Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
The ponderous, clanking, larger than life beast that was the 2009 NASCAR season finally stumbled across the finish line at Homestead, completing its nine month marathon. By that point, it was smoking badly, listing to port and shedding parts like a leper on a trampoline; but somehow it did complete the marathon. Some folks tuned in to see Jimmie Johnson claim his fourth consecutive title, some tuned in to see the unseemly abomination come to an end out of habit, and some percentage of former fans simply no longer tuned in after enduring a sometimes trying season. Whether objects in the rear-view mirror are actually larger than they appear or not, it’s time to take a look back at the NASCAR season that was. Keep your hands inside the car, please; this is a dark ride.
The Top Stories
Hendrick Motorsports Domination: For the first time in series history, a single team had drivers finish 1-2-3 in the points. Not even Carl Keikhaefer, who was fishing for guppies with dynamite back in the ’50s, managed that feat. Jimmie Johnson claimed his unprecedented fourth consecutive Cup title. Mark Martin finished second in the standings for the fifth time in his career and claimed five race victories along the way. Jeff Gordon returned to Victory Lane after being shut out in 2008 and finished third in the standings. In fact if one allows that the relationship between Rick Hendrick’s organization and the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing teams is a bit chummier than even Kentucky marital law allows, five drivers for one organization grabbed up spots in the Chase. The big 3 at HMS claimed 13 of 36 race victories, and combined for seventy top 10 finishers out of a possible 108 such results for those three drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored five additional top 10 results, and part-time HMS pilot Brad Kesolowski added another. Whether one team dominating the sport is good for NASCAR or not, devotees of the history and heritage of the sport have to admit, joyously or grudgingly, that those are some pretty impressive feats of strength.
Fan Apathy: While those three Hendrick Motorsports drivers were posting all those impressive stats, it seemed less and less fans were watching them do so. Attendance at most tracks was down, and in some cases the size of the crowds were downright embarrassing. TV ratings declined significantly. NASCAR racing does not exist in a vacuum. The same economy that caused such havoc across this great country in ’09 took it’s toll on race ticket sales. So did the price of gasoline. (It’s not still four bucks a gallon, but it sure ain’t cheap.) Fans who lost their jobs or feared losing their jobs had to decide between expensive race weekends or paying the mortgage, the car payment and the grocery bill. It’s tough out there, no denying it. But that doesn’t explain the precipitous drop in NASCAR’s TV ratings. A majority of races, at least in the Cup series, are now shown on broadcast TV. Even fans who canceled their cable TV plans should have been able to tune in, but a lot of them chose not to.
There are a variety of reasons folks have put forward to explain those bad TV numbers. Some blame fans’ distaste for the Chase points format. Other blame the increasingly bland racing and drivers that fans don’t find as savory as spicier racing and drivers back in the day. Many blame the Car of Tomorrow and the dearth of passing. Some want to blame later race starting times. Still others claim it’s the quality of the NASCAR TV broadcasts themselves which does indeed, at times, seem to test the limits of the Geneva Convention’s protocol on torture. I’m not sure what the problem is. But here’s two thoughts on the issue. Recall the First Rule of Holes; when you find yourself in one, stop digging. Secondly no great problem has ever been solved by assigning blame. Fixing problems takes two steps; admitting there is a problem and working hard to correct it. Nobody at NASCAR headquarters seems ready to take even the first step.
More and more of the fans the sport has left tell me they tune in for the first thirty laps to see which driver is going to dominate that day’s race, then don’t watch again until the final ten laps to see how much that cat wins by.
Amazingly, during NASCAR’s meteoric growth in the ’80s (and for the record meteors fall down not up) there was even talk that someday NASCAR TV ratings would eclipse those of the NFL. Let’s just say right now nobody at NFL headquarters is hiding under their covers in their corporate pajamas waiting for for the NASCAR steamroller to level the joint.
