Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Matt McLaughlin · Wednesday April 21, 2010
Jack Roush hasn’t stopped by here at Eyesore Acres in awhile to chat over a few brews. To be honest, that has happened since precisely never. But my guess is the Cat in Hat is a pretty frustrated fellow right now, and his dogs are wearing flak jackets to protect against injuries when he gets home from the track. First off, none of his teams have managed to win a race this year. Secondly, NASCAR’s rules (implemented after he got all five drivers in the Chase the first season of that farce because “one team dominating wasn’t good for the sport”) forced him to cut back to four teams this season. Thus, Roush was forced to release Jamie McMurray, a driver he truly believed in, to follow not only the letter but the intent of the new law. McMurray promptly went out and won this year’s Daytona 500 with a lightly-regarded team, tasting the revenge of success against his old program along the way. And, of course, there’s the fact that despite the GM domination for the last few seasons, NASCAR isn’t stepping in to level the playing field the way it always seemed to do back when the Fords were winning races in bunches.
GM as a car selling entity may be still getting up off the canvas, bruised and bloody, reeling, clinging to the ropes between swinging some haymakers as of late, but there’s no doubt they’re the top dog in NASCAR. Ford teams have long complained of some animosity with the NASCAR rules makers, and their complaint has some merit. It seems since Ford’s 1966 NASCAR boycott after the 427 SOHC issue the Blue Oval has had enemies at 1801 West Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach. In 1971, when Junior Johnson proposed bringing Chevy back into the NASCAR fold after a decade-long absence, NASCAR pretty much gave that old fox the keys to the henhouse to get his Monte Carlos competitive. When Bill Elliott was dominating at the big tracks in 1985, NASCAR raised the roofs on the Fords and let the GM teams lower theirs despite the fact Elliott and his family-owned Ford were the only Thunderbirds running worth a damn.
When the next generation Thunderbird — a bold styling experiment for street cars back when this was still stock car racing — began winning races, NASCAR gave in to GM’s demands that they be allowed to run “funny cars”…rear-wheel drive race cars that loosely resembled the front wheel drive sh*t-boxes GM couldn’t give away in that era. It was a line of cars so unarguably awful, they paved the way for GM’s eventual once unthinkable collapse. Like many other people, as someone who once laid my hard-earned cash down on a GM product built in the ’80s, I’d never consider owning another one unless they gave me the keys for free, offered free towing for warranty repairs, and sent a couple high-priced call girls with a van full of Corona to my residence nightly for a month. How bad was my experience? Let’s just say nobody should have to sacrifice their favorite denim jacket beating out a carb fire on a three-month-old car like I did with my 1984 L69 Z28. I recall that night vividly because it’s one of the few evenings that garbage scow wasn’t parked on the dealer’s lot awaiting another transmission replacement.
Ford has bought on some of their own trouble in not retaining talented drivers. Mark Martin and Jeff Burton both enjoyed their career-defining success in Fords, but now win races in Chevys. Jeff Gordon was a Ford development driver they envisioned as a future champion… until he violated his contractual agreements to leave Ford for Hendrick Motorsports. Had Ford pursued the matter hard in court, young Mr. Gordon would likely have spent a couple seasons on the sidelines and you’d never have heard of him again. Ditto Kasey Kahne, who had to buy his way out of his contract with Ford to go racing for Ray Evernham’s fledgling Dodge outfit in 2004.
That’s why it had to smart last week when Kahne announced he was once again leaving Ford to go drive for Rick Hendrick’s all-conquering team, an outfit that’s won nine of the last 15 Cup championships, including the last four in a row.
While you can’t blame Kahne for wanting to drive for the sport’s dominant team, or Hendrick for wanting to employ another of the sport’s most marketable drivers with a lot of years left in his career, you have to wonder if the move is good for the sport. Don’t take me to task for being against the free trade system. I understand how this all works. In my younger years, I ran a tire store that competed against two others on the same block. I flat out hated those guys. I wanted to win every sale from them. I got paid well to see to it my parking lot and waiting room were always full and theirs were empty. Eventually, the organization I worked for was the last man standing, and I didn’t cry any tears for them and I didn’t care if our success was to the detriment of consumers. If they developed good employees who could sell or bust tires quickly, I’d make a pitch to hire them, and those guys I targeted often came to work for Tom and I as it became more apparent we were the big dogs on the block. All is fair in love, war, and tire sales but you wouldn’t have wanted to watch that battle on TV, much less buy a ticket to watch us do our stuff even if at one point I believe we were the best tire shop in America.
