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.
Hello, again. It’s time to take another look at a classic race. As you may already know, the Nationwide Series has raced at Indianapolis Raceway Park (now O’Reilly Raceway Park) since the series became a dedicated touring series in 1982. At the time, NASCAR had to sweeten the deal for teams to actually make the trip up from the Carolinas. That is not the case today, despite the constant start-and-park issues that plague the series.
Races at IRP/ORP can be either quite boring, or quite exciting. The 1991 Kroger 200 It was just quirky. At the time, the Kroger 200 was held on an off-weekend for the Winston Cup Series in between Talladega and Watkins Glen. As a result, multiple Winston Cup regulars made the trip to Clermont, Indiana for the two-day show—Dale Earnhardt was there with a borrowed car from Ken Schrader, Winston Cup rookie Bobby Hamilton made the trip, as did Dale Jarrett, Morgan Shepherd and Darrell Waltrip (Waltrip had to qualify via a Promoter’s Option). Davey Allison was there with his No. 28 Havoline Buick, but decided at the last minute to opt out of the race because of a hand injury suffered the previous week at Talladega when he punched his hauler. Hut Stricklin drove in his place. Dick Trickle also could have been considered a Cup driver at the time since he started the season in a full-time ride (the No. 66 Phillips 66/TropArtic Motor Oil Pontiac for Cale Yarborough Motorsports), but was fired four weeks into the season and replaced with Lake Speed.
Entering the race, Kenny Wallace in the Cox Lumber No. 36 held a 173 point lead over Bobby Labonte as a result of Wallace finishing no worse than second (with a victory in the Budweiser 300—now a Sprint Cup event—at then-New Hampshire International Raceway) over the previous three races. Meanwhile, Labonte had three terrible weeks in a row. He blew an engine in New Hampshire, finished 11th at South Boston (but six laps down at the finish), then crashed twice at Pulaski County Speedway and finished 25th (two name changes later, its now MotorMile Speedway).
Ward Burton started his No. 27 Gwaltney Big 8’s Buick from his first Busch pole with a lap of 110.516 mph alongside Robert Pressley’s Alliance No. 59. The lap was actually faster than the pole for last years 200 lapper.
At the start, Burton jumped out to a decent advantage, while Pressley simply got a terrible start and dropped right out of the top 5. Meanwhile, Earnhardt, who had to get into the event through a 25-lap qualifying race, was slowly making his way up through the field from his 24th starting spot.
After ten laps, Labonte in his No. 44 Penrose Oldsmobile began to put pressure on Burton but was unable to make the pass. Defending champion Chuck Bown closed up on the duo as well, making it a three-way battle for the lead. In addition, the aforementioned three drivers were setting a torrid pace—by Lap 45, there were only 22 of the 34 starters left on the lead lap. Amongst those who had already been lapped were Bobby Dotter, Tracy Leslie and Darrell Waltrip, who eventually pulled out after completing 108 laps due to overheating after struggling with a car that did not run well on bias-ply tires.
Burton was still up front and holding off Labonte until he got loose entering Turn 1 on Lap 48. The Gwaltney Buick slid up the track and brushed the outside wall right rear first, then again with the right front. Though he kept the No. 27 pointed in the right direction he had dropped back to fourth after recovering. The wall contact can be seen at the 5:00 mark of this clip.
Labonte benefited from Burton’s misfortune and swept past to take the lead with Bown second and Jimmy Hensley in the unsponsored Beverley Racing No. 25 in third. Tire issues started to become an issue past Lap 50 when Earnhardt was forced to pit to replace right side tires down to the cords and lost a couple of laps in the process. Then, Dale Jarrett’s No. 32 Nestle Crunch Pontiac hit the wall in Turn 4 right after being lapped by Labonte. After circulating rather slowly for a lap, Jarrett brought his car in for a stop.
Shortly afterwards, Earnhardt’s night came to an abrupt end while he attempted to make up time after his unscheduled pit stop. Earnhardt attempted an aggressive outside move on Morgan Shepherd and proceeded to have contact with the No. 97, putting himself into the outside wall though no caution was thrown for the incident. The crash occurred during a commercial for ESPN, but a replay can be seen at the 8:25 mark of the aforementioned clip.
Meanwhile on track, Labonte was starting to feel some pressure from Hensley, who had taken second away from Bown. Together, the duo had pulled away from Bown and Burton while simultaneously dealing with lapped traffic. Some of the lapped cars were nowhere near the pace of the leaders, but Dotter and Leslie simply got off to bad starts and were able to keep up after being lapped. In fact, Leslie passed Hensley and Bown and was just about to unlap himself when the first caution came out on Lap 67.
