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.
Countdown To Daytona Beach · Matt McLaughlin · Sunday February 11, 2007
Editor’s Note : The following is part nine of Matt McLaughlin’s 11-part series on the history of racing at Daytona. Miss the first eight editions? Don’t worry…we have the links for you here. Enjoy!
Part One 1949-1958
Dale Earnhardt must have felt his blood pressure rise whenever he recalled the Daytona 500 of 1990, and who can blame him? For another driver, though, it was the high point of his career altogether.
Ken Schrader won the pole position for the third straight year, continuing his streak of every event since the restrictor plate was reintroduced at Daytona. Schrader’s luck turned bad in the first qualifier, however, as a last lap crash wiped out the car and forced Schrader to a backup. Geoff Bodine, debuting with the team owned by master strategist Junior Johnson, used a “No Pit” strategy to take the win instead. Harry Gant, Mark Martin, and Darrell Waltrip trailed the Budweiser Ford to the line. Crowd favorite Richard Petty had bought the partisan crowd to their feet by leading 14 laps in the middle stages of the event before having to pit, dropping to fifth position in the final rundown.
While everyone knew Earnhardt was strong that year, there was a big surprise in the second qualifier, as crusty old veteran Dick Trickle took the lead on the 22nd lap and kept Earnhardt at bay. Finally, Earnhardt made it around Trickle with three laps to go, and a heartbeat later Trickle ran out of gas. Trickle’s car slowed suddenly, and Bill Elliott who was in hot pursuit to try to run down Dale, knocked into the rear of Dick’s car and sent him spinning. Elliott managed to finish second, a half second behind Dale. Another surprise, Jimmy Spencer, came home third.
A NASCAR decision before the race that year set off a firestorm of controversy. As most people interpreted the rules, Schrader having to go to a backup car meant he lost his pole position and had to start from the rear. Indeed, that had happened to Cale Yarborough back in 1983. But NASCAR decided while Schrader would have to go to the rear of the field, he would retain credit for the pole position. The importance of that seemingly quaint decision was that the UNOCAL 76 Bonus, for a driver that won a race from the pole, starting at 7,600 dollars and adding 7,600 dollars more each week until the prize was claimed, was up to 212,800 dollars, substantially more than the prize money for winning the event. Dale Earnhardt, who qualified second, was incensed, voicing his opinion he should be the man driving for a chance at the big pay day. Of course, you never wanted to have to race with Dale Earnhardt when he was angry…it tended to make him faster.
The green flag dropped for the 1990 Daytona 500 and Dale Earnhardt got gone, storming into the lead and relinquishing it only long enough to for pit stops for the black jet posing as a Chevrolet race car. Equally impressive was Schrader, who had started in the 40th position but was up to second after the first 40 laps. Shortly thereafter, though, Schrader lost an engine, and it seemed Dale Earnhardt was in complete control of the event. He did, in fact, lead 155 of 200 laps that day, including the white flag lap. Unfortunately, he did not lead lap 200. Earnhardt had a clear advantage over Derrike Cope, who was running a surprisingly strong second, and thrilled to be there, driving the No. 10 Purloator Ford for Bob Whitcomb. In corner number two on the last lap, the infamous Chicken Bone Alley, Earnhardt cut down a tire, legend says when he ran over a chicken bone tossed onto the track by a slovenly fan. Earnhardt felt the tire deflating, but with victory so close, didn’t lift off the throttle in a desperate attempt to get back to the checkered flag before the tire blew. He made it to the third corner, where the tire let loose and Earnhardt headed for the wall. Derrike Cope slipped underneath him, with Terry Labonte and a hard charging Bill Elliott in his wake…they finished in that order at the line, with Cope collecting his first ever Cup victory in the 500. Ricky Rudd finished fourth, and in a bit of a miracle, Earnhardt managed to keep his Chevy out of the wall, coming home a heartbreaking fifth. The UNOCAL bonus ended up rolling over two more races, with Kyle Petty finally claimed the prize at 228,000 dollars (plus the 64,000 dollar first prize check and a Rolls Royce thrown in by a grateful Felix Sabates) at Rockingham. Ironically, that was more than Cope won for the Daytona 500, even without the car.
