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 April 29, 2009
In four years of covering the NASCAR beat, I never “officially” met David Poole. But you don’t have to know him to understand.
The word is beloved, and the year is 2006. I’m asked to speak for a documentary about the past, present, and future of NASCAR. The producer, a friend, chooses three writers to be his main analysts; David Poole and I are among the chosen few. The day he interviews Poole down in Charlotte, I get a call.
“You won’t believe what happened,” he says. A full-fledged television crew – some of which had been in the business 20 or 30 years – spent the day acting like five-year-old kids with a ticket to Disneyworld. They shake Poole’s hand, ask for an autograph, grab a favorite story – and walk away with the type of feeling you’d only think was reserved for racers like Earnhardt and Gordon.
“They were absolutely in awe of this man,” he continued.
They weren’t the only ones.
The place is Lowe’s Motor Speedway, and I’m in over my head. Sitting in the media center covering the 600, it’s the first time I’ve gotten the chance to cover a race at the track. Day after day, the press room lines up a who’s who of NASCAR personalities: Everyone from Jimmie Johnson to Michael Waltrip comes to the mic, on a weekend where news bursts from the pipes like a leaky faucet.
For every single person, every single time, David Poole is ready with a question. And out of respect, he gets first crack three times out of four. It’s to the point that drivers, media, even the guy holding the microphone to let writers speak know exactly where to turn and who to acknowledge before Poole even raised his hand.
Did I always agree with what he said? Journalists rarely agree on anything. But five days and sixty questions later, I learned a whole hell of a lot.
The word is power, and the year is 2007. It’s five days after the first race at the “new” Bristol, and one of our writers here at Frontstretch puts out an article critical of Poole’s opinion of the race. Satirical in design, suffice it to say Poole wasn’t happy the editorial staff let the column run – he thought a line between personal and professional was blurred. The writer was keeping me posted on an email exchange when one day, there’s a special one addressed solely to me.
The subject line read “A question on your policies,” and the author was David Poole.
“Do you make it a general practice at frontstretch.com to allow your contributors to question the professionalism of journalists?”
At 26, I remember physically shaking as I read those words. That’s how much respect this man commanded in his field; a negative opinion, and suddenly the very growth and reputation of our site was on the line.
It took a full day for me to craft a response. We’d exchanged some emails back and forth – unfortunately, to say we agreed to disagree was putting it mildly. He left with a sour taste in his mouth, and for months I fretted over what that may mean for the Frontstretch.
Two years later, I thank him – for while I still disagree, that incident taught me more about being a managing editor than anything else.
The word is respect, and the time is December 2007. I’m in the midst of doing an interview during Banquet Week in New York City. Gathering some quotes for Sports Illustrated, I’m knee-deep in an interview with Jeff Burton when David Poole walks up behind me. He’s got a microphone in his hand, a smile on his face, and suddenly Burton’s in a whole ‘nother place.
“Hey, man!” he says, a frown turned into a smile. Five seconds later, I’ve gone from a guy with a pad to a rock in the way to opening his heart somewhere else.
That’s true emotion towards a man who really knew the drivers he quoted.
Truth be told, I don’t know the “real” David Poole … that’s for family and friends of the man to share with you. But there’s no question in understanding what his death means for the NASCAR community. In a world where access is increasingly shuttered and the lines between amateur and professional are blurred, Poole stood out as an unquestioned leader of journalism in this industry. So few are the men and women in this sport that bridge the gap between passionate storytelling and true connection to their subjects – but for Poole, that was an art he perfected.
Of course, he had strong opinions … and you might not have always agreed with what he wrote. But for the best of writers, the power of the pen is just as poignant as the action on the track. Opinions have meaning when not hundreds, but millions, of people read your columns and listen to your voice on the radio. For Poole, he was the media’s version of Dale Earnhardt for this sport, one of the few individuals whose litany of journalism awards and pointed commentary could lead the forefront for joy, sadness, and change.
Now, that powerful voice is gone, and that means all of us working this industry need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. There’s a hole in the media center that needs to be filled by all of us, to ensure fans remain as connected to the sport as they did when they read something with Poole on the byline. In an era where we’re losing connections to our past left and right, this one hurts just as much as we look towards an uncertain future of how stock car racing will connect to the nation at large.
David, rest in peace.
Time for the regular version of this column …
Did You Notice? … Certain drivers always have a knack for getting into each other on the race track? I was reminded of that at Talladega this weekend, when the two biggest wrecks not involving a flip into the catchfence were caused by two pairings who always, always end up involved in the same darn crash.
Example 1 was on Saturday, when Matt Kenseth got flipped by none other than his own teammate – and eventual winner – David Ragan. But that’s just the latest in a Ragan-Kenseth history that includes:
2008 Daytona 500 — Kenseth feels he has a winning car before Ragan bumps into him coming out of four; both drivers wreck and lose their chance to contend at the finish.
“I got tight on the bottom or bottomed out and shot straight up the track,” Ragan said of that wreck. “By the time I lifted, I drove straight up the to track into him [Matt Kenseth] and pushed him into the wall.”
