Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
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.
Editor’s Note: For the rest of the season, a rotating cast of characters will be sharing responsibility for Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud column, including today’s columnist, Mike Neff.
Key Moment – Jimmie Johnson had the dominant car once Mark Martin was speared by the pit wall opening in a scary, mid-race crash. But as J.J. was strolling to what would have been his series-leading fourth victory, a valve spring failed with less than 15 miles left to run. That handed Greg Biffle Christmas in August, gift-wrapping him a second victory after a green-white-checkered finish and a pesky push from Michigan native Brad Keselowski.
In a Nutshell – The race doesn’t always go to the swift, but be warned; each race appears destined to be Jimmie Johnson’s these days when the No. 48 team doesn’t beat themselves. Oh, and cookie cutters don’t always need to be repaved. Michigan makes the old Charlotte levigation experiment look like an award-winning national construction project by comparison.
Dramatic Moment — Johnson’s engine failure itself, considering how Biffle was closing in and trying to make a race of it at the time was the big surprise. But a nice subplot was Biffle making the pass on Brad Keselowski shortly before Johnson’s motor went south. With Biffle having the lane choice on the final restart, he was able to gain the point when the green flag flew on the green-white-checkered and keep the No. 2 car from mounting a stiffer challenge.
As for the rest of the racing? The good: there was more side-by-side passing at Michigan than in June. The bad: it was like going from shooting a 90 to an 85 at the Masters. Nice for your scorecard, but no one’s showing up at the gallery on 18…
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
Jimmie Johnson pulled his best Kyle Busch impression after he dropped out of the race. We’ve all seen what happens in the cases of Busch “gone bad;” he’s driving a dominant car, headed for the win only for some unlucky break out of his control to butt in and cost him the race. Networks, talking heads and recorder-toting Tweeters chase Busch to his hauler, aching to get a provocative comment for their stories. Then, when Busch comes back with “I have nothing positive to say,” he is raked over the coals for being a spoiled brat. So how was Johnson’s response on Sunday any different? When the No. 48 engine failed he went straight to his motor home, changed, emerged from his palatial rolling apartment, waved at the assembled masses aching for a comment, jumped in a presumed Chevrolet SUV and headed down the road. It will be interesting to see how Johnson’s response is dissected over the coming week.
Editor’s Note: Johnson did post a Tweet after the race expressing his disappointment over the parts failure. But still…
For no one being able to pass, those Hendrick cars have sure been whipping by traffic lately like they’ve been stopped. Both Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Johnson charged from their starting spots at the rear, making mincemeat of their competitors and appeared to have an edge few could claim during the race’s second half. Brad Keselowski was the latest to fuel the fire over HMS’ string of successes, although he didn’t explicitly state the organization when asked what’s causing “the edge” for particular cars in the field. “There’s parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive,” he said. “Some guys have it, some don’t. There’s a question to the interpretation of the rule. Penske Racing errs on the safe side because we don’t want to be the guys that get the big penalty. Obviously there’s a question to the interpretation that as of right now, it’s legal.” So are the rear ends of the Hendrick cars, making them look like they’re about to snap in two on the verge of getting sent to the trash pile? Remember, Clint Bowyer was docked with an unheard-of 150-point penalty for being outside the templates in the middle of the Chase two years ago; are we headed for round two? More importantly, has NASCAR learned their lesson last time on how to explain “cheating” or postseason rule changes so everyone doesn’t end up confused, angry, and disappointed?
There’s one word to describe Martin’s Michigan wreck: scary. All parties, from pit road to Martin himself should be thankful this morning no one got hurt.
Are the Hendrick engine woes for real? After multiple failures at Michigan, they’re going to have everyone all aflutter about their ability to survive the race distance on intermediate tracks that are tough on RPMs (can you say Chase?). The carnage Sunday, which saw Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart all sidelined by valve spring issues certainly will have the folks at HMS scratching their heads and working plenty of overtime this week. However, postrace chatter labels this one as just another instance of defective materials, coming from a batch of springs that were received from a supplier. It’s not the first time Hendrick would have fallen victim to it; in 2002, during the Fall race at Talladega all four cars under the HMS banner dropped out of the race with similar valve spring self-destruction. And if not… know there probably won’t be any issues with HMS parts by the time the final ten-race stretch starts. There’s a reason you work on things in the regular season…
Goodyears once again were a topic of discussion, although this time it was back to the problem that has plagued the series for some time now: no wear. Johnson ran a once-unheard of 130+ laps on the initial left-side tires he had on to start the race. And after the crew took them off the car? They looked still capable of running, almost unscathed another 70 laps to the finish. Safety is certainly important in this racing game, especially at a high-speed track such as Michigan but tires really need to wear out in order for competition to truly improve. If teams had to start worrying about rubber over fuel mileage, consistently you’d see a whole different ballgame at half the tracks on the circuit.
