NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Matt McLaughlin · Thursday September 17, 2009
Like it or not (and I think I’ve made it pretty clear which side of the fence I stand on over the last five years) NASCAR’s all-singing, all-dancing, usually disappointing Chase for the Championship is now underway. 12 finalists have been anointed possible titlists and, barring the sudden addition of a swimsuit and talent competition, this year’s title will be decided on the track over the coming 10 weeks.
To give the Devil his due (and I’d rather split a six pack with Satan than Brian France) this year’s title contenders are indeed an interesting mix. Most notable in their absence are Kyle Busch, a virtual lightning rod of public opinion and a four-race winner, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., arguably the sport’s Most Popular Driver. Junior missing the Chase (again!) has probably got ABC/ESPN programmers developing peptic ulcers, but as sorry a season that the No. 88 team has had, there was no way to slip him into the mix absent a fan vote. (And I don’t doubt that’s coming.)
So who are our 12 finalists? A mixture of first-timers and battled hardened veterans. What are each one’s chances of being King of the Hill? Let’s took a look at what the 12 have going for them and against them.
Pros They say to win a title, you have to lose one first. Mark Martin hasn’t lost one title… he’s lost myriads of titles. In fact, Martin has finished second in the points four times. But he’s undoubtedly on top of his game, as four Cup victories to date this season are the most he’s enjoyed since 1998, over a decade ago. Yes, he is 50+ years in age, but most of us weren’t in as good physical shape as Martin when we were in our 20s. Perhaps most importantly, Martin’s mental outlook this season is as good as I can recall it. He seems to be having the time of his life, and that’s difficult for some of us to accept given Martin’s decade of Eeyore-like negativity. When it comes to physical and mental conditioning to endure the five ring circus that is the Chase, Martin leads the list.
Cons Perhaps if you lose as many titles as Martin has, you come to accept it. What concerns me most is if Martin is hungry enough to win it all. This ain’t lawn croquet; if another driver roughs you up, you have to be ready to pay him back in kind to show you’re not going to be pushed around. Martin is so concerned with his reputation as an extremely clean race car driver these days that he might not be willing to wade into the swamp, choosing to move somebody out of the way to advance his position if the driver of a slower car refuses to yield. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. never hesitated to move another driver out of the way. He won seven titles. Martin has won zero. Draw your own conclusions.
Pros If any driver and team have this Chase format figured out, it’s Johnson and the No. 48 bunch. Obviously, they’ve won three straight titles, and they’re certainly a favorite to score a fourth this season. The key for Johnson and Chad Knaus is how they’ve perfected the technique of aggression and cruising to maximize their points gains against their competitors. If it takes race wins, they win races. If they it takes top 10s, that’s where they finish. What you rarely see is Johnson make a mental error that leaves him with a poor finish. I still prefer to think winning stock car championships should be more a matter of balls than brains, but Johnson’s camp certainly is giving “brains” a solid leg up.
Cons Rick Hendrick has three drivers in the title chase. (Five if you include Newman and Stewart.) While other teams can marshal their resources and best talent towards one or two contenders, Hendrick has to support many. Perhaps more worrisome, Johnson has just one top 10 finish and no top 5 results in the last six races at a point in the season when the No. 48 team is normally hitting their stride. History is certainly against them, too, as no driver — not even the King or Cale Yarborough — ever managed to win four straight titles.
Pros Almost nobody gave Stewart even an outside shot at this year’s title given he’d left the nurturing environment of Joe Gibbs Racing to strike out on his own and throw his lot in with Gene Haas and his perpetually underperforming outfit. Jezum Crow, has Stewart proven us all fools. He’s won three points-paying races and posted top 5 finishes in half of this year’s 26 events. Stewart has also played this game with the tensions and media scrutiny of a title chase before, winning twice in 2002 and ’05. The first time, he didn’t handle the pressure too well, but by the second time he was notably more relaxed and used to dealing with the circus. He didn’t even punch anybody out.
Cons While Stewart and other key members of his team have dealt with the fire of title contention before, the No. 14 team as an organization has not. As a partial team owner, Stewart is going to be facing new pressures this time around he hasn’t experienced previously as the hired gun. And like Johnson, Stewart is involved in his own mini-slump right now, with no top 10 finishes in the last four races. That’s the first time he’s had to face that sort of mediocrity this season.
Pros What better way to enter the Chase then with a soul-soaring hometown victory at Richmond? Six straight top 10 finishes going into the Chase is nothing to sneeze at, either. Teammate Kyle Busch might have been hogging the headlines all year, but Hamlin has clearly been the team’s top performer overall.
Cons Denny Hamlin’s first season in the Cup series was a dream ride. He won twice as a virtual unknown and finished third in the points. But the last two seasons haven’t gone as well, with Hamlin often openly debating whether he was ready for the big leagues or alternately throwing his team under the bus. The pressures of the Chase could cause Hamlin to crack again.
