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 September 14, 2009
The Key Moment: Denny Hamlin’s crew consistently got him off pit road first, giving their boy a huge boost towards a second career short track victory.
In a Nutshell: If any racetrack has ever owed any driver a win, it could be argued that Richmond owed hometown hero Denny Hamlin the checkers. Hamlin, who has led the most laps in three of the last four Richmond Cup races, finally sealed the deal Saturday night.
Dramatic Moment: During the middle stages of the race, Hamlin and Jeff Gordon swapped the lead back and forth almost lap by lap.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
The topic comes up every time they race here. In this age of cookie-cutter tracks, why hasn’t anyone cloned Richmond yet — almost certainly the ideal stock car racing facility? The Staten Island and Washington state tracks that had been proposed were, in fact, intended to mimic the 3/4-mile oval… but both deals fell through. In this economy, it seems that all of a sudden nobody is talking about building new race tracks anymore. But as the circuit heads off to New Hampshire, the site of some seriously somnolent racing, one can only dream Bruton Smith will finally bite the bullet and build a concrete version of Richmond with graduated banking to replace the current one-mile flat track.
I just don’t get it. This Chase thing is supposed to be a big deal. I still think it’s a boondoggle of epic proportions, but the drivers at least say that it’s a big deal to them. So with Kasey Kahne in the Chase, why would Richard Petty Motorsports announce this week they’re moving to Ford? Moving forward, what incentive does Dodge have to share any developments and improvements with Kahne’s team during the season? Even more importantly, most of the employees of RPM’s engine shop know that with the merger, next year they’ll be out of a job. (Yates will still provide Ford engines to all teams in 2010.) Under those circumstances, what incentive will they have to work hard? Might not one of them be bitter enough to “forget” to tighten down a few rod bolts when assembling an engine to torpedo Kahne’s chances?
Talk about an awkward arranged marriage. Back when Kasey Kahne left Ford to drive a Dodge for Ray Evernham, folks at Ford were incensed enough to launch a lawsuit against him. Neither side had much good to say about the other. Well, it seems expediency makes for strange bedfellows. I’m also recalling Richard Petty, his royal old self, once left Mopar because they refused to build him a Plymouth version of the Dodge Daytona. He wound up driving Fords for one less than stellar season back in 1969 before Plymouth launched the Superbird to lure the King back into the fold. To paraphrase Bob Seger, “You can come back, baby, stock car racing never forgets.”
It was also an odd time for Kurt Busch’s crew chief Pat Tryson to announce he was leaving Busch and Penske Racing at the end of the season. With Busch in possible championship contention, that’s an unwanted distraction for all parties involved. Normally, these sorts of splits are announced when a driver’s chances at a title are finished.
One driver won four races and missed the Chase. Four drivers failed to win a race but made the Chase. Symmetry or stupidity?
Miss Terry De’ Brie was again one of the stars of the show Saturday night.
I was sick to the stomach twice this week. The first time, it was my fault. I had a pair of Wawa snout dogs slathered in onions in place of dinner. The second time, it wasn’t my fault. Listening to drivers like Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Gordon admitting they’d throw a race under team orders to allow their teammates to make the Chase made me physically ill. There was no evidence of team orders playing a part in the outcome at Richmond… but the Chase is just getting started.
Look for a valuable public service announcement from Denny Hamlin soon, reminding fans, “When you park your 50,000 dollar car outside your mansion, don’t forget to lock the gate and pocket the keys.”
In this economy, there seems to be three career paths where there’s always room for more applicants: nursing, political heckler, and “Start and Park” drivers in the Nationwide Series.
It was odd to see Carl Edwards win Friday night’s Nationwide race and not do a backflip afterwards. If he’s looking for a new “signature move,” maybe he could toss Frisbees into the crowd after a win…
As the awkward, smoking, ill-conceived, grotesque, cootie-filled, clanking monster that is the Chase begins to struggle to cut a rug well enough to earn at least a passing glance with the NFL season underway, all NASCAR writers are required to pick their favorite for the title. I do so with a great deal of reluctance, knowing I am never right. But I’m going out on a limb and picking Mark Martin as this year’s titlist. Why? Because he’s even older than me and I’ve developed a tolerance to having my hopes and dreams crushed, driven to the ground, pissed on, and set ablaze. (I call it the Meghan Dougherty effect.) If, in fact, I had a spare sawbuck in my pockets with all these old Chevys I’m trying to restore, I’d drive to Dover and wager it on Tony Stewart to make amends for having written him off prior to the season and in hopes of earning enough coin to get a primo console for the gold Chevelle.
