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 May 26, 2010
Did You Notice? … Bruton Smith’s $20 million offer for 2011 and beyond to any driver who wins both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day? That’s opened up a whole other can of worms and stirred the pot for a handful of drivers anxious to get their hands on that money.
In what would likely be a public relations boon for both series, you’d like to think all parties involved would work together to make this happen. But which drivers would actually bite at the chance to make history? Considering the difficulty the IndyCar guys have had jumping into the stock car level, you’d have to think the NASCAR boys would have a better shot of pulling it off. Here’s five I’d love to see in double duty next year:
1) Kyle Busch. Remember the old U.S. Formula 1 team? They had themselves a little man-crush on Busch, thinking he’d be the perfect choice to bring that international series its first true American contender in decades.
“I’ve watched him a lot and have massive respect for him,” former US F1 sports director Peter Windsor said. “I believe Kyle can win a world championship in Formula One. I think he’s got exactly the right talent, the right approach.”
“It’s definitely something I wouldn’t shoot down,” Busch added back when the courtship heated up in ‘09. “If I could win a championship (in NASCAR) in the next two or three years, then I wouldn’t mind going doing (F1) for a few years and coming back.”
Considering the potential interest there, you’d have to assume the Indy 500 is high on the list of things for Busch to try, too. Getting a ride there compared to the country club F-1 series is a piece of cake; the question is, would no experience behind the wheel doom him, even on an oval? Personally, I don’t think that hurts him too much, and the years of handling double-duty with Nationwide and Trucks will only help condition the veteran for 1,100 miles in a day.
Potential roadblock: Joe Gibbs. He never was all that warm and fuzzy with Tony Stewart running the 500, with contract language blocking Stewart’s last attempt behind the wheel of an A.J. Foyt car in ’04. JGR lets Busch do whatever he wants now … but that’s behind the wheel of either cars they control in Nationwide or a Truck Series that likely won’t leave him hurt.
2) Juan Pablo Montoya. Already an Indy 500 winner, Montoya has yet to win his first oval race on the NASCAR side. In fact, he hasn’t even led a lap at Charlotte in his Cup career. So you’d think stock cars would be the hardest place for him to break through; but at the same time, teammate Jamie McMurray’s past success at CMS (he earned his first Cup victory there in 2002) combined with an improving Earnhardt Ganassi program make a strong double-duty effort more possible than you think.
Potential roadblock: Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Sure, Montoya holds a big advantage in driving for a NASCAR team that doubles as an IndyCar juggernaut. But will Ganassi’s two teammates be all that thrilled about playing second fiddle to a guy that’s only coming in for one race? They’ve got a championship to win, and well-established crews that will serve to be Montoya’s biggest challengers on race day. Being the third-best car out there within the same stable defeats the purpose, and you wonder if Montoya would ever be the number one priority if he took the chance.
3) A.J. Allmendinger. I know it’s a bit of an oddball choice, but the ‘Dinger has run well at Charlotte and could be a darkhorse pick for the 600 under the right circumstances. In the meantime, haven’t you just been the least bit curious as to how the former Champ Car star would do in a merged IndyCar world? This was a guy who looked poised for open-wheel stardom until a series of circumstances left him Red Bull’s protégé. Considering his car owner has already partnered to form an Indy effort twice, you’d have to assume a two-car operation with him and John Andretti isn’t out of the question … right? It’d be a challenge worthy of the King.
Potential roadblock: Open-wheel experience on ovals. Remember, when the ‘Dinger landed in Champ Car it had made the move to almost exclusively road and street courses. None of his five career wins came on the bullrings, and it’s unknown how quickly he’d be able to adapt to the 2.5-mile behemoth of Indy in open-wheel.
4) Tony Stewart. The former IRL champ claims he’s done running Indy. But now approaching his 40th birthday, the two-time NASCAR champ has won just about everything in stock cars and doesn’t have anything left to prove. How great would it be to see him make a “no guts, no glory” attempt at a race he’s always dreamed of winning? No one’s ever captured both the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400, and you better believe with Montoya knocking on that door … Stewart would love to open it first.
Potential roadblock: Team ownership. You’d think that would make it easy for Stewart, since there’s no official contract prohibiting the challenge. But with two cars, potentially three on the horizon for 2011, he’s become so entrenched in the ownership role, running Eldora, and other off-track endeavors his schedule is stretched to the max. One of those guys where you’d have to think he’d need to take the whole month of May off stock cars (sans Charlotte) to give it a fair shot.
