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.
I’ve gotten a lot of email from readers asking me which five people I hope, or think, will make up the first set of inductees into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame. I’ve debated the topic with more than a few fans and have to agree that narrowing the group down to just five individuals is a difficult task — though, in my mind, selecting four of the first five folks so honored is a no-brainer few can dispute.
Let me preface my picks by saying that I feel no active driver, or even semi-active driver, should be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame. Allowing an active driver to make the Hall would turn the balloting process from a recognition of career long achievement into a popularity contest. Drivers like Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson will all be inducted one day, but their storied careers aren’t over yet. To vote them in this year or next would be like writing a book review on a novel that’s only half-finished. As best I recall, no other sport allows players to be inducted into their Halls of Fame until they retire.
I’d also like to state on the record that I feel the rule stating that any driver had to have been actively involved with NASCAR racing for at least 10 years to even be considered for inclusion is wrong. Call me paranoid, but it seems like a backdoor mechanism to make sure that Tim Richmond never enters the Hall. The rift between Richmond, the first modern era driver to stand up to NASCAR, and the France family is legendary, with the wounds especially raw right now considering the whole Jeremy Mayfield mess. Unfortunately, the 10-year rule also means that other Cup drivers like former champion Alan Kulwicki and the late Davey Allison can never be inducted.
Editor’s Note: The Top 25 finalists do include drivers like Joe Weatherly, Red Byron, and others who don’t fit the 10-year rule Matt discusses. No clarification has been provided from NASCAR on these exceptions.
Two individuals top my list of nominees as no-brainers — so obvious that the exclusion of either of them would destroy the credibility of the Hall: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. (Lest any newer fans become confused, I am, of course, referring to driver of the black 3 car who won seven titles — not his kid who is struggling to post top 10 finishes in the 88 car this season.)
Richard Petty was NASCAR’s first seven-time champion. He won 200 races at NASCAR’s top level, including seven Daytona 500s — marks that nobody is ever going to match. He won 10 races in a row in 1967, part of a year in which he set the sport’s single-season victory record at 27. Petty might have won many more races, too, if not for the 1965 Chrysler Boycott of NASCAR racing when he was in his prime. While the organization he took over from his late father Lee has struggled since the King retired, Petty remains active in NASCAR racing today and provides the only living link between NASCAR’s first Cup race in 1949 and the present day era.
Perhaps more importantly, Richard Petty was the face of stock car racing back in an era when the general public knew little of the sport. His beaming smile, simple nature, and “aw shucks” attitude embodied the sport in its infancy. Petty’s willingness to hang out in the garage area and sign autographs until every last fan who wanted one had been greeted and accommodated is one of the reasons this sport flourished and developed such a fanatically loyal fan base. Today’s drivers would do well to attend the Petty School of Public Relations, even as they earn more for a lackluster season than the King earned during his entire career as the sport’s most prolific winner.
When TV started paying attention to stock car racing, Petty was, of course, the star of the show. His last lap altercation with David Pearson in the 1976 Daytona 500, shown in part on ABC, grabbed national headlines. He was the eventual winner of the 1979 Daytona 500 — the first superspeedway race shown flag-to-flag on CBS — after the infamous Donnie Allison/Cale Yarborough last lap wreck that shoved NASCAR into the national spotlight.
Of course Petty hung on too long, racing for years beyond his last win in 1984 to the point he even failed to qualify for races. But that was his right. He put up the carnival tent, and he deserved to remain in the ring. There have been and will be other multi-time champions, and there will be drivers who define their eras — but none like Petty. Always and forever, there will only be one King of NASCAR racing… Period. End of sentence. It isn’t open for debate. If you think otherwise, you, sir, are a fool.
Dale Earnhardt’s early career overlapped the twilight years of Petty’s racing legend. The two battled side-by-side numerous times, and Earnhardt’s 1980 title might be seen in retrospect as the changing of the guard as drivers like Earnhardt, Elliott, and Wallace began dominating while the proven heroes like Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, and Bobby Allison entered their twilight.