Side by Side Restarts: There was at least a glimmer of hope here that NASCAR is listening to its increasingly disenchanted fan base. The concept of starting the lead lap cars side by side in their running order rather than restarting a race with lapped cars in the preferred inside groove, with lead lap cars to their outside proved popular at the Winston… err whatever it’s called these days. With surprising haste, NASCAR quickly adopted that restart formula for points-paying races as well starting at New Hampshire. As such the first five to ten laps after a restart tend to feature some of the most intense racing of the afternoon or evening as drivers jockey to make up positions gathering their rosebuds as they may, rather than trying to circumvent lapped cars in the racing groove. All too often, that sets off a series or wrecks and more restarts, but the concept of side by side restarts is no more bogus than throwing debris cautions for a hot dog wrapper late in a race to bunch the fields back up. Combine the two, and I have two words for you: “Talla” “Dega. Oh, yes, we’ll get to that gentle readers. I have a lot of ground to cover here.
NASCAR’s Drug Policy: NASCAR officials warned participants that their new drug policy was going to be thorough and draconian. It was all that and then some. The first name driver to run afoul of the policy was Jeremy Mayfield and the resultant cat fight has dominated the headlines this year the way few race finishes have. NASCAR said their tests revealed Mayfield was using methamphetamine aka, crank or meth. Mayfield passionately protested that the drug test yielded a false positive caused by a combination of an allergy medication (whose maker occasionally sponsors the 99 car) and a prescription drug a doctor gave him to treat Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. As such he flat out refused to begin the NASCAR mandated process that would have allowed him to eventually be allowed to return to driving so he could start and park his car for big paychecks. Game on. NASCAR said no such false positive was possible. An accredited drug testing center proved it was. Mayfield tried thumbing his nose at NASCAR by showing up in the infield at Charlotte. NASCAR tossed him out. NASCAR tried making Mayfield submit to another random drug treatment test. Mayfield said he got lost on the way to that test so he went to another testing facility and passed the test. NASCAR obtained a statement from Mayfield’s stepmom, a woman who admittedly would need years in charm school to reach trailer trash status, who said she witnessed Mayfield snorting crank on race day more than once. Mayfield responded by claiming his stepmother was not only a liar but that she had killed his estranged father. Lawsuits were filed, counter-lawsuits were filed and injunctions and accusations filled the air like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. It might be years before this is all settled in court but meanwhile it’s playing out in the media. Oh, well. At least it gave fans something to talk about.
Jimmie Johnson’s Five Steps to a Title
Step One: After a slow start to the season including a 31st place finish at the Daytona 500, Johnson serves up notice that he plans to defend his title and gun for a fourth straight with a convincing win at Martinsville in the fifth race of the season.
Step Two: At the Brickyard 400 Johnson serves notice that the sleeping giant is wide awake beating Mark Martin to the line by .400 seconds in one of the sport’s most prestigious and best paying races. Johnson first and Martin second? A preview of things to come. 48 team is seen leaving Indy whistling “See you in September.” Their goal during the regular season is just to make the Chase. It’s worked before.
Step Three: Dover, Fontana and Charlotte, Fall 2009- With the Chase on Johnson wins three of four races early in the title hunt. The pay window has opened and the 48 team is muscling their way to the head of the line for the check with the big numbers on it as their adversaries find a variety of ways to falter.
Step Four: Johnson’s early wreck at Texas leads some to believe that the title chase is back open especially TV commentators desperate to revive moribund ratings. Johnson’s Chevy is well and truly used up after the wreck and by all rights should have been pushed to the nearest pond and submerged. Instead the 48 team does what amounts to a complete front clip job and returns their boy to the fray in record time. If three wins in four races hadn’t demoralized his competition the calm way the 48 team returned a thoroughly used up race car to battle that quickly probably served notice the rest of them were running for second. You can’t touch this…
Step Five: Any of those Pollyanna optimists who still had their hopes set there’d be a legitimate title fight at Homestead have their heads stoved in with Johnson’s dominating win at Phoenix. The 48 car led a mere 238 laps of a possible 312. I believe the rest of the time Johnson was in the pits using dental floss to appear pretty in the photos of his coronation. It’s so hard to floss with those full face helmets on, you know. Game, set, match, Johnson. Homestead was just a matter of waiting for the inevitable.
