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.
Summer Bedgood · Tuesday July 12, 2011
What did we learn from this weekend’s events from Kentucky Speedway? Well, first of all, if you are planning on adding over 40,000 seats to your facility, you might want to add more staff, parking spaces, supplies, etc. Somehow this seemingly obvious bit of information was lost on the higher-ups of Kentucky Speedway, who saw thousands of race fans arrive late because of parking or were turned away entirely because there was simply no more room. Not to mention reports of the track running out of food and drinks in certain concession stands before the green flag even flew! To say the situation was a “clustermug” (for lack of a better word) is an understatement.
However, amidst all of the negativity that was flying around Kentucky on Saturday night, a race was still being run and points were still being earned. Whether or not you were awake for any of it, a few more dominoes fell at that 1.5-mile oval and we’re here to take a look at the drivers either on hot streaks or those who need a little help in their numbers column.
Kyle Busch – Yes, it goes without saying, but Busch is one of, if not the, hottest driver in NASCAR right now. Yes, most of his victories come in the lower-tier divisions of the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, but one complaint is that the Sprint Cup Series drivers are taking over the Nationwide (and to a lesser extent, the Truck) Series. So, which is it? You can’t have it both ways. Either Busch is capable of beating some of the best drivers — Cup or not — on all levels of the sport, or he isn’t.
Regardless, Busch proved again that he’s more than capable of competing with the big guns in the Cup Series as well. He came just short of pulling off the sweep across all three series last weekend, winning both the Cup and Truck races while finishing third on the Nationwide side.
It would probably be fair to mention the fact that Busch was the only Cup Series driver to compete in all three races, and coupled with his multiple starts at this track in the Truck and Nationwide Series while KMS was still screaming and filing lawsuits for a Cup date, Busch was the odds-on favorite.
After inheriting the Cup Series point lead following his victory on Saturday, now the real question is, “Can Busch compete for a championship?” If the saying, “You have to lose one to win one,” proves to be true, than the answer is indubitably, “Yes.” However, I’ve felt Busch has had the equipment and talent to contend for a championship for a few years, now. If he can just get down the mental side of it, Busch may very well be the one holding the Cup in Homestead instead of Jimmie Johnson. My question is, dear readers, would Busch winning the championship be an improvement over Johnson? Who would you rather see holding the trophy?
Elliott Sadler – It has been so interesting to watch Sadler go from mediocrity in one series to championship material in the other over the course of an offseason. After 18 races with Richard Petty Motorsports in the Sprint Cup Series last year, Sadler’s best finish was a 17th-place showing at Infineon Raceway… and that’s as good as it ever got.
Now, through 18 races with Kevin Harvick Inc. in the Nationwide Series, Sadler has 13 top 10s, 9 top 5s, an average finish of 9th, and grabbed the points lead from Reed Sorenson following the Feed the Children 300 in Kentucky Speedway.
If stepping down a series worked so well for Sadler, I could think of a few other drivers who might want to try the same thing…
Honorable Mention: Brad Keselowski Racing developmental driver Parker Kligerman finished second to Kyle Busch in Thursday night’s Truck Series race, which is essentially just as good as a win considering the fact that Busch is nearly unstoppable in that series. Kligerman’s runner-up showing was his second in a row and fourth top 10 of the season.
Matt Kenseth – For some reason, no one really seems to notice Kenseth. No one really acts surprised when he wins a race every now and then, but no one notices where he finishes otherwise. Even with two victories already in 2011, Kenseth’s name hasn’t been listed under “championship contenders” as we wind ever closer to the start of the Chase, even though he has more wins than six of the current top 10 drivers in points and around the same amount of top 10s.
I have my own doubts about whether or not Kenseth will actually have something to say about the 2011 title, but the same can be said for a few other “title favorites” that have statistics less impressive than Kenseth’s.
All the same, this driver’s name should be mentioned a whole lot more than it is now. Because if Kenseth can hold on to his Chase spot (and more than likely, he will), those bonus points will be credited to him come Chicagoland, leaving the No. 17 Ford near the top of the charts. And that’s assuming two wins is the best he can do…
Kurt Busch – The verbal abuse from Busch to his pit crew members continued last weekend in Kentucky, complaining about slow pit stops and lack of proper car handling, but not before he led a handful of laps and looked to be an early contender for the victory. Leading 41 laps en route to a ninth-place finish, Busch ran strong early but his car faded as the sun lowered on the Kentucky horizon.
Still, Busch’s continued improvement cannot be ignored. Even with all the harsh words that flow from his mouth to the ears of his crew chief, spotter, and crew members, Busch’s ninth-place showing on Saturday was his sixth finish inside the top 11 in the last seven races, including a win in Sonoma. Heck, even his 14th-place run at Daytona was nothing to sneeze at!
However, if Busch is going to continue to improve on the racetrack, he’s going to have to boost team morale as well. His crew members aren’t going to want to continue to please a driver who gives them a tongue lashing every time the car so much as wiggles, especially since they aren’t screaming at Busch on the radio when he makes his own mistakes. So cut the crap, Kurt, and work together with your team to create a better racecar. If he can do that, a change that won’t be easy Busch could definitely compete for a second Sprint Cup Series title.
