NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Key Moment – Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer, collecting Joey Logano and Aric Almirola as the field was coming to the white flag. The result was a green-white-checkered finish, one that saw Danica Patrick wreck on the first of two laps, lay down a large amount of oil on the track, then cause a complete melee on the front straight as the cars came to the checkered flag. The final wreck tore up over half-a-dozen race cars while the incident between Gordon and Bowyer set off a rumble in the garage, one reminiscent of the Tide team vs. the Kodiak crew at the 1989 Winston.
In a Nutshell – For Phoenix, the word “wild” doesn’t do it justice. For NASCAR officials, some controversial moments that will be argued well into the coming week. For the championship? Perhaps the moment Brad Keselowski sealed the deal.
As far as the win was concerned: Kyle Busch led two laps short of three-quarters of the race. But when the big check was in sight, it was Kevin Harvick who got the better of Busch on a restart with seven laps to go. Harvick then took the outside on a green-white-checkered restart, making it work to score his first win since Richmond last year.
Dramatic Moment – With 77 laps to go in the race, Jimmie Johnson blew a right front tire and pounded the outside wall. He was forced to the garage to fix the car and ended the event 38 laps down in 32nd position. When the dust had settled, Brad Keselowski finished 20 points ahead of Johnson heading into Homestead and only needs to finish 15th to win the 2012 Sprint Cup Championship.
Oh, and did we mention there was a brawl? And a multi-car wreck on the last lap? Take your pick during any of the last half-hour of actual NASCAR competition.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
Who saw this one coming? Jimmie Johnson has always been the one to withstand every challenge and not break under the pressure of the title Chase. Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and Matt Kenseth have all failed to make Johnson buckle. But this year, it was Johnson who faltered and has now opened the door for Brad Keselowski to control his own destiny while the five-time champion has to hope for some serious help to win his sixth title. After the race, Johnson said his chances were way, way out of his control as this misfortune will likely prove decisive, especially in a playoff format where one moment of bad luck turns into a deficit impossible to make up.
Jeff Gordon often comes across as a mild-mannered sort, one who isn’t going to ruffle anyone’s feathers and very well just might be playing out the string in his illustrious career. Sunday, though we saw a glimpse of Gordon’s dark side, one that only rarely bares its head. Having been put into the wall off of the side of Clint Bowyer’s car, failing to wreck him immediately afterward, Gordon rode slowly around the bottom of the track, waited for Bowyer to catch up to him, and then wrecked him intentionally in Turn 4 coming to the white flag lap. Gordon and Bowyer’s teams had a heated scrum in the garage area, with the No. 15 crew guys jumping Gordon as soon as he exited the car. Taken by surprise, the driver ran, hid in his hauler and then spent quite some time with security personnel while officials intervened to clear the fracas. Eventually, they escorted him out after the incident and provided protection despite Bowyer’s track-and-field run to punch his rival at the hauler. It will be interesting to see what happens on Tuesday from a fine and penalty perspective, but it’s unlikely that this incident is far from over. You don’t take a driver’s title chances away — however remote they are for Bowyer — and expect to walk away unscathed.
Keselowski has been known to speak his mind from time to time. It’s not like he doesn’t have a filter; he most definitely takes the time to think about his responses to questions before making statements. That said, the driver with the inside track for the 2012 Sprint Cup Championship did not hold back in his post race interview. Keselowski pointed out that he was raked over the coals for the past week about racing so hard at the end of the Texas race, being accused of having a death wish, and driving “like an a#%hole.” He noted that the actions at the end of the Phoenix race were “f$%#ing ridiculous” and that the drivers involved should be ashamed. The can of worms that could be opened by this tirade is mind-boggling. In 2004, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was docked 25 points and it very well cost him the title that season when he cursed on national television. Keselowski’s recent interview wasn’t on broadcast TV, but it is already on YouTube and you can bet it will probably go viral. That will place NASCAR in the tough situation that they found themselves in with Kurt Busch and Dr. Jerry Punch and Bob Pockrass. Imagine the storm of controversy that will open up if they drop a number of points off of Keselowski’s total heading into Homestead. Here is the link to the post race interview in case you haven’t seen it.
