Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Last week NASCAR announced the 25 folks eligible for induction into this year’s Hall of Fame class. Five of those people will be enshrined next January. There were some notable names not on the list and there were some surprise inclusions as well. As always my email box was flooded with requests for my picks and people wanting to discuss the relative worthiness of various individuals. Many people felt someone obvious had been overlooked and some of them sensed conspiracies afoot.
Unfortunately a lot of fans simply don’t understand the criteria the nominating committee works with.
For drivers, a nominee must have been competing in NASCAR for at least ten years and he or she must have been retired for at least five years to be considered. For other participants in the sport there is the same ten year requirement but there’s no rule that they must be retired. That’s why Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress were included. (And I am certain one year soon Jack Roush will be included. So all you Ford zealots, no I don’t think Roush was excluded because he campaigns Fords. Ford’s money is just as green as GM’s and NASCAR is addicted to the stuff.) I will say that I felt it set a poor precedent to have two team owners still actively campaigning in the sport. This is supposed to be the Hall of Fame not a popularity contest. I’m sure if you ask them both Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress would tell you that their teams’ best days are still ahead of them. Both men are worthy of inclusion in the Hall one day, but let their stories play out and reach a conclusion before honoring them for a lifetime of achievement.
In answer to another question I get asked frequently, yes, Jimmie Johnson did win five Cup titles. (And Jeff Gordon won four.) But as noted above a driver must be retired for five years before being considered. Both Johnson and Gordon are shoo-ins for the Hall one day (presuming the Hall remains open) and I’m certain both will be inducted the first year they are eligible.
I’m also quite certain one day Bill Elliott will join the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But though he competes infrequently, Elliott is still listed as an active NASCAR driver. I know a lot of you still choose Bill as your favorite driver, but no he’s not being overlooked. It’s the same deal with Terry Labonte, another future Hall of Famer. One correspondent was enraged that Rusty Wallace was nominated though he won only one title while Labonte wasn’t included on the list. Until Labonte officially retires he can’t yet be nominated.
Rusty Wallace being included as a potential nominee also brings up another issue: Wallace isn’t that old. If he were to choose to return to the Cup series even on a limited schedule basis would the Hall have to eject him? What a sorry mess that would be.
Two other names folks who wrote me frequently bought up include 1992 Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki and his contemporary Davey Allison. Yes, both men were tremendous race car drivers and individuals, and tragically we lost both of those heroes way too young. Davey Allison was a huge favorite of many fans and the heir to the Allison racing legacy. Kulwicki’s story is almost too Hollywood for Hollywood, the college educated engineer from Wisconsin who packed up his things and moved South to do battle with the sport’s big names on his own terms.
Improbably Kulwicki did things his way with his tiny team and won that Cup title, the last true owner driver to do so.
Both Kulwicki and Allison run afoul of the minimum ten years racing requirement. (Well, if you fudge things a bit Allison did run one race in what is now the K&N West series back in 1980.) When I originally saw the minimum ten year participation award I just figured it was NASCAR’s way of seeing to it Tim Richmond, who’d they prefer you all forget since he had the audacity to sue them, never got into the Hall of Fame. Researching this article I stumbled across a bit of a surprise.
NASCAR did give itself a little wiggle room in regards to the ten year removed rule. The nominating rules state that in extraordinary circumstances, a nominee might be included despite failing to meet that requirement. Well in the case of Allison, Kulwicki, and Richmond, all three of them died while in the prime of their careers which I’d personally consider “extraordinary circumstances.” EIEC (Except In Extraordinary Circumstances) has long been a basis of the NASCAR rulebook. Basically they state, “this is the rule” but we uphold our right to ignore it out of expedience since we’re the only ones that can decide what is “extraordinary” and what is not. There are no rules. We decide what the rules are. And even then there are no rules. Except the ones we decide on.
