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 · Thursday December 6, 2012
Editor’s Note: Our apologies on being a day late and a dollar short on posting Part II. After all, it is the offseason! For Part I of Matt’s look back on the end of 2012, click here.
The second incident that drew a lot of casual and non-fan’s attention, and recall this was nine months later, was Jeff Gordon’s mental meltdown at Phoenix when he decided to wreck Clint Bowyer, a thuggish move that also collected Joey Logano. As soon as I arrived at work, my co-workers wanted to know, “what the hell was that all about and what is NASCAR going to do about it?” They wanted to know if Gordon had actually been in the melee by the pit box throwing punches and if Bowyer had ever caught up with him. None of them had actually been watching the race, but they’d seen the coverage of the incident on SportsCenter while waiting to see the highlights of that afternoon’s NFL action. Among the more informed fans (and customers) the general consensus was, “If Kyle Busch got parked for wrecking Hornaday in that Truck race, Gordon needs to sit out this weekend.” Others harbored darker thoughts. Gordon was, after all well and truly out of title contention. His teammate (in fact, Gordon is listed as de facto owner of the No. 48 team) was engaged in a tight title bout with Keselowski. Charging into the picture was a surprisingly resurgent Bowyer, looking to spoil the party as third in points. That little late race dust-up eliminated any chances Bowyer had for winning the big prize. Team orders? I’d like to think not. Gordon is one of the elder statesmen of the sport. His character and talent have been tested numerous times in the heat of title battles and races. Only very occasionally has his temper flared out of control on or off the track. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not surprised if others think something smells rotten in Denmark.
From the same perspective, let me tell you what nobody was talking about at the store this year. First and foremost, they weren’t talking about NASCAR. Nobody seemed interested in the title battle between Johnson and Keselowski as it waxed and waned during the Chase. Nobody seemed concerned that Busch and Kevin Harvick were struggling down the stretch. Nobody really seemed to give a damn that after a stellar 2011 season, Carl Edwards couldn’t seem to get out of his own way. If there was any moaning and hand-wringing Dodge was leaving the sport, I never heard it online or in person. What seems to have stopped mattering worth a large pile of legumes to NASCAR itself is that the Bean Channel is probably getting bigger ratings. NASCAR TV audiences are down, and down at an alarming rate. But those who are supposed to care? They don’t seem to. Yeah, I’ve read this one before. The HMS Titanic is unsinkable, sir, we’re just stopping off for a bit of ice.
Have you nothing to say positive, you cranky old bastard, some of you are thinking by now. I do indeed and let me shout it from the rooftop. In a break of character worthy of Lindsay joining a cloistered order of Nuns, NASCAR decided to try something radical next year. If you hadn’t heard, next year the Truck Series will head to a short track, a decade after weeding most such tracks from the schedule even though that’s where the Truck Series was birthed. And this isn’t just any short track where the trucks will race. This is Eldora, a tiny little dirt track owned by Tony Stewart and legendary amongst the Outlaws ranks. That’s right; a top-tier NASCAR series is going to take them out and get them dirty. I’ve espoused the idea of a NASCAR Touring series returning to the dirt for a decade but as I’ve done so, I’ve always felt like a kid who lives in an apartment in the Bronx asking for a pony for Christmas.
Running the trucks on a dirt track is no simple business. They’ll need a new aero package for Eldora that doesn’t give one manufacturer an advantage. Goodyear is going to have to develop a special tire for the event, perhaps even one with tread if there’s to be a good race this July. Perhaps almost as astounding is this event won’t be a Friday night race. The race is scheduled for a Wednesday night. That will allow Cup regulars, N-W competitors, and even drivers from other disciplines of racing (several have expressed interest) a chance to compete. Midweek summer races are another cause I have promoted for years while feeling like a monkey seeking self-gratification in a gum-gum tree.
