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.
Four races deep into a 36-race season may be a bit premature to start drawing too many conclusions. Things could radically reverse themselves in the next four races. But already some trends are emerging this season and we’ve got some stuff to talk about here beside the rising tide. This column is also based on one irrefutable truth: It’s tough come up with anything to write about the sport going into an off-weekend, especially with my fellow Frontstretch writers having already grabbed up all the slam dunk Carl Edwards Vigilante Justice or Villain slots while I still dutifully was banging out my Sunday column.
Oh, and the sooner I get done this column the quicker I can return to the garage and continue getting the toys ready for springtime after the Winter From Hell here in Philly with a week off dead ahead.
The first four races of the season have offered a variety of tracks. Naturally there was the Daytona 500, one of four plate tracks on the schedule and an animal all to itself. Even absent the ever present hype leading up to the 500 Florida weather means this track is uniquely different in July to the point it might as well lay in a different latitude. This year’s 500 was a bit frigid, but by July, Florida will be tropical again.
Then we had races at California, a low banked medium size speedway, Las Vegas, a moderately banked medium size speedway, and Atlanta, a high banked medium size speedway. The first short track race — once the staple of the sport — isn’t until a week from Sunday. Nowadays the mid-size speedways make up a majority of the schedule so we are getting a good glimpse of who has what.
Let’s start with the 800-pound gorilla in the room — one James Johnson, reigning Cup champion — who is showing every sign that he’s ready to pick up where he left off last year…and for the last four years now. Johnson has won two of this year’s four points races, in dominating fashion at California and slipping by teammate Jeff Gordon late at Las Vegas on four fresh tires. Only his 35th place finish at Daytona has Johnson out of the points lead. I’m sensing a growing number of fans who bear no personal animosity towards Johnson the way they once loathed Jeff Gordon (after all Johnson never routinely beat Earnhardt Sr.) but they’re feeling like “Enough is enough.”
I’m not sure what Johnson and the No. 48 bunch are supposed to do about that sentiment. It’s not like they’re going to stop winning races or titles for the future good of the sport, and in fact in a year when NASCAR seems to want to promote rivalries maybe this is good for the sport. Earnhardt himself and Jeff Gordon weren’t very popular in some quarters either, and some fans would tune in just hoping to see them fall on their faces. The more they won the more their detractors tuned in to watch them fall. As Earnhardt himself once famously said of the fans, “If they ain’t cheering, they better be booing.” There’s nothing worse than watching a bunch of dispirited fans leaving the race track halfway through an event because they’re bored. You just know they ain’t coming back.
Johnson is so damn vanilla that he hasn’t incited the ABJ (Anybody But Johnson) brigade yet, but it may be coming. Meanwhile I truly feel that the only thing that can derail the No. 48 team is Chad Knaus leaving Hendrick for greener pastures the way Ray Evernham once did. Rick Hendrick recently joked that he’d love to sign Knaus to a lifetime contract but he can’t afford it. From where I sit I don’t see how he can afford not to.
That leaves Johnson’s three teammates from the dominant organization in the sport. Jeff Gordon is off to an unsteady start. He dominated at Las Vegas only to lose due to questionable pit strategy on the final stop. Other than that he’s led just 13 laps and he’s averaged a 21st place finish in those other three races. Sunday at Atlanta, Gordon looked particularly hapless, perhaps because the tires Goodyear brought didn’t agree with him.
The ageless one, Mark Martin — racing’s equivalent to rock’s Bruce Springsteen — is off to a better start. He finished 12th at Daytona and fourth the next two weeks. A wreck not of his own making dropped Martin to seventh in the standings, but he’s still got the scent of the leaders. How many more years can he keep competing? Until he’s damn well ready to stop. This cat is just born to run.
That leaves Hendrick’s problem children, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88. To avoid sacks of hate mail I’ve learned it’s important to say positive things about Junior. He certainly does seem to be qualifying better this year. A second place finish at Daytona wasn’t too bad. But since then it’s been back to the doldrums. For whatever reason the No. 88 team just doesn’t have the knack to take a car that’s bad at the start of a race and turn it competitive. They have shown an uncanny ability to take a car that’s decent at the start of the race and turn it to junk. Somewhere in the course of the afternoon Junior tends to get angry and from then on he’s just phoning it in. Has Amp ever considered a new product with Prozac in the mix?
