NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Hello, race fans. The Sprint Cup Series is off this weekend for the traditional Easter break. As far as off weeks go, Easter is essentially the only weekend that NASCAR feels that Sprint Cup absolutely must take off. This is something that has stood for decades.
However, such has never really been the case in the Nationwide Series. Easter weekend races are the norm in the AAA series, and even races on Easter Sunday are not out of the question.
In the early 1990’s, Easter weekend typically saw the then-Busch Grand National Series (if they weren’t off themselves) race at a standalone venue. In 1992, the series returned to Hickory Motor Speedway in order to make up the Mountain Dew 500, which had been originally scheduled to be the second race of the season (in between Daytona and Rockingham). The race had been postponed due to rain, and rules of the time allowed for races postponed due to rain early in the season to be made up on an off-weekend later in the season rather than the next available day.
On this warm April afternoon, the action on track was not necessarily the big story (although, there was plenty of it). The race had a very popular winner driving with a heavy heart. However, the track itself was the story.
For some reason, the track in Turns 3 and 4 was freshly repaved a few days prior to the race. Anyone who knows anything about road construction could tell you that paving a track and not giving it proper time to cure is a recipe for disaster. At least when this happened in Phoenix around the same time, the powers that be decided on using a rosin-like substance to help the track cure. There were no break-up issues when the Cup Series made the long haul to Arizona that year.
Back to Hickory. Steve Grissom started his No. 31 Channellock Oldsmobile on the pole. Alongside was supposed to be Ken Schrader in his own No. 15 Chevrolet. However, Schrader couldn’t be in Hickory due to an ASA commitment. So, he called on good buddy Dale Earnhardt, who brought sponsorship from Western Steer Steakhouses and Mom n’ Pops, to take his place.
The new pavement was said to have given the drivers issues with grip in practice. The field barely completed a full lap before the first of what would turn out to be many incidents of the day. Richard Lasater and Ricky Craven collided in Turn 4, resulting in Craven’s DuPont Automotive Finishes No. 99 spinning. This brought out the first yellow of the day, but both drivers continued without an issue, however Craven did lose a lap, though
After the restart, Earnhardt made his move to the inside of Grissom in the treacherous Turns 3 and 4 to take the lead. Such a move would have been quite fitting of Earnhardt’s style. With the groove being right next to the grass, Grissom ended up being drop-kicked back to fifth.
Bobby Labonte, who followed Earnhardt past Grissom, took the lead on Lap 16. Shortly afterward, Chuck Bown’s NesCafe No. 63 basically went straight in Turn 4 after getting out of the groove. The new pavement was already starting to break up, resulting in the area outside of the groove being like dirt, and it only got worse as the race wore on.
Shortly afterwards, Jeff Green spun the Day Enterprises No. 16 and hit the wall in Turn 2, bringing out the second yellow. Green’s 31-W Insulation Chevrolet had rear end damage and was able to restart but pulled off and retired shortly afterwards.
Labonte led on the restart, but got off in the gravel in Turn 4 and hit the wall on Lap 28, allowing Grissom to re-take the lead. By this point, NASCAR had taken notice of the pavement issues and threw a caution, which quickly became a red flag to address the track. During the red flag, TNN’s Glenn Jarrett moseyed over to Turn 4 to check out the situation in person. While there, he scooped up some of the track that had come up and showed it to viewers. The small pieces of pavement can be seen at the 1:30 mark of this clip.
Honestly, it looked similar to some of the roads in Upstate New York after really bad attempts to patch massive holes during this winter. Luckily, the situation didn’t result in massive potholes, like what happened that summer at Volusia County Speedway (now Volusia Speedway Park). Track crews really couldn’t do much to alleviate the problems. A sweeper was dispatched to sweep away the stones that had already come up in the first 35 laps of the race.
A rule disallowing teams from changing tires under caution was lifted due to the track issues. Had that not occurred, changing tires under caution would have earned drivers a two-lap penalty. This was simply because Hickory’s pit road was really not conducive to live pit stops. However, if a team were to take tires under yellow, they’d have to do it quick to avoid getting lapped. Once the red was lifted, Jeff Burton and Jack Sprague fell victim to Hickory’s tight confines and lost a lap in the pits.