5) Mark Martin. Would it happen? Probably not. But this man has accomplished so much for the gray-haired crowd, wouldn’t it be great to see him go part-time in NASCAR, be an owner/driver and attempt a Hendrick-supported Indy 500 effort on the side? It’s so crazy I’d call it impossible; but then again, no one ever thought Martin would still be driving, either.
Potential roadblock: Age. Not that it’s ever stopped Martin before, but the oldest 500 winner was Al Unser at 47 years, 360 days. Martin would be 52 in 2011.
Did You Notice? … That in the wake of teams coming out of the woodwork for the Indy 500, we don’t have the same rush of random car owners going after one of the sport’s crown jewels in Charlotte. Years ago, the 600 used to attract one of the biggest entry lists of the year, with unsponsored teams able to use their “home base” to cut costs and take a chance at making the race. Old promoter Humpy Wheeler used to concoct outrageous deals that would put anyone from female racer Janet Guthrie – who was busy wheeling Indy before Danica was even born – to short track ace Dick Trickle, to former IndyCar star Johnny Rutherford in rides for the big race. Those huge fields made qualifying as nerve-wracking as bubble day itself, with full-time teams missing the show while battling against these part-time programs attracting fan interest.
But the decaying economic conditions for NASCAR have made part-timers all but extinct. Charlotte is now just another race on the calendar, with 47 teams on the entry list and only Bill Elliott’s Wood Brothers Ford the intriguing part-time competitor in the field. Gone are any hardscrabble, part-time efforts capable of putting together rides to service the IndyCar superstars who might be interested in Bruton Smith’s $20 million challenge next year, and heavyweight promoter Wheeler left the speedway long ago.
Meanwhile, across the way at Indy bubble day was the most meaningful one we’ve seen this decade. Big names like Tony Kanaan nearly missed the field, while ones like Paul Tracy actually did. Add in a little Danica drama, and momentum for that race remains at an all-time high, although it remains to be seen whether the ratings will actually match it.
Compare that to the sleepiness surrounding Charlotte, and it’s just the latest wake-up call that NASCAR needs to do something to raise the importance of its “crown jewel” races once again. We’ve talked about restarting the former Winston Million program; what about offering a 100-point bonus to winners at the Daytona 500, Coke 600, Darlington, and Indianapolis? Something, anything would be better than the way in which the former World 600 is now little more than just another Cup race.
Did You Notice? … That in the midst of Bobby Labonte’s recent struggles with TRG, one of several legends fumbling to the end of long, distinguished careers, I’m coming to appreciate one particular driver more and more…
Think about it. Of all the great drivers who have officially retired the past decade (Mark Martin doesn’t count: seriously, did he ever really retire?) Wallace is the only one to not only stick to his guns but end his career with a truly noteworthy season, making the Chase while finishing inside the top 10 in Cup points. Let’s compare that to the rough endings of the some of the sport’s other major stars:
Ward Burton: Went the final five years of his career without a top-5 finish.
Bill Elliott: Seemed to do the right thing after semi-retiring on the heels of a ninth-place points finish in 2003, complete with a win and 12 top-10s. But after seven years of part-time work, he’s begun to enter the “hanging around too long” pantheon after 80 starts have yielded just a single top 10.
Dale Jarrett: Retired in 2008 after failing to qualify a dozen times and not scoring a top-10 finish in 41 attempts with Michael Waltrip Racing.
Terry Labonte: Since scaling back to a part-time career after 2004, he’s got just one top-5 and two top-10 finishes in 50 starts. Also, went winless, with no top-5s and slipped to 26th in points during that final full-time year.
Sterling Marlin: Never scored a top-5 finish again after losing his ride in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge at the end of the 2005 season. By 2009, he was running a seven-race schedule of start-and-parks for James Finch just to make some extra cash.
Ricky Rudd: Retired the first time in 2005, then came back only to get hurt, fail to finish in the top 5, and end up 33rd in the standings for Yates Racing in ’07.
Darrell Waltrip: Retired in 2000 after two years without a top-10 finish, failing to qualify a dozen times during that stretch.
The list can go on and on. That means for me, Wallace’s already vaunted Cup career resume earns a new level of respect. He understood the right time to cut and run, unlike 90 percent of the veterans whose passion overwhelms their decisionmaking in the wake of declining performance.