This idea isn’t NASCAR just pushing the edges of the envelope. It’s NASCAR tearing the envelope to shreds, tossing the pieces aside, hopping off the desk and heading down the basement to the rumba room, limbo sticks in hand. It’s NASCAR finally listening to disenfranchised fans who can’t stomach the bland fare they’ve been serving up in all three touring series the last decade. Maybe the Eldora race will be a disaster, with only a few trucks finishing and the winner two laps ahead of the field. I don’t think that will happen, but even if it does this experiment is a noble one worth trying. NASCAR, after a decade of denial, is finally listening to the fans. We’ll have to wait until July to see how the experiment works out and I, for one can’t count the days until it does. I wish I could say the same about a longer race they’ll be holding in late February in Daytona…
Speaking of Bowyer, who deserves the honor of NASCAR’s “Driver of the Year?” Well, Brad Keselowski of course. All drivers compete for the prize but only one gets the Big Enchilada. However, the first runner-up has to be Bowyer. Recall, a little over a year ago Bowyer was damaged goods, unsure where he’d be driving in 2012 after the loss of his sponsor(s) at RCR. (Mainly General Mills.) In an almost unprecedented deal, Bowyer approached Childress with money on the table, a letter of intent from 5-Hour Energy to sponsor a full-time effort in the Cup Series for 2012. In an even more unprecedented move, given the state of the economy and the sport Childress turned down that option. It didn’t fit with his long-term plan for RCR, one which obviously involves his two grandsons. (Even stalwart Kevin Harvick has seen what’s going on and decided to bail after 2013. Childress has pretty much indicated he doesn’t give a damn and he’s got sponsorship in place for his grandson even if Bud bails with Harvick.) Left with limited to no options, Bowyer signed with Michael Waltrip Racing, an organization that quite frankly had been a joke people, including Toyota, were getting tired of. To walk into that situation, that late in the year and to end up winning three times (at a road course, a short track and a superspeedway) was impressive. To total 23 top-10 finishes overall, making the Chase and finishing second in points with a new car on that team is nothing short of amazing.
Conversely, the biggest disappointment in the sport this year has got to be RCR. Yeah, Harvick kind of backed into the Chase but he was never a factor once it began. He ended up eighth in the standings and, of course, posted that one win at Phoenix in what amounted to a battle of “Last Man Standing” when NASCAR failed to throw a caution flag late whilst Harvick was in the midst of running out of gas. His two teammates, Paul Menard and Jeff Burton, struggled to finish sixteenth and nineteenth in the points, respectively. Between the three full-time RCR teams, the drivers managed eight of a possible 108 top-5 finishes, about a seven and a half percent batting average. Things were a bit brighter on the other side of the shop, where apparently the money and attention were being spent. Austin Dillon won twice and finished third in the points, while younger brother Ty won once and finished fourth in the points. Both Dillon brothers, down the stretch appeared serious title contenders but late-season problems bit them both. Meanwhile, for reasons not readily apparent late in the year Elliott Sadler, who once appeared a shoe-in for the N-W title became persona non-gratis and was set afloat on an ice drift. I have no idea what was going on at RCR this year, but I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall to capture the behind-the-scenes soap opera that increasingly featured the Dillon boys.
The official name of the ceremonies leading up to the Awards Banquet? “Strip Seize.” Classy guys, very classy. Did anyone else, even Brian France his very own self, note that the Betty Jean France Humanitarian Award was being given out during “Strip Tease”? I sure did.
So what did I think of the Awards Banquet itself? To be frank, I didn’t watch it. I had to floss my teeth that night. The ceremony has become so lame that I simply can’t. It’s that bad. I don’t care if it’s in Las Vegas, New York, Tucson, Tucumcari, Tehachapi, or Tonopah. It has become, as I have said before, a three-hour commercial which is often interrupted by commercials. It all spun out of control too many years ago to count. That year, Bill France, Jr. was unable to attend the big party as he was hospitalized. Naturally, he was watching the extravaganza but nature called and he had to use the restroom. When he returned, the broadcast was showing some bizarre act where people were dancing and performing gymnastics while twisted up in curtains. “Who the Hell changed the channel?” a baffled France asked. Well Mr. France, let’s be frank. This year, everyone who tried to endure the awards broadcast changed the channel, probably within 15 minutes. They could catch their favorite driver’s comments later that night on YouTube and probably didn’t bother. In its prime, the banquet was a silly diversion. Its now become an annoying test of endurance. Change the channel, please.
