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.
For the last couple years, some of the buzz heading into May and Charlotte Speedweeks has involved which five NASCAR figures would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. For those of you who missed the memo, this year’s class won’t be inducted until January of 2012. In his Solomonic wisdom that has helped guide our sport to the depths of despair it is trapped in today, Brian France said he felt that the move would help the inductees garner more notice. Sure, why hold an induction ceremony while tens of thousands of race fans are in town for the twin Charlotte weekends? France feels by January, fans will be so desperate for news about NASCAR they will sit up and take notice.
Hmmm. Here’s what I know about January in these parts.
People are either at work, plowing their driveways, riding their snowmobiles to celebrate having finished plowing the driveway (yet again), or drinking beer to celebrate having ridden their snowmobiles or to loom off dread of the next storm. Or… they’re watching football. Lots and lots of football, football games that generate ratings so high they make Cup coverage look like an asterisk. Nobody is thinking about NASCAR nor, to be frank, do they give a rat’s ass about it in January. On a brighter note, if you’re in Charlotte this June and buy a ticket to the Hall of Fame, you can watch an August panel vote on who will be inducted. Yeah, sure. I mean if I can’t get a good seat to watch patrons inflate tires at the local filling station, that’s next on my list.
So who should the next five inductees be?
Recall now, active drivers aren’t eligible so we have to discount some certain (if the edifice and institution survive, very much in doubt given the Hall’s massive financial losses) honorees like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. For the same reason other worthy candidates like Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte who are still out there running will have to wait until they retire. Some sentimental favorites like Davey Allison, Tim Richmond and Alan Kulwicki will eventually have their turns, but because their careers were all tragically cut short we’ll never really know how they eventually would have stood in the pantheon of racing heroes. With only five drivers a year inducted you have to go with accomplishment, not sentiment.
I feel there’s four drivers who are absolute no-brainers to be inducted this year, and have my own opinions on who the other inductee should be:
A substantial number of people reading this might have never heard of Tim Flock because he raced in the pre-TV era of the sport. For the record, Flock was a two-time Champion in NASCAR’s top tier of competition then known as Grand National racing. During his career he had 39 victories, 18 of them in 1955 alone, second only to the King’s 21 wins in 1967. Those 39 wins occurred in only 189 starts (21%), giving Flock the best winning percentage of any driver ever to compete in more than 50 Cup races. Not even Johnson and Gordon can approach that percentage. His average finish over those 189 races was 9.5. To offer some comparisons to that figure, Dale Earnhardt’s career average finish was 11.1 and prior to the Texas race Saturday night, Jimmie Johnson’s average finish was 11.7.
In an extremely dangerous era of the sport, ironically the worst injury Flock ever endured (and it took him out of racing for months) occurred in a parking lot. In that era NASCAR raced several times a week and Flock drove down from New York to a race in Spartanburg, SC. Exhausted, Flock laid down in the infield grass to sleep (no, drivers didn’t have motor coaches back then) and someone drove over his head as he slept. Flock is also well remembered for having to pit to have a monkey that raced with him in the car as a promotional stunt removed from the car after the simian broke free of its harnesses and freaked out.
OK, let’s deal with the 800-pound gorilla in the room. As a broadcaster, Waltrip is beneath contempt. If there’s ever a NASCAR Broadcasting Hall of Shame not only will it be named after him, the entranceway will be a huge concrete replica of his face, mouth wide open. Fans will enter through his open mouth and be bombarded with neon “Boogity, boogity, boogity” signs as that infamous screech that turns my blood cold plays at volumes that would shame The Who.
But back in the day as a racecar driver, Waltrip was one of the best. He, after all, won three Cup titles and 84 races. (just one less than Bobby Allison). In the early to mid-80s, when it came to the short tracks the odds makers gave gamblers two choices: Waltrip or anyone else at even odds.
