NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
During Prohibition, some men decided to live outside the rules. The business of hauling illegally produced liquor proved the perfect fit, a lucrative if dangerous way to do it. Those who got caught faced stiff prison terms. Those who didn’t get caught got rich during the depression. Even after prohibition, the manufacture, transport and sale of illegal liquor that didn’t have the official state and federal tax stamps, and could be sold cheaper, remained gold rush business, particularly in the rural southeast.
We’ve all heard the stories of the legends like Junior Johnson, whose family was big into the bootlegging business, learning to drive so fast trying to outrun the revenuers to get a load to market and avoid jail. We’ve all laughed at the colorful stories we’ve heard from that era about the bootleggers and the feds, but my guess is modern culture has romanticized those days. Doubtless many drivers on both sides of the line lost their lives in horrific traffic accidents wrapped around a tree, and many widows and children were left in poverty by their passing. I’ve heard less romantic stories about bootleggers and federal agents shot in cold blood in the back, because back then, such were the real rules of the game.
So forget the Dukes of Hazzard. Bootlegging was a harsh and dangerous, if lucrative business. The primary task wasn’t good-spirited races between the shine cars and hopped up cop cars over the dirt roads – let the better man win. One of the tricks the bootleggers used was the “bait car.” Feds would get a tip from a confidential informant a load was being delivered to market that night by such-and-such driver in such-and-such type car, then they’d stake out the route looking to make a bust. And sure enough, here came Bobby Junior in his black hot rod Ford, sitting low in the rear, driving like a fool down dirt country roads, lights out and heading towards the bright lights of the big city.
A merry chase would ensue, Bobby driving for all the world like he had a load in the trunk. Sometimes, he’d get away. Sometimes, he’d get caught. But when they finally pried open the trunk of that Ford, the baffled revenuers would find nothing more than a spare tire and a jack.
Meanwhile, a plain-looking Mercury, sitting perfectly level, running at or just slightly above the speed limit and occupied by what looked like a nice young couple on their way home from a tent revival purred along with a thousand gallons of white lightning in the trunk. The bait car cleared the delivery car’s route of any potential interference. It was an old trick, but one still in use today. That Mustang running at triple digits north on 95 might just be the bait car for a Dodge Caravan running at 66 with a few kilos of coke aboard.
Bait car. That’s what I thought when I heard Mark Martin’s No. 5 HMS Chevy was disqualified after qualifying at Dover last Friday. OK, so Martin, well out of the Chase, but still competing for the rest of the season is caught with a pair of trick rear shocks. Of course, the two cars of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, legitimate title contenders each, weren’t found to have the illegal shocks. Perhaps if Martin had made it through post-qualifying inspection, the No. 48 and the No. 24 would have been running the same trick shock next week.
That gets me thinking back to last week. Clint Bowyer eked his way into the Chase. When you look at the totem pole at RCR right now, Bowyer is clearly closer to the earthworms than the eagles. Kevin Harvick is the team’s golden boy, while veteran Jeff Burton is a darkhorse if still legitimate title contender. If the team was going to try to slip one past NASCAR post-race inspection to see if they could get away with a fast one, they clearly weren’t going to cheat up the No. 29 or No. 31 cars.
In the concept of the bait car, we see another clear difference between NASCAR and the stick and ball sports that originated the “postseason” model. The owner of an MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL team owns only one franchise. If one fellow were to own the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers, there’d be a temptation that since New York is a major media market and Green Bay is the smallest one in the NFL, maybe he should have the Packers throw the game so the Giants would advance to the Super Bowl and the game would draw better ratings for everybody.
What’s supposed to keep that from happening in NASCAR is each team in a franchise has a separate corporate sponsor. All those sponsors have invested good money to see their driver and team hog up all the airtime winning races and titles. They don’t like the TV airtime so much when their driver and corporate spokesperson in a multicolor ad emblazoned fireproof jumpsuit gets caught cheating, though. (I hear that Hamburger Helper is being threatened with exclusion from the American Culinary Institute’s Gold Tier Hall of Excellence after last week’s misadventure. I don’t know why they call it “Hamburger Helper,” by the way – it tastes just fine by itself.)
