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.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday April 7, 2010
Did You Notice? … What a difference a decade makes? In this slow off week, I figured we’d do something a little different to show how much NASCAR has changed in the past ten years. So I figured, with so much worry over Jimmie Johnson’s seemingly limitless success as of late, why not take a look at the top 10 in points through six races of 2000 and see where all those drivers are now?
2000 Point Leader: Bobby Labonte. Driving for Joe Gibbs that year, Labonte would go on to win his only championship on the heels of four wins, 19 top 5s, and 24 top 10 finishes. At 36, he looked to be on the precipice of a long, extended run challenging Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon, and others for several titles.
2010: Turns out, that would be the peak of Labonte’s career. He hasn’t finished the year inside the top 5 in points since, leaving JGR in 2005 for Petty Enterprises and several other failed ventures. Now, the 45-year-old is struggling to keep his career afloat, running for a single-car operation (TRG Motorsports) that has a best ever finish of 10th and has been forced to start-and-park several times due to lack of funding.
2000 Second Place: Ward Burton. Driving for Bill Davis Racing, he’d go on to a 10th place finish in the standings that year on the heels of a win and 17 top 10 finishes.
2010: Jeff’s older brother has been “retired” from the sport for three years. He scored his last top 10 in 2004 (at 42 years old), and despite winning the 2002 Daytona 500 was never a serious factor in the title chase again. Neither was Davis, who’s been out of the sport for two years after losing sponsor Caterpillar to multi-car giant Richard Childress Racing.
2000 Third Place: Mark Martin. He’d actually struggle a bit at the turn of the century, dropping to eighth in the standings by November (on the strength of just one win) for his first finish outside the top 5 in points since 1992.
2010: You know the story; now 51, Martin’s the lone example of a veteran bucking the trend of the “young gun” movement. With eight wins and ten poles in the last ten years, he went through a semi-retirement for a few seasons but is currently enjoying a Harry Gant-like career renaissance with Hendrick.
2000 Fourth Place: Dale Jarrett. The defending series champ started off the year by winning the Daytona 500 a third time. How good was Jarrett during this stretch? He ended the year fourth in points, his lowest finish in the standings since taking over the then-No. 88 Robert Yates Ford in 1996.
2010: Jarrett and Robert Yates Racing are both legends of the past – at least on the race track. Jarrett never contended for a title again, struggling for several seasons along with Yates until a failed move to Michael Waltrip’s Toyota team in 2007. Retiring a year later at 51, he moved to the broadcast booth to follow in father Ned’s footsteps as an ESPN analyst. As for Yates, his team never expanded and fell victim to the engineering and technology-driven strategies from rivals Hendrick and Roush. Selling to his son Doug in 2008, the remnants of his team have since been sold again, now merged with Richard Petty Motorsports.
2000 Fifth Place: Dale Earnhardt. After a few lean years, the 49-year-old was enjoying the start of a turn-of-the century resurgence; by the end of the season, 24 top 10 finishes left him second in points and the primary challenger to Labonte down the stretch.
2010: The biggest NASCAR tragedy of our lifetime, it’s hard to believe the Intimidator’s been gone for over nine years after his untimely death in a last-lap crash during 2001’s Daytona 500. Former car owner Richard Childress, winner of six Cup titles with Earnhardt at the helm, hasn’t won another since.
2000 Sixth Place: Rusty Wallace. Wallace would go on to win four times that season, the first time he reached the multiple win plateau since 1995 while sweeping the races at Bristol. Add in the bounce-back of Earnhardt, and many thought the two rivals (Wallace 44, Earnhardt 49) would be battling for titles for years to come.
2010: Known for his Bristol dominance, Wallace never won at the half-mile bullring again. He also never won more than one race a season, failing to finish in the top 5 in points after Earnhardt’s death and through his retirement in 2005. To newer fans, you now know Wallace as a full-time ESPN analyst and the owner of a two-car Nationwide Series team: His cars are driven by Brendan Gaughan and son Steven. Still a consultant for former car owner Roger Penske, Wallace has seen his former organization win the Daytona 500 in 2008 (with the No. 12 of Ryan Newman), but never take home the championship they coveted.
2000 Seventh Place: Ricky Rudd. In his first season replacing Kenny Irwin in a Robert Yates Ford, Rudd didn’t win, but his consistency (19 top 10s) left him fifth in points. At 44, Yates appeared to find the perfect veteran to pair with Jarrett far into the future.
