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 September 6, 2011
For some reason, Mother Nature doesn’t seem to be a very big NASCAR fan these days. Whether it was the 2+ hour rain delay at Pocono or the Monday race at Watkins Glen, the weather seems intent on making sure as few fans stick around to see the finish of the race as possible.
This time, though, she really has her panties in a wad. Though the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series races were able to go the full distance, come Sunday the skies opened right around the time the Sprint Cup Series race was supposed to start and carried on just long enough for NASCAR to postpone it … until Tuesday.
A forecast which called for a 100% chance of rain from tropical storm Lee was enough to convince NASCAR that putting thousands of fans, officials, drivers, etc. at risk on Monday would not be the right decision. This ended up being the right call as tornadoes, thunderstorms, and rain all pounded the area surrounding the racetrack.
So who’s a few drivers to watch heading into Atlanta this morning? Before we get into the other series, let’s leave you prepped and ready for Tuesday… two longshot drivers to watch and two drivers who need to have outstanding performances:
Kasey Kahne – Well, duh. He is the polesitter, right? But a victory here could catapult Kahne into Chase contention at the last minute. His history at Atlanta is outstanding: two wins, six top-5s, and eight top-10 finishes in fourteen starts. Plus, his Red Bull Racing team has always been on their best at 1.5-mile ovals; it’s how teammate Brian Vickers squeaked into the postseason in ’09. Don’t discount the chances for the No. 4 to pull a major upset this afterno… well, whenever we get that race underway.
Paul Menard – Yeah, most say he’s a longshot Sprint Showdown candidate at best. But don’t forget Menard got his first top-10 finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway; then, last spring he came up with a fifth after gaining some track position late. That one occurred in a day race, the last one we’ve had at this place… until 11 AM today. Well, there you have it… and with $1 million on the line, maybe he’ll get a little more aggressive for once?
Kevin Harvick – Over on the other RCR side of the fence we have the one major title contender that currently looks like he’s running a sinking ship. Harvick has exactly zero top 5’s – that’s right, zero – since Pocono in June and has been increasingly moody and mediocre on the racetrack as of late. While most Jimmie Johnson foes aren’t showing their hands, this veteran has already tipped his by stating repeatedly on Twitter that this team is behind. Well, Atlanta – the magical place where he won for the first time in Cup, in 2001 – could be just the cure this ailing team needs. Otherwise… could too many stumbles before the choice be simply too much to correct once the playoffs start?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – On paper, it looks like the No. 88 team has this whole Chase bid in the bag. But that ugly qualifying effort for this race, leaving him starting 29th certainly isn’t doing this team any favors. If points were awarded before Lap 1, his margin over Clint Bowyer would shrink to a manageable 13 markers heading to Richmond – putting pressure on a team and a driver that hasn’t exactly responded well to it through the years. Earnhardt would be best served to stay out of trouble early, then tiptoe up to a top-10 finish before his competitors finally get their act together.
OK. So now that we have that out of the way… the other two series deserve their time in the spotlight. Let’s crunch some numbers and take a look at the hot (and not) drivers in NASCAR’s lesser series.
Ron Hornaday Jr. – For the first time since Timothy Peters took the checkered flag at Lucas Oil Raceway back in July, a Camping World Truck Series regular was standing in Victory Lane spraying champagne and thanking his sponsors. This time around it was Hornaday’s turn for a win, crossing the start/finish line first for the second time all season.
Other than the victory, Hornaday has been somewhat quiet this season and hasn’t been a factor in many races. Actually he wasn’t much of a factor in Friday night’s race in Atlanta either, leading only 17 laps and staying out on the racetrack while leaders like Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch dove to pit road for fuel and tires. Had there been a couple of extra laps, Bowyer just might have caught him, but alas there was not.
Hornaday may not be a big factor in this year’s title hunt but as Kyle Busch said after the race, it sure is nice to see the old man back in Victory Lane.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Though it was Reed Sorenson threatening to “find” teammate Justin Allgaier following the conclusion of Saturday night’s Nationwide Series race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. probably should have done the same, but for a different reason.
While racing Sorenson for position, Allgaier dove into the corner and tagged Sorenson’s left rear quarter panel, shoving him up the racetrack into Trevor Bayne and the outside retaining wall. Sorenson was done for the night, and took a huge hit in the championship points.
That’s where Stenhouse comes in. Stenhouse currently has a 13 point lead over second-place Elliott Sadler and 40 points over Sorenson. What looked to be a three-man race in the points has turned into a lopsided duo with the advantage going to Stenhouse, thanks in part to Allgaier.
Even if the move wasn’t intentional, I hope Stenhouse remembers to put Allgaier on his Christmas list this year, especially if he’s holding the trophy over his head following Homestead.
Honorable Mention: Blake WHO?! This is the question I, and probably most fans watching, were asking when they saw the name Blake Feese in the final running order. Feese finished fourth in Friday night’s truck race, his best finish in five career starts in the series. Still, though, who is this guy?!
Justin Allgaier – Though Allgaier managed to simultaneously ruin a potential race win for Trevor Bayne and championship hopes for Reed Sorenson, the day panned out fairly well for him. Allgaier finished 6th for his fourth consecutive top 15 finish, which leaves him fifth in points, 69 marks out of the lead.
