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 · Monday April 20, 2009
The Key Moment: Mark Martin was able to quickly dispatch Ryan Newman on the race’s final restart, and Tony Stewart never generated the steam to catch him.
In a Nutshell: Martin’s victory is a feel good story, but it doesn’t hide the fact Phoenix wasn’t much of a race.
Dramatic Moment: With passing so hard and track position so important, the first few laps after a restart are about all we have left in this sport that resembles real racing.
The pyrotechnics in the air weren’t the only fireworks after the race.
Truthfully, the only great racing I saw all night was off of pit road after the final caution. Martin barely beat Stewart (and a soon to be penalized Kyle Busch) to hold his track position.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
Mark Martin might not be everyone’s favorite driver, but I’ve met few fans who don’t like him. If their guy can’t win, a Martin win makes most fans feel good anyway because of the class Martin has shown during his career and the grace with which he has faced the most crushing defeats. It was also nice to see Martin’s former team owner, Jack Roush, and former teammates Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth rushing to congratulate him. Sometimes, friendships do survive competitive rivalries and business divorces. In another show of class, Martin took a few moments during what was rightfully his own time in the spotlight to pay tribute to both Alan Kulwicki and Tim Richmond.
It was also sort of nice to see a driver not doing burnouts and doughnuts and in general carrying on like a lunatic hoodlum after winning a race. Martin acted like he wasn’t surprised he was going to Victory Lane — because he’d been there before. Hopefully, some other, younger drivers were taking notes. That might have been the classiest post-race celebration since Terry Labonte won the final Southern 500.
Give Ryan Newman some credit for class as well. He restarted the race in the lead with a handful of laps left to run. Even if he couldn’t have won the race, he surely could have messed with Mark Martin enough to allow his team owner, Tony Stewart, to take the victory. But when Newman saw he’d been bested, he allowed Martin to pass him cleanly.
Given the way the car in the lead with clean air on its nose is able to dominate (witness the previously hapless No. 88 car driving away from the field after the fifth caution and Kurt Busch’s dominant car dropping back during the same sequence) why can’t NASCAR admit the obvious – there’s an inherent problem with this new car? It’s killing the racing, and that’s killing our sport.
But on a brighter note, the tepid action and late start time probably combined to allow many race fans a great night’s sleep on the couch. I am not ready to say that Saturday night’s Phoenix race was the worst Cup race ever — not by a long shot — but it certainly featured the absolute worst TV race coverage I have ever endured. I am reasonably sure that when TV ratings are released later this week, they’ll reflect the huge number of fans who got disgusted and hit the “Off” button on their remotes. Based on the emails I received after the race, a lot of those fans aren’t ever coming back.
Racing is a fickle business. Matt Kenseth, a protégé of Martin’s, started out the season with two race wins but now is in danger of falling out of the top 12 in points. (Note to NASCAR: Award more points to race winners.) At the start of the season, it didn’t seem that Martin was even going to finish many races, but Saturday night, he won at Phoenix. As it stands written in the Book of Jerry: The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down, you can’t let go and you can’t hold on, you can’t go back and you can’t stand still, if the thunder don’t get you, then the lightning will.
OK, now NASCAR is in a pickle. After the race, a thoroughly frustrated Dale Earnhardt, Jr. exacted a little revenge from Casey Mears with his front bumper, sending Mears spinning. NASCAR has said repeatedly they don’t like those sort of antics. But we are, after all, talking Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — so sitting him out a race isn’t even on the radar. My guess is Earnhardt will be treated like any other driver; a hefty fine that’s not going to even ding his bank account and probation until the end of the season, with a dire warning that if he acts up again, they’ll extend the probation… but not much else. The problem is, NASCAR ought to fund Junior’s keg party this week instead. A rivalry between crown princes of two of America’s most successful racing families? That might add a bit of spice to the sport. Sadly, I’m relatively sure by next week Dale and Casey will be all but blubbering and hugging each other, saying how much they “hated” what happened and swearing there’s no hard feelings. It’s too bad, because the best thing that could happen to the sport right now is for Mears to let Earnhardt have one right in the kisser with the cameras rolling next week. The problem is, at Talladega a battalion of Marines couldn’t get Mears out of there alive if he did so.
