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 · Monday August 17, 2009
Editor’s Note: Matt McLaughlin is on vacation through Michigan. While he’s off, Managing Editor Tom Bowles will fill in for his Sprint Cup race recaps.
The Key Moment: Jimmie Johnson’s car sputtered to a stop with two laps to go, handing Brian Vickers his first win in almost three years on fuel mileage. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping the audience sputtered awake in time to see it.
In A Nutshell: I like using my calculator to balance my checkbook. I don’t like using my calculator to keep from snoring while cars run around in a circle for three hours single-file hoping to “save fuel.”
Dramatic Moment: The double-file restarts at a track like Michigan are a thing of beauty for the racing – even if they only keep everyone together for a lap or two.
Junior’s sudden arrival to the 2009 Sprint Cup season – about six months too late – also raised a few eyebrows over the final 100 miles. Ditto for Mark Martin’s last-lap fall from grace as he and teammate Johnson saw their gas tanks run dry.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around The Water Cooler This Week:
OK, I understand races at Michigan are often decided through fuel mileage. But the lengths to which the entire field was conserving wasn’t exactly the way to keep fans awake. Especially over the second half of the race, drivers were so busy listening to the crew chiefs and the calculators they really didn’t bother much with side-by-side racing. After all, why keep the fans awake when you can go at 77 percent capacity to extend your tank 2.99 more laps per stop and score an average of 6.77 more points to stay on the Chase bubble? Well, here’s another one to throw in the calculator … 99.99999 percent of the fans may have had a better chance staying awake watching people study at the local library.
Now before you start jumping down my neck, I don’t necessarily dislike all fuel mileage races. A little variety is always good for the sport, and sometimes racing luck throws the caution at just the right time for gas to become your greatest priority. But my problem for this particular race is that people had fuel on the brain from the drop of the green flag on Lap 1. Instead of focusing on the side-by-side action fans crave, drivers were busy trying to figure out ways to save – and that’s no way to add some hype into a series struggling to inject some life into the competition. Saving some gas over the final 100 miles? Acceptable every once in awhile… but 400 is a whole other story altogether.
Speaking of boredom, Mike Helton apparently has taken it up as his new personal hobby. For despite mounting cries for change both inside and outside the garage, NASCAR’s President insists there will be no changes to the Car of Tomorrow in 2010. Helton claims, in so many words, why add additional costs to make adjustments to these cars when the racing is already safer and better than it’s already been. Um… as someone who’s in the garage on a weekly basis and who’s followed this sport since he was a wide-eyed eight-year-old in 1989, I can tell you I’ve seen plenty of years where the racing was better. Let’s start with 2008 … 2007 … 2006… 2005 … you get the idea.
Turns out even an Earnhardt’s word isn’t good enough to get the sport listening anymore. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver lashed out with a list of critical comments on the state of the sport this week, angry with their stance on keeping the Car of Tomorrow status quo. But the crown jewel of all his quotes came when he talked about the racing as a whole before the advent of double-file restarts in June (in case you’ve been under a rug the last few days, Jay Busbee’s got a good summary over at Yahoo!)
“Before [the double-file restarts], I thought [the racing] was rather poor. I did. The races to me were very poor, and we almost depended on a late caution to save the day to make somebody race side-by-side for a couple of laps at least within 10 laps of the finish of the race. Somehow that saved the day. And then there was no argument the next week. It would go away. It was very frustrating because 95 percent of the race wasn’t worth the price of the ticket.’‘
15 years ago, those type of comments from Junior’s dad would have incited a private meeting from the powers that be. Instead, Helton’s response was to blame those comments on Earnhardt’s frustrating season. Huh? Now, I know nightmare isn’t even the right word to describe 2009 for Mr. Earnhardt. But to sit there and point the finger at a guy who A) works for a team that’s mastered the CoT better than anyone else and B) has no reason whatsoever to blame NASCAR for his own personal failures – and wasn’t even mentioning them in his critique – might be just a little off base. It was a surprising turn of events on all counts, both for the degree of the criticism and the sport’s lack of concern in addressing it with a man who, for better or for worse, brings millions to the race track each year – many of whom wholeheartedly support any word he says. Something tells me we’re not quite through with this confrontation just yet … and with the way the racing went on Sunday, right now it’s Junior 1, NASCAR 0 heading to Bristol.