Not surprisingly, Kenseth doesn’t speak to his teammate for several days.
2008 Fall Richmond Race — Battling for a spot in the Chase, Ragan drives it a little too hard entering turn 1 on lap 122, losing control and turning sideways – right in front of Kenseth. Both drivers pile hard into the outside wall and spend the rest of the day struggling to simply finish the race. The crash put Kenseth on the borderline of missing the season-ending playoff; in the end, he finished 39th and was forced to count on a rough day by Kasey Kahne in order to make the postseason. Meanwhile, Ragan struggled to 32nd and wound up missing the Chase by nearly 100 points.
“I can’t remember ever spinning out going into a corner,” Kenseth said afterwards. “If he wouldn’t have spun in front of us, it would have been a different day.”
2009 Nationwide Race: Talladega — Saturday’s wreck was the most vicious to occur in the 312-miler, caused when Ragan attempted to bumpdraft Matt Kenseth at a bad angle down the backstretch. “You can’t just hit somebody when they’re turning,” Kenseth said. “The cars just aren’t stable enough for that.”
A few hours later, Roush joked that Ragan could pay for Kenseth’s car to be rebuilt since, after all, he won the race. But you wonder if deep down, the two of them have got to be getting a little frustrated. As a driver said to me recently, you can only apologize so many times …
Moving onto Sunday’s race, Kenseth was the center of attention again; but this time, it’s for his seemingly magnetic attraction to Jeff Gordon. On Lap 8, the two touched down the backstretch in a “that’s racin’” type incident that adds another chapter to their long history of beating and banging:
2006 Food City 500 — Gordon hits Kenseth leading into the final lap, causing the No. 17 to retaliate and spin out Gordon in their battle for third. Gordon responds by jumping out of his car and shoving the 2003 champ in the middle of pit road.
“I moved him, but I didn’t wreck him,” Gordon said. “But he came down into [turn] 1 … and just wrecked me.”
2006 Chicagoland — Just four months after the earlier incident, Gordon gets his payback, spinning out the No. 17 car for the win in the final laps. Kenseth goes on to finish 22nd, struggling for the next month before back-to-back wins at Michigan and Bristol that August.
“That wasn’t an accident,” Kenseth said of the incident. “He just ran over me.”
2008 Las Vegas — Kenseth and Gordon stage a furious battle for second on a late-race restart, one that ends with both cars wrecked on the backstretch after the two make contact coming off of turn 2. It wound up being one of the hardest hits of Gordon’s career — there was no SAFER barrier on the inside wall — but Kenseth’s anger may have been just as intense.
“Jeff is kind of famous for laying back and NASCAR has a rule that you can’t lay back more than a car length or you can be black-flagged,” Kenseth explained. “But it’s usually not enforced, so I saw him laying back, I knew he was gonna get a run on me… so I laid back so he wouldn’t pass me. We came off two and I was up as high as I thought I could get… and Jeff just came across. Whether it was on purpose or not, it just kind of wiped us out.”
2009 Aaron’s 499 — Well, no one can accuse Gordon of laying back on this day. Trying to poke his nose to the outside heading into turn 3, the two drivers touched and set off a 14-car melee that eliminated a good quarter of the field from contention.
Jeff’s take? “I was actually working well with Matt (Kenseth) getting up to the front through the middle. I don’t think that wreck was caused by over aggressive driving. I mean, every race and every wreck I look to see what I could have done different. [But] looking back on it, I wish I would have just stayed behind Matt.”
Hmm … considering the past history here, if I were Gordon I wouldn’t feel comfortable being within 50 feet of the No. 17. But hindsight is 20/20 …
Anyways, I bring these things up because, believe it or not, rivalries do still exist in this sport … it’s just that there aren’t the juicy physical catfights after the race to help boost their promotion. But not everyone in the garage gets along like superglue these days; and one hopes that with the momentum of 57 lead changes at Talladega, there’ll be a short track slugfest Saturday night at Richmond that’ll bring one of these rivalries back to the surface, building some momentum our 2009 season oh so desperately needs. They may take the racing out of the CoT, but NASCAR will never be able to take away the simple “coincidence” of two drivers finding each other on the track at exactly the wrong time.
And as for Kenseth … he’s certainly got some sort of magnetic attraction to these things, doesn’t he? Kenseth-Ragan, Kenseth-Gordon, Kenseth-Carl Edwards … you wouldn’t expect that out of a shy guy from Wisconsin now, would you?
Did You Notice? … Junior’s heartfelt admiration of his driver? Many fans have felt that I’ve piled on top of Earnhardt this year, and while I disagree there was something in his teleconference Tuesday that really struck me in a positive way. It happened when somebody asked if Earnhardt had talked to his protégé in the days following his first Cup win…
“There’s a part of me that’s real happy for him, proud for him, and I feel like that I’ve helped him get to this point in some way,” he said. “But the other side of you wants to let him experience it solely on his own and let him answer all the questions for himself, because he earned all the credit he’s getting for that win and for his ability to run well.”
