NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Summer Bedgood · Tuesday November 22, 2011
As 2011 comes to a close, it’s only fitting that Tony Stewart was the driver to end Jimmie Johnson’s five year reign, since he was the last driver to win a championship before it started. Also, if you didn’t enjoy that championship battle between Stewart and Carl Edwards, then you should probably quit watching because it won’t ever get any better than that.
All three of NASCAR’s title fights were memorable in their own way, from beginning to end, with many new faces finding their way to Victory Lane and several rivalries putting the “Boys, have at it” mantra front and center.
Missing from that “front and center”, though, were drivers who just needed the finish out the year on a high note with most looking to Homestead for a chance at redemption. While it’s obvious that the likes of Stewart and Edwards soared, others aren’t so obvious. So for the final time this season, let’s crunch some numbers and look at drivers who finished the year Hot… and those who were Not, and need to improve in 2012.
Martin Truex Jr. – Truex made some noise in the final few weeks of the 2011 season, and not just for fine-tuning his lip-syncing skills for the NAPA commercials. After earning only 7 top 10s in the first 31 races of the season, Truex finished out the year with four top 10s in the last five events including a third-place run at Homestead.
It’s been a long year for Truex, who has seen three different crew chiefs atop the pit box this season. After running the first 13 races with Pat Tryson, Michael Waltrip Racing decided a change was in order (the team had only three top 10s and was outside the top 20 in points), and Chad Johnston was named as the man calling the shots. The situation didn’t improve much as Truex stayed right around 20th in points, and it wasn’t until a third crew chief was named that Truex started improving.
While Johnston was serving a suspension after NASCAR discovered illegal windshields on Truex and his teammates’ cars in Talladega, Tryson was called back to serve as a temporary replacement in Martinsville where the team finished 8th. MWR competition director Scott Miller called the final three races of the season and helped propel the No. 56 car back into the top 20 in points.
The hot streak happened too late to say Truex could be a dark horse Chase contender in 2012, but whatever they hit on in the final few races, they need to make note of.
Additionally, Truex will have some quality teammates to work with next season. Clint Bowyer is set to drive the No. 15 full-time for MWR and Mark Martin will be in a car on a part-time basis. Could 2012 be the year MWR proves they “KNOW HOW” to win races and make the Chase? We’ll see.
Jeff Gordon – To say 2011 was an up-and-down year for Gordon would be an understatement. While winning three races, averaging a finish of 13th, and finishing eighth in points might look good on paper, the nine finishes outside the top 20 show some of the more challenging times for the four-time champion.
2011 brought changes to the top of the No. 24 pit box, with Alan Gustafson moving over from Mark Martin’s No. 5 team to work with Gordon. The pair found success right out of the gate by winning the second race of the season in Phoenix, but too soon found some tough results mixed in with the victory.
However, a 14-race stretch from Kansas to Richmond saw Gordon finish inside the top 10 in 11 of them and many of us assumed Gordon would be Jimmie Johnson’s biggest threat for the title once the Chase started. Little did we know that not only would Gordon would suffer quite a bit of hard luck once the Chase began, but Jimmie Johnson would have absolutely no say in the championship either.
However, when Gustafson and Gordon weren’t dealing with blown engines or getting caught in wrecks not of their own doing, they were solid and competitive and I see no reason why they can’t do the same thing in 2012. In fact, now that Johnson is off his throne, Gordon and Gustafson can work on tying up the number of championships between the two. I’m pretty sure Gordon has at least one more good fight left in him.
Honorable Mention: Appearing in this column for the final time this season is 2011 Nationwide Series champion *Ricky Stenhouse Jr.” After watching Stenhouse blossom into the driver he is today, he deserves one final nod as we head into the cold December months. It’s not easy to be a competitive Nationwide Series regular anymore with the Cup Series guys taking over almost every week, but he somehow managed to win three races and race up front with the best of them many, many times. In 2010 I could never have pictured myself saying this, but Stenhouse definitely has a bright future ahead of him.
Kasey Kahne – When it was announced that Kahne was using Red Bull Racing as a “go-between” as he moved from Richard Petty Motorsports to Hendrick Motorsports, I couldn’t help but think he’d struggle. There was no reason to think RBR would put many of their resources into a driver who was leaving after only a one-year commitment, and the team had never been very competitive in the first place.
As expected, Kahne struggled for most of 2011 and spent most weeks riding around mid-pack. A few top 10s here and there were enough to stay relevant but not enough to make the Chase.
Apparently someone forgot to tell Kahne that, though, as he earned results better than several drivers who did make the Chase, finishing seventh or better in seven of the 10 Chase races including a victory at Phoenix. That’s right. Kahne actually won a race this season!
