, 2008
Five short weeks ago, NASCAR’s latest rendition of the ill-considered Chase kicked off with all the fanfare the powers that be could muster, despite general apathy by the mainstream press who still seem to think this NFL and World Series thing might fly even against the juggernaut of the shamelessly self-proclaimed “fastest growing sport in America.”
Five weeks ago, many pundits — this humble scribe included — boldly predicted the Chase was a two man battle between Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. I am hopeful that at the time I picked Jimmie Johnson as a potential spoiler — at least that would make me look less like a moron than I currently feel. But like those disclaimers on mutual funds proclaim in small print, “past performance does not guarantee future results.”
So, here at the halfway point let’s take a look at the 12 Chasers and how they’re faring, with the above disclaimer still in play:
Jimmie Johnson (Vegas odds: 5-9) While I doubt he’ll ever go down in the history books as the sport’s best racer, Johnson might just be the sport’s best Chaser. Every team and driver knows going into the season what challenges the new championship format poses. First, they merely have to be in the Top 12 in points after the second Richmond race; it’s the final 10 events which determine the actual title. Knowing that’s the case, and having already won two of these Chase things, Johnson and the No. 48 bunch seemed to deemphasize the regular season. Johnson might be playing head games with other drivers, but he now claims the team used a lot of races at the mile and a half tracks this season to experiment with new setups that are now paying off — despite having endured several less than stellar runs on similar tracks.
With the preponderance of the mile-and-a-halves left in the next five races, that might have been wise. Whatever the case here, Johnson is playing his cards close to his chest. He did win at Kansas, but only after lifting to ensure Carl Edwards’ banzai last lap move didn’t collect the No. 48. When things got a little nuts at Talladega and his main Chase rivals were crippled, Johnson admitted he was going to play it conservative rather than go for the win. At Charlotte, Johnson surrendered several positions in the final laps rather than launching an all out drive to take the lead. You can certainly argue those tactics; but you sure can’t argue with the results. Johnson leads the points by 69 and is now the prohibitive favorite to win this year’s title. Last year, with chief rival Jeff Gordon on a roll, strategy dictated Johnson had to go all out for a win every Chase race. That was a lot more exciting to watch than this year’s more reasoned approach for the No. 48 bunch.
Jeff Burton (Vegas odds: 5-2) To paraphrase Benny Parsons: “Where did he come from!” Easily the oldest driver in the Chase at 41, Burton endured a midseason slump that saw him go from the first Michigan race to the second Loudon event without a Top 5 finish. Since the Chase began, Burton has managed Top 10s in every race, peaking with a brilliant victory on worn tires at Charlotte last weekend. Quietly running just beneath the radar, Burton has amassed almost five million dollars in winnings this season and is suddenly seen as the best, and last, chance to derail Johnson’s three-peat. Nobody who follows the sport doubts Burton’s heart and desire, but his consistency is still troublesome, and his two RCR teammates seem stuck in third gear right now. A Burton championship would be one of those feel good events where even fans of the drivers who lost or failed to make the Chase would feel he was a very deserving champion after all these years of trying. But as Alan Jackson might say, “But here in the real world…”
Greg Biffle (Vegas odds: 3-1) Well, nobody could start the Chase much better than winning the first two races, huh? A third place finish at Kansas kept Biffle in the points lead and his early playoff momentum rolling. Then along came Talladega, and as it stands written in the Book of Bruce, “Well they came so far, and waited so long, just to reach the part of the dream, where everything goes wrong…” I mean getting taken out by a no-account like Robby Gordon is one thing; but to get wrecked by your own teammate who is also contending for a title, that’s got to… what’s the right phrase here? Well, that’s got to lick the sweat off a dead wombat’s scrotum. The hot start to the playoff was surprising in that Biffle hadn’t won a race all season and, prior to the Chase, he led more than 10 laps in just four races. Biffle’s still not out of it yet, but his fate is likely no longer in his own hands. To get back in the game, he’s got to hope odds catch up with Johnson and he has a real bad run, too.