Honorable Mention: Jeff Gordon finished in the top 10 for the third week in a row, continuing the momentum gained with his win at Pocono Raceway. He gained one spot in the standings and is now seventh in points, 71 out of the lead.
Denny Hamlin – Winning at Michigan was supposed to be the boost Hamlin needed to return to his 2011 form, but that hasn’t happened. In the three races following his victory, Hamlin’s best finish was 11th last weekend in Kentucky. A 37th in Sonoma and 13th at Daytona essentially wiped out all of the points Hamlin earned in Michigan, though he was able to solidify the 10th position in points following the Kentucky event.
In Hamlin’s defense, the No. 11 Toyota was running lap times similar to those of the leaders during the day, but, like Kurt Busch, his car’s handling went south as the sun went down. Had Hamlin been able to maintain the speed he showed early on, he may have challenged his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch for the victory. Considering that Brad Keselowski was dominant as well, Hamlin, Busch, and Keselowski could have been battling for the lead and who knows what could have happened then!
Instead, Hamlin finished a ho-hum 11th and Busch dominated the race. Same ol’ same ol’ in 2011…
Tony Stewart – Owner/driver of Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart has failed to follow up the success enjoyed by the team in their first two years of existence. Though Stewart is known as more of a summertime driver, we’re almost halfway through July (yes, already!) and Stewart sits outside the top 10 in points without a win. This time last season, Stewart had already made his way into Victory Lane and had eight top 10s to his credit. Stewart has six at the moment.
In fairness, Stewart was only a couple of spots higher in the points than he is this year, sitting 11th at the moment and ninth after 18 races in 2010.
Though Stewart is within reach of the Chase at the moment, even if he is able to steal a spot before Richmond is over and done it’s doubtful he’ll be much of a contender. If he doesn’t pick up the pace, he may not get a chance. With drivers like Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. trying either to maintain or regain a Chase spot, Stewart looks to be the odd dog out at the time being.
Honorable Mention: Red Bull Racing driver Kasey Kahne is struggling in his lone year with the team before he jumps ship to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. Aside from a fourth-place run in Daytona, Kahne hasn’t finished inside of the top 10 in seven of the last eight races. He was 13th in Kentucky and gained two spots in the points to 17th, 45 points out of the top 10.
Greg Biffle – Roush Fenway Racing finally had enough of watching a driver of Biffle’s caliber running mid-pack while his teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are contending for victories almost weekly. On Monday, the team announced that Greg Erwin was out as crew chief and Matt Puccia, Paul Menard’s Nationwide Series crew chief in 2010, was in, effective immediately.
The change was a long time coming. In the last five races alone, Biffle has finished no better than 15th, and with each mediocre finish, his Chase chances get dimmer and dimmer and dimmer, as he now sits 14th in points, 33 points out of the top 10 with eight races left before the field is set.
However, Biffle and RFR had better pray Puccia brings the kind of chemistry and team leadership that they need. Puccia has never been a crew chief in the Cup Series, and asking him to come and save this race team before they undo themselves is a ton of pressure. It’s a move that needed to be made, but I’ll be shocked if it actually works out in Biffle’s favor.
Mark Martin – A pole at Daytona last week was the only real high point of the season, but Mark Martin’s final season with Hendrick Motorsports is turning out to be a real stinker. Martin’s five top 10s this year have been spotty, with his most recent top-10 run coming in Michigan a few weeks back.
Martin’s average finish this season is 17th, and the only time anyone notices him anymore is when he’s caught up in someone else’s mess or endures a run of bad luck. Not exactly the best way to say goodbye as you take the next step in your career.
Honorable Mention: Bobby Labonte has only one top-10 finish all season, and hasn’t finished inside the top 20 since finishing 18th at Dover back in May.
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Hm, I’ve noticed Mark a lot this year in messes, but they don’t tend to be other drivers’ faults. Daytona… Phoenix… I’m probably forgetting some…
And to answer your question, I’d prefer Johnson win a sixth title to Busch. The more absurd and predictable the Chase becomes, the more likely they’ll finally go back to “the team with the most points wins” for deciding a championship. Johnson winning six in row won’t be any more exciting than three in a row or four or five… in short, the more the #48 wins, the less anyone will care about the championship title.
Kyle won the Slinger Nationals on Sunday also, making him 3 for 4 for the weekend. Not a big deal? It is for the roster of drivers who have won it in the past. And for those who think Kyle is just in it for money and numbers, this was a BIGGIE for him, simply because he had never won it before. He is like Ken Schrader – he would race every day if you let him. The only difference is that Kyle annoys people by winning so much!
Acept him for the phenom he is and stop bitching already! He is the best thing that has happened to NASCAR in this century. Maybe the ONLY good thing.
I’d rather see Kyle holding the trophy, if for no other reason than it would upset so many fans in the media. Also, it would cross off one critcism of Kyle and leave us free to debate the other 300 or so that would be left. And I would love to see Rick Hendrick gag on his steak. And Richard Childress getting drunk and throwing up on Delana Harvick. And I didn’t like Chandra’s dress last year.
Other than that, yeah, I would LOVE to see Kyle with the trophy! Because he is the best driver I have ever seen. (And I have been seeing drivers since before you were born.)