Happily in this case that means that one day Allison and Kulwicki will make the Hall of Fame. Hopefully Tim Richmond will as well, but even as one of his most ardent and loyal fans I’m ready to admit it’s not Tim’s time quite yet.
I guess what bothers me the most about this year’s list of nominees is a lot of fans simply don’t know who they are. In my mind I divide NASCAR history into two eras, pre-television and post-television. (Though these days it amuses me to hear people divide the sport’s history into Pre-Gordon and post-Gordon with the majority of fans being of the post-Gordon era.) Yes, Jeff Gordon has been racing in the Cup series for twenty years now, but there’s so much more to NASCAR’s rich history that preceded his era. There are so many colorful characters, so many competitors who full deserve the appellation “hero” and so many funny, tragic and bizarre stories too many of you have never heard about and only some of which can be told in polite company.
I’m not sure why so little is written about NASCAR’s history. Baseball fans know about players who died decades ago and can recount games played prior to World War II as if they happened last week. They’ll debate endlessly whether Babe Ruth could have hit a home run off of Sandy Koufax. Football fans can rattle off the teams that played in every Super Bowl, the final score and the MVPs of the game. The NFL juggernaut may have outgrown the tiny town of Green Bay many years ago, but fan’s appreciation of and devotion to the sport’s history keeps the Packers on the field.
Yet most NASCAR fans haven’t even heard stories about the days when the Flock brothers raced the Thomas brothers for countless wins. They have no idea how dominant the Buicks were in the early 1980s, much less the Hudsons or Chrysler letter cars were in their era. They don’t recall the tragic gut-wrenching 1964 season when four big name drivers were killed in barely over a year, which thankfully led to the advent of fuel cell and tire inner-liners. They probably don’t recall the Ford-Chrysler factory wars or the two boycott years, nor the PDA driver’s strike that eliminated most of the big name drivers from competing at the first Talladega race. The only major effort ever give a detailed history of NASCAR racing was Greg Fielden’s five book series, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, a superlative set of books I recommend to any true fan of the sport.
You can’t appreciate where stock car racing is now until you understand its humble roots.
So if I were on the voting panel which five individuals would I choose? To me four names are obvious; Herb Thomas, Buck Baker. Tim Flock and Joe Weatherly. These are the only multi-time retired champions in NASCAR’s top divisions yet to be inducted into the Hall.
Thomas won 48 races in just 228 starts in NASCAR’s top division then known as Grand National racing. He won 12 races in both 1953 and 1954. Thomas was the series champion in both 1951 and 1953. He was runner-up in the championship chase three times; in 1952, 1954 and 1956. Unfortunately Thomas’s story doesn’t have a happy ending; this is one of those ugly stories that you don’t hear too often.
In 1956 Thomas was well en-route to a third title deep into the season. He’d started that season driving for the dominant team of the era owned by Carl Kiekhaefer. After a falling out, the driver and team owner split after a race at Spartanburg, SC. Kiekhaefer was determined to take that year’s title to exact revenge against Thomas. Believe it or not, Kiekhaefer was allowed to add an extra event to the schedule late in the season to give his driver Buck Baker another shot at outrunning Thomas. During that race at Shelby, NC, another of Keikhaefer’s drivers put Thomas hard into the fence to eliminate him from contention.
The wreck almost cost Thomas his life and did in fact effectively end his racing career.
Buck Baker was bigger than life and twice as real. He won his two championships in 1956 and 1957. Obviously that ‘56 title was a bit tainted but when I attended his driving school, Baker swore to me that he didn’t know about the setup to hurt Thomas — a good friend of his. Baker said that if he had, he wouldn’t have allowed it – and I believe him.