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
For Matt Kenseth, the season could hardly have started better with wins at the sport’s Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, and the Stupid Bowl, the season’s second race at Fontana. But Saturday night, the team gave Kenseth a car so ill-mannered he struggled to stay on the lead lap, and ultimately he lost his tenuous hold on a top 12 points position to miss the Chase.
Kyle Busch won’t have to worry about a massive meltdown in the first four races of the Chase to lose the championship this year. Despite winning four Cup races this season, Busch missed the cut for the playoffs by a total of just eight points.
A blown tire at one of his best tracks was just another indicator of how bad this season has been for Jeff Burton and the entire RCR operation.
I don’t know how much momentum really counts heading into the Chase, but a poor finish for the fourth straight week is probably going to keep Tony Stewart and his team burning the midnight oil over the next few weeks. After a Cinderella start to the season and three wins, the No. 14 car is looking decidedly Pumpkin-esque right row.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
Two years ago, Brian Vickers failed to qualify for 13 of 36 races. Last year, he finished nineteenth in the points. This year, he made the Chase and as of late, he’s on a roll.
Mark Martin went from having to sweat making the Chase to ruling the roost atop the points heading into NHIS.
Fans have complained since the playoffs started that the networks ignore drivers who aren’t in the 12-car field. This year, this means that Kyle Busch and his irritatingly childish antics ought to be pushed to the back burner. But I’m thinking young Master Busch is well and truly pissed off right now given his sense of entitlement, and as a result he’s about to go on a tear of race wins to keep his puss plastered on the nation’s TV screens. And if Busch winds up with a bushel of victories as a non-title contender, that can only add more fuel to the fire of the debate whether the Chase is a legitimate system to decide a series champion. Even his detractors will have to appreciate that…
What’s the Points?
Under the legitimate (traditional) points system, Tony Stewart would now be leading Jeff Gordon by 179 points. With Stewart fading as Gordon ascends, we’d have us an interesting little title fight between now and Thanksgiving.
But here in the real world, with four wins Mark Martin takes over the Chase lead by 10 points over Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, each of whom have won three races. For those keeping score at home, that means Hendrick drivers or drivers affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports now claim the top three points positions.
Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne have won two races apiece, so they are tied for fourth in the standings, 20 behind Martin’s pace. Next with one race victory each, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers, and Kurt Busch are 30 markers back and tied for sixth.
Call it high-speed corporate welfare or what have you, but Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Greg Biffle are all in championship contention without having won a single race. Is there any other sport where you can make the playoffs without winning a single event? They’ll each start the playoffs 40 points behind the leader.
Nine of this year’s 26 points-paying races have been won by drivers who failed to make the Chase. Kyle Busch (four wins) and Matt Kenseth (two) are the only multiple race winners to miss the playoffs, but even the simple expediency of a further 25-point bonus for winning a race would have landed them both solidly inside the top 12. That would have at least added some legitimacy to this farce worthy of Stagger Lee’s non-arrest on Christmas Eve in the Billy DeLions homicide.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — For Richmond, this one was curiously sedate. Blame it on the new cars or the new points system, but the night reached a simmer without ever actually boiling over. The race itself earns three lukewarm cans of Colorado Kool-Aid…
Next Up: The all-singing, all-dancing, Chase kicks off with a Sunday afternoon race in New Hampshire. Starting off the Chase at NHIS is sort of like staging the Super Bowl in Des Moines on Arbor Day, leading me to believe the folks in charge really are as stupid as they come across.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Would it be better if NHIS was the 26th race and Richmond started the Chase?
Kevin I don’t think so. Both are unique tracks and someone was going to step up and someone was going to slip-up.
I guess in the whole Petty merger/buyout with Yates someone forgot to tell Mark McArdle (Head of RPM’s engine department) about the whole deal. According to reports he had verbal altercation at RIR and was seen cleaning his stuff out of Kasey Khane’s hauler. Depending on what report you read he’s either been suspended or fired already.
