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.
Toyota has come out of the box like a car with three wheels this season. The highest standing Toyota is Dale Jarrett in 37th place in the points, which is primarily because he was able to use Past Champion's provisionals to make most of the first six races of the season. This is hardly the onslaught that most people were predicting when Toyota and their huge budget announced they were invading the sport. However, don't let these struggles mislead, these are new teams, and they are going to have problems just like any new team does entering the sport for the first time. People who know better are not gloating over the struggles of the new manufacturer, they are still fretting about what will happen once they get their cars running well and start competing with everyone else.
Jack Roush mentioned in an interview this week that he is not gloating over Toyota's struggles early this season. He feels, like any new team, there are going to be difficulties early on in getting a handle on the setups, getting the right chemistry among the members of the crews and working out the bugs in new equipment. His concern isn't 2007, it is the future, 2008 and beyond, when the teams begin to run better and more and more talented people in the sport are tempted to jump ship and chase the big money that Toyota is throwing around.
Some of the most talented people in the sport have balked at going over to Toyota this year because of the fact that they knew there would be struggles early on. However, once the Toyota teams begin to show some strength and start competing near the front of the pack, it is going to be harder and harder for the people who are the most successful in the sport to turn their back on the kind of money that Toyota is going to offer them. That is the thing that is going to make the people who run the teams for the other manufacturers nervous and ultimately is going to threaten the stability and financial future of the sport.
Toyota has a bigger budget than the other manufacturers do for their racing efforts, and that reality is not lost on the powers-that-be running the teams in NASCAR today. Jack Roush went out and found a financial partner in the folks who run the Boston Red Sox to help him going forward. Ray Evernham announced that he is also considering finding another financial partner so that he can continue on into the future with the uncertainty that is being brought on by the nearly unlimited capital that Toyota is looking to pour into NASCAR. The ramifications of these moves could be very far reaching and have enormous impacts going forward in the sport.
The question at this point is looking like, how long will it be before Toyota begins to run more competitively and is it going to be in time to lure some of the best talent in the garage over to their side in the off-season? As mentioned before, there are no Toyota teams in the top 35 in owner's points at this point in time. Once a team figures it all out, and starts getting solid Top 20 and Top 15 finishes, and the knowledge begins to circulate through the Toyota camp, more and more teams will begin to run better. At that point in time, when Toyota teams are ensured of making races and are starting to look like they can compete for wins, there are going to be some top notch crew chiefs, crew members, and shop personnel that are going to follow the cash and switch over to Toyota. Once that happens, there will be Toyota teams that will compete for the Championship, and there is a distinct possibility, with the resources that Toyota brings to the table, that it could happen before 2010.
As Toyota gets close to a Championship, it will be up to the other manufacturers to step up and compete, or the series will begin to look like the Truck series does at this point in time. Toyota is now the dominant manufacturer in the Trucks, the other manufacturers are not stepping up to be competitive, and the result is a series that is completely top heavy with Toyotas right now. While the Truck series offers the best competition in the three big NASCAR series, it isn't going to grow its fan base because there isn't a competition between the manufacturers and the potential winners on a given weekend are extremely limited.
So while Toyota is struggling to put cars into races at this point in time, do not think that these struggles are going to last. The amount of money that is being pumped into their teams and the technical resources that they have are certainly going to overcome these early struggles. Ultimately, there is a good possibility that the Toyota teams will be running up front and potentially dominating the entire series. So American manufacturer fans, don't get cocky, because the cream rises to the top, and in auto racing, the cream comes from money.
©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Great article – I really am glad I found frontstretch.com, because you seem to have the most level-headed, objective view of racing I’ve seen in a while. That a lot more than I can say for most of the media. Keep up the good work!
One thing I would like to add is that Toyota is also very good about being efficient with how they are spending their money – they are sharing resources and information across teams, thus preventing duplicate and triplicate work. There’s a lot to be gained by utilizing their team cooperation model. They do a lot to promote and encourage information sharing between the teams, and it benefits everyone involved.
That’s where guys like Jack Roush will have a hard time letting go of their existing model in order to keep up. From his perspective, he would be helping his competitors, but from Ford’s perspective he’d be helping the Ford teams. I’ll be curious if Ford, Chevy and Dodge have done anything like that or will start doing it. Unless they do, guys like Roush will just have to throw more money at it.
Okayâ€¦. Letâ€™s everybody take a step back from the edge of the building and take a deep breath. The big, bad monster, otherwise known as Toyota, is not â€“ repeat NOT â€“ going to doom NASCAR. What is wrong with the racing fans that absolutely freak out whenever something new comes along? Someone much smarter than me once said â€œThe only thing that is constant is change.â€
Letâ€™s take a quick look at some of the other recent changes to our sport, reflect on how a lot of folks screamed just like Chicken Little that the sky would soon begin to fall, and then look at the facts and how our beloved pastime evolved for the better.