Rain a third straight week in a Cup race … on a day where there was a 10% chance of rain? You wonder if the vote of confidence in the CoT has become the final straw for the man upstairs.
Somehow, someway, you knew the Mark Martin luck would come back to haunt him, right? For all the love that’s been shared between Alan Gustafson and his driver this year, it’s all the more cruel a Gustafson decision could very well haunt the team should they miss the Chase. In what was little more than a sick joke, you just knew the duo was going to run out of gas on the last lap … there was no other alternative.
Along those same lines, I was watching the race (not at the track this weekend) and ESPN cut to commercial around Lap 115, dying for content after 70+ laps of single-file green flag racing. I then said out loud to those watching with me, “This is way too boring for NASCAR. There’s going to be a debris caution.” Sure enough, we came back from commercial and – voila! – there it was. It’s gotten so predictable … anyone else have the same experience?
Is it just me, or does speedy dry often seem to cause more problems than it solves? Matt Kenseth looked like he was going to spin in front of the field driving through it after the David Ragan – Kurt Busch wreck.
For all those interested in conspiracy theories, why would NASCAR not penalize Jimmie Johnson for consistently driving in front of the leader on double-file restarts? For all the pit road policing they’ve done this season, the officiating booth seems to turn their back every time the green flag drops with this new rule.
Kyle Busch’s temper tantrums seem to be getting old in the garage. On Saturday, he engaged in a fresh war of words with Brian Vickers after the Nationwide Race after the two men’s aggressive battle for the lead left an opening for Brad Keselowski to not just catch, but pass them both in a stunning final-lap upset. Both men pulled their best 4th-grade impression afterwards, calling each other names during an awkward press conference that made them both look like two arguing 12-year-old kids. But for this beef, it’s Busch who should be holding down his head in shame. Yes, you want to win every time out … but it’s hard to pin the blame on someone that raced you clean. And just like any good divorce court knows, it takes two to tango – Busch takes every bit of the blame as Vickers for ignoring Keselowski’s green car in the rear-view mirror.
Before we move on, sincerest condolences to the friends and family of Tom Murphy, the Sprint Vice President of Corporate Brand Marketing who was killed in a freak auto accident this weekend. Apparently, a boulder hit Murphy’s car while taking the family home from a trip in Colorado. As the usual writer of this column would say (with far more grace than I could ever pen), life is a gift and enjoy every minute because you’re never sure when your time will come. Matt returns to this space next week having celebrated his 50th birthday; Murphy is dead at just 49.
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
Jimmie Johnson has to wonder what he needs to get an extra gallon of fuel at Michigan. Twice this season, he’s led the most laps in a set of dominating performances; and twice this season, he’s run out of gas while up front with less than 5 miles to go. Oh, well, they say the third time’s the charm … guess Chad Knaus will have to go back to cheating next June to win it.
Mark Martin’s day went from locking himself into the Chase to being on life support in the matter of one white flag lap.
David Ragan badly needs a top 10 finish in what’s been a miserable season. He finally had what the doctor ordered until the UPS Ford got rear-ended not once, but twice in separate incidents during the race’s second half.
Fords have come to dominate racing at Michigan, with more wins there (31) than anyone else. But the Blue Ovals got shut out of Victory Lane Sunday, leaving them winless at MIS for both Cup and Nationwide in the same year for the first time in their history. Not exactly the type of boost they were looking for from their home turf…
The “Seven Come Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
It was no picnic for Brian Vickers heading toward the checkers, as he had to go a total of 102 miles on a little less than 18 gallons of gas. That’s not exactly the fuel efficiency Obama is looking for these days … but Team Red Bull was able to get the job done. Think Jay Frye might work on that contract extension now?
After a rough start which included an off-schedule stop for a vibration, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got fresh tires and fuel while the leaders stayed out under the race’s final caution. No longer worried about making it to the checkers, simply running 100 percent was enough to lead him towards a surprising surge up the rankings to third.
