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 March 19, 2009
Four weeks into the 2009 NASCAR season, nothing is etched in stone. It’s too early on to know who will be champion, and even too early to predict the 12 drivers who will make the Chase quite yet. But the first four Cup events of this season have offered a diverse set of track layouts: a plate track, a low-banked, mid-sized oval, a moderately banked mid-size oval, and a high-banked mid-size oval. These sorts of tracks will make up the meat and potatoes of the Cup schedule — though for the next couple weeks and fans will get their just desserts with some short track racing instead.
Already, we’re seeing some trends develop only a month deep into the seemingly endless Tragical Mystery Tour that is this year’s Cup schedule. And the following information is offered due to one irrefutable fact — there was no Cup race last Sunday, and there’s damn little to write about right now as a deadline looms.
Is the Bloom off the Rose? Of the four Cup races this season, two were sellouts, Daytona and Las Vegas. The other two, Fontana and Atlanta, featured huge swaths of open seats. In particular, the crowd at Fontana’s Saturday Truck/Nationwide race would have had to be doubled in size to be considered merely pathetic. Selling out any race in this tough economy is a notable achievement and should be applauded. But when tickets are available for a Bristol Cup race, once considered the toughest seats to get in any sport, that’s beyond worrisome. Heck, maybe it’s time Bristol even rescinded their no smoking policy, huh?
In this economy, NASCAR is not the only major sport struggling with ticket sales. The stick and ball sports have the same issue, even with playoff games. But I’m noting something else interesting here. FOX’s TV ratings for the first four Cup races of the season are down somewhere between 13 and 15 percent. FOX’s talking heads have launched a PR blitz to say all is well — not even Mitch Ryder’s ex Jenny (now touring with the Boss) could spin it, spin it, spin it, like a spinning top better than FOX execs have, even if they are mainly male and not Devils in a Blue Dress. But if the sport is as healthy as we are being told, it would seem that with many fans no longer able to afford to travel to the races, there should be a corresponding rise in TV ratings. I mean, even if fans have had to cancel their (obscenely) expensive premium cable subscriptions, all four of this year’s races to date have been on broadcast TV, not cable.
So, what’s gone wrong? The late start time of this season’s first three races didn’t sit well with many fans, particularly in the East, but oddly enough, even with fans out West. Many will blame the “all noise – no substance” FOX has bought to NASCAR broadcasting that leaves many longtime, loyal fans longing for the glory days of ESPN coverage in the 1980s. Yeah, the coverage is pretty bad, and gimmicks like the Hollywood Hotel and that damned rodent don’t make it any more palatable. As much as I’d like to see the riding mower decapitate Digger (and Friends), I can’t blame a stupid rodent for all the decline in TV ratings. While I’ve never heard from any of them, I am sure that there are Digger fans out there — just as there are some number of deaf imbeciles out there that are buying Britney Spears’ CDs.
My guess is that most of the blame for both declining attendance and falling TV ratings falls on what NASCAR likes to call “The Product”: the actual racing going on out there on the track. To be polite — when have I never been well mannered — the racing not only sucks, it licks the sweat off a maggot-eaten dead wombat’s scrotum. Last year was the first full year of NASCAR’s Car of Sorrow on the circuit and the hope was that, with a year of learning under their belts, the teams would have a better handle on the new cars and we’d see better racing. Like grandpa used to say, “Can’t see it from my house.” The “action” remains largely processional, with drivers keeping a well-mannered distance from one another hoping they’re the last ones to suffer tire issues. What we have here is the perfect storm — new cars ill-suited for current race venues and Goodyear unable to produce a tire that’s worth a damn to reconcile the cars and tracks. The new car that was intended to eliminate the aero push condition that gives a leading car a decided advantage over a pursuing car has indeed only exacerbated the problem.
