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.
A longtime veteran of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, David Starr has a new lease on life, switching to the Red Horse Racing Toyota #11 Truck for 2006 after several years of driving the #75 Chevrolet owned by Wayne and Connie Spears. With that change has come new challenges, but with three finishes of 17th or better to start the year, Starr seems more ready and able than ever before to overcome all obstacles before him and return to Victory Lane for the first time since the 2004 season.
I had a chance to catch up with David this week before he headed off to Martinsville, getting his opinions on everything from his new team, to Mark Martin’s presence in the Truck Series, to his undying love for Texas Motor Speedway.
Tom Bowles: Like many drivers this offseason, you switched teams. It’s the first time in 4 years you’ve been with a different group"¦after all that time with the #75 bunch, how hard was it to leave?
David Starr: Well, to leave the Spears team"¦that was a tough decision to make when somebody gives you an opportunity of a lifetime like they gave me. I was a struggling race car driver in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series back then, looking for a sponsor and trying to get with one of the top teams that had major funding. That was the tough part (of my career)"¦and then Spears hired me, and I had an opportunity to race full-time. I never worried about a sponsor when I was there, and I knew we were going to have everything we needed to have a winning team. It was just an incredible dream come true. To win races and finish high in the championship points 3 out of 4 years we ran, that’s pretty good"¦so, I have mixed emotions about it. You always want to have loyalty to the people that brought you here, and Wayne and Connie Spears gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, the big break I needed.
But, it ran its course. We were together for 4 years. We did everything I think we could do together. I think that, after 4 years, it was time for a change. They needed to try another driver, and I needed to try another team. I had an opportunity become available to go become involved with Red Horse Racing and to get to drive their Toyota Tundra, and I thought that was a new opportunity for myself, and an opportunity for me to join a group of guys that had a winning team. Red Horse won a race in 2005, while with Spears, we went winless. It was a tough decision"¦but once I made the decision, you just keep moving forward.
Bowles: Now, when you move from one team or another, do you change the way"¦do you evaluate yourself as a driver, change the way you’re doing things from one week to the next? Or is it the same old routine?
Starr: Well, it’s pretty much"¦nobody’s more focused or more dedicated to racing than me. I live, sleep, and eat it. I live in Dallas, but the last three weeks I’ve been in Charlotte with my team, getting to know the guys, taking them to lunch. Just getting to know everybody and letting them know I’m a team player. I think when the driver works at the race shop with the team, it lets the guys see the dedication, the passion behind what they’re doing. And I think they appreciate that.
The transition from being with the same team for the last four years to moving over to a new group of guys, a new manufacturer, a new owner, a new crew chief"¦everything’s new to me. I think we’re still in that transition phase right now"¦we’ve been to three races, and definitely haven’t run up to our expectations and our potential. We’re a lot better than where we’ve finished. We lost some tape on the grill at Daytona, and then the motor was too cold right there at the end of the race, and the motor wasn’t running up to its potential because it was so cold. California, I thought we were going to have a Top 5 finish, had a wheel come loose right there with 20 laps to go and had to make a pit stop. We went to Atlanta and"¦sounds kind of funny"¦but my seat wasn’t mounted right in the Truck, and I was kind of falling out of the seat. So, the transition for me to the Toyota trucks, and me working with Jamie Jones and all my guys, and them learning what I like in a Truck and how it handles and everything, I think that with the transition phase, we’ll be working on that, maybe 5 or 6 more races. But it’s all positive"¦we’re learning things, and making our team as a group better.
Bowles: Because of that transition"¦do you modify your goals for the season? Does it become"¦the first 8 races, you simply try not to knock yourself out of championship contention? Or is the mindset clearly to win the race every time out?
Starr: Well, you know, our mindset is obviously to win a race, but we know there’s a transition period there. The setups that Jamie Jones runs are something completely different than something I’ve ever run in my career. So there’s a"¦there’s a feel to the way our truck’s handling, and the ride that you have in the truck is such a new feel to me. Once I get that, then I’m learning when I tell them it’s loose or it’s tight, how tight or how loose it really is. And my team understands that"¦they know it’s going to take time.
Right now, our goals are Top 10s. We haven’t finished in the Top 10 yet, but we’re close. We’ve been in the Top 10, we just haven’t finished there. Once we start finishing in the Top 10 on a consistent basis, then we’ll set our standards to Top 5s, and after you run in the Top 5 week in, week out, your wins will come. But right now, with everything, them learning me and me learning them, I think our realistic goal is just to keep getting our Top 10s, and once we do that, we can set our goals higher. But right now, if everything lives up to its potential, we’re capable of winning races.
Bowles: Now, you’re also driving a Toyota for the first time this year. Is there a different feel to a Toyota as opposed to a Chevy? Or are the templates to the point now where it’s so similar it doesn’t make a huge difference?
Starr: Well, I don’t think it’s so much where it’s a Chevy to a Toyota. I think the difference is in the resources we have, the engineering we have, and the things that Toyota brings to the technical side, the engineering support. Everything that goes behind that"¦I can’t believe how much there is compared to what I’m used to. So that’s the difference I see.
