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 June 2, 2010
Did You Notice? … Team Red Bull’s willing to take some chances now that their regular season is shot? The move to switch crews between Scott Speed and Casey Mears wasn’t surprising … it’s expected. Not only have both cars lagged behind the curve all year, but with Brian Vickers sidelined and Scott Speed 26th in points making the Chase is about as likely as the Miracle on Ice.
GM Jay Frye understands how that leaves this team in a unique position. In a story that’s going to be out on Frontstretch tomorrow, our Jay Pennell talked with a number of people in and around the Red Bull organization in the wake of Brian Vickers’ departure. Everyone had a different take, but the running theme remained the same: roll the dice! With no sponsorship issues to worry about – after all, the owners self-fund the team – why sit there and try and make small gains when you’re out there running 25th every week? Might as well take a home run-type shot at it, play with some different combinations and see if you hit on something that returns the chemistry to that of Chase contender just in time for Brian Vickers to return in February.
So kudos to TBR for actually sticking their neck out and taking a walk on the wild side. I’m told this could be the tip of the iceberg, with the green light given to think outside the box and try radical setups that are going to be hit or miss. So often these days, we no longer see Cup teams do what they need to do to make things better, falling victim to the guise of “racing for points.” Now, Team Red Bull is racing to win … and that “no guts, no glory” attitude is something everyone can appreciate.
Did You Notice? … Both the TV ratings for Charlotte and Indy were sinking like the Titanic? Indianapolis registered just a 4.0 rating, its lowest since the race began being televised live in 1986. NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 matched those numbers, producing its lowest overnight since a 3.4 when TBS Superstation covered the race back in 2000.
As the downward trend continues, I was struck by how both races didn’t carry with them the type of transcendent storyline that would get new fans to stand up and pay attention. It was a historic day, to be sure, with Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi battling through a total of 1,100 miles. But how many times have we seen those guys come out on top? In all, they’ve won eight Indy 500s in the last 11 years, 34 of the last 41 IndyCar races overall, and three of the last four championships. To the rich go the spoils, the same type of problem that’s been happening on the NASCAR side of the fence.
There’s been a lot of talk about how one chassis provider seems to hurt Indy’s endless quest for speed. I’d agree with that, but would also point out the predictability factor. How many people stood up and took notice when Mike Conway took the lead with 25 laps to go? When you have a favorite vs. underdog dynamic, people take notice (See: Duke vs. Butler, NCAA Championship). The rich against the rich? Not so much.
We’ve talked about this problem over on the NASCAR side several times, so I won’t get into it again. What I will mention is Burton Smith’s $20 million offer to win both races, which got heavily panned by many of my colleagues in the press and in the garage. All I heard last weekend at Charlotte was a bunch of “nos.” No, drivers won’t be let out of their contract to do it. No, it’s just too hard to find the right equipment to make it worthwhile to contend in both races (another sign of how big the gap is between rich and poor nowadays: Casey Mears specifically said he wouldn’t do it unless Ganassi or Penske had an Indy ride for him). Others claimed the Indy guys would find NASCAR too difficult, a half-dozen Sam Hornish types trying to make the field in low-quality rides.
Hmm… OK. So we should just sit here, twiddle our thumbs, and let both series die a slow death? Let me tell you one thing that $20 million would garnish for both teams immediately; free publicity. Remember how the Winston Million put NASCAR on the map in 1985? You have five, six drivers going after that prize in the month of May and there’s a whole lot of people who’ll take notice. I didn’t talk to a single fan this month who wasn’t excited about the prospect.
Yes, doing both races could take the focus off the Chase for several NASCAR drivers. But doesn’t running Nationwide 25 weekends a year do the same thing? Over on the IndyCar side, you know those guys would go for it in a heartbeat; I’ve even heard their TV contract beyond 2010 is in jeopardy, sponsors threatening to pull out if they don’t average a 1.0 in their remaining races on Versus (which they’re not). Desperate men need to take drastic measures to turn around this type of downward momentum, and that’s why Bruton Smith’s offer to stop it is looking better and better every day.
Let’s hope both sides are smart enough to make it happen.