From 1953 to 1959 Baker finished in the top 5 in Grand National points and he was runner-up in those standings in 1955 and 1958. Baker won 46 races in NASCAR’s top division, fourteen of them in 1956 alone. How different were things back then? Baker would later admit he used to sneak beers into his car to enjoy during hot afternoon races. After retiring Baker eventually started his own stock car racing school that gave both aspiring drivers (Jeff Gordon was a graduate) and curious fans a chance to take laps at the wheel of a stock car. Buck is also the father of Buddy Baker, a noted racer in his own right who went on to become one of the most entertaining NASCAR TV announcers ever in his day. And yes, I think Buddy should join his dad in the Hall one day, preferably while he’s still alive and kicking and able to reduce those in attendance to mirthful tears with some of his stories.
Joe Weatherly was NASCAR’s crown prince — a hard-driving, hard-partying legend. He and good pal Curtis Turner staged some epic parties, and if you missed one, well, as they said the next one would be starting in fifteen minutes. Weatherly won his titles back to back in 1962 and 1963, and in that era few drivers chose to compete in every Grand National race. (It was impossible, with over 50 races on the schedule, some of them run on the same day.) Weatherly ran 52 of 53 races in 1962 and 53 of 55 races in 1963. In 1963 Weatherly’s primary ride was Bud Moore’s Mercury but Moore was only running the major events. Hoping to defend his title Weatherly drove for no less than nine teams that season to rack up the maximum amount of points.
Throughout his career Weatherly amassed 25 Grand National wins with the majority of them (nine each season) in 1961 and 1962. He also won twelve races in NASCAR’s old convertible division and was runner-up in series points in that division in 1957. Few people may remember any of those stats and even fewer of them will recall Weatherly was perhaps the most superstitious man ever to walk the face of the Earth. In fact Weatherly flat out-refused to run the 13th Southern 500 due to his Triskaidekaphobia. In order to lure Weatherly into that race Darlington track promoters officially billed the event as “The 12th Renewal of the Southern 500.”
Unfortunately Weatherly’s story doesn’t have a happy ending either. He was killed during the fifth race of the 1964 Grand National season at the road course in Riverside, CA. Weatherly refused to use a shoulder belt feeling that it would hinder his efforts to escape a burning car after a wreck. Thus when he hit an embankment at Riverside, his head exited the car and hit the berm, killing him instantly.
My fourth nominee would be Tim Flock, one of the three famous racing Flock brothers. Flock won his titles in 1952 and 1955. He won a total of 39 Grand National races in just 187 starts, giving him the highest winning percentage of any driver of any era in NASCAR history. I don’t know what baseball player had the highest ever batting average but I’d bet he’s enshrined at Cooperstown. (Ed. Note — resident Detroit Tigers fan Vito Pugliese is proud to confirm that Ty Cobb holds the all-time batting average record at .366 lifetime.) In 1955 Flock won 18 races, more than any driver in a single season other than the King in 1967.
Unfortunately despite those two titles and all those race wins, Flock’s total career earnings totaled about $100,000. In a sad irony during the start-up to NASCAR’s big 50th anniversary bash in 1998, Flock was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Without medical insurance he was reduced to penury and had to sell off most of his cherished racing memorabilia including his trophies to pay his bills. Throughout the ordeal Flock never lost his sense of notorious sense of humor. He recalled watching the 1997 NASCAR awards banquet when Jeff Gordon unexpectedly broke down crying while accepting that big championship check from Winston.
To quote Mr. Flock, “When I saw the amount of that check I was crying as well.”
To me those four men ought to definitely be included. After that the final choice gets more difficult. I am loathe to exclude anyone on the list but in the end you have to choose just one more of a worthy group.
After much consideration I’ll give my final nod to Fred Lorenzon.
“Fast Freddie” as he was known, never won a NASCAR title. The highest he ever finished was third in the points in 1963; newer fans need to be mindful that Lorenzen never ran the complete Grand National schedule. As a factory driver for Ford he only ran the big events that gave Ford Motor Company some hope of getting some ink and glory in the newspapers. In 1963 Lorenzen ran 29 races, and won six of them (over 20 percent) and finished within the top 5 in 21 of those races (about 73 percent.)