Carl Edwards came within a whisker of getting collected in the David Ragan-Kurt Busch wreck. But after keeping his car under control while a spinning Busch made contact, the No. 99 was on fire from that point on as they completed a solid march up to 4th.
Sam Hornish, Jr. was a lap down and failed to get the Lucky Dog during a caution flag when he pitted the car one too many times for fuel. Yet after pit strategy worked back in his favor, the No. 77 not only got that lap back but worked their way up to 5th.
What’s The Points?
That’s right, folks; it’s time for us to put together that usual Chase math equation of Who’s In and Who’s Out? With a ho-hum 17th place finish, Tony Stewart did what he had to do in officially clinching a bid in the Chase. Unless there’s a Bristol catastrophe, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson will join him as long as they stay 390 points ahead of 13th-place Brian Vickers (which they are comfortably heading into this weekend’s event).
Behind that, it gets a little more tricky. Carl Edwards moved up two spots to fourth, but even he is 216 ahead of 13th and remains slightly vulnerable with two short tracks left on the pre-Chase schedule. Denny Hamlin held serve in fifth, while Kurt Busch dropped two spots to sixth following his Bristol wreck. However, at 178 points ahead of Vickers, there’s no way Busch can fall out of the Chase Saturday night even if he crashes out and finishes dead last.
Juan Pablo Montoya remains seventh, leading a charge of seven drivers separated by only 108 points. The rest of the top 10 remain unchanged, with Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle slipping back to the pack but holding on to their spots. However, the big shift comes in 11th and 12th, where Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin swap spots. After his fuel tank ran dry, Martin now finds himself just 12 points ahead of a hard-charging Vickers with three races left to the cutoff.
Behind them, Clint Bowyer remains 14th, well within Chase contention. However, Kyle Busch drops a spot to 15th and is 70 points out with just three races left to go. David Reutimann, in 16th, remains a longshot but mathematically eligible at 118 behind 12th place.
Overall Rating (with a one being a stinker and a six being a classic): We’ll give this one two-and-a-half cans of watered down Schlitz. The fuel mileage drama was exciting over the final 100 miles, but really, what else was there to even talk about before then?
Next Up: Time to move from the race we won’t remember to the one that usually lives in our heads for generations. NASCAR heads to Thunder Valley in Bristol, TN for the annual beating and banging short track showdown of the year… although with the way that repaved track’s working out, you wonder how many fireworks there’ll be.
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Many things this morning, nice recap of Michigan, BORING!
Congrats to Jr. for trying to shake the trees as regards the POS, err, CoT!
Not sure the e-mail addy for Mike helton (ever seen a bigger jerk?) but he only toes the company line of course, the line King Brian want’s him to spew!
But send your comments to “firstname.lastname@example.org”!
PLEASE, VENT YOUR ANGER!
And, 50% empty seats, (but Helton thinks this is good), in the backyard’s of THE BIG THREE!
And a TOYOTA beats them in fuel mileage!
And a TOYOTA wins in MICHIGAN!
Will even half of those that showed up yesterday even return for the next race! To watch a TOYOTA win?
A bleak scenario, one that NA$CRAP refuses to acknowledge!
AND! Yet another NA$CRAP “killer”, as I see it, for a while it was Hendrick/Hendrick/Hendrick/Hendrick in the top ten (10)!
Imagine how that would have played out if the TOYOTA didn’t beat them all in fuel economy!
Welcome to the new “MOBIL ECONOMY RUN”, oh, sorry, “THE SUNOCO FUEL ECONOMY RUN”, a race they apparently are losing!
Guess I won’t be putting Sunoco in my tank!
Good column, Tom, but I can’t agree with the “Phantom debris” caution theory.
I agree that over the last run, they were running at 75-90% of capacity…if Nascar wanted to throw a caution, why not throw it with 15-20 laps to go?
I was begging for a driver to pull a Robby Gordon and toss some rollbar padding out the window again!
Why should we be surprised that NASCAR is not listening to its most popular driver? They have already shown little interest in listening to the fans.
So NASCAR will not listen to the people spending their money on their product; and they will not listen to the drivers who get the public to watch. Why – because, of course, there is that universal truth: Brian knows best.
