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.
Key Moment – Carl Edwards left his pit before the gas tank was full on his final pit stop. As a result, when Edwards came out of Turn 4 to take the white flag, his car shut off and he surrendered the lead to Kevin Harvick. In the end, Edwards coasted around to finish as the last car on the lead lap while Harvick won his fourth race of the season.
In a Nutshell – Rock hard tires that didn’t wear out or lose grip resulted in cars that couldn’t pass for the lead. Only fuel strategy could potentially separate one car from another down the stretch. Kevin Harvick was the quickest car on track for quite a bit of the race, especially the second half, and his strategy put him in position to take advantage when Edwards ran out of fuel with two laps to go. In the title hunt, Matt Kenseth’s day could have only been worse if he’d have been caught up in one of David Reutimann’s two wrecks on the day. Jimmie Johnson led a lap and came home in third, extending his championship points lead to 28 and all but locking up his sixth career title.
Dramatic Moment – While it didn’t affect the race winner, it could have affected the race for the series title. Jimmie Johnson went into the corner on the outside of a three-wide situation on Lap 163. Johnson came down on Carl Edwards, who didn’t have anywhere to go because Kevin Harvick was on his inside. Edwards made contact with the left rear of Johnson’s car and the point leader skated dangerously close to the outside wall. However, the point leader managed to avoid disaster and set himself up for a very good shot at his sixth career title.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
Caution flags used to fly when there was a dangerous situation on the racetrack, a piece of debris was in a perilous situation in the groove, or an accident took place and the safety crew needed to hit the track to assist with an accident or track clean-up. But in what has become an increasingly annoying trend, the caution now flies when it looks like someone is going to have a problem. On Lap 101, the yellow flew when Joe Nemechek washed up out of the groove in Turns 3 and 4 but did not make contact with the wall. The official box score claims there was debris on the track but, in typical NASCAR/Television fashion, the debris wasn’t shown on the broadcast and Nemechek’s ride through the marbles was. Unless NASCAR is calling Nemechek debris, the box score is just making their premature flag look legit.
The No. 20 team of Matt Kenseth imploded during a pit stop for a Lap 163 yellow. When Kenseth came into the pits his crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, initially had called for two tires. When they attempted to change to a four-tire stop, they were delayed getting tires to the car. The car was then set down on the front tire changer’s air hose and they had to back the car up to free it. When the dust had settled, it was a 25-second pit stop and embodied the struggles that defined their whole day.
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Jimmie Johnson is a heck of a driver. When Edwards clipped his rear quarter panel and sent him into the gray, the in-car camera showed Johnson swatting bees like mad to maintain control of his car. Driving into the gray is similar to driving on ice with slick tires with all of the slag that accumulates on that groove. Johnson’s ability saved his day and most likely his title.
NASCAR continues to fight the integrity battle when they call debris cautions at times during a race when it appears to be beneficial to the “storyline.” With Matt Kenseth a lap down and his championship dissolving in front of everyone, NASCAR threw a debris caution on lap 283. Unlike some of these yellows, the TV cameras were able to find the debris this time, in Turn 3. However, it’s location was closer to rattlesnake hill than it was to the actual racing groove. If someone was that far out of shape, hitting the piece of tape or rubber that was halfway between the groove and the wall would have been inconsequential.
Goodyear, once again, brought a Flintstone tire to a recently repaved racetrack. As a result, people were going 100 laps on left-side or right-side tires. The grip on the tire didn’t drop off at all no matter how many laps were put on the skins. For whatever reason, NASCAR’s official tire supplier refuses to learn from the Fontana race this Spring. Tires that give up require drivers to manage their equipment and not just run as hard as they can all of the time. Different tire strategies can develop and make for great racing. Instead, the only pit strategy on Sunday was fuel mileage, which led to a very boring event when it all played out. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed, then Goodyear perfects this dual zone technology in the offseason. It would be great to have tires that wear out and lose grip all season long… instead of just a few select events.
While the title chase is all but over, the battle for second through fifth is heating up. Kevin Harvick is only six points behind Matt Kenseth after Phoenix and could end up as the runner-up in points after Homestead. Further back, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. notched another top-5 finish at Phoenix and is only six points behind Kyle Busch for the fourth spot. A finish that high in points would be the second-highest in Earnhardt’s career.