Did You Notice? … Speaking of the Winston Million, if it were still in play we would have had ourselves another 600 storyline? Jamie McMurray has four finishes of second or better this season, and all of them have occurred at the old Winston Million venues: Daytona 500 (won), Aaron’s 499 / Talladega (second), Southern 500 (second), Coca-Cola 600 (second).
While a win would have only garnered McMurray $100,000 under that old system, could you imagine if he knew the million-dollar bonus was still in play? We could have seen an even more dramatic finish at ‘Dega than we already did, and perhaps some risky strategy at Darlington to get the No. 1 car out front. With inconsistency problems this season, McMurray’s needed to balance points vs. wins instead in order to remain a contender for the Chase. But wouldn’t you think the prospect of a victory in one of NASCAR’s crown jewels should tip the scales?
I asked several drivers this weekend about whether they’d welcome a return of the Winston Million program, and not a single one said no. So why can’t Sprint step up and put together their own version? It would work wonders in bringing more interest back while NASCAR works on improving the most important part of putting fans in the stands: fixing the on-track product. And even with that, don’t you think giant dollar signs might take care of that lagging driver aggression problem we’ve been facing?
Did You Notice? … Kyle Busch bit off more than he could chew? Just weeks after claiming he wouldn’t be a Truck owner if he knew how much it was going to cost, Tayler Malsam’s jump from Trucks to Nationwide gave him an opening to immediately shut down his No. 56 program. That leaves just the No. 18 to worry about for the rest of the season, a Truck Busch drives in the majority of the races that’s currently leading the owner’s championship.
Busch’s main complaint was that he was funding the team largely out of his own pocket, unable to replace sponsorship lost when Miccosukee resorts pulled out just weeks before the start of 2010. Add in a $3 million dispute between subcontractors building parts of his new shop, and just making the move to start a team has been the equivalent of a self-induced black eye.
But that’s not all. Let’s compare Busch’s decision to shut down his program to JR Motorsports for a second. Remember, the No. 7 car doesn’t have primary sponsorship beyond the 13 GoDaddy.com races for Danica Patrick. Yet Earnhardt still felt it was necessary to keep both his teams up and running, spending money out-of-pocket to keep employees on the payroll and ensure during this rough economy they didn’t have their paychecks stop flowing midseason. There’s no word on whether Busch will keep all his employees, but you’d think cutting the team in half doesn’t make it financially viable to do so.
The fact two of the sport’s biggest superstars couldn’t find sponsorship showcases how badly the current business model is broken inside the sport. It’s just interesting the different ways both of them have chosen to handle it; Earnhardt is going the route of perseverance and loyalty, while Busch appears to be bailing the second the ship starts to sink.
Did You Notice? … All the ink spent already on whether Jimmie Johnson has lost his mojo? Yes, it’s true the No. 48 team had an uncharacteristic month, its driver wrecking at both Darlington and Charlotte while going five races without a top-5 finish. Suddenly, everyone is treating the Lowe’s team as if the sky is falling. The way people are panicking and pumping up the problems, you’d half expect Chad Knaus to charge JJ with a tire iron if he struggles to a 25th-place finish at Pocono.
But before you get caught up in the drama … take a deep breath and slow down. How quickly this ADD generation forgets how history repeats itself; remember that in each of Johnson’s last four championship years, he’s gone through a bit of a slump. Consider…
2006: Five straight finishes of 10th or worse to end the regular season, with just 34 laps led. This slump actually continued into the Chase, with four more runs outside the top 10 until a crash with Brian Vickers at ‘Dega lit a fire under this team and sent them soaring to the title.
2007: One top-5 finish in nine races, highlighted by two straight DNFs for wrecks at Chicago and Indy, had people questioning whether Johnson would even make the Chase (sound familiar?) One month later, he posted back-to-back wins at Fontana and Richmond, made the cutoff with ease and stole a title straight from under Jeff Gordon’s nose.
2008: Four straight runs of 10th or worse in the Spring that culminated with a blown engine at Charlotte. That left him ninth in points, 95 above the Chase cutoff and forcing the team to rebuild their cushion with top-10 finishes in five of the next seven races. All of a sudden, wins at Indianapolis, Fontana, and Richmond (peaking at the right time; sound familiar?) launch them into the Chase on a high, where they proceed to coast from New Hampshire to Homestead with ease.
