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.
Matt McLaughlin · Sunday August 14, 2011
Tim Richmond was back with the Blue Max team for 1985, though there had been some friction within the team. A lot of people in the know were saying Tim was a better driver than the equipment he had allowed him to show, while others were beginning to question his commitment and asking if his hard charging lifestyle off the track was detracting from his ability to drive the car. Still, the 1985 season began with high hopes, though almost from the drop of the first green flag those hopes were dashed. No one had anything for Bill Elliott that year at the Daytona 500, and Tim crashed out of the event early winding up 35th. It was just that sort of year. The cars were usually not competitive and Tim either crashed or blew them up trying to wrestle his way to the front. He had only three lead lap finishes to his credit going into the 18th race of that season at Bristol.
That race seemed to belong to Dale Earnhardt, but for once that year the engine held together and Tim was able to keep out of the numerous wrecks that marred the event. A pit miscue on Earnhardt’s team’s part dropped Dale to second, and Tim Richmond was in the lead with 54 laps to go. Off the track Dale and Tim were good friends and spent a lot of time together, but on the track they were often fierce competitors. Dale looked for a way around Tim for awhile and when he couldn’t find one he used the simple approach… he just laid a bumper into the rear of Richmond’s car and pushed him out of the way. Tim held on to finish second, and had no harsh words for his friend after the event. He simply shrugged and told reporters that was how short track racing got done, and Earnhardt was the master of it. Ironically the same pair of drivers were involved in the next race Richmond had a shot at winning, at Martinsville.
That day, Tim turned the tables and had the dominant car all day. Dale finally managed to reel Tim in and once again the two put on a fierce battle racing fender to fender and occasionally fender into fender as they worked their way around the traffic packed bull ring. The crowd was loving it, but while Dale Earnhardt may have loved close quarter racing, he liked winning better and once again he finally resorted to using a front bumper to shove Tim out of the way. Tim showed Earnhardt he didn’t like being pushed around and as Dale tried to pass him, Tim cut the wheel hard left and gave him a solid shot. The pair seemed ready to bang and crash their way right to the finish or the garage area whichever came first, but a spin ahead of the paint swapping duo forced Tim to get out of the gas and allowed Earnhardt to scoot off into the sunset. To add insult to injury, a stripped wheel stud on the final stop dropped Tim back to seventh place. After the race he was not quite as philosophical or diplomatic as he was after Bristol, telling reporters, “As far as I’m concerned we ain’t even. I still owe him one.” That was moments after he got out of the car. Later that evening Tim and Dale were spotted chatting and laughing, their friendship intact.
As the year had begun with frustration, it ended with more of the same. At Riverside, a track Tim Richmond was always considered a favorite at, Tim crashed out on the 46th lap and wound up 37th. For the year he had no wins, only three top 5s and 13 top 10s, earning Richmond 11th place in the Winston Cup run down. But despite all the disappointments, Tim had caught the eye of a team owner who has proven over and over again since that he had an eye for diamonds in the rough. Rick Hendrick saw Tim’s abundant talent, and guessed correctly given competitive cars that were around at the end of a race, not on the trailer, and a little coaching, Tim Richmond could be a superstar.
Tim Richmond was assigned driving duties for the No. 25 car out of Hendrick’s stables, carrying Proctor and Gamble’s Folgers coffee sponsorship. (Supposedly he overslept the day of the big announcement, showed up looking spent from partying all night, and turned the disaster into a public relations coup by telling the assembled press that if a couple cups of Folgers could get him going at that hour in the morning it could do the same for anyone.) His crew chief would be a NASCAR legend, the late Harry Hyde, who had an incredible talent himself for bringing out the best in new drivers trying to work their way to the top tier of the sport. It seemed at least on paper NASCAR’s version of the Odd Couple.
Hyde was a grizzled veteran born of the old school of stock car racing and its Southeastern roots. Tim was the brash newcomer, the future of the sport and from a wealthy family out of Ohio. But the two men shared one trait in common; a deep and abiding respect for the other’s doubtless talent. There were no overnight miracles. It took awhile for the patience and strategy Hyde was preaching to reach Tim, whose style was more to charge to the front at the drop of the flag and battle with all comers. Through the first 10 events of the year, Tim managed only one top 5 finish at Darlington, where he came home fifth after leading the race briefly. The pundits were beginning to question Hendrick’s wisdom not only in hiring Tim, but in running a two car team, which most people saw as a distinct disadvantage in those days. The fact Richmond’s teammate Geoff Bodine was having a good season, including winning the Daytona 500 and the spring Dover race, seemed evidence the two car concept could indeed work, but it called into doubt Tim’s abilities as he was driving the same equipment to lackluster finishes. Throughout the disappointment, the early season travails, Tim and Harry both went on record as having 100% confidence in the others ability. As it turns out the duo was about to silence their critics in dramatic fashion.