Suddenly Rick Hendrick looks more like a genius, and my crystal ball has reserved itself a corner spot in the attic.
Denny Hamlin – Arguably the biggest disappointment of 2011, Hamlin followed last season that saw him finish second in points with only winning one race and finishing ninth in points this year. After a heartbreaking loss to Jimmie Johnson in 2010, Hamlin was supposed to pick himself up by the bootstraps and come back and once again make a run at the title.
Instead, he belly-flopped. Yes there are multiple drivers who would love to have the kind of season Hamlin did, but Hamlin is a championship level driver. He has all the necessary resources and funding behind him and, while I understand it’s difficult to maintain such a huge amount of success from year to year (Johnson’s titles aside), the difference between Hamlin’s 2010 and 2011 is like night and day. The only similarity is that he still somehow made the Chase.
The one variable I can point to as an explanation is that Hamlin took the loss pretty hard. Throughout the championship celebrations in Las Vegas, Hamlin was rather forlorn and frustrated. And he never seemed to recover from what was a huge missed opportunity in Homestead.
What Hamlin needs to remember, though, is he has the opportunity to make up for it and needs to take it. I’m not saying he completely gave up, as I’m sure that Hamlin and Mike Ford wanted to repeat their success, but you have to approach it with the right attitude. Maybe distancing himself from the whole thing will be good for him, and starting fresh in 2012 will bring back the Hamlin of old. Heck, with Kyle Busch continuously acting out, Hamlin is the only shot Joe Gibbs Racing has!
Honorable Mention: Who knew that “two steps forward, one step back” could actually be a good thing? Elliott Sadler enjoyed the most competitive season of his career in 2011, and all it took was moving from the Sprint Cup Series down to a competitive ride in the Nationwide Series. Though he never made it to Victory Lane, a runner-up spot in the standings to Stenhouse was all it took for fans to recognize Sadler’s previously hidden talents for the first time in years.
Joey Logano – Another disappointing season for a driver with such promise early on in his career.
No, really, Mark Martin all but promised us this guy would be a star. Instead, Logano only earned 6 top 10 results all season and wound up outside the top 20 in points. Meanwhile, both of his teammates made the Chase and won three races between the two of them.
I know I pick on Logano quite a bit and I don’t mean to single him out, but how long can the “moving him up to Cup too soon” excuse be made before the 21-year-old driver is expected to perform? I won’t pretend to know what Joe Gibbs is saying to him behind the scenes or what is being done to help out, but eventually the driver is going to need to prove that he belongs there. It’s been three full seasons now, and I think that’s more than enough.
Apparently Home Depot and Dollar General disagree, though, as Home Depot is continuing to put money into the program and Dollar General has been added on as a new sponsor. That’s great for Logano, but it’s hard for me to imagine Home Depot happy with the performance while Lowe’s has been winning races and championships and their former driver Tony Stewart just won a third title. Who knows, maybe Logano’s tweenaged fan base has helped drive more customers (i.e., their parents) to more stores.
David Reutimann – Reutimann has a lot of work to do over the offseason, and it has nothing to do with performance. Instead, Reutimann will be on the hunt for a new ride as MWR made him aware that he would not be returning to the organization just a few weeks ago.
When he brings his results column to potential owners and sponsors, though, I would imagine they would be left unimpressed. Reutimann finished in the top 10 only three times all season and had an average result of 22nd. A penalty at Talladega for unapproved windshields didn’t help matters, and it looks like the Sprint Cup Series will be Reutimann-free next year.
However, the Zephyrhills, Florida native has had some success in the Nationwide Series and did well during the years where he ran the series full-time. As Sadler has shown, sometimes running in a lesser series can be revitalizing to a career, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reutimann in a Nationwide Series car in 2012. As far as Sprint Cup, however, I’d be surprised if he was in anything higher quality than a start-and-park ride.
Honorable Mention: This may have been Menard’s best season numbers-wise, but that’s not saying much considering he had never finished the season inside the top 20 in points. He earned 17th this time around and even won a race at Indianapolis for his first career win. I’ll give Menard credit for showing some potential, but he has a long way to go before he will be considered competitive.
Kurt Busch – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see this one coming. There is a reason Jimmy Spencer sarcastically refers to Busch as a “radio sweetheart” and it’s not because of his witty one-liners. It’s because of the excessive profanities flowing from Busch’s mouth to the team’s ears. It used to be funny, but now it only infuriates me. How a driver can consistently say the things he does to his team—people who spend far more time in the garage area and at the shop than he does for considerably less pay, I have no doubt—is beyond me.