2010: In 2001, Rudd gave perhaps his strongest title bid, challenging Jeff Gordon throughout before fading to fourth down the stretch. But he was a virtual afterthought beyond that year, released by Yates at the end of 2002 and suffering through several lean years with the single-car Wood Brothers before retiring once (2005) then for good in 2007 after a reunion with Yates never produced the desired results. At least there’s one streak that still endures: he started 788 straight races from 1981 through 2005, leaving him with the nickname “NASCAR’s Iron Man.”
2000 Eighth Place: Jeff Burton. Driving for car owner Jack Roush, Burton enjoyed his finest season to date in 2000, winning four times en route to a fourth straight top 5 finish in points. At 33, Burton was considered the second “young gun” contending for titles (along with Jeff Gordon) and was a trendy favorite to take the championship the following year.
2010: Instead, that season’s remained the top of a mountain Burton’s struggled to climb in recent years. He won just twice more with Roush, the chemistry fizzling and gradually forcing a move to Richard Childress Racing. With Childress, he’s enjoyed modest success but at 43, retirement is nearing without a title or a top 5 finish in points since that 2000 season.
2000 Ninth Place: Terry Labonte. Coming off a disappointing 12th place finish in points, the 1984 and ’96 champ had his worst year ever with Hendrick Motorsports. Missing two races after injuries suffered in a July Daytona wreck, he went winless and led just 34 laps, his worst total since 1990.
2010: The exception to the rule thus far, Labonte’s continued decline was expected. He led no laps the following year, only won once more with Hendrick (the 2003 Southern 500, the last Darlington race held on Labor Day) and has been running part-time since the end of 2004. Now 53, Labonte is looking to start his own team this season with former Cup Series car owner Bill Stavola.
2000 Tenth Place: Jeff Gordon. One year removed from the departure of former crew chief Ray Evernham, Gordon struggled to adjust to new head wrench Robbie Loomis. Just 22 top 10 finishes throughout left him ninth in the standings, his worst performance since his rookie year of 1993.
2010: Despite the crew chief change, Gordon was still expected to threaten Richard Petty’s record of seven Cup titles. He hasn’t. Winning just one more championship (2001), he’s also tasted victory just 30 times in the last ten years, as opposed to a 52-win clip from 1994-2000.
Time to make all this information make sense. Out of those ten drivers, just three remain title contenders today (Gordon, Burton, and Martin) while just one more (Bobby Labonte) drives the circuit full-time. It just goes to show you how much things can change and how hard it is, especially in this current “era of impatience” we live in, to have a long-term successful career as a driver.
Now, let’s compare to 2010’s current top 10 list. Which wheelmen (Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) do you think will still be contending for titles in 2020? My answer is Kenseth, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Bowyer … and that’s it. Everyone else will either be retired or running a part-time schedule by then.
Where will the new challengers come from? It’s a topic for another day, considering the current struggles in driver development. But rest assured that no matter how much things appear to be stagnant (Jimmie Johnson in points lead, cough) sports always find a way to undergo a changing of the guard. It’s in the ownership ranks where that’ll be far more difficult: Of the seven owners represented in that 2000 list (Gibbs, Hendrick, Roush, Penske, Childress, Yates, and Bill Davis) five of them still not only exist, but contend for championships on a yearly basis today. So the Colin Brauns and Landon Cassills of the world? They’re in a better position to one day be inside the Cup top 10 than you might think, with the men they drive for still firmly in control at the top of the Sprint Cup heap.
Did You Notice? … The price tag to sponsor a small Sprint Cup team? On the heels of Bobby Labonte’s announcement Governor Rick Perry would be the primary backer of his Cup car at Texas came a price tag for the event – courtesy The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Turns out the one-time sponsorship effort will cost the campaign $225,000.
So how does that play out over a 36-race schedule? $225K times 36 = $9 million to run what’s been a single-car program capable of running in the top 15, maybe even the top 10 if all the breaks fall their way. It’s also a $17 million difference from the purported $26 million a year AFLAC pays Roush Fenway to sponsor the No. 99 of Carl Edwards.
That difference in sponsorship scale doesn’t seem so bad when you compare it to other programs (say, $264 million in revenue the Yankees take in versus $102 million for Minnesota). So how did Minnesota make the playoffs vs. the Yankees last year? By being smart, getting the right personnel at the right price, and simply willing to challenge their big market opponents.
