Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Monday March 9, 2009
No matter how many cars you have running on the Sprint Cup circuit these days, it’s difficult to get more than one to run competitively each week. For proof, look no further than Penske Racing, whose lead driver Kurt Busch simply dominated Sunday’s race, while teammates David Stremme and Sam Hornish, Jr. both struggled and failed to run better than 23rd.
Occasionally throughout history, there’s an exception to the rule of thumb; back in 2005, Jack Roush pulled the miraculous feat of getting all five of his cars to make the Chase, and Richard Childress Racing went three for three in 2007 and ‘08. But far more often, multi-car teams find themselves split in two amidst a package of bad luck, poor performance, and an inability for team chemistry to spread throughout an entire organization. One, two, maybe three cars hold up the mantle for a car owner who mixes happiness with angst at another team turning into mush before his eyes.
That vision pretty much describes Rick Hendrick’s life as a car owner year in, year out. Never able to get all four cars into the 12-team Chase since it began in 2004, one of NASCAR’s greatest success stories has always been towing along at least one car in his stable that ultimately fails to make the grade.
At least this year, the man’s decided to switch it up a bit. For once in his life, the seven-time champion car owner doesn’t have just one lone vehicle failing to meet expectations.
He’s got two.
Indeed, the Team Formerly Known As The Hendrick All-Stars finds itself at a crossroads four races into the season. It’s an organization that still prides itself on being the pinnacle of NASCAR success; but it’s also a four-car team that’s splitting apart into two very different directions.
We’ll get to the Bad News Bears of this group in a minute. But to understand how bad it is for two of the sport’s biggest stars to be on life support – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark Martin – you’ve got to understand how the other half has got it so good. And on the “beauty” side of Hendrick, it’s an ugly truth both men have to face – life for their two other teammates couldn’t be better. Sitting in Hendrick’s better half is the two-car tandem of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, the four-time champ and aspiring four-time champ who have spent years swapping places as the sport’s best. While Johnson holds the latest hardware, right now it’s Gordon’s turn to shine, with two runner-up finishes in three weeks enough to leave him winning in the most important category: Sprint Cup points. As I wrote not too long ago, it’s Gordon showing more focus and determination than any driver on the Cup circuit to date, out to prove that Johnson hasn’t knocked him off the perch of Hendrick’s No. 1 driver for good.
“I tell you right now, we’ve got the best team out there,” he said Sunday. “They’re showing it on pit road. They’re showing it in the confidence that they have, like Steve Letarte making calls and the way we’re communicating… and certainly those race cars.”
That attention to detail is shared by Johnson and his crew, so determined to maximize every advantage crew chief Chad Knaus came up with an “emergency” plan on Sunday to deal with a second NASCAR trainee in their pit box. Half the field wouldn’t have cared an extra set of eyes was walking around their car; for Knaus, it was an unnecessary distraction that needed to be dealt with in order for their team to save that tenth of a second and move one more step up the finishing order. 13th in the standings after just four races, everyone knows it’s only a matter of time before the No. 48 enters the top 12. Confidence, history, and the success of the team next door is all they need to push forward as we head towards the short track swing.
You’d think that rock hard self-esteem would be enough to spill over into all four Hendrick Chevrolets. But everyone knows the on-track relationship with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Tony Eury is on a different type of roller coaster. Johnson and Knaus are the ones that leave you ready to get back in line and see just how it worked all over again; Junior and Eury just leave you queasy and looking for the nearest trash can.
“We are doing about as miserable as we can do without being too upset about it,” said Junior on Sunday after finishing 11th, his third run outside the top 10 in the first four races. Once again, Junior’s race was typical of the last 15 months with this team: great in the beginning, so-so in the middle, and downright awful in the end – right when it matters the most. Lucky to catch enough cautions and Lucky Dogs to stay on the lead lap, Junior was about a 25th-place car by race’s end as he spent much of the final 100 miles trying not to wreck. That is, if you don’t count his yelling over the radio at Eury a crash course in how not to interact with a crew chief.
“We struggled,” Junior admitted with the fatigue of a man who’s yet to land on his feet since spinning Brian Vickers in front of the field at Daytona last month. “This weekend off will be good for everybody.”
