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.
Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Wednesday September 5, 2007
When you know a piece of news is coming along for months – and you can’t even report it at first – press conferences don’t always work as the landmark information source you expect them to be.
That’s why a good journalist tries his best to read between the lines after a press conference in Huntersville, NC that, on the surface, provided more pomp and circumstance than specific details about Toyota’s newest special friend. Of course, Gibbs had made no secret a partnership was on the verge of occurring…leaks were rampant about it for weeks, even though the team claims a final decision wasn’t reached until last weekend. But the reasons behind and surrounding the move away from Chevrolet – that pesky little question of why – those answers proved a little unclear.
How could a team with so much success align itself with a manufacturer that has just one Top 5 finish to its name? How could an organization with three ’08 drivers that should be serious contenders for the title turn their eyes towards a program that has zero cars “locked in” to a Top 35 qualifying spot?
Well, the true answers are there…you just need to look for them. So…journey down this road with me, won’t you? Analyzing is always more fun when we do it together.
First, let’s delve into J.D. Gibbs’ reasoning behind the initial push to do something different:
“I really feel the burden of our 400 employees,” he claimed from his perch at the center of all that moved in racing yesterday. “All the families that work here, we want to make sure they can stay for their whole careers. And for me, I think the key to doing that is performance, week in and week out. And there are certain things we can do with Toyota that we’ll have a little more of a leadership role in.”
"And I do think within GM, you’ve got four really strong teams, so I think it is probably a little more difficult to say who has a leadership role there. Which direction are we going to go? And I think for us, it is just the right decision and the right time.”
These statements prove telling as to the position JGR thought it was in. Hidden in the shadows of Hendrick Motorsports dominance to start the season, JGR has since seen the other major Chevrolet teams, RCR and DEI, make significant moves to expand to four full-time operations for 2008; the latter organization has already gotten there, courtesy a merger turned desperation bankruptcy from Bobby Ginn. While Gibbs has continued to be successful in its own right – landing two of its three drivers in the Chase, winning four races this season – they’ve increasingly had to share the trophy room with other Chevrolets. Hendrick, DEI, and RCR have combined to win another 14, with RCR’s number one driver, Kevin Harvick, taking home the trophy at this year’s Daytona 500 (yes, I know Stewart took home the trophy at Indy…but still). Barring a Richmond collapse, Chevolet teams not named Gibbs will land a total of seven of the twelve drivers competing in this year’s Chase.
That leaves JGR in an awkward spot. The program has no plans to expand until hot young talent Joey Logano moves up through the ranks – and that’s assuming he doesn’t peter out in the lower levels of Truck and Busch. Even if Logano moves up to Cup by 2010, Gibbs will find themselves fighting to stay above water against a total of twelve other cars within Chevrolet – all of whom are capable of competing at their same level. Clearly, no matter how much respect and loyalty the Bowtie Brigade held for JGR…they had other options.
Which brings us to the question of money.
"I think Toyota has a little bit different model than what GM has,” claimed Gibbs as he addressed the differences between the two manufacturers. “And I think for us, there will be some resources there. Down the road, there are certain things that we’re not going to be able to afford to do, period.”
"I think the other thing that I want to say about it is the partnership, I think – and that is the keyword. It is a partnership that we’re going to be entering into with Toyota. And from what they have in their camp and how we can use their resources, I just look at this as an extension of our team.”
“Partnership” and “afford” are the key words you need to remember from that soliloquy. Keep in mind that of those four Chevy teams mentioned above, Gibbs is the one that appeared in position to fall behind financially. RCR and DEI both have investors with a stake in their organizations (although Bobby Ginn could hardly be called full of money at this point, he technically does count); combine that with the seemingly limitless resources of Hendrick now that cash cow Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has joined the fold, and Gibbs was on its way to becoming outmatched. Three primary sponsors don’t provide the money of four, and with no investor plans expected anytime soon, the next best thing for Gibbs to do was to align itself with a manufacturer that would “reward” them for their position as number one on the totem pole.
Clearly, that’s what went down. No financial terms were – or likely will be – disclosed, but chances are Toyota did the same thing it did two years back, wooing crew members with salaries that were tens of thousands above what any other organization was even capable of offering. Just replace “thousands” with “millions,” and you get the point.
That financial security offered comes as a lifeline, a level of support J.D. Gibbs, his father, and everyone involved in JGR would love to have. Not that Chevrolet wasn’t upset; by all accounts, they were not happy campers, and Gibbs deftly avoided a question about their reaction, only saying he expects to be fully supported throughout the Chase.
But in the end, any such backlash towards this organization paled in comparison to making the decision they thought was right.
"It is an extremely hard business,” J.D. mentioned at the press conference. “From a sport standpoint, I deal with some NFL owners and get to talk and spend some time with them. What they have there is a franchise that’s set. You’ve got it. No matter what, the values are going to go up for the most part. Over here, you don’t have that.”
"Now, I kind of like that. I kind of like the fact that the value over here is if you run well. If Tony Stewart sells a bunch of souvenirs, he keeps the money from those souvenirs. There’s no pot you have to share.”