2009: Johnson ends the regular season with several mistakes, including running out of fuel at Michigan and – gasp! – wrecking at Atlanta to have people all but writing him off at the start of the Chase. Instead, he went on to have his most dominating 10-race performance yet.
The bottom line is the No. 48 has you thinking exactly what they want you to think: they’re out of it. It just astounds me that everyone’s being so reactionary when this team still has 261 laps led in the last month, and would have easily won Dover and the All-Star Race if not for a pit road penalty and the special four-segment format, respectively.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the sky doesn’t fall on the Lowe’s side of the fence until they’re 100 or more points behind halfway through the Chase. That’s the only part of the season that really counts for them, so don’t get caught up in all this drama in between.
Did You Notice? … Quick hits:
- Halfway through the regular season, the point system appears to be fairer than ever, with only one winning team shut out of the top 12 (McMurray). If one team should have any gripe at all, though, it’s Earnhardt Ganassi; they have a combined 8 top-5 finishes with McMurray and Montoya, yet neither is in the Chase, lagging behind Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle who have a total of three.
- David Ragan returning behind the wheel of a UPS Ford isn’t as set in stone as you think. Check out the key word in that SceneDaily article: “anticipation.” Geoff Smith anticipates performance will improve, but that’s no guarantee. I continue to hear from reliable sources UPS is very unhappy with recent results, and if Ragan ends the year where he is right now (24th in points) a change is still possible depending on who’s available. At least Ragan’s future is placed in his own hands; he’ll either sink or swim the next few months.
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Yeah Tom, we know you and all the Fronstretch staffers hate Kyle Busch (do you put that requirement in their contracts?), but serously man…How can you compare mega-multi-millionaire Dale Jr. with Kyle Busch? Junior has made more money on his father’s name than Busch will make if he wins 200 NASCAR races (which he probably will) plus hits the Lotto a couple times. And are you at all aware that most small business owners fail in the first year due to cash flow problems? I doubt they teach that in the “I hate Kyle school of yellow journalism.” Better for him to cut his losses while he can than risk losing even more for himself AND his employees if he has to fold both teams.
And on another topic, what makes Jeff Burton think he is entitled to ride around the track all day and expect to be handed a top ten through attrition? Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Kyle was going for the win, Jeff has been taking up space on the track for way too long and should get out and let the young guys have at it. Burton is a (slowly) moving chicane.
People are freaking out about JJ because he is doing bad at tracks he usually rocks and two bad finishes have been directly his fault which is uncommon for the golden boy. I do agree that people are making something out of nothing though. Not a fan but I’m expecting him to pick it up soon
THANK YOU Susan
I’m not sure which race Susan watched Sunday night, but I saw the one in which Jeff Burton had a strong car and ran solidly inside the top-5 or top-10 throughout most of the race, only to get taken out by a dumb move on Kyle’s part late in the race (though that really shouldn’t surprise anyone). If he’s a slowly moving chicane, then so were the 30+ other cars that ran behind him all night long.
I seem to recall in the last year or so Jr complaining about the cost of running in the Busch series and questioning if he would continue(do you think he was worried about his workers then?) if he could not find sponsership. This was not a first year or even second year team, no this was a team that had talked about working its way to the Cup series.
Good or bad Rowdy wears is emotions on his sleeve, if the media ask him a question he tries to answer it. The answers are not always PC. While I hope he does mature(seen signs this year) He is still a Very YOUNG man. Think of some of the things you did and said at his age. Are you proud of ALL OF THEM? I know I did and said things that I’m not proud of.
You didn’t even mention how bad the 48 team was at the beginning of ’08, remember Vegas, they were testing every week to get back in the game. Guess what’s different is JJ was rarely the problem. Maybe their experimenting is getting too far out there and it’s not just JJ.
You guys and gals can debate Kyle all day long but face the facts! He is from a family that raised 2 hot headed brothers…both excellent drivers, Jimmy Spencer single handed forced Kurt to grow up and someone, I was hoping Burton, will force Kyle to grow up! It is amazing what a broken nose teaches a man. Maybe the meanest man in the garage (Carl Edwards) will do it!! In the mean time he is still a snot nose, loud mouthed PUNK!!
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