That’s something TRG and others have been trying to do for years. They just suffer from two permanent handicaps: 1) The people they hire have little to no room to adjust the cars due to NASCAR’s strict rules on chassis with the Car of Tomorrow. That takes the edge out of a mechanic’s hands and into the ones of simulation and engineering experts – and smaller teams just can’t afford the SuperDorks. 2) These teams can’t afford to build their engines and chassis from scratch. That pushes them to partner with the big teams (see: Furniture Row Racing’s partnership with Richard Childress Racing, ditto TRG). That puts them in a tough spot; do you really think the same equipment underneath Jeff Burton, per se, is going to these single-car outfits?
The answer is, unfortunately, absolutely not, no matter what PR jibberish comes out of everyone’s mouth. That keeps the NASCAR hierarchy in place, the rich teams rich, and the poor teams, well … poor.
P.S. – Anybody know the significance of Labonte’s sponsorship with Rick Perry? This is the same guy who said Texas could secede from the union last year. I can see it now … “Look at Bobby go, taking the No. 71 Texas Is Its Own Country Chevrolet right along with him!”
Did You Notice? … A couple of quick hits before I take off:
- In doing research for this column, I figured out Jeff Gordon is on track to break Ricky Rudd’s streak of consecutive starts in the year 2015. The only question is whether he will race that long. He claims three to four more years … but if he stretched it one more, could you imagine Gordon bowing out with that record the same year as Johnson (whose current contract ends in 2015)? By that time, both might have nearly 100 wins, and one of them could have tied Petty and Earnhardt’s record of seven titles. Talk about a gangbuster Hall of Fame class of the future…
- I expect Scott Riggs to be a much better fit for the No. 90 Keyed-Up Motorsports program than Casey Mears. In talking to Mears, while he’s a nice guy I think he’s gotten too caught up in the equipment the underfunded program doesn’t have rather than working with what they’ve got. Riggs, who is used to subpar equipment and fighting desperately to save his career, is the type of driver I can see giving that car a true baseline to work from. A top 25 on Saturday from them wouldn’t surprise me.
- Could NASCAR have any worse luck this year? A Daytona 500 pothole kills the second-best race of the season, then a rain-delay means half the fan base never sees the best race of the year at Martinsville. Plus, any momentum that finish just generated gets buried after the Cup Series endured its second off week in a month. Instead of using the off weeks at the end of the year – to build up drama like the NFL’s Super Bowl – we’re burning them in the beginning when you try and generate momentum for the upcoming season ahead. I just don’t get it.
- Quick reaction to Jason Leffler getting three weeks probation for wrecking James Buescher: Thank God for consistency. I just hope revenge doesn’t wind up with somebody getting hurt.
- Don’t think the latest decision against Jeremy Mayfield (keeping the case in federal court) suddenly puts NASCAR in great position with its Motion To Dismiss. Remember, this judge is the same one (Graham Mullen) which initially gave Mayfield the right to race prior to the Pepsi 400 last July. It’s highly unlikely he’ll turn around and keep the case from going to court; should NASCAR’s motion get denied, the trial will begin sometime later this Fall.
- Finally, I feel bad for Scott Riggs, but I gotta love another Bowles working his way up into the Nationwide Series (Jason Bowles replaces him in the No. 09 this week). NASCAR Bowles’ unite!
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I will point out that while the owners have been somewhat cemented in place for the last 10 years, Childress, Hendrick and Roush might not be here after the next 10 years. They are getting up there in age. That doesn’t mean the teams will disappear but they will no longer be run by these gentlemen and that will definitely change the organization. It could still work out though, look how good Brian France has done maintaining NASCAR’s status after he took over for his father.
I’ll make it plain and simple. I don’t blieve any of those drivers will be competitive as far a contending for a championship in 2010.
“look how good Brian France has done maintaining NASCAR’s status after he took over for his father.”
Might be the funniest thing I have read all year! LOL
Oh Mr. Bowles…..how soon we forget.
Dale Jarrett wasn’t done contending for titles after 2000. In ’01, he led the points through the first third of the season, and won something like 3 out of the first 6 races of that season. ’02 was another solid, top ten year, and THEN the decline began on ’03.
I don’t remember TRG pulling a start-and-park this year, but I may have missed it; it’s not like Fox ever mentions the car during their broadcasts.
If the 2003 Southern 500 was run on Labor Day, it must have been rain delayed since Labor Day is on a Monday. Sorry for the nitpicking, but it’s beautiful weather outside today and I’m stuck indoors, so I’m feeling a bit cranky.
I believe TRG was forced to start-and-park a few times in 2009. I don’t think they have this year.
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