Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
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 April 26, 2013
“The perfect racetrack.” That’s the phrase that many in the NASCAR world utter when describing Richmond International Raceway, the site of Round 9 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. This popular, 0.75-mile oval will be inheriting another load of racing drama this weekend, but for once, it’s not “Boys, Have At It.” Instead, the main focus on everyone’s minds will be “Boys, What’s The Call Now?” revolving closely around the onslaught of penalties NASCAR has dumped onto some of the biggest names in the sport.
The latest victim of their penal justice system, Matt Kenseth, enters the weekend with deflated hopes and a de facto confiscated victory just six days removed from what seemed like a high point in the Wisconsonian’s career. That’s nothing compared to Joe Gibbs, long one of the sport’s most respected car owners who could spend the next six-plus weeks with a suspended license; or Toyota, who now has to face questions as to whether they’ve been “fudging” their engines. Add in the Penske penalties, still fresh in everyone’s psyche to boot and the question amongst NASCAR followers has to now be this one: who’s going to be the next victim? Could it be Jimmie Johnson, who enters the weekend with nearly a full race lead over second place in the Cup standings? That’s just one of many questions fans will silently ask themselves as we dive headfirst into a crucial stretch of the Sprint Cup Series season.
1. Could more teams face penalties in Richmond?
NASCAR once again dropped the proverbial penalty hammer this past Wednesday, and it just so happened that Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 team were the offenders en vogue for the week of April 21st. Citing weight issues in Kenseth’s race-winning engine from Kansas, NASCAR walloped the team with a slew of penalties. They range from a 50-point penalty for Kenseth, to a six-week suspension of the team’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff that’s paired with a whopping $200,000 fine. These infractions came down only a week after NASCAR issued similarly weighty punishments upon the entire Penske Racing organization, albeit for entirely separate issues. We haven’t seen such a run of technical infractions in years, suggesting that NASCAR really does mean business when it comes to messing with their prized Gen-6 race cars.
It is now clear to everyone in the garage area that NASCAR is taking a hardline stance on operating in the gray area with any mechanical piece. That even goes for the boys back in the shop, as evidenced by the Kenseth penalties which, despite being a Toyota Racing Development issue, resulted in massive fines for largely innocent members of the No. 20 team. Insiders have suggested that NASCAR is inspecting cars more carefully than ever in an effort to keep teams from finding “tricks,” such as the rear-end skew setups of the 2012 season that give certain teams a competitive advantage. As such, if someone is operating in the gray area, NASCAR will find it, now more so than ever.
It’s notable that the last three teams to receive penalties (JGR, Penske, and MWR) all received their infractions after patterns of dominant on-track performances. So if some team darts to the front at Richmond, winning by a large margin watch out – they will likely be subject to intense scrutiny, courtesy NASCAR’s nitpicky officials. Expect a thorough post-race examination of the winner, regardless of affiliation and after this week, it’ll be hard to trust they’re penalty-free until days later. One has to imagine the No. 48 team, what with their massive point lead and all, will also be under the microscope for inspection as much as they have been all season.
For better or worse, NASCAR is on a crusade against “cheaters” right now, and there is no telling who or what could be next in their path.
2. Will we see the beating and banging this weekend that we saw in Bristol?
Richmond is a curious little racetrack. Depending on a variety of circumstances, races here can be complete wreckfests or quick, clean, and green. Juxtapose the 2010 and ’11 Fall races at Richmond; you can easily see what I’m talking about. That 2010 Fall event saw only three cautions, seemingly unheard of for a track this size. Only one year later, the field went berserk, causing 15 yellows and providing us with the memorable Jimmie Johnson / Kurt Busch fiasco. The 2012 races went back towards tame, combining for just a modest 11 cautions over two events. However, from 2007-‘09, every race (six total) run at Richmond had at least ten yellow flags, showing the track can, in fact have just as much bite as Bristol and Martinsville.
What do those numbers tell us about 2013? The answer comes by digging deeper, discovering how these cautions unfold. Well, for one thing, it is difficult to predict how many yellows will be from “naturally occurring accidents.” By “naturally occurring accidents,” I mean those which result from drivers simply losing control of their car due to a difficult to maneuver track surface. We usually see this phenomenon at Richmond when the track either heats up a lot, causing the exits of the corners to get slick, or when the tires wear substantially and experience blowouts. These two things don’t happen often, however, thus meaning a third cause of cautions will be the biggest one to watch for: Payback.
That’s right; a common thread among the Richmond events, with a high number of cautions is a trend of early race mishaps between feuding drivers creates a “cautions breed cautions” scenario. What will happen is that two guys will wreck each other early in the race, causing the field to bunch up for a restart, which leads to a separate accident. That leads to another restart, then two more drivers start feuding, and the vicious cycle continues. Since Richmond is generally wide enough to avoid excess beating and banging after a few laps of green-flag competition, option three is the primary way wreckfests happen. Given that we already have a few driver feuds simmering under the surface, it’s safe to say we could head in this direction Saturday night.