New pit stop rules greeted the Winston Cup regulars when they paid their February pilgrimage to Daytona in 1991. Bill Elliott’s crew member Mike Ritch had been killed in a pit road accident during the last race of 1990 when Ricky Rudd hit some oil and crushed Ritch into the side of Elliott’s car while he was changing a rear tire. To try to eliminate the danger on pit road, new NASCAR rules forbid changing tires under caution flag periods. Security was also extremely tight at the track that year, because the United States was involved in Operation Desert Storm and there were fears of a terrorist attack. Like during the fuel crises, economic uncertainty about the war had some companies reluctant to commit to a promotional expense like sponsoring a race car. Thus, several good teams showed up to the Daytona 500 without sponsorship. In a patriotic move, R.J. Reynolds arranged to have five cars painted in the colors of the five branches of the armed services. The most famous, of course, was Alan Kulwicki in the Army car, but the others were Mickey Gibbs with Air Force colors, Buddy Baker with the Marine colors, Greg Sacks carrying the Navy sponsorship, and Dave Marcis in the Coast Guard car.
Davey Allison, who had earned the pole for the 500, took the first qualifier race in convincing style, leading flag-to-flag. His victory was sealed when a crash involving World of Outlaws star Sammy Swindell and road race ace Dorsey Schroeder bought out the caution with two laps to go. Looking like the King of old, Richard Petty made a daring pass on Hut Stricklin to come home second. Stricklin, who was running the Bobby Allison motorsports car, gave his boss, who had finally returned to the race track after the 1988 Pocono wreck, something extra to cheer about. Dale Earnhardt led every lap of the second qualifier, though Ernie Irvan made a gallant charge at the end that involved a little beating and banging to make a race out of it. Kyle Petty came home third.
The race proved to be an exciting one, relatively incident-free for most of the event. There were 21 lead changes in all among nine different drivers, and several fresh faces found themselves in the mix for the win. Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt led most of the race, but Rick Mast, Kyle Petty, Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvan, Joe Ruttman and Sterling Marlin all took their turn at the front as well. Of course, if you take all those fast drivers, mix them with worn tires because no one could afford to pit under green for fresh rubber, add in the dwindling laps in the race, the pressure of the biggest event of the year, and bake them in the heat of the Florida sun, you had a perfect recipe for disaster. Things started to go wrong on lap 185 when Robby Gordon (yes, that Robby Gordon) ran into Richard Petty, wrecking both cars and bringing out the yellow. Normally, all the leaders would have pitted for fresh rubber at that point for the final shootout, but the new pit road rule forbade them to do so. That meant Rusty Wallace took the green flag after the caution in the lead, but his tires were so worn Dale Earnhardt made quick work of Rusty, with Ernie Irvan following in Dale’s wake. Kyle Petty tried to pass Wallace as well but slid up the track, making contact with the Miller sponsored car and causing chaos in the process. A nasty wreck ensued, one that also eliminated Darrell Waltrip, Derrike Cope, Harry Gant, and Hut Stricklin. Petty was able to continue, but his car was too torn up to hope to win the race. The green flag flew again with five laps to go, and Ernie Irvan stunned race day favorite Dale Earnhardt by getting a jump on him and passing him into the first corner. Davey Allison tried to muscle past Earnhardt as well, and as they fought over second Irvan opened a comfortable lead. Earnhardt was trying to go low on Allison when his worn tires caused Dale to spin out and collect Allison in the process, putting Davey hard into the wall. As Earnhardt spun down the track, Kyle Petty hit him head on. Earnhardt was able to get his car pointing in the right direction, but Allison and Petty had to be towed of the back straight. That bought out another caution and Irvan limped to the finish line under yellow, nursing a car that was cutting out due to a fuel pickup problem. Sterling Marlin, Joe Ruttman, and Rick Mast (in only his third Winston cup start) finished 2-3-4; Earnhardt recovered for fifth. Dale Jarrett, in his debut in the Wood Brothers car finished sixth after surviving those wild last 15 laps. Meanwhile, Alan Kulwicki had the best finish of any of the Armed Forces cars, finishing eighth.
After the race, there were some heated exchanges, with Allison having some pretty pointed words for Earnhardt after their tangle. Wallace was also furious with Kyle Petty and throwing around some 5000 dollar words. Petty played the peacemaker, saying none of the incidents were any driver’s fault; instead, the fault lay with NASCAR’s new pit road rules that had had everyone out there skating around on badly worn tires. While the rules made pit road safer, they turned the last fifteen laps of the 1991 Daytona 500 into a high speed demolition derby. Most of the drivers echoed Kyle’s sentiments given a little time to cool off. NASCAR tried several solutions, some more ridiculous than others, before adopting the present day pit road speed limits to try to keep crew members safe.
