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.
Matt McLaughlin · Monday September 10, 2012
The Key Moment – On lap 313, Clint Bowyer managed to pass Ryan Newman and he never yielded that position the rest of the night.
The true turning point of the race, though, occurred at lap 277 when a caution flag flew for a light rain shower. Most of the leaders, including the dominant cars of Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. decided not to pit figuring given the late hour and dismal weather radar screens the race would not resume. When it became clear the green flag was going to fly again, both the Nos. 11 and 88 ducked into the pits and out of contention.
In a Nutshell – After a whole lot more waiting than racing, the Richmond event finally was bought to a satisfactory conclusion. But how many fans were still left awake to see it?
Dramatic Moment – Waiting to see if Bowyer would run out of gas in the waning laps.
Jeff Gordon’s headlong charge towards the front in a quixotic attempt to make the Chase showed flashes of the former four-time champion’s style we all thought he’d lost. Gordon’s second-place finish, combined with an unintended assist from the No. 18 pits allowed him to bypass Kyle Busch for the final wild card slot.
Truth be told, the drama in the Saturday night/Sunday morning’s race was more mathematical than due to on-track antics. The competitors’ attitude wasn’t “Let’s win one for the Gipper!” but rather, “Let’s get this thing over with so we don’t have to come back tomorrow” as they drove in the high groove, logging laps.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
What most folks will be talking about is football, my friends. They’ll be talking about NFL football; they’ll be talking about college football. In some culturally deprived areas of these United States, most notably Texas, they’ll even be talking about high school football in almost religious terms. If “The Chase” was supposed to help stem the football juggernaut, it has to be considered a miserable failure. (As a side note, it rather frightens me that I have friends and family members who have devoted a lot more time, study, and debate about drafting their NFL fantasy leagues than they are coming to some sort of decision on who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election.)
NASCAR and ESPN were desperate to get the Richmond race in Saturday night rather than launch into a head-to-head battle with the NFL on Sunday afternoon as the footballers kick off their regular season. Now we’ll just have to wait and see and which gets worse ratings: a Cup race scheduled head to head against the NFL or a Cup race that winds down at almost 1:45 AM EST. (You know, you can’t stop racing till quarter till 2, what’s a NASCAR racing fan to do?, folks at home were happier than those who were there, snoozing away in their recliner chairs, people were posting on Twitter they were mad, longest evening they ever had, watching the finish they finally got between Bowyer and Jeffy G.)
Cue up the theme music from Jaws. With the Chase set to start next week, NASCAR also issued a new technical bulletin “reaffirming” the rules that govern the front bushing of the truck arm (sometimes called a “track” arm) under Cup cars. So what is a truck arm? Well, the term originally derives from the fact the design was pirated from a mid ’60s Chevy truck, the first full size truck to have coil springs in the rear rather than leaf springs. The truck arms are the main component that locates the rear differential within a race car. (Poke a head under the back of a ’60s or ’70s Chevelle or GTO and you’ll get the idea.) By using softer durometer rubber in the front left bushing (and a harder bushing on the opposite side) where the truck arms pivot some teams have learned that since the angle of those pivots is only measured pre-race. That means they can design those bushings to wear and take a set with the rear end slightly skewed which gives a huge speed advantage in the corners.
Although the above reaffirmation of the rule as it reads naturally applies to all the Cup teams, many see it as a shot across the bow of the Hendrick Motorsports bunch and, most notably, a certain five-time champion and his No. 48 team. After struggling mightily to post a single victory to reach that elusive 200th win for the organization earlier this year, the HMS wrecking crew went on a hot streak this summer gathering wins with seeming ease. Anyone watching the No. 48 car couldn’t help noticing that thing was dog-walking (others have used the terms turkey-trotting and crab-walking) to such a notable degree it seemed sideways going down the straights. Other teams analyzed what was going on with the No. 48 car and have attempted to duplicate it with varying degrees of success. But as in most forms of human technical endeavor, the innovators will always have an advantage over the imitators who work hard to catch up with where the innovators were last month even as the innovators move forward. In addition, garage area gossip has it that the skewed race cars are more difficult to drive. Some wheelmen (most notably perhaps Johnson and Biffle) have adjusted their driving style to suit the new crab cars while others (including Gordon, Stewart, and Edwards) haven’t been able to do so as quickly. Johnson and Knaus have both stated the recent announcement is no big deal and won’t slow them down a lick, but I’m guessing behind the closed doors at HMS the midnight oil is burning and sweat is falling like blood clots to the ground as they try to adjust to the new reality. And yes, I think the copy of the technical directive forwarded to the No. 48 team included a handwritten post-script that noted, “Remember that big dustup we had after Daytona that you ultimately prevailed in? Just so you know, we haven’t forgotten it either. We’ll likely see you in the tech center again soon.”