2000 Cup champ Bobby Labonte is still having an impact on the series — as in causing others to impact concrete. For the second weekend in a row, Labonte’s No. 47 caused the car that probably should have won the race to end its day in pieces. Last week, his Toyota dropped oil the entire length of Watkins Glen, causing Kyle Busch to slip straight into the clutches of Brad Keselowski. This week, his spin ultimately resulted in Martin’s car straddling the pit wall and dumping oil all over Kasey Kahne’s pit stall. JTG-Daugherty Racing can use some publicity to help them in their efforts to attract sponsorship – their funding is still not fully set for 2013 – but that’s not the kind they want.
The surface at Michigan is yet another example of a repave job ruining a race track. Michigan, and its sister track in Fontana, have always been an acquired taste to begin with, built with wide, sweeping turns that cause little contact between cars as the field often spreads out over long, green-flag runs. Some fans love the layout; others can’t stand it. However, the saving grace for years that gave the “lovers” an argument was that there were four or even five racing grooves that allowed drivers to run from the top of the track to the bottom and find ways for their cars to work. That’s not the case anymore. For the second race in a row, the groove is now one car wide with any hope of racing above it a pipe dream for the foreseeable future. While repaving is a necessary evil at all tracks, eventually we’ve seen snoozers one too many times now. Someone, somewhere needs to be calling up those people at Pocono and/or experimenting with chemicals elsewhere to prevent the next track repave from repeating the pattern of “racing death sentence.”
The folks at ESPN might want to look into hiring a new person to man the bad language beeper, or possibly go to a five-second delay. On two different occasions this weekend, people competing in NASCAR events dropped F-bombs that were broadcast to the masses. While the sanctioning body shouldn’t do anything to punish the offenders (see: awful Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fine, 2004), the broadcaster might want to at least show us they’re trying to block out the swear words before getting to us.
Jeff Gordon has long been the target of derisive comments about manliness. Remember Earnhardt’s comment about being the first “man” to win the Brickyard and the milk toast that Gordon made to him at his first championship banquet? While those barbs were in good nature, it does seem as though the four-time champ has been living up to the reputation as of late. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. went low under Gordon in turn two and slid up in front of him, “Wonder Boy” dropped a few of his own F-bombs and did some quality whining about the maneuver. While he glossed over it in his interview after the No. 24 car blew up, Gordon sounded like a kindergartener instead of NASCAR King of his generation. Could it be that the poor luck season, putting him on the verge of missing the Chase is taking its toll?
The Hindenburg Awards for Foul Fortune
This race looked like pole sitter Martin’s to lose early; he was leading, but saw Kasey Kahne coming in his rear-view mirror as he came upon Bobby Labonte and Juan Pablo Montoya battling deep in the field. As the duo fought not to get lapped, Montoya caused Labonte to spin, an accident that enveloped the two leaders. As Martin slid into the pits, he caught a pit road opening and the wall penetrated the side of his car, nearly missing the driver’s side door and taking him out of the race. Considering what could have happened, though it didn’t seem like anyone was too upset…
Johnson, Gordon and Stewart all get a sympathetic pat on the back after they saw their races, and in Johnson’s case a win, go up in mechanical failure due to some faulty valve springs. None of them wound up better than 27th.
Kurt Busch had another rough outing, driving his rear end off once gain resulted in Busch sliding a little too high in the corner and flattening the right side of his car. In the end he did it more than once and had to pack it in for a 30th place finish.
@TheOrangeCone took a horrific tumble off of the nose of Martin’s car when he slid into the pits but rebounded to complete his assigned duties for the day.
The person who handled the pyrotechnics for the National Anthem had a bad day, launching the rocket’s red glare and bombs bursting in air about five stanzas too early.
“The Seven Come For Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Kasey Kahne spun out in the same wreck that ultimately killed Martin’s shot at a win. Fortunately for Kahne, he didn’t get mangled against the pit wall, sliding through the grass instead and rebounded back up to third when the pay window opened.
Kahne, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Ryan Newman avoided the engine issues that plagued their teammates Stewart, Gordon and Johnson. All of them earned top-10 finishes as a reward.
Brad Keselowski had caution flags fall at the right times, Lady Luck resulting in the track position needed to stay up front late. Just getting to the front row on the final restart, side-by-side with Greg Biffle was a victory in itself.