Well, not everybody. While Junior destresses, the speculation surrounding Eury will only intensify as the series prepares for the meat of its upcoming schedule. For as the pressure piles up in the No. 88 camp, someone’s going to have to take the fall for poor performance – and I’m guessing it’s not NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver. Eury firing rumors are already popping up; at one point, there was a bogus rumor spreading through the garage this weekend that he’d be gone as soon as yesterday afternoon. In reality, his actual leash will likely last a few months longer; but there’s no question the time for change at the No. 88 is close at hand. Earnhardt has spent 15 months toiling under the weight of Hendrick expectations, expecting this organization to provide him with everything he needs to be successful.
Instead, he’s learning the hard way that money doesn’t buy happiness. At the moment, Junior’s No. 88 has about $20 million more to work with in funding than the No. 71 of David Gilliland. But both have the same number of top 25 finishes – two – in a year where having third-tier status at Hendrick is getting thrown in Junior’s face far earlier than anyone could have expected. I guess in these tough economic times, no one likes to see so much money get wasted so badly for long.
“It is frustrating,” he said. “I look at my teammates and they are running better, we should run the way they run.”
Across the way, the No. 88 tries to look to their shopmates at the No. 5 for inspiration. Indeed, this was supposed to be the year new hire Mark Martin gave Earnhardt the guiding hand needed for him to succeed. At 50, Martin’s championship bid was supposed to be the story of the season, with Hendrick bending over backwards to give him the best equipment, the best crew, the best engines.
Too bad he forgot one thing; Lady Luck doesn’t take bribes.
That’s been the one bad estimate in Hendrick’s master plan, a thought that a change of scenery would take the monkey of innocent victim off Martin’s back. But this is a man who’s finished runner-up in the points four times when he could have easily won the championship twice. It’s a man who’s been on the short end of every controversial stick, a man who makes a living at finding ways to pull defeat straight out of the jaws of victory.
Sadly, you can’t throw money at a problem like that. And despite a pole at Atlanta, Martin’s season has been a rubber stamp on what he’ll be known for – would haves, could haves, and might have beens. Two failed engines, a blown right rear tire, a poor pit call – four top 10 performances were turned into four finishes so bad, a wreck at Bristol might force Martin to qualify for races on speed beginning at the end of March.
What a jarring contradiction for an organization possessing perhaps the speediest car on the track right now under the same roof.
“We haven’t reached our full potential yet,” said the point leader Gordon in a fit of excitement Sunday night. “We’re still gaining momentum.”
In the off week, the trick will be for Earnhardt and Martin to figure out where that’s coming from – before it’s too late.
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The 5 team shouldn’t change a thing they’re doing. They’ve had terrible luck and might just have to outlast the spell.
The talent gap isn’t helping the #88 either. Gordon, JJ and Martin are all head and shoulders above Junior in the talent department.
Obviously DEI and Mrs. Earnhardt weren’t the problem after all . I’m not convinced that Tony Eury is either .
I think you all need to chill out. 4 races does not a season make (or break).
With all due repect to Dale Jr. fans, he is NOT the talent his Dad was nor will he ever be. He is at best a middle of the pack driver with one exception, he does appear to excel at plate racing. They will fire Tony and then maybe Hendrick will learn that Junior is a hell of a nice guy who just can’t drive a race car!
It’s way early to hit the panic button – anyone remember all the “What’s wrong with Jimmy Johnson?” talk at this time last year, and how did that turn out?
I find it interesting that the split is along shop lines – 24 and 48 share one shot, 88 and 5 the other. Maybe its time to find a way to put both shops together, or split the 24 and 48 up in hopes of some of that weekday skill rubbing off on the two also rans (yes, I know you run the risk of it working the other way around and having the bad karma rub off on the two good teams, but I can’t believe with how good those two teams are that that would happen).
I have to be one of the 88’s worst fans, i cheer for this kid all the time listen to the in car allrace long dreading when the car is going to go all to HELL, and it always does after 3/4 of the race. I just do not get it, what are they doing wrong, is it Eury not standing up to Jr.? Is it Jr. not giving him the correct feedback? When listening to every race they go one way and make the car better, then they try something else and make it worse, they never keep up with the cooling race track. I do not know i am not going to sit here and pretend to have the answers. I have never climbed behind the wheel of one of thoes JUNK NASCAR race cars. BTW I HATE THIS NEW CAR< the look is god awful it hardley ever puts on a good race and the teams have spent millions and millions in new cars and testing just to try and make this JUNK work. Ok i feel better i got that out. I feel Mark will get it going in the right direction but the up and downs of the 88 i do not have an answer. They really need to get off the POT and start giving us something good to talk about. I feel bad for Eury because i know just from listening it is not all his fault.