Fans at home had endured nearly two hours and ten minutes of monotonous racing when Tony Stewart began running down Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for what was going to be the first green flag pass for the lead in the entire race. And that’s when FOX chose to cutaway to commercial. I mean, come on, they had to see what was happening. Even the newest fans to the sport could see what was about to go down. Why go to commercial? Then, why add insult to injury by making fans sit through the Cheezy-It Minute before showing a replay of the pass?
Does it seem more and more tracks seeking to sell tickets via TV commercials are relying on classic race footage and drivers from decades past rather than more recent races and drivers? For a fan who was there back in the day, it’s a painful reminder of how good some races used to be. Of course, FOX isn’t using the same strategy to promote upcoming races — they’re still relying on wreck footage.
When Robby Gordon said he was “looking forward to a new driver in the No. 55 car next year,” was that wishful thinking or does he have some inside information? Given his own reputation, this might have been a classic case of a fire hydrant pissing on the dog.
As someone staring down the barrels of 50 years of age myself, Mark Martin’s win was pretty inspiring. Life doesn’t end at fifty. All I need to do is stop smoking, quit drinking beer, start exercising, improve my notoriously bad diet… and I’ll be in great shape, too. Nah. That don’t sound like much fun. But I might buy a No. 5 team ball cap.
My take on Jim France stepping down from his position as CEO of the International Speedway Corporation (deed holders to tracks like Daytona, Darlington, Talladega, et al) in deference to his niece Lesa? In the immortal words of Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend, “Meet the new Boss, the same as the old boss…” No, we won’t get fooled again.
Someone has to point it out. In the first eight Cup races of 2009, three of four Rick Hendrick-owned teams have won. One team, the No. 88, has not… and hasn’t even been particularly close to winning. By the way, is Hendrick’s health OK? It seems he’s skipping a lot of races lately.
What in blazes was wrong with Kevin Harvick’s car Saturday night? I mean, we’re talking about a driver who has won races in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions at Phoenix. Maybe it was a special promotion by the event’s sponsor, because Harvick really was out to lunch all night.
Some things just blend together naturally like peanut butter and jelly. Other things, like a Christmastime duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie, seemed forced. The pairing of this year’s Darlington Cup race with GoDaddy.com seems even more bizarre to the point of being infuriating. Darlington is the circuit’s most historic and storied track, even if they are racing there on the eve of Mother’s Day. It’s located in the buckle of the Bible Belt. GoDaddy.com is advertising’s leading purveyor of softcore porn disguised as thirty second advertisements. The pairing just doesn’t seem natural, and hopefully it is short-lived and as successful as Danica Patrick has been in her attempts to win an IRL title.
Yes, I’m from the right coast. As it turns out, when you study the demographics of those who still watch Cup races, (a dwindling number this year) so are the majority of fans in the markets that reliably provide NASCAR their best numbers. Thus, it makes no sense to me that NASCAR and its network overlords would decide to start a race after 8:30 ET knowing it would be unlikely to wind up ending much before midnight. Late race starts like this weekend’s also leave the networks little wiggle room if a weather delay or even extended caution flags cause the race to run long. Even a brief rain shower could push the end of the race into the 2 AM to 3 AM time slot only populated by infomercials and Insomniac Theater. The late end to the race also pretty much guarantees that there will be little to no post-race coverage in the Sunday edition of East Coast newspapers, a rather risky strategy given the dwindling number of print organs that still devote any attention to stock car racing, anyway. It doesn’t matter that much to me personally; I’ve always been a night owl. But Phoenix needs to be a night race the way Britney Spears needs another 55-gallon drum of stupid juice.
