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.
Summer Bedgood · Tuesday March 8, 2011
While the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series enjoyed a week off, both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series were back in action again this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the Sam’s Town 300 and the Kobalt Tools 400, respectively.
Mark Martin used fuel strategy to his advantage to pull off the Nationwide Series win, beating out Justin Allgaier by a margin of victory of 1.221 seconds. 2010 Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski finished third, while Danica Patrick recorded the highest finishing position for a female driver in the history of NASCAR in the fourth position. 2011 Daytona 500 Champion Trevor Bayne rounded out the top 5.
The top four in the Nationwide Series driver standings remained unchanged. Leader Reed Sorenson holds a two-point advantage over second place Ricky Stenhouse Jr. while Jason Leffler sits third in points, five points behind. Patrick remained in the fourth position after her top-5 run and now sits 13 points back from the leader. Allgaier moved up three positions with his second place finish, and is now fifth in points and 16 points out of the lead.
In the Kobalt Tools 400, Carl Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne pulled off a victory of their own after both fuel and tire strategy put them out front following a round of green flag pit stops. Tony Stewart was the dominant driver of the day, leading a race high 163 laps only to fall short to Edwards by 1.246 seconds. Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 5.
Stewart’s strong run gained him two positions in the standings to take the points lead and is now tied with Penske Racing driver Kurt Busch for the top spot. Edwards jumped up nine positions with the win, and sits seven points back in the third position. Montoya is tied with Edwards in points, while Newman jumped three spots in the standings to take fifth. He is ten points behind leader Stewart.
Ryan Newman — After a disappointing 22nd-place finish in the Daytona 500, Newman has knocked out two fifth-place finishes in a row at Phoenix and last weekend at Las Vegas. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver failed to lead a lap in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400, never running any higher than fifth; still, the end result was good enough to leave him fifth in points. Better yet, it’s his first back-to-back top-5 performances since a fourth at Martinsville and winning Phoenix in April 2010.
Those numbers look even stronger when compared to Newman’s start last year. After three races in 2010, he was 32nd in points after results of 34th at Daytona, 36th at Fontana, and 18th at Las Vegas. That left the “Rocket Man” fighting from behind to make the Chase all season – an issue he won’t have to deal with this year if he keeps up this impressive pace to start.
Justin Allgaier — Allgaier started this year off with a clean slate, moving to Nationwide-only Turner Motorsports from Penske Racing over the offseason after his Verizon Wireless sponsorship dried up. It was a controversial move for both sides, especially considering the two years of driver development invested in the former ARCA champ… so what’s the verdict? At this point, it’s looking like Penske made a mistake by letting him go. Though Allgaier failed to lead any laps, he capitalized on some fuel mileage strategy to finish second behind winner Mark Martin on Saturday. That was Allgaier’s second top-10 finish in a row, following an eighth last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway to give him solid momentum for 2011.
Three races in, Allgaier is now fifth in Nationwide Series points, just 16 behind leader Reed Sorenson. And as for Penske and former teammate Brad Keselowski? He’s got two DNFs in three races, nearly going three-for-three after cutting a tire on the last lap at Vegas. Allgaier passed Keselowski, in fact, on his way to the finish line in a bit of symbolism for how both sides are heading in different directions.
Honorable Mention: Marcos Ambrose (finished fourth in Kobalt Tools 400, best finish on an oval since Bristol in August 2009)
Kenny Wallace — Running the full Nationwide schedule for RAB Racing, armed with the best equipment and funding he’s had in years Wallace is making the most of the opportunity. He finished 10th in Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300, the second 10th-place finish in a row for a driver who hasn’t had more than two top-10s, period, in a season since 2006.
In fact, through the first three races of 2011, Wallace has completed all but five laps in all three races (Wallace finished 28th, five laps down in the season opener at Daytona after being caught up in a crash). Now eighth in points, 27 behind Sorenson the short track schedule ahead gives him a real opportunity to stay in contention.
How big a deal is this resurgence? Consider that while Wallace ran the full Nationwide schedule in 2010, after three races last year he had finishes of 16th (Daytona), 29th (Fontana), and 34th (Las Vegas). The poor finishes put Wallace 25th in points after three races, leaving him on the cusp of possibly losing a “locked in” qualifying spot. At this rate, he’ll have no such problems securing one for the season this year…
Martin Truex, Jr. — After a struggle throughout most of 2010, we’re seeing some NAPA Know-How from the No. 56 team this season. In three races, Truex has yet to finish outside of the top 20 with his lowest finish coming in the season-opening Daytona 500 (19th). Truex finished sixth in Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading three laps en route to his first top-10 finish of the season. That leaves him seventh in points, 18 behind leaders Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch and set to be an early season surprise with a few more solid finishes.
(In a somewhat related note, this weekend we also saw the debut of a new NASCAR Tums commercial. In it, Truex’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammates David Reutimann and Waltrip have lunch … or at least attempt to. Waltrip tries eating a rib, but it “fights back” and starts slapping him in the face. Now, Tums has several non-racing commercials like this one, with foods such as tacos and lobster claws smacking the crap out of their devourers. The commercial is basically saying the food that makes your stomach feel like a war zone can be settled by Tums. Judging by the response I saw on Twitter, many people found the commercial pretty hilarious… but I found it rather creepy and somewhat terrifying. Give me Truex’s NAPA Know How any day.)
