Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
No more Mr. Nice Guy,
Is this stock car racing or Romper Room? What’s got into the Cup drivers lately? Nobody wants to be the bad guy. No one wants to be rude. No one wants to be booed.
The trend first caught my notice a few weeks ago. Kyle Busch, who reveled in the black hat persona for the last couple years, suddenly said he didn’t want to be the bad guy anymore. He added wistfully, “I can’t afford it.” Wait… is this the same guy who purposely parked his car on the frontstretch, exited and gave a bow to the occasionally incensed crowd, all but daring them to throw more beer cans directly at him? Is this the guy who used to cup a hand to his ear and seemingly invite an already angry crowd to boo louder, as if the efforts were substandard by the degree of his loathsomeness? I’m not a big fan of Kyle Busch, but I found his antics after a race as amusing as they were annoying. (Is Rea White going to have me fired for booing after a race?) To the victors go the spoils.
Curious about this change of heart, I wrote a few sources and was told that Busch had lost a couple major endorsement deals worth some big bucks because skittish sponsors were afraid his negative public perception would turn off, rather than attract customers. I think Kyle Busch knows his job on Sunday (and Saturday and Sunday and any other day of the week he chooses to race) is to win events and maybe one day a Cup title. I think that’s his job description at Joe Gibbs Racing as well. But Busch’s primary job, the one that keeps his team funded, is to sell candy and Camrys. And if his persona drives customers away, that can get to be an issue. NASCAR has said “boys, have at it” but the sponsors still seem stuck on the “boys, sell product” mode.
So now in 2011, we have the “new” Kyle Busch whom one of my friends is calling a “Pod Person.” He’s as gracious as Jeff Gordon Lite peppered with just a dash of David Letterman sarcasm.
As Gordon and even Johnson age, having perfected the Wonder-Bread image to a razor’s edge, another driver rising through the ranks has been Carl Edwards, a magna cum laude graduate of the Wonder Bread Institute. Edwards works as hard sculpting his “nice guy” image as Michelangelo did crafting his statue of David. In this case, the driver’s got it down to a science with the Opie Taylor haircut and his “aw shucks” interview technique that always includes thanking the media as if they’d just given him a Christmas pony. OK, there’s occasional lapses, like his getting in teammate Matt Kenseth’s face or putting Brad Keselowski on his roof at Atlanta, but even after that famous flip of Bad Brad, Edwards all but managed to summon tears telling the media he meant to knock Keselowski out of the way, not flip his car.
Golly, gee, Pa, someone could have gotten hurt or something. Some fans eat it up with two spoons, and as a result even when the results weren’t there most of last year Edwards probably endorsed more products in TV commercials than anyone since Billy Mays. (Though Earnhardt Jr. has a dog in that fight even after a 99-race winless streak). Edwards even cultivates a bit of the bumbling but well-meaning Fred McMurray, the father in My Three Sons image when he does something like hurting himself playing Frisbee. Yet my guess is as he and his agent pursue a new contract with Roush Fenway Racing behind the scenes, he isn’t saying, “Golly-gee Jack, I don’t care what you pay me, I just gotta win a title in that No. 99 car. I just gotta… for my guys.”
Fast forward to last weekend and Kevin Harvick seemed, however briefly, almost apologetic for winning a race, noting the less than universal appreciation for his accomplishment in the grandstands. He doesn’t want to be unpopular, either. Harvick was thrust into an unfamiliar situation by the Earnhardt tragedy in 2001 while he was still a virtual unknown. He’d never even competed in the Cup Series, with just a handful of starts in the minors on his resume but a still grieving Richard Childress saw in the young Californian the same “Take no prisoners / losing isn’t an option” attitude that had embodied a fellow who won six titles with that team. Over the years (has it really been ten?), Harvick wasn’t shy about mixing it up with anyone who he felt wronged him, or even didn’t get out of his way fast enough.