Note to self: You don’t want to hire Helio Castroneves’ accountant, but if you’re ever audited, you really need to hire his legal team. Somewhere in a Nevada jail cell, O.J. is smirking.
I’ve never heard a Cup race pole winner claim idiocy was the cause of his achievement until Mark Martin did so after taking the top starting spot on Friday at Phoenix.
Eight races into the season, and these Digger segments are already in re-runs? It’s not like these worthless little skits aren’t annoying enough the first time. And while I hate to pile on FOX, the conflict between church and state (the alleged separation of the bean counters wishing to thank those who pay the bills and the actual broadcast team) was severely challenged by the amount of coverage Carl Edwards, driving the low cal hoagie car of the race’s title sponsor, got based on his actual relevance to the race; it was all out of skew. That was just another example of race fans getting a five dollar footlong right up the wazoo. Five bucks? Even the hookers in Philly get more than that for allowing such an act.
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. led a bunch of laps, but his efforts were hampered by a slow pit stop and a car that got adjusted into left field. Who’d have thunk? (Yeah, OK, we’ve seen this loony tune before.) Casey Mears finally finished off Junior’s bad evening by buying him a one way ticket into the concrete. To top it all off, Junior done went and got hisself into all sorts of trouble by wrecking Mears after the race.
Jeff Gordon’s original Rainbow Warriors were the pit crew all modern teams patterned themselves after. But a dropped lugnut on pit road dropped Gordon out of contention despite a racy mount. Let’s see, 47 races from now is…
Kyle Busch thought he was in the lead after the final pit stop, but was penalized by NASCAR officials for speeding on pit road. (Though he seemed to be fender-to-fender with Stewart the entire way. Obviously, a Mark Martin win was going to be a lot more popular than another win by Kyle Busch; conspiracy theorists, start your engines!) Oddly, FOX didn’t do a post-race interview with Busch. If you want to listen to that sort of foul-mouthed tirade, you’ll have to tune into Rescue Me on FX this week…
Ryan Newman barely made the start of the race when the starter froze up on the No. 39 car when the command was given to fire the engines. He then had to endure radio problems all evening. Does the team even do a pre-race inspection of their cars? I guess it’s obvious which side of the shop all the remaining members of last year’s Gene Haas organization wound up on.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
Jimmie Johnson had to overcome a rare pit road foul-up by the No. 48 team en route to a fourth place finish. That pit road fire (yet another dramatic moment FOX only had on replay and after the conclusion of the race, at that) could also have seriously hampered Johnson’s efforts.
David Reutimann posted another solid top 10 finish and ran better than that most of the night. He surely had a better Saturday evening than his boss.
Kurt Busch had a strong car early in the race, but it was never the same after he tagged the wall trying to pass John Andretti, a death-defying feat the leaders had to perform several times all night. Is Andretti heading to Indy next month? Busch fought back to a third place finish.
Denny Hamlin’s evening could easily have ended when he got into the No. 24 car and Jeff Gordon decided a little post-incident payback was in order. Let’s put it this way: it wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever seen Gordon do in a race car. (And I’m sorry, while I support the fight against Breast Cancer as much as anyone… the color pink just doesn’t belong on race cars.)
With a third, fourth, and second place finish in the last three races, Tony Stewart is ever so close to grabbing the brass ring as the circuit heads to Talladega — one of his best tracks.
What’s the Points?
Jeff Gordon continues to lead the points, but his gap over second place Jimmie Johnson eroded to just 85. Kurt Busch remained third in the standings, 13 points behind Johnson. Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin advanced a spot each to fourth and fifth, close enough to Gordon to take the point lead if all hell breaks loose at Talladega.
A curiously off-song evening by Clint Bowyer dropped him two spots to sixth in the standings. Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards held serve at seventh and eighth, while David Reutimann advanced two spots to ninth in the points.