As the TV era of stock car racing hit high gear, Waltrip was far more erudite than most of his contemporaries. He wasn’t bad on the other side of the microphone and even occasionally achingly funny. His rivalries with guys like Earnhardt, Yarborough and Allison were the stuff of legends and helped promoters pack the seats. Hell, he was so contentious that after Rusty Wallace bumped him out of the way to win the Winston and most fans were cheering, ol’ DW challenged every fan who was booing him to meet him at the local K-Mart parking lot for a fistfight. I bet there was a hell of a crowd there waiting, too, but wisely North Carolina troopers escorted DW out of the area that night.
Yes, Waltrip stayed too long at the fair but he’s hardly the only legendary driver to do so. Richard Petty comes to mind. Thus a lot of fans only knew Waltrip the racer as the owner/driver who struggled just to make races despite his past success. But trust me, as a witness to his driving, even a non-fan of Waltrip back in the day he was one of the ten best ever. It galls me to say so just as it used to gall me every time he won, but facts are facts.
Here’s another name a lot of newer fans have never even heard before, particularly those not fortunate enough to be from the Northeast. Evans won nine NASCAR championship titles and close to 500 races. Now hold on thar, Bubba-Louie I hear some of you saying, if this guy won more titles than Dale Earnhardt and more races than Richard Petty I’d have heard of him, right? Well Evans raced in the ultra-competitive modified series, a staple of racing here in the Northeast although it’s a form of racing enjoyed in other regions as well. But back in that era, the mod squad was about the same as the Truck Series today. Easily recognizable in his bright GMC orange livery with black numbers outlined in white, those of us who watched him race were as able to pick out Evans cars as we’d one day recognize a certain black car with a big No. 3 on the side. It wasn’t hard because Evans was usually up front and through a combination of talent and intestinal fortitude, he usually won as well.
Evans had won eight straight modified titles in 1985 when he was killed in a savage practice crash at Martinsville during that weekend’s race activities. In fact he had clinched that eighth title the week previously at Thompson so he remains, as best I can recall, the only NASCAR driver who won a title posthumously.
Evans died in the same era when Winston Cup team owners were just beginning to recruit modified drivers for a turn at the big leagues, a movement that brought South such drivers as the Bodine brothers, Jimmy Spencer and Mike McLaughlin. (no relation). Had Evans survived to make the jump, I have no doubts he’d have been a superstar.
Buck Baker was a legendary racer in the 1950s and early ’60s, and yes, he was father to Buddy Baker, a more recognizable name to most of you. The elder Baker won 46 Cup races and was champion of the series in 1956 and 1957, though that 1956 title will forever be shrouded in controversy. Herb Thomas, a two-time champion himself, had started the season driving for mercurial Carl Keikhaefer but decided to quit the outfit. As the series reached the fall stretch, Thomas was still leading the points. Keikhaefer arranged to have a race added to the schedule to give Baker another chance to reel in Thomas. During that race another Keikhaefer driver, Speedy Thompson, seemed to purposely hook the rear bumper of Thomas’s Chevy and put him not only into but halfway through the retaining wall, where Thomas’s stricken car was struck several more times. Thomas was carted from the track comatose with a fractured skull and other severe injuries. His season was over and Baker won the title.
Baker was as tough as they came in a tough era in the sport. And how can you not like a guy who admitted he once tried to smuggle some beer aboard his race car for an event? He secreted the beer in a “douche bag” with a tube running to where he could grab it during the race but later admitted all the bouncing around made the beer too foamy for him to enjoy. Yeah, it was a very different era back in those days when the Wood Brothers used to have a cigarette lighter mounted in the dash of their race car for David Pearson to use.
Baker is also credited with having led 5662 laps of competition and won 42 poles during his career. The biggest challenge to his induction, though, would seem to be some voters’ disinclination to include two drivers from the pre-TV era in the same class as the Hall struggles to raise attendance; as such, I’d be surprised if Tim Flock and Buck Baker go into the Hall of Fame the same year. I understand that if you had known Baker back in that era, you might not have liked him. But if you owned a race car back then, he’d probably have been among your top picks as a driver.
The Other Ones
OK, for the first time this year there’s no more absolute “must” fifth pick.