Rick Hendrick not only has the most successful organization in NASCAR today, he has the most marketable. Jimmie Johnson is the only driver ever to win four consecutive titles. Jeff Gordon has also claimed the big trophy four times. Mark Martin is one of the most recognizable and respected drivers in our sport’s history, even if he’s never grabbed hold of the golden ring despite a dizzying amount of laps around the merry-go-round. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hasn’t enjoyed a lot of success driving for Hendrick, but he remains inarguably the sport’s most popular, high profile, and recognizable driver even with this year’s moldy scurf he calls a beard. Watch the TV ads, folks. (Do you have any choice?) Which drivers appear the most, with only Carl Edwards and occasionally Kyle Busch (in an increasingly annoying set of Toyota ads) interrupting the constant stream of Hendrick drivers? Now add Kahne, who is a commercial darling of his own; though thankfully, since that insurance company pulled out of racing we don’t have to endure anymore of those psychotic “Creepy Chick” ads.
Just as he was one of the first in the modern era to realize that a multi-car team made sense on an economy of scale level, Hendrick might be on the front lines of recognizing that even when your drivers aren’t hitting on all eight, having a marketable stable of drivers is a team’s key to success. After all, despite all the thousands of flavors of ice cream now available to consumers vanilla remains the most popular consumer choice over chocolate by a 29 percent to 9 percent ratio. If nothing else, Hendrick Motorsports has offered up the casual fan more vanilla drivers than any other organization, sponsor-spewing automans seeming devoid of genuine emotion to offend Wall Street and Fortune 500 entities than any other race organization in the sport’s history. I’d dare to say that we might as well rename Rick Hendrick Racing “The Stepford Wives Racing Community.”
Look at Jimmie Johnson, who at his most emotional struggles to reach the level of “bland” while he works in his plugs for a home improvement company that is the zombie wasteland of middle-aged males who have given up on Harley Davidsons, fishing, dirt bikes, and ever having sex with their wives again unless they build a gazebo. When Jeff Gordon confronts a driver like Matt Kenseth (and it always seems to be Matt Kenseth) with gentle barbs or (gasp) a push to the chest that wouldn’t get the first grade playground monitors too upset, it’s big news. Mark Martin is like a once jagged rock that has been eroded away by the passing stream of time to the point that he now says he no longer cares if he’s winning races or titles, he’s having so much darn fun driving for Rick. During an extended interview of unprecedented length during Saturday’s Nationwide Busch delay, even the once fiery Dale Earnhardt sounded alarmingly Stepford as he calmly answered questions, his eyes all of a sudden the color of the stale ginger ale Kurt Vonnegut once attributed to the monkeys’ testes who had been given saltpeter to keep them abusing themselves before zoo guests. Nowadays, he’s extolling the virtues of mayonnaise and auto insurance, not bumping people out of the way for race wins even if it seems like decades since he won a race. You and me both, Junior.
Now add in Kasey Kahne, another driver bred in of the new generation so vanilla he’d make a Mennonite cringe but eventually to be thrust into the lap of luxury. What are we telling drivers coming up through the feeding frenzy that are the ladder steps to Cup racing? We’re telling them winning a race occasionally is nice, but it’s more important to be nice. Remember to keep your hair cut short, to thank your sponsors, and to avoid conflict. Because maybe, just maybe, one day Rick Hendrick will hire you and you can make millions even if you don’t succeed. In this tough economy, Hendrick still has the sponsors other teams lack and they can make you rich. Rich and unsuccessful beats poor and a champion. This isn’t Thunder Road anymore, buddy, this is Wall Street and Madison Avenue. And kid, you better get the picture down here on Tenth Avenue.
I remain convinced in the current climate of Cup racing, Dale Earnhardt the original would never have found a ride and he’d still be working at a cotton mill or driving a tow truck. Bill Elliott would have sounded “too hick” to land a ride. Guys like Cale Yarborough, Junior Johnson, Bobby Isaac, and even chain-smoking David Pearson would never have gotten a second glance. Too hillbilly, too rough around the edges, not ready for prime time. So I hope ya’ll like vanilla, because that’s the sort of racing and drivers NASCAR is serving up these days. Me? I remain a fan of the grape-strawberry water ice they used to serve off the back of the Jessio’s ice cream truck while I was on vacation down the Jersey Shore when I was a kid. Too much vanilla will make you sick.
Just don’t try telling Rick Hendrick that.
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Seems to me Nascar hates Jack Roush just a little less than Robbie Gordon.