The worst kept secret in the garage area became official this week with the announcement that Matt Kenseth will indeed be driving the Joe Gibb’s No. 20 car next season. I’ll give Kenseth style points because though the cat has long been out of the bag on this move, and he’s consistently declined comment when he addressed the huddled scribes to make things official he started by saying, “Surprise!” Truthfully, though I’ve known it was in the works for months, the decision by Kenseth to move from Ford to Toyota (despite the fact he’s solidly in contention for a title this year) continues a trend of Ford letting their star drivers leave the fold.
For every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction; in this case, Kenseth landing in the No. 20 car means Joey Logano had to land a new seat, absent a sponsor for a fourth team at JGR. The same day Kenseth made his “surprise” announcement it was confirmed Logano will be taking over the seat of the No. 22 car at Penske Racing, which is switching from Dodges to Fords next season. Logano has been blessed with top notch rides since he rose to the Cup ranks and the pressure will be on next year to prove he’s finally capable of running with the big dogs, week-in and week-out. Obviously, the seat in the No. 22 car has become a bit of a revolving door over the last few years and a lack of performance won’t be tolerated. What happens if Logano can’t produce? Well, what is Casey Atwood up to these days?
The odd man out in the Silly Season dance of musical chairs is Sam Hornish, who won’t be back in the No. 22 car next year, despite having done a journeyman’s job in that ride since being unexpectedly thrust into that role when AJ Allmendinger fell afoul of NASCAR’s substance abuse testing. In addition to serving as an emergency fill-in pilot in the No. 22, Hornish is also solidly in contention for this year’s N-W title, his day job. My guess is he’s wondering what else he has to do to secure a full-time Cup ride.
One driver who announced he won’t be swapping seats in 2013 is Ryan Newman, who signed a one-year deal to remain at SHR. Newman did note that since his car is currently unsponsored for next year, taking a pay cut was part of his new contract. Newman added he is hardly alone among the drivers in seeing his salary reduced. And you thought multimillionaires were exempt from the current economic turmoil? You start giving up a hundred grand there and a hundred grand here and all of a sudden you’re talking about real money! The “trickle down effect” will likely be seen as a result with exotic cars salespeople, Pilates instructors and souse chefs in the Charlotte area suddenly scrambling to make up lost income as well.
Another man who may be on the outside looking in is the talented but mercurial Kurt Busch. As things stand now, car owner James Finch says he will have to suspend operations at the end of the season. With no sponsorship dollars coming in, a fleet of wrecked race cars, and the need to build entirely new cars to meet the new 2013 rules, Finch says he’s finished. Of course, the only person in NASCAR who has announced his impending retirement more than Finch is Mark Martin. In trying to salvage his own career, the elder Busch brother has once again proven his own worst enemy. Though he’s backed it down a bit when it comes to his occasional lapse into bouts of boorish behavior (Oh, it’s you, Bob!) past history has kept sponsors shying away from the team as if Busch had leprosy. Or maybe worse. Leprosy can be cured… you can’t fix stupid.
Well on a brighter note, at least this year Kyle Busch won’t have to endure a brilliant multi-win start to the season only to piss away his championship chances in the Chase. This time out, he failed to make the cut and he’s only won one Cup race to date in 2012. Lookout, lookout, it’s the Candy-man, here he comes then he’s gone again…
This week’s wire did include one truly surprising announcement. Tony “Pops” Eury was released from the JR Motorsports N-W team despite being the full-blooded Uncle of the owners. It would seem Eury is a victim of Danica Patrick’s not living up to the hype that surrounded her first full season in NASCAR. Lord have mercy; I don’t think Junior Johnson, Smokey Yunick, and Maurice Petty combined in their primes could have that young lady consistently posting top-5 finishes.
In another troubling development, the principals at Richard Petty Motorsports have reportedly approached Richard Childress about potentially becoming a satellite team to RCR and campaigning Chevys next year with some technical support from the Bowtie Boys. It seems with Roger Penske et al joining the Ford ranks it’s pretty slim pickings for anyone but Roush and Penske in the Blue Oval camp. RPM had once been considered a strong choice to take over the Dodge program before the folks at Fiat decided to pack up their ball and glove and go home. RPM switching to Chevy next year would be far less surprising than the announcement back in 1978 the King was leaving Mopar and the ill-fated Dodge Magnum to campaign Chevys.