If those aren’t Hall of Fame numbers, I don’t know what would be.
I’m torn by not choosing Benny Parsons (1973 Cup champion and one of the great race broadcasters of all time with his folksy down to earth style) or T. Wayne Roberts, who along with Winston helped not only save this sport, but imprinted it on the national consciousness after the car makers withdrew from racing in the early 1970s. I’d choose those two men along with Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison and Tim Richmond as my new nominees for the class of 2013.
I realize not everyone is going to agree with my five choices for this year’s class. After all, the five drivers I’ve chosen all competed in the 1950s and early 1960s, decidedly before the advent of television embracing NASCAR. That might seem to be a problem to some but not in my mind. Isn’t that the purpose of any Hall of Fame? In addition to entertaining guests the Hall ought to edify and inform them about the part of the story they missed. It ought to shed some light on a sport that used to make young men dead before they were old, not young men rich before their time.
As always I present my opinions as just what they are…opinions. Please feel free to nominate or exclude your favorite or least favorite candidates in the comments section below.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
i appreciate the thought and enjoyed the read,,, but isn’t this much ado about nothing… hasn’t nascar already overstepped it’s perceived popularity by creating the hall in the first place and continued down the road by making made the hall pretty irrelevant. if nascar actually needed a hall shouldn’t it be about the competitors and not the administrators as you’ve said?
Curiously missing from the list is NASCAR’s first multi-time championship crew chief. The man who coined the term “NASCAR”, actually founded NASCAR in Georgia, and was one of the founding fathers of NASCAR. Red Vogt. Another name curiously missing was his understudy and apprentice Smokey Yunick. Why haven’t they been added to the list much less inducted? Their contributions to NASCAR far exceed those of a bookkeeper and ticket seller.
You named the exact same drivers as I. As for Rusty Wallace coming out of retirement, Gordie Howe retired from hockey after 1971 season and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976. In the interim he had come out of retirement to play with his sons in the World Hockey Association. With the merger of the NHL and the WHA for the 79-80 season, Gordie was active with the Hartford Whalers and played that one final season (in the NHL)being both active AND a member of the hall of fame! So, there is precedent!
“babydufus” above hit it on the head – Nascar overstepped. After the first and second tier there is very little all but the most ardent fans know.
Nascar needs to stop thinking it can be baseball or football just because they want to be. There are hundreds of really good baseball players that last 15-20 years. The fans have ample time to remmeber them, and talk about them. These players are on teams that the fans watch, rally around, talk about, etc. Baseballfans watch these players and teasm for years and years.
Nascar is not at that level. Again – I know there are die hard Nascar fans. A die hard Nascar fan is probably the most die hard of all fans. (I will never forget the Gordon dolls with pins in them at Martinsville.) But there are very few of them next to baseball and football. I am not putting Nascar or its fans down, but this is just fact.
A hall of fame was just a France ego trip.
A Nascar race can be a terrifically exciting event – the race, the noise, the fun, the passion – just incredible. I will match it to any stick and ball sport – including playoffs. But Nascar needs to let the fans have the sport that they want – not the sport that Nascar wants or thinks it should be.
I agree that the legends from the earliest years of NASCAR should be in first. While I agree that Allison, Kulwicki, and Richmond should be in, I don’t think it should be THAT soon when there are so many legends from the past missing.