Certainly one of the bright spots of the season for those tired of watching HMS win has been the dramatic return of Richard Childress Racing after a frustrating 2009 campaign. Kevin Harvick currently leads the points and his two teammates, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer, are also in the top six in points. This trio has finished 11th or better ten of a possible twelve times. Why the dramatic turnaround?
Damned if I know.
Usually for every year a team takes digging itself into a hole it takes them three years to dig out. I will say Richard Childress has been doing this a long time and isn’t shy about spending money. And he’s got three good drivers in his stable. Jeff Burton is an elder statesman of the sport and a veteran campaigner. Kevin Harvick has been at this eight years now and is finally showing some maturity. Clint Bowyer is entering his fifth full season of Cup racing and is beginning to show some of the form that used to light up the crowds in his home state of Kansas. Whatever the reason it’s nice to see some new faces running up front.
What about the other superteam, Roush Racing? Well it’s been a mixed bag so far. Matt Kenseth is second in the standings after four straight top 10 finishes. He’s only led nine laps, but Kenseth has never been a flashy driver. He comes on at the end when they’re ready to write the checks. It seemed odd that a driver off to a fine start would wind up with a new crew chief but it’s hard to argue with a second place finish at Atlanta.
Greg Biffle also has four straight top 10 finishes and in the earlier races this season he was carrying Roush’s flag. Carl Edwards’ season is off to a rockier start. He has just one top 10 finish and zero laps led. As a result of Sunday’s retaliatory incident with Kesolowski, Edwards is on probation for three races (I’m sure he’s shivering in his snake skin booties) and he’s already mired 20th in the standings.
David Ragan has had his “UPS” and downs. With an average finishing position of 25th four races into the season, he’s got a deep hole to dig out of. After watching Jamie McMurray — formerly of Roush, but released after 2009 — win the Daytona 500 one has to wonder if Roush released the right driver. For all the Roush team’s past dominance head to head with Hendrick, it’s hard to dismiss the fact that only McMurray has won a Cup race in a Roush entry in over a year. Yet Roush seems hesitant to use Ford’s new FR9 engine. I dunno. If I’m getting my face rubbed in the mud every weekend I’m pulling everything I can out of my bag of tricks. If you’re going down, go down swinging.
McMurray’s win at Daytona was one of the feel good stories of the year. A driver tossed to the scrap heap by his former team, competing for the burnt out wreckage of two once mighty teams wins the big prize.
Chevy has been dominant this year winning the first three races and dominating the top 10. Dodge’s Kurt Busch — driving for Roger Penske, who fields the only Dodges out there — finally broke the streak on Sunday at Atlanta. He is currently tenth in the standings.
Kasey Kahne got off to a fast start with a surprise win in his 150-mile Daytona 500 qualifier and he could easily have won at Atlanta as well if his pit crew hadn’t let him down stop after stop. He’s been running far better than his 17th place position in the standings. To date he’s led 148 laps in his first four races in a Ford. Perhaps even more surprising is Kahne’s RPM teammate Paul Menard who finds himself ninth in the standings ahead of such luminaries as Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch.
Kyle Busch is off to a slow start with Joe Gibbs Racing. He has yet to finish better than 14th in a Cup event though he has won a Nationwide race. Perhaps owning his own teams in NASCAR’s other two touring divisions is distracting Busch from his day job.
Busch’s teammate Denny Hamlin, who many felt was a good choice as a darkhorse contender for the Cup this year, is off to an even worse start with no finishes better than seventeenth and an average finish of 22nd. Toyota pilots are screaming that they’re at a horsepower disadvantage right now. Maybe they need to install some of those sticking throttle pedals that turn mere Camry’s into rockets?
Teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman seem mired in a sophomore slump their second season out. Between the two of them they have yet to post a single top 5 finish. Newman’s season got off to a particularly difficult start with two straight DNFs that find him currently mired 29th in the standings.
One of NASCAR’s stated goals to improve the racing is 2010 was to “let boys be boys” and get back after it without fear of getting slapped on the wrist for playing a little rough. Well they’ve got some feuds going already. Juan Pablo Montoya is mad at Jamie McMurray and they’re teammates. Kyle Busch isn’t happy with Boris Said. (Then again, when is Kyle ever happy?) Tony Stewart’s mad at Brad Kesolowski.