What you get there – but don’t often see from J.D. – is the level of competitive drive that has been ingrained in him since day one. There’s something to be said for spearheading a movement, leading a manufacturer that has goals to change the landscape of an entire sport. This family isn’t one that shies away from challenges – and to be honest, taking on the Camry is a challenge they no longer had. They’ve won a title in a Pontiac, one in a Chevrolet; why not make the switch a third time and start all over again? It would be too easy to keep the status quo…too easy to fall behind.
Of course, Toyota knows that feeling all too well after starting the season with teams lacking the proper technology to move forward, highlighted by an engine that was never up to snuff. That should prove the biggest setback for JGR in the short-term; but chief engine builder Mark Cronquist, regarded as one of the best in the business, was up front about how he feels it’s nothing he can’t handle.
"Really, putting an engine together is easy,” he said. “It’s finding the combination that you need for that that's hard. The one advantage we have switching to Toyota from, say the R-O7 engine, is with the (Chevrolet) R-O7 engine, nobody had raced it. If you look at everybody’s R-O7 engines, the alternator might be on a different side or the oil pump may be on a different side. This engine’s already built. It’s put together. So mounting the alternator and the oil pump, a lot of that is done for us.”
"The thing my group has to work on is making sure it is up to our standards of what we normally do, being the performance, the torque, the horsepower and stuff like that.”
Don’t underestimate the power of this group to get that done. Surely, Gibbs had that in mind when making the switch; if his team can fix the engine, then what else could be wrong with a car that will basically end up with the same common chassis template as Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge once the Car Of Tomorrow goes full-time in ’08? When your team has given your top two drivers a total of two DNFs due to engine failures since February, 2006, it gives you the confidence they can handle anything that comes their way.
“Mark Cronquist and I, if we don’t talk to each other, we look at that as a good thing,” said Tony Stewart. “We look at that as a standpoint that things are going really good in the motor department.”
"I think today’s the first time we’ve spoken in probably - other than you making a token appearance at a couple races this year - in probably a year and a half, two years. So things are pretty comfortable there.”
Comfortable was the word to describe Stewart, who was rumored to be upset about the switch but hardly seemed so yesterday. In fact, both he and Hamlin openly expressed they were in the middle of negotations to be with Gibbs for a long time to come.
“I’m excited about this. I feel like the only way that you constantly stay ahead of the game is by putting yourselves in positions to be leaders not followers,” That’s why I signed up with Joe Gibbs Racing in the first place, and that’s why I’m currently looking to extend my contract.
"I’ve always trusted J.D. and Joe, and this decision doesn’t change my feelings about their leadership qualities."
Nor should it. Two years from now, expect to look back on this move as the one that catapulted Toyota to the next level of Nextel Cup.
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Screw Toyota and all that support them!
I see that the unthinking haters are out already.
Mere facts are unlikely to make a dent in their emotionally overcharged rants, but just to get the facts on record, …
Toyota is building new manufacturing plants in the US and providing many new jobs in the US.
The “Big 3” are closing plants in the US and shipping those jobs to Canada and Mexico.
As everyone knows, it’s all about money, but is that BAD? JGR is made up of a lot of really smart folks with real wisdom. I don’t believe for a moment that the decision to move from GM to Toyota was made because of a short-sighted, short term cash infusion of a few extra (tens of) millions of dollars going into JGR’s bank account.
Very well thought out article Tom. The reaction of some fans will certainly be like the ones above.However, everyone knows that Toyotas are built in the U.S. so this move by Gibbs should’nt be viewed as treason.Dig into global business practices and you will find that very little of what you think you know about who owns what company, and where money goes is accurate. The one over riding point in all of this is winning. And that’s why i became a fan of Tony Stewart in the first place.The Gibbs team and it’s drivers simply want to insure that they have the best possible chance of winning.I can’t fault them for that.
Does anyone have a thought on this? Did Kyle Bush open his big mouth where he shouldn’t have in announcing to the world Gibbs was going with Ying Yang, or did Gibbs tell him to leak the story? Does JGR now realize they have a loose cannon on deck in KB?
I found this post somewhere out on the web… thought I should send it in light of your Tony bashing. The percentage may be off… only slightly…
“MORONS…. TOYOTA IS MORE AMERICAN THAN ANY OF THE TRAITORS WITHIN THE BIG 3… 96% of every element of Toyota’s sold in the US are both manufactured and built in the US… jobs people… FOR GOD SAKES JOBS… morons.. idiot morons… Who cares if it is Union.. Union is not American… American is American… Union is Union…Toyota does not offshore the domestic US operations… ask GM, FORD AND CHRYSLER/DODGE and the UAW if they can say the same… THEY CANNOT… they are traitors in the worst possible way and have given away our country’s industrial manufacturing base to the likes of Toyota (the very company these union pansies are whining about) who have actually taken the American workers seriously enough to keep them employed, deal with higher salaried individuals in the US (not rewarding mediocrity with union secured jobs) and still… STILL kick the US manufacturers tail ends… I am a Tony fan, a Gibbs fan and the shock value of the change was major, but I have a brain, and several graduate degrees and because I did not sit back, drink beer with the buds on Friday nights, revel in the myth of the glory days of high school… Interestingly, I also know the world isn’t flat as well… Get over it and do your homework. Moron. “
Way to go steve, let someone else speak for you, mostly because you can’t. Now you may be a bleeding heart liberal, but the Toyota builders killed to of my uncles and I will NEVER forget or forgive or support anyone who does….They are traitors!!
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