Matt, atleast the chase is putting Mark in contention whereas the old system the cup is Stewarts to lose.
And dammit im ok with Mark having a chance to win this thing
nascar will do everything in their power to help Martin win the cup this year. to go from approx 500 points behind to leading with the stroke of a pen is NUTS.
I too see Kyle going out and winning/gaining the most points during these 12 races
For the record I hate the chase but the statement “Is there any other sport where you can make the playoffs without winning a single event?” is just stupid. Are there any other sports that have playoffs where 43 teams compete each week? Comparing NASCAR to other sports where two teams face off each week is even more stupid than the chase.
Matt I think Iowa was patterned after Richmond, although in 1-mile form… And everyone loves it for all the same reasons.
My man Mark is now leading the points! Can I for once set aside my hatred of The Chase and applaud it… Maybe just this once? :(
is there any chance that a non-hendrick owned/satellite team will win the cup? wonder how jr feels knowing he’s the only one out of the group that’s not in the chase. think it’s enough of a wake up call for him to get his mind and body in shape? just imagine the goose egg na$car will have if a miracle happens and jpm wins the cup.
Not that you’d notice, but NHMS has had the graduated banking for several years now.
The racing has been perferctly fine (anybody remember Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon leaning on each other for about 20 laps before the rain came in June?)
‘Course you wouldn’t remember that becausr you took one of your countless vacations at the time, and why bother with the facts when it’s so easy to re-hash your work every week?
I’ll be at the race on Sunday, popping my first one at about 8:30, firing up the grill, watching the girls and then heading into the stands for a great day.
Hope you have a fine time watching the TV while racking your brain for more negative things that you can say about the NASCAR in general and NHMS in particular.
Have a nice day.
No one has cloned Richmond because tracks like California and Texas can provide more (empty) seating.
[As weird as it is to say this] 3 lukewarm cans is too low of a rating. From what I heard from my friends who went, the race was dull in person – but I found the added TV commentary and chase battles very intriguing.
Throw a race under team orders? Funny, no one has a problem when Lance Armstrong wins…
I don’t know how you can plan to switch from Dodge to Ford for next year and keep it a secret for any length of time. It was going to come out, so I can’t blame RPM for making the announcement. Same thing with the Tryson deal. You know it was going to come out anyway.
Bill B… Maybe you can’t compare racing to stick and ball sports, but the underlying point is still valid. It seems that for a driver to be eligible to win the championship, he should at least have to win a race. I hate to think that we could possibly crown a winless champion.
wow, just realized race will be sunday afternoon. what a novel idea!
Jim, it’s after 9am. Shouldn’t you be on your 2nd or 3rd one by now?
The race was sedate watching from the stands on Saturday night. The crowd was packed tight on the front stretch but strangely quiet and unemotional. There were many empty seats visible on the backstretch and it seemed to empty quickly after about 200 laps. Worse was the tepid enthusiasm in downtown Richmond itself. At T-Miller’s Sports Bar, the all the talk at lunch on Saturday was about College Football (OSU-USC, ND-Michigan etc.) with almost nothing said about the evening race. Worse for NASCAR and their vendors, once the pit crews left the Marriott for the track around noon, there were few if any people around wearing NASCAR clothing. Many hotels were offering discounts and lotsa rooms were still available on race day. For a race that was being billed as the most exciting ever before the start of the Chase, it was three cans of Chloroform for the folks actually in town for the race.
“One driver won four races and missed the Chase. Four drivers failed to win a race but made the Chase. Symmetry or stupidity?”
Wanna take this a bit further?…..Kyle Busch wins more races in during the Chase than any other driver, and one of the four non-winners #99, #16, #42 or #39 wins the Championship!!………Now how would NASCAR explain that to the sports world?
Yes, it most likely won`t happen…..but just the possibility that it could makes the Chase format a joke. This is like permitting some Detroit Lions players to be on the roster of the Pittsburg Steelers during the Superbowl game.
And finally if winning the Daytona 500 is such a big big big deal, its still not a big enough event to qualify the winner to run for the championship. I wonder if Kenseth would trade that win for a chase spot.
Why don’t we just forget the chase and the points – whomever wins the most races wins the championship (tie breaker will be 2nd place finishes, 3rd, 4th etc.). I mean, that’s what we are really getting at here.