Denny Hamlin is mad at Brad Kesolowski. Just about everyone is mad at Brad Kesolowski but a few fans of his who post to internet message boards and tend to spell poorly. But Carl Edwards is madder at Bad Brad than anyone else. Edwards is now notorious for his actions at Atlanta, wrecking Kesolowski while Edwards was more than 150 laps down after an earlier incident Sunday. Quite frankly I think it’s time his fellow drivers learn Cause-a-Catastrophe some manners but looking at the mangled rollcage in the driver’s compartment of the 12 car after the flip was sobering. My take? Right move, wrong place. Speeds are too high at Atlanta for that sort of stuff. Martinsville is coming up soon. But in the first week NASCAR emerged from the Olympics shadows, Mr. Edwards surely has given us something to talk about, hasn’t he?
NASCAR’s “The Gloves are Off” strategy is just part of their apparent effort to win back disenchanted fans who no longer attend or even watch races. The wings will be gone off the cars soon replaced with blade type spoilers the way God and Dale Earnhardt intended race cars to look. The earlier start times are welcome though with two west coast races and the rain delay at Daytona we haven’t seen how those start times will truly affect ratings and attendance. Now it behooves NASCAR to do away with the two things that truly irritate long time race fans, the Car of Sorrow and the Chase. Until both are consigned to the Museum of Monumentally Bad Ideas beside New Coke and the Pontiac Aztek there’s a lot of folks who ain’t coming back.
Four races into the season I’ve already decided I’m a dinosaur. I don’t tweet, and I don’t have a Facebook page. Hell, I don’t have a cell phone. It seems that media members and drivers have decided to take it straight to the fans without such bothers as thinking and editing what they want to say or even writing in complete sentences. Carl Edwards is taking his case directly to the fans after Sunday’s incident rather than through the media. That’ s what we used to do but just as the Internet displaced so many print journalists, this twitting and About Face Booking seems to be the wave of the future. And it’s not just young people who aren’t old enough to know better.
I’m told Darrell Waltrip, who is older than dirt, has become a Tweeter adherent. My guess is his 30 word electronic outbursts are easier to take than the constant cacophony of nonsensical verbiage and self-agrandization he spews on Sunday. You don’t want to know what I’m doing every minute of every day. You don’t need to know I’ve crawled out of the rack on Saturday morning at a decadent hour, I’ve pinched a loaf and having scrupulously scrubbed my hands clean I’m searching for my lost box of Captain Crunch for breakfast. That’s how my brain functions weekend mornings until the nicotine starts firing off some neurons. Sorry, but I’m not a twit and I’m not going to tweet. If that means I’m out a job I’m down with that. There’s lots more for me to do in the garage frankly. Know anyone who wants a righteous gold big block 72 Chevelle without a speck of rust on it?
Tweet me. Oh, right…..
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Pennsylvania, winter, snow and salt yet you have a pristine ’72 Chevelle with nary a spec of rust? Hell, back in the day when I was in school in the midwest and those cars were under 10 years old they were falling apart. Even if you replaced all the panels and kept it in the garage it would start rusting from just opening the garage door and letting the car see the snow. Back then we had winter wheels and summer wheels, since the salt would do a number on the chrome. My summer wheels were Crager SS mags with the rears being M50-14’s, with the rear end jacked up to the sky so they would clear. For some reason that was cool. The winter wheels were stock steelies with studded snow tires out back, but with them on I could actually have people in the back seat without worrying about the tires rubbing the fenders.
Have you re-tuned that big block to get rid of all the 1972 low compression government mandated fuel mileage mods forced on the Big 3 at the time?
Doesn’t it seem like it was just yesterday that everyone was shouting from the rooftops that Dale Jr. was back? What a difference 3 races make.
Yeah, what he said!!
What?! You don’t tweet? So, you probably missed JPM letting us all know: @jpmontoya just woke up, kids watching tv, everybody is having a lot of fun!!!!!
You truly are a luddite! HAHA!
I actually got that off Page 2’s site – I don’t FB or Tweet either, and sometimes wish I didn’t have a cell phone… You’re not missing much…
i don’t tweet, facebook or myspace or even have texting feature on my cell phone. i don’t have a street-by-street navg system in my car, i’ll pull out map. have cell phone for emergency use and also for free long distance on weekends. i go one better, i don’t have a dvd player or a hd tv. if my cell phone does ring while i’m driving, i pull over. i’ve seem too many rear ended wrecks with someone yapping on phone. just amazes me how they can yap, watch tv in car while driving and eat. i guess that’s the ultimate multi-tasking.