Hendrick had always has an “A” shop and a “B” shop. This is nothing new.
This 88 team is a joke. First, he is not, nor will he ever be his dad. Second, well, actually, that’s about all there is to say about him.
Mark will bounce back. And let’s face it, all he has to do is ride around in the top 12 until the final 10 races anyway. There’s nothing at all wrong with the team or driver besides bad luck. You’ve forgotten to mention that, in all four races, he was running in the top 10 when things broke or went wrong.
The first mistake folks make is mentioning Senior in the same sentence as Junior.
They are not the same and never will be, and no, Junior does not have and never had Senior’s talent.
With that said, does Junior have the talent to be a successful race car driver?
Can he drive this COT?
Not so much. So far.
Is Eury Jr. the problem?
Probably not, but one thing is for sure, it does not work with him and Junior.
So does a change need to be made?
Earnhardt has struggled for two reasons:
DEI started to slip technologically in the last half of the decade, and that hurt Junior competively, because he could drive that old car. Who couldn’t? It was a aerodynamic bullet and did not require a lot of talent to drive.
The COT is much more set-up dependent, and you have to be able to drive a loose race car to drive it successfully.
Junior absolutely despises a loose race car. And b*tches about it the whole race long.
No wonder Eury is thinking to himself “just shut the f*** up and drive the car”…..or tell me how to fix it!
Which Junior cannot do, because he is always in the process of becoming unglued and flustered in the race car. Immaturity some call it.
Which is why poor Junior cannot be consistent, or put together a good solid year, especially with any kind of adversity thrown his way.
That is the real difference between the 24,48 and the 88.
And folks, I am a Junior fan.
Is the Junior problem perception or reality? Outside of Jeff Gordon, no one else at Hendrick is performing very well. Johnson’s average finish in all four races is 18.25 where Junior’s average finish is 21.75. When you you average the three races where Junior didn’t blow a motor, Junior’s average finish is 16 whereas Johnson’s is 21.33. I am not suggesting that Junior is a better driver than Johnson, but their seasons so far are not that far apart. Yet, Junior is perceived to be doing horribly while Johnson is perceived to be off to a great start.
The good news is that Kurt Busch won on Sunday, and Carl Edwards lost. As long as Kyle and Carl lose, I’ll have a good week.
i keep saying the problem with the 88 is jr. he’s his own worst enemy. he is headstrong and not willing to listen to others. hendrick has a sports psychologist but will jr work with him — no…jr’s attitude is “i’ll tell him a thing or two”. jr is not mentally or physically in shape. even gordon has admitted this year that last year he let things slide. he’s back to being focused and working out to be in shape. it takes a lot out of you to drive 500 miles…mental toughness as well.
jr seems to always go on a rant on the radio. i would have thought by now that would have changed. eury jr always looked like a whipped dog cause whatever he does it’s never good enough for his cousin.
jr’s looking forward to off weekend after only 4 weeks of racing?? man, what will he do come the heat of the summer and what 17 weeks straight?!
and what hurts na$car (i can’t believe i’m saying that)is when jr gets take out of a race early on and is multiple laps down, the places empty out. dale jr will NEVER be the driver his father was. he’s just not focused, he hasn’t done without or had to race to feed himself. he’s not part of a team…he’s an individual who shows up to get in the car and drive. it’s a team sport, not individual sport. that has got to change, and until it does, the 88 will have one or two good runs in a season, and squeek into the chase.
I think Jr.‘s problem is that he is not driven. Due to his name, he had fame and fortune thrust upon him without having to work for it. He can party, throw temper tandrums and be a pain at times because he know he will be forgiven by NA$CAR and his fans. His excuse for a lack of success was lost when he moved to Hendrick.