Inman, a cousin of Richard Petty’s, was crew chief for the King’s seven NASCAR titles and 198 of his 200 wins. He also served as crew chief for Terry Labonte on Billy Hagan’s team when they won the championship in 1984. Eight NASCAR championships as a crew chief? I’d say that’s a Hall of Fame statistic.
Presuming that DW makes the cut this year, every Cup champion from 1971 to 1983 will be in the Hall save one. In a David versus Goliath story worthy of Alan Kulwicki’s later title, Parsons beat the big boys in 1973. It was a thoroughly remarkable story in that Parsons wrecked early in 1973 and his team, aided by a bunch of other independents pieced his thoroughly trashed car back together well enough to complete enough laps to win the title. While Parsons won 21 Cup events during his career, he is of course best recalled these days for his work on ESPN TV during the glory days of the sport. Informed, entertaining and a lot of fun, having Parsons into your living room via the tube every Sunday afternoon was like having a good friend stop by. (As opposed to DW who basically kicks in the door, eats all your food and hollers at you for three hours while annoying the crap out of you.) Among longtime fans, the triumvirate of Parsons, Ned Jarrett (already in the Hall) and Bob Jenkins (now doing IndyCar Racing) is the most cherished and respected team of NASCAR broadcasters ever assembled. Personally, the loss of Parsons to cancer in January of 2007 was like a death in the family.
You’ve heard some of the stories. Unless you’ve read his wildly entertaining three volume autobiography you haven’t heard the best of them, some of which can’t be repeated on a family-oriented website. Suffice it to say, Yunick was the leading innovator early on in this sport’s history. Some will say that’s a nice way of saying he cheated a lot and Smokey did, but his best innovations fell into that vast gray area in the middle. The rulebook said you could do this, the white area, and couldn’t do this, the black area. In between the two there’s that vast area of gray and if the rulebook didn’t say you couldn’t, Yunick did. It is widely accepted in the sport Yunick knew more about engines and building race cars than anyone in the sport has or ever will.
Though he won only two races in NASCAR’s top division, Byron was NASCAR’s first titlist back in 1949. How many other sports haven’t inducted their first champion into the Hall of Fame? Some of you might not know that Byron raced in a leg brace courtesy of injuries suffered while flying over Europe in defense of freedom during World War II.
Thomas became NASCAR’s first two-time champion, backing up his 1951 title with another in 1953. Along the way, he garnered 48 wins in NASCAR’s top league. Thomas actually eclipsed Tim Flock with an average finish of 8.9 in 228 starts.
The Hall would probably prefer to have at least one inductee this year that newer fans have probably heard of, and Wallace would be a good choice. While he won only one title (1989) year after year everyone knew he was out there competing for the honor, including his sometimes buddy and sometimes adversary Dale Earnhardt. I will never forget a thoroughly incensed Wallace bouncing a water bottle off of the Intimidator’s head after a Bristol race. The look on Dale’s face was classic. Between 1986 and 2002, Wallace finished in the top 10 in points every year, save one. In addition to his title he finished second in the points twice during that period and third another time. Best recalled as the pilot of the black Miller cars, first Pontiacs and then Fords, Wallace was usually right there in the mix at the end of a race. He had 202 top-5 finishes in 706 starts. Other than the water bottle assault, my favorite memory of Wallace involves a Richmond race back in the 1980s. He and Earnhardt ran side by side, lap after lap, and the entire enthralled crowd was on their feet the whole time screaming on their favorite. Here’s an odd stat: in race purse winnings (not off track stuff or special awards) Wallace actually out-earned Earnhardt.
So who am I leaving out? Feel free to comment below. (Oh, and for the record I haven’t been on Long Island since Kelly Murphy got married. No sense to it.)
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I think Waltrip shouldn’t be inducted until he retires from full time broadcasting. Then people can cheer him without any reservations. As it is now, while intellectually I know he was a great driver and should be in the hall, emotionally I can’t give him any kudos as long as I am forced to listen to him babble on week after week.
like na$car will put Tim into their hall of fame. lots have been written in paper here in Atlanta the past week about the “business”, or lack of and poor judgement by those in charge, at the hall of fame.