I don’t tweet and closed my facebook account. TMI out there.
Seems like an awful lot of analysis for a season thats barely started . You are obviously correct about the difficulty in thinking of something interesting to write .
Twitter, sigh… I have to admit I have never been a fan of twitter, but just yesterday I set it up on my smartphone. It is somewhat entertaining reading all the comments. (I dont really like the word “tweet” so I will call them comments). Kenny Wallace, Kyle Petty and yes Jaws, are all pretty active on there. AS for right now the ONLY people I am following on Twitter are drivers and other Nascar personalities. Only time will tell if I become a true twitter user. Right now I am just a follower. I do enjoy facebook, but I think everyone should just switch to Google Buzz.
According to Nascar.com and Jayski, it’s Keselowski with two E’s and one O. Or maybe I just don’t get the joke. Wouldn’t be the first time. As for the BKski himself, I’m thinking he’ll have plenty of fans when more folks who like hard-nosed agressive drivers in the mold of Dale Sr. and Cale Yarborough realize that this kid is the real deal.
Well, Carl, don’t expect this fan to jump on Brad’s bandwagon! As far as I’m concerned, he’s as crummy a driver as Edwards, and I still think this situation between the two hasn’t come to a head yet! Want to bet that Edwards does get sat out by Talladega, and maybe even let go and replaced by Kasey at the end of the year? And I would also bet that Keselowski end’s up sitting out a race or two before it’s over! I know everyone is cheering that he successfully brought total shame on to NASCAR’s most hated driver. But just wait until he pull’s his aggresive garbage on one of “The Big Three” (Tony, Jimmie, and Jeffy)! You will all change your tune real fast about this punk!
The Survey Says…Not many of Matts readers are Tweeting or on FB!!
I don’t think so. In fact, if he didn’t race those guys just as aggressively as he races Edwards and Hamlin, I’d be disappointed.
Interesting that you mention Tony Stewart… I remember when everyone was complaining about how aggressive he drove. Two championships later he’s a fan favorite.
If the #48 driver actually went by “James,” I think he’d sound a lot cooler, more intimidating, commanding, or something.
Drivers who can’t handle “aggressive garbage” don’t belong in this series.
So far, this season is better than last year’s. Perception?? Maybe but I am more upbeat than I was last December.
BTW: I one of those who loves all things electronics – and I hate Twitter. I DO NOT want to know everything that goes through people’s heads.
You call Carl MR Edwards? Now I know you’re crazy. I think you will find this turns out like the DW/RW fiasco.
You already know I’m an oddball, so I’ll just say I love technology and cant wait until we get internet connections directly into our brain stem sorta like in “The Matrix.” I dont do twitter but I am on facebook and play online games with my friends.
RamblinWreck, there is aggresive driving, then there is being reckless and stupid. So far, from what I’ve seen, Mr. Keselowski falls into the later catagory. As much as you are coming down on Edwards (justifiably so), Mr. Keselowski isn’t exactly Mr. Innocent! I seem to recall him sending Joey Lagano for a spin at Fontana, and calling his actions justified. Bump-and-run is one thing. Spin-em-into-the wall is another. But then, I guess it’s “win at all cost”, and as he openly says, he’s doesn’t race to make friends, he races to win, regardless of the cost to his reputation. Sorry, I will never jump on his fan-wagon! It’s Kenseth and The Biff all the way!
Matt ive been following your columns for a long time another great article
By golly I’ve got a cell phone (an iPhone 3GS with all the bells and whistles) and a Facebook page, but I’ll draw the line at Twitter. Mainly, I just want to let Matt know that we’re counting: Toyota gas pedal joke #1 is in the books!
well, i have a cell phone. i can’t text, but i do have a facebook page. but, i agree too many people on there really don’t have a life and actually tell you all about it on fb. i grew up on a farm and the last thing i want to do is work on one in my computer.
“Now it behooves NASCAR to do away with the two things…”
Make that THREE things – bring the Southern 500 back to Darlington!
Respect points for pulling for those two guys; they don’t back down either.