Listen, I can only write one of these columns every now and then. If you’re interested in reading my old history series, my friend Patty Kay is re-running them at a two installments a week pace over at Racersreunion.com.
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
Hamlin had the dominant car at Richmond and for much of the soggy evening, it seemed he was en route to his third straight Cup victory. That decision not to pit when rain once again pelted the track and the later need to pit with eight laps to go sent the No. 11 team packing with an eighteenth-place finish.
Although Junior was able to finish four places ahead of Hamlin, that fourteenth place result in no way reflects the strength the No. 88 showed much of the race.
Did Tony Stewart hand the lead to his teammate Ryan Newman on lap 300 in hopes Newman would go on and win the race and thus clinch a playoff berth? Things are pretty desperate right now at SHR racing with both the primary teams struggling to put together funding packages for 2013. You know the sponsorship situation is bleak when the reigning Cup champion loses his primary financial backer. But on a brighter note, Stewart will have Danica in a third car next year… oh, wait a minute.
A year after losing the Chase on a tiebreaker Carl Edwards missed the big show all together in 2012. Last year, pundits and scribes said Edwards lost the title because he focused too much on running in the N-W series on Saturdays. This year, they’re saying he missed the Chase because he gave up the chance to run those Saturday events. It’s tough to be him but at least he gets bunches of free sandwiches.
It appears Logano’s career with JGR will end not with a bang but a whimper. Logano struggled to finish thirtieth, four laps off the pace in a hopelessly uncompetitive Toyota. With his two teammates in the Chase Logano and No. 20 will likely be an afterthought at JGR for the rest of the season as Joey keeps Matt Kenseth’s seat warm for him.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
How close did Clint Bowyer and his team stretch it trying to win the race on fuel mileage? Although he won the race, Bowyer ran out of gas attempting to do post-race burnouts, forcing him to once again hoof it to Victory Lane absent his race car. Bowyer was in fact lucky to even finish the event after a skirmish with JP Montoya on lap 236 deflated a tire on the No. 15 and sent him spinning. Bowyer would later credit that unplanned pit stop with helping him win and thanked JPM for the assist.
Because he’s not a Chase contender, Mark Martin’s sprightly third-place finish (that occurred hours after his bed time) went largely unheralded.
Similarly and also of note, Jeff Burton’s sixth-place finish pretty much flew under the radar.
Jeff Gordon’s car was simply awful at the start of the race. Although his teammate Earnhardt kindly allowed the No. 24 to lead a lap to get (not earn) a bonus point, Gordon was soon slipping back through the field and eventually off the lead lap. During the first rain delay, the normally affable four-time champion appeared ready to strangle the life out of someone. But a radical call to disconnect the rear swaybar bought the No. 24 to life and allowed Gordon to finish second. That clinched him a playoff berth on a night Kyle Busch just couldn’t cut it.
After two near-misses, dominating the N-W and Cup races at Atlanta only to fall short, Harvick got some measure of vindication winning the Friday night event at Richmond.
All four of Rick Hendrick’s Chevy teams will be in the Chase this year.
After many seasons of futility, MWR has not one but two teams ready to compete for this year’s title. Half of the organization’s four Cup victories have been scored this season.
Bowyer has now won two races this season. The only other year he won twice was 2010 and he’s never won more than two Cup races in the same season.
Don’t look now, but Gordon has finished second or third his last three times out.
Part-timer Mark Martin (third) enjoyed his best result since the first Pocono race.
Tony Stewart (fourth) managed his first top-10 result in the last five races. Then again, Stewart entered last year’s Chase winless and questioning his own right to be part of the championship process and look how that played out.
Johnson ended the “regular season” with the most top 5 finishes (12) and tied with teammate Earnhardt for the most top 10s (17).
The top 10 finishers at Richmond drove five Chevys, two Fords, two Toyotas, and a Dodge.
Kenseth’s fifth-place finish was his first top 5 since the Firecracker 400. Surprise!
Keselowski rides into the Chase with top 10 finishes in nine of the last ten races. Still want to presumptively hand that sixth title to Johnson?
Newman’s eighth-place finish was a lovely parting gift for one of those drivers you won’t be seeing on ESPN again for the rest of the season. Newman hasn’t had a top 5 outing since Daytona in July. Those thirteen laps Newman led at Richmond Saturday were the first laps he’d led since Martinsville. No, seriously, look it up.
Harvick has top 10 results in both races since Gil Martin returned atop his pit box.
Hornish has finished 12th or better in five of his last six Cup starts.
