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.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday June 11, 2008
Did You Notice? … That one of the compelling themes in NASCAR as of late is proof of the phrase, “Nice guys finish last?” David Reutimann is the latest example; known as a man who won’t bump anyone out of the way in order to get to the front, Reutimann got loose with Clint Bowyer oh-so-close behind him in the final laps of the Nashville race on Saturday night. While Brad Keselowski went on to win, Reutimann – who had been in position to take the checkers before a late-race caution bunched up the field — fell back to a fourth place finish on older tires.
“The No. 2 got a good start and we got down into (turn) three and he was real close to the back of me and got me loose,” Reutimann claimed when it was all said and done. “He didn’t touch me – we were racing.”
“Once the No. 2 got to us, it was game over.”
Reutimann may have cut Bowyer a break in that interview; the replays showed the cars were awfully close entering that corner, and it’s my opinion that just the ever so slightest bit of contact could have been made. But even if there wasn’t, Bowyer himself fell victim to overaggression on the race’s last lap, when David Stremme just plain hit the No. 2 car going through the final turns to grab second place. And that behavior’s in line with what we’re seeing throughout NASCAR’s top three series: everyone seems to be falling victim to a case of bump ‘n’ run. Forget about racing side-by-side; the handling of these cars has become so difficult, instead of taking time to make the pass, it’s simply easier to just bodyslam people out of the way.
The proof is in the pudding … er, results sheet. One of the most aggressive drivers of our time, Kyle Busch, has entered the limelight of Victory Lane over in Sprint Cup, while the passivity of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hasn’t paid off. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver isn’t known for bumping people out of the way, but racing clean in a few different instances has allowed his winless streak to rise to 76 – in contrast, Busch had no problem making contact with the No. 88 while fighting for the win at Richmond.
The movement’s quickly spread to NASCAR’s other divisions, too. Over in the Craftsman Truck Series a few weeks back, it was rookie Donny Lia laying the bumper to squeaky clean David Starr in order to take the first checkered flag of his career at Mansfield. Other drivers accused him of driving dirty; but it was Lia walking away with the trophy, not anyone else. And even the drivers known for a “gentlemanly” reputation are going through a little phase of laying the chrome horn. Who can forget Mark Martin’s ill-timed bump during the Las Vegas Nationwide Series race this March, a mistake which caused a wreck that ruined the chances of both Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski to take the win?
Whenever these incidents have come up this season, our sport hasn’t laid down any penalties; in fact, they’ve labeled each case the outcome of good, hard racing – a throwback to the NASCAR of old. But for those drivers who hate engaging in such tactics, they might need to take heed of how the aggression’s ratcheting up. With the laps winding down and the win on the line, what are you going to do? You can take second place by racing a guy clean, and then hear it from your sponsors, your fans, and your car owner as to why you’re not winning races. Or, you can lay a bumper to the guy, hope for the best, and get out of there with a race-winning trophy – which, five years from now, is all everyone is going to remember.
It’s an interesting quandary, and one in which there’s no clear answer. The honorable thing to do is to race somebody clean; but more than ever these days, I’m noticing the paychecks get written when contact gets made. For every Jeff Burton win at Bristol, there’s five Donny Lias trumping them all …
Did You Notice? … That the obsessive dominance of the Big Four – Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Hendrick Motorsports – isn’t just limited to the Cup Series. After Nashville, those teams occupy six of the top eight positions in owner points, with Rusty Wallace Incorporated’s No. 64 and Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 99 the only interlopers. You’ll notice I count the No. 88 owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. as a Hendrick Motorsports entity – as much as I was happy to see the kid get his first series win, right now I think we’re all in “common sense” agreement that team receives a great deal of chassis and technical support from Hendrick.
Of course, the influence of the “Big Four” in this series is nothing new, and it’s a great study of how extended dominance by a few select car owners can turn out over a period of time. Their reign atop the series began in 2006, when the “Big Four” swept the Top 5 in owner points — all with Cup drivers at the helm. Last year, they occupied the top four slots, while combining to win 27 of 35 Nationwide races in the process.
So in year three of the Big Four invasion, what are the long-term effects? Eight cars in the field of 43 started and parked at Nashville, and about two dozen teams are struggling to find a viable primary sponsor. The Big Four continue to become a viable entity – phenom Joey Logano just picked up sponsorship from GameStop for Joe Gibbs Racing – while some of the strongest Nationwide-only teams, like Baker-Curb’s No. 37, don’t even have the money to buy tires and run the full scheduled distance.
If you think this kind of collapse can’t happen in the Cup Series, don’t be fooled. Just look at the stories coming out this week: Michael Waltrip Racing in trouble, Petty Enterprises getting an investor – but still needing a sponsor, BAM Racing shutting down last month, etc. With the ratcheting cost of participation, sponsors aren’t going to pay $20 million to run 20th at best each week; and why should they? And if you’re a mid-pack team, what past results can you point to in order to show you’ll one day be competitive again? Those days are slipping further and further into the distance …
All I can say is if you thought 2004 was bad in terms of Cup field fillers, I shudder to think what the possibilities for 2009 could behold.
Did You Notice? … That as attention swirls around the pending lawsuit involving fired African-American official Mauricia Grant, there’s going to be additional scrutiny given to the sport’s Drive For Diversity program. And as Tommy Thompson so expertly pointed out on this site the other day, the track record simply isn’t good. Right now, there’s no African-American racing in any of NASCAR’s top three series. Bill Lester – the man once championed to fill that void after competing in a handful of Cup races in 2006 – is now 47, and hasn’t had a ride in either Cup, Nationwide, or Trucks since mid-2007. Chase Austin was promised a part-time schedule in Rusty Wallace, Incorporated’s No. 64 car; instead, David Stremme’s experiencing such success they’re letting him drive the thing full-time.