First up â€“ restrictor plates. Holy Cow! How can NASCAR call it â€œracingâ€ when they mandate changes be made that actually slow the cars down? This must be the beginning of the end. But wait! The racing got more exciting!!! Now, I agree that the argument can be made that having 43 cars traveling in a pack at 190 miles per hour is more dangerous than duck hunting with Dick Cheney and therefore may ultimately be bad for the sport, but that is a totally different discussion. A lot of fans screamed that slowing the cars down â€œjust ainâ€™t rightâ€ and they predicted the immediate demise of stock car racing. In reading some of the books that discuss the history of NASCAR, there were times when the winner would reach the checkered flag two or three LAPS ahead of the 2nd place car. Call me crazy, but winning by over 5 miles is not excitement, thatâ€™s most of Major League Baseballâ€™s American League pennant races (Yankees Win!).
Second â€“ The Chase. How dare they? You mean instead of racing hard for 38 races a year NASCAR is going to have everyone race for 28 races and then narrow the field to ten, or now twelve, drivers for the final 10 races? Okayâ€¦. THIS must be the beginning of the end. But wait! The championship got more exciting!!! Donâ€™t think so? Just look at the Busch series last year. Kevin Harvick had clenched the Busch championship with two races remaining. He could actually have spent the last two Saturdays of the season helping Delana get fitted for her new Shell-emblazoned racing suits instead of whipping all the other Busch teams and he still would have been crowned the Busch series champ. Color me silly, but by my calculations, the old championship format employed by the Busch series actually shortened the series by two whole weeks while the Nextel Cup Chase was not finalized until the closing laps at Homestead. As a side note, NASCAR has addressed some of the major complaints of the Chase format, including the situation that almost occurred last year when the driver who won the most races in the regular season, Kasey Kahne, almost did not qualify for the Chase. I donâ€™t care if you think Brian France and Mike Helton are both the devil incarnate, you have got to give them their props for fixing a glaring error in the Chase format. By the way, the Chase was such a good idea that the PGA tour followed NASCARâ€™s lead and mimicked the Chase format for their new FedEx Cup. NASCAR and the PGA? Wowâ€¦ Sports do make strange bedfellowsâ€¦
Third â€“ The Car of Tomorrow. I know this is still very much an open issue, but you have to admit that the ghosts of drivers past did not rise out of their graves in a spiritual protest on Sunday, March 24th â€“ the day the Car of Tomorrow (or Today, or whatever it is) took to the banked concrete of Bristol Motor Speedway. The sun did not disappear, nor did the earth cease to exist. No. A new, albeit much uglier, car took to the oval. And guess what? The racing was pretty darn good. It was even better when they took the COTs to Martinsville. Do they have on-going issues? As they say in Fargo, â€œYou Betcha!â€ Not the least of which is the fact the new foam burns easier than Jeff Gordon when someone does not scurry out of his way on a white flag lap. But again, NASCAR is moving swiftly to find out what is causing this problem and fix it. This is the evolution of the sport. The cars are safer and teams will need to build fewer of them in order to compete. Both of these results, if achieved, bode extremely well for our sport.
So now we turn our attention to the newest threat to NASCAR: Toyota. Everyone, including Jack Roush, has painted a very bleak picture of the sport after Toyota establishes itself in Nextel Cup. Toyota, with all of their Yen, is going to enter the sport and begin tossing money around like Parris Hilton on a 3 day Vegas bender. They are going to start with offering Dale Jr.â€™s tire carrier $1 million to tote tires for a Toyota team. Then they are going to start paying the top drivers billions (thatâ€™s right, billions!) to pilot their Camerys. I have a hard time believing that the regular NASCAR fan is that worried that drivers, crew chiefs and top notch engineers may soon see their pay increase. Is there going to be a bidding war for our sportâ€™s top notch personnel? Probably, but you canâ€™t blame that all on Toyota. If any new manufacturer was going to try its luck in NASCAR, they would have to employ the same strategy. To get the top talent, you have to give them enough of a reason to leave their established team and crossover to an unproven team. And as they say: â€œMoney talksâ€. That, my friends, is the American way.
And that brings us to another reason Toyota strikes fear in the hearts of many NASCAR fans. Its not that a new manufacturer is going throw the entire NASCAR pay scale out of whack. It boils down to the simple fact that a manufacturer from a foreign country is trying to make inroads to one of bastions of Americana and it scares people, plain and simple. This argument just does not hold water. All Camrys are manufactured in Georgetown, KY. All Ford F-150â€™s, Ikonâ€™s, and Fusionâ€™s are all made in Mexico. Remind me again â€“ who is the foreign manufacturer?
So I say to all the NASCAR masses out there who are worried that Toyota will take over NASCAR, take it easy. Change is not necessarily bad. The entry of Toyota into NASCAR is simply another step in the evolution of our sport. Toyota entered the Craftsman Truck Series and many say that is the best racing of all the series. So again, everyone take a deep breath and relax. Toyota may have deep pockets, but they are not Godzilla.
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Infographic for the West Coast Nationals for the Mini Outlaws
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