In 2002, he sat out a Cup race for his admittedly dastardly actions in a Truck race the previous day, ironically enough at Martinsville. The kicker came after that ugly wreck, when he was called on the carpet by NASCAR and black-flagged. At that point, he drove his car through the garage area like he intended to score maximum points, running over pedestrians and demanded NASCAR officials speak to him on his time schedule, not theirs. (Truth be told, Harvick probably sat out that race more for his affront to NASCAR officialdom than his on-track antics). I guess it’s easier to be apologetic after you win a race than when you finish second.
But the pot really hit the boiling point to a Fukushima degree when TV reporters interviewed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. after the race. Lord, that was painful to watch. The poor guy couldn’t even make eye contact with reporters and stared at the ground as if the tips of his shoes were suddenly the most fascinating thing on earth. It appeared the guy was ready to cry. Hell, there ain’t no crying in car racing! Earnhardt admitted he probably could have spun Harvick for the win but he didn’t want to be a bad guy or come off as obnoxious. My guess is that there was a deafeningly loud orbital sound from inside a black sarcophagus outside of Kannapolis at that point. If I were his PR person, I’d have had Junior committed on suicide watch after that interview. In fact, I haven’t heard a Q & A that painful since Denny Hamlin basically conceded last year’s title after his pit miscue at Phoenix while still leading the points. After that, we all got to see what a thoroughly dispirited driver does in the season finale.
Well here’s a message for the dude(s): this is Martinsville. This is full contact racing, old school style. Short of drawing a hand gun and shooting the fellow trying to pass you for the win with three laps to go, there are no rules. Spin that fellow out, cut down his tire or put him in the wall. They’ve inducted guys who did that into the Hall of Fame numerous times and fans treat them with reverence. Had Junior gone ahead and hooked Harvick to get the win, then offered a sideways grin with an excuse that he hadn’t meant to spin the No. 29, he only wanted to “rattle his cage” my guess is that the majority of fans would have still been on their feet in the stands cheering long after the lights went out and the last transporters rolled off the Martinsville property. Oh, some fans and maybe even some media types would have been enraged and said Earnhardt was the dirtiest son-of-a-gun ever born… but they’d have gotten over it. In the meantime, as Junior’s famous father once said, “If they ain’t cheering, they better be booing.”
Earnhardt Sr. won a lot of races and titles and it wasn’t always pretty. But nowadays, we remember who won, not how nicely he played with others.
Sure, sure, I’ve heard the arguments. Junior wants to be his own man and forge his own legacy, not parrot his father’s path to success. Well, he sure isn’t doing the latter, is he? Hey, bully for him. Along the road, he’s ruffled some feathers, most notably in a Busch race with Matt Kenseth at Dover and another with Carl Edwards at Michigan. People got over it.
I know some of you reading this column are so new to the sport, you’ve never seen anyone but Jimmie Johnson win a title, but NASCAR did in fact exist before Johnson. Dale Earnhardt the Original earned his nickname “The Intimidator” honestly; it started in his late model days and continued right through his Cup career. Off the track, he was often one of the nicest people you can imagine, a true philanthropist whose generosity helped countless thousands of the less fortunate.
Though he had lines.
Countless people contacted Dale’s people wishing that Earnhardt would drive a loved one to the cemetery in a hearse with a big number 3 on the side. Earnhardt’s response was, “I’ll wind up in one of them things soon enough anyway. I ain’t climbing in one under my own power.” I’m not advocating ill behavior as a lifestyle. I don’t advocate people tripping elderly nuns on their way to church or stealing from the blind newsboy’s tin cup.
But when the engines fire and the helmets go on, it’s a whole ‘nuther deal. In the final ten laps at a short track, it’s OK to make Attila the Hun gasp from beneath his coverlet of maggots in Hell. If some folks protest and wring their hands, well, that’s the sort that ought to be watching the Lawn Croquet Channel instead.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I swear I am going to throw up if I read one more article on this subject this week. Matt thinks the world of Mark Martin for being a clean, hard racer yet bashes Jr for not spinning a guy out to win. Anybody can do that – spin a guy out for the win. Where is the talent in that? You think they wouldn’t do that to you in return?