When Earnhardt was in his prime, ESPN adopted the sport of stock car racing. Dale became the face of our sport — the rough around the edges, straight shooting, former mill-town kid who wheeled a stock car fender-to-fender and bumper-to-bumper with both generations of drivers, no quarter given and no quarter asked. His hard-charging, take no prisoner, offer no apologies style of racing enthralled a television audience, adopting a sport which once was a regional curiosity and making it a national sensation. Some fans worshiped him and some fans loathed him, but when it came down to those last laps, all eyes were glued on that number 3 car. No question about it, Dale Earnhardt defined the sport in his era.
In his later years, the Intimidator mellowed a bit. He was better spoken, if still controversial from time to time. But when Earnhardt spoke in the garage, everyone right up to Bill France, Jr. listened. Earnhardt seemed a force unto himself — an unstoppable force until that tragic last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. In death, Earnhardt was on the cover of both of the top news weekly magazines and was the lead story on most national newscasts. Dale was larger than life, but twice as real is the way his army of fans still mourn his passing on a daily basis and sorely miss seeing that black number 3 car out there creating havoc and collecting trophies every Sunday afternoon.
David Pearson seems another obvious pick to me. His 105 Cup wins are second only to Petty — and Pearson ran part-time most seasons. Pearson won two titles during the great factory wars of the ’60s, and when paired with the legendary Wood Brothers during the transition from manufacturer involvement to the current days of sponsor-driven race teams, he was a nearly unstoppable force on the superspeedways. The Silver Fox would hang back most of the race, but when it got down to the money laps at the end, he’d come charging out of nowhere to become a factor. And when it came down to wheeling a race car on worn tires, Pearson was practically unequaled, with the only possible exception being Tim Richmond.
Personality-wise, Pearson was the embodiment of cool, even if his way of calmly smoking cigarettes in the car under caution isn’t entirely PC these days. Regardless, many of his contemporaries have shown their respect by recognizing Pearson as the toughest challenge they ever had to face on the way to Victory Lane… even more so than his longtime rival, the King.
My fourth nominee is Cale Yarborough, the first driver to win three consecutive championships — a record that lasted nearly 30 years until Jimmie Johnson pulled off the feat last year. Yarborough won 83 Cup races, with 14 of those victories scored after he cut back to a part-time schedule in 1981 in order to spend more time with his family. Cale was short of stature, but broad in shoulder. He’d emerge from a winning race car with his face tomato red, and, after downing a few beers in Victory Lane, he’d proclaim he hadn’t done anything extraordinary; he’d just done his job. Yarborough drove for legendary car owner Junior Johnson in his prime and, by estimation, he’s the only driver that Junior never felt was “laying down on him.”
The above four picks seem self-evident to me. It’s when we get down to the final of five finalists, I have to struggle. Again, without disrespecting any current driver, I am limiting my picks to retired drivers. Here are my top five potential nominees for slot number five:
Bobby Allison – Allison’s only title came in 1983, but he won 85 Cup races. (Some sources say 84, but that disregards his win in a Ford Mustang which was a legally entered in a Grand National race at Bowman-Gray stadium in 1971. The issue might seem insignificant until one recalls Allison and archrival Darrell Waltrip are officially tied at 84 wins with the non-inclusion of Allison’s win in a Mustang.) Bobby won a highly emotional 1988 Daytona 500 victory over his son Davey, just months before the elder Allison was critically injured at Pocono, suffering closed head injuries that would forever alter his life. The wreck ended Allison’s Cup racing career, but he’d later lose much more — both of his sons, Davey and Clifford — to the sport. On a emotional level, there’s no better pick for the fifth inductee than Allison.
Tim Flock – Most newer fans have never even heard of Flock. But based on percentages, his 39 wins in just 149 starts remains the golden standard. In 1955, driving for the unassailable Karl Kiekhaefer squad, Flock won 18 of that season’s 39 races he entered. And you want to talk about tough? Flock started racing again just months after his head was run over in the infield while he was napping.
