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.
Mike Neff · Thursday May 23, 2013
Jason Ratcliff has had an eventful beginning to the season. He’s led Matt Kenseth to the most wins in the series. He’s been handed the biggest fine in the history of the sport and suspended for six races. He’s gone before the appeals board and had that suspension reduced while the fine was left at the full amount. He spent the Darlington race communicating with his team via every means possible and he finally was able to lead his team in his first ever All-Star race.
Ratcliff spent a little time speaking with Frontstretch about modern communication, crazy ideas to make the All-Star race better and what to look for in the Coca-Cola 600. He also discusses how his team will approace the next 16 races before the Chase begins.
Mike Neff: I’ve never had the chance to interview someone coming off of suspension so this could get interesting. As far as around the shop, did anything change from a preparation standpoint, for Darlington.
Jason Ratcliff: As far as communication, the things that changed the most were: we spent a lot more time sitting down and discussing how we thought practice would unfold, changes we’d make for qualifying and the race. Things we need to anticipate. A lot of times we do those things anyway, leading up to the event, but at the race track we’ll continue those things, all the way through the weekend. However, with Wally stepping in, we made it a point to spend some additional time here and there on the Monday and Tuesday leading up to Darlington to just sit down with him and bring him up to speed and have a good game plan in place. Other than that, everything was the usual. Car prep and the other things that the guys do and are responsible for at the track wasn’t any different than we do during any other week.
Neff: Since you weren’t able to be there, were you watching it or not wanting to be involved at all since you couldn’t be there?
Ratcliff: Man, I was watching it on every form of technology possible. If I could get any way to realize what was going on in Darlington to me in Charlotte I’d do it. We had a little bit of communication between myself and the track. Nothing special, the difficult thing, as it is with any time you are away from the source, be it five miles or hundreds of miles, there is a lag time. Things have to go to space and come back. The lag time kills you. I tried to be there, in case those guys had some questions or wanted to bounce some things off of me. A little communication was going on but I was mostly all ears right in the middle of it the best I could be.
Neff: The rumor was the Penske guys were using Facetime. Were you using some type of Skype thing or just texting?
Ratcliff: You know, we were using a kind of instant messenger deal. We were able to text across the computer. Again the tough part is signal. Sometimes that can be a hassle. It is great when it works but sometimes it is in and out. But everyone did a nice job. Where we probably did our best was just leading up to the event. Just making sure that we covered all of our bases and whatever type of scenario we were in we had a specific way we were going to approach it and had a game plan. To me we did a good job leading up to the race so that when we ran into some hiccups during the race, although I don’t think we did at all, we didn’t have to worry about them at that point. We tried to communicate and sometimes it is tough because so many things are going on in real time and I might not see them for 5-8 seconds after the fact. A lot of things can happen in that period of time.
Neff: You went on to the All-Star race, at one point it looked like Matt was coming to the front and then he fell back at the very end. Did he get shuffled out or how did the night turn out for you?
Ratcliff: We had an interesting practice the day before. I felt like we learned some things that we’ll be able to apply to this weekend. We really tried to use it, not really as a test, but what can we do to apply to this weekend. I thought we had a good car in practice. The track conditions probably sent me into the wrong direction. I probably over adjusted to start the race. We didn’t get a good qualifying effort. He took off when the race started and, when the red flag came out, it was an opportunity for us to come down and make some lengthy adjustments. Maybe take advantage of the rain. You know it is going to dry up and we’re going to go back to racing. The radar didn’t look like it was going to last very long. I thought we were going to ride around for a couple of minutes and as long as the track didn’t get saturated, we’re going to be going pretty quick. Then the red flag came out and everyone came down pit road and made those adjustments, our advantage disappeared very quickly. I felt like that hurt us when we were moving forward. We kind of took a loss hoping for a bigger gain. The first segment didn’t see us lose anything really but we definitely didn’t make any gains. After that I felt like we made some positive changes to the car. We kept moving forward each segment. I thought that, if we had another segment to work on it, we could have gotten close to the front.
Then the averages, you play the averages and we kind of threw that first one out because of the strategy we had. The rain kind of washing out for us hurt our average a bunch. If we could have taken the average of the other three segments, which I am sure a lot of people are saying, we could have started a little closer to the front for that last segment and had a little better finish. All in all it is what it is. That is one of those deals where you get those short runs at the finish and everyone goes there to win it. Finishing second, who cares. No one is going to let you know who finished second in the All-Star race.
Neff: Is there anything you think we can do to make the All-Star race better? The nature of the beast, with the current car, the grip in the track and the tire. Kasey Kahne said whoever gets the lead on the last 10 laps sprint, there is no way to get around them.
Ratcliff: I don’t have any, I wish I did. I think we can all throw the same kind of ideas out there. It is an aero package or we need a tire that falls off or whatever. Those things are an evolution. Those things didn’t just happen overnight. Goodyear is very involved and is working on making tires that have more grip and work better and are more durable. Just like those of us working on the cars trying to make them better. As everyone continues to get better and make every part and piece better, it is tough to look at it and say, “what can we take away from them?”. You can’t because each item in intertwined. You build the tire based on the speed and the aero package and the car. You really need to just erase the board and start all over, and you don’t want to do that. You can get creative. You see it in other forms of motorsports where they do some things that change it up a little bit and try some things. The aero package this year is quite different that helps the car and helps with the identity for the manufacturers. They’ve also changed the aero balance so I know they are working hard at it.