3. Can Tony Stewart jumpstart his season at one of his best racetracks?
Stewart-Haas Racing’s struggles in 2013 have been well-documented. All three of the outfit’s teams have been markedly off the pace all season long, with their greatest struggles coming at engineering-oriented tracks such as Texas and Kansas. Most head scratching of all in the team’s problems have been those in the No. 14 camp. Boasting a driver and team that are only a year and a half removed from a Sprint Cup championship, they are not used to running in the back. Notoriously a slow starter, Stewart winless through April is nothing new but 21st in points, eight races in is the worst early season performance of his career.
Enter Richmond International Raceway, one of Mr. Stewart’s best tracks. Although he hasn’t won here since 2002, Smoke has the highest average finish (5.76) of anyone in the past four events at this oval. If there were ever a place where Stewart could get the ship righted, once more it would be here.
But for as bad as this driver has performed all year long, is there truly reason to believe that he will “snap out of it” this weekend? You bet there is. Richmond is a driver’s track, meaning that the setup tricks and engineering advantages that are necessary for intermediate success (both things that SHR has been lacking in as of late) are not nearly as important down in Virginia.
So can the driver/owner, one of the best in pure talent put the whole organization on his back when they need him the most? We’re about to find out. If Stewart can’t perform on a weekend like this one, when his driving ability ought to shine through more than any other, it could be a rather telling indictment on how the rest of the season will unfold for this SHR bunch.
4. Can Jamie McMurray continue to perform?
Lost amidst much of the drama and storylines that have rained down upon the Sprint Cup Series as of late has been the resurgence of Jamie McMurray. Once every three years or so, McMurray seemingly comes out of nowhere and quietly puts together a solid season. We saw it in 2010, we saw it in 2007 (albeit to a lesser degree) and it appears to be happening again in 2013. Driving for a team that has fallen from grace, barely relevant at the Sprint Cup level, McMurray has been consistently performing, week in and week out. Quietly, he’s climbed to 10th in points on the strength of three top-10 finishes, including a solid seventh-place result last Sunday at Kansas. So is McMurray “back,” after all or is he teasing us with B-level performances like he has for most of his career?
The jury is out on that last bit for now, but given that McMurray is now firmly in Chase contention, a different set of expectations will be placed upon him, and his team, starting this weekend in Richmond. This track has never exactly been one of McMurray’s stronger ones – just three top 10s and a 23rd-place average finish in 20 starts – but this driver has demonstrated in the past that when he gets hot, that makes him a threat just about anywhere. Remember back in 2010, when McMurray came out of nowhere to run second at Darlington? That could happen this weekend, as it appears this Earnhardt Ganassi Racing veteran is getting ready to embark on one of his now-famous streaks.
So if you’re looking for a dark horse, the No. 1 team will be one to keep an eye on this weekend. Another top-10 finish would go a long way in validating the team as a true Chase contender for the rest of 2013.
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Will there be penalties at Richmond? Any car that finishes ahead of a Hendrick car, particularly the #48, will be ripped to shreds in the privacy of NASCAR’s research and Development center in Concord, and the minutest discrepancy will be significantly magnified to a new record penalty.
Anyone want to make that bet?
Oh, and Matt, if you think the 48 team will be under the microscope if they turn in a dominating performance, you are seriously delusional. The NASCAR inspectors will not touch the 48, especially considering that the final word on any penalties will come from The Felon’s good friend Mr. Middlebrook. And since the NASCAR inspectors all know this, why would they waste their time and effort to nail the 48 for anything, knowing the penalty will be overturned?
wow, Ken. Hate HMS much? I’m not a fan of the 48 by any means and certainly it seems that Chaddie the cheater gets a pass on most things, but your posts over the past few weeks have sounded like it’s personal.
And Ken, best I can remember the 48 team has gotten penalties multiple times so it’s not like Nascar is disregarding them. Frankly, if you look at the Gibbs Toyota’s and the way they have run this year it definitely looks like they have some kind of advantage. Is that advantage legal or something else? I mean, Gibbs has won four out of eight cup races I believe and their cars seem to be the most dominant about every week. And, remember this is without Hamlin Driving so if he had been back on the track they may very well have more than half the wins in cup racing. And, this isn’t even counting Nationwide where Gibbs/Busch has dominated that too. One team dominating like this is not good for Nascar because it isolates other teams and their fans because they are not getting wins. You have to expect if you win like Gibbs has been winning you had better have all your ducks in a row.
McMurray is pouring it on because his job is on the line. And it should be. EGR has made repeated changes to their team; everything but the drivers. Both of their drivers should have been fired two seasons ago, and Jamie’s push is coming too late to matter.
I continue to believe that Ganassi’s team is nothing more than a tax dodge, but he’s used to doing better and won’t stand for the kind of seasons that the team’s been having.