When the green came back out, everyone raced to get themselves down to the bottom. Earnhardt, who had gotten himself lapped early on, cut across the nose of fourth-place Ward Burton. Meanwhile, Jim Bown spun his No. 98 Buick in Turn 1 towards the back of the pack. That did not bring out the fourth caution, but another wreck in Turn 3 involving Ernie Irvan (in a No. 4 Kodak Chevrolet painted identically to his Cup car at the time) and Ed Ferree in his No. 49 Buick did bring out the fourth yellow. Both drivers continued.
At the time, the Busch Grand National Series had double-file restarts in which the lead lap cars lined up on the inside. Such a setup allowed the leaders to easily access the all-important inside line in the turns. With the track in as bad shape as it was, it made getting a lap back for drivers like Tommy Houston nearly impossible.
Meanwhile, the incidents kept on coming. Ferree spun again just a couple of laps after the restart to bring out caution No. 5 on Lap 49. Jeff Gordon had the crankshaft break off his engine on Lap 62, then ran over it and blew a tire in Turn 3. His Baby Ruth No. 1 then stalled on track roughly where the auxiliary pit road that came into use in the mid-1990’s emptied onto the track, bringing out the sixth caution. The failure was a great shame for Gordon, having amazingly advanced to seventh from a 21st-place starting spot.
During the sixth yellow, the red flag was once again brought out for additional track cleanup and the sweeper was brought to get rid of more loose stones just out of the groove.
Even with the freshly swept track, it was still dangerous once the green came back out. Robert Pressley nearly wiped out his Alliance No. 59 in Turn 4 after getting out of the groove right after the restart. Jim Bown spun for a second time shortly afterwards to bring out the seventh caution. At the same time, Sprague spun out in Turn 3 trying to get a lap back from Grissom. Earnhardt had already gotten his lap back a little earlier by forcing the issue on Grissom in Turn 1 (and dropping a tire into the dirt).
Grissom continued to lead with Jimmy Spencer coming up to challenge him in his No. 77 Buick. However, another yellow on Lap 90 put a temporary stop to the festivities. This time, Kenny Wallace spun his Dirt Devil Pontiac in Turn 2, and at the same time, Houston spun his Roses Stores Buick in Turn 4.
Right before that yellow, Ward Burton ripped the rear bumper off Mike Wallace’s No. 20 Daily’s 1st Ade Oldsmobile, and it ended up wedging under Todd Bodine’s front bumper, knocking off the oil pump. As a result, Bodine stalled right after the restart, bringing out the ninth caution and putting the Hungry Jack Chevrolet out of the race.
After a couple more laps under green, the tenth yellow flew when Lasater was spun out by Kenny Wallace in Turn 1. Mike Wallace slid into the wreck and hit both cars. The Wallace’s were both able to continue with damage, but Lasater’s Innkeeper Chevrolet was done for the day. A good in-car replay of the crash can be seen at the 5:45 mark of this clip.
On the restart, Spencer forced the issue on Grissom and was able to grab the lead. At the same time Spencer completed the pass, Ferree spun for the third time to bring out the 11th caution on Lap 113. Then, after another short run, Jim Bown spun for the third time to bring out the 12th caution. Houston simply beat out Spencer on the restart to get one of his two laps back before a fourth spin by the No. 98 brought out the 13th caution a couple of laps later.
After the restart, Jimmy Hensley began to assert himself in the Beverley Racing No. 25. First, he took care of Grissom in a couple of laps, then he dispatched of Spencer with veritable ease to take over the lead on Lap 134. Once in the lead, Hensley began to pull away from Spencer. As for Grissom, he began to drop back through the field due to a combination of getting stuck on the outside lane and worn out tires.
The 14th caution came out at halfway when Steve Boley, driving the No. 10 Chevrolet for owner Jack Ingram, spun in Turn 1 after being hit by Earnhardt. On the restart, Hensley continued to lead, but was feeling the pressure from Chuck Bown. Meanwhile, brother Jim was still having serious handling issues in his Buick. The No. 98 stacked up the field in Turns 3 and 4 the lap after the restart, then got into the wall exiting Turn 2 a couple of laps later to bring out the 15th caution.