Carl Edwards (Vegas odds: 7-2) The story of this year’s Chase has been Carl Edwards. Period. Print it in 72 font boldface, and pass it along to Perry White screaming “Stop the Presses!” After two third-place finishes to open the postseason, at Kansas Edwards made a no-guts, no-glory, banzai attempt to steal the race win from Jimmie Johnson. It didn’t work as Edwards ended up in the wall, but it was about the coolest move I’d seen in the sport in the post-Dale Earnhardt era. Unfortunately, Edwards next banzai move didn’t work out as well. An ill-considered bump draft on teammate Greg Biffle in the middle of a Talladega corner set off the Big One, which claimed Edwards and his teammates Biffle and Matt Kenseth. Then, there was that whole hissy-fit deal with Kevin Harvick at Charlotte last week. But the ignition failure at Charlotte was probably the end of Edwards’ legitimate title hopes. That’s not the sort of thing a championship team allows to happen, and it hasn’t happened yet at the No. 48.
So, Johnson is winning the war, but Edwards is sure dominating the headlines. My guess is that Edwards will still go as wide open through this Chase as he did on that last lap at Kansas — until his efforts will once again put him in the wall. It will be a cool thing to watch.
Clint Bowyer (Vegas odds: 28-1) Bowyer, Bowyer, whereforeart thou, Bowyer? Clint Bowyer has finished 12th in Chase races three times, and he’s led exactly two laps in this unseemly ordeal (bonus points do count!) After starting off last year’s Chase with his breakthrough victory at New Hampshire, Bowyer has become an asterisk this season. He’s had no really good runs, but he also hasn’t had any bad ones to put him squarely in midpack for this playoff. Already 185 points out the lead, Bowyer’s season isn’t going to be one for the highlight reels unless he really lights things up at Martinsville and his title rivals falter badly.
Kevin Harvick (Vegas odds: 22-1) Harvick is still looking for his first Top 5 finish in the Chase, so maybe that’s why he’s so cranky and handled things with Edwards so badly at Charlotte. After ten consecutive Top 10 finishes late in the season, Harvick has missed the Top 10 the last two times out. Just when a team is supposed to be turning up the wick, this team is apparently content to let things simmer, simply happy to be headed to New York for an early appearance in the banquet.
Tony Stewart (Vegas odds: 22-1) Stewart got a gift at Talladega when he was awarded the win for crossing the line second. That might have come a little too late after Tony’s off-road excursion at Kansas, though — the resultant broken splitter saw him limp home in 40th. Already 228 points out of the lead, Stewart might as well concentrate on his team for next year. Although I doubt he’s been waiting for my permission on that — it seems that he’s been working on it since the midpoint of 2008.
Jeff Gordon (Vegas odds: 45-1) Who is this guy driving the No. 24 car this year and what have they done with Jeff Gordon? Gordon’s stock this year has sunk like the DJIA did last week and, at times, he is clearly befuddled by what’s going on. New Hampshire was a body blow and Talladega was a stake through the heart for the No. 24 team, yet to end a winless streak that dates back to late last season. At his most upbeat, Gordon says sometimes that he sees better days ahead, and things are finally looking up. Maybe he ought to run for President rather than NASCAR champion. Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States: George W. Gordon. Clearly, Gordon won’t say things are better for him now than they were eight years ago…
Kyle Busch (Vegas odds: 22-1) After being the presumptive favorite going into the Chase, Busch’s late season meltdown has made Chernobyl look like a fart in a broom closet. A sway bar linkage failure, and the subsequent wreck, left him 34th at NHIS. A blown engine left him dead last at Dover. Another mechanical meltdown at Kansas left him 28th. Buh-bye, Kyle, thanks for playing, but we do have some lovely parting gifts for you, including the take home edition of You Suck.
To be fair, nobody can diminish Busch’s accomplishments this season. Going into 2008, everybody felt it would take several years for the Joe Gibbs organization to get the Toyota program up to speed. Similarly, everyone felt that it would take a year for Busch and his new team to get on the same page. But eight wins in a Cup season is nothing to sneeze at. The fact Busch is so far out of the title hunt with those eight wins underlines the unfairness of the current Cup points system. Under the traditional point standings, Busch would still be second, just 64 points behind Johnson, and the game would still be afoot. You might not want to admit it, but the arrogant little SOB could still rip off three straight wins — though it would all be for naught now.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Vegas odds: 100-1) NASCAR wants it to happen. The Junior Nation wants it to happen. ESPN wants it to happen. Sorry folks, it’s just not going to happen. The second coming of Dale Earnhardt’s NASCAR championship is going to have to wait at least another year after three finishes outside the Top 20 in these first five Chase races. Earnhardt has had some good runs this season in what is arguably the best equipment he’s ever driven — cars owned by the same team owner whose boys have been stringing together titles and race wins for over a decade. The problem is he typically runs better at the beginning of the races than at the end, the absolute mirror image of a Cup championship contender. Some say Junior parties too hard and is out of shape. Others say Tony Eury, Jr. could take a winning Powerball lottery ticket and turn it into a worthless piece of confetti in 16 seconds on pit road. They go on to add that it might be the only thing he’s good for. Certainly, the radio chatter with the No. 88 bunch during the race sounds a lot more like a really bad script for “Married With Children” than a race-winning team plotting to improve their car. Yet some of his diehard fans say that Junior still has a shot at this years’ title. I’ll tell you what. If Junior wins this year’s title, I’ll ride my motorcycle naked to Kannapolis to congratulate him. If he doesn’t, ya’ll chip in and buy me a black Challenger SRT. Neither is going to happen, but I really want a Challenger — what Junior’s fans would dearly love Dale to be one day.