Pros Kahne returns to the Chase after a two-year absence, having won two races this season. He also hasn’t suffered a DNF to date.
Cons With Richard Petty Motorsports having announced they are leaving Dodge to join with Ford in 2010, you have to wonder how much Dodge will be supporting this team for the rest of the year. A lot of folks at RPM know they will be out of a job next year as well, and they may not be ready to give it their all for the rest of the season. And if Mark Martin is the toughest driver mentally heading into the Chase, Kahne is the mental cream puff.
Pros Vickers rides into the Chase with momentum heavily on his side. He hasn’t finished worse than 12th in the last seven Cup races and has scored more points than any other driver. His spirited run as an underdog to make the Chase just two years after struggling just to make races has got this team pumped up like the Goodyear blimp.
Cons Neither Vickers or this team has any experience dealing with the searing pressure of a title chase. Vickers has already endured three DNF’s this year, all due to crashes, and even one such result in the Chase could doom a driver’s chances at a title. I think this year’s championship is the one Vickers has to lose before he can win one.
Pros Busch won the title in 2004, so he’s been through this drill before. Of course, the pressure of trying to defend that title in 2005 led to a severe meltdown and the loss of his ride at Roush Racing after a little run-in with the Sheriff’s department at Phoenix. Since that unfortunate encounter, though, Busch has matured remarkably. His philosophical attitude towards life and racing is marred only by his continuing habit of using multi-syllabic words incorrectly. It’s hard to imagine Kurt Busch as a Zen-master, but swallowing a few spoonfuls of bitter reality might just have prepared him mentally for the fight that lays ahead. There might be a certain “indubitle-ness-ly” to it.
Cons Busch has crashed out of two of the last four Cup races, and that’s not the sort of habit you want to develop heading into the Chase. It’s been a long time since Busch won at Atlanta in the fourth race of this season, too; it might take another race win or two in the Chase to grab the top honors.
Pros Gordon leads all active drivers with four title victories. He’s walked through this fire before countless times, is a threat to win at almost any track the circuit visits, and he’s shown his mastery at Talladega, which is the Chase’s wild card race. Gordon has long since proven at any given moment he can go on a tear and win back-to-back-to-back races at the drop of a hat. Bottom line: you count out Jeff Gordon at your own peril, and at the risk of appearing a perfect fool. Ten top 10 finishes in the last 13 Cup races prove he isn’t quite over the hill yet.
Cons None of Gordon’s four titles were scored under the new Chase format. There are lingering questions towards his chronic back pain, too, and how it effects him in the race car. Some would argue Jeff Gordon has nothing left to prove at the wheel of a race car, and he’s set out to not prove it.
Pros With Matt Kenseth’s dreary season, Edwards has arguably become Jack Roush’s star player and the best hope for the Blue Oval Faithful this season. Last year, Edwards won nine races, and he has a proven ability to rip off a series of wins at any time. (Last year, he won three of the final four races and scored top 5 finishes in the final five events.) If mental attitude is a bonus going into the Chase, Edwards is perhaps the most relentlessly upbeat driver on the circuit. Ford teams will also shortly have the choice to use the next generation Ford Racing powerplant, a risk since the mill is untried but a possible trump card.
Cons Well, there’s the minor matter of the fact he has yet to even win a race this season… and then, there’s the broken foot. A Ford has not won a Cup race since the second event of the season, and the entire Roush team is in a slump that makes them look like they’re starting races dragging anchors. I think I’d gamble on that new engine…
Pros Newman returns to the Chase after a three year absence. After a rough start to 2009, his first-year venture with the new Stewart-Haas team has gone swimmingly well. He’s completed all but 13 possible laps this season and has yet to score a single DNF.
Cons Newman hasn’t scored a top 5 finish since Pocono in June. He’d probably need a bunch of them to actually compete for this year’s title with any legitimacy. And remember way back when when every Friday Newman was a favorite to take the pole? He’s scored just two poles in the last two seasons. Those front row starting spots and the first choice of a pit stall greatly aided and abetted his efforts, and Newman needs to find a way to get that old Friday magic back.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Pros Yes, this Montoya’s first stab at a stock car title. But he’s been involved in championship chases in open wheel racing, and he once drove (and won) in the Formula One series across the pond. You might think that NASCAR racing is the most popular form of motorsports — and in this country, clearly it is — but in Europe and around the globe, F1 rules supreme and F1 drivers are treated like demigods. Montoya has been in the media blitz and the public spotlight before, and it seldom seems to faze him. With that has come a sense of entitlement that borders on arrogance, a sense he’s cut out and able to do this better than almost all his peers. That mental state might actually be a benefit as he enters the uncharted waters of the Chase — just ask Mark Martin how the “humble guy” routine has worked out gathering title trophies. Since the first Pocono race, Montoya has also been on a roll with only two finishes worse than 12th, even though, by his own admission, he’s been points racing — not gunning for wins.