On the restart, Houston swept around Hensley on the outside to get back onto the lead lap. However, Hensley was not content to just let Houston go and kept the pressure on. Unfortunately, you can probably figure what happened. Two laps after the restart, they collided and Houston spun for the second time, bringing out the 16th caution. Houston ended up back a lap down, right where he was before.
Hensley opened up a slight gap over the pack on the restart. Behind the No. 25, the presence of Jim Bown’s Buick messed up his older brother’s line. This eventually allowed Butch Miller to take second away. Pressley followed Miller by and dropped Chuck Bown to fourth.
Of course, the shenanigans continued as Ferree crashed for the fourth time to bring out the 17th caution on Lap 169. TNN couldn’t even get out of commercial before the 18th caution flew about a lap after the restart. This time, Jeff Burton bumped into the left rear of Sprague exiting Turn 4. The resulting ricochet bounced Burton into the right front of Earnhardt, which spun Jeff out. On that restart, Houston once again got by Hensley to get back on the lead lap and was able to make it stick. After getting caught up to the back of the field, Houston pitted for tires.
On the restart, Sprague got the jump on Hensley and got a lap back. Meanwhile, Miller went up the track and fell back through the field, vaulting Pressley up to second. Pressley then immediately put the pressure on Hensley for the lead. In Turn 1 on Lap 181, the two came together, putting Hensley up the track, while Pressley took over the lead. TNN didn’t show the contact live, but did give a replay of the contact. The incident can be seen at the 4:40 mark of this clip. As if the race couldn’t get more insane.
Behind Pressley, Chuck Bown, Earnhardt and Labonte were battling for second. Spencer then entered the picture and looked inside of Labonte for fourth entering Turn 1. You know what happened. Spencer dumped Labonte, bringing out the 19th caution. The yellow allowed Hensley and Miller to both pit for tires, along with Labonte.
Pressley put the lapped car of Jim Bown between himself and the rest of the pack on the restart, which allowed him to open up a substantial lead. Meanwhile, Spencer executed a sweet move to take third from Earnhardt in Turn 3 on the outside. Earnhardt did help him out a little by putting his left side tires in the dirt, but it was still impressive regardless.
Shortly afterwards, the record-tying 20th caution of the race flew for Boley crashing again in Turn 1, this time after contact from Ward Burton that can be seen in this replay at the 3:00 mark. Burton appeared to have the left side tires below the white line entering Turn 1 when the contact happened. Because of that, NASCAR judged the move to be over the line and a black flag was given to the A.G. Dillard Racing driver.
Pressley once again opened up a gap on the restart, but this time thanks to a couple of lapped cars getting in between the No. 59 and the rest of the leaders. Meanwhile, Spencer put a move on Chuck Bown to take second away. Bown then ended up also losing spots to Grissom, Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip after getting in the loose stones once again.
The record-breaking 21st caution flew on Lap 215 when Tracy Leslie ran over Mike Wallace in Turn 3. Leslie continued, while Mike Wallace ended up in the outside wall. Of course, even under yellow, silly things can still happen. Getting ready for the restart, Jim Bown was spun out by Jeff Burton in Turn 1. The No. 8 then bumped Pressley and Spencer had slight contact with Jim Bown. You couldn’t write the scenario if you tried.
On the restart, Jim Bown smacked the wall again in Turn 2 due to an apparent tire or suspension failure. No yellow was thrown, but that hit finally finished off the No. 98 for the day. Pressley continued to lead, but contact with Spencer caused part of his rear bumper to come loose. In response, NASCAR black flagged Pressley and forced him to pit to remove the offending piece.
Spencer continued to pressure Pressley and actually knocked the offending piece off of the No. 59 right before Pressley obeyed the black flag and pitted. Meanwhile, Waltrip was now all over Spencer for the lead, however, Leslie and Mike Wallace decided that their little duel wasn’t over yet. The two drivers came together in Turn 4 and drove each other into the wall right in front of the leaders. That did not draw the caution, but the rear bumper falling off of Leslie’s Detroit Gasket Oldsmobile did draw Caution No. 22.
Spencer led Waltrip and Houston back to the restart with 56 laps to go. Waltrip tried to challenge the No. 77 at first but didn’t really have the speed to keep up. Eventually, a bump from Houston in Turn 3 sent the Western Auto No. 17 into the loose stones, dropping Waltrip out of contention and putting the No. 6 up to second after starting dead last (30th).