Erik Jones is the youngest winner in the history of NASCAR’s national touring series. The 17-year-old piloted Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 truck to the victory Friday night at Phoenix. In the last year, Jones has won the Snowball Derby, the Winchester 400 and a Camping World Truck Series race. It’s just another example of the driving talent waiting in the wings for seats to open up in the Cup Series.
The Nationwide Series does not have a Chase. Fans constantly complain about the Cup drivers coming in and dominating their shows and preventing the younger drivers from showcasing their talents. And yet, with one race to go, the title battle gives us just an eight-point difference between Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish, Jr. No manufactured excitement — just hard-nosed racing for the entire season. Still hoping that the boys in the top series can get back to that someday.
Sunday very well could have been the last Cup drive for Bobby Labonte. The first, and one of two drivers, to have a Nationwide and Cup title has long been one of the true gentlemen of the sport. His quiet demeanor outside of the car belied his aggressive nature behind the wheel. The last few years have been less than competitive for Labonte, but he’s handled the trials and tribulations with class and dignity. If he is unable to secure a Cup ride for next year let’s hope the 49-year-old can land in a quality Truck Series ride and become the first driver to win a title in all three series.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Danica Patrick and Justin Allgaier were victims in the wrong place at the wrong time. David Reutimann took a shot in the rear from Aric Almirola on the exit of turn four of lap 146. Reutimann went for a spin in front of Patrick and Allgaier, who both slowed down to a near stop on the track. Unfortunately for them, Cole Whitt got outside of the groove, at full speed and slammed into the back of both of them. Allgaier and Patrick both received damage, albeit not as extensive as Whitt, which led to them finishing 31st and 33rd, respectively.
David Reutimann lasted 46 laps after the incident that made Patrick and Allgaier’s days less enjoyable. He was headed into Turn 1 on lap 192 when his brakes failed and turned his No. 83 around. His car backed into the outside wall extremely hard, flattening the back bumper all of the way to the base of the back glass. Reutimann, albeit obviously shaken, was able to walk away from the incident.
Carl Edwards came into the pits on lap 247 for a final pit stop. He left when the two tires were affixed to his car instead of when the gas tank was full. As a result, he didn’t quite have enough fuel to make it to lap 312, the prescribed distance for the Advocare 500. It was enough to get to lap 310.5, which ultimately secured a 21st-place finish for Cousin Carl, the last car on the lead lap.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Jimmie Johnson nearly wrecked not once but twice during Sunday’s race, via Joey Logano and Carl Edwards, respectively. When Johnson was booted out of the groove by Edwards and slid broadside towards the Turn 1 wall, he could have had a repeat of 2012 when his championship hopes all but ended at Phoenix. Fortunately for him, he saved the car, rolled to a third-place finish and has the title all but sealed up.
Kevin Harvick had the finest of fortunes thanks to Carl Edwards’ empty gas tank down the stretch. Harvick, on the other hand ran out of fuel coming to pit lane for his final pit stop, refired his car quickly as his crew changed tires and was able to continue in roughly the same position had he not run out of fuel. In the end, with Edwards running out as he came to the white flag, Harvick was able to lead the last two laps of the race and score the win. Perhaps an even greater bit of fortune is that Harvick still had a job this weekend after the fiasco at Martinsville. Had his boss, Richard Childress, fired him after that mess he’d have never scored the win.
A fuel strategy that looked doomed to failure as it unfolded almost worked out perfectly for Joey Logano. The No. 22 team left Logano on the track at a point where it looked like he would not be able to make it to the finish on one stop. He came in for fuel when most everyone had an extensive amount of petroleum left and a caution flag would have doomed Logano to a lap down finish. Instead, the race actually stayed green for an extensive amount of time and in the end, he ran a respectable ninth. That finish just might have solidified Logano’s trip to Vegas for the banquet.
Top 10 finishers by Manufacturer:
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was the rookie of the race. Danica Patrick and Timmy Hill, who both wrecked were simply lucky to finish the race. Patrick, top 20 here last year even when her engine blew on the white-flag lap was as low as 38th at one point, being outrun by low-budget independents like Joe Nemechek before getting involved in that wreck. Not a good year-to-year comparison; is she actually regressing?