Cons OK, now it’s time to start gunning for wins, and there are no road courses in the Chase. Montoya has just two top 5 finishes this season, and neither of them occurred at tracks that will be in the Chase. Montoya winning the title is against all odds; but hey, the guy beat Michael Schumacher at Monaco in a vastly inferior car. Nunca diga nunca.
Pros Even Biffle must be baffled as to how he made his way into this year’s Chase with an average finish of 15th and no race victories. I think he owes Richard Childress a beer: RCR cars have been running so badly this year that perennial title contenders Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer were just left in the dust by the thundering herd. On a more positive note, four of Biffle’s eight top 5 finishes were scored on tracks that will be part of this year’s Chase and if it comes right down to it, he’s won three times at Homestead where the season finale is staged. Five top 5s, one win, and four more top 10 finishes just might get the job done. After all, Biffle has finished second and third in the Chase in previous seasons, so this ain’t his first rodeo, cowgirl.
Cons This has been a thoroughly lackluster season by Biffle’s standards. Even in the unlikely event he was to finish in the top 10 in every remaining race, he would barely eclipse his own mark of 21 top 10s scored back in 2005 when Biffle finished second in the Chase. Given his underdog status, Biffle might be the perfect candidate to run the new Ford engine and crow if it goes — or shrug if it blows.
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If the chase is the face of nas$car then the sport needs a facelift. The last poll of fans still show that fans voted about 70% against the chase. But nas$car WILL NEVER admit to any mistakes made. In fact like a spoiled rich kid, they’ll dig their feet in and embrace it even further. We just watched 26 races where a select few have any shot of getting into the “play-off”. Little impetence was on winning. In fact the one driver that showed any fire didn’t makes the chase, which isn’t good for the sport. Like him or not, Kyle Busch adds a spice to the vanilla mix of nas$car drivers. He’ll be beaten down in due time. Also there’s little impetence on winning in the first 26 races. Just positioning to make the chase. Not taking chances. Well, the dog and pony show is here and if for no other reason, I’ll watch it for comic relief. Due to the fact that my long time favorite driver, Jeff Burton, didn’t make the chase, I’ll be rooting for Brian Vickers because he’s the anti-Hendricks. Somebody needs to start a “real” stock care series where the impetence is on winning, not on a beauty contestent show. Do we get to see the chase drivers in speedos. Perish the thought. Well, I’ve stated my position and yes, I THINK THE CHASE IS ALL GLITZ AND GLITTER WITH NO SUBSTANCE. And don’t tell me that if I don’t like it I can watch something else because I probably will be switching between nas$car, the NFL, NCAA football, and MLB. I’ve been a fan for 30 years not too long ago that would not have happened. Nas$car used to be a week-end must. Well, Im done here. Thanks for listening.
i imagine, with jr having problems making the chase every year or so, a fan vote will be next thing. but what will na$car do if their cash cow doesn’t get voted in by fans? i mean they voted in logano into the allstar race in may.
NA$CRAP blew it this year! (re: voting for a “wild card driver” for the chase).
They, NA$CRAP, in all their wisdom, or lack-there-of, counted on Jr. making the chase in a Hendrick car, HANDS DOWN!
A slam-dunk as thought NA$CRAP!
NOW! Their fair-haired boy has come up STINKING!
But when Brain Farce checks his bank account after this season, there WILL MOST DEFINITELY BE A “VOTE IN” WILD CARD DRIVER NEXT YEAR!
Even if King Brian has to submit 750,000 entries himself!
Now you know you can’t outsmart a guy with still a few brain cells left! (but he is working fervently on that)
If the truth be known, I fully anticipated that after last weekend we would have received a press release from International Speedway Blvd. stating that as a“wild card” for this years chase ANY car with a number ending in ‘8’, would also be eligible!
Well said midasmicah.
You can be sure if there is a fan vote that that would be the last straw for me.
Nascar better pray to the racing gods that Johnson doesnt start running away with it from Day 1. They need someone like Montoya or Newman to keep it all honest. If not, you will hear the sound of millions of remotes clicking off (make sounds like Jaws..drum roll..) THE CHASE!
“Nascar better pray to the racing gods that Johnson doesnt start running away with it from Day 1.”
Amen to that!
don mei – na$car won’t like it if johnson runs away with chase because they want martin to win it. i have a feeling it won’t take johnson and knaus long to get back on their “a” game and if that happens….will be bad.
I liked the article
Anyone who watched Na$crap Victory Lane on Speed after the Brickyard 400 would have heard Johnson say “winning a title under the old system would be alot harder”. The 10 race do-over, “FARCE for the CHUMPIONSHIP” is JOKE!
who has won the most sprint cup races since 2002?…..hmmmmm
just one more point to make. it takes alot of BALLS to race at speeds from 100 to 200mph with 42 other drivers.