You comment “spin that fellow out, cut down his tire, or put him in the wall” makes me sick. Is this what people really want? A bunch of hooligans wrecking each other all the time? Think NASCAR has image problems now, imagine that scenario. Good call Matt .. not.
You think people in the stands would have been cheering had Jr wrecked Harvick? Did you have the volume off when Sr spun the 5 at Bristol night race in 99? I am a devoted #3 fan and even I was thinking that was BS. He stole that one in a bad way, kinda made me sick at the time wondering if maybe he didn’t really have the talent to win anymore but was just going to drive through people to do it now.
BTW, that is precisely the sentiment that would have prevailed – Jr didn’t have enough talent to win so he wrecked a guy. If it were me, I’d rather have my dignity and integrity and have fought a hard second place and known that next time I’m in the position I will have another shot at it rather than knowing somebody is going to take me out since that’s what I did to win.
Funny, Matt talks about contrived debris cautions, inconsistent officiating, etc. damaging the rep of NASCAR but he wants a crash derby rather than a real race. Wow. You go crazy old man .. as you’d say about Mark Martin, who again we know would not have spun out Harvick and yet you seem to adore him. Interesting.
Lawn croquet channel? Really, I prefer to watch people put their cars on the ragged edge and race side by side daring each other to drive it harder, drive it deeper into the corner, dare to be great. What I don’t care for is a every driver on the track proving it takes no talent to drive through each other. Guess we’re just looking for different things, eh Matt?
I guess “Keeping it REAL” aka Nascar Crusader, Dans Mom, Randy Goldstein etc. does not understand the roots of stock car racing nor what used to put the fans in the stands.
Good read once again Matt, and the empty stands show what the fans think of “Keeping it Reals’” new and improved Nascar filled with it’s Billion Dollar Baby drivers.
The problem with “Boys have at it” coupled with a spartan points system is that a spin and and win @ Martinsville may put you in the fence at Texas or Talladega. The drivers points and prestige for winning by spinning will be erased and then some when the spinner catches the winner at the next event. If you don’t care about points and championships, then go ahead and knock people into the safer barrier, but as JJohnson has shown, championships are won by finishing races, even if that means coming in third a few times when you might have won with a bit more aggression.
Do I think Dale Jr. left Harvick intact because he doesn’t have a major pair like his dad? Come on. He pulls in front of the field at Daytona and Talladega for the sheer enjoyment of it. I think Harvick won because he had a better car, Dale knew he was driving over his head, and he has the long view. If he wants to make the chase, he has to finish the race. Their gonna play nice when the pay day is twenty races away.
i agree matt. Jr should be apologizing for NOT spinning harvick.. watching to post race interview made me sick to my stomach. Not only for Jr but for the “product” as a whole.
mark it down 4/3/2011 the day NASCAR died R.I.P.
Like almost any other sport – NASCAR has been cleansed of much of its former character by the amount of money that is involved now.
In the old days, a driver only needed to think about money in terms of the purse at a race. On track effort and behavior could be raw and emotional. Rivalries often involved true dislike and even hatred. This carried over from event to event where fans knew who these drivers were and which ones they pulled for. There was always the promise of some action on the track – for better or worse.
Now, drivers need to consider how their actions will effect their ‘revenue streams’ and ‘marketability’. If you are seeking any kind of career driving, how can that pressure not cause you to become more conservative? Too much is riding on your decisions…
As a result, the competition tends to be more complacent until the end of an event, when drivers start jockeying for a possible shot at a win. Sometimes there are incidents, sometimes not. In cases where the situation crosses “the line”, the offending driver may offer a politically correct apology to the aggrieved driver after the fact. There isn’t much “street justice” anymore – too many cameras and microphones recording everything…
This is the true “action detrimental to stock car racing”…
Matt, I love your columns and it really pains me to say it, but I agree with the first poster on this one. It takes no talent whatsoever to wreck a guy for a win. It’s one thing to move him out of the way and do a bump and run, but putting him in the wall deliberately is being an immature goon. I lost a lot of respect for Carl Edwards after his incidents with Keselowski. You know what they say, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.