Replays were unclear, but it appeared that the No. 85 of Lonnie Rush, Jr. spun exiting Turn 2 and had contact with the No. 96 of Tom Peck. Both cars continued, but a piece of Rush’s left front fender flew off on the backstretch, drawing the caution.
Under the yellow, the leaders took the opportunity to pit. Unlike today, where ORP has 43 pit boxes and a pit entry at the beginning of Turn 3, in 1991, drivers entered off of Turn 4 and if you didn’t qualify in the Top 16 or so, you had to pit behind the wall on the second pit road, which ran parallel to the main pit road. Thought it wasn’t ideal, it was the best setup that the track could come up with. Labonte took two tires and barely beat Hensley off pit road, while Bown took four tires. Wallace also took four tires but had to make two stops to do it so that he could stay on the lead lap.
Rookie David Green, driving the No. 8 TIC Financial Oldsmobile, stayed out and took the lead with Trickle in second. Labonte restarted in third while Bown, with his four tires, restarted in seventh. When the green came out, Trickle went to work on Green, while Hensley took third away from Labonte. Hensley then ran down the lead duo and drove his Cutlass to the outside of Trickle’s Cutlass for second. However, Hensley was boxed in by Green’s leading No. 8.
Meanwhile, behind the leaders, Bown had contact with the No. 67 of Elton Sawyer in Turn 4, spinning his No. 63 Nescafe Pontiac in front of half the field. Bown was then hit by Shepherd’s No. 97, bringing out the second caution of the race on Lap 82. The crash can be seen at the 7:55 mark of this clip. Shepherd, a part-time campaigner at the time, was out on the spot and finished 32nd.
At the time, the Busch Grand National Series had a tire rule that changed weekly according to which track the series was racing at. IRP’s tire rule was that teams could only change one tire per position during the race. Of course, additional changes were allowed if tires were blown out or cut. Bown blew out the right front and left rear tires in the crash, so the team was only allowed to change those two tires.
Green continued to lead on the restart over Trickle and Hensley. Bobby Hamilton, making a guest appearance in a No. 68 Country Time Oldsmobile painted almost identically to his Winston Cup car (the difference was that the headlight area was not blacked out on the Busch car), hit the wall in Turn 1 after being sideswiped by Burton. No yellow was thrown, but much of the field slowed up to avoid the stricken Oldsmobile.
While Hamilton was recovering, Hensley was able to get by Trickle for second and immediately began pressuring Green for the lead. It did not take long for Hensley to overwhelm Green and take the lead on Lap 90. Shortly after the pass, Stricklin slowed on the backstretch. Once in Turn 3, he was sideswiped by the No. 79 of Dave Rezendes. Dotter then ran in the back of Stricklin and spun his No. 08 Buick. No caution was thrown, but Dotter’s Buick Regal had its front end smashed in good. The incident can be seen at the 1:55 mark of this clip.
The third caution flew on Lap 103 for a crash involving Stricklin and Jeff Burton in Turn 3. There was no replay shown on ESPN, but it appeared that both drivers smacked the outside wall hard (especially Jeff’s No. 99). Neither driver was having a particularly good night, and the crash put both of them out on the spot.
On the restart, the throttle stuck on Burton’s No. 27 went down, sending the Gwaltney Big 8’s Buick up the hill. Since Burton was running second at the time, a mad scramble developed behind. The No. 27 was hit by Dotter and spun down the track, catching Wallace in the right rear and spinning the No. 36 hard into the outside wall. Meanwhile, Richard Lasater ran into the back of Ed Ferree, spinning out the No. 49. He was clipped by Jeff Gordon’s 1988 Ford Thunderbird. Peck, Rezendes and Ed Berrier piled in. Naturally, the caution came right back out. The crash can be seen at the 9:30 mark of the previously mentioned clip.
Ward Burton, Ferree and Lasater dropped out on the spot. Wallace’s car, which suffered rear suspension damage in the crash, was repaired behind the wall and got back out to make some laps before dropping out later on. Peck and Rezendes spent some time behind the wall for repairs, but rejoined and finished the event. Berrier and Gordon managed to keep going with minimal repairs on pit road.
On Lap 124, the race restarted with Hensley still in the lead while Leslie attempted once again to get his lap back on the outside. Leslie was able to clear Hensley and pulled out a gap between himself and the rest of the field. Hensley then fell into the clutches of Labonte, Bown and Tommy Houston, creating a four-way battle for the lead. Bown made short work of Labonte, then passed Hensley to take the lead on Lap 129.
