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 · Thursday November 17, 2011
In last weekend’s race recap, I made casual mention of the fact that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was well ahead of teammate Jeff Gordon in the point standings and wondered why everyone thought the No. 88 team was having a miserable year while the No. 24 team was spared such heat. I should have known better after all the years I’ve been doing this stuff: “Casual” results in casualties in writing about NASCAR. By Monday afternoon, I was deluged by hate mail saying my assessment of Jeff Gordon’s season was “unfair,” to use one of the more polite terms. Most of the emails apparently came as a result of an email writing campaign espoused on one of the many Jeff Gordon message boards, where the faithful still gather to warm themselves by the dying embers of Gordon’s glory days.
Jeff Gordon’s fans can be a little testy. Who can blame them? When Gordon came bursting onto the Cup scene in 1993 like a supernova, he was quickly vilified by longtime fans who felt he didn’t meet the standards of a proper stock car racer. He wasn’t from the Deep South, he was too young and good-looking, and hadn’t “paid his dues.” On the other hand, people drawn to the sport in that era (in large part by the barnburner of a season in 1992) immediately latched onto Gordon because he was, in fact, young and good-looking, highly successful and he talked like they did. Those newer fans didn’t care much for the guy with a mustache who drove the black No. 3 car because he tended to sound grumpy even when they could understand what he was saying, and he drove in ways they’d been taught not to in high school Driver’s Ed only a few years before. Being a Gordon fan wasn’t easy back then. At some tracks, wearing his gear to a race risked having some drunk pour a beer over your head or getting spit on. In a way, the anti-Gordon sentiment among the ABG (Anybody but Gordon) fan base was good for the sport. Even when they couldn’t cheer on Dale to a win, they were passionate about cheering Gordon’s misfortunes.
I don’t suppose it’s easy to be a Gordon fan these days, either. Oh, he still posts some good numbers, but measured against the stellar standards of Gordon’s in the late ’90s and early part of this century he isn’t measuring up. Gordon is a four-time Cup champion, but the latest of those titles was scored a full decade ago in 2001. While he’s still with the same team driving the same car number, a lot has changed for Jeff Gordon. His marriage to Brooke ended with more than a whiff of scandal and squabbling about her inalienable right to have a souse chef on duty full-time on Jeff’s dime – as well as who got to keep the Ferrari. Brooke went so far as to say that she’d made Jeff Gordon a success, citing the fact she “taught him to dress.” To the best of my knowledge, Gordon hasn’t shown up naked at the track since the divorce so maybe not. Meanwhile, Gordon has remarried and fathered two children. He seems to prefer spending time in his New York City digs to North Carolina or Florida. The boos that once dogged him during driver intros have grown quieter now, because most seasons he doesn’t have enough success to warrant any great deal of venom better placed elsewhere… like on that new “kid” Jimmie Johnson, Gordon’s teammate, who had won five straight titles.
Ironically enough, it was Gordon who insistently urged Rick Hendrick to add Johnson to the team and who is, in fact, listed as part-owner of the No. 48. My guess is there’s more than a few evenings Gordon has regretted that decision. In fact, if he were seated in a tavern elbows up on the bar and the juke started playing the Eagles’ “New Kid in Town” I’m sure he’d cringe. That assumes that Jeff Gordon is, in fact, the sort who went to a corner tavern with a juke to have a beer, which he’s not… one of the things people disliked about him when he came on the scene. It always amazes me when Johnson and Gordon get in a tiff, as has happened more than once. It’s like listening to Mike and Carol Brady curse each other out over family finances.
After the email-hate mail deluge, I did take the time to review Gordon’s season to date. And to an extent, those who felt I was being unfair have a point. Gordon’s year hasn’t been that bad in all actuality. He’s won three races: Phoenix, Pocono and Atlanta in a season when no driver has won more than four events. To date in 2011, Gordon has twelve top-5 finishes and a total of seventeen top 10s in 35 points-paying starts. And yet he’s eleventh in the points, with only a modest lead over twelfth-place Kyle Busch who had to sit out a race due to his outrageous conduct at Texas.