But are all sponsors treated the same way? RCR recently inked a deal with Budweiser, perhaps the most lucrative deal in the garage area, and usually a long-term one, for Harvick and the No. 29 team. Might not delivering Harvick to Anheuser Busch as reigning Cup champion be worth more than a few tears spilled in the Cheerios?
So if the “bait car” mentality is at work in the garage area, what’s next? How about “blockers?” Let’s say a driver is leading a race or least running well, but a member of a rival team that’s contending with the other driver in the points is closing in. It’s a no brainer when a driver comes up to lap one of his teammates, the slower driver will yield position. (Unless he’s Colombian or Kyle Busch.) We see that out there every week. Now let’s say team orders are in place, never discussed over the radio but whispered back at the shop; the slower teammate must slow up his buddy’s rival as best as possible. That teammate will then block to his heart’s content, making the other driver trying to pass him burn the good off his tires, maybe even rough him up a little bit and try to knock the steering alignment out of whack on the other car when the pass becomes inevitable. There’s no NASCAR rule that says a slower driver must yield to a faster driver trying to pass him. It might not look very sportsmanlike to fans watching the event, but I’ve seen several incidents of the above over the last two seasons that I find highly suspicious.
At their height of villainy, team orders can dispense with any manner of sportsmanship. Let’s take the example of the championship actually coming down to a two man battle to win the title. But Johnny Jameson only needs to finish 40th or better to be champion even if Kenny Matthews posts a top-3 finish and leads a lap. The title and millions upon millions of dollars are at stake, not to mention increased sponsorship money and exposure going forward. So on the first lap of the race Matthews’ teammate (or a driver of one of the organization’s auxiliary secret cars) Eddy Carlson starts radioing he thinks he has a tire going down. He slows dramatically and as Jameson comes by to pass him, Carlson drills him wide open right in the numbers, shoving him so hard into the wall all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put the No. 84 back together again.
Unthinkable, right? NASCAR would go medieval in handing out penalties. Fans would be outraged. Media types would be bright purple in their faces and have spittle flying out both corners of their mouths decrying such a deplorable circumstance. That’s the nice thing about championships, though. There’s no footnote that the team that won the World Series that year had a bunch of players later found to be on the juice. And a year after the incident, there’s little recollection of how a fellow won that Cup title. The record book just records a list of the names of champions.
Matt, take a deep breath. You’re sailing to the thin ether of fantasy of this one, some will tell me. Such a thing could never happen in NASCAR racing. This is a sport of honor. Oh, yeah, my little pretties, the fact is it has already happened, and it was as blatant as the nightmare scenario I describe above.
Mr. Peabody, hand me a Corona and set the Wayback Machine for 1956. Carl Kiekhaefer and his Mercury Marine-sponsored fleet of Chrysler 300 cars were the original super team, far outstripping anything Rick Hendrick has managed to date. Better funded, better prepared and with a host of big name drivers Kiekhaefer’s goal wasn’t modest. He wanted to win every Grand National race, cost be damned.
The team started the year with an All-Star roster that included Herb Thomas, Buck Baker, Tim Flock (reigning champion) and Tim’s brother Fonty. Tim Flock won at North Wilkesboro, then promptly quit the team, saying Kiekhaefer put too much pressure on his drivers and did bizarre things like sending spies to peek through motel room curtains to make sure that drivers weren’t having sex with their wives the night before the race in violation of team orders. Baker then asserted himself as top dog in the championship fight, while Thomas quit the team later that year protesting Kiekhaefer didn’t want him to battle Buck for the title. He wanted Baker to win.
