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 November 11, 2009
Did You Notice? … That during Jimmie Johnson’s marathon “Fix It” job inside the Cup garage Sunday, it was not just his own team but crew members from one of his main championship rivals helping out? Mechanics from both Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s No. 88 and, yes, Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 were among Hendrick’s King’s Horses and Hendrick’s King’s Men who helped put Humpty Dumpty Johnson’s car together again.
Now Earnhardt’s crew helping out is one thing … but Gordon’s? The same guy who actually stands to gain in the standings if Johnson’s car was deemed unfixable? That’s a really hard concept for me to stomach. Sure, it’s not the first time other teams have chipped in to help a championship rival at a crucial moment. In the final race of 1973, Benny Parsons’ car crashed on Lap 11, limping to the garage a mangled heap of sheet metal with a title hanging in the balance. What transpired afterwards was an incredible outpouring of support, as team members from other organizations came around and helped in whatever way they could to ensure Parsons’ No. 72 made it back on track. In the end, he toughed it out for enough laps to jump from a 43rd-place finish to 28th, assuring him the title over Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty.
But I’m sure you can realize the differences between then and now. Despite the overwhelming support that day, no one from Junior Johnson’s (Yarborough) or Petty’s team came to help Parsons fix their car. After all, why would you help someone when it would cost you the championship yourself? Certainly, there’s a philosophy that you don’t want to win based on someone else’s misfortune. But that type of stuff happens in sports all the time! A few years back, my alma mater, Colgate, played Delaware for the Division I-AA championship. On the first series, our star quarterback injured himself and was all but knocked out of the game. Did Delaware take out their star quarterback to make things fair?
Of course not. We went on to lose 40-0 … and no one was blaming Delaware for capitalizing on someone else’s misfortune (although I’m sure we were calling them plenty of names on the way out). The beauty of sports is good ol’ fashioned competition, and there would be no such thing as bad luck if someone else didn’t wind up benefiting from it.
So that’s why using any member of Gordon’s crew rubbed me the wrong way … and then some. Even if it was just the catch can man, it’s an element of favoritism one team shouldn’t have over another. And to add insult to injury, let’s not forget how badly Gordon struggled on the race track all day long. When your car is dropping like a rock, wouldn’t you want your car chief by your side instead of busy consulting on how to put your biggest rival’s car back together from scratch?
I’ve been worried for years that team orders are one day going to take center stage in the battle for the championship. And that’s why I’m sure for people who aren’t Hendrick fans, it’s very hard to get amped up for a championship battle between three cars that all depend on the same organization to put them together. If Johnson’s in trouble at Homestead, what happens then? What script will HMS write?
After running 13th, Gordon referred to Sunday’s race as a missed opportunity. But after the way things played out behind the scenes, you wonder if it’s one he was simply choreographed not to have.
Did You Notice? … Some questions from my media brethren that made me blush this week? I’ve gotten several comments from readers complaining about some columnists “packing it in” with the ’09 title Chase turning into a Jimmie Johnson runaway. I think that was at the heart of Ramsey Poston’s comments last week, too. I have too many friends, too many connections from a life in TV to make my thoughts on the matter public as it’ll be tinged with too much bias. But one thing I will say that sticks with me always with anything I do in NASCAR — be it TV, writing, or on-air work — is the willingness to focus on all 43 drivers, all 43 stories over the course of a race instead of just one.
In my experience as a fan for 20 years, eight of which with a driver long faded from title contention, my top priority when watching was always to see how my particular driver was doing. Sure, maybe you want to know every once in awhile how the championship Chase is shaking out, but if you’re a Clint Bowyer fan for example you’re always looking to know how his race is going, where he is on the track, and what news items happened during the week that impacted his team directly.
So too often lately with the media in general, I think we’ve been losing this basic concept based on the Chase overtaking our lives – and Texas was a perfect example of that. Once Johnson wrecked on Lap 3, yes, that allowed for two, maybe three drivers to get back in the title race depending on how Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and Juan Pablo Montoya did. But with everyone else at least 279 points behind Johnson with three races left, there was no way anyone else could work their way back into title contention. Remember the record for the largest deficit overcome to win a championship? Alan Kulwicki was 278 points behind with six races to go in 1992 before coming back and squeaking by Bill Elliott to take the title. So what in the world would make anyone think guys like Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, etc. could make that deficit up in three?
Yet to the media and questioners assembled, the word “championship” just couldn’t get out of their minds. Now I wasn’t present for these interviews this weekend, so all I can go through is the post-race transcripts. But why in the world would you ask Carl Edwards or Denny Hamlin if they’re upset about Jimmie wrecking? Here’s an actual question posed to Edwards…
“Is it frustrating to not be able to make up ground on Jimmie when he’s having problems?”