If I had to guess, Sorenson won’t have to find Allgaier next week in Richmond like he threatened. Karma is a “you know what”, and I wouldn’t be surprised if qualifying put the two teammates riding around the track in the back of a truck together next week, waving to the fans following driver intros, both with artificial grins plastered across their faces. Oh how fun that would be…
Todd Bodine – Bodine hasn’t been at the level he was last year, where he won four races and a championship with Germain Racing for his second title in the last five seasons. Lacking valuable funding, the team has struggled through the season and at times even contemplated skipping races.
However, a partnership with Randy Moss Motorsports has seen a change in number both on the side of his truck and in his results column. Through the first 10 races of the season, Bodine only had three top 10 results and was never any higher than seventh in points.
Since teaming up with RMM, however, Bodine has four top 10 finishes in the last seven races and has remained in the top 10 in points. Though he probably won’t finish much higher than 7th or 8th in the standings, he may be able to grab a win or two before the year comes to an end if he can continue on this streak. Who knows, maybe he’ll make an appearance in the “hot” section before the checkered flag waves on the 2011 season.
Honorable Mention: Though Austin Dillon’s season has been somewhat disappointing considering his impressive rookie year in 2010, he’s still laid down some solid results recently. He’s had nine total top 10s this year, with five of those coming in the last seven races. In addition to those numbers, a well-timed hot streak could put him right back in the thick of this championship, as he is 17 points out of the lead with eight races left in 2011.
Ryan Truex – In his 11th race this season in the Nationwide Series and first for Joe Gibbs Racing, Truex was little more than ok. But that’s alright, because he’s still a rookie and an 11th-place finish isn’t too bad considering there were five Sprint Cup Series drivers in the field, and several more experienced Nationwide Series drivers to contend with. Sure, he was in the car that Clint Bowyer once claimed a primate could pilot, but he finished a race that was rather unkind to tires and saw more experienced drivers than him heading to the garage area.
Truex had better be careful, though. Yes he’s a rookie, but he’s in arguably the best equipment in the series, with the possible exception of Kevin Harvick Inc. Typically, Joe Gibbs Racing wants results yesterday, and aren’t known for their patience with drivers (see Joey Logano).
On the flip side, the team does know talent when they see it, and clearly they see something in Truex worth developing. Let’s just hope they give him time to do so.
Parker Kligerman – Speaking of developing talent, Kligerman is a driver I’m largely undecided on. Though he’s shown here and there he has the talent to run up front, he hasn’t been consistent enough to earn a proverbial thumbs up, and any seasoned NASCAR fan or driver knows consistency is huge in this sport.
I’ll be fair, though. Kligerman has been able to finish in the top 15 in five of the last seven races, and was on a streak worthy of a mention in the “hot” spot earlier this year. Now if he could just turn those top 15 results into top 10s, we might see him back up there again. The question remains, is eight races enough for him to turn things back around? We shall see.
Honorable Mention: Max Papis the Italy native only has one top 10 finish this season, which came in Martinsville back in April. His last five results are 14th, 26th, 19th, 11th, and 18th which has put him back in 15th in points. Clearly, this multi-car deal isn’t working that well for Germain Racing, with Papis’s teammate Brendan Gaughan sitting 13th in points.
Reed Sorenson – Sorenson had every reason to be pissed off with teammate Justin Allgaier, after contact from the latter ruined the day and potentially the season for the former. However, Sorenson hadn’t exactly been running up front in recent weeks either. Instead, the contact from Allgaier acted as more of a nail in the coffin rather than a blow to the head and Sorenson can’t blame his teammate for that.
The last time we saw Sorenson in the top 10 was five races ago in Iowa, with his highest finish since then coming at Bristol where he grabbed 12th. These mediocre results have seen him slide to third in points, 40 markers back from leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
So, yes, Allgaier probably screwed Sorenson’s season, but not without help from Sorenson himself. Now with only eight races left this season, time has been cut severely short for the Turner Motorsports driver. And when he’s watching either Stenhouse or Elliott Sadler accepting the Nationwide Series trophy postseason, he’ll no doubt think back to Atlanta.
Trevor Bayne – Bayne really can’t catch a break. In the last 11 races, the Roush Fenway Racing driver has only finished in the top 10 twice and after missing five races due to an illness all he has left to race for is wins. But whether it’s tires, fuel mileage, or other drivers’ stupidity (see Allgaier/Sorenson) he’s usually left scraping up whatever he can get.
Bayne’s luck has been so bad, though, that the only place left to go now is up. In fact, most of NASCAR Nation is waiting for him to break through with his first career Nationwide Series win following his record breaking Daytona 500 victory in February, and maybe he can break out of this funk long enough to do just that.
Honorable Mention: Josh Wise, the driver best known for filling in for Danica Patrick while she’s busy with her IndyCar duties, has only 3 top 10s in his 24 starts for JR Motorsports and Key Motorsports and will be without a ride come next season. Not an easy situation considering his lack of solid results, but hopefully a team and/or sponsor noticed enough talent in him to give him a chance.
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Blake Feese is a former Hendrick Development driver from the mid 2000s. He along with Kyle Krisiloff and Boston Reid were Hendrick’s development trio in ARCA…which only lasted one year.
Since then Feese has bounced around from one off ride to ride, until landing some races with Turner this year.