Is there a difference from the Chevy Truck to the Toyota Truck? Not really. The difference is in the way we run the setups, the "feel." It’s such a different feel to me, the way the truck rides and how it goes through the corner and everything. Jamie Jones (my crew chief) knows what these Trucks need to go fast, and he knows that’s what it takes, but that feel and what that Truck takes is something that I’ve never felt before. It takes a little bit of time"¦ I’m surprised that it’s taken this long, to be honest with you, but it’s going to take 2 or 3 or 4 more races to get that. But every race we run, we’re getting better and better.
Like my seat in Atlanta"¦we went and tested at Caraway 5 days after we ran the Atlanta race, and we moved our seats around. Man, I was so comfortable at the test at Caraway, I’m looking forward to going to Martinsville because we figured out just where we need the seats now. And it took going to a high-speed race track where you run real fast, it took me being uncomfortable in the seat to figure that out.
Bowles: Now, the most well-known owner on your team is current FOX analyst and former Nextel Cup crew chief Jeff Hammond. How has he involved himself with the team and helped you as a driver so far this season?
Starr: It’s been amazing. Tom DeLoach and Jeff Hammond are my two bosses, and they own the Five On Five Off Pit Stop School in Mooresville. Jeff, him being involved as an owner, when I go over to the pit facility and do pit stop practice, he’s always there. At the races, at Daytona, he sat down with me and Jamie Jones, and we talked about some things. He came over to talk after the last practice before the Daytona race, and I talked to him again after the race. Again, in California, I talked to him after practice, and again after the race. Atlanta, he was down before the race, and during practice, he was right there. He’s pretty much a hands-on owner. He’s not at the shop every day where the race team’s based, but that’s his racing team, him and Tom. He’s working on sponsorship, and I’m constantly in contact with him. To have an owner like Jeff Hammond and the things he’s accomplished in this industry"¦it’s incredible because when I have a question or need a question answered, he pretty much can answer it.
Bowles: A lot of the buzz over the first three races in the Truck Series has been about Mark Martin’s strong performance. With all the Nextel Cup regulars invading the Busch Series, are you a fan of Martin coming to race in the Trucks? Or do you think they should keep a current Nextel Cup regular out?
Starr: No, I like it. You have to look at what we race against every week. The Cup experience"¦Steve Park. Brendan Gaughan. Todd Bodine. Mike Skinner. Ted Musgrave. There’s so much Cup experience full-time in the Truck Series. You know, we race against the Cup experience pretty much our whole career already because the Truck Series is just full of former Cup drivers. When you have a Mark Martin, a Kevin Harvick, and a Tony Stewart race, people like that, I think it’s a good thing, because once we get through this transitional phase with my new team and I learn the setups, I think I’ll be up there fighting with Mark Martin. But we’re not at that level yet. We’re going to be"¦but we’re not there yet. If you can beat a Mark Martin, beat a Todd Bodine, and beat these Cup guys that race full-time in the Truck Series, then you can measure yourself up with the best. So I welcome them"¦I’m glad Mark Martin’s won the first two races. I’m glad Todd won the third one. They’ve set the mark high, and I want to be the best I can be.
Bowles: Let’s talk about Texas Motor Speedway a minute. It’s always interested me that most Nextel Cup drivers look to make their Cup debut at Daytona, Indianapolis, or other legendary tracks"¦but you’ve always looked to make your Cup debut in Texas. How has the Speedway held a special place in your heart?
Starr: Well, we tried to make the Cup race a couple of years ago. My uncle, who owns the Team Texas Driving School here, bought a car from Childress and had a Childress motor, and my crew was all the guys that work here at the driving school. We didn’t make the race, but we thought it was fitting that the first time we tried, we try here in Texas. It’s always been a special place to me. Eddie Gossage, the General Manager, when this place opened up in 1996-97, my uncle bought a shop right across the street from the race track. We were here while it was under construction, the first time they let any car on the race track, and we were given a racing school here. Over the years, the people, Eddie Gossage and his staff, they have brought me sponsors, introduced me to people"¦so they’ve been a big help in my career. The race track’s been really good to me and my family. Just being from Texas here, too, it’s a neat place.
Being a race car driver, I love the Texas Motor Speedway, but man, I’m looking forward to going to Martinsville. People always say, what’s your favorite race track? I always say I like them all. But you know, Texas holds a special place in my heart. Your family comes and watches you race. Your friends, the people that have kept behind you over the years and helped you and given you the opportunity to move onto the next level, they’re all here. So it’s just a neat place.
Bowles: A few fun questions before we wrap up. If you’re racing me one-on-one at any Craftsman Series Truck on the schedule, what is the greatest strength you have as a driver that would propel you to beat me?
Starr: Just giving it my all. Relaying back to my crew chief what the truck is doing and then making the right adjustments, getting it where I can get everything that truck will give me out of any given day. I just think that’s my biggest strength"¦ giving it 110% and being on top of my game.
Bowles: If you had an opportunity to race one-on-one with anybody through the years in racing, living or dead, who would it be?
Starr: A.J. Foyt. Because he’s the greatest race car driver ever. He could run a NASCAR stock car, an Indy car, a dirt Sprint car, a road racing car, he was just an all-around good driver and could win in anything.
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