Matt Kenseth (Vegas odds: 100-1) There are many crafty strategies to winning this year’s title, but crashing out of three of the first five Chase races isn’t one of them. Prior to this recent string of futility, Kenseth’s last DNF was at Charlotte in the Fall of ’07. But the five Chase races haven’t really been the end of his title aspirations. More than most drivers, Kenseth has failed to get his arms around what’s required by this new Car of Sorrow. Somewhere around the midpoint of this season, he seemed to be raising the white flag of surrender for the year. Finishing in the basement of the Chase doesn’t earn a driver a lot of glory, but it still pays pretty good. Right now, Kenseth seems to be just collecting a check.
Denny Hamlin (Vegas odds: 175-1) 175 to 1? A pack mule entered in the Kentucky derby ridden by a blind albino midget would get better odds than that! The Chase has been a disaster for Hamlin, but, to be truthful, the FedEx team has failed to deliver most of the season — with the exception being a brief shining moment in the sun at Martinsville this Spring. In 2006, his rookie season, Hamlin finished third in the standings, just 68 points behind Jimmie Johnson. Compare that with 2009, in which Hamlin is struggling to be anything but an afterthought at JGR behind proven race winner Kyle Busch and the “Next Big Thing” Joey Logano. Maybe, in retrospect, slamming the team after Michigan wasn’t such a great idea after all, Mr. Hamlin?
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I keep trying to tell everyone that Jr. is a partyer, loves to be surrounded by fellow partyers, and at one point Budweiser “helped” build a bar in his basement to keep him and his buddies close to home while they were drinking.
Nice to see someone finally put it in writing how this guy lives!
And of course my prediction is he will NEVER win a title.
i keep saying jr is not focused. whsky river bar is classic example. he didn’t need to be a team owner either. it’s good for the sport, but he’s not focused enough. he got irritated earlier in the year when kesolowski started copping attitude like jr has, and quickly nipped that. but a leader has to lead by example. classic case of do as i say, not do as i do.
after reading an article recently about sports psychologist that larry mac and jamie mcmurray have worked with as well as other in the nascar garage, i’m convinced jr needs to spend some time with this doc. but alas, jr thinks he’s ok and no one can improve him. funny, the other hendrick drivers have spent time with this doc and look at their results over the years. just teaches them how to deal with things. racing is mental as well as physical. we know jr isn’t in physical shape, and i seriously doubt he’s mentally sharp. if he were he wouldn’t fall apart in the middle of races and be completely exhausted and wiped out at the end of the race. no he doesn’t need steriods as is rumored other drivers take, but he needs to focus. he’s not his father, his father had trouble when he had too much going on outside of racing, but he had 7 championships.
jr has ran better at hms. i’m surprised hendrick has tolerated things as long as he. jr doesn’t need to be a starched shirt and trousers, but he needs to grow up.
Here’s my take on Dale Junior and it’s going to come off like an Ed Hinton book. The guy just is not hungry enough like his dad. He has never been for want in his life.
I think what Junior need is a crew chief who won’t put up with his crap but has earned his stripes. A Todd Parrott would be a nice fit, a Zippy, Reiser, or Paul Andrews type who have been around the block and have what Junior doesn’t- a championship.
Junior talks a good game in saying that Mark Martin coming over will help him become a better driver, but if having a stable that has won more than 5 Cups and an owner who has won Cups with 3 different drivers, I doubt Mark Martin will spur him on to greatness.
Your take on Hamlin, is not only spot on. It also illistrates how watered down this farce is. Before Brians Brainstorn, I deify anyone to show me a driver happy to have squeeked into the top 12.