Now, Mr. Edwards is the epitomy of positivity, one of the most optimistic people I know. But at 437 points behind after Talladega, he was well aware his bid for the championship this season was over. Done. He’s just thinking about winning races and building momentum for next year. What the heck does catching Johnson have to do with that?
Bottom line, the only people that should be concerned with Johnson are Martin, Gordon, and Montoya (who blew his shot by wrecking himself later in the day). That’s it. So what do you ask the other guys? How a bad run effects their momentum for 2010, the track conditions, what things they experimented with … anything but questions about the freaking championship.
We just need to be careful not to forget that in the midst of the playoffs, an actual race breaks out each week. That’s what so many of the fans are looking to see … and that should be at least a small part of what we analyze.
Did You Notice? … I better practice what I preach, considering I started this column with a championship note. So I wanted to point out a few teams that have picked it up during the playoffs you might not have recognized. They’re sitting on the margins, simply trying to build momentum for a Chase bid in 2010. But as we’ve seen so many times before, making the right changes now can pay dividends later and can lead to a strong start come Daytona in February. So here’s a quick look at who’s stepped up:
Jeff Burton: Has four straight top 15 finishes for the first time since April and early May. Considering this is a driver who had fifteen straight top 15 finishes to start 2008, it looks like he’s headed back in the right direction for what could be a critical year for him in 2010. Honorable mentions go to the entire RCR organization, which has collected 10 of its 35 top 10 finishes this season in just the last eight weeks.
Matt Kenseth: More top 5 finishes by a non-Chaser than any other driver out there (three). If only Roush had the next generation chassis ready to use in August, this team might have made the Chase after all. But it’s crew chief Drew Blickensderfer breathing the biggest sigh of relief, because this late season surge is probably enough for him to keep his job.
Bobby Labonte: Scored the first ever top 10 finish for fledgling TRG Motorsports as part of a sudden late season surge to stay relevant again. Add in a 13th place at Martinsville in his final start for Hall of Fame Racing, and you realize what adrenaline can do for a champ desperate to secure a ride for 2010.
Joey Logano: Yeah, he won at New Hampshire in June, but this past month is the best we’ve seen him run all year. Two top 5s in the last four weeks – coming after the worst crash of his career at Dover – remind us the Chase will have a new driver looking to break out come 2010.
Did You Notice? … Some quick hits before I take off for the week…
- Denny Hamlin has now hit the wall twice in the last three November Texas races. Each time, it cost him a shot at a possible victory, although in a touch of irony Hamlin’s nursing of the FedEx Toyota got him better fuel mileage and a second-place finish on Sunday. But Hamlin still has yet to win a race in his career at any track 1.5 to 2 miles in length, which make up five of the ten Chase races for the championship. Mistakes like that are the reason why … and he’s got to get them corrected.
- The four-driver audition for Phoenix Racing’s seat in 2010 tells me two things: Number one, how desperate is the free agent pool this year that the only quality ride they’re going after is a single-car team that isn’t even assured Hendrick Motorsports support in 2010? And number two, there’s no guarantee this car is even going to go the distance for all 36 races in 2010. Which means … drivers are fighting over the right to start and park for a handful of events. Yuk.
- Seeing the ratings for the Texas race Sunday, one number popped out at me. NASCAR scored just a 1.6 share for males 18-49 during the final half-hour of the broadcast, dead last in the timeslot compared to FOX, NBC, and CBS. NASCAR is looking to bring in a new generation of fans and draw them into the sport … yet the very demographic they need is the one that’s lagging.
Will Danica help fix that? Possibly. But I think there’s a bigger problem here.
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Welcome to F-Nascar. (No, not that F, but as in Formula One)
I’m positive that Jeff Gordon is still listed as “owner” of the #48, SO… Why wouldn’t an owner send his “excess crew” to help repair “his car?” Even though many “owners” in NASCAR are listed as such for “technical rules and reasons,” the reports that Jeff Gordon actually put up “half the money” when the #48 team was first started are likely true. With a “HMS Lifetime Contract” in his pocket and 4 NASCAR Cup Championships of his own, Jeff Gordon’s status as an “elder statesman” of the sport is further enhanced when “his guys” help “his protege.”
My previous post should have included “the logic”… If the #48 is allowed back on the track in order to gain positions and points, then it should have to meet the same “specification rules” that the other cars have to, and if it doesn’t, then it should be penalized the same as the other teams are. If the EGR #1 team is penalized 50 points and $50,000 dollars, then the #48 team should also be penalized the same amount if the car doesn’t meet the same criteria required of the #1 car!