It started at that year’s World 600. Late in the event it seemed Bill Elliott had taken control of the race, but brilliant pit strategy on Hyde’s part kept Tim out on the track when Elliott had to dive into the pits for a splash and go. Dale Earnhardt’s crew had made a similar call, and Tim’s old Lake Norman neighbor took the victory, while Tim had to settle for second two seconds off the pace. At the next race at Riverside, Tim and Harry were out to prove the second place in Charlotte had been no fluke and did so in convincing fashion. Tim led much of that event, and was poised to take his first win of the year when Terry Labonte crashed heavily with two laps to go. Both Richmond and second place Darrell Waltrip knew it was a race back to the line as the event would end under caution. They put on one of the best duels in the history of NASCAR road racing, running side by side, rubbing fenders like they were at Martinsville. During the race to the caution Tim got caught behind slower traffic, allowing Waltrip to open an advantage. Richmond came charging back, giving it his all, but fell inches short at the start finish line as the yellow and white flags flew simultaneously. Though he wound up second again, Richmond had put everyone on notice he and Hyde were finally hitting on all eight cylinders and he meant to be a contender.
The Winston Cup circuit’s next stop was at Pocono, a track Richmond always said was his favorite because it was so tough to drive. The day was dark and stormy and the red flag had to be thrown for a severe thunderstorm at the midpoint of the race. When the racing resumed Tim stormed his way to the front, thundering his way around the damp track at lightning speed. Making the event that much more memorable for him was the chance to duel with his buddy and Winston Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt for the win. A heavy wreck with four laps to go bought out another race to the yellow flag, but that weekend Tim managed to hang on for the victory. Notice had been served. What was to follow was one of the most incredible streaks in the history of Winston Cup racing.
The Richmond Express got a little off track at Michigan with Tim coming home a disappointing 15th after having started on the pole. But the engine was back on track at the Firecracker 400. Buddy Baker was leading late in the race, but Tim had put himself in position to win and was charging right along in Baker’s wake. A lapped car ahead spun and Baker hit the wall trying to avoid it, while Tim in a nifty piece of driving managed to dive low and avoid the wreck without lifting. He held off the determined charge of Sterling Marlin at the end to take his second win in three events. The smile on Richmond’s face in the hallowed ground of Daytona’s Victory Lane probably had something to do with the fact the next stop was an encore at Pocono. The weather was a bit more cooperative the second time around at Long Pond, but Tim was still driving up a storm. Rick Hendrick had to be putting his hands over his eyes as his two drivers, Richmond and Bodine, fought tooth and nail for the victory and made heavy contact more than once. Bodine had the advantage with one to go, but Tim muscled by him down Pocono’s long back stretch. His cause was greatly aided when Bodine got involved in a battle over second with a hard charging Ricky Rudd. Rudd was able to bypass Bodine, and was along side Tim when the checkers flew, but was .05 seconds to the wrong of grabbing the trophy.
Tim Richmond led at the next race at Talladega, but that in itself was no great accomplishment. 26 drivers in the field of 40 took a turn at the front that day. The difference was in the waning laps. Tim was still right up there battling for the win, while many of the others had fallen by the wayside. A multi-car last lap accident scrambled up the running order, but the final run down had Tim finishing second, a couple car lengths behind the surprise winner, Bobby Hillin Jr. The Winston Cup circuit made their first return to Watkins Glen since 1965 the next weekend and road race impresario Tim Richmond was among the heavy favorites for the return trip. He took pole position that weekend, while many other drivers seemed to be struggling to find their way around the torturous course.
As it had been at Riverside, Tim and Darrell were the front runners and put on another epic battle for the fans. With 12 laps to go Tim used a whole lot of guts and very little brakes going into a tight corner to muscle his way past Waltrip. DW tried gamely to re-pass Tim, but Richmond was running like he was on rails and streaked on to victory. Just as the road courses favored Tim, Michigan seemed a private playground constructed for Bill Elliott, who had won three consecutive times at the track going into that event. It seemed Tim’s hot summer streak was doomed when he was caught in the pits when a caution flag flew and wound up a lap down as the rest of the field pitted under the yellow. Hyde calmly coached his driver to keep digging but drive smart. A caution with 16 laps to go allowed Tim to make up his lap, but he was still in 14th in the running order.