Despite winning the first two races of the season, Matt Kenseth’s slump has dropped him all the way to 12th in the standings, down another three spots this week. On the flip side, Mark Martin’s win vaulted him five spots in the standings up to 13th, just nine points out of the top 12. Greg Biffle is three points behind Martin, while Juan Pablo Montoya is 20 points behind Biffle in fifteenth. The rest of the pack is losing the scent of the Chase…
Further back, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. dropped three spots to 19th in the standings, a sobering 399 points off the pace. And Robby Gordon dropped to 35th in owner points, leaving him in danger of having to qualify into races soon.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — We’ll grind our teeth and give this one three cans of well-aged Schlitz. Two cans are for a popular race winner, and one can is awarded for three hours of monotony posing as a race stretching way too far into Saturday night.
Next Up: Cup racing takes a week off, as NASCAR stages its own convoluted game of Roller Blade with the Cup cars at Talladega. In the immortal words of the late Dale Earnhardt, “I don’t care what they say. That ain’t real racing. Mr. Bill France would be turning over in his grave if he seen this mess.” Of course, Dale won’t be out there next week. Plate racing killed the man.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
It wasn’t plate racing that killed Earnhardt. It was a boneheaded blocking move trying to insure that one his two cars won the race.
If I were an IndyCar fan (which luckily I’m not), I’d be ashamed of Danica Patrick being their biggest star. She is the Casey Mears of that series talent wise.
Yawn. What a snoozer.
It was worth seeing Mark Martin win one though.
I was glad to see Martin win, given that Jerk Roush could never give him the Championship winning equipment he has always deserved! I hope that when Jerk Roush went to congratulate Mark, that Mark told him to get lost and spit in his worthless face! Also, I’m glad to see that Kenseth is going to be out of the top-12! Given too that Ragan will most likely be out of the top-35 after Talladega, a race that Junior should surely win, guarantee that Ragan won’t make the field at Richmond! Now, get rid of Edwards out of the top-12, and with no Jerk Roush drivers in the Chase, this wil be the perfect year! Gordon, Martin, Johnson, and Junior fighting it out for the Championship, with Gordon finally getting his fifth!
AND! If I was a NA$CRAP fan, I would be ashamed that JR. is their biggest star!
TOTALLY ASHAMED FOR THAT LOSER!
And yes sports fans, “plate racing” did kill Senior!
The biggest problem with that is it led to the introduction of the very sick CoT!
So not only did “plate racing” kill a driver, it also killed the sport!
I tuned in occasionally during the long evening to see what progress Martin was making in the bore-fest, but for the first time in a while I was on the edge of my seat for the last 20 laps or so. With Martin’s luck, not Jack Roush’s good equipment, Mike, he could have easily lost. I remember him starting to victory lane before he finished the last lap of the race under caution once. Kudos to Martin on the classy winner celebration without the silly, childish burnout. Danica finished fourth yesterday, by the way, in front of a lot of good drivers on a tough track.
Hey, who p—sed in Mike’s corn flakes this am. Guess he’s not on ‘Jack in the Hat’s’ Christmas card list.
Now for the quote of the week – Matt on Robbie & Mikey…“Given his own reputation, this might have been a classic case of a fire hydrant pissing on the dog.” Excellent!
Mike, I do not know what Jack Roush did to you but you are clearly delusional when it comes to Nascar. Roush has run one of the best teams for a number of years and Mark Martin would have won a championship without Nascar’s inconsistant and unfair penalties. So I am SICK of your garbage rants against Roush. SHUT UP!!
wow…i missed a lot by falling asleep on the couch. i was beginning to think it was me, noting that only lead changes are coming in the pits. missed the end of the race, missed jr spinning out mears. so jr did that maneuver correctly, so i guess he hasn’t forgotten what little he knows, this year, about racing. i hope jr enjoys being the joke of the hendrick organization. that’s about the only thing he can boast about. of course heading to ‘dega this weekend it will be the jr love-fest. i wonder how many email offers i’ll receive from talladega this week, trying to convince me to attend the race. i keep telling them a free ticket, in a good seat and helicopter transport to and from the track from my house in west ga would seal the deal.