We throw all kinds of ideas out there. Ultimately you have to figure out how you can put the lead car at a disadvantage. The lead car has the advantage and you aren’t going to put a tire on it to change that. The lead car is always going to have the advantage until we make these things open wheel cars and take all of the aerodynamics off of them, which will slow them down really slow and make it a completely different series. It will no longer be the Sprint Cup series. The cars will look different, they will drive different and we’ll have completely different fans because they will be different. Until you figure out how to put the lead car at a disadvantage, until you put the compromise in place where, if you want to go up and lead this thing that is fine but when you get there, this is what you’re going to have to deal with.
We’ve talked about push to pass. We’ve talked about, what happens if the guy gets 20 opportunities to use push to pass, then what do you do? The reality of it is, you’re going to have to hurt the leader. Once you get back into dirty air, it just progressively gets worse, and once you’re in it, you’re in it. It is such a huge difference to be out front VS. back in the pack in second, third or fourth. And everyone knows that, which is why you see these pit crews so advanced. There is so much emphasis on them and, as a result you see so many athletes in the sport which is a good thing. We excel at every level, which there is nothing wrong with and I don’t want to change that, but it just puts so much emphasis on getting on and off of pit road and, as a result, guys are going to try and take advantage of everything. Not putting four tires on, or doing something to make the pit stop shorter just so they can get to the front because they know what it is worth. I don’t know how to fix it. I have some crazy ideas but I’m not going to say them out loud because they are just that and I would hate for someone to grab one of them and run with it.
You can’t just say you’re going to hurt the lead car. Right now the advantage of the lead car is huge. It has so much value that there is no substitute for it on the race track. Second place guy has to be really better to take advantage of the leader. Restarts right now are the best thing. The more restarts you can have the better it is. They are exciting. The more opportunities you’re going to have for a lead change. The guys go really hard on restarts. They fight really hard because they know what each spot going down the pit lane is huge. When you look at it as a whole, I feel like racing has improved. Are you going to see 25 lead changes per race and guys running three wide all day? Probably not but there is some hard racing and passing going on back in the pack .You don’t want to see one guy lead a ton of laps but it will happen. You have comers and goers who head to the front and fall back. I think that makes it better. It isn’t perfect but it is good.
Neff: We head off to Charlotte for the long race from day into night. You guys have a pretty good handle on those tracks. Have you leaned anything on the new car that will help you out with the transition from day to night?
Ratcliff: Not really in the particulars of the new car. I think we’re going to be in the same boat as most everyone else. You look at history, you look at your notes, what do we anticipate here? What little knowledge we have from the nine or ten races with the new car, you kind of integrate that into what you’ve seen in the past and what you anticipate the track directionally going. Then you try and quantify it with the new car. I think we’ve had some really good runs so far at the bigger mile and a half, two mile tracks. I don’t think it hurts us at all. We have a decent grasp on the car and what it takes to adjust it right now during the race. However the track ends up changing, you still have to know how the car is going to react to that and what kind of changes you’ll need to get you back to the feel you want. We’ll see, this race is always unique in the way that you start and finish. The other thing that makes it unique is you practice at a time of day that isn’t when you are going to run. So you say you had the All-Star race to learn something. Not really, you aren’t going to make 20 lap runs during the 600. You do some things in the All-Star race that you can’t do during the 600. You push the limits a little harder and you aren’t going to do that for 600 miles. While there are some things you can do, it is different. When they line them all up, the guy with the best guess from practice, on how the track is going to change and what is he going to need on lap 350. That is the fun of the game when you get down to it.
Neff: Charlotte’s racing surface used to tighten up when the sun went down. Lately it has actually seemed to free up. Did you find it doing that and do you anticipate it again going into the night this time around?
Ratcliff: Well, I kind of thought we’d see that last weekend and it never seemed to happen. It really comes down to the fact that each situation is unique. Is it this car, it is something else. If your car is really tight as darkness comes in, it may continue to go that direction. If we have a neutral car, right on the edge, your car may go in a different direction. I feel like I personally missed it a little going from practice to race last weekend. We’re going to have to be on our toes. I don’t know if we missed a note or something. (laughs). That was my first time in that race. Maybe I just missed it. Sometimes you can write all of the notes in the world and until you experience it you don’t get a full understanding of what you truly need.
Neff: You guys have three wins. Does that give you a chance to be a little more adventurous with your setups and strategies going through the summer since you have a wild card slot pretty well sewn up?
Ratcliff: I would like to think so but, when I think about that, I don’t know that we could be any more adventurous than we already are. I don’t feel like, at the beginning of the season, especially the races we’ve run well, I think we’ve thrown caution to the wind. We haven’t been conservative in the least. I think we can take some gambles when it comes to pit strategy and maybe if there is a bigger gamble, we might take a little bigger gamble. Before you might say no if the risk far outweighed the reward. Now we might change our mind a little bit. If you look at the races where we’ve run well and visited Victory Lane it was because we were aggressive. In the Sprint Cup you need to be aggressive all of the time before or you are not going to get there.
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