I can´t beleive Cale Yarborough´s name never came up for consideration in your column. Wow!! How can that be. Please tell me how he was ignored.
I think you forgot Cale. Cale should have been in this year, but apparently enough voters hold a grudge against him for whatever reason. Cale and Waltrip should be immortal locks. After that the voting committee can get creative. They showed last year they will vote to some extent based on who is still alive and who is the oldest. I think that was part of the reason Bud Moore and Ned Jarrett got in over Cale and Darrell.
Cale should have been #1 on the list. I’m with you on Tim Flock and Richie Evans. I’d round out the class with Smokey Yunich and Benny Parsons.
Darrell Waltrip would get in just after Tim’s monkey (Jocko-Flocko was his name). Lastly, Brian France should be banned from the hall for all eternity (and then some).
I’d have to agree with the choices of Tim Flock, Buck Baker and Benny Parsons.
However, how about the gents who took Nascar to the next level? Like T. Wayne Robertson and Chris Economaki. It doesn’t always have to be about the glory boys.
Ya can’t build a structure without a foundation.
Tim Flock? Definitely! Buck Baker? Also! Richie Evans? For sure! Same with Cale! But one name should also definitely be on this year’s list of Inductees, and that is the name Raymond Parks Junior. Parks was there when it all began, was the first Championship car owner in NASCAR, and even bailed out Ol’ Big Bill when his organization nearly folded. By the way, for the newbie fans, pick up a copy of the book, “Driving With The Devil” by Neal Thompson. It’s all about Parks and his drivers Lloyd Seay (pronounced “See), Roy Hall, and Red Byron. This book is a must-read for any NASCAR fan.
Love the comments about WHEN they are inducted — so true! And I agree that I would NEVER buy a ticket to watch the voting — sheesh, like watching paint dry.
Nice list of choices, but I agree that DW shouldn’t be inducted until he retires as a broadcaster. I recognize that he was accomplished on the track, but he is too polarizing a figure as a broadcaster to be inducted right now and there are more deserving racers who should be in.
IMO, they should have had more of the old time racers inducted along with the inaugural class – with 5 at a shot, I’ll be dead before MY favorite is eligible.
Holy crap, yeah. Cale Yarborough should be #1 on the list. DW should be denied again this year. Maybe Junie Donlavey, or Glen/Leonard Wood (they technically do not operate the day to day business of WBR).
How could you over look the One, the Only…out of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin DICK TRICKLE. Sure he may not have any CUP championships or wins for that matter. But, he is a legend in the Midwest. And the best reason is it’s just fun to say his name. Say it with me D I C K T R I C K L E .
I noticed the reference to Waltrip’s 84 wins. It must have bothered him no end when NASCAR recognized Allison’s win in the Mustang to give him 85. Waltrip must have complained and wanted it changed back.
You should have used Elzie Wylie instead of Buck. A great personalized plate would be LZYLee.
I wonder how Richie would have done if he got the Johnson 48 ride when he was 25. Richie used to drag race and beat some lady driver named Shirley something. CHACHACHA.
I’d bet some of my soon to come retirement money that Mr. Petty won 27 races in ’67, not 21. I’d bet a bit more that it was Fonty Flock, not Tim, with the riding monkey, named Jocko Flocko.
But I could well be wrong.
Although it’s not known for it’s unerring accuracy, wikipedia states that it was Tim Flock who raced with the monkey. That’s the way I remember it, but I trust my memory even less than I do wikipedia.
I can’t believe that Cale was left off of your list! How long have you been watching races?
After putting up with DW all these years in the booth I wouldn’t care if he invented the racecar, started Nascar, won every damn race ever ran and won 50 championships, I still say keep him the hell out of the hall.
Bristol is bad enough now with him self grandising, just imagine the broadcast if he ever does get in. He’d probably polish up his silver suit and unglasses from the Winston and wear it in the booth to show how damn special he is.