What’s the Points?
Matt Kenseth had a day he’d love to forget at the worst time of the season. With a seven-point deficit to Jimmie Johnson entering Phoenix, Kenseth just needed to keep Johnson close, potentially in the rear-view mirror to have a shot to win the title. Unfortunately for Kenseth, his car was a turd from the drop of the green, his team let him down in the pits, and the end result was another 21 points lost to Johnson. That puts his hopes for a 2013 title, at this point just about up in smoke. Johnson will have to have another parts failure, like last season in the finale for Kenseth to have a chance to rebound. Johnson’s average finish in this season’s Chase races has actually been a stellar 4.7. With only one finish outside of the top 6 and two outside of the top 5, Johnson is clearly having a championship season.
Kevin Harvick has closed to within six points of Kenseth for the second spot. Without a mechanical failure for Johnson, he has the same shot as Kenseth at winning the title but, for a “lame duck” driver, it has spoken volumes about the character of Harvick and his entire RCR race team. Further back, Kyle Busch had a quiet seventh-place finish at Phoenix and is now officially eliminated from title contention. He is six points ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and in position for a career best in the standings should he stay in fourth. Earnhardt sits in fifth in points and, had he scored a top 5 in Chicago, which is just about his average in the other Chase races, he’d be sitting second in points with the same shot that Kenseth has at the title.
Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer sit sixth, seventh, and eighth in points respectively. They are seven points apart and could easily shuffle up their standings by the time the checkered flag falls in Homestead. Joey Logano is 10 points behind Bowyer and, with the right set of circumstances, could end up in sixth in points. Kurt Busch rounds out the top 10. Busch is 26 points ahead of Ryan Newman, in 10th place and should be the last driver invited to the banquet.
The final three in the Chase are Newman, Kasey Kahne, and Carl Edwards. At this point, they’re just hoping to see an end to this season and head to vacation for a little while before they start testing again for 2014. Brad Keselowski leads Jamie McMurray by nine for 14th place.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – 2012 saw Jimmie Johnson come into Phoenix off a win at Texas with a seven-point lead in the standings. He pushed it and blew a right front tire, basically ending his title chase for number six. This year, the same scenario was set as the green flag flew. Unfortunately, for those hoping for some drama, Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 team stepped in it and ended up shooting themselves in the foot, essentially ending their title hopes. With that excitement out of play, the race was the only thing left to watch and that was a chore, to say the least. The tires that Goodyear brought didn’t wear out and didn’t lose grip, so the only challenge was having enough fuel to make it to the finish when you stopped as far from the end as possible. There were zero passes for the lead, outside of three laps after a restart and the racing back in the pack was enjoyable only when the cameras actually caught it. In the end, that made Phoenix an insomnia-busting exercise in torture that is going to get one moldy brew just because it was better than watching soccer.
Next Up – Time to put a bow on it. 35 races in the books, one more to go. Sunday at 3:00 PM Eastern time from Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida the final green flag of the year will go in the air to decide who will win the title for 2013. MRN radio will be live if you can’t watch on television or if you would just rather hear their voices tell the story.
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As has been the norm this year, the restarts were the best part of the race. One beer seems about right.
The championship is decided and anyone who thinks otherwise is just kidding themselves. As much as I detest the #48 team, they’ve earned title number six. Let me just say that I don’t buy any conspiracies that Nascar orchestrated a Johnson championship. Brian France is inept and incompetent, but he has no reason to favor the #48 team. While Chad and Jimmy did have some help, it wasn’t from Nascar. It was from the other 42 teams.