Go figure… I enjoyed the race!
But, I’m a happy person that looks for the good things in life.
I have a simple question… while I watch the race, I have the scoring link open and the fastest car on each lap is highlighted in blue. Often, maybe 2/3rds of the laps (and especially when Kurt Busch was leading and Mark Martin was chasing him), I saw a car, not the leader, post the fastest lap.
Congratulations to Mark Martin and his entire Hendrick team. For everytime a mechanical gremlin struck them down this season, they’ve come back strongly and stayed in the hunt.
It must be one of the happiest days ever at Rick Hendrick’s famous shops.
It is just a true delight to see a person 50+ competing…and winning! What a class act honoring Kwiki and Tim Richmond. Humility is a rare virtue found in anyone today let alone an athlete.
Optimists like you have no business reading this column…It is the owned and operated by folks who never go to a race (local or Cup)watch every lap on free TV, and then complain about the coverage.
Take a couple of depressants before writing next time, would ya?
“Given the way the car in the lead with clean air on its nose is able to dominate (witness the previously hapless No. 88 car driving away from the field after the fifth caution and Kurt Busch’s dominant car dropping back during the same sequence) why can’t NASCAR admit the obvious – there’s an inherent problem with this new car? It’s killing the racing, and that’s killing our sport. “
Oh really? the Nationwide race seemed to exhibit similar behavior, except more pronounced. But, I am sure that is also the fault of the new car in Cup.
Jim: Will do… couple of strong pills to make me “a NASCAR fan” and I’ll keep the straight razor at the wrist if things in case “my driver” is having another bad day.
Chris: Good point. I’ve been watching to see how the Cup and Nationwide races compare and it’s amazing how similar the events are.
Going thru the data of races before and after the COT era, there’s an amazing trend… the leader is at the front; go figure!
Matt, your columns are always right on. This is one long time NASCAR fan who has stopped tuning in to most races. When my 16 year old daughter notices that I have stopped watching (Sunday morning she asked me who won on Saturday night and I couldn’t tell her) it has become pretty evident that the product NASCAR is delivering to the fan is quite poor. I’ll stick to the local dirt tracks on Saturday night!
Would you please re-run your column about your annual trips to the Pocono races? Jim would like to read it.
FWIW: I turned it off with 70 to go.
Mike, if Mark Martin ever did talk to Mr. Roush that way, and I don’t think he would, I’d pack up all 217 of my Mark Martin diecasts (7 of which are pre-Roush and 2 are post-Roush) and sell them for a dollar each on E-Bay! Give me a break! I can’t stand Hendrick, but I was so glad Mark won and not any of Hendrick’s other hacks! And if it comes down to the final race for the title, and Mark is in the hunt, if the Champion can’t be Kenseth, Edwards, or Biffle, I sincerly hope Mark does win it. It’s just too bad he drives for that Felon!
Mike – David Ragan is closer to passing Jr. in the points than he is to falling out of the top 35. And what non-championship equipment were Kenseth and Kurt Busch driving when they won their championships? Or Biffle and Edwards when they tied for 2nd just barely missing in 2005? Or Edwards winning the most races and finishing 2nd in 2008? Please. I’m happy for Martin getting the win. I wish his class and maturity would rub off on his teammate, who probably would take your advice and spit in his former owner’s face if she came by to congratulate him on a win. That is exactly why I am not a fan of his.
Speaking of promos for other races , if i were the owner of Phoenix Raceway , FOX would never be allowed back on the property . All weekend long , the announcers ( pit and booth ) openly promoted the upcoming All Star race . Especially during live interviews with the drivers . Thats just the thing you want to hear , another track being promoted from your track . But then what can you expect , its FOX .
Maybe I just dreamt it but I remember seeing the pit road fire during the race. They even mentioned it as DW called it a small fire and McReynolds told him it was only small because he was way up there in the booth. They didn’t have any footage of the fire starting. What they showed was the end as the team was putting it out. Anybody else remember this as well?