Johnson (13th) has averaged a nineteenth place finish in his last four runs.
Carl Edwards still hasn’t managed a top 5 result since Las Vegas.
*What’s the Points *
The fussing, calculating, alternate scenarios, and “if points were awarded now” graphics have been laid to rest. We now know who the 12 contenders for this year’s Cup title will be.
With his four Cup victories to date Hamlin, enters the Chase atop the standings. He leads Johnson, Stewart, and Brad Keselowski (each of whom have won three races this year) by three points.
Biffle and Bowyer, with two wins apiece, are six points behind Hamlin in the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively. Earnhardt and Kenseth each have a single victory and are ranked seventh and eighth.
Harvick and Truex, though winless to date this season, are ranked ninth and tenth. Try explaining that to stick and ball sports fans.
With two wins Kasey Kahne takes the first Wild Card slot but doesn’t get bonus points for his victories. (I swear Alfred E. Neumann—no relation to Ryan—of Mad magazine must have dreamt up the championship format.)
If you haven’t heard Gordon supplanted Kyle Busch for the final playoff spot you just haven’t been paying attention.
Under the traditional points system at this juncture of the season, with ten races left to run, we’d still have an exciting race to the title with Biffle 12 points ahead of Earnhardt and 17 points ahead of Kenseth. Johnson would be lurking within striking distance, 34 points out of the lead. But, sigh, that interesting run at the title is not to be because it’s highly unlikely Brian France (who was notably absent at Richmond early Sunday morning) is going to come to his senses after all these years.
If your favorite driver isn’t listed above, it’s time to pick a new favorite. For the rest of the season NASCAR and the TV folks aren’t going to mention or take note of anyone but the Chosen 12 unless some other driver manages to put themselves through the catch fence upside down and on fire. It frustrates the team owners, infuriates those teams’ sponsors and wears thin on the drivers but in the inestimable wisdom of Mr. Mike Helton, “At the end of the day, it is what is.” All in a dream, all in a dream, the loading had begun, flying Mother NASCAR’s silver 12 to their new home in the sun…..”
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — Well, it wasn’t the best race I’ve ever seen and it wasn’t the worst race I’ve ever seen but it certainly was the latest race I’ve ever seen, at least since Daytona many years ago. We’ll give it three 12 ounce cans of Red Bull because that’s what I needed to stay awake for the end.
Next Up – The circuit heads off to Joliet and I return to work. But remember, it’s a 106 miles from Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, a half pack of smokes, it’s dark out and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it.
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And I thought you were gone for good…. Please don’t forget how I bested you before, and I’ll do it again if needed.
Side note – please don’t cop out and call me racist for no reason. I already lost all respect for you once.
Matt, what a nice surprise to find your recap this morning! Love the Neil Young reference too…how very appropriate.
Right on and write on Matt.
“After the Gold Rush” by Jimmy Fallon, right?
Kyle didn’t make the chase. Kurt didn’t make the chase and may not have a ride next year. Things may get pretty ugly on the track for any driver who pisses either of those two off between now and the end of the season.
I wonder if Nascar would have done anything about those Hendrick “truck arms” if Brad Keselowski hadn’t made his comments about them in the media. On top of being one of the best drivers in the sport, Keselowski is one pretty smart guy.
I think I’ll pull for Earnhardt Jr. to win the championship. Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain… with the barkers and the colored balloons.
remember, clint drives for mwr and they have a past with funny fuel.
no way made it to end of race. what i saw i was tired of the will he/won’t he make the chase of those guys who were fighting for wildcard spot.
i’m sure brad k’s comments to media a few weeks back got na$car to look at that particular team’s rear ends. i’m still surprised, well maybe we don’t know, that na$car didn’t hit him with a secret fine for those comments about their goose with the golden egg.
still scratching my head about logano to penske.
i’m surprised stewart didn’t have a hissy fit with espn for showing his profile as he walked down pit road. his love of whoppers makes for a bad profile shot of his body. maybe he should court “spanx” as a sponsor.
as a side note…..i read article in usatoday on sunday where alex zanardi won gold at the paraolympics in great britan for a race he particpated in. seeing his picture with the gold medal and looking fantastic was heart warming. it was mentioned in his article that he still wants to run indy and that he’s a racer at heart. sure wished some car owner would make his wish come true. AZ was so much fun to watch race. still remember that horrible day. but it’s so great to see it hasn’t darkened his drive and desire in life.
Great to see your name pop up on the Frontstretch this morning Matt. Come back by as often as you can! As for the race, it was good to see Gordon get the last spot in the Chase at Busch’s expense.