I listened to Jr/Jr on the scanner and heard Dale Jr give more feedback than I have ever heard/good feedback. I think the problem is the pit crew. They are consistently slower than the other Hendricks teams.Jr fought a loose wheel for over 1/2 the race and that was probably an overtorqued lugnut problem. Neither of these problems were JR/.JR problems. I didn’t see his speeds falling off even with a loose wheel. He was still good enough to finish 11th. As far as the amount of money spent on his team. jr is running a lot better than Ryan Newman and that is a clone team of Hendricks. It’s a long season and I think Jr will be just fine and make the chase.
The problem is Tony Jr. He can build great races cars but as far as the in race adjustments he is terrible. He always has been. It’s not brain surgery to figure out he’s struggled since Pops left the box. Pops would tell him to shut his mouth and drive the car BUT he would make the right changes to the car to make it drive better. If you’re fast off the truck and then fade through the race till the end that means the CC is not making the right calls. Jr gives the feedback that is needed to fix the car it just needs to be fixed.
For all the smart people that keep saying that he’s not his father…good call. I don’t think anyone could have figured out that one on their own. Take a look at the record book, how many others are as good? Three, maybe four. Good call in letting the rest of us know though and repeating it daily.
it is so incredibly painful to listen to Junior interviewed, even basic english/grammar seem to be a bit difficult for him…
He’s only living off of Daddy’s name. He’s not proven a thing.
I tried to remain calm reading your article….I tried to remain unbiased and understand of where you could be coming from. But how could you possibly say such rotten things about Mark Martin? You talk as if he’s a has-been, washed up driver, and Rick Hendrick made a mistake hiring him. Engines blowing have NOTHING to do with him, that’s equipment failure. A right rear tire blowing, again, equipment failure for a man who practically never blows a tire.
Have you forgotten that up until this year the 5(25) car has always been the runt of the Hendrick stable? Mark could have easily had top ten finishes in all four of the season’s first 4 four races, if not for acts beyond his control. I know that Mark will prove you wrong by the end of the year, hopefully you’ll be writing a different article then. As for Junior, I think he’s proving that he rode in here on the coat-tails of his father, and if not for his name/connections/racing history, he wouldn’t be here at all.
Let’s not forget how well martin ran the last two years in what could be considered sub-par equipment. Six outside poles last year and multiple chances at victory, all while being part time. Please refrain from grouping Martin in with Junior, the two are anything but the same.
JR. is anice kid but lets face it he’s all hype and short on talent.The Bush championships he won were in superior equipment.He will never be a Sprint Cup champion.I just wonder how much longer JR. nation is going to keep cheering for a driver that dosent win?
Mr. Hendrick needs to look internally at how he houses the teams. If he wants to spread some of that championship magic around, you can’t have the two champs sharing the same facility. Send the 5 over to be with the 24, and the 88 over to be with the 48. Let Eury learn from Knaus.
Don’t know how you fix the Martin bad luck issue, a witch doctor maybe? Maybe just being around Gordon would bring him some luck.
Problem is, Mr. Hendrick is more interested in keeping Johnson and Gordon winning then he is in Junior and Martin, and that’s why he won’t make that move. He liked Junior and Martin because they are cash register’s. Mr. Hendrick didn’t get where he is by being a kindly old man, he’s a shrewd operator, and he know’s times are tough. Junior is a gold mine, and all the old timers just love Martin.
Great idea, split up the 24 & 48. Year after years it’s those same 2 guys at Hendrick. I can’t believe any impotant info from them is shared with anybody else.
Ive always thought the same about Eury. I tell people hes a great starting pitcher and that you always know in the end that Jr will be going backwards insted of going forward. I think in due time he could realize that the grass would be greener if Alan Gustafson was on top of the box
Joonur may, or may not win a championship. My guess is that he won’t, but as long as he can,(& he can)sell tons of stuff. He’ll have a home at HMS, as long as he wants it. As for MM, don’t give up on him making the chase. He’s one of the best points strokers, who ever climbed into a race car. He won’t win a championship, but he could very well make the chase.
tony jr is a man who has risen to his level of incompetency. He is a great leader in the shop, but he doesn’t have that touch needed to run the strategy during the race. He seems to get behind the adjustments during the race, calling for too little, too late…or too much. Put him back in his proven element, at the shop, and get Pops back in Cup. dale Jr’ll be takin’ trophies in no time.
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