Hyde must have told Tim it was time to go, because he began passing the rest of the field liked they’d stopped to admire his driving prowess. The effort came up one position short as Elliott edged out Richmond for his fourth win in a row at Michigan. All streaks have to end, and Tim’s return to earth came at Bristol. He did manage to win the pole and lead early, but an ill handling car running hot dropped him to sixth at the conclusion of the race, two laps off the pace. It was only the second time in 10 events that Tim had not won or been runner up. And he wasn’t quite done with his miraculous charge up the points standings either.
The Southern 500 is arguably the toughest race in the circuit, and there could be no argument that Tim was definitely the hottest driver at that point of the season. Tim claimed a white jacket on pole day setting the pace for the field. The Labor Day classic was marred by rainy weather that caused a long red flag delay, and there was a lot of question as to whether darkness would cause NASCAR to have to flag the event early. During the rain delay Tim fell asleep in the garage area. Late in the race Bill Elliott seemed to have the advantage, but Tim was making his trademark charge to keep Bill honest. With six laps to go Elliott’s Thunderbird got away from him on the rain slick track and he sideswiped the wall. The miscue allowed Richmond to take the lead and he held off Bobby Allison by two seconds at the checkers.
Years later Harry Hyde would recall that that Southern 500 weekend was the first time he noticed his young protégé looked a little under the weather. It was thought the pressure of keeping the streak alive, sponsor commitments and Tim’s late night partying, combined with a summer cold had taxed him to the limit, and Harry suggested Tim might want to try to take it easy a while. Tim certainly didn’t take his mentor’s advice at Richmond. Perhaps it’s fitting Richmond finally won at the track that shared his name (and launched the media scribes into an unforgivable series of bad puns I will not repeat), but once again he did it the hard way, going a lap down early in the going and, aided by Hyde’s seasoned coaching on the radio, scrapping his way back to the front. Sometimes you’re lucky to be good, and sometimes it’s good to be lucky, and Tim relied on the latter that day. On a restart after a caution flag for an oil down, the two dominant cars of the later parts of the event, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace, got swept up in a wreck when they hit a slick portion of the track. Their travails allowed Tim to assume the lead and he held on to beat a hard charging Dale Earnhardt by a couple car lengths. The victory left Tim, who had once been hopelessly down in the points battle, in second position, within striking distance of Earnhardt.
September brings the Fall, and that year it marked the fall of Tim Richmond from title contention, the end of his unbelievable streak of that summer. Whether it was his failing health, the team turning the wick up a little too high trying to make a run at Dale and the No. 3 bunch, or the inevitable bad luck that must play a part of every driver’s season, the Fall race at Dover began a streak of five consecutive races marred by mechanical problems for Tim and the team that saw him post only one top 10 and a disastrous 27th at Charlotte when he lost an engine. Thus ended Tim’s hopes for that year’s title. At Atlanta in the Fall he regained some of his form, leading the event twice before slipping to fourth in the final run down, on a day when his buddy Earnhardt clinched the title with an impressive win. The final race of the year was at one of Tim’s favorite stomping grounds, Riverside, and he ended the year on a high note. After taking the pole, Tim led early and stayed in contention all day, before reassuming the lead with 12 to go and holding off the best efforts of teammate Geoff Bodine and Dale Earnhardt.
Tim finished the year with seven wins, more than any other driver, 13 total top 5s and 17 top 10s in 29 events. While his trouble getting things rolling in the early stages of the season had buried him in the points hunt, he had managed to finish out the year in third place, a mere six points behind Darrell Waltrip, who finished second to Dale. Based on the late season charge, it would have been hard to find anyone who would bet against the Tim Richmond/Harry Hyde duo to take the championship in 1987. The loud creaking sound in California that day was people jumping on the Tim Richmond bandwagon. But as there had been on the stormy days of so many of his wins, there were dark clouds on the horizon for Tim at the end of the season.
Though he put on an impressive run at Riverside, it was obvious Tim was not well. He had been scheduled to meet with a group of Hollywood types (legend has it, as a part of the upcoming production of Days of Thunder, a movie loosely based on his life, and perhaps even to take a screen test that might have seen him win the starring role later given to Tom Cruise) but Tim canceled the meetings and flew home to try to rest his bones and recuperate.
Shortly after the awards banquet in New York, Tim Richmond was admitted to the hospital with what was diagnosed as pneumonia. His health problems were severe enough that Richmond had to contact Rick Hendrick to let him know he would be unable to drive the early part of the 1987 season, a decision that must have crushed Tim. According to friends, Tim was clearly shaken he wasn’t getting better, and somewhere during that long lay off he learned the terrible truth. Tim had contracted HIV and was a dying man, though no one could say how much time he had.