“I don’t want me or Rick [Hendrick] or anybody to get in there and try to steal any of his thunder, or take any of the attention away from where it belongs right now.”
In other words, Junior is well aware of how his fame and fortune has the potential to overshadow Keselowski with a couple of choice comments. So, he’s content to keep his enthusiasm private while allowing his driver to simply soak it all in on his own – refusing to take public credit for his development.
“You have to imagine how amazingly driven he was to be sitting there in that position at the end of that race,” was all he’d say when pressed on the issue. “If you know Brad at all personally, you know that’s all he does, is think about racing 24/7, what he can do. So, he’s almost over-analyzing himself at times. I have to kind of tell him to stop thinking so much about it.”
So much has been said of Junior’s on-track performance this season, and I still struggle to understand why it’s so bad. To be honest, I don’t even get his strategy at the end of the race on Sunday, pulling away with Ryan Newman in a two-car draft so far away from the rest of the field Junior would have no momentum or sidedraft from anyone else to make a last lap pass. But those issues on the track are one thing … off it, Junior’s strong personal qualities remain the reasons more than any other he has millions flocking to his fan club each season.
Did You Notice? … This disturbing trend recently of owners limiting schedules in the Truck Series in order to focus their efforts elsewhere? TRG Motorsports and Key Motorsports are the latest to pull back, attempting to pool their resources towards the Cup and Nationwide teams they’re trying to grow, respectively.
In one sense, that’s great for the sport because that adds to the diverse groups of owners in these top two series. But who are the Truck owners coming in behind them as replacements? Just like for drivers, the Trucks can be a great proving ground for them to learn the ropes and build a foundation as they march towards the Cup level. With ratings for the Truck Series still growing in the face of declines elsewhere, it should be a pretty attractive series for them to get their start … so why is it not happening?
Well, the biggest reason still comes down to cost. One team owner told me recently that even with the new pit crew rules, it remains ridiculously expensive to run a team for a full 25-race season. Engine deals and small purses apparently remain the biggest problem for a division that could be thriving under the right circumstances. Right now, it costs a few million dollars to run a competitive Truck Series program. You can win that amount of money in the Cup Series by finishing 43rd every week; however, in the Truck Series, last place wins you an average of a little over $10,000 per event – and that’s not even going to cover expenses when you’re traveling across the country with a dozen people.
Of course, race tracks can always offer bigger purses if race fans would only open up their wallets. Fans always say that Truck racing is the best type of competition they see out there today – so why aren’t they attending the races? At some point, people are going to need to put their money where their mouth is or this division is going to wind up being in serious trouble.
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Maybe I shouldn’t comment in this space, but I feel that someone who considers himself a writer should comment on what a terrific piece Tom has crafted on David Poole. I’ve been a managing editor myself, and I’ve gone through periods with people in similar situations. You always learn something, and it’s always for the better. There’ll never be another David Poole, and we’re all the worse for that.
Hi there. Just have to give my two cents on Oldsmo-Bill’s (great name there!) comments about the Truck series. I think the Trucks look way tough. I love watching the Truck series races, went to Fontana for the 2-for-1 earlier this season mainly for the Truck race, and will be going to Vegas (third year in a row) for their Truck race in September. It’s great racing. If I had to choose between the Nationwide & Camping World series, I’d pick the Trucks.
Not that I try to read into these things too much, but don’t forget Kenseth-Stewart (Daytona) and Kenseth-Harvick (Pocono)
I agree with Micheal, I love watching the trucks race. Shorter race, not spending 4 hour of my day trying to watch a race. Better racing, more competive, more passing, at least it seems to me. Better coverage, shorter pre race, better pit road reports. I’ll hopefully be going to my frist truck race in Las Vegas in Sept. and am looking forward to it.
Hey Adam – If you do make it to Vegas for the Truck race in September, be prepared to sit around a while once the race is over. The one huge downside of the Truck race in Vegas has been the traffic trying to get out of there. I can only wonder what it’s like for a Cup race.
Michael, I will keep that in mind, bring an extra 6 pack and a desinated driver! I’ve been to the Cup race there almost every year since 2002 and yes the traffic is a joke, although I will say it seems to at least get a little better each year. Just out of curiosity sake, what is the pre race activities like for the truck race there, are the drives pretty accessible?
I always read David Poole’s stories/opinions. I thought he was a very talented Nascar reporter.
Two things have hurt the truck series. NASCAR allowing Toyota’s dominance doesn’t sit well with a large number of fans…the “core” demographic. And second, and much bigger mistake, was to give SPEED exclusive TV rights…a HUGE mistake, because not everyone has or wants to pay for SPEED. If they put forth effort to sell more races to a “free” network a LOT more fans would watch. I personally know over a half-dozen people that used to watch the truck races before it all moved to SPEED. It makes no sence at all, only the hardcore race fans are willing to pay for SPEED, and why go after those fans?? They will watch regardless! Bring it back to a “free” network and they would gain fans left and right…it certainly dosen’t take a genius to figure that one out.
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