Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Who's Hot/Who's Not · Thomas Bowles · Tuesday March 23, 2010
It’s only Tuesday, but most people in America this week are already hot under the collar about something. Whether it’s their NCAA bracket getting thrown in the shredder, agony/elation over the health care bill, or the 5-minute socially awkward conversation otherwise known as “Tiger Woods Gives Some One-Sentence Answers,” there’s been plenty for people to get all fired up about.
But when it comes to NASCAR, a deafening silence falls amongst the crowd. A few might fidget, others might change the topic, and one or two might stand up and cheer. But the ugly truth is there’s just one driver hotter than everybody else these days … so hot for so long, in fact, he’s ready to join the sun as a permanent star in our solar system.
That’s the type of success you take for granted, and indeed most fans have chosen to ignore and/or block out our “sun” in favor of spending their Spring somewhere else. But before you leave NASCAR for good, non-Jimmie fans, stop and smell the coffee of realization that we’re only five races into 2010. Anything can and will happen in a sport that hasn’t completely lost its air of unpredictability; so take a deep breath, calm down, and just listen a minute. There’s a long list of drivers below that can take their shot in the No. 48 in the coming weeks, and it’s my job to make you believe in the latest edition of Who’s Hot / Who’s Not.
But first, let’s take care of a little business…
Great Ball Of Fire
Jimmie Johnson: Yawn. I’m already bored. So let’s throw out the stat lines:
Depressing for the non-Johnson fans, but Rick Hendrick does have it right: JJ doesn’t get half the credit he should these days. We’ve gone through all the reasons why fans don’t jump on the bandwagon, but 50 wins? There’s only nine drivers that have more, and Johnson’s about to bypass some pretty exclusive company. By the end of the season, he could be as high as eighth on the all-time win list, trailing only Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt. That’s not your local club at the YMCA, kids … those are people that will all be either first ballot Hall of Famers or in there by the time 2012 is complete.
So even if you think Chad is cheating, Hendrick is evil, and watching Jimmie talk reminds you of a customer service robot that keeps you from dialing the operator (don’t you just hate those?) take a step back and at least give the guy his due before you turn off the TV and do something else. Because honestly, I’m not quite sure we’ll ever see this type of stock car performance again in our lifetimes.
Matt Kenseth: We’re still a long way off, but I’m beginning to see the 2010 title Chase as coming full circle: with Johnson’s biggest rival the same one he had to beat for his first championship in 2006. No, the answer’s not Kurt Busch or even Jeff Gordon. It’s Kenseth, who’s ridden a streak of five top 10 finishes to soar up to second in the standings, picking up the pieces of a career that was very much on the skids for much of the last two years.
Of course, this week’s switch from wing to spoiler will truly tell the tale on who’s got what this season. But it’s been a long time since we’ve heard this man issue Eeyore-like statements that make you think he wants to go chew on some thistles and stare aimlessly by the pool in the Hundred Acre Wood. Todd Parrott is a fresh boost of energy, and what nobody’s talking about in the Roush camp is how the ’03 champ has quietly leapfrogged Edwards and slotted back into the #1 slot amongst the four-car operation. If Mr. Consistency is still on track for 36 straight top 10s by race number six, you know it’s going to be a good year … and he hasn’t disappointed.
Honorable Mention: Kurt Busch (1-3 finish in the last two races), Greg Biffle (5-for-5 in top 10s this year, like Kenseth)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: It’s been so long since we’ve moved Junior up to this category, I’m surprised he didn’t pass away from hypothermia. But NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver is doing his very best to make quite a popular comeback with a top 10 finish at Bristol, his first on an unrestricted track since, well, Bristol last August. That bumps him up to eighth in the points, the highest he’s been since 2008 and a prestigious second-best among the Hendrick quartet. Now, the key is to prove he can put these types of runs together in consecutive weeks. Martinsville, one of his better tracks, is a place where he finished eighth last Spring. That should be a drop in the bucket in 2010 – especially considering where the Hendrick cars are running. The key for Junior now is to simply not to get too greedy, because all it takes is one wrong move at a short track to turn momentum into mush.
Jeff Burton: Quiet but consistent, his four top 11 finishes in five 2010 races have left him sixth in points. And while RCR’s performance in the “spoiler” era is perhaps the biggest question mark of them all, Burton’s got the benefit of Martinsville, Phoenix, and Texas up ahead. He’s combined for five of his 21 wins at this trio of tracks, leaving him strong enough to weather a possible RCR come-from-behind storm should the Hendrick and Roush engineers make their Fridays miserable. It’s possible these changes could leave the teams with the right simulations a half-a-second faster the second they unload off the truck – an area that’s long been this organization’s weak point. Burton will have to rally the troops and make sure they’re caught up by the minute the green flag drops on Sunday.
Honorable Mention: Tony Stewart (second on Sunday, fifth in points – more on him in Did You Notice? tomorrow), Paul Menard (five straight top 20 finishes, hanging on to ninth in points)
Ryan Newman: For the second straight year, Newman and the No. 39 team have gotten off to a bit of a shaky start at Stewart-Haas. But after a sloppy 16th at Bristol, there’s a bit more evidence to indicate the dreaded “sophomore slump” label is just around the corner. If there’s one place where the Rocket Man excelled last year, it was short tracks; he went 6-for-6 on top 10 finishes at the bullrings of Bristol, Richmond, and Martinsville. So to qualify 21st for Sunday, then never even come close to a top 5 car throughout the day has got to be a little disconcerting. Even more so is a precipitous drop to 26th in points, leaving Newman a whopping 149 points outside the Chase already just one month into the year. But hey, maybe Cup’s lone college graduate can take a lesson from his alma mater: After losing their leading scorer, no one expected #4 seed Purdue to reach the promised land of the Sweet 16. Instead, they spent the tourney’s first weekend getting half the country to simultaneously light their brackets on fire while doing just that. Can Newman make a believer out of doubters like me? He better start soon, ‘cause this season’s not getting any younger.