There is a huge difference between a driver expressing frustration and what Busch does. He chews out his team for every little misstep and only gives them credit when they win races (which happened only twice). Since he only finished inside the top 20 five times during the Chase, I’m surprised the elder Busch doesn’t have laryngitis by now.
Busch has the talent to contend in the Chase. Heck, he won the first installment of it back in 2004. But this is not the way to do it, and he won’t get any better until he lets up on the profanities. That’s not the way “team” works, and the sooner Busch learns this, the sooner they can work on getting back on top of the standings.
David Ragan – Ragan managed to win his first career race this year, but that wasn’t enough for him to keep his ride. On Monday, team owner Jack Roush released some pretty harsh statements regarding Ragan’s performance and it all but sealed the Georgia native’s fate at the organization. With UPS moving over to Edwards’ car, that leaves Ragan without a sponsor in 2012 and now it looks like he’ll be left out in the cold in Daytona without some mercy from another race team.
I can’t say I’m surprised by the announcement, though, nor do I disagree with it. This is a performance-based industry and Ragan simply hasn’t performed. Roush Fenway Racing is one of the top organizations in NASCAR, with the team winning the driver’s title this season in the Nationwide Series and losing a tiebreaker for it in the Sprint Cup Series. Ragan didn’t even win a race until last summer.
The thing is, Roush was more than patient with Ragan. 2011 was the 25-year-old’s fifth full-time season and he has never shown any signs of improvement. His best season was back in 2008 where he wound up 13th in points and had an average finish of 16th. That was impressive for a sophomore-level driver, but he’s only gotten worse since then.
As I’ve said with Logano, I don’t buy the “he was moved up too fast” excuse. Ragan has had more than enough opportunities to improve and was given ample time to build upon the experience he already had and it never happened. Ragan was never more than an afterthought in the RFR camp, and was only made useful when the team needed engines or setups tested or when a fellow Ford driver needed assistance at Talladega or Daytona.
It’s a shame that Ragan has been the butt of so many jokes lately, but Roush can’t sit by and make excuses for him anymore. Maybe he’ll find a competitive Nationwide or Truck Series ride and get a chance to start over.
Honorable Mention: Like Ragan, Marcos Ambrose was able to snag his first career victory but never accomplished much else. A few top 10s and laps led here and there reminded us of the Aussie’s presence, but otherwise he remained a mid-pack driver for much of 2011.
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I disagree with your assessment that Reutimann will only find a ride as a start and parker in the cup series. FRM #38 would be an easy fit as well as the #71 or #35/36 of TBR. Remember he is a recent two time winner in the cup series and I am sure that equals a couple million dollars in sponsorship from some company.
Ha ha ha,,, the 38, 71 and 35/36 may not technically be start and park teams, but they might as well be.
A car that can easily finish 25th is a whole lot better then a 40th or worse finish every week in the #46, #55 or a another true S and P effort.
As a dyed in the wool Mopar fan, it pains me to say that I am DONE with Kurt Bush His lack of respect for ANYTHING or ANYBODY has reached a level that he needs to be suspended from NASCAR. His verbal abuse of Dr. jerry Punch is shamful. I wish those two Bush brothers would simply leave NASCAR and try to start their own sanctioning body where ANYTHING GOES! Let’s see how mouthy they would be then.
Another good fit for Reutimann is the #51 Phoenix car if it is available. He is an excellent qualifier and good driver that don’t tear up equipment.Don’t forget he has won 2 cup races, virtually ran away with chicago race in 2010.
I don’t know if they would release Landon for Reuti. Landon has sure run well in subpar equipment and has earned another year in the #51 for sure. Reuti’s only hope for a future in cup is being paired with Danica at SHR then finding another ride during the weeks Danica is in his ride. Out of 26 races he must have at least an avg. finish of 14th or better to get a quality ride in cup the next year.
David R. can’t go to the 34 since that is David G.‘s ride. The 38 already has two drivers in Kvapil and Yeley fighting for it, and FRM would NOT cut any of those three.I would hope that Finch has more class than to replace Landon. HE got them in the top 35, kept sponsorship, and finished consistently in the top 25. The two places that I can see Reuti is the TRG 71, and the TBR 35. For TBR, the 36 is Dave’s ride. Again, he got them in the top 35, brought HUGE sponsorship, and threatened for wins at Daytona and Talledega. The 35 is a GREAT place for David, he would have a great teammate in Dave and could get the owner points from the RCR 33. TRG would be another great place, but after slumping this year for them, if I were David I’d go to TBR.