Sam Hornish, Jr. was nearly taken out in the accident that sent David Gilliland through the infield grass, but snuck by and turned that into a 12th-place finish. While Hornish very well could have had a better result thanks to the strength of his run, his maneuver to avoid Gilliland’s spinning car certainly was a fine bit of fortune.
Gilliland went for a slide through the infield but, unlike so many other cars we’ve seen make those slides in the recent past, his splitter survived without damage and the No. 38 car was able to come home with a 18th-place finish. That’s a season best for him at an unrestricted track.
What’s the Points?
Greg Biffle passed Jimmie Johnson and took over the top spot in the point standings with three races to go before the Chase. He last led the points after Dover in June. Teammate and close friend Matt Kenseth jumped up to second, while Earnhardt, Jr. sits third.
Further back, Jimmie Johnson slipped from first to fourth in the points thanks to his engine failure. Are the pundits who were ready to crown him champion after Indy having second thoughts? Perhaps a small consolation prize is Johnson remains, along with Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski tied for the number one seed with three wins.
Speaking of Keselowski, he rounds out the top 5 in points. Martin Truex, Jr. sits sixth, followed by Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin — unchanged from last week. Hamlin’s gap over 11th-place Kasey Kahne now sits at 33, a fragile number considering two of the next three races are short track events.
Whether Kahne catches Hamlin, though, is all but a moot point; his two victories leave him comfortably in the first “wild card” slot. Back in 13th, Ryan Newman holds an 11-point lead on Kyle Busch for the second “wild card.” Bristol and Richmond are two of the three races remaining, which are both good tracks for Busch — but the clock is ticking. Jeff Gordon, meanwhile is 30 points back and may need a second win to take the spot.
Of note: David Ragan and Landon Cassill have run six more races than AJ Allmendinger competed in this season and are still behind him in points. The series’ top rookie contender, Josh Wise, has “run” 20 of 23 races but sits 66th in the standings. The joy of start and parks…
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — Coming off a week when the race received a full six-pack of frosty adult beverages, this one was barely a two-can, lukewarm effort. While there were 26 lead changes during the event, only five of them took place on the track and one of those was when Johnson’s motor went kablooey. The allure of Michigan was multiple racing grooves that allowed cars to spread out all over the track and race for a myriad of laps side-by-side without wrecking each other. Now that it has been repaved there is only one way to get around and the resulting parade was mind-numbing.
Connect with Mike!
©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I’ve seen some pretty good races at Michigan and quite a few God-awful as well. This one seemed a little less boring than many others I’ve witnessed, but mostly for the wrong reasons… blown engines, bad luck, and Martin’s scary crash. On to Bristol, I say.
Mike, are you telling us that there’s some questionable things going on with the Hendrick cars, and that they might be trying to skirt the rules? Well I’d have never guessed that. Chad Knaus has always had that Opie Taylor-like innocence and I’d hate to see his sterling reputation tarnished.
Every time I start to sorta like Jeff Gordon, he goes and says or does something that reminds me of what a diva he is. I hope he had some cheese in that #24 car to go with his whine.
On to the old new old Bristol. I hope it’s a competitive race; otherwise who knows what Bruton Smith will do to the place next.
Oh, and welcome to the Monday morning crowd, even if just for one week. We’re a tough, ornery bunch and we’re all going thru Matt withdrawls, so I hope your skin is thick.
I think Mike did a nice job on the column today. Of course, I liked the outcome of yesterday’s race so, I’m a bit more forgiving today!
5 time acted just like Kyle after his engine let go. But I doubt the media will say anything.
And God bless Brad K. for saying something about those Hendrick cars. Seems fishy how they can pass with ease at the end of the race like they have extra power under the hood. But I guarantee that nascar won’t do a thing about it. They certainly won’t put a restrictor plate on them like they did to Toyota a few years back.
I agree with you about Bristol, will be interesting to see how many of the fans who voted for the change show up. I liked the 2 grooves, could be a long race Saturday with lots of caution laps if everyone goes nuts with the front bumper.
Less whining. Better column.
Despite being a Gordon fan, I have to agree with your thoughts there. I was hearing the guy from the early 90s in that car yesterday… yuck!
I do take issue with blaming Labonte for oil on the track – he just drives the thing and is trying to bring back the best finish he can. Wish someone would give him a shot in a decent car so we could see his talent again, but don’t blame him for where he ends up – there’s just not enough $$ behind him.
Hey frontstretch…. Just let me know what week I need to write another recap.
