Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Editor’s Note: If you’re not interested in old cars, you might want to sit this column out. It gets around to being NASCAR related only in its own sweet time and briefly at that. In my defense, it’s been a long season, I’m on deadline, out of ideas and I have a ton of cleanup to do outside after the storm this weekend.
As I grow older, autumn tends to be a time of almost morose reflection on the past. The arrival of autumn means it’s almost time to pack away the beloved Harley for the season, with no more romps in the Nova or Trans Am until the first heavy spring rain washes away all the road salt from a wearisome winter. This weekend here near the Lancaster-Chester County border, autumn collided with a very premature winter in the form of eight inches of snow. In a way, it was handy. Rather than raking leaves, we’ll be hauling away branches still laden with them. There was plenty of time to contemplate how to do so on a long cold, night with no electricity, temperatures in the 20s, howling winds and near whiteout conditions most of the evening while berating myself for neglecting to pick up a spare pack of smokes or fill the kerosene can. Once more, the weather witch on 6 got me; she swore we were only due a dusting. Trick or treat, bitch!
More bearable temperatures have returned and the snow is melting (though the branches steadfastly refuse to move themselves to the burn pile) and one of the things that’s been on the “to-do” list for about two years is taking a road trip out to one of those rare wrecking yards that still has a lot of older cars. All I really need is a little guide that screws to the headrest of the Pontiac to keep the shoulder belt from catching the wind and beating your ear until it looks like a rose somebody stomped on. Truth be told, I like slogging around wrecking yards, looking at old cars so it was worth the 90-minute drive.
Those brackets were nearly universal in GM cars of the era and I was able to find one out of a ’77 Firebird that will do fine. Two bucks. On the way to pay, I passed a lean-to and experience tells me that’s where the good stuff (the stuff the owner is going to restore one day but never does) lives. And there at the end of the structure sat a Rocket Car.
All of us have that half-formed memory of the first car we recall from our youth. Mine is Mom’s Rocket Car. It was a 1960 Chevrolet Kingswood nine-passenger wagon, in a deep blue color with a white roof, whitewall tires and the deluxe wheel covers. And chrome. Miles of chrome. On the side of ’60 Chevys there was a stylized piece of trim that looked like a rocket, complete down a contrail of contrasting paint that flowed to the rear of the wagon. (See picture at the top of this column).
It was mom’s first car. She grew up in the city and her family never had a car. She rarely even rode in one. Thus she didn’t know how to drive, which was fine when my parents first married, but a new addition, yours truly, was on the way. Babies need to get taken to doctors’ appointments constantly as well as trips to see the grandparents, diaper runs and what not. A nervous, expectant first-time father wanted his child to be riding in reliable style along the way and the family’s only other set of wheels was a ’53 Chevy with a couple hundred thousand miles on it, rust holes in the passenger side floorboard from a leaky heater core. Dad went out to buy the wagon and I’d hear years later that the salesperson pressured him into buying more car than he actually sought for more money than he wanted to spend. Yes, indeed the McLaughlin kids were going to ride in style into the rocket-age future where trips to the moon would be as easy as taking the bus to school. As a fetus, I was blissfully unaware of the transaction. Dad taught mom to drive (poorly… she was never a very handy driver even later in life). At 4 feet, 10 inches, mom must have been quite the sight wheeling that big blue monster around. Neighbors quickly learned to stay out of her path. Blissfully unaware, infant Matt rode around in that car starting with the first trip I took after arriving home from the hospital.
As I got a little older and my tiny vocabulary grew, I felt the need to assign names to objects familiar to me. I had a cast metal rocket toy and the side trim on the Chevy looked like the toy. Thus was born “the Rocket Car” (well the “Wocket Caw” but you get the idea). The Rocket Car would remain my primary transportation as the baby count swelled to four, each of my next three sisters a year apart. We rode in our big blue chariot without complaint or contemplation, and in that era minus seatbelts, baby seats, air bags or even disc brakes. In the event of a hard crash, I’m sure the four of us would have flown like missiles from the car in an unintended imitation of the rockets on the side of the car. To see how a similar Chevy sedan fared in a modern crash test, watch this. Somehow, an entire generation of children by and large survived the pre-safety era despite taking long trips jumping up and down in the back seat or in my case, hanging my head out the window like a happy Golden Retriever on hot summer days to catch a breeze. For all it’s gee-whiz futuristic styling, the Rocket Car lacked air conditioning. It did, however, have bright blue vinyl seats that on a summer’s day when the car was parked, heating up to the point it would leave red marks in the design of the upholstery branded into tender young skin.