Tim’s first return to the seat of a race car came at the Winston in Charlotte in May of 1987. Since it was a shorter event than the points paying race, it gave him a chance to see if he was strong enough to return to racing. He managed to go the distance and finish third, helping to clear his way to a return to racing on the Cup tour.
Tim’s return to racing came at Pocono that June, and the outcome read like a Hollywood script, a far better one than Days Of Thunder at that. While clearly not well, once he was strapped into that race car and the engine was fired, the old Tim Richmond was back. After remaining in contention all day, during an event many supposed would have him call for a relief driver, Tim asserted himself for the last quarter of the race, streaking into the lead and holding off Bill Elliott by a second to take the checkers. Tim admitted to reporters he never even saw the checkers with all the tears in his eyes.
In victory lane the normally verbose Richmond was reduced to speechlessness for one of the few times in his life, as he celebrated the emotional victory with Hyde and the crew. But even with the tears falling he stood there a bit longer than most drivers, waving to the crowd and acknowledging their enthusiastic cheering. Little did any of us in the stands know what Tim knew. He was a dying man.
Every great Hollywood script deserves a sequel and Tim authored another emotional chapter in his comeback at the next race at Riverside. Once again Harry Hyde coached Tim to be patient, and then set him loose late in the race. With 10 to go, Tim took the lead for good and fought off Ricky Rudd’s challenge to take the checkers. Tim dedicated the Father’s Day victory to his dad, Al Richmond, and once again the crowd celebrated the highly emotional win with a fan favorite. Sadly it was to be Tim Richmond’s last trip to victory lane. But for those of whose watched that race, it is not what has happened since, but the way he drove, that is why we remember.
AFTERMATH: Tim’s health deteriorated from that point onward and eventually he was forced to once again retire. A rising superstar who had thrived in the limelight withered away in the shade of obscurity before passing away August 13th, 1989. There was the ugly incident when Tim tried to stage yet another comeback at the Busch Clash in 1988 driving a Marvin Ragan owned Ford. Fingers can be pointed, accusations made and excuses offered as to the botched drug test, and why Tim Richmond’s memory has been largely ignored since his tragic passing. I don’t suppose it really matters because it can not change the fact Tim is no longer with us.
If there has ever been a case of a candle burning at both ends, it is the life story of Tim Richmond, and the light was gone far too soon. But for those of us privileged enough to have reveled in and wondered at it, the memory is an eternal flame. After NASCAR banned him from competing at the Clash, Tim was ready to hire an airplane to drag a banner with a pointed and succinctly worded message aimed at NASCAR officialdom over the Daytona Speedway during the 500. Long time friend Linda Vaughn talked him out of it, and instead Tim selected a banner that read, “Fans, I Miss You, Tim Richmond.” Tim, we miss you too.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Thank you for this story about an incredible racer. I started watching NASCAR in the Tim Richmond era and was transfixed weekly by his amazing ability, and good looks! lol I loved watching him tear up the track. I vividly remember a lot of what you spoke about. I hated the way he was treated, and if it hadn’t been for another amazing driver, I might have stopped watching the racing. But Davey Allison captured my attention and I became a fan of his. After his untimely death I wouldn’t allow myself to get attached to another driver for a while. Until Ward Burton came on the scene. With that wonderful accent and boyish good looks, I soon was rooting for Ward. What a wonderful ride down memory lane you provided. Again, thank you very much’
Thanks Matt; nicely done. Brings back some of the sadness I felt when he died. If Richmond had lived, Dale would have won a few less championships but it would have continued one hell of a rivalry. David Pooles biography of Tim is still available on Amazon. Its a good read.
Tim and Dale put on a great show at Dover in ’85 after both had slammed the wall. Many laps down, driving what looked more like Modifieds they raced each other like it was for the championship. Both are sorely missed.
Great story Matt:Tim had the best seat of the pants car control i have ever seen.its a shame that his off track lifestyle ruined a hall of fame career. I hate negativity, but Tims lifestyle cause a lot of pain and suffering by a lot of people and we should not foget those people and their families.
Thank you Matt for the great memories of Tim. He had the most raw talent and car control of anybody I’ve ever seen. The guy could put his car in places other drivers wouldn’t even dare and make it work. I think if he had lived the battles between him and Dale would have been epic. And I think Dale would have a few less championships.
I’ve been going to NASCAR races since 1965 and Tim was flat out the best I’ve ever seen.