There had been a major game of musical chairs as far as driver seats during the off season leading up to the 1992 Daytona 500. Dale Jarrett had left the Wood Brothers team to drive for a new team owned by Washington Redskins heads coach Joe Gibbs, and Morgan Shepherd had gotten the nod for the Wood Brothers’ ride. The move that had everyone talking, however, was Bill Elliott leaving his family team to drive for Junior Johnson. The “Dream Team,” involving the legendary car owner and driver, seemed poised for a big debut at Daytona, as both Junior and Bill had had a lot of success there. In a mild upset, however, it was Elliott’s Junior Johnson stablemate Sterling Marlin who edged out Bill for the pole. Elliott qualified for the outside pole, making it an all Junior Johnson front row. Also evident on pole day that the Fords were going to be a force to reckon with. Dale Earnhardt, who qualified third in his Chevy, was the only bowtie representative to end up in the top six cars.
The other big story at the ’92 Daytona 500 was that the event marked the first race of Richard Petty’s farewell “Fan Appreciation Tour”. On pole day the King, a seven time Daytona 500 winner, posted the tenth fastest speed.
The first qualifier that year was a shootout between Sterling Marlin in his Ford and Dale Earnhardt in his Chevy. For everyone else, it was a battle of survival as several jarring wrecks decimated the field. Richard Petty was swept up in an early wreck that also ruined the chances of Alan Kulwicki, Terry Labonte, and A.J. Foyt. Earnhardt took off after the green waved again, but Marlin was able to catch and pass him; Earnhardt got into the back of Marlin five laps later and sent him spinning. To Earnhardt, it was “one of them racing deals”. Sterling had a decidedly less sunny attitude towards the wreck. Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett tangled later in the event, giving Joe Gibbs his first taste of how tough a business racing can be as he watched a brand new car wiped out. As the checkered flag flew, it was Earnhardt who streaked by with the win; Mark Martin came home second and Ernie Irvan finished third. Bill Elliott won the second qualifier, as expected, but to do so he had to hold off a determined challenge from Morgan Shepherd and the Wood Brothers Ford. Davey Allison bought his Ford home third.
At Daytona, you have to have horsepower, you have to be running at the finish, and you need a car that can handle the high banks, but some days what you need more than anything else is a little good luck. Such was the case at the 1992 event. Sterling Marlin and Bill Elliott were easily the class of the field and dominated the race early in the going. A brief rain shower bought out the caution flag, and when racing resumed Elliott and Marlin were running side-by-side for the lead. Ernie Irvan tried to dive low and pass them both at once going into turn two. The cause of the incident that followed is still a matter of considerable debate, though at the time Irvan received most of the blame…but the outcome was vivid. The three cars came together, Elliott hit the wall, and Katie-Bar-The-Door, the ensuing wreck seemed to go on forever as most of the front runners were swept up into the mess. In addition to Elliott, Irvan, and Marlin, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip, Hut Stricklin, and Kenny Schrader all had their cars seriously damaged. Alan Kulwicki and Richard Petty received lesser damage and were able to continue, but their hopes for a win had vanished in the clouds of tire smoke along the backstretch. Davey Allison deserved a Harry Houdini award because he was right in the midst of things when the accident started but went high and cleared the wreck without suffering any damage. Allison and Morgan Shepherd then battled for the rest of the afternoon as the wounded cars slowly began returning to the track looking like Saturday Night modifieds, sans their front end sheetmetal. In the end, Allison prevailed over Shepherd by two car lengths while Geoff Bodine, Alan Kulwicki and Dick Trickle rounded out the top five. Ever gracious, Davey told reporters while the Daytona 500 was the biggest win of his career, it had been more of a thrill to finish second to his dad, Bobby, in the 1988 event. The 91st lap wreck eventually played a significant factor in that year’s title chase. Had Bill Elliott finished within 12 laps of the leader, a near certainty as fast as his car was, he would have been the 1992 Winston Cup champion.
Some things never seem to change. Going into the 1993 Daytona 500 Dale Earnhardt was an odds-on favorite to finally claim the one race that had eluded him. However, on pole day it was Kyle Petty who took the top spot. Kyle had a little extra incentive to run well that year; car owner Felix Sabates had offered Kyle a one million dollar bonus to win the Daytona 500. It seemed appropriate, however, in the first Daytona 500 since Richard Petty’s retirement that his son should claim the pole. For sentimental fans it was doubly nice that the Dale Jarrett, son of two time Grand National champion Ned Jarrett, started alongside Kyle on the front row. The new generation of drivers was now clearly in control.