The fifth caution flew shortly afterwards for a wreck involving Rush and Berrier in Turn 4. Replays showed that Rush simply spun on his own while running on the outside of Gordon, the result of a blown right rear tire. The No. 85 spun and backed into the wall slightly, then hit it again with the left side. Berrier simply spun to the inside to avoid Rush and did not hit anything—both drivers continued.
On the restart, Bown got a decent start and attempted to pull away from the field. However, Jarrett anticipated the start just as well and briefly got back onto the lead lap. The battle briefly brought Hensley back to Bown. Robert Pressley ran afoul of the yellow tire changing rule and was forced to pit under green to serve a two-lap penalty. Due to the penalty, Pressley was removed from any kind of contention and finished four laps down in 13th.
After putting Jarrett back a lap down, Bown proceeded to open up a good advantage over his competitors, who were still stuck behind Jarrett. With 52 laps to go, Green hit the wall in Turn 4 and broke the right front suspension on his Oldsmobile. Green got the No. 8 back to pit road, but the crew could not repair the car, forcing Green to retire from the race.
Behind Bown, a three-way battle for second developed between Hensley, Houston and Labonte with Houston eventually moving his Roses’ Stores Buick past Hensley for second. Labonte eventually took third from Hensley as the Virginian began to drop back with handling issues. Labonte then set his sights on Houston and second place. He would eventually snag the position with just under 25 laps to go.
Bown continued to lead comfortably until Hensley, who was still running in fourth, lost his brakes and hit the wall in Turn 2, bringing out the sixth and final caution with 16 laps to go. Hensley was ok, but the car was done for the evening.
However, the drama was only just beginning. With only one lap to green, Bown’s seatbelts came undone in Turn 2, forcing him to stop and re-fasten them. Bown radioed crew chief Jeff Hensley (Jimmy’s cousin) with the grim news just as Dave DeSpain was interviewing him for ESPN. You can see Hensley’s reaction to the news starting at the 0:20 mark of this clip. Just like what happened with Marcos Ambrose’s unfortunate coasting incident at Sonoma last June, Bown lost the lead to Labonte since he failed to maintain the pace under caution. The caution was also extended by a lap due to Bown choosing to stop on track. He would resume in the sixth position, last car on the lead lap.
Labonte led on the final restart with eight laps to go while Houston gave chase. Meanwhile, Bown and Leslie, who just happened to be on fresh tires, were both on a mission to move up through the field. They both made short work of Joe Nemechek and Bown passed Leslie to move into fourth. Trickle was next up to be passed, but Trickle used the lapped car of Jarrett as a pick. Leslie repassed Bown and dropped the No. 63 back to fifth as a result.
Meanwhile, Houston had fallen back from Labonte into Trickle’s clutches. With a little over four laps to go, it appeared that Trickle had just a little contact with Houston in Turn 3, resulting in the No. 6 Buick hitting the wall and allowing Trickle, Leslie and Bown past. Since Trickle was forced to check up, Leslie took advantage and got to the inside of Trickle to take second. However, Labonte was not going to be touched as he held on to take his second win of the season.
In Victory Lane, Bobby was happy that he finally shook off his bad luck.
“I just [want] to thank everyone on this Penrose Oldsmobile team. They’ve done a terrific job these past three weeks, but they’ve probably wanted to shoot me since I’ve torn up everything it seems like,” Labonte said to ESPN’s Dave DeSpain. “We had a lot of good luck tonight when Chuck [Bown] had his problems, and that just made things a lot easier. Now, we can concentrate on next week and at least we can come home with a car that wasn’t burnt.”
Labonte’s margin of victory was a third of a second over Leslie in second. Trickle finished third, followed by Bown, who led a race-high 61 laps before his belts unbuckled. Houston rounded out the top 5.
Nemechek finished in sixth, the last driver on the lead lap. Jarrett was one lap down in seventh, followed by Berrier in eighth despite being involved in two incidents on track. Jack Ingram brought his No. 11 Skoal Chevrolet home ninth, two laps down in what turned out to be his final career start in the series, and Troy Beebe rounded out the top 10 in his Taco Bell Chevrolet.
Labonte’s victory combined with Wallace’s 24th-place finish cut the deficit down by more than half. Wallace’s lead was now only 84 points with nine races left to run.
I hope you enjoyed today’s look back at the 1991 Kroger 200. If you would like to see more of these recaps, please direct your thoughts to either the comments section, or you can contact me via the contact e-mail form below. Thank you and stay tuned for more classic race recaps.
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