When he left the team, Thomas took his driver’s points with him and Kiekhaefer was incensed. You can imagine how pleased old Carl was, then, when Thomas actually wrested the points lead from Baker. The title on the line, Kiekhaefer leased the Shelby County Fairgrounds half-mile dirt oval and got NASCAR to add a race date for the track at the last minute. You have to wonder if Thomas knew he was being invited to a lynching as the guest of honor, but there were points on the line and he and Baker were battling neck and neck. Baker led that race in dominant fashion, but Thomas was closing in fast. Thomas had a prolonged battle with second place Speedy Thompson (another Kiekhaefer driver) but finally prevailed to take over the spot. It seemed like the championship would still be his after all.
That’s when Thompson hooked Thomas in the right rear quarterpanel and put him hard into the fence.
Thomas’ stricken Chevy bounced back into traffic and was hit broadside several times in a nine-car pileup. A scary incident, he was removed from the car and rushed to the hospital with a fractured skull and severe internal injuries. It was about as blatant a hit as you can imagine, and the fans weren’t real happy about it. The nascent NASCAR media wrote awful things about it. And you know what NASCAR did? I’ll tell you what they didn’t do about it. They didn’t do sh*t. Not a one dollar fine, not a one point penalty. Baker cruised on to the championship. Thomas, NASCAR’s most prolific winner to that point, made three more starts in the series but never again raced competitively due to the extent of those injuries he suffered that night in Shelby.
Take a second. Go look at the record books, in print or online if you choose and look up the 1956 Grand National champion. Those sources will tell you Buck Baker won the prize. They just don’t mention how. Can’t happen today? Not with the media scrutiny and the TV coverage, not to mention all the money in the sport that makes participants very wealthy young men? As I’m prone to saying, campers, “It ain’t that it ain’t happened, it just ain’t happened yet.” Like running liquor sometimes, we romanticize this sport’s history and ignore some ugly little bits that are hard to accept.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I like your hypothetical although the multi car team still leaves Josh Garden, Mack Martian, Dan Earlsmart III, Jackie Raninni, and Ian Oldman out on the track to take care of Kenny Matthews, giving the title to the older brother of Kenny Matthews’ teammate, or, God forbid, a car with a blue oval on the front.
I’m not saying your hypothetical is not possible, but I do think that an intentional hit job would result in a demolition derby within a few laps of the restart.
I’m an older fan but this one was a couple of years before my time, though I’ve heard the story. Could it happen today? I don’t know, but I do know this…
There’s a lot more money at stake today than there was in 1956. More for drivers, more for owners, and more for sponsors. That translates into a lot more temptation.
We just saw an incident where a chase contender purposely roughed up a another chase contender for a rival owner. Although it was during practice and not during a race, there were no penalties, and it pushed the envelope a little further.
So yeah, I can see Nascar devolving into something akin to roller-derby with engines and sheet metal. But if it makes Brian lots of money, dooes it really matter?
As far as the bait car theory, “eh, who knows? Nobody will ever see the pictures, videos, or actual car’s weld points. Move on.”
Matt since you spend every week bitchin’ and whining, I would think the “blocker car” scenario might just appeal to you. If NA$CAR OUTLAWED the Mark Martin school of driving in favor of the JPM or Kyle Busch school, a RACE might actually break out along the weekly parade route.
I can’t help but notice that the racing died about the same time that everybody stopped contesting positions until the third fake debris caution from the end.
Maybe in your world, the only problem with NA$CAR is the parade route doesn’t stop in North Wilkesboro.
I don’t know why they call it “Hamburger Helper,” by the way – it tastes just fine by itself.
Thanks, Randy Quaid. :)
I’m not going to go as far as saying that 1956 couldn’t happen again -but, Keikhaefer was the team owner AND the sponsor. He really held all the cards over his drivers, and they knew it. The ones with a conscience larger than their need for money left his outfit. I like to think that today’s drivers are already well off enough to have a sense of common decency that would prevent this from happening today.