Well said about following all drivers in the race. That is one of the hidden costs to the sport of the chase. Before the chase the championship was almost an after thought during the broadcast (except for maybe the last 2-3 races of the season). Now it’s the center of attention from week 23 to week 36 at the expense of the actual races. No wonder it hasn’t captured the hearts and minds of hardcore or casual fans. It drags on for over 3 months. There is no way anyone can keep the level of excitement high for that long. By the time Homestead hits the whole thing has been beat into the ground.
Sorry Robert. There is no conspiracy with the 48 team. Chad could have tried any trickery he wanted to on Sunday, as long as they passed a visual inspection. The car didn’t go back under the claw before getting back out on track. Repaired cars never do.
Cars more than 100 laps down aren’t going to be called for post-race inspection. It’s usually the top 5 plus 1 random usually in the top 20.
What competitive advantage did Jimmie gain by being on the track? He lost a minimum of 12 more laps after he returned. He was what a lot of people like to refer to as a rolling road block.
Of course NASCAR should have black flagged him for not maintaining minimum speed.
Sure, he gained 15 points by being allowed back out and being allowed to stay out. But this is a 10 race sprint for the championship. Not a 1 race effort. While in other years it may have come down to 15 points or less, I don’t see it happening this year.
I have a memory of a road course race not too long ago where members of the 48 team rushed to help the 24 team despite the fact that they were in a tight points battle that year. Anyone who has seen the 24/48 shop knows those two cars operate as one. To stop that because it’s the Chase would be a violation of the entire team, make that Hendrick, philosophy. It’s about more than racing, it’s about family and accomplishing things together. If they stop that for even a single race they might as well throw the entire philosophy out the window – a philosophy that has netted the company eight championships… and counting.
As a Jeff Gordon fan, I felt the same way as you did. It really rubbed me the wrong way to see everyone “helping” to get the 48 car fixed. Unfortunately, that is the way that HMS runs their deal though. A few years ago at Homestead, when Johnson was having trouble and Gordon was leading — he was going to lap Johnson (this was with the 48 in contention for the championship) and Jeff keyed the radio and asked “what do you want me to do here?”. I’m still ticked off to this day about that — I can’t say I like the multi-car team effect in NASCAR – after all we all watched the Roush cars take turns leading a lap so they could get the 5 bonus points. I read somewhere the other day that there isn’t any limit to how many chases in a row Johnson could win. I have to say that idea turns me off big time. If Johnson continues to win chase after chase, how many more fans will drop out?
Not to change the subject, but in reference to the start and park drivers, I have this to say. I wish I could have had the opportunity to start and park at some of the jobs I’ve had. This is an embarrasment to racing in general. It’s now happening in all three divisions of nas$crap. It’s just taken in stride. I hope it’s not just me that’s disgusted by this issue.
At a time when securing sponsorship is so difficult, for the media to focus only on the chase contenders may actually be hurting the sport as well. All that exposure over the last ten races for chase contenders means less exposure for Penzoil, Dewalt, etc. Rest assured that some marketing guys somewhere are keeping up with this stuff and suggesting that maybe their companies’ advertising dollars should be spent elsewhere.
As a Gordon fan myself, I am not suprised to know Jeff’s team helped out the 48. No biggie to me. It has been done that way for years. Jeff gets the exact same help when he has a problem, so no need to get upset over nothing.
AS for focusing on all 43 drivers in a race. I run a nascar fantasy league where you have to pick a one driver each week – and you can’t pick the same driver twice in a season. You recieve the points that driver gets for the race – and having to pick 36 drivers a year, that makes it pretty tough. Sure you get weeks with Jimmie, Jeff, Tony, and Mark. But this time of year you’re looking at the JOey Logano’s and guys like JEff Burton you’ve avoided hoping their season would turn around. It’s a trough strategy game that forces you to look at ALL the drivers and ALL the races in the season. And even now, with the “championship” locked up. I’m still worried about who’s going to get the best finish out of Paul Menard, and who’s saved Greg Biffle for the Finale at Homestead. I’ve got 5 bucks and a CRAP LOAD of pride riding on this!!!!
If you’re interested, check it out at dansmomfantasynascar.com and join us next february!!!!
Oh just wait until Mark loses the championship by a few points. We’ll hear about it for the rest of our lives.
Not to mention all the new 48 fans who SWEAR they’ve always been 48 fans. (just like the new Steelers fans)
“Will Danica help fix that?”
