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.
Matt Stallknecht · Friday March 22, 2013
Auto Club Speedway, located in the not-so-picturesque Inland Empire town of Fontana, CA, is the site of Round 5 of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Season. Infamous for being a popular symbol of NASCAR’s plight of the mid-2000s post-boom era, the track once known for it’s boring on-track product has come to life a bit in recent years due to an aging surface pavement that will give drivers and teams fits all weekend long. But lets not get ahead of ourselves here, a good race at Auto Club is still tantamount to an average race anywhere else. Nonetheless, the big teams have usually thrived here, so one of the main questions heading into the weekend will certainly be whether or not the powerhouse squads will blow away the field like they have in the past at Auto Club. Meanwhile, in the garage area, we have a Twitter rivalry brewing, a points leader putting up insane numbers, and all sorts of craziness after a barnburner of a race at Bristol. There’s an awful lot to cover this week, so without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Will the Auto Club 400 be a dud… again?
Outside of perhaps only New Hampshire Motor Speedway, there is not a single track on the Sprint Cup schedule that is more ill-suited for stock cars than Auto Club Speedway. Built in 1997 during NASCAR’s golden age of growth, the track (once known as California Speedway) was built by Mr. Roger Penske with the intention that both open-wheel and stock cars would be able to safely race around the track. In order for this to work, the track was only given a paltry 14 degrees of banking, perfect for Indy cars, but not nearly enough for stock cars. The ensuing result was a track that staged parade like affairs where the field simply spread out over the sprawling 2 miles of track space. No matter what incarnation of NASCAR stock car machines has taken to the track over the years, not a single one has been able to put on consistently good racing. Not the early-Gen 4 car, not the late-Gen 4 car, not the old Nationwide car, not the new Nationwide car, and certainly not the Gen 5 COT.
Thus, there usually isn’t a whole lot of hope for thrilling action when it comes to racing at Auto Club, as the track’s dry and conservative shape simply doesn’t allow for it in anything outside of an Indy car. But there may be one element of this year’s version of the race that, while perhaps not making the race any more exciting than usual, it may at least give the fans something to watch that is different from what they see at most tracks. As you may remember, this track has not received a fresh repave since it was first built in 1997. That means that the current track surface is extremely abrasive and bumpy. Abrasive and bumpy race tracks chew up and wear out tires. With this in mind, the Auto Club 400 will likely be the first race this season where tire wear and tire conservation play a true role in the outcome of the race. This is an important element that distinguishes Auto Club from other race tracks on the circuit. Outside of Atlanta and perhaps maybe Texas, most tracks on the schedule are so smooth today (and the tires are rock hard to boot) that the skill of tire conservation is hardly even a factor anymore. That will not be the case this Sunday, as drivers will be fighting tire wear all race, and the ones skilled enough to manage their tires will be rewarded handsomely.
This notion of tire conservation may not sound very exciting, and it probably won’t improve the racing much outside of the first few laps of a restart, but it will at least add an interesting element to the race that we very rarely see in the sport anymore. Will the race be a dud? Probably, but at least fans will be treated to a form of racing that is not often seen in the sport of NASCAR racing these days where rock hard tires and butter smooth race tracks rule the day.
2. Will the Denny Hamlin/Joey Logano feud spill over into Auto Club?
Ah Bristol, you never fail to create controversy do you? Many a great driver has been suckered into conflict because of the Smoky Mountains’ half-mile bullring, and the track’s latest two victims are Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. In case you missed it, Logano, who was punted earlier in the race by Hamlin, stormed over to Hamlin’s car after the race demanding an explanation for Hamlin’s on-track shenanigans. Like any good crew member would, multiple men in FedEx suits blocked Logano’s attempts at getting to his former teammate, and thus the two drivers did what any sensible 21st century person would do in this situation: they rushed to their keyboards and had a slap-fight over Twitter.
The real question here, of course, is whether or not their little tiff will spill over onto the track this week. The answer? It will, but not in the conventional sense.
As I pointed out earlier, Auto Club Speedway is a massive track that allows for some butt-puckering corner entry speeds (think 208-210 with the Gen-6 car). I don’t care how much Logano’s jimmies were rustled by Hamlin’s antics, there is no way in hell that Logano will risk taking out Hamlin on such a fast and aero sensitive race track. Drivers have a code when it comes to pay back, and it is universally agreed upon that roughing somebody up on a track with 200 mph corner entry speeds is not kosher. Not only that, but even the tiniest bit of aero damage a driver assumes when issuing pay back at a track this large could ruin their own race.