Brad Keselowski: It’s been a tumultuous two weeks for the “victim” in the Carl Edwards – Brad Keselowski wreck heard ‘round the world. But after the national publicity died down, a funny thing happened – both drivers emerged from their meeting with NASCAR all smiles. That’s not unexpected from my perspective, considering they’re both very similar types of drivers: Independent thinkers, intellectual guys who keep their friends close, their enemies closer, and aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves to prove a point. Plus, they both enjoy the same favorite hobby: Flipping.
Still, most expected Sprint Cup’s best “rookie” to get taught a lesson or two at Bristol this weekend. But that’s where Keselowski outsmarted them all. Not only did he emerge from 1,000 laps of racing without a scratch, but he raced his teammate Justin Allgaier clean (eventually settling for second on Saturday) before posting his best ever Cup finish with Roger Penske the following day (13th).
Is there room for improvement over at the No. 12 team? Absolutely, especially considering teammate Kurt Busch has a 1.7 average finish these last two weeks. But the key for Kes and Co. this weekend at the No. 12 car was simply to weather the storm, but they passed with flying colors. Sounds like a pretty “cool” three days of healing to me.
Honorable Mention: Kasey Kahne (wreck, wreck, top 5, top 10, wreck – the type of season Six Flags builds a roller coaster out of), David Ragan (UPS package lost in space – no top 15 finishes in five 2010 starts)
David Reutimann: Michael Waltrip Racing’s top driver has instead become its prime example of why the team is literally breaking apart at the seams. Pulling a little “NAPA Know How” of his own from teammate Martin Truex, Jr. (and without the karaoke), Reutimann acted like he was shot out of a cannon at Bristol, charging up to third from his tenth place starting spot. But that’s when the engine went sour on his Toyota … before we’d even reached the 60-mile mark.
60! In 2010, that’s borderline absurd. It’s not like these are domestic Toyotas expected to fail amidst a barrage of stuck throttles and renegade engines. No, these parts and pieces are expected to work, because the auto company’s putting its hard-earned money into making the cars you don’t drive go fast – and even that’s not working. The total for MWR-supported cars is now five blown engines in sixteen starts, which means exactly one car is expected to blow up each week.
So where’s owner Waltrip to help fix this mess? Hmm … somewhere in between hosting Fast Track To Shame and jumping in a start-and-park operation to make a celebrity two-lap qualifying appearance. Didn’t Waltrip retire from driving last year? Oh, that’s right – he retired from competing. Making money for a quick stint behind the wheel is apparently too good to pass up.
But these issues have affected Reutimann most of all. Seemingly dropping a notch on the totem pole this season with Martin Truex, Jr. and Pat Tryson in the fold, he’s fallen to 24th in points with his worst oval track on the circuit up ahead. Six career starts at Martinsville have produced no career finish better than 15th, leaving this Aaron’s team floundering more than their weekly commercials.
Kevin Conway: You know things are rough when you market a sexual enhancement product and people still wind up giving you the cold shoulder. But the driver of the Extenze Ford is going to have trouble “Extenz”-ing his career in NASCAR before long. With an average finish of 31.5, he’s lost a total of 29 laps to the leaders in four races while becoming the equivalent of a moving roadblock. Scanners were blasting Conway’s driving at Bristol, where he ran up to a second off the pace at times to the point it was a small miracle no one ever spun him out of the way. Other than Raybestos, Extenze executives, and Kevin’s extended group of friends and family, the garage insider poll is a little less divided than health care: I think the number who think he’s just not ready for Cup stands somewhere between 98 and 99 percent.
How long will he last? Well the answer comes in the form of cold, hard cash. So Conway better keep wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to “Extenze” his sponsorship: after all, the average time it takes a driver with limited talent but unlimited sponsor funding to succeed is about three plus years (Paul Menard).
*Honorable Mention: Bristol (streak of 55 straight sellouts ended), Mike Bliss (failed to qualify No. 36 Friday, causing team to drop out of top 35), Sam Hornish, Jr. (three straight runs of 28th or worse while teammate tears up Cup circuit)
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Tom….so happy to see that, week by week, you are redeeming yourself, concerning Paul Menard, after you threw him under-the-bus, before Daytona! Seems as both you and JAWS seem to value his improvement as a driver in 2010.
You know I am just kiddin’ you!
I totally forgive you after the great comments you wrote about Mikey, in today’s column; as, we ALL know you are……spot-on….with your comments about Motormouth Motorsports!
Keep it up!
Uhh, comparing Menard to Conway is a huge insult. Menard has always been successful in Nationwide, something Conway couldn’t even do in a Gibbs car. Comparing Conway to Townley is closer, but Townley is faster, just more wreck-prone.
I don’t think a day goes by that you guys aren’t pleading with the readers to “ give poor , mis- understood Johnson his due “ as the best who ever lived . And there’s my personal favorite bleat of yours about the competition being so much better now than in the past . That’s why i have to laugh when you then breathlessly tell us that Johnson could soon be number 8 behind the winningest drivers of all time . One column tells us that races are much tougher to win now , yet in the day , the 8 guys in front of Johnson were often all in the same race together , week in and week out . And you’re not quite sure we’ll ever see the like of Johnsons’ performance again ? Well you might be right about not seeing it again , but we’ve seen it a number of times from other drivers over the years . Oh …. i forgot , if it requires going back in NASCAR history before 1985 , you guys are lost .
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