Best Races of 2009
Martinsville (Spring): It was if Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin actually wanted to win the race not just score maximum points to make the Chase. On lap 455 Hamlin made a daring pass for the lead that would have made Junior Johnson proud. With 11 laps to go Johnson forced the issue and the 48 and 11 car were completely sideways, fenders askew and tires smoking. Johnson went on to win the race and the huddled masses let out a mighty cheer. God bless ye merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay.
Darlington (Mother’s Day Eve): OK, by Darlington’s history this isn’t going to be considered one of the great ones. But by 2009’s standard it was a classic. Mark Martin was determined to pass teammate Jimmie Johnson on the final restart. Whether Johnson was testicles to the wall trying to keep Martin from passing him or just trying to gobble up points to make the Chase is open to debate. But for one brief moment in time it was 1989 again. Hmmmm. The seasons best two races were held at its two oldest tracks? Am I sensing a pattern here?
Worst Race of 2009
Talladega (Fall): Shortly before the race NASCAR officials told the drivers they weren’t going to tolerate any bump drafting in the corners. Apparently some drivers had asked NASCAR to clamp down on the practice. What resulted was not only the worst race of the year, but perhaps the most fatally flawed human endeavor since the McGovern presidential campaign. For a majority of the event drivers circled the track in a single file parade keeping a respectful distance from one another. In the end it was still the same old Talladega with potentially fatal wrecks, drivers on their roofs and the unseemliness of several competitors running out of gas. Simply put it was about as horrid an event as NASCAR could have staged and they’ve thrown some real stinkers in their time. Brutal, awful, utterly without redeeming social value, you choose your adjective. How bad was this race? Even the TV announcers threw aside their cheerleading pom-poms and said it sucked hind-teat. Brian France responded by saying the TV crew needed to be more positive, not with any ideas how to fix the mess that was Talladega this year. My guess is that as a result in 2010 we’ll have a lot more positive coverage of a pair of truly awful races. Anyone else remember way back in 1988 when restrictor plates were added to the Talladega and Daytona races as a “temporary” fix until NASCAR could come up with a fix for the insane speeds at the two tracks? Two decades later someone needs to be flogged with desert thorns then hung upside down in a vat of boiling battery acid for allowing this insanity to continue. Oh, did I mention I don’t think much of plate racing?
I Know It’s Only Wreck and Roll, But I Loathe It
When ESPN cues up the highlight reels for the 2009 Cup season it’s likely to be laden with wreck footage. Here’s three surefire clips.
Talladega (Spring): Well OK, last year NASCAR sent a clear message to the drivers. Regan Smith was deprived a win he richly deserved last year at Talladega for yielding enough room to Tony Stewart trying to pass him to avoid a wreck. This year Brad Kieslowski wasn’t about to make the same mistake when Carl Edwards tried to pass him coming to the finish line. Kieslowski (who some nicknamed “Cause-A-Wreck-Ski) chop blocked Edwards Ford and sent him sailing into the catch fence off of Ryan Newman’s Dodge. A 3,600 pound stock car carrying over 180 miles per hour came so close to entering the stands that it still makes me sick to the stomach to recall it. It would be a massive bit of understatement to say that wouldn’t have turned out well. As it was seven fans were injured by flying debris including a young lady whose jaw was badly broken and is still recovering from her injuries. Racing is racing. Competitors accept a certain degree of risk they can be killed or seriously injured in a wreck, To send a fan who arrived in their daily driver home in a Bambulance or a hearse is simply not acceptable. If you thought the finish of the spring Talladega race was cool I invite you to go taunt a local gang member to the degree he punches you in the jaw and shatters it. How cool does that feel?