Over the years, when people have asked me where Jeff Gordon had lost his edge I had two theories. First was the loss of Ray Evernham, the crew chief who sat atop the box for the best year’s of Gordon’s career. (A move that didn’t work out too well for Evernham either, in retrospect). The second was that Gordon never seemed to acclimate himself to the “Car of Tomorrow” introduced for some races back in 2007. In the five years the Car of Sorrow has been an unsightly blot on the radar at NASCAR, Gordon has won 10 races. In the nine seasons prior to the new car, Gordon had won 46 times, including 13 race wins racked up in 1998 alone. Others have postulated less kindly that Gordon is just past his prime, but I don’t go along with that. I seem to recall a fellow named Harry Gant who was doing pretty well in NASCAR despite being no spring chicken.
Now, I’m beginning to wonder if Gordon’s problems are somehow related to the Chase format. While Gordon has won four Cup championships, all of those were won under the old “full season” or “classic” methods of crowning a titlist.
As I mentioned, Gordon’s overall season-long stats are nothing to sneeze at. Three wins and top-10 finishes in just under half of all this year’s points-paying races would be a career season for many drivers. Gordon started this year’s Chase in third place, just three points out of the lead, six points ahead of Carl Edwards and nine points ahead of Tony Stewart.
But the nine Chase races run to date haven’t been as kind to Gordon. Two top-5 finishes and only one additional top-10 result have been offset by five finishes outside of the top 20. Certainly, the No. 24 car losing an engine at Kansas in and of itself might have been a dealbreaker in the championship.
And therein lays the inherent unfairness of the Chase format and the current points system. The new points system penalizes a driver far more for a single lackluster (or in the case of Gordon at Kansas, disastrous) finish than it rewards him for winning a race. And while Gordon has had a good season, it’s a relative lack of performance in these last nine races compared to the previous 26 that have deprived him of a shot at adding a fifth championship to his resume and left him eleventh in the standings. (Under the classic points system, Gordon would currently be sixth with a very unlikely, but still mathematically possible shot at winning a championship in 2011. In fact, under that old system seven drivers would have arrived at Homestead still mathematically in the title hunt, not just two). Wasn’t that the stated goal of the Chase… that multiple drivers would battle it out in the final race for all the marbles?
I’ve long since figured out that when it comes to riding quads, folks who start out on those four-wheelers have an inherent advantage over those of us who started trail-riding on two-wheel motorcycles. Having ridden and raced two-wheel motorcycles since I was nine, my immediate instinct when it feels like the machine I’m on is about to topple is to drop a foot to the ground to stabilize the proceedings. Even approaching a fast corner, I’ll still drop a foot out of habit preparing to steer around the corner using the throttle and rear wheel rather than the front with my foot as an outrigger. Try that on a four-wheel quad and what inevitably happens is your own rear tire rides up your ankle and onto your calf with painful results that sometimes end in your face bouncing off the handlebars, or gas tank, or your nuts banging that same gas tank.
Likewise, I’ve always felt the fact some drivers are so successful in Cup racing today is that they’ve never driven in that series in anything but the Car of Tomorrow. It doesn’t feel “weird” to them because that’s all they’ve ever known. Older drivers who are still looking for the more comfortable feel the old car used to grant them are giving up speed.
And it may be the same for the drivers who once competed for season-long titles versus those who have only gone for a championship under the Chase. Those first 26 races don’t matter as much for those accustomed to running hard every event, all season long. Eight of the ten Chase races take place on tracks where the circuit has already visited at some point earlier in the year. Why not throw away that first trip to those tracks, running experimental setups that might be of benefit if they work prior to the Chase? Why not settle for a top-10 finish to pave your way to making the Chase rather than running, both guns blazing for glory and risk missing the top 12? If the fans don’t like it, oh well, the big money gets paid for how you run in the last ten races.
Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team was the first to perfect the art of easing into the Chase, then turning on the afterburners for ten races. That’s how he’s always done it. Having been around since the last race of 1992, Gordon still has a mindset that you have to go out there every Sunday afternoon and perform (or if the race is at night, Prove It All Night) because that’s how he had to run to beat the likes of Dale Earnhardt back in the day.