People praise Dale Earnhardt Sr. endlessly for his drive and desire, and always cite Bristol and his moving of the 5 car to win the race. But the truth is that Earnhardt was a superb craftsman behind the wheel, and didn’t outright wreck people on his way to 76 wins and seven championships. If he won that way that often, you can bet he’d have been put in the wall just as often, unless the Elliotts and Wallaces weren’t as brave as longtime fans like to think.
I grant that a driver wrecking another makes for a memorable event, but it also reflects failure on that driver’s part to control his emotions and/or his car. I may remember it, but I would never pull for a driver who wins simply by taking his competitors out and putting them at risk. Petty isn’t The King because he wrecked everyone in his way.
Bad Wolf – I am not any of those other posters. Feel free to write to Frontstretch and I’d happily give them permission to check my IP address against any other posters. I find it comical that every time you disagree with somebody on this site you assume it is the same person with a different name.
Regarding your comment about the billion dollar baby drivers. I completely agree with you that the sport isn’t necessarily filled with the most talent and drivers who want it most. I am not happy about that at all, and agree that a good part of the drivers today are there for three reasons and in this order: 1) they can attract sponsors, 2) they knew the right people, and 3) they have talent. Nowhere in that equation is desire, and sad that talent is 3rd. But this 1-3 list is not my own. It was given to me by a current NASCAR driver who will remain anonymous. I think that is one of the big reason the ratings are down. Drivers are vanilla and their desire is a bit questionable sometimes. However, I strongly disagree that you have to plow through somebody to be exciting. Death in our sport doesn’t make for positive publicity and enough of is obviously very bad for the sport. Intentionally wrecking your competition is bad news. You cannot put SAFERs everywhere, and eventually a car is going into the grandstands. It almost happened with Carl/Kes. Let’s not condone that behavior. You belong in a cave if you do.
Matt’s column rings true on so many levels. The readers who disagree and the sponsors who think their money buys them an opinion are what is killing the sport. The sponsor’s money used to buy them air time, marketing exposure.
Unless the driver committed a crime, the sponsors were tickled pink when controversy surrounded them to the point their on-air exposure was increased. The fans wanted their driver to win at all costs. Nobody wanted to see anyone injured and if new fans think that is what we crave, they’re wrong. We crave competition, ingenuity, talent, excitement.
I can’t stand Kyle Busch but damn he can throw a fit for the ages. I like having drivers I dislike so I can cheer against them. If the new fans want emotionless drivers, then this is the sport for you. I prefer drivers who want to win so bad they can taste it. Jr should have had that taste in his mouth and done whatever he had to to stand in victory lane. Shame on him for rolling over. I have to think his post-race interview was indicative of his embarassment at his own performance.
today’s nas$car =sterile and sanitized drivers. No characters welcome. Mind you, I was watching nas$car when a lot of the “fans” were still in diapers. Judging from the idiotic comments by “neo” fans, I think some of them are still in diapers. Anyway I used to be a nas$car fanatic”. Now it’s hard to watch a full race. Bland racing, non-stop commercials,inane commentary, and stepford drivers do not add up to excitement. I’m still a racing fan, but I’m hoping the powers that be will come to their senses and start listening to their real fans before the ship sails into the sunset.
Annie and Midas – where the hell in my comments do I say I want a driver with no personality who doesn’t have the killer desire to win? Somehow in my mind I can separate that from driving through somebody to win. Apparently you cannot?
I completely agree about Kyle – I don’t like the guy at all. Take great pleasure in rooting against him. Makes it exciting and interesting. However, it is his attitude (bowing, saying crap about other drivers, etc.) that did that. How many people has he driven through? Honestly, very few. See, you do not have to drive through people and put their lives in jeopardy (you belong in a cave if you think that is the way this should be) to be interesting and cause a stir. Remember Craven vs. Kurt at Darlington? Did they wreck each other? Not even close actually. They leaned all over each other but were never close to spinning each other out. Now that is damn good racing and hard racing and what we want to see. Those two guys WANTED it on that day. That is what this sport needs.