Oddly enough, while teams struggle to find sponsors, the commercial influence of existing sponsors has yielded a generation of well-behaved, bland, thoughtfully spoken but boring as hell puppets at the wheels of these ungainly cars. Fans want to pull for a driver who at least seems like someone they might run into at the corner tavern, not somebody who reminds them of the Captain of their high school debating team who was voted most likely to end up selling insurance for the rest of his life. Had Brian Vickers gone over to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and punched him right in the yap after the Daytona 500, I don’t think ratings would be an issue right now. But had he done so, Vickers’ sponsor would have quit the team, NASCAR would have suspended him for the rest of the season, and ol’ DW would have burst into tears, run off and hidden in a corner until some FOX corporate lackey was sent to shovel out his browned shorts. Real drivers, driving real cars, at real race tracks, real hard, real fast — that’s what we need right now, real quick.
Hendrick Motorsports — The Best of Times and the Worst of Times Jeff Gordon, arguably the team leader of the Hendrick organization, has gotten off to a hot start in the first four races of the season. Gordon has two second place finishes in those first four races and, as such, finds himself leading the point standings for the first time since after Martinsville in the Fall of 2007. The bad news for Gordon fans — Gordon still hasn’t won a race in about a gazillion years (OK, since Martinsville, also in the Fall of 2007). But the good news for Gordon fans is the way he’s running, it surely won’t be long until Gordon wins again.
Meanwhile, three-time champion Jimmie Johnson’s season is off to a somewhat dismal start, with an average finish of 18th and no top 5 results. You might recall that Johnson got off to only an incrementally better finish in 2008 en route to his third straight Cup title. Expect the No. 48 bunch to be fine. The team admitted last year they’re playing the Chase game, and the first 26 races only matter in that their boy Jimmie runs well enough to claim a top 12 points position after Richmond in the Fall. After that… the game is afoot. Thus, they consider the 26 race “regular season” an opportunity to test new setups and strategies with their eyes towards the final ten races of the season.
On the other hand, great things were expected of Mark Martin’s pairing with HMS for what is supposed to be his final run at a title. (We’ll see about that.) With two blown engines this year and no finishes better than 16th to date, Martin doesn’t exactly have the titlist favorites shivering in their sponsor-logo laden pajamas just yet.
But the big story for HMS this year is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (And let’s face it, the big story in current day NASCAR is always Junior, whether he’s winning races or running lousy. He is the planet the rest of the sport revolves around, 24-7.) Earnhardt started off the season with a boneheaded move at Daytona that earned him widespread criticism. Earnhardt retorted with an arrogant attitude that seemed to suggest that Vickers was one of the few drivers not smart enough to get out of the way when the sport’s Most Popular Driver laid claim to a piece of real estate. After blowing an engine at Fontana, Junior responded with 10th and 11th place finishes at Vegas and Atlanta, hardly the stuff legends are made of. That’s left him currently ranked 24th in the standings, and if his last name was Smith, the rumor mill would have Earnhardt out of a ride soon.
Matt Kenseth Kenseth started the season hot with two straight wins, including his Daytona 500 victory which paid pretty well for a short day’s work. That streak ended with an ignoble engine failure in the opening laps at Vegas, one that left the always laconic Kenseth sounding slightly more pessimistic than Eeyore in the Hundred Acre Wood. A 12th place finish at Atlanta helped right the boat, but it remains to be seen if Kenseth can follow up on his barnstorming start to the season.
Chevrolet, Wherefore Art Thou? Four races deep into the season, the scorecard reads Ford two, Dodge one, Toyota one… Chevrolet nada. Considering the depth of the Chevy-backed teams, that has to be considered a bit of an upset. Of course, Bow Tie loyalists have to be a bit more concerned whether the Mother Ship out in Detroit is going to survive this recession than whether a Chevy will win a Cup race this season. Still, I don’t believe the rumors I am hearing that the company wants to change it’s DJIA abbreviation to GC for General Chaos, or that Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Junior, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer have been picked as pall-bearers for the General’s funeral.
Brother, Can You Spare Twenty Million Bucks? Sponsorship is tough to find in this economy, and that fact is beginning to take its toll. The 28 and 8 teams might be shutting down operations after the next few races if sponsorship can’t be found. It’s hard not to notice that the 39 team of Ryan Newman is showing up at races lately running Haas Automation decals, which amounts to self-sponsorship from the team’s nominal co-owner, federal inmate Gene Haas. Other teams have sponsorship woes of their own — many are facing uncertain futures as contracts with backers expire over the next few seasons — so unless we see a Pollyanna style turnaround in the economy. I suggest it’s time for some teams to steal a page from the National Lampoon. They can paint a cute puppy with a gun to its head on the hood, and add the logo, “Sponsor this team or the puppy gets it.”