Junior Johnson – Johnson never won a championship as a driver, but he did win 50 races. As a team owner, he won 132 races and six titles. More than anything else, the convicted moonshiner (never caught on the road but busted while tending his ailing Daddy’s still) was perhaps the most colorful figure ever associated with a sport that is chock full of them. I’m not sure there’s ever been a man ever born besides Johnson whose every utterance in his deep Southern drawl was instantly quotable. As a driver, Junior was WFO every lap — he’d either win, or his equipment would break. As an owner, he expected the same of his drivers, who ranged from hard chargers LeeRoy Yarbrough, Cale Yarborough, Curtis Turner, and Darrell Waltrip to more calculating men like Terry Labonte and Bill Elliott. More than once, Junior would ask his drivers who were running second, “Boy, you ain’t laying down on me out there, are you?”
Johnson once famously bought Darrell Waltrip a mule as a reward for winning a title, saying, “Every good man needs a mule.” Darrell’s agent had once asked Junior what he’d do for Waltrip if he won a title. Junior’s reply was simple: “I’ll tell you what I’ll do to him if he don’t.” In a sport forged in the hard-scrabble, bare-fisted mountains of North Carolina, Junior Johnson still epitomizes that time and era. He’s the toughest son of a bitch to ever wheel a race car around a rutted dirt track and win… or blow trying. “The Last American Hero,” Tom Wolfe once wrote of Johnson. Indeed.
Darrell Waltrip – It might be tough for newer fans who know him only from his TV work to conceive but, in his day, old DW was a right handy racer. He won three titles and 84 races, the most of any driver in NASCAR’s “modern era” (1972-present). Almost as importantly, as TV became the main medium for this sport, Waltrip was the first media-savvy driver. In an era when Dale Earnhardt could only snap, mutter, and curse on camera, Waltrip was a great interview off the track. On it, his rivalries with Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison were the stuff of legends. Yes, he’s now an annoying old man who makes you wish you could go deaf during the FOX portion of the season, and yes, he’s the ultimate NASCAR kiss-ass; but in his day, ol’ DW could drive a race car about as well as any man that ever lived.
Lee Petty – If there’s any man who might give Junior Johnson a run for his money as the “toughest son of a bitch” in racing, it was Lee Petty. We’re talking a guy who once put his own son into the wall because he wasn’t convinced Richard was getting out of his way fast enough when the elder Petty came up to lap him. And that was his softer side; Lee once took several laps around the track with Richard on the hood of his car after the King wasn’t fast enough cleaning his windshield during a pit stop. NASCAR finally had to black flag Petty, who gave his son a bare-ass spanking after the incident to chastise him for not jumping off the car when ordered to do so. Yes, Lee Petty was about as cuddly as a cactus, but he could wheel a dang race car. He won 54 races, including the first Daytona 500, and claimed three titles. Petty would have won four, but NASCAR stripped him of all his points when he chose to run in a race the sanctioning body didn’t support. Petty finished in the top 10 in an astounding 332 of his 427 career starts, and from 1949 to 1959, he never finished outside the top 5 in points. A savage wreck in one of the 1961 Daytona qualifying races saw Petty’s No. 42 car fly out of the ballpark into the parking lot, effectively ending his career as a driver just as his son began to excel.
In racing, there’s Tough and there’s North Carolina Tough. Lee Petty was the epitome of North Carolina Tough. Even in this era, if Junior Johnson, Tim Flock, and Lee Petty were still out there racing, some of the young drivers currently competing in the sport would still be waiting tables at a Red Lobster.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Somebody ought to delete that space between “Flock” and the trailing asterisk.
good initial class matt.
hey, do you ever think we’ll see brain fart France in the “hall of fame”?
Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought the HOF was open to non-drivers as well as retired drivers, and as such, Big Bill France would be a no-brainer as well.
Glad to see you picked Cale. Other writers seem to think he’s a second or third year inductee, but apparently they were still watching saturday morning cartoons in their Smurf jammies when Cale was kickin’ ass in Darlington. Cale was the MAN.
Good column Matt . One thing to keep in mind is the fact that there already is a Hall of Fame . Its at Talladega and it was built by the France family . Brian wants to make himself king and wipe out any trace of his father and grandfather , so we now have to have a new Hall of Fame that Brian built . Just don’t forget that the first one is the real one .