An even newer face on the scene stunned everyone by winning the first qualifier race of 1993. Jeff Gordon, who had made his first Winston Cup start at the 1992 season finale in Atlanta, passed Daytona Master Bill Elliott on the 22nd lap of the event and never lost that lead, despite Elliott’s determined efforts to get around him. Bill Elliott finished second, while Kyle Petty came home third. In the second qualifier, another second generation driver by the name of Dale Earnhardt won the event, holding off a hard driving Geoff Bodine in the process. Indy car legend Al Unser, Jr. made in an inauspicious debut in the Winston Cup series that year, running a fourth entry out of the Rick Hendrick stables: A cut tire on the tenth lap put Unser hard into the wall and relegated him to 25th place. Fortunately, his qualifying speed got him into the big show. Dale Jarrett, in his sophomore season with Joe Gibbs racing, came home third.
Earnhardt showed he meant business the following Sunday, storming into the lead on lap seven for the first time, and once again leading the most laps of the Daytona 500. His day was not without incident, however; Al Unser, Jr. might not have realized it’s wise at Daytona to give a certain black car with a big white number 3 on the side a wide berth. Unser had been making a determined charge through the field when he and Dale got into a little argument over the same piece of real estate in the third corner. A moment later, Little Al was spinning off the track and was struck by Bobby Hillin, Jr., causing Hillin to hit the infield grass and shot back up onto the track onto oncoming traffic. Kyle Petty, who had led the event three times, and was indeed looking like a million bucks, got on the binders, but was unable to avoid Hillin’s car. After the wreck, the pair had to be separated as Kyle gave Bobby about a million reasons why he didn’t appreciate being wrecked out of the race. Rusty Wallace, whose luck at Daytona is about as foul as Earnhardt’s, got involved in a savage wreck on lap 170 that sent him rolling, his Miller entry shedding parts like a dog shaking fresh out of the creek shed’s water droplets. Miraculously, Rusty was not seriously injured in the wreck that dominated that year's TV highlight wrapup shows. With 21 laps to go, Dale Earnhardt retook the lead and was battling with three other drivers, including Jeff Gordon, who was making a determined effort to win his very first Daytona 500. Also in contention were Geoff Bodine and Hut Stricklin. Dale Jarrett seemed to come out of nowhere, though, tracking down the lead foursome with only ten laps to go. Jarrett made quick work of Bodine and Stricklin, then got around Gordon with two laps to go and set his eyes on the rear bumper of the Goodwrench Chevy. It was time to choose dancing partners to draft with for the final five miles. Gordon stuck with Earnhardt, while Bodine chose Jarrett. Stricklin was voting an even handed “either of the above,” trying to hook onto whichever pair seemed to be moving faster.
As the cars screamed around the Daytona turns, it became clear Earnhardt was battling a loose race car, while Jarrett was able to hug the white line. Coming out of turn four to take the white flag, Jarrett got alongside Earnhardt, but at the stripe Earnhardt still had him by a nose. Going into one, Jarrett finally swept into the lead, dragging Bodine in his wake. The Intimidator was able to get around Bodine on the back straight, but Jarrett was making his Interstate Chevy awfully wide trying to prevent a pass. Earnhardt could see that tantalizing checkered flag just ahead and tried every trick in his book, but in the end, Dale Jarrett prevailed by a mere .16 seconds over his rival. It was a great finish, and like any good show, the Dale and Dale act had a sequel a few years down the road. Jarrett was ebullient but gracious in Victory Lane, saying that Dale Earnhardt was the best driver on the track, which made winning the event that much sweeter. In taking the 1993 Daytona 500, D.J. was able to add one of the few crown jewel trophies to the Jarrett family trophy case that had eluded his father. Earnhardt was somewhat less gracious. “Big damn deal, I lost another Daytona 500,” Earnhardt muttered to reporters while storming to his truck.
Earnhardt was somewhat more gracious once he cooled off. Ned Jarrett had been calling the race from the booth for CBS, and the normally staid and professional announcer had grown so excited watching his son battling for the biggest win of his career, Ned had sided openly with D.J. and was even hollering advice on how to hold off the other Dale from the booth in one of the more spontaneous and fun moments of television race coverage. Afterwards, Ned Jarrett felt bad over what he felt was a lapse of professionalism, and the next week at Rockingham, he apologized to Earnhardt. Dale winked and told Ned, “Don’t forget…I’m a daddy, too.”
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