The Truck Series Thanks to Camping World, at least NASCAR’s AAA series has a title sponsor — albeit one that lacks some of the clout of Sears and their Craftsman brand of tools. (I think Sears now sponsors a one-legged, half-blind driver in a dirt modified car run at a local track in Pigs Knuckle, Idaho. They have money problems of their own to worry about.) But it’s pretty telling when series points leader Todd Bodine — who has finished first, second, and third in this years three truck races — may have to park his ride soon if sponsorship can’t be found. Attendance is down, a race has already been canceled, and the very idea of racing pickup trucks might have seen its time come and gone, baby, gone.
Once the darlings of American consumers, the half ton pickup — including the F-150, America’s perennially best selling vehicle since the days when I needed a comb more than Viagra — Like a Rock Chevys, Ram Tough Dodges, and whatever that rolling abortion that looks like a the bastard love child of a wiener dog and Crosley that Toyota is trying to push have become decidedly un-PC. It started when gas prices spiked last summer, and continued as the hysterical green chicken littles got the general public’s tits in a wringer about global warming. All of a sudden, pickup trucks have gone from a symbol of America’s tough broad frontiers heritage to greenhouse gas-spewing, inefficient, symbols of wretched excess. Lord knows some folks still need pickup trucks. I’d rather give up my left nut than my GMC Sierra four-by; but in polite company, I don’t mention that yes, indeed, my truck rides high enough that I look at Smart cars as speed bumps if they get in my path. When you need to haul home 76 fence posts, a ton of wood pellets, or a rebuilt 454 LS6, a Prius just doesn’t cut it. But as environmentalists’ fury reaches a fevered peak and the Big Three bosses go to Washington with hats in hand looking for a handout, the very notion of racing pickup trucks isn’t going to sit well with the talking heads in the Beltway who ride in limousines to work every day. Racing pickups was a silly idea to start with; it turned out to be a whole lot of fun and some of the best racing in recent memory. Maybe it’s time to just stop the silliness, though. Remember, one rule of winning gunfights is not to hand the opposition ammo…
Tony Stewart and Pals A lot of preseason punditry was spent wondering just how long it was going to take Tony Stewart to adapt to his new role as owner/driver of a team he co-owns. Some felt Stewart had gone Thelma and Louise, piloting his career right over a cliff. Well, so far things haven’t worked out too badly for him. The No. 14 car has three top 10 finishes in the first three races of the season, and Stewart sits sixth in the standings. Things aren’t going so well with Ryan Newman’s team on the other side of the shop, though. Newman’s best points paying finish this season is 22nd, and he’s averaging a 28th place finish in four races. Stewart’s first true challenge as a team owner may be turning things around with the No. 39 team and landing more sponsorship for that organization. Maybe the Home Depot is looking for greener pastures?
Kyle Busch Busch was ultra-hot last season until it came down to the Chase. He’s starting out this season well, too. Busch dominated the Daytona 500 before getting caught up in a mess not of his own making (karmic payback?); after that, he won at Vegas and finished third at Fontana. He also won the Nationwide and Truck series races at Fontana, and won again in the trucks at Atlanta. In four race weekends, Busch has scored at least one victory in three. That’s impressive — even if you can’t stand the guy. So, how many more victories does the younger Busch brother have up his sleeve for 2009? Plenty. Take it to the bank. But the real test is going to start when this year’s Chase begins.
Rookie of the Year Joey “Sliced Bread” Logano is averaging a 28th place finish this season, and he’s managed to lead one lap all year in the Cup Series. These are not the sort of numbers that land a driver in a Hall of Fame. Too much, too soon? The hype that Logano was the Second Coming of Jeff Gordon was shoved down fan’s throats so relentlessly last year, it’s hard not to notice there’s a lot more sizzle than steak to his season so far. He’s currently mired 33rd in the standings and in danger of having to race his way into the field soon if he doesn’t get up on the wheel. One can only imagine the fallout if Logano were to fail to make a race.