Face it folks… since the Johnson championship era began nine seasons ago, only two drivers have beaten Johnson for the title. If you pull for anyone other than Johnson, Keselowski, or Stewart, the fact is that when it comes to winning championships, your driver can’t get it done. We can now add Kenseth to the list of JGR drivers (Kyle & Denny) who choked when they had a shot. The #20 team was so bad yesterday that they should be embarrassed. As for the other usual chase suspects… Harvick, Biffle, Edwards, Earnhardt… another close-but-no-cigar season for each. Even the once mighty Jeff Gordon seems like an also-ran compared to Johnson. Like I said, I detest the #48 team, but I must give the devil his due. They know how to win the chase. Only Keselowski and Stewart have kept Six-Time from being Eight-Time.
let’s see, watched the opening ceremonies and flipped back and forth and saw harvick in v/l with his son.
it’s not mathematically a lock for johnson yet. wonder how many extra cars will be fielded next week to guarantee the championship?
and i’m already dreading the “7 time championship” talk that will start an hour after the end of the homestead race.
i’ll pray for engine failure in the first 20 laps next sunday for the 48. that will keep them from winning #6.
again, hendrick lovefest too much for me.
see where princess sparkle pony had a stellar day.
2013 season…. DONE.
NASCAR’s attempt to manufacture a close points race to the last race… DENIED!
The chase format’s design to guarentee a close battle to the end…. FAILURE.
The Nationwide series having a tight battle without the chase… PRICELESS.
Actually, I thought yesterday was one of the best races of the year! For all the complaints about tires, there were actually several good battles and passes for the lead—producing an unusually high (for Phoenix) 23 lead changes—and good racing throughout. There was plenty of championship drama with JJ’s near-wrecks and the 20 team’s astonishing, prolonged collapse. Tire strategy kept the field topsy-turvy—for a while, David Gilliland was running fifth. And the race was only decided after the leader ran out of fuel coming to the white flag. Even though the championship was essentially settled a round early, it was settled in a very entertaining race.
Here’s the reason the NNS is having a tight points battle, and it has nothing to do with better racing. The 40 car field is primarily made up of revolving door rides, start & parks, and cup drivers not running for points. The actual number of drivers running full-time for points is not even a majority of the field, and they finish not quite at the top, but also not at the bottom. If they always bunched together in the finishing order somewhere between, say, 4th and 15th, the points will stay tight.
That’s a very interesting point, allisong. I’ve never considered that. I tend to agree, but I do think the racing is a little better in the NNS nevertheless.
It’s amazing how many caution flags will be thrown to get a Hendrick car back on the lead lap.
Maybe the only thing that could happen next sunday to make the “race” exciting would be for the 48 to get put into the wall on the first lap.
So….next season….who will Nascar throw the book at to try to help the Hendrick team? Maybe it will be for lugnuts that are 1 oz. too light. You know, because Brian France CAN.
Yes, lets get in another dig on the Chase in the Cup Series by mentioning the close battle in Nationwide, while completely ignoring the huge points gap the leader has in the Truck Series. Nice reporting, Mike.
what Bill B said…
My brother, who is a fan of the 48, will be very happy come next week. The rest of us, well, as Carl D pointed out, are just SOL.
I ask myself the same question every year – am I really going to bother with this in 20XX? I know we will be going to less races, we already made that decision based on the change in Darlington’s date & Dover’s ineptitude in June. I find less & less reason to spend the $ necessary to go to the race and don’t really have much faith that NASCAR will find some answers to improve the racing.
When I saw the qualifying order or Friday with Kensenth going out in the first 10 and the 48 going out 2nd or 3rd last I knew the title was over.
Mike: You said that Edwards left the pits before his tank was full, generally the signal for the driver to leave is when they drop the jack.
The NW Series need to change the rule to say if a driver is not eligible for driver points then the driver is not eligible for owner points.
Kasey needs to ask hendrick, how come if they all get equal engines, jj was able to drive by him at the start of the race like he was nailed to the road. It seems any track that requires horsepower jj always seems to have that extra that his teamates don’t seem to get. He may be a good driver but when it comes to the chase he seems to get a much better car than his teamates.
When it comes to the 48 I’m reminded of the saying “all men are created equal but some are more equal than others.”
And soccer is the only game you can watch without commercials while the game is on. Each half doesn’t have any commercials. And they have real announcers. Imagine the Waltrips and LarryMac without commercials.
Anybody besides me notice how much effort BSPN put into NOT showing how empty the grand stands were. And Stan, I agree with you regarding JJ seeming to have the HP to pass other cars like they’re standing still when he needs it. I gave this race one can of “regal select” beer that’s been sitting out in the sun since the sixties. Anybody besides me remember the 99 cent six packs from that era?