Thus, instead of outright wrecking Hamlin, look for Logano to issue payback in subtle but irksome ways. If Hamlin gets anywhere near Logano on the track this Sunday, Logano is liable to block him, take his line away, box him in, and any number of other irritating non-contact forms of on track payback. But don’t expect Logano to lay the bumper to Mr. Hamlin. Not yet at least. He can do that two weeks from now at Martinsville, where aero is irrelevant and contact is encouaraged.
3. Could this be the first caution-free points race since 2002?
Let’s jump in our hypothetical time machines for the moment and turn back the clocks such that we are watching the 2012 edition of the Auto Club 400 (I know, not something I want to re-live either). In case you all forgot, that race went 129 laps caution free before rain halted and eventually ended the event. But what if the rain held off? The race had a very “green” look to it, and the field was incredibly spread out such that car-to-car contact was highly unlikely. That race very well could have gone caution-free, and there is a chance that that very thing could happen in this year’s edition of the event.
Now, I am sure many of you are already saying to yourself that NASCAR would never let such a thing happen in today’s day and age and would eventually throw a debris caution before the event reached its final laps, but given how close some races in 2012 (namely the spring Texas race which ran 234 green laps to the finish) came to going caution free, I think a caution-free race is very possible, and if it is going to happen, it will happen at Auto Club. Between the width of the track, the effects of tire wear, and the low corner speeds due to the lack of banking, races at Auto Club get very spread out very quickly, and when the field spreads out, the probability of a caution flag waving diminishes greatly. This is especially compounded as of late due to the sheer lack of competitive cars capable of effectively racing one another, as there are only really 20-24 competitive cars in the field as opposed to years past where there were upwards of 30-35 competitive and well-funded cars on the track. Thus, you have a recipe for long green flag runs.
We all know NASCAR loves it’s debris cautions, but given the fact that they too have been waving at a lesser rate as of late (not a single debris caution was called last week in Bristol, when was the last time that happened?), could we see our first caution free race since 2002? It’s certainly not likely, but if it’s going to happen anywhere, it will happen at Auto Club.
4. Can Brad Keselowski pad his points lead in Auto Club?
Right around the same time that his new teammate Joey Logano was tusseling with Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski was just doing what he normally does as of late: running up front. Many expected Keselowski to fade after his Cinderella-esque run to the title last year, but such a demise has not yet occurred. If anything, Keselowski looks better than he ever has, all this despite a move to a new manufacturer and a brand new style of race car. Keselowski has posted a ridiculous 3.5 average finish through 4 races this season and currently holds the points lead over former mentor Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is Keselowski simply on a hot streak, or is the young phenom actually getting better?
We ought to find out a great deal about Brad and his No. 2 team this weekend in Auto Club, as the track has a unique ability to challenge both driver and team simultaneously. The driver must manage tires here more so than any track outside of Atlanta, and the long length and bumpy nature of the track is a major car setup challenge for the teams. As such, The No. 2 team’s performance (as well as the performance of many other front running teams) in this weekend’s event will be a telling indictment of where they stand thus far in 2013. Keselowski has showed strength at four very different race tracks this season, and as such, if the No. 2 squad comes out of the box strong once again and posts another solid finish on yet another unique track type (the 2-mile configuration of Auto Club), we can reasonably peg them as the early favorite for the title.
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I’d still bet on the fake debris caution.
Watch for those “entertainment cautions” as Tony Stewart calls them. Auto Club is already a dud before it starts. I NEVER watch it and tracks like it do NOTHING to attract new fans much less keep old ones.
Of course the drivers LOVE it. It’s, relatively, easy for them with all that room. They don’t have to work as much as at, say, Bristol. But it’s a snoozer for fans.
I’ve already planned a day of golf instead.
I don’t bother to watch this race – not worth my time to even have on in the background while I do chores.
So tired of people bashing New Hampshire. Why is it that NHMS is criticized but Phoenix is not? Its the same track, except for the kink in the back and doesn’t provide any better racing than NHMS does.
And before Nascar went messing with the cars, that place put on a good show every single time they showed up. This is not the tracks fault.
I agree the racing there is not as good as it has been but you can say that about every other track on the circuit as well, but comparing NHMS to Fontana is a joke.
Join the club, Steve. I’m tired of people bashing ACS for things NASCAR did. Its no worse than any other cookie cutter, and even its sister, Michigan, gets a pass with little complaints. Its not the track’s fault, its NASCAR’s fault.
Auto Club Speedway is not a nascar track, it’s an open wheel track that nascar races on. Like Indy.
I’m sick of that crap. It’s boring. There’s more action on I-40 heading east out of nashville every day than there is at Auto Club.
They should be racing at Irwindale Speedway. That track is GREAT for stock cars.
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9 Cautions and an amazing race. The bias toward my home track on this site is appalling.