Pride comes before the fall, Mr. France. Please remember that when you are wondering where your audience is in a few years.
i was out and turned on tv and they were in rain delay. what rain, i thought, sun was shining and skies were blue. i think “the man upstairs” doesn’t like espn’s sunday coverage??!
for once jr and his team did something right by pitting for tires and fuel. i kind of think his tires were starting to give up the ghost when he couldn’t close on the top 2. he sure loves to rim ride. surprised he didn’t have his typical results by rim riding and kiss the wall. more is made of the 3rd place finish than the win.
sad day when toyota wins in the back yard of the american auto manufacturers. sure toyota is made here, but it’s still a foreign nameplate. it’s just what this country has become. wonder how many camrys will be sold today? maybe it’s a good thing matt is on vacation, i have a feeling the recap would have stung more for toyota.
off to re-worked bristol. have to see how the weather factors into this race, with storms brewing all around this week.
I hate to admit this, but I will, came in for some lunch, turned on the TV to check golf, racing, etc. they had a yellow flag at MIS for debris, just off the backstretch, on the track, lay what looked like a water bottle and a pop bottle, among other things, on the track! Kinda like someone threw what was left of their lunch out the window!
But not so funny is the fact watching a guy hit a nine iron is more exciting than what went on at MIS!
I read Mike Helton’s response to Junior’s comments about improving the racing and it pretty much sums up what’s wrong with the sport. Forget changes to the COT, Helton said that what Nacsar needs to do is increase corporate excitement. Not on-track excitement… corporate excitement. The Nascar brass just don’t get it.
But hey… If Mike Helton is right and we just need more corporate excitement, I have a few suggestions that might help:
More Commercials – Nothing excites the corporate world more than seeing their products being advertised on TV. I propose 10 minutes of commercials for every 5 minutes of race coverage.
Celebrity Drivers – Get rid of bland drivers like Joe Nemechek and Greg Biffle and replace them with celebrities like Carrot Top, Joan Rivers, Ashton Kucher, and Paula Abdul. I make this suggestion because science hasn’t yet figured out how to clone Dale Jr. 42 times.
Interactive Fan Participation – At certain intervals during the race, fans get to vote 1 driver currently running in the top ten out of the race. But if you drive for Hendrick, you get immunity.
Wake up, Mike. The product ain’t selling because the racing sucks.
I enjoy the usual rundown of the race on Monday morning. I usually agree but I cannot on this one. I was at the race and I was very pleased with about 75% of what I saw. There was a lot of great racing further back in the pack that kept me entertained. I listed to the #25 team until the 88 made his run in the final 30 laps. Didn’t watch tv replay but it’s a shame that it appears tv didn’t do the race justice. Anyway, good read. One last thing. I’m a lifelong, diehard NASCAR fan. Although the racing isn’t always great, I still believe it is more entertaining than our other choices of motorsports on tv. I just don’t understand why someone would even watch the race if they think they are so horible and are constantly bashing NASCAR. I guess my concerns are based mostly on what I read on other forums around the net. Frontstretch forums and columns don’t typically contain such a negative tone.
During the pre-pre-race show, I watched Junior’s comments and came up with one response…even if NASCAR decides to make changes to the boxy CoT, those changes won’t take effect until 2011. They spent years creating the monster, don’t think they’ll make any major adjustments to it without taking it to the lab.
I don’t understand why all the “Top” crew chiefs make their drivers slow down, lose spots and try to save fuel — only to run out. A first grader would know to come in and get enough fuel to make it to the end. Just like a road course, you pit when you’re in the window — no matter if it’s green flag or caution. Look at Jr. That’s his best finish in a loooonnnnggg time and it was simple math. Four tires, full of fuel, then up through the field passing a bunch of fuel-conserving granny-drivers.
Why is this article named “Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud”?
Sam Hornish Jr getting a top 5 finish for the performance he put on Sunday is pretty pathetic. Can we please end the charity and make drivers actually earn their laps back?
Tom said “even if they only keep everyone together for a lap or two.“
I for one, thought it was really strange that the first ten or so cars would get single file right away, while the rest of the field stayed double file for a few more laps, fighting for position.