Here’s an oddity from the awards nightmare. This year’s “Sponsor of the Year” (Well, actually, Marketing Achievement Award) went to Mars. As best I recall, Vile Kyle, won once this year, at Richmond, missed the Chase and finished 13th in the points. I’m clueless as to how much candy that sold but will admit I still feel dirty when I very occasionally buy a sack of M and M’s out of habit. About the last notable thing Mars did was to sit out the last few races of last year after their driver’s reprehensible behavior, but they didn’t have the balls to fire his ass. My vote for Sponsor Of The Year? (And as you know, NASCAR relentlessly hounds me for my input every season): Miller Brewing. It would be unfair to say this longtime supporter hasn’t enjoyed some success along the way. But Miller hasn’t won a title since 1983, when Bobby Allison drove the white and red Miller car yet they’ve stuck around anyway. Mars ain’t no sort of place to raise your kids; in fact, it’s cold as hell.
Here’s a shocker out of Vegas. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won Most Popular Driver honors for the tenth time in a row, matching Bill Elliott’s record. Junior’s fans have a turn out the vote effort every year that would be the envy of the Obama campaign, just as Elliott’s partisans did every year until he asked them to stop. I’m rather tired of the whole sham. Let’s at least make it meaningful. Right now, fans can vote for their favorite driver at no cost as many times as they want. Let each driver nominated for the award name a charity. Let fans vote for any driver as many times as they want, but let each vote result in a one dollar charge towards their credit card posted to their driver’s charity. All votes exercised result in a donation, not just the winner’s. Sure, there will be a lot fewer ties, but a lot more good will result from what has, in fact become a meaningless exercise.
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“…Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made. Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed.” Little Feat
I am that fat man in the bathtub with the blues.
Just how is “Sponsor of the Year” determined? Shouldn’t a humanitarian sponsor like the Drive to End Hunger win it? Surely it’s not just about politics and money…
HAHAHAH I think less people care about Matt’s awful writing than they do about NASCAR.
Pull a Mark Martin and retire again… oh wait, you would have to have been good and or relevant once to be like Mark Martin.
Thanks for indulging me with the Elton reference.
And thanks for two good articles.
Merry Christmas Matt.
I hope Amy Henderson reads this article.
I live in the south and very few people talk or care about nascar anymore. Even local sports talk shows avoid it unless they can’t help it.
And just wait until there’s 8 Hendrick cars with Stewart-Hass moving to 4 cars.
The only reason nascar will consider changes is if they lose money. Well, with even ‘dega losing butts in seats we’ll see what the Nascar mafia bosses will do.
Smokey Yunick said great drivers like Dale was are good for an extra 50 horse power. Dale is what made RCR great.
More short tracks will definitely help. Eldora for trucks is a bold move by Nascar – really shocking they have it in them. Maybe some hope?
Maybe the new car will help.
Still think Dodge leaving is a worse sign than others seem to think.
Almost no one talks about Nascar unless it is something they see on ESPN. Younger folks really don’t care. Big trouble for Nascar – like Red Bull knew.
Thanks for the return Matt.
i know they’re not top tier series…does arca still race on dirt? i know years ago they did, and that race was always crazy and fun to watch.
A nice article except one thing.
enjoyable article matt
tony knows how to run a dirt track but does nascar know how to run a race on dirt? i fear for that race and as excited as i am for it i’m really trying to keep my expectations low.
RG, you’re a moron.
Fun read Matt. Let’s also not forget that the Trucks are coming to my home road course of Mosport next year too! First road course for them in like 10 years. My camper’s already packed for the weekend!
One thing I admire about NASCAR drivers is how uncomfortable they look in suits and ties—even Jeff and Jimmy can’t go “full corporate” with ease.
I believe that this year, fans were limited to voting for their driver choice to once a day rather than as often as they wanted…not that it would make much difference, but it has changed a bit.
yes ARCA still runs 2 dirt races, unfortunately speed channel chooses not to televise them, but insist on showing only the incredibly exciting tracks such as pocono, kansas, chicago
the eldora race will be chock full of cup “superstars” showing us how great they are on dirt. hmmmm wonder how many truck regulars will get punted out of the way