What this sport does not need is a bunch of thugs trying to plow each other into the wall. The sponsors will leave in droves because the media will attack it as knuckledragging caveman sport, and some of our favorite drivers are going to end up critically injured or killed and at some point some cars are going into the stands to kill the very people who pay the bills to put on these events. Still think it’s a good idea to condone driving through each other? If so, very short sighted and not asking much talent out of our stars, just thug behavior. Enjoy that NASCAR.
Funny, I don’t recall Petty or Pearson driving through people to become great. And yes I watched them both, very late in their careers admittedly but I did also buy some of the highlighted coverage of their golden years since sadly the sport was only shown in occasional Wide World of Sports highlights and such back then. Funny we recall Daytona ’76 and ’79. That’s two instances in a decade where the top guys took each other out on a big stage. They really didn’t do that that often, yet you people somehow today think that’s all that happened back then. To all those calling me out on being a recent vanilla fan you are sadly mistaken. I just happen to remember when it was the extreme combination of talent and desire that made it interesting, not the rock-em-sock-em robots that you can see on any short track in the country on any given weekend for $8. I’d hope for the price of admission you’d expect a bit more out of some of the best talent in the sport but maybe not??
I’m going defend Matt on this one. He never said “If you’re on a short track running second, you should always wreck the guy in front if that’s what it takes to get the win”. He simply said (and I’m paraphrasing) that short track racing is physical and sometimes ugly, and that often times a driver has to get a little physical as well. You don’t have to wreck ‘em, but you can’t be afraid to rattle their cage a bit. However, I suspect Junior was reminded over the radio of the bigger picture, and had to take that into consideration. If that’s the case, no wonder he was so bummed out afterwards. Sometimes points racing sucks for the driver as well as for the spectators.
I think people forget what a low-down, dirty, SOB Dale Sr. was. Hindsight can be 20/20, but it can also be blind.
So local racing is all low-buck demo derbies? Yeah, that’s keeping it real, all right.
I agree with most of the posters here today. Carl D. really got it right. Short track racings does have alot of beating and banging, but that does not mean they have to intentionally wreck each other.
Keeping it REAL talks about the Daytone races in 76 & 79 and the big wrecks we all remember and still see on tv today. But i believe Keeping it Real would agree that those 4 drivers were racing hard and not giving each other an inch TRYING TO WIN THE RACE and that was their intent. Not wrecking each other.
There is a big difference between good hard racing and intentionally dumping somebody.
Tim – so you don’t see significantly more vendettas, crashes, fights in the pits, etc. at local short tracks? Where are you from? The talent level and professionalism is a while different level at Cup. If you thrive on the drama and roughness, how the heck can you argue that you should be getting your fix at your local short track? Is your track operated like Cup? Me thinks not.
I feel like I’ve gotta put in my 2 cents here. I’m NOT a Dale Jr. fan, but I am a Kevin Harvick fan. Keep in mind that Jr hasn’t won in 99 races. Harvick won last week. If I’m Jr in that situation, I may not drive right through him, but I’ll tell you one thing… When Kevin drives under me to take the lead with three laps to go… I’m squeezing him down unto that curb, and if does clear me, I’m divebombing the next corner, even if it means using Harvicks door to slow me down. I’m not wrecking him (not intentionally anyway), but I’m leaning on him in every way imaginable to keep him from passing me and winning that race. And I don’t think anybody would have any problem with that. Except maybe someone who followed Harvick with the reverence that the Nation gives Jr.
Carl – huh, seems I read this quote above “Short of drawing a hand gun and shooting the fellow trying to pass you for the win with three laps to go, there are no rules. Spin that fellow out, cut down his tire or put him in the wall.” Guessing you missed that part? I realize that’s not literal, but the tone of the article puts his intention a lot more literal to that than I like, hence my arguments that thugs drive through guys whereas talented drivers find a more honest way around them. That’s all. Seems pretty simple to me.