No way I would take Allison, Kulwicki, or Richmond over ANY of the following:
I admire that you’ve given Allison, Kulwicki, and especially Richmond a lot of attention, but I think everyone in the media hypes them up a bit beyond their actual accomplishments and a lot of other contemporary drivers who didn’t win titles get completely ignored. Neil Bonnett? He died too and it seems like nobody EVER talks about him. Geoff Bodine? Harry Gant? Ernie Irvan? Ricky Rudd? I think most of those guys were at least as talented as Davey Allison, and even THEY have been completely forgotten, much more than those three who are talked about all the time on the anniversaries of their deaths. Kulwicki and Richmond were very impressive, and I probably would take them over Bodine, Irvan, and Rudd, but I’d definitely take Harry Gant before Kulwicki – I think his equipment was even worse than Kulwicki’s! I’m certainly not saying Bodine, Irvan, or Rudd deserve consideration NOW, but I think they were in the same league as Kulwicki and Davey talent-wise (albeit a bit behind Richmond), and nobody discusses them at all. Hell, nobody’s even discussing earlier NASCAR legend Rex White. I know nobody agrees with me but I think Irvan was a better driver than Davey because his performances in the #28 from the day he entered to his 1994 Michigan crash were better than ANY of Davey’s seasons. Harry Gant was better than ANY of the contemporaries mentioned too. I’d also take Bill Elliott and Mark Martin when they become eligible over Davey, Alan, or Tim. Again, I’m glad they’re getting attention. I’m a fan of all three, and I hate that they died when they did, but it seems like they’re the ONLY non-champions before 2000 that anybody even talks about now. It’s like the polar opposite of how NASCAR snubs Tim Richmond, and I just think it’s weird. I feel much more sorry for Neil Bonnett who NEVER has myriads of posts made on the anniversary of his death, solely because he wasn’t in his prime when he died. To me, guys like Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, and Joe Weatherly are FAR greater and died really young, yet nobody has posts commemorating them every year. Love those three drivers and they all belong in eventually, but I think the hype on the anniversaries of their deaths has gotten a bit too much.
So do Allison, Kulwicki, and Richmond deserve it? Totally. Do they deserve it THIS SOON? No, I don’t think so. The ’50s/‘60s legends above HAVE to be in first, and Elliott/Gordon/Johnson/Martin/Stewart have all done enough to trump them as well. As for the other non-champions I mentioned; yes, I probably would take Kulwicki and Richmond over most of them (I think Davey has actually become supremely overrated now that people talk about him SINCERELY as “the guy who would have stopped Jeff Gordon” – I’m not seeing it and I think his talent was at best at the Mark Martin level and I really don’t think he would have won a title…‘92 was the only year he was close and that’s because the Fords were overwhelmingly dominant and no one else was consistent…I also think he’s overrated because he was the ONLY driver between Earnhardt and Gordon who had equipment theoretically capable of winning as a rookie, when guys like Gant, Irvan, Kulwicki, Martin, Richmond, Wallace, even Jarrett had to spend several years driving garbage), but it just bothers me nobody ever talks about them even though they were contemporaries, usually retired later, and had performances more impressive than (say) Terry Labonte who people hype just because he won two REALLY lame titles due to that atrocity of a points system that reflects consistency way more than it should. I want to see people kicking ass and taking names in the hall of fame, even if they weren’t consistent. In other words, somebody like Irvan who drove hard every lap and hit higher heights even if he hit lower lows over Terry Labonte, or somebody like Kyle Busch over Matt Kenseth. Now Allison, Kulwicki, and Richmond? They certainly did kick butt a lot, and I’d totally take them over Labonte too, so that is not my argument against them now. But as for Terry, is ANYONE impressed by Terry or Kenseth’s titles? Does ANYONE think they were the best drivers those years? Another thing I do rate highly is whether somebody was ever the dominant force on a particular type of track (except plate tracks which are total garbage). Terry was never considered THE MAN anywhere or even any period of time. He was capable of having a good run lots of places, sure. But I can’t imagine there was ever a time anyone was afraid of him or considered him THE MAN TO BEAT. Gant for a while (in his a 4-in-a-row streak especially) was considered THE FORCE on short tracks, Irvan was considered THE MAN on road courses and arguably everywhere until his injury (no, road course dominance is not enough by itself – I’m not intending to induct Robby Gordon or Marcos Ambrose). Titles are overrated. Dominance and running up front should be rewarded regardless of titles. Fireball Roberts and Tim Flock are the two GLARING omissions to me because they kicked butt everywhere more than anyone not inducted.