Michael Waltrip was interviewed after the incident between Bowyer and Gordon and he called Gordon’s maneuver “chicken” and “disappointing from a former champion.” Interesting to hear someone who rarely spews anything but the NASCAR company line actually step up and call out a former champ.
NASCAR continues to step on their own toes by trying to have races finish under green while preaching the safety mantra. With the cars of Gordon, Bowyer, and Logano sliding toward the wall in Turn 4, Kevin Harvick went under the white flag only to be told on the back straight that the caution lights were on first so he hadn’t, in fact, won the race. Then, on the green lap of the green-white-checkered finish, Danica Patrick went for a spin in Turn 3, sat in the racing groove for some time, then pulled away and spewed oil in the groove. With the white flag out, NASCAR chose not to throw the caution and end the race. The result was cars sliding and bouncing off of each other, coming out of Turn 4, total carnage on the front straight, and everyone breathing a sigh of relief that no one was injured. Ryan Newman was drilled by oncoming cars after his came to a rest in the middle of the track. Patrick, almost completely stopped on the inside of the front straight after crossing the finish line, was plowed into by Paul Menard. Patrick’s car bounced off the top of Menard’s car before bouncing off the top of Kurt Busch’s flaming car. The real irony of it all was listening to Dale Jarrett, who was the reason that racing to the caution was eliminated and the Lucky Dog was implemented, chastise NASCAR for not throwing the caution and causing such a mess at the end of the race.
Kevin Harvick was looking to be the topic of conversation after this weekend due to reports coming out that he will be driving for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. By winning the race, that discussion might die down just a little bit, but it will certainly pick up over the offseason. Harvick spent most of last year showing up at the end of races to score wins after not being near the front for the majority of events. This year, he managed to make the Chase but has been a complete afterthought before this weekend. There was actual discussion last week that he might be passed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the standings by the end of the year, even though Earnhardt missed two of the Chase races. Now, there will just be a year of debate and discussion about Harvick and Childress, “lame duck” status, who will go into the No. 29 seat and what will happen with Jeff Burton, who has largely been believed to just be keeping the seat warm for Austin Dillon.
Speaking of Burton, what a fiasco of a weekend the No. 31 team had. Burton wrecks his primary car before qualifying, then kills his backup car, and the team has to rebuild his primary car. Burton started at the back of the pack, nearly wrecked it during the race, dumped Danica Patrick on the white-flag lap, but managed to come home in 13th. It’s not like he came back and won the race, but considering his average finish this year is 19.6 and it was his best finish on a non-plate track since Richmond, it had to feel pretty good.
On Saturday, we saw the Nationwide Series title battle all but settled after Elliott Sadler stepped on it late in the race at Phoenix. Sadler started his raceday off poorly by wrecking in qualifying and forcing his team to a backup car. The team struggled all day to get the backup to handle well and also dropped the ball on multiple pit stops which made the race all the more of a challenge for Sadler. With the race winding down to the final two laps, Sadler made a move to try and gain a spot on the back straight and ended up wrecking himself and Cole Whitt. The end result was that Sadler’s car was a rolling wreck for the last lap on the track, he lost a lap and came home in 22nd place. He is now 20 points behind Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and has to hope for a major mechanical issue on the No. 6 for a shot to win the title. Say what you want about Stenhouse and Sadler, the bottom line is that Sadler has shown, over the last two years, that he’s not a finisher. Depending on where he ends up next season, we may never see him get another chance to be this close to a title again.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Jimmie Johnson had a tough turn of events that very well may have been self-inflicted. Johnson’s car was definitely not in the same league as Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, or Brad Keselowski; but it was still a top-10 car which would have had him neck-and-neck with Keselowski heading into Homestead for Championship Weekend. Johnson made a surprising error in judgment, pushing his car harder than he should have, and melted the bead on the right front tire. The championship most likely went out the window when the No. 48 made contact with the fourth turn wall.