Lord God almighty, Matthew why do you tug my heartstrings so? I am old. Decrepit. Then you write, and worse you publish, something like this. Something wise and wonderful. Why???… Ahhh …I know, you are from the Caliphate Central Command and you believe if I were to croak dead away from a simple emotional reaction there would be more Gold and survival seeds for you… I see! I am wise to you now! ;)
Keeping it REAL… You are right. “there are no rules” pretty much says do whatever it takes to win. I don’t 100% agree with that sentiment but I recognize that sometimes you have to play rough to win. Would fans have cheered if Junior had put Harvick into the wall to get the win? I guess plenty of them would. Plenty would not. There’s hard, physical racing, and then there’s dirty racing, regardless of the track. Still, Dale Senior did win seven championships.
I fully expected Dale Jr. to start crying like a girl in his post race interview, after he embarassingly CHOKED away his best chance in the last 5 years for a win. Dale Jr. could not look into the camera because he knew himself he CHOKED. But that won’t stop Na$crap’s Most Popular Loser from Shamelessly using the PITY PASS fan vote to get into the Sprint All-Star race, a race for Winners. Because his average at best talent, in the best equipment in Na$crap will not be enough for Jr. to earn a transfer spot from the Sprint Open race.
I was tired of it all when Jr took the lead and the booth and everyone else was about to “wet” themselves with joy over the fact that the winless streak was about to end and that the Anointed One had moved big bad Shrub out of the way to do it. Then up sneaks Happy and even I did not think he could get around Jr with that short amount of laps left. But he did and I was happy as we actually had a very good race to end a race that had been good virtually the whole time and one that Nascar didn’t seem inclined to overly mess with, sans the Jimmie Johnson speeding ticket, so very timely and overdue.
Predictably, all the talk after the race was how Jr came so close to winning and Harvick had snatched a certain victory from Jr, who was to at long last, end the winless streak. I am glad Dale Jr. is running better, but I do not believe the health of Nascar lives in the ability of the 88 car to be the center of attention each and every week. Jr. is a medium tier driver who perhaps knew he could not seal the deal against Harvick, a better car, or whatever…
i said monday that jr was pathetic in his post-race interview. can’t stand someone who will not/cannot look people in the eye when they’re speaking to them. this is an interview jr….look at the camera, take off the shades and let us see you eyes.
yeah this weekend we’ll get 99 races since last win, texas place of his first win…can he break the steak. i can hear chris meyers commentary in my head already, along with mouth waltrip.
you know what is going to happen….if jr doesn’t win this weekend, the race after that is……
so it will start all over.
i thought sure jr would have managed to “make his car wide enough” that harvick would not have been able to pass him, but alas, he didn’t. i’m surprised kevin hasn’t apologized for winning, for racing and catching jr with 3 laps to go in a black chevy owned by rcr with a 3 decal on the car.
i still say jr needs to spend some serious couch time with a sports psychologist. his head isn’t there, hasn’t been for a very long while. and regardless who hendrick partners with him, it’s still the same, passive jr.
besides, jr is making money hand over fist by his endorsements and hauler sales. hendrick knows a cash cow when he sees one.
I continue to believe that if Dale Jr’s last name was, for example, Smith instead of Earnhardt, he would be nothing but a journeyman driver who is going from ride to ride. He would not be NASCAR’s most popular driver.
To wreck Harvick he would need a faster car than the one he was driving. He planned on doing a cross over but that did not work out. Could he have wrecked Harvick? Don’t think so. He was close but close only counts in horseshoes they told me.
Everyone knows Dale Earnhardt senior won seven championships. Does any one remember the times he pushed people are made one big move on another driver that won the race? Maybe you can mention a few times he did something that he would only do if it meant the difference between winning the race and not winning the race. Does any one seriously think two years from now any one will say Jr did the right thing by not putting pressure on Harvick? Two years from now people will remember that Harvick won. You can not win championships driving like Mark Martin does and like Jr did at Martinsville. Winning will resolve about any problem you have with a sponsor. Just ask Mr. Goodwrench.