Honorable Mention: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (finished eighth in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, his third top-10 in as many races in 2011)
Clint Bowyer — After getting caught up in wrecks during the season’s first two events, Bowyer was just looking for a little redemption and a strong finish this weekend in Vegas. After grabbing a bonus point for leading a lap, Bowyer brought his No. 33 Chevrolet home 15th, a respectable outcome. Bowyer never factored into the race, but he didn’t get caught up in someone else’s mess, either, which is something that can’t be said for his races in Daytona and Phoenix.
The problem is, though, Bowyer remains stuck in a hole of 18th place in the series point standings. He is 38 points out of the lead, 16 outside the top 10 and suffering through the same type of expansion growing pains with Richard Childress Racing that they experienced in 2009.
Matt Kenseth — Kenseth started on the pole for the Kobalt Tools 400, but failed to finish inside the top 10 after a flat tire under green derailed him. In fact, his finishes in the three races so far in 2011 have been rather “blah” (why he’s in the “cool” section to begin with). Sunday’s 11th-place result, an impressive comeback from two laps down was his highest so far – but his season hasn’t been without its share of controversy.
After Kenseth had Brian Vickers plotting revenge following an incident at Phoenix, he made some contact with Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne that caught the attention of the broadcast crew. Though not much was made of it from either driver, the incident generated some response from the racing community on Twitter. Whether or not it was intentional is more of a judgment call, but it wasn’t appreciated by Bayne’s fans (or Kenseth’s haters).
Kenseth gained seven positions in the standings and now sits 16th, 36 points out of the lead. But for a former series champion, considering Ford has won four of the last five races at the Cup level this driver of the No. 17 Ford expects better.
Honorable Mention: Mark Martin (finished 18th in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race after winning the Nationwide race Saturday)
Kyle Busch — Home track or not, Busch was no doubt ready to leave Las Vegas. After going for the weekend sweep in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races, Busch left with DNFs in both.
In the Nationwide Series race, Busch, as he’s apt to do in that division was dominating the race. Leading 84 laps, he seemed a shoo-in for victory before a daring move on lap 132, making it three wide below Michael Annett and Brad Keselowski sent Busch to the apron. His left side tires went into the grass, causing Busch to lose control of his car. It looked like he was going to be able to escape the incident without damage until he made it to the exit of pit road, spun again, and made contact with the inside retaining wall. The wreck would sideline Busch for the remainder of the event; he finished 30th.
In the Kobalt Tools 400, engine issues ended the No. 18 Toyota’s day prematurely. The engine let go 107 laps into the race, just after he had made it back onto the lead lap after a flat right front tire sent him into the wall, then the pits on Lap 95. Ending up with a 38th-place DNF, he dropped from the point lead in the Cup Series to 14th in one fell swoop. He is now 27 points back from leader Tony Stewart and brother Kurt.
Greg Biffle — Biffle can’t seem to catch a break. In three races this season, his best finish has been a 20th place, and things didn’t get any better this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Biffle finished 28th after dealing with fueling issues all day. In fact, at one point during the race, he actually had to pit under green after running out of fuel. The Roush Fenway Racing driver came over the radio several times during the race, all but pleading with his pit crew to find out why the stops were taking so long and why they weren’t getting the car full of gas.
The problems stemmed from the new self-venting fuel system, which eliminated the need for a catch can man over the offseason. The No. 16 team’s self-venting can failed a couple of times during the race, which is what kept the car from being completely filled and what caused Biffle to run out of gas. It’s a challenge all teams have to face in 2011, but Biffle was bit the hardest on Sunday.
Biffle fell three spots in the standings to 31st and is now 63 points out of the lead just three races in. Already, the hole he’ll have to dig out of to make the Chase is fairly steep.
Honorable Mention: Jennifer Jo Cobb (finished 31st in Nationwide Series race after contact with Kyle Busch)
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Jeff Burton certainly belongs in the cold section. While Clint redeemed himself somewhat this week, Jeff didn’t and is still mired back in 32nd or 33nd in points. Hope he gets some luck soon.
I’m so glad you put Newman in as “hot”…instead of going to the current poster boy Edwards. For some strange reason each week the media feels it NEEDS to push a driver instead of letting a little more racing shake itself out. As far as I’m concerned the SHR cars have done the best early in the season as an organization AND individually…the Roush teams and Hendrick teams are hit and miss. BUT, it’s so early in the year why do we HAVE to pick?
Whoa… No mention of Jr. with 2 Top 10’s, tenth place in pts ahead of the 5, 24, and 48… this has to be a warm…
How about a “This Boy just can’t get any Luck” category… now that would spike a conversation… Lets see… Kyle, Joey and Burton… man that would be fun…
What about Kurt “I get no respect” Busch… now that’s a “race car driver” as Kenneth Wallace would say… oh… sorry… KW would never say that about Kurt…
The Double Deuce has…
Top 5: 1
and the 22 is a head’en to one of his all time favorite tracks with solid equipment…
and he kept his cool after he took responsiblity for the early race spin that sent him all the way to the back of the pack…
and his restarts are simply awesome… TracPass simply tells the truth boys… get it… watch it… and forgetabout the TV…
that will be $100 and a ticket to Bristol please Mr. NASCAR.com… sorry about that little ad there Frontstretch… but you guys rock compared to the writers there…
read what you want… think what you want… but… The Double Deuce is on the loose!… and he should have been a hottie!
oh btw… did I mention I was a Double Deuce fan… sorry… so I am… just love to hate me!
BOB C. The 22 may have one sprint championship to his credit but he couldn’t carry his bro’s jock strap. Kyle is by far the better driver oe the two. Oh, and who else has won the tripicate and at Bristol no less?