Dover is well known for day ending contact into the inside wall and heavy impacts into cars sideways across the track but not so much for sideways barrel rolls. Still Joey Logano managed to flip his Toyota side over side seven times with a possible half-gainer on lap 30 at Dover in September. While uninjured Logano was clearly shaken after the tumble. Yeah, these new cars are safer once in a wreck but their top heavy center of gravity seems to make them more prone to tumble.
Talladega in the fall certainly ranks among the worst races of 2009, if not the worst race. It was so bad even the TV commentators were noting just how bad the lack of action was. But things came to a full boil in the final laps. First potential race winners began running out of gas and coasting to the pits muttering less than polite things on their radios. On lap 183 Ryan Newman made contact with his teammate Tony Stewart and after hard impact with the outside wall ends up landing on the hood of Kevin Harvick.’s car. Coming to the white flag Mark Martin also landed on his roof. NASCAR drivers are almost unanimous in saying this was the stupidest excuse of a race ever held. Brian France claims it was just typical Talladega. Of course his oversize butt wasn’t in a race car in those final ten laps.
Quotes of the Year
Jeff Gordon wins this one after running out of gas in the final laps at Talladega in the fall, then returns to the track only to have the 24 car wiped out in a wreck: “I guess I’m kind of glad we ran out when we did, because we were at least able to get back out there and destroy our car.” An usually gregarious Gordon went to add “I look forward to the day when I can watch this on TV instead of being inside of it.”
More Insight From Talladega from Ryan Newman, who ended the race upside down on the hood of the 29 car: “I wish NASCAR would do something. It was a boring race for the fans. That’s not something anybody wants to see—at least I hope not. If they do, go home because you don’t belong here. Drivers used to be able to respect each other and race around each other. I guess they (NASCAR) don’t think much of us anymore.”
But for the most succinct account of racing at Talladega, we got to Carl Edwards, whose car almost ended up in the grandstands at Talladega this spring: I guess we’ll race like this until we kill somebody. and then we’ll change it.”
Finally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. weighed in on the Car of Tomorrow after the Atlanta spring race, saying, “This is one Hell of an excuse for a race car.”
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The drop off in popularity of NASCAR racing really boils down to two distinct problems . One , the suffocating of competition by micro managing the racing . A one lap penalty for this , a black flag for that , points taken away for everything . Even speeding ( at an auto race ???? ) down pit road . The sport is badly overregulated .
Not up to the normal standards for your biased NASCAR bashing, but still full of distortions and ommissions. You might have mentioned EESPN’s mediocre race coverage driving fans away, but they always get a pass.
Sure am looking forward to Speed Weeks.
I’ve been dancing in the streets. Doctor Jerry Punch got kicked out of the booth. “Well, Folks” I see that as at least a small,though very small, indication someone’s listening. ‘Ole DW ain’t going anywhere though. Fox execs are as deaf as bats.Their broadcasts are nothing more than infomercials for DW’s store. Digger for Christmas anyone?
At the Dega spring race Edwards was in the lead (not Brad)and tried to block Kesolowsi, Brad didn’t lift or move below the yellow line to abod the contact.
avoid the contact.
I lay the blame for the decline directly on Fox, and DW in particular. These are the clowns that dumbed down the sport to the lowest common denominator trying to lure in the rubes and their money. A close second in Brain France and his inept attempt to run a major corporation.
The new double file restart-shootout style, while exciting, just gives Nascar another excuse to throw the caution to try to add some excitement to an otherwise boring show.
Maybe Haas and Hendrick are both smiling because they are both convicted criminals who have tons of money and their freedom. Has anyone else thought of that? I am sick that FOX has kept their dumbed down crew again, it will be another long first half until TNT takes over. I will miss M. Waltrips poor on track performance, it was a really good reason to smile and chuckle. Watching the lowest budget teams continuously out perform him was fun to watch.
Matt, over the 2009 season I would watch the NASCAR race and then read your article the next day. I found that I could read your article and save myself the torture time of watching the race. I think you were “right on” with your comments and coverage of the 2009 NASCAR weekends. Stay where you are and continue to do what you do. Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and the staff of Frontstretch.