I have been a NASCAR fan for 42 years. It gave me some pleasure to see you say Earnhardt was killed by plate racing. I was at the race when he said plate racing is not racing. I also think plate racing cut Earnhardt’s life short and has taken away the very purpose of racing. I was at Daytona when the tire war lead to the death of Neil Bonnett. I heard Neil once say the purpose of a race car is to make it go as face a possible. Plate racing is luck racing with hard work playing a very small part in the results.
Is there any way to block people under the age of 40 from posting to this forum?
Every thing else aside, Martin won a race and for the 1st time in several years, I find myself tempted to watch a race on TV again.
I doubt anyone in NASCAR understands how many former fans would tune-in again just to see an old favorite beat the much lauded “young guns”.
Most of the current crop of “talent” wouldn’t bother to persevere through challenges Martin has had to endure in his career, let alone have the physical abililty or guts to do so even if they did have the humility and patience.
Sorry Matt, I voted 6 beers for the race—just cuz our man Mark is back on top! :D
I wonder why Douglas comes here and post. If he is not a fan what’s the point?
He could spend quality time somewhere he is happy.
I have always thought he must be such an unhappy person.
Maybe Douglas will share with us the IndyCar site he post to.
I would love to see something postive out of him..
Sorry Douglas, but “cool your jets”..
I really hate it that you hate NASCAR so much.
way to go matt. you blame robby’s reputation because dw’s brother spins him out ? i guess mikey didn’t realize they were under green – unlike at n hampshire where mikey spun robby under yellow.
Well, I thought the race was good. And I sure wish there were more Saturday night racing.
So… Will Jr. even MAKE the chase? LOL.
Anybody else notice that Fox went to commercial every 13 laps?
I noticed a long time ago that from the time the cars cross the line at the start of the race, it is six minutes to the first commercial, three minutes of commercials, six minutes of “racing coverage” and then three minutes of commercials. If there is a caution flag early, it is up to three minutes of coverage and the three minutes of commercials. It works out to two minutes of coverage for each minute of commercials.
And it is worse with a lot of cautions. It seems NA$CAR wants thirty second laps except at Martinsville(twenty second laps) and big tracks (almost sixty second laps).
Depressing, isn’t it.
Ed, half the writers of this website are under age 40, including the owner Tom Bowles!
Ratings were off 18% compared to last years race.
Pretty telling when the economy is in the crapper and people can’t afford to go out as much, but they are not tuning in while sitting at home. Tells me the percieved value of the race product is pretty low since it is on free over the air TV.
The worm has turned for Nascar on Fox and the old fans have finally tired of waiting for the return of Stock Car Racing as it once was. Of this I am certain.
One more thing, I have earned the right to not watch the new and improved Nascar racing and then read Matt’s column and comment on it here. There was a 20 year stretch that I did not miss a single race on TV and attended about 20 Nascar races in person. This comitment to Nascar more than gives me the right to comment on what I see as a wrong direction by Brian Z. and the brain trust in Daytona. If this bothers some I suggest you pull on your Nascar approved Pom Poms and hang out somewhere else.
“Given the way the car in the lead with clean air on its nose is able to dominate (witness the previously hapless No. 88 car driving away from the field after the fifth caution and Kurt Busch’s dominant car dropping back during the same sequence) why can’t NASCAR admit the obvious – there’s an inherent problem with this new car? It’s killing the racing, and that’s killing our sport. ““Oh really? the Nationwide race seemed to exhibit similar behavior, except more pronounced. But, I am sure that is also the fault of the new car in Cup.”
Maybe its because the Nationwide cars are running restrictor plates every week. Oops I meant “tapered spacers”
I remember seeing the fire during the race because there was a NA$CAR official warming his hands with it. I think he was trying to be a smartass towards the crew, but I thought it was in bad taste.
I actually heard some people say they didn’t watch the race because they figured Jimmie would win and “that’s boring”. LOL.