As for the Detroit Lions analogy you’ve got it a bit wrong Jer. The Lions are still out there no matter who is in the Chase – they are represented by the 31 teams not in the chase but still on the track. That’s why a playoff system in NASCAR is stupid and why you can’t compare them to the playoff system in any other sport.
26 races to the chase. kyle busch won 4 what happened to the other 21???? winning is important as it should be but finishing in top ten is also important.
Matt, check out Iowa Speedway. It maybe 7/8’s but it’s close to Richmonds 3/4. Should have a cup date there.
Who the heck is Terry De’ Brie?
I agree with Paul that Iowa should get a Cup race. The Nationwide race there a few weeks back was one of the best races of the year.
robbiejr… it’s “Miss Terry D’Brie”… aka “mystery debris”. Sometimes I think Nascar calls a caution for shadows on the track and then spends caution lap after caution lap trying to clean them off.
Miss Terry De’ Brie = mystery debris caution
I’ll never understand the majority of the FS and other fans stand that the number of wins catapults you further into (or in altogehter) the chase than not winning at all.
mystery debris caution to bunch the field when someone is running away with the race.
Here’s one way i think they could fix the chase a bit. Call it a Baker’s Dozen. 13th car gets in if they have the most wins of all drivers and do not get in. The current system does not really reward consistency when you can win 4 of 26 races and be 40 points ahead without firing the engines of the guy who led the points standings to that point. With the start and parkers and guys who have no dog in the fight, 40 points is a pretty good head start.
That (most wins) should be the only criterion, but knowing NASCAR, they’ll Winston it up and have fans vote on the 13th guy to get in at $2.00 a text. Oh but it will go to Victory Junction, so they have that going for them, which is nice.
Have you ever seen a team have the most wins but not make the playoffs? Only in NASCAR. As for the teams with no wins making it, I concur with the 42 losers comment, but if you go stick and ball analogies, many times, NBA and NHL teams get in with losing records. And the Lance Armstrong comment was right on.
here is a question.. what if one driver A won 18 races and came in 43rd the other 18 races while driver B came in 2nd in all 36 races… who should be champion?
With Kyle Busch not making the Chase that should make a lot of people happy. But I think its gives credibility to the suggestion that NASCAR should have the top ten in points qualify for the Chase, plus the 11th and 12th spots are reserved for “wild cards,” guys who win the most races but didnt make the top ten in points.
Thanks…mystery debris. Got it.
Anybody else catch the comment about NASCAR telling all the drivers not in the chase, to give the chase drivers 12 feet of room so as not to interfere with them, or something like that?
I’ve been following NASCAR since the 70’s. If I heard that right, it’s another nail in the coffin for me.
Bill B I could not have said it better. You are right on point. Racing is very different than other sports. You have to look at good finishes as “wins” if you compare to other sports. I have never seen a football or baseball team play 42 other teams on any given day. Your point about 18 wins and 18 43rds compared to 36 2nds puts things in perspective. Great job Bill!
One tweak to the Chase: Top 12 drivers who have won a race qualify. That would give equal emphasis to both winning and consistency.
robbiejr, na$car does that every year about giving chase guys room. that makes me want to hurl. for the next 10 weeks all they’ll focus on during broadcast is those in the chase. the heck with the rest of the drivers. also, for the next 10 races, well hear championship talk halfway through each race. and watch out if a chaser falters…mulligan will be the word of the moment. at least espn won’t be able to use “bubble boy” comment for another year.
Driver B, Bill B. If championships are tallied by wins, then the point system is moot. I honestly can’t see it any other way.
Hope your question was asked to all, but I thought to give my 2 cents any way.
Here’s one: if the Patriots win all of their games, but not the championship, did they have a perfect season?
Stewart may want to watch his back in the same way as Kasey. Either his team has been testing new ideas the last four races or the rumors of lesser equipment from Hendrick may prove to be true. Go Mark!
Funny how no one has mentioned Montoya and Vickers for the Cup. Points racin is what it’s all about, and Johnny Pinball has been doing it since he lost Indy again. Vickers had the most points scored in the last ten races. Donut count them out just yet. Do count out Joonyer and Shrub – heh heh heh