A few laps after the restart, Ward Burton spun his Gwaltney Meats Buick in Turn 2, but no yellow was thrown. Both Jeff Burton and Earnhardt were black flagged for smoking by NASCAR. They both pitted for repairs and knocked out of the top-10.
With 41 laps to go, Houston made the move inside of Spencer in the treacherous Turn 3 to take the lead away. Of course, Spencer didn’t give up the lead easily, body slamming the No. 6 in the process. Houston, racing with a heavy heart since his father died the day before the race, had the hometown crowd staunchly in his corner.
The 23rd caution flew with 33 laps to go when Jay Fogleman spun exiting Turn 4 and bumped the inside wall. Earnhardt (Houston’s son-in-law) passed the No. 6 on the restart to get back on the lead lap. Meanwhile, Spencer put the pressure right back on Houston for the lead lap, however he was able to hold off the challenge.
The 24th caution came out when Pressley got loose exiting Turn 4 with 25 to go. The car sideswiped the wall, then spun in Turn 1 and went head-on into the outside wall. The Alliance Oldsmobile had severe front end damage in the crash. However, the crew was able to repair the car enough that Pressley was still able to finish 13th, one lap down.
Another caution, No. 25, came out with 19 to go when Waltrip and Miller got together in Turn 2. On that restart, Houston got a great jump on Spencer and briefly opened up a gap. However, Spencer took advantage of a little bit of grass to reel Houston back in, along with Labonte. With 11 laps to go, Labonte got a run on Spencer entering Turn 3 and took away second, forcing Spencer into the loose stones. Spencer’s Buick slid into the wall exiting Turn 4, but no yellow was thrown. The move put Labonte on Houston’s bumper, with Joe Nemechek in tow.
Houston got held up with six laps to go by the lapped car of Ward Burton, allowing Labonte to get a run on the No. 6, but he couldn’t do anything with it. Meanwhile, Chuck Bown took third away from Nemechek. Labonte continued to fight for the win, but it just simply wasn’t to be.
With four to go, Spencer and Sprague crashed in Turn 2, bringing out the 26th and final caution of the day. Sprague had gotten his right rear tire in the loose stones exiting Turn 4. Such a line would be good if Hickory were a dirt track. Not on this day. The stones got Sprague loose, but he recovered. Spencer got alongside and was passed for position entering Turn 1. However, Sprague ran into the back of Spencer, spinning both cars out.
The track crews were unable to get the track cleaned up in time for a one-lap shootout, so Houston was able to claim the 24th and final victory of his Busch Grand National career. It was also his eighth Busch Grand National win just at Hickory.
In Victory Lane, Houston was very happy for the win, but overcome with emotion.
“You know, my daddy didn’t go to the races a whole lot, not like he did back in the dirt days,” Houston said to TNN’s Glenn Jarrett. “I think today, he must have been watching from upstairs. By all means, this is dedicated to my daddy.”
Behind Houston and Labonte was Chuck Bown in third. Nemechek finished fourth and Waltrip rounded out the top 5 as the best Winston Cup interloper. Grissom came back from a lap down to finish sixth, while Ward Burton finished seventh despite the late spin. Hensley finished eighth, followed by Miller and Sprague to round out the top 10. Spencer and Earnhardt finished 11th and 12th, the last two cars on the lead lap.
The previous record for cautions before this race was 20 at South Boston in the Spring of 1991. There was a similar theme in that race as well. New pavement came up during the race, making it near impossible to compete. The 26 cautions from this race still stand as an all-time record in the now-Nationwide Series (although the 2007 Sam’s Town 250 at Memphis did make an assault on the record). They collectively took up 132 laps. As a result, the average speed was kept down to a pedestrian 53 mph. Even with the record number of yellows, the race time was just over two hours (not including the red flags).
I hope you enjoyed this look back at one of the quirkiest races in Nationwide Series history. We’ll be back at an undetermined time with another interesting look back at a historical race.
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This weekend would be much better if they were running at the Nashville Fairgrounds instead.
The Fairgrounds would be a sell-out as it was before moving.
Those Busch races at the Fairgrounds were quite interesting. It was added to the schedule at a fairly unusual time since the Busch Series was gravitating away from short tracks then. Winning one of those 320 lap races was no easy feat.