Yet Sliced Bread is all of 68 points ahead of the only other declared Rookie of the Year candidate, Scott Speed. Let’s just say the competition for this year’s Rookie of the Year honor is less than compelling to date; though of course, most rookies tend to run better later in their first season.
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The Penske #12 is still sponsored by Verizon, which bought Alltel. Sprint and NASCAR don’t want rival phone companies in the series so Verizon can’t appear on the car but they’re still funding the team for some reason. This is similar to the deal that Penske has with Marlboro in the IRL, as tobacco sponsorship rules forced Marlboro out, but they’re still funding the team, given the success Marlboro and Penske had in the past… Both sponsors I guess requested that Penske leave the cars blank, but they haven’t withdrawn sponsorship. Perhaps it has to do with business deals Penske has with those companies somehow?
Matt said: “Heck, maybe it’s time Bristol even rescind their no smoking policy, huh?”
How about HECK NO! Nothing’s worse than going to a sporting event and being consumed by cigarette smoke from the moron two rows down puffing away on his/her chancer stick and blowing it in my face. I’d rather listen to you bash California Speedway for four hours than sit next to a smoker in the stands for four hours.
That No. 12 thing has been corrected and removed from the column (you must have caught it just as it went live on the site and before an edit removed it). You are right … Verizon is sponsoring the No. 12 car of Penske and is still giving full funding to the organization.
Thanks for catching that right along with us!
The truck series might very well be the best racing in the country right now , but they have a real steep hill to climb . Truck races are often part of a NASCAR weekend , meaning two or even three events . Fewer and fewer people have the money to buy tickets to all the shows on a given weekend , so they skip the trucks , and sometimes the Nationwide races . Thus , empty seats at a truck race that in other circumstances would have a big crowd .When the trucks run a stand alone show , NASCAR barely promotes the race at all .
Your “Real drivers, driving real cars, at real race tracks, real hard, real fast — that’s what we need right now, real quick.”
You must have been thinking of the mass release version of Thelma, & Louise. In the directors cut, Thelma bails out before the car gets to the cliff. Leaving Louise to take the plunge alone. While the radio plays, A Fool Such As I.
You might want to keep in mind that the “ hype being forced down our throats “ concerning Logano coming to Cup was in no way brought on by Logano himself . He’s a nice guy trying hard to be a race car driver . All of the over the top news stories were presented by NASCAR and bored sports writers who needed words in a hurry for an upcoming deadline .
If the performance is any indication, racing trucks is and was a very, very good idea. It’s been the best stockcar racing in the country for the last 5 years running. They have a new series sponsor, ratings are up, and racing is as good as ever. I’m all for your pessimistic attitude towards the Cup series Matt, but the trucks are just fine—clearly, Todd Bo-whine’s team isn’t.
Couldn’t agree more about the Truck Series, I can watch a race and not waste a whole afternoon(or sometimes and afternoon and night). Finishes are usually very entertaining and close(besides Kyle’s stomping of the field at Auto Club Speedway). Excellent pit road reporters that they seem to go to a lot through out the broadcast(which is a nice break from the announcers). Quick and informative pre race shows. And a good mix of old and new talent and personalities. Can’t wait for the Martinsville race.
Aw Matt, quit being all touchy-feely and tell us how you really feel! (wink-wink) And if you so called race fans really want to see some top notch truck racing, go to Memphis. You not only watch the race but you feel those trucks when they barrel off into turn one at around 130 mph. See you in June!!!
depending if… the writer is a bozo adding a comment here after an article, or if the writer is established… either bitch slap or flat punch the idiot (flaming idiot if they have followed NASCAR before 2008) that forgets Joey Logano was NOT SCHEDULED for release until next year! Neither Gibbs nor Logano planned on 2009 being a Cup campaign!
In case the moron has forgotten, punch the dumbass twice in reminding hime that the #20 car HAD a driver thru 2009 until Stewart went elsewhere.
Jesus Bobb, settle down. :/
I think Matt understands Joey is not to blame for the performances. That doesn’t mean you still can’t make fun of the fact that he’s overhyped as hell. Not HIS fault—the media’s.
“Sliced Bread” Logano is quickly becoming “Stale Bread”.