If drivers today are vanilla it’s not because NASCAR wants them that way, it’s due to the fact that the sport is driven by corporate sponsors. If you find a corporation that wants a spokesperson (and that’s the crux of this issue because that has become at least as important as driving ability) that offends a significant number of fans (potential customers) then you should share that information with some of the teams. Personally I don’t know of any national companies that aren’t worried about their image in the public’s eyes. Hell, they are even afraid to use “Merry Christmas” in their advertising because it might offend non-Christians. Let’s not even talk about drivers dropping the F-bomb when that’s the environment in which you have to operate. So, don’t blame NASCAR, don’t blame the drivers, don’t blame the teams for the fact that vanilla is the only flavor offered, the blame should be aimed at the overly PC atmosphere that corporate america demands.
when jr signed with hendrick and hendrick rolled out his drivers for that year, the white button down shirts and dark trousers that they all wore said it all. yeah jr initially threw wrench in the works and would wear grey shirt with tail out, then he grew the scruff and johnson did as well. now jr looks like he’s vieing for the grizzly adam’s championship. i guess jr’s appearance this year is his way at thumbing his nose at the conformity. he needs to trim back the beard and get a hair cut and look at least halfway intersted in how he earns his living. i keep waiting for ‘lil digger to pop out of that mess on his face. his racing enables him to open more bars. stewart is “satellite” hendrick team, ryan is the corporate guy, tony gave up on his appearance a long while ago. wonder if he’d still fit in cock-pit of open wheel car at indy?! however, i’m sure tony has to bite his tongue at times to keep the hendrick money train flowing.
i think the eyegear the guys wear is becoming too vanilla as well. well except for montoya and scott speed and kyle busch’s huge shades.
ever wonder why elliott sadler is where he is….look at his appearance and how he speaks. ward burton wouldn’t stand a chance with his south va accent. when dale jarrett gets too caught up in race his southern accent surfaces and he sounds too “hick-like”. i think that is why espn keeps rusty at the desk instead of in the booth.
vanilla and melba toast…too bland…have to add some syrup to the mix. i’m not one of those folks who like vanilla ice cream.
So True. I have seen it over the past 30 years and read about the AMA ban way way back. Nothing new. I still and will always be a Ford fan no matter what nascar and or gm do. They will never ever get me as a fan. Today, nascar is at a all time low.
The idiots in Daytona Beach don’t seem to get the picture. Turning the sport into an all chevrolet parade IS NOT GOOD for nas$car. Their disdain for Jack Roush is child like at best. I am a racing fan, plain and simple. Letting the Hendricks-Stewart organization dominate nas$car is adding to their negative image in the sports landscape. And their WWF like manipulation of their own rules (debris cautions at selected times in a race) doesn’t help that perception. I was a Jeff Burton at Roush. I’m still a Jeff Burton. That’s the way I see it, but nas$car’s un-yielding favortism towards Hendricks-Stewart can only hurt the sport.
For the uninformed above, Jr has shaved his beard..not that it’s anybooy’s business. Just saying.
I’m just sayin if NASCAR plays favorites to Hendrick, why didn’t they throw a caution so JJ could win in Texas? Also the damn COT’s are all the same except for the stickers, Ford should align itself with a better team.
And who is responsible for blandness – you media guys who like to make fun of people, their accents, and the least slip of the tongue. As a late great philosopher once said “We have met the enemy and it is us.”
Oh, and it does appear that Ford has been caught again asleep at the switch.
When you talk about Hendrick being the super organisation in NASCAR , you need to specify which of the teams you’re talking about . Over the years , most of Hendricks’ teams have been mediocre at best . Even now , how many of his teams are up front every week , and how many are just riding around .
Thank God for Brad Keselowske the“Rocky Road“of NASCAR’s ice cream shop. He sure ain’t vanilla
I still remember Jack Roush stating after Kenseth won his championship: “I can’t believe that they let me win one of these”
I find it highly interesting that you have spent considerable time in this space bashing Tony Stewart, and are now bemoaning the plethora of drivers who Aren’t Like Tony.
Sadly (at least to a point), Tony himself has mellowed a bit; although that is probably more attributable to the fact that he now has to sign paychecks rather then as a result of the best efforts of NA$CAR or Joe Gibbs to calm him down. Even Kurt Busch remade his image in to Mr. Nice Guy.
At least we have Kyle to entertain us. Like him or not, he’s one of the few out there of which it can be said it’s all about the winning and screw everything else. I can at least respect that.
Matt said: “implemented after he got all five drivers in the Chase the first season of that farce”
You mean the second season. The first season was 2004 and Roush had all 5 of his cars in, in 2005.
Vanilla just describes the top tier drivers. Wonder what would happen today if a Jimmy Means or J.D. McDuffie type were to show up to race? What flavor would those guys be? Chocolate would be a tremendous reach – never mind vanilla! I like to think they’d be the guys to keep the start & park brigade a little honest since they probably did more with less than most of those teams have… I always found it a bit rewarding to shake hands with a driver that had evidence of working on his car on his hands…