I can’t believe anyone would actually suggest Terry Labonte over Rusty Wallace. Rusty was the MAN on short tracks for over a decade for the most part, is one of the top ten winners, and was the #2 driver from 1986-1995. Is there ANY 10-year period where you could rank Terry as second? I can’t think of a 10-year period where you could rank Terry better than seventh maybe… While I might take somebody like Bonnett or Gant that I think is way more underrated than Allison/Kulwicki/Richmond (whom I almost see as overrated now because they get talked about WAY TOO MUCH relative to drivers who were just as good but didn’t have tragedies – or even those who did like Bonnett and Irvan), I would take almost anyone mentioned here over Terry. Terry is one of the weakest champions in the modern era, ahead of only his brother, and maybe Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, and Kurt Busch in my mind. It blows my mind that somebody would take him over Rusty due to the one additional title. I think the 30 additional wins trumps that!
As for the five I’d pick this year, I’m going to do it NASCAR style. They’re NEVER going to just take five drivers. They SHOULD for the next two or three years I think, but they’ll throw in a crew chief, car owner, promoter, or whoever each of those years. I HOPE Anne France never gets in. That’s one I don’t buy. I think I might take Felix Sabates or Ward Burton over her, and I WOULDN’T TAKE THEM.
My picks for 2013:
My picks for 2014:
My picks for 2015:
Red Byron OR Rex White (can’t decide)
I could see picking Allison, Kulwicki, or Richmond in 2016 or later, but definitely not all three of them together, and I’d personally want to see Gant and Bonnett first, since they predated them. I probably would take all three of them over Buddy Baker, another guy I see as overrated, so I agree with you there. Maybe I just don’t support second-generation drivers in general enough, as I think Davey Allison, Buddy Baker, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Dale Jarrett ALL get more hype than they warrant.
Terry Labonte? Sure, in ten years, but there are a LOT of people I want to see first.
Oh, and I think they should have rendered most of these discussions moot by inducting 10-20 people in the first class. Most Halls of Fame have really large classes, and taking both Frances over David Pearson seemed wrong to me in day one (they should have had a larger class to accommodate all of them).
As for the Hall of Fame being a France ego trip, there are sports with much lower status in the US that have Halls of Fame – bowling, ice skating, and volleyball for instance. THAT doesn’t bother me. Perhaps calling it a NASCAR Hall of Fame does bother me since most of the time the sanctioning body does not name the Hall of Fame after itself, so there’s that. Another thing is that the laughably biased International Motorsports Hall of Fame has way too many NASCAR drivers relative to those from other series (Formula One, IndyCar, sports cars, drag racing, etc…, etc… all get short shrift). I kind of viewed the IMHOF AS the NASCAR HoF for many years, so in a sense this is redundant.
I hope the NASCAR HoF doesn’t follow the IMHoF’s mistake in inducting Junie Donlavey. Hell of a nice guy, but one win over 40 years does not a Hall of Fame career make (and the IMHOF inducting Donlavey over his far more successful contemporary Bud Moore seems ludicrous).
Excellent article, Matt. IMO, NASCAR should have 2 lists one for the pre-TV era and one for the post-era and nominate 5 from each of them. Plus let NASCAR images put together some real programming about the pre-TV years (I’m sure they can do it – heck I’ve seen footage of the races on the beach at Daytona)and highlight those people’s talents. Then induct 10 per year, 5 from each list.
That way, you’d get the people in who are more familiar to the current fan base AND also induct deserving people who might not be as familiar.
I’ve read a lot of books about the history of NASCAR but not everyone enjoys that sort of thing. Speed used to run a tv program where the drivers sat and talked about things that had happened when they raced – it was fun to listen to and you could learn a lot too.
Great read Matt. Sean, wow,nice.