Joey Logano was minding his own business coming to the white flag, positioned for a possible top-5 finish, when he was collected in the Gordon/Bowyer flap and ended the day in a crumpled heap. There are plenty of racing incidents that end up collecting people who have nothing to do with it but you never expect it to be precipitated by a four-time champion simply wrecking another competitor out of spite. Logano ended the day sending out a tweet that said: “When I was young I thought @JeffGordonWeb was the best driver. Now I’ve lost a lot of respect for him. #verydumb”
For the eighth race in a row that Kyle Busch has led the most laps, he did not win the race. Busch was dominant for the majority but after a Sam Hornish, Jr. brush with the wall late brought out a caution, Busch chose the inside lane for the restart and Kevin Harvick made the outside work to take the lead. In the end, Busch couldn’t challenge and even lost second place to his teammate Denny Hamlin.
Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, and Carl Edwards were all caught up in the enormous wad at the end of the race thanks to the oil left on the track from Danica Patrick. While they all made it across the finish line, it was some tremendous carnage that did not need to occur.
Martin Truex, Jr. started on the outside of the front row and completed a whole lap before his engine started to lay down. He ended up completing just 10 circuits before he took the car to the garage and retired for the day. It was just another disappointing finish in the 2012 Chase for the No. 56.
The “Seven Come For Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Kevin Harvick has had a long season without very many high points. In a throwback to 2011, Harvick was nowhere in contention for most of the day, but when Hornish had his incident Harvick restarted on the outside of Kyle Busch and made it stick going into Turn 3. He then held off Busch and Denny Hamlin to score the first victory for RCR since Bowyer won at Talladega last Fall.
Kasey Kahne made a push to the front early in the race but didn’t make it all of the way to the point. Still, when the mess broke out on the front straight he was just in front of Newman who triggered the whole fiasco, leaving his car clean to come home a quality fourth. With Bowyer’s mishap, Kahne is now third in the points heading into Homestead.
Although Jimmie Johnson obviously had a bad day thanks to coming home in 32nd, he did actually gain a finishing position thanks to the race going extra laps. David Ragan fell out of the race after a blown right front killed his car. Johnson’s crew got him back out and he completed just enough laps to overcome Ragan for 32nd. Although he’s 20 points out of the top spot now, if things line up in his favor in Homestead that one point could be huge.
Kurt Busch had a vibration issue early in the race that put him a lap down. He was the Lucky Dog when Johnson had his problem, giving the No. 78 team a chance to roar their way back through the field. It came at a cost; coming to the checkers, Busch was caught up in the debacle and ended up crossing the line on fire. But the final result – eighth – means back-to-back top 10s with a Furniture Row team which is suddenly looking feisty heading into 2013.
What’s the Points?
Brad Keselowski looked to be in trouble heading into Phoenix based on historical data. Well, that’s why they run the races. Jimmie Johnson’s flat tire relegated him to a 32nd-place finish while Keselowski used fresh tires near the end of the race to slice through the field and come home in sixth place. The difference leaves Keselowski 20 points ahead of Johnson heading into Homestead. No one else in the Chase is mathematically eligible to win the title so it is a two-horse race (which we’ve told you for the last month). Fifteenth place without leading a lap gives the title to Keselowski no matter what Johnson does (that drops to 16th if Keselowski leads a lap and 17th if he leads the most). In reality, this trophy is Keselowski’s to lose. He’s only had one finish outside the top 8, and that was 11th at Charlotte. It would seem like finishing 15th should be a layup but, again that is why they run the races.