But, I could be proven wrong I suppose…
You beat me to it! Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid)is awesome.
I think Matt has taken this thought process way farther than I would have, without the aid of liquor. But I suppose its not impossible. It does seem less likely, though, with the multi-million dollar sponsors, and pretty boy drivers.
Look at the Hamlin comments from the other day. Joe Gibbs and Mike Ford told him he said too much. Hmmmm….if this were 1956, the owner, crew chief, driver, and family dog would’ve probably been in a fist fight with the guys at RCR. Junior Johnson never believed you could say too much.
So, I think times have changed….maybe not people, but the biggest “police” on going as far as Matt has hypothesized is really the sponsor. Nobody wants to make them look bad and lose their money.
That line of thinking has also played a major part in ruining the racing and making it a “product.”
Also remember that before the era of true multi-car team domination, Childress or SABCO or Yates would conjure up a 2nd or 3rd car to start and park at Atlanta if their driver only needed to finish 42nd or better to win.
If you’re watching a magician’s right hand he is stealing your wallet with his left.
A very old and very well used trick in NASCAR is to give the inspectors something to look at , it keeps their attention away from the things you don’t want them to see . We’ve seen drivers purposely spin to bring out a caution in aid of a team mate . It’s not uncommon for a driver to impede a car coming in or going out of the pits to help his team mate get out first .
Matt said: “ we romanticize this sport’s history…”
Funny you should say that. Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle. It been interesting reading the newsletter and hearing stories of past races where there were only 6 cars on the lead lap, or a guy 5 laps down finished in 15th place. And then to listen to “old timers” talk about the action, and the racing that went on during these times.
I don’t romanticize the days of the winner winning by two laps, but I do yearn for the days when NASCAR let the drivers decide who won the title, without equalizing them after 26 races for no good reason other than to force an exciting finish.
Kevin in So Cal
I think what he was referring to was the ‘colorful personalities’ of the sport – maybe not the racing action so much (in this article anyway). Time has a way of sanitizing the bad, and glorifying the good. I agree with Matt’s use of the word ‘romanticize’ – lots of drivers considered legends of the sport were probably not people you’d want to get into a strong disagreement with back in the day.
You are correct, though, in pointing out that not every race in NASCAR’s history was a drag race on the last lap.
Gordon82wins you must be kidding please go to a short track that Na$car does not control that will help your Yearning I do yearn for the days when NASCAR let the drivers decide who won the title” ARE you kidding BIG BILL FRANCE taught them well, wright down to JR., all controlled the winner to some point, LETs PUT IT THIS WAY, JR. IS BEHIND IN CHILD SUPPORT, His job get the money and get it as fast as possible and intimidate the team owners to better control them & the news next year. remember it makes no difference who you intimidate, the message gets out that next time it could be you, there is not one play in one NFL game you could not call holding on if the refs. wanted to, believe me NasCar could find some thing wrong on all cars
No Spin Gerry
He’s SPUN OUT OF Control,I’d say
Tim, felon rick also has done the start & park car at Atlanta. (1995 had a “charity” car)
Dear Mr. McLaughlin,
“Thomas’ stricken Chevy bounced back into traffic and was hit broadside several times in a nine-car pileup. A scary incident, he was removed from the car and rushed to the hospital with a fractured skull and severe internal injuries. It was about as blatant a hit as you can imagine, and the fans weren’t real happy about it. The nascent NASCAR media wrote awful things about it. And you know what NASCAR did? I’ll tell you what they didn’t do about it. They didn’t do sh*t. Not a one dollar fine, not a one point penalty. Baker cruised on to the championship. Thomas, NASCAR’s most prolific winner to that point, made three more starts in the series but never again raced competitively due to the extent of those injuries he suffered that night in Shelby.”
Sounds like Roid Rage Carl Edwards vs. Bad Brad Keslowski, and what did Nascar do about it?