Of course, NASCAR’s track record with women ain’t so great either: look up Crocker, Erin for the latest example. But while the IRL has become the poster child for women entering motorsports – and Formula 1 has a dark-skinned racing superstar in Lewis Hamilton – NASCAR is clearly behind the times. You can throw out all the statistics you want about drivers racing in the lower divisions, but the bottom line is that it’s Joey Logano moving up the ladder at Joe Gibbs Racing… not development series driver Marc Davis. It’s Chase Austin getting released at Hendrick Motorsports, while white driver Landon Cassill gets plenty of time to develop. And so on, and so on … and as for the Grant story itself, it clearly bears watching. This isn’t the first discrimination lawsuit NASCAR’s faced … and with the list of people named in this report that also claim they got harassed, it’s very possible this won’t be the last.
Did You Notice? … That after the halfway point of the regular season last year, 11 of the 12 drivers who made the Chase were already in the Top 12? Only part-timer Mark Martin fell out, replaced by Kurt Busch as the season wore on.
I think that number will be lower this year — and based on history, you’d expect at least one guy currently listed in the Chase to fall out. So, while the obvious choice is Tony Stewart, I’m going to go with Kevin Harvick as my personal pick to flop. At the beginning of this season, I thought it was a mistake for Harvick’s team to not change things up and leave crew chief Todd Berrier behind. In February and March, they proved me wrong, but the last two months of the season have flushed out the car’s continual inability to consistently run up front. In the last nine races, Harvick’s led just one lap, and the most aggressive driver in the RCR stable has instead been settling for 13th place finishes.
It’s clear something isn’t right over at the No. 29; and I’m not sure if keeping the status quo is the right way to go. Perhaps if they do miss the Chase, the addition of a fourth team will be the loophole Childress needs to do a crew mixup; because right now, it seems that team needs one more than anyone else in the organization.
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
You do know that Lewis Hamilton is not African-American, right? Yes, he’s black, but he’s British.
The line you wrote about Logano and Davis implies (hopefully unintentionally) that race is a reason behind Logano being in Nationwide and not Davis. That’s just not true – Logano is the better racer, that’s why. You can’t be saying that NASCAR should dispense with merit and go with race as a factor for promotion instead? Because handouts like that will do far more harm to the diversity drive than good – neither the fans nor the racers (including minority racers) want to see guys get rides based on a handout, which is what that is. It says they can’t make it on their own.
Speaking of the better racer – why would you pull Stremme from the 64 car when he’s doing so well and put a newbie in his place? Stremme is getting face time for that car, which translates to sponsor dollars – a not insignificant factor for keeping him as well. If Chase is good he’ll get a shot somewhere, but lets face it, for anyone regardless of race it’s not easy to get a Cup or Nationwide ride, especially with a competitive team.
I’m a fan of Marc Davis and I’m convinced he’ll get his shot too, and soon, and also that he wants to make it on his own merits. He’s also been a team owner since he was 15 (FastKids/FastTrucks and a limited late model team at South Boston) so he could also become one of NASCAR’s few African American owners.
And on the nice guys part of the story – you could finish last, or you could be second in the Cup points standings. And Mark Martin apologized profusely for getting into the 88 car – his teammate – he didn’t do it on purpose, which is what you implied in the article. I can’t recall the last time MM got into someone on purpose.
lol “African-American” Lewis Hamilton—oops.
Regardless, on the one hand we have all the rumours and allegations by that Jewish driver (sorry, I forget his name) being persecuted for his religion, and now this African-American official being fired and claiming discrimination… but on the other hand, you have the fact that there simply hasn’t BEEN a minority driver that has proven to have the chops… I think it’s just unfortunate coincidence mind you, I’m sure they’re out.
As far as Erin Crocker, I dunno wtf is going on there, she should’ve already been winning Truck races, by this point…
Yeah John, that was a very bad mistake … thanks for pointing it out, correction has been made. We apologize for the error.
John, the Jewish driver you are referring to is Mike Bliss.
Now that Takuma Sato’s Super Aguri F1 eam is toast, every effort should be made to bring him into NASCAR.
yes, I def agree with the situation on the 29. Week in and week out I listen to Harvick talk about not getting the right handle on the car. I think Berrier is good, but either he’s not agressive, or too agressive and not giving Kevin what he needs. Some changes NEED to happen soon, or else you’re right, he’ll fall out of the chase. And that would suck.
I really hate to say this – because it seems so taboo – but the “drive for diversity” program is a joke. Go to most any karting event, roadcourses, oval etc. What does the demographic look like? In college, there are student bodies based upon race, unless your generic “white”, same goes for corporate America; now racing? this is idiotic. If they want diversity – fine I can understand that – make it so ALL less fortunate kids can have an avenue – most top-tier professional drivers come from money…(from money I mean Family income of into 6-figures)otherwise they will never be able to run where they need to to get noticed…so – why restrict the assistance of those less fortunate based upon race? Before somebody lables me “racist” keep in mind the definition – is it not determining criteria based upon ones race???
The NHRA has had Blacks, Hispanics and Women in their series for over 40 years. And all have won.
And the NHRA has never had a B.S. diveristy program.
Maybe Blacks just have no interest in NA$CAR.
I am a big fan of stock car racing and when I first heard of this lawsuit, I thought it might be bogus. However after to reading the allegations in the suit itself, this woman has documented a number of incidents in which there was definitely a hostile work environment. NASCAR needs to worry very much about this suit, not the cost, but damage to the “new” image that NASCAR has tried to craft.
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