Naturally, given my age, my recollections of the car are less than perfect. But after mom died, we were sorting through her boxes upon boxes of pictures and there it was – the Rocket Car. There are no pictures I know of only the Chevy itself. It wasn’t the sort of car you took pictures of. But there it always lurked in the background berthed in the driveway of 2121 Boxwood Lane, the unsightly blue and chrome, mastodon. There’d be the four McLaughlin kids dressed in our Easter best, ready to hop in the Rocket Car for the ride to Mass at Saint Charles Boromeo. Or we’d be in our snow gear, ready to play in the newly fallen snow that blanketed the big blue Chevy in the background. Or, we’d be dressed up for trick or treating in our dime store costumes and there behind us, a few more dings added sat the Kingswood.
Here’s what I do know for sure about the car. It cost over three thousand dollars, a fortune at the time. How do I know? As I got a little older, I recall Dad returning from work to find a new dent in the Chevy and hollering “Damn it Anne, that’s a three thousand dollar car!” I remember him telling men in our neighborhood it had the same frame as a Cadillac, which I now know to be incorrect, but that’s probably what the dealer told him. I remember clearly how huge the car was, size of course being a matter of perspective when your height is two foot something. On evening trips on the way home my eldest sister and I could lay across that backseat without touching one another while our two infant siblings slept in the footwells ahead of us. Oh, and the car had the optional 348 four barrel. I remember the valve covers that looked like the letter W I’d just learned on my magnetic letter board. As a result, it got terrible gas mileage, my guess is probably in the single digits. Even in an era of twenty cent gas, my dad fretted constantly about fuel costs and wished he gone with the standard 8. Family finances didn’t concern me. I just recall enjoying watching the rotary numbers which I was just learning roll by with a soft bell tinging each gallon at the local Flying A filling station. I recall a neighbor told my dad that by doing something to the air cleaner (flipping the lid, perhaps) he’d get better fuel mileage and acceleration. I don’t know if it worked, but I do fondly recall a giant wooshing sound emanating from under the hood when mom buried the throttle because she was in a hurry. And when you have that many kids in potty-training or needing diapers, you’re always in a hurry.
As a four-year-old, I took my own hugely inappropriate turn at the wheel of the Rocket Car. Mom said we were going to see Nana, Dad’s mother. A trip like that meant two things; lots of treats and gifts, usually Matchbox cars for me. When Mom took too long gathering up things for our younger siblings, my eldest sister and I decided to speed things along. We climbed in the front seat. In those days, cars didn’t have interlocks to keep the column shifter from leaving park without the keys in the ignition. I found neutral and rolled proudly out of the driveway, cranking away hand over hand on the giant blue steering wheel that looked like it had been pirated from a tug boat. That’s when the adventure went wrong. Even if I knew which pedal down there made the car slow down I wouldn’t have been able to reach it. The Rocket Car bounced up over a curb and flattened a stop sign which was crushed beneath it. The Chevy was hung up, so the tow truck guy smoked the hell out of the rear tires on the sidewalk trying to dislodge the behemoth, a trick that fascinated me. And if I recall when he got home Dad hollered at me, “Damn it, Matthew, that’s a three thousand dollar car.” Fortunately, the “Cadillac” frame wasn’t bent.
I never fell in love with the Rocket Car. It was like the fridge, handy but not much to look at. (Yeah, I should be careful here. All right ’60 Chevy fans I drive a car with a gold screaming chicken on the hood, and I once owned a Gremlin. In my defense, it was a V8 three speed X model with the Levi interior and “desert air” which I sold at a profit. About four years after I put it up for sale. So I am not the ultimate judge of auto design). The first car I recall lusting after was in 1966 when a local young man returned home from Nam and bought a dark green Shelby GT350. Then one day while Mom was in the grocery store I walked over to the adjacent Dodge dealer just in time to see a fire engine red ’69 Daytona with a huge white wing in the back roll off the transporter. I remember touching the Hemi emblem with awe. I tried convincing Dad that Daytona should be his next set of wheels. No sale. Gales of laughter I recall. A few years later a neighbor bought a silver ’70 Mach One Cobra Jet home and that did the trick…I was a gearhead forever.