Folks have tried to tell me that’s just the way it is in deciding sports’ championships. An NFL team might go into the playoffs with a record barely over .500 if they compete in a weaker division and still have a chance to wrest the Super Bowl title from a team that had gone undefeated in the regular season. But there’s a key difference between the stick and ball sports and NASCAR racing. In NASCAR, all 43 teams “play” against one another every week. The results of every race ought to be equally important. The fans seem to have caught onto the Chase and its strategies, meaning they’re losing interest in NASCAR’s regular season to an even greater extent than they are towards the sport as a whole.
How many titles has Jeff Gordon lost under the Chase format that he might have won under the classic points system? It’s impossible to tell. All teams change their strategies given the rules announced prior to the season. Some just do so better than others.
But we can’t do away with the Chase, can we? Of course not. In 2003, Matt Kenseth won the Cup title despite having won only one race. And if Carl Edwards wins this year’s title on Sunday…well, um… Houston, we have a problem.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I don’t think it’s so much the car of tomorrow that gives Gordon problems as much as it is that the cars are all so identical that no one driver can dominate anymore. It’s as if it were restrictor plate racing every week. Look at the number of race winners we’ve had this year.
As far as Gordon not turning it on in the Chase, few drivers have ever performed better in a Chase than Jeff Gordon did in 2007, but one of them was Jimmie Johnson in 2007.
You might be able to question whether Gordon would have in 2004, but there’s no question he would have won it in ’07.
I hated the Chase long before it gypped my driver out of at least one title, but even if he won Chases that way I’d still think it sucks. That and the barrage of ads in telecasts (and the networks’ arrogance about it) are the two main reasons I’ve stopped watching.
Pretty good summary Matt. I thought your comment and assessment in Tuesday’s column was a bit off too (but I did NOT send you a nasty email), however I’d say today’s column is a pretty fair assessment.
IMO the chase is probably the biggest factor. October and November were never his best time of year and the Chase magnifies performance during those months.
More importantly, having only ten races to determine the championship in this sport means that luck is as important as being good. One blown engine or tire, or being caught up in someone else’s wreck, can ruin a championship run. A second stroke of bad luck pretty much takes you out. (This is one of the things that amazed me about Johnson’s streak – on top of being good he seemed to be immune to bad luck or everyone else had more bad luck that he did in those ten races).
Anyway the point of this is that bad luck has a higher probability of evening out over 36 races than it does in 10 races. To me that is why using all 36 races to determine the champ makes more sense in a sport where all 43 competitors compete against each other in every even including the “playoffs”.
Getting back to Gordon, I personally don’t care whether a driver finishes 2nd or 11th in the chase. If your not the champion it doesn’t really matter. However, the fact that he won 3 races this year made the season his best since 2007 IMO (which I agree with G85wins above, he was robbed). Prior to this year he had 1 win in three seasons which was unacceptable.
Jr also made gains this year even though he didn’t break that win drought. At least he made the chase. But I still think overall Gordon had a much better year.
“souse chef”? Really? Then, as I think of it, a fair number of those I have known qualify.
Bill B. said “More importantly, having only ten races to determine the championship in this sport means that luck is as important as being good.” I think he’s right. And when you factor in that luck plays a huge part in the 10% of the chase that is Talladega, there’s definitely a crap-shoot element to the chase. Still, Jimmie Johnson didn’t luck his way into five straight championships. I also think that some crew chiefs, like Chad Knaus, just have a knack for setting up and adjusting the newer car. As for Jeff Gordon, even though his best years are behind him, he’s still talented, still driven, and will continue to be competitive whether he wins another championship or not.
Just like some pre-2003 championship races were snoozers, some Chase championships are snoozers too. But you compare every Chase to 1992, it comes up short, and you use that as a reason the Chase is a failure. Nevermind that EVERY championship battle from 1949 to the present fails compared to 1992. In my opinion, this Chase is one of best battles since Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday came down to the wire for the Truck Championship in 2007. I dont remember people complaining about that being only two drivers in the hunt.
I dunno about Jeff still being in contention under classic points. My calculation shows he would be in 7th place, 420 points out. Carl Edwards would be the leader with a 205 point lead (over Jimmie), and with only 195 points available he would be the champion already.
I remember being treated likewise by anti E Sr. haters. What I cannot figure how his kid has one fan? I understand Jeff’s inability to win as much, when you have a lot to lose and less to gain, you back off a bit.
Who really needs the CHASE?