This is all going to be pretty predictable. Both France’s, Petty, Earnhardt, and another name driver (who should really be a 3rd or 4th year class inductee), will be the inductees. The first class is going to be all about $$$ and nothing less. Deserving individuals who help get Na$crap to where it is today, will be ignored. Na$crap will want to have “star” power in it’s inductees, in order to pull in $$$….OOPHS, I mean fans the first year the HOF is open. Being a Dale Sr. fan, even I could make a case for a 2nd year induction. I really wonder if in 5 years, will Na$crap’s HOF be turning a profit?
In truth , we’re all doing exactly what the Nascar marketing dept. was praying we’d do , we’re all talking about their goofy Hall of Fame like it really matters .
Couple things here-
Wendell Scott- can’t put someone in to a HoF on the “what might have been” Same could be said for Richmond. There should be a separate wing for drivers who went before their time which would include guys like Allison, Kulwicki, Richmond, Weatherly, Fireball Roberts, Tiny Lund, etc. Guys who accomplished a lot in a short time. Also, in re Wendell Scott, he was obviously very talented but we’ll never know how good he could have been as he drove in garbage rides. Again, same could be said for any number of drivers. Bobby Hamilton said it best when he used to say the best stock car driver is probably working at a garage now because he never got the opportunity or the timing.
Honestly, I’d probably put Richmond in the Davey Allison, Terry Labonte, Benny Parsons, Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett category. We simply do not know if Richmond would have had the interest to stick with NASCAR. He hit his stride right before he got sick, but we really can’t tell if he’d have been the next Earnhardt, or had a Bobby Labonte like career, or chucked it all and went acting. Playing the could have’s is always fun. Hell we could probably put Rob Moroso or Irwin or Adam Petty in that class.
You also only named drivers. I think Raymond Parks, H. Clay Earles, the Wood Brothers, Hulman-Moody, Robert Yates, Bill France and Bill Jr., T Wayne Robertson, Jake Elder, etc. deserve inclusion although not all are first ballot guys.
Nice article, but you couldn’t avoid the Richmond thing.
Honestly, I do not understand why Richie Evans isn’t in most people’s top-5 list. It is not the “cup series” hall of fame, but the Nascar hall of fame. Noone has the track record of success that Evans had. Have to wonder if not for that practice crash in 1985, how many championships would he have? 12? 15?
My 1st 5: Petty, Earnhardt, Big Bill, Pearson, Evans.
There are lots of Hall-worthy individuals, but I say go with the best of the best to start, all those other folks will get in eventually.
if you go with Richie Evans, then you almost have to include Sam Ard, Ingram, the Bodines, and pretty much every Saturday night short track ace. I say, keep it to Cup because if not, you run into a whole new can of worms.
also, for my last what might have beens, I forgot Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall. Obviously I read a few books.
i don’t know, I like the HOF concept…it will give us plenty to talk about in the off-season, assuming they make the nominations during the winter.
It’s worked great for baseball, at least up until the steroid era.
By the way, the original MLB inductees were all players as opposed to builders, managers, etc…they inducted a commissioner and 2 managers the folowing year.
If anyone wants to read an awesome book on the early days of NASCAR, pick up “Driving with the Devil” by Neal Thompson.
Joe, Nascar’s already made that decision by having Evans be one of the 25 nominees, so that train’s left the station. It is a Nascar HOF, not Cup Series HOF.
Many of those guys (if not all) will end up in the HOF eventually, and deservedly so. However, I don’t think any of those other guys have 9 “series championships”, 400 wins at nascar sanctioned events, or their number retired in the division they raced in.
I think Dick Trickle may be close to Richie.
How and whomever is elected, either first, second or whenever, I am praying that this HOF does not turn out like the Rock ‘n Roll HOF – a crock!!
Great article, Matt. I agree 100% with your top 4. The 5th entry is very much open to debate.
Great article Matt.
It’s really a shame what has become of DW these days. I remember watching him back in his prime and that boy could drive. If he is inducted he will try to milk it for all the cash he can wring out of it, and probably pitch his HOF products non stop during the Fox broadcasts. When he makes it I hope the picture they use is the one of him in his silver drivers suit and unglasses at the All Star race. He makes it really hard to remember how good he actually was back in the day.
Looks like DW has been here and voted for himself 3 times.
Allison, Flock and Junior Johnson over DW? I don’t think so. You might not like him, Matt, but DW was one great racer in the 80s.