Shortly before the birth of my fourth sister I came home from first grade and the Rocket Car was gone. Despite the snow that day mom, who was seven months pregnant with my fourth sister, ventured out in the Chevy to do her Christmas shopping while she still could. She lost control of the Chevy and spun it backwards into a bridge abutment totaling the big blue car. I went with Dad to collect our personal effects out of the Rocket Car. The fancy Chevy emblem on the grille had been knocked half off when the front end initially hit a guardrail and I asked if I could have it. He allowed me to pry it off and I still have it stuffed away in some box around here so I guess I did feel a certain affection for the Rocket Car after all. Mom was fine but out a set of wheels. We must have been a bit bucks down back then because the massive Chevy was replaced with a tiny Dart wagon with the slant six dad decided on to reduce the nearly daily robbery at the Flying A.
I was a budding car guy in the era and even I knew that a six was inferior to an eight. Besides its ungainly body lines that particular example was painted a horrible shade of tan with a brown interior. I hated that thing from first sight. Out of my parents hearing I called it “The Fart”, the first naughty word I’d learned. Eventually five growing kids meant the Fart no longer fit the family and it gave way to a ’70 Vista Cruiser with the 455. (I guess Dad reconciled himself with fuel prices). That wagon would eventually be handed down to me to drive whenever my own silver Cobra Jet was torn apart and inoperative which it was frequently while I sought a few more tenths improvement at the drag strip. As I found out you can make good money street racing a wood-sided wagon with a big engine against small block sporty cars which kept the Cobra on life support.
OK, I promised if you hung in there long enough I’d somehow steer the story of the Rocket Car to NASCAR racing. I am many despicable things, but I am not a liar. In 1960 I was going on one year old so I had no inkling of what was going on down south that summer and fall. If I’d known what NASCAR was, what a race was, or such doubtless I’d have been thrilled to know that a fellow Rex White, who a lot of you have never heard of, won that year’s NASCAR championship at the wheel of 1960 Chevy. (No seriously. Check this out for some images of the car, though a few photos are of later models, and to find out who White was. Here’s a hint, he had a better career average finishing position than Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson…..or Dale Earnhardt for that matter.
The picture of the rear of White’s car and the battered up racecar on the trailer are both clearly 1960 model Chevrolets. Nobody was going to mix them up with a Ford or the era or the Plymouth some kid named Richard Petty drove to second in the 60 championship standings. You’ll note that the trademark rocket emblems are missing from the side of White’s car, but I have vintage photos of ’60 Chevys running in full trim right down to the rockets. I guess when they fell off while beating and banging the trim pieces weren’t replaced but the holes where that trim once mounted were left open by and large. The massive chrome grille, the body style lines and even those massive bumpers looked just like Mom’s Rocket Car. The following year Ned Jarrett won the NASCAR championship wheeling mainly a ’61 Chevy. If White’s ’60 model and Jarrett’s 61 were parked side by side most of you wouldn’t know which was which but you’d easily discern they weren’t the same sort of car. So what year Ford Fusion was Carl Edwards driving last week? Was the No. 99 car even a Ford? Other than the decals it sure looks like a Chevy…or a Dodge…or a Toyota.
My point is this sport was a whole lot more fun when the stock cars were more “stock.” That used to be in the rulebook. Ford went to great expense to alter the roofline on their street going Galaxies to make them faster on the track. They stuffed 427s under the hood to make their cars legal in NASCAR and the NHRA. Chrysler spent millions developing Dodge Daytonas, like the red one I saw being dropped off at the dealership and Plymouth Superbirds to be able to race them. In more recent years Chevrolet developed the Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe and Pontiac the Grand Prix 2 plus 2 to go NASCAR racing. Both of those cars were aesthetic disasters, but GM had to give their teams a more aerodynamic car so they could keep up with the fleet Ford Thunderbirds of the era. To race them on the track Chevy and Pontiac had to sell them in the showroom. That front end that looks so good on ’86 and 87 ‘Grand Nationals was a complete redesign to try to make Buick NASCAR entries faster. Hence the name of those sinister black cars.