Kasey Kahne is third in the point standings, but 50 outside the top spot guarantees he’s out of the title hunt. Clint Bowyer, who was mathematically alive before Jeff Gordon turned into Steve Wallace, is now 52 out and playing for third at this point. Denny Hamlin is 62 back and can only hope to make it past Bowyer and Kahne for third in points. Lame duck Matt Kenseth is 74 points out of the top spot and probably doesn’t have much of a shot at getting above fifth. He only has a four-point advantage over his teammate Greg Biffle, who is 78 points away from Keselowski.
Kevin Harvick pulled himself back up to a table in Las Vegas by winning in Phoenix and vaulting from 11th place to eighth. He is one point ahead of Tony Stewart, whose hopes at repeating at the Cup Series champ went up in “Smoke” about the time the series pulled out of Dover. For now, Jeff Gordon sits three points behind Stewart as the last driver going to the banquet in Vegas. It is possible that could change on Tuesday when NASCAR announces penalties. The last two drivers in the Chase standings are Martin Truex, Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The former teammates are sharing the caboose on the playoff train and, barring a great run by Truex at Homestead, they’ll both spend the banquet week at home.
For the non-Chase drivers, it is Kyle Busch who is going to end the season in 13th position. He is 82 points ahead of Ryan Newman for the Mr. Irrelevant spot in the point standings.
Overall Rating (from one to six beers, with one being a total snoozer and a six-pack an A+ effort): While the lack of lead changes early on in the event kept the race from being a six-pack effort, there was more than enough at Phoenix to make it a five-beer winner. Jimmie Johnson blows a tire and has to battle to come home 32nd. Jeff Gordon loses his mind and wrecks Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano right in front of Brad Keselowski coming to the white flag. The pit crews for the No. 15 and No. 24 throw down on pit road with guys knocking over tires, crew members shielding their driver and Clint Bowyer running a 150-yard dash to be stonewalled by a stocky NASCAR official. Gordon ends up having a police escort to his bus so that he doesn’t get his ass whipped by any of 100 different people in the garage. Kevin Harvick makes an aggressive outside move to take over the top spot and holds on to win his first race in 44 tries while half-a-dozen cars ended up in a finish line melee that saw four of them hauled off on the hook. What more do you want?
Next Up — The longest season in professional sports comes to an end as the checkered flag flies in Homestead. The pomp and circumstance associated with champions being crowned and the extensive media coverage associated with it will go on for several hours, followed by a week or two of the Cup champ making appearances on a plethora of television shows. Whether you are happy or sad to see the season come to an end, we’ll at least see the titles settled on the track in all three national series in Homestead.
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not sure about point deduction for brad…the comments he made weren’t on “live” tv. i don’t know if those comments were broadcasted over the “airwaves” or just media deal and shown up on utube. jr’s indiscretion was in victory lane.
honestly, i don’t know why the caution wasn’t thrown when gordon hit the wall as stuff flew off the car. typically they’ll throw a caution when a water bottle is not in the racing groove, so i’m scratching my head about that one.
again, i watched the beginning, flipped back and forth throughout the race and turned back on for last 30 or so minutes.
with all the wrecked race cars on that last lap of the race, i thought they were at ‘dega.
I’d add Danica to the Hindenburg list by going from a probably top 15 after being down a lap to getting dumped for no good reason by Jeff Burton and ending in another bad day. I’m more than happy to point out her screw-ups, so it’s only fair she get props when she does well too.
Huge Keselowski fan here but Jimmy Johnson didn’t “falter” or “break under the pressure”. He had a tire blow.
Last year Kyle Busch intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday in the CTS while Hornaday still had a shot at the series championship. So, will Jeff Gordon get to watch the Homestead race from atop the pit box?
Why Nascar didn’t throw a caution during the G-W-C finish is beyond comprehension, except that when it comes to consistency, Nascar is consistently inconsistent.
Jimmie has already called John Middlebrook to see about getting those 20 pts back.
Chicken Little Gordon has called the Navy Seals for protection.
Nascar is spending time figuring a way to dock Brad 20 pts.
And the thunder rolls….
by the way…..was jr at this race? don’t recall him being mentioned at all yesterday.