Only if she does a full spread in Playboy with the GoDaddy girls. That’s the only Danica merchandise I’ll buy. Who cares about her on the track?
All the team work with teammates and crews working on each others cars should not be allowed at all. This is very unfair to single car teams. You come to the track with 8 or 10 guys and only they can touch your car. You can’t police sharing setups and notes or what they do away from the track so why try but this should never be allowed to happen.
Melissa, the meaning of the words “fix” and “conspiracy” are not always the same. Even you said that the #48 should have been “black flagged” for not maintaining minimum speed, thus proving that “the fix is in.” “The Fix” (from my view-point) means “the rules are enforced differently” depending on the team/driver/circumstances involved. The examples of inconsistency and favoritism in NASCAR will fill an entire book.
“To stop that because it’s the Chase would be a violation of the entire team, make that Hendrick, philosophy. Julie 9:45am”
Throughout the race, the 88 was one of the first cars called to the pits. At the end for the last green pitstop, he radioed in 10 laps before he finally was that he wanted to pit then. The 5 pitted, later the 24 pitted. Finally the 88 was called to the pit. He ran out of gas on pit road before he got to his pit. He took off and the car stalled. He was left out there out alone. He radioed “Isn’t anyone going to help me?” No one did. No one showed up with a can of ether, or whatever it is they spray in the top, no one came to push him. He ended up 3 laps down and 25th. Where was this “Hendrick philosophy of family” for Junior…? On Nascar Now, Boris Said asked ‘why they ran him out of gas’? He got thrown out the window? No one answered him. Marybeth
Having been a NASCAR fan for over 40 years I’ve learned that NASCAR has much more credibility than the bulk of the media, especially that part that is or was newspaper based.
I have to agree with Robert Eastman. That car was re-clipped front and a lot of the rear without any frame jig equipment. No way it passes not even close. And poor Truex and his team get pasted with fines after a so-so run.
Whenever I read comments posted by readers at these various racing sites, it usually only takes a second to start cringing at the lack of knowledge so many posters have about the topics they expound on. When I can’t take it any longer, I can’t help but respond.
Item one: Other than the crew chief, virtually nobody is assigned to just one car in the shop at Hendrick Motorsports. The crewmen in the 24/48 shop and the 5/88 shop work on both cars every day, and rightfully see both of those cars as “theirs”. Once the race starts the crew chief and the seven guys that go over the wall are really the only people assigned to a specific car. While many more crewmen wear a DuPont or Lowe’s uniform, they are really just floaters who will go wherever they are needed. This big fuss about other crewman helping rebuild the 48 is a total non-story and any supposed journalist or serious race fan that thinks it is should be embarrassed of themselves. You’re getting fooled by the uniform the guy puts on, not what his job assignment is.
Item two: Once Jimmie Johnson returned to the track, he had to meet a mandated minimum speed that is given to the teams in the driver’s meeting every week. This has been the case for a very long time, and unless anyone can show evidence that the 48 ran slower than that minimum at any time other than on in and out laps from the pits, I suggest you come forward with the proof.
Item Three: Cars that are heavily damaged during a race have only two requirements to return to the track. The safety features (roll cage structure around driver, sheet metal around driver, spoiler, roof flaps, seat , seat belts, windows, fire extinguisher etc.) are in place and functional, and the car can meet the mandated minimum speed. These cars are basically exempt from any body template and height adjustment inspections, although items like the engine, transmission, and safety equipment may well be inspected. This is nothing new. I remember Dale Earnhardt running laps about as fast as the leaders at Bristol years ago with no body work forward of the firewall at all. Obviously, this car could not have passed a body template inspection, but it was perfectly legal to run the car that way.
Item Four: Any car that is inspected after a race that has a body template or ride height problem will be excused if it can be proven that the problem is the result on track accident damage and not wear, parts failure or mis-adjustment. Since there was no crash damage that could explain the 1 car being too low, it was penalized. This is nothing new; it’s been that way forever.
In closing, nobody has any more complaints about NASCAR than I do, but the conspiracy theorists need to pay more attention and come back to reality.
There’s always going to be a “team effort”. Every effort will be made to see to it that Mr. Hendrick wins. Yum, gotta love those tasty paychecks.
BoB Durnell explain the fairness of having 4 pit crews working on a car when single car teams only have 1 crew. If you ask me the 48 took some of their purse money.This is an unfair advantage that should be eliminated if Na$car is supposed to have a level playing field then all cars should only be allowed to have the same amount of available team members at the track.
The low TV ratings for the male demo doesn’t concern me since we’re in the middle of the NFL season. (You have heard of the NFL, right?)
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