There’s no way the Cup series could run stock Fusions, Impalas, or Camrys today. They’re all front wheel drive and wouldn’t last a lap in any form barely approaching stock. The street Chargers are rear wheel drive, but come off the showroom floor as four doors. However lurking in the big three’s inventories are Camaros, Mustangs and Challengers that are in fact rear-wheel drive, two door coupes, just like God and Bill France Sr. intended a stock car to be. Ford races the Mustang in the Nationwide series, but says it won’t make the move to the Cup series. Chevrolet has steadfastly refused to consider the Camaro as its NASCAR entry. Tough. Tell the Big Three these are the cars that are legal for the Cup series in 2013, the Mustang, the Camaro and the Challenger. If you want to race bring those cars along. Oh, and be sure they meet the same templates as what your dealers sell, right down to the emblems, badges, outside rearview mirrors, grilles, bumpers and style lines. We’re going to put some stock back in stock cars. (What about Toyota? They don’t offer a V8 two door coupe. Whoops. We’ve inadvertently solved another problem that irks fans today…foreign cars in NASCAR.)
The cars are too fast at Talladega? With the stock bodies they won’t be. And the bumpers aren’t going to match up too well so there goes your tandem racing. Sure we’ll have to add some sort of spoiler to the rear of the cars and the appropriate safety equipment, but as I sit in Turn 1 watching cars come at me off of Turn 4 I want to be able to tell a Dodge from a Ford from a Chevy.
People say “they don’t build them like they used to.” Perhaps in the case of the Rocket Car (and the Gremlin) that’s for the better. But my guess is forty years from now when some gearhead slogs his way through a muddy wrecking yard to see what’s to be seen he isn’t going to feel nostalgic about a 2011 Focus, recalling it as the car that won this year’s Daytona 500. You know maybe in the spring I’ll return to that wrecking yard I visited today and see if that old Chevy is still sitting there and the owner is willing to admit he’ll never get around to restoring it. If nothing else I already have a grille emblem for it.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Nice. Real nice. I enjoyed the story.
Great piece Matt. I wish my buddy Rex white had a computer to be able to read it. Like you, I wasn’t quite old enough to appreciate his winning the 1960 Grand National Championship (I was 7 at the time), but 3 years later, my eyes became open to the world of stock car racing.
When I go to Sturat or Martinsville, I always pass this one house that has an assortment of 1950’s & 60’s Chevies sitting in a neat row in a field beside a house. It always takes me back seeing those cars there although I’m not a big GM fan. Nostalgia can be great sometimes.
And you’re right about needing to go back to stock cars. Otherwise, NASCAR needs to change their name to National Association for Spec Car Auto Racing.
very enjoyable read, caused me a trip in the way back machine.
I was a late comer to the sport. I attended my first race the first weekend of May 1980. For those of you that have been around a while that was the traditional date of the Winston 500. The first Sunday of May, and sometimes fell after the first Saturday in May. We would have campers arrive over night on Saturday that had been to the KY Derby on Saturday, and were there to take in the Winston 500 on Sunday.
Anyway, in 1980, a Cup car still had bumpers and resembled what you could by at the local dealership. Your article really made me think back to those days. Oh, I might add, that was before restrictor plates, and man what a sight to see at Talladega. Home of the 200mph Freight Train. They used to sell shirts that made reference to that.
I wonder if they sell shirts at Talladega now, that read, “Home of the Two Car Tango”?
So sad it is, what Nascar as “devolved” to.
Thanks for a great story Matt and a momentary trip back in time!
p.s. Buddy Baker won on that day in May 1980. The chrome numbered 28, black and silver Napa/Regal Ride Shocks Oldsmobile Cutlass! I wanted one of those cars so bad, but I wasn’t 16 yet at the time! You see, back then, Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday had some merit!
1st of all, no apologies necessary for this not being a typical NASCAR article. This was one of the best columns I’ve read in a long time. As for it being briefly NASCAR related, maybe in the context that by number of words it was briefly related, but in conclusion it couldn’t be more related. I think this is pretty much the same way most of us older fans came to love cars and consequently NASCAR racing, just change a few details such as makes and models of cars and it’s pretty much applicable to any of us. I think that’s why we have more of an appreciation for the sport that most new fans, many of whom got their 1st car on their 16th birthday and many of whom have lost interest in the sport. It was just the latest fad.
Good article. As to Toyota, were Nascar to implement your suggestion (they dont have enough sense to do it), watch how quickly a new Supra or Soarer coupe would hit the market here. PS: We still have the 1966 Impala convertible my father in law bought new.
I love these old car articles, much better than recaps of boring racing.
Matt McLaughlin on this day you’re up there with the greats of the written word.
Joe…couldn’t agree more! Thanks Matt, glad (belatedly) you’re back!