First off, the 48 jumped just about every restart, but forgot the karma in his fuel cell… Hehehehehe!
Second, if you look at the back of Helton’s neck, you can see the opening for Brian’s hand.
Lastly, ESPN is starting to fall back into their Jeff and Jimmie fawning ways…just in time for STEELERS football!
As regards the attached survey, a FULL 85% said the race was “three (3) beers cans or worse”!
15% (four beers cans or better) thought the race was “decent” or better!
What a story!
So, who likes the current state of NA$CRAP?
Your in the minority, but soon to wake up me thinks! For your sakes, I hope so!
Dr France-enstein isn’t going to make any changes to the POS because that would mean that when he created his monster he was wrong. And he did say he knows what’s best for the sport. If you believe that, I’ve got some land near Key West I’ll sell you. Easy financing available, low interest rates. Sort of like the interest in the Michigan race judging from all the empty seats in the grandstands.
Unless or until they change the POS, return to the races being about racing and not marketing, and actually show the race action during the race broadcasts, I’m afraid we’re stuck with something that creates more suction that my shop vac.
MIS update: Monday afternoon.
I understand that the last spectator has finally awoke, been appraised by the track clean up crew that indeed, the race is over!
The response by the sound asleep spectator was “well, about time, who won”?
Real exciting stuff this MIS racing!
No wonder next years tickets are much cheaper than this years, which were cheaper than last years, and they still can’t get 50% of the seats filled!
Was the attendance really only 50%? From the grandstand shots I remember, it looked like 75% or more.
This is definitely “ no Country for Old Men”, right, Douglas? And you had to get in the JR bash didn’t you? I’m usually with you except on Jr and Busch ( the idiot younger one), but the race was actually pretty good, for the new car.
Jimmy Johnson and the Hendrick Stable need to have a talk with Smokey Yunick. I thought King Brian would have been on the phone to Hendrick asking him how many laps under caution he would need if a debris caution came out.
Please, please, read once again what I said, please? I stated: “Congrats to Jr. for trying to shake the trees as regards the POS, err, CoT!”
Note please: “Congrats, is short for CONGRATULATIONS!
So, I was congratulating Jr. for speaking up! And I give Jr. total credit for stepping out from under the NASCAR spell and threats, and going public about the CoT!
Again, I give credit, where credit is due, and this is the first “plus” I have heard emitted from a racetrack in two years!
AND! Since you brought the subject up, the subject being Kyle Busch, here are my candid thoughts, (what? me being candid? holy cow!)
Anyway, and there are times the KB show gets old, BUT, lets use this as a scenario:
KB shows up at the race track ready and willing to work, and to do the job he is paid for, each and every race! He is that “employee”, that says, oh! My job description says to WIN RACES! And he tries to do his job EACH AND EVERY WEEKEND! Better I might add, (trying to win) than any other driver on the circuit. All the other drivers, well, maybe a few exceptions, show up at the track, yawn, jump in the car, race for points, the hell with stressing yourself over, of all things, winning, signing suitable amount of autographs, smile as they get out of the race car, happy with 10th place, go play golf all week, then do it all over again the following week! Ho-hum!
Gee, imagine that, a driver, in this case KB, actually trying to do his absolute best week in, week out, and is diappointed when he does not place well!
What kind of employee would you like? The complacent, cut the corners, take a break employee? Or the one that actually tries to accomplish what you hired him for?
Coffee and doughnuts anyone?
I too went to the race (infield camping site since 1995) and I disagree with SteveO. This was the most boring race I have witnessed at Michigan in August and the stand were about 65-70% full with the end stands in turns 1 and 3 very empty. Also alot of the infield had bare spots and many of my longtime neighbors either did not show,or gave up their spots to new people. The fact that Michigan has announced ALL tickets reduced and also they are widening existing spots and grandstand seat tells me that they get it finally with the fans in mind. And this is an ISC track! Thats amazing to me.
There was a race Sunday??
But Douglas, when heaven forbid, someone else steps up and wins the race, which has been every race for quite a spell, he acts like a little kid who just got his candy taken away. At least congratulate the winner on a job well done, and say well get you next week.
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