Now, the trick is for he and Bobby Labonte to sit down and have a good talk. Maybe during the ESPN portion of the schedule?
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Wow – good point about Rusty. Was never a fan but I give credit where credit is due.
As for as single car teams showing up for Charlotte – how can they? Between the top 35 rule; the ever changing body templates; the fact that you need 50 engineers just to be slightly competitive; any open slots are being taken by start-and-park teams – why would I, a local driver / team owner, even waste my time or money.
I agree it is sad that this part of NASCAR is gone (for now at least). There was a local short track ace that lived near my house that used to take his car to some key Winston Cup events back in the ’70s; I don’t think he was ever competitive but I believe he did make the field a few times. Today? – I doubt any local ace can even afford the entry fees charged by NASCAR.
I recall Rusty asking his wife, Patty, while he was still driving, “You realize that I’m doing this for us, don’t you?”
I always respected Rusty for sticking to his guns and fighting whatever urges he might have had to come back. Too bad Mark Martin had to horn in on Rusty’s retirement tour when he had NO serious intentions of retiring. He may be a respected driver in the garage, but IMHO, that was a classless move.
On the Indy car front, Kyle Busch will need to mature greatly before he moves to F1…I’m sure no one wants another Danica in the IRL. However, Kyle needs to realize this and work towards behavioral correction. Talent or not, his immaturity is nothing to be ignored as it could manifest in his using his car as a weapon in a fit of anger……
Indy Bump day…..Paul Tracy and one other driver, can’t remember his name, took themselves out voluntarily…..why? I understand Paul Tracy may have thought he could get a better time, but the other driver was in when Tracy dropped his first time….huge mistake to try again…IMHO.
On the double duty front, I understand these are racers and that they live to race. However, they have a responsibility to their PRIMARY sponsor in the CUP series to race the car they pay for. What happens if they wreck in the 500 and are incapable of racing the car? Granted a standby could be found, but that’s taking a chance on the alternate driving the car in a competitive manner……if the driver fails to represent satisfactorily, this may result in a drop on the sponsor’s part and a removal of their money from the sport all together.
As far as the “sleepiness” of Charlotte and races like it, why not lower the mileage on the types of races? There would be less “riding around” and more battles. I understand these races may have been an endurance test in the beginning, but nowadays, the only real racing I see is when the green flag drops, especially after cautions and during the last 50 miles of a race.
Thank you for your time.
On another subject, I’ve followed the Indy Car scene for decades. Juan Pablo doesn’t just have a 500 win, he was THE BOSS. He continually surprised even Chip Ganassi.
Why is shortening the races becoming the standardized solution to BORING races? If the races are so boring they need to be shortened, then the problem is obviously not the length of the race! If I am going to go to a race, I dont want it shortened, I just want it to be more exciting. COT cars make for boring races. You never heard anyone crying shorten the races back when they were exciting. The racing sucks plain and simple, if NA$CAR would fix the product on the track everyone would shut the hell up about shortening races!
KyCupFan – you are SO right. Like you when I pay for a ticket, plus whatever it costs me to travel, I don’t want to see a shorter race, but I do want to see a good one. But NASCAR can’t pull their head out of their you know what and admit that the brick on wheels is a disaster. Put the safety features back in the OLD car and quit working toward the IROC series — we all know how that turned out, don’t we?
I agree with KyCupfan’s previous post. Its not the length of the races that’s the issue (although I could live with some of them being shorter), its the product on the track. Nascar seems to have their head in the sand regarding this.
I have to disagree with the last part about Bobby Labonte. As far as I’m concerned a driver can race as long as he wants. Its a good living regardless of how well you are doing on the track. Who are we to judge how long someone sticks with it. Personally Bill Elliott is doing it right. He runs a set number of races and not the whole schedule. He’s not racing for a championship anyway but I’m sure is enjoying himself out there when he is competing. No long season, plenty of time for family, and scratching that racing itch every once in a while bringing home a little bacon to boot. Doesn’t sound all that bad to me.
Ever notice that the people who talk the most about shortening races are the writers?
With the stats given in this article for drivers who hung around too long, maybe a certain Over-Rated, Over-Hyped has been, who never was should get a clue. RETIRE JR!
Peter Windsor said. “I believe Kyle can win a world championship in Formula One. I think he’s got exactly the right talent, the right approach.”
“He has MARS/M&M’s money do wannnnnt”.
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