Listen, Randy, you’ve grown tiresome. There are so many NASCAR related websites out there the only reason anyone who wants to write about the sport probably can. There are two things keeping you from doing so; a woeful lack of talent and a lack of ambition that borders on sloth. Go find your own place and develop your own cadre of readers. Stop trying to hang your hat on the peg I whittled. You’ll never take over this column. I still have enough pull here to see such a thing never happens.
As I understand the technical bulletin from NASCAR, the Hendrick innovation is allowed but the bulletin sets parameters. So Knaus and company can continue to use this tactic and the Penske’s of the world know the boundaries (wasn’t that Keselowski’s complaint?). Maybe it will level the field or maybe the evil geniuses at Hendrick are pulling a rope-a-dope on the rest of the chase field.
If the tech bulletin hurts the performance at Hendrick, Keselowski insured that he won’t be a factor in the chase (look out for cars in the Hendrick satellite Brad K.). My guess is Dale Jr. pulls a Carl Edwards’s second place to Denny Hamlin’s four win championship. Jimmy Johnson wins two races but has two DNFs. The MWR make noise early on but fade in the stretch while Jack’s cars are inconsistent though one wins at ‘dega. Brad does a Kyle Busch and everyone who hates him makes his chase miserable. There’s a price to be paid for being vocal and antagonistic.
Great to see you back! I was missing your wonderful comments!
It’s always a great way to start Monday morning with a Matt McLaughlin recap.
And finally we start the Chase. Who the heck came up with this idea? Oh yeah, our infamous BF who hasn’t had a clear thought in years. I’m so sick of hearing nothing but “who’s going to get the wildcard spots”, the actual Chase will be an afterthought. The driver seeded first is a full race back in points. I can’t think of a better way to get fans scurrying to the NFL. WTG big Brian.
Sometimes I think I’ve been addicted to this sport too long and just need to back away.
I guess there could be retaliation by HMS or it’s satellite teams against Keselowski, but who’s gonna do it? All of the HMS teams have made the chase and have their own welfare to consider. You can’t win a championship if you’re not completely focused on the task at hand and not outside distractions. The same goes for Tony Stewart. That pretty much leaves Ryan Newman to do Rick’s dirty work, or a driver for another team that’s in Hendrick’s pocket. I just don’t see it, but I’ll admit it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.
matt…loved seeing you were here…classic matt line:
I used to really look forward to Richmond race – but this wasn’t too bad I guess. The Gordon turn around was something – even with all the delays and Kyle’s own problems.
Come on back anytime!!
Wow, three drivers within 34 points of the lead, is much more exciting than 12 drivers within 12 points of the lead? Guess we have different definitions of exciting. And how is ignoring the non-12 Chase drivers at the end of the season any different than past years when only the drivers who were in the title hunt were focused on?
I feel like a stranger to this page after years of reading Matt’s comments. Where has Matt been and why can he only write this column every once in a while?
Hi, Matt! Really nice to see your column today and since I was already happy that JG made it into the chase over Busch-league, it was 2 nice surprises in a row.
Saturday night, I kept saying, I’m going to bed, I’m going to bed since with the rain and the fact that the 24 car looked so awful before that one rain delay, I figured it wasn’t worth losing sleep over. I was wrong. I wound up staying up and watching it to the end and it was happiness supreme.
Bill, go read Matt’s column before this one.
Matt is back!
1) I missed you Matt.
2) Your writing is exceptional and I wish this column were twice as long. At minimum, I hope you’ll give us a commentary when the season wraps.
3) Look up the definitions of souse and sous-chef. If your chef is a souse, don’t let him near the kitchen knives, especially if his last name is Busch.
Good to see you back for a visit, Matt.
I actually stayed conscious for the entire race and I seemed to come alive just when JG’s car did. I was a happy girl when that race finished.
Hope to see you back soon.
You tell ‘em Matt, way to go! Randy, is your real last name France?
Second time in the last week or so I had to do a double take at the screen, seeing your name there.
HeyMatt, So glad to see you today. Now I remember why I miss you soooo much ! Good article ,Fun article and had a lot of laughs ! thanks a lot!
Ahh, like rain in the desert… another Matt column! Thanks for the visit, my friend!
Huh. Someone finally wrote the truth about DP?
Yay! This was a great surprise to see this morning. Thanks Matt!
Thought I would take a look at the column this morning and to my great surprise it is you writing another fantastic recap from your great perspective. Please pop in whenever you can.
Nice to see your article. Great as always and hope you can pop in occasionaly.
Good to see you back in business Matt. One column every once in a while is better than never.