Janice, Jr is not in contention for the championship so you’re not gonna hear anything about him. There’s only two cars that matter anymore.
Good point about Busch; I had forgotten that he was already on probation when he wrecked Hornaday. That should make a difference.
I can’t wait for the pay back Logano gives Gordon!
Plus Kyle wrecked Ron under caution. another difference. i am not a gordon fan but pay backs are part of it and yes joey got collected in this. but if we look back at all paybacks this year there are people caught up in other people’s messes.
what i would have been talking about around the water cooler with under ten laps to go…. 3 laps… yes the field was single file in three laps after every restart (manufactured or not.
… and after the final ten lo or so laps?
My own multiple choice question-
oh.. we all know that the secret fines are no more, but what about the double seekrit ones?
It may be Kes that just choked. I am a big fan, but his tirade cannot go unpunished by Nascar. I don’t get the ‘live’ television difference. You Tube and all makes everything “live.”
Junior’s s-word was ssid without venom in praise of his father. It was said in a sort of “country” conversation way. A stupid 25 point penalty to please the conspiracy crowd.
Kes was full of anger and venom aimed at Nascar and competitors.
I am thrilled someone takes johnson on, but Kes does get a little full of himself. Oh well – he is still young.
Nascar faces a tough one now. Take points and all the conspiracy folks will scream if johnson gets back into it. Do nothing – will the junior crowd go nuts?
Maybe they do not penalize since the junior penalty was so long ago.
First he caution lights were clearly on when Harvick was several hundred feet from the line so really no controversy here. Second, everyone is always quick to point out Danica’s shortfalls when she stumbles but even in this article it is very much implied that she simply wrecked. Only one tiny sentence half way through states she was actually dumped by Burton. If your gonna chastise her mistakes give credit when due….
Also to babydufus—getting from turn 4 to the finish line is hardly “riding around the track”…..
I dont know if the crowd cheering at the end of the race was because they actually like the demolition derby racing and fighting, or if they were just happy that something other than the usual “less-than-exciting” nascar happened.
Mike does a good job with this column, but I do miss Matts unique perspective after things like this happen. As an older fan with a lifetime of watching racing, I many times have a different take on things than the newer fans and I believe Matt does as well. How about a comment on the race Matt?
One thing no one has mentioned… The Gordon/Bowyer retaliation happened right in front of the #2 car. I’m not saying there was a deliberate effort by Gordon to involve Keselowsi, but had Brad been caught up in the wreck, the anti-Hendrick crowd would still be screaming for Gordon’s head on a platter and with good reason. I’d have been at the head of the line, too.
yes Gordon deliberately wrecked Bowyer. In retaliation not just for what happened at Phoenix but what had happened at several other tracks this year – most notably costing Gordon the win at Martinsville?
Then the 15 crew jumps him when he got out of the car – from behind! Personally I didn’t see Gordon running away, I saw a member of his crew hanging on to him to keep him from joining the fight!
People who still think Earnhardt is perfect should take a breath and think that Gordon didn’t do anything different than what Big E, DW or Rusty would have done.
I’m sorry that other cars were caught up in that mess, the idea that Gordon was trying to catch the 2 up in it is silly. He didn’t have eyes for anyone other than the 15 car.
Mikey Waltrip is an idiot with his comments – how many cars has he wrecked over the years with his bad driving?
I agree that Gordon wasn’t trying to take out the #2 car, but had he done so, even accidently, it could have easily affected the outcome of the championship and would have infuriated all but the most loyal Hendrick fans.
And the double standards continue—-Busch got parked last year but Gordon gets a meaningless fine and “probation” for one race. I know the racer’s code “hit me i hit you” but there is also the code of don’t mess with the championship outcome.
Don’t forget, not only did Gordon, after being Black Flagged, take out Bowyer, eliminating him from the championship, as partial car owner, it helped out Jimmy Johnson. It also allowed Kasey Kahne, another team driver, to jump over Bowyer in points, too.
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