Well, that will be six asterisks next to the 6 time “Champion”. Seven asterisk cup championships will never match the 7 true championship titles of Petty or Earnhardt.
midasmicah, Phoenix sold out the grandstands a week before the race. You shouldn’t assume that the broadcasters aren’t showing the stands because they’re half-empty.
Gosh, I know I’m sounding like a complete NASCAR shill today, but despite my complete distaste for everything Jimmie Johnson, I thought yesterday was a really entertaining and compelling race and I can’t understand how much negativity I’m seeing on here in spite of it.
I’d love to see JJ crash on lap 1 at Homestead and lose the title, but even then he would still have deserved the title based on how good that team’s been all season. It’s annoying as hell that the 48 seems to be the only car immune to aero-tightness every single week, but it stands as a testament to how good that team’s been this year—even in their previous championship years, they were never this consistently strong.
Nascar likes to tell us that all cars are created equal. Nascar also likes us to know that anything HMS is “INNOVATION, WORKING IN GREY AREAS, PUSHING THE ENVELOPE, blah blah and other teams are just CHEATERS. LOL.
You know Larry Mac is in a panic trying to figure out how he and Ole DW will refer to JJ next year. I wanted to be the first to suggest that they just call him “ole ten race” It seems accurate and fitting.
I did not watch a lap after hearing about Johnson’s pole run. Knew the title fight was over, and Phoenix, like most tracks in the all-aero all the time era, just is not worth the time investment. The Trucks can still put on a show there though.
Carl D is onto something. While I do not believe all the teams get together and decide to bow to the 48, I think they won’t take the fight to JJ & Co. for fear of retribution by NASCAR or being “branded” as villains. Johnson might have a perfect car, but you don’t have to make the way clear for him to use it.
If Kenseth can’t win it, then JJ is fine with me. If for no other reason it’ll give the haters something to talk about for the next few month as they drown their fury in Budweiser.
Of course, if JJ goes and gets 7 titles it will be different than Earnhardt’s titles. JJ doesn’t drive through other drivers like the Big A$$, er, Big E did. All of the toothless have fond memories of the Black 3 bulldozing through the field instead of using talent and the steering wheel.
Hohum, let the vitriol start.
allisong and Carl D., I think the NNS is all about the owners points now instead of the drivers. I might be mistaken about this but a few weeks ago they announced that the owners points race was between X and Y owners, that’s when I figured it was all about the owners points! These two teams have been swapping out Cup drivers on certain tracks for owners points only, imo.
Lets see. Earnhardt drove for several different teams, owners, crew chiefs and car manufactures and won with most of them. Until drivers like Johnson and Gordon do the same I will never put them in the league of Earnhardt period!
midasmicah: as Zetona pointed out the grandstands were sold out. I was there and it was packed not bec of the exciting racing but bec the people there are Nascar fans that like to add a few days to their vacation and enjoy all the things you can do in AZ. For once the weather was great. Zetona: the race wasn’t that exciting. It wasn’t a bad race but it certainly wasn’t what I’d call a “must watch.” Rick P: we’re not haters, we’re just sick of the same guy winning the championshio 6 of the last 7 years. Last time the NFL had a repeat winner was 04 and 05 Patriots. I don’t expect every race to be fantastic but I can’t handle JJ winning so many. I’ll go to the March race bec I can see family but I’ll sell my tickets to the November race. BORING.
If the NW would get the Cup drivers out, they may actually get more sponsors and more full time teams.
You will never convince me that Cup regulars bring in sponsors and are even healthy for the series. Its becoming quite the opposite. Why sponsor someone other than a Cup driver when you will never be seen on tv? Why drive a hauler full of race cars across country just so you can get sent home because a Cup regular took your spot in the field? Isn’t that what Nascar was founded on?
You will never convince me that Cup drivers are good for the series. And spare me the “they put people in the stands” garbage. Look at the grandstand on a Saturday. Hardly what I would call stellar attendance when a good chunk of fans spend the whole weekend at the track and still don’t go watch this series.
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