Ha ha, it was obvious that Jeff was upset about a lot of things and Jr just was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes you can call that whining but it’s no worse than most others. Stewart comes to mind immediately although neither of them has a monopoly on it.
Wow, Brad K THINKS Hendrick is bending the rules. Ya think? Good call there Brad, now tell us how there are no honest politicians in Washington.
Did anyone else find it funny that Kurt Busch’s radio was “accidentally” broken and he could hear the crew but they couldn’t hear him? LOL. That’s one way not to have to hear him tear down his own team everytime something goes wrong. Wonder why no one else thought of that.
Never thought I’d see the day where even tempered, mild-mannered, professiomal, Jimmie Johnson would pull a Kyle Busch.
Overall, 2 cans unless you are a Biffle fan or loved seeing Johnson blow up with 5 laps left (I did but still not enough to raise it above 2 cans).
Good column and recap but I do miss the classic rock tidbits that Matt would throw in (not to mention the sarcasm).
Carl D. – Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been around the sun 48 times already. My skin is pretty well leathered up by now.
Randy G. – Feel free to submit an audition. We’re always looking for talented writers.
Bill B. – Thanks for the love. I’ll do my best to take some time on the Stairway to Heaven and look over the smoke on the water and try and come up with a few references that rock and roll all night and party every day. (I hope you noticed the sarcasm in my response to Randy.)
I’d have thought you could do better than jump on the Gordon-Earnhardt spat. Is Jeff frustrated with the way things have turned out this season? Yeah and I also think that Jr gets a “pass” pardon the pun, from everyone now that he’s finally running well again. If Gordon HADN’T been smart in that situation, both of them could have been wrecked. Personally, I’d have been just as happy if Jeff “forgot” he had teammates once in a while and just let the chips fall where they may.
Plus, all the drivers whine. All you need to do is listen to the scanners.
I am very glad that Mark Martin was OK after that ugly crash.
Funny thing how Brad D can call out everyone during the time he has to run his mouth in the booth, when so often it’s the car owned by his shop that have created the problems on the track.
Do my eyes deceive me!!!! The day has finally come….. Matt made a critical comment of Jeff Gordon. It’s only taken him 20 years to do so. That’s what happens when you lose your religion and faith in God. You get reduced to a whining caricature of yourself.
You have sit a high bar, this column was both informative and insightful, for your fellow writers of this column to follow.
My only problem was with the wording, “ultimataly killed Martins shot at the win.” Just poor choice of words considering seriousness of wreck.
The Steelers had the terrible towel and Hendricks had the Hendricks caution flag that came out when needed,Chad got caught cheating more than Bill Clinton.Now they are accused of moveable suspension parts and Brad K. finally noticed that they can’t keep up.
Mike – I believe I’ve already proven my ability: check the comments section here http://www.frontstretch.com/mmclaughlin/30787/
If you read it, you’ll notice a) insightful opinions b) a pop culture reference that is still more relevant than ANYTHING the previous occupant wrote in his McArticle c) humor and d) a non “NASCAR sucks” spin.
Oh…. And take a quick talley over which recap the other posters enjoyed (back when people used to post here regularly… Usually in response to my discussion topics).
Yes Randy you are a legend in your own mind.
I thought the ESPN guys in the booth were about to start crying when Jimmie blew up. It sure got somber in a hurry didn’t it? So much so that they forgot that the race wasn’t over. The Hendrick/Jimmie lovefest has begun. It will only get worse once the Chase starts.
I’ve been saying for years that the modern repaving methods are ‘too good’. Racing needs abrasive, bumpy surfaces to test drivers and setups, not forever smooth and never wearing jobs like the Charlotte and Darlington repaves.
Mike, good start to the post-Matt era, with one exception, which has nothing to do with you.
It’s the dreaded return of Randydansgoldmomman. Lord, help us.
At any rate, nice recap.
Mark Martin showed again how much class he has, especially in times of misfortune as on Sunday. I was ripping Bobby Labonte and JPM a new one for holding the leaders up and then taking them out. They were going down a lap or more sooner or later.
And BTW, John in Norfolk, Mark Martin has never retired. He’s only gone to a partial schedule in some years. But he’s never said he’s retiring, and changed his mind.
ratings and comments… no such think as bad PR… when will the powers that be at FS realize…
Recent articles from Mike Neff:
Infographic for the West Coast Nationals for the Mini Outlaws
Want to find out more about Mike Neff? Maybe see all the articles he's written here at the Frontstetch? Check out his article archive and bio page then!