Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday June 16, 2010
Did You Notice? … How Michigan’s attendance for the June race increased by 5,000 between 2009 and 2010? It’s an interesting twist during a year of continued attendance declines, especially considering the state unemployment rate, as of March 2010, was hovering just under 15 percent.
What gives? I think there’s a bit of a pattern we can detect on the heels of Charlotte having the same type of healthy crowd. In both cases, there was a major rivalry occurring mere days before the race: Hamlin-Busch for CLT, and Harvick-Logano packing a punch at MIS. The additional press of DeLana’s “I wear the firesuit in my family” T-shirts certainly helped spread the word something big might be going down at the speedway this weekend as well. And while the first 90 percent of NASCAR races still often leave something to be desired, the last 10 percent have been significantly improved this year. It’s that type of highlight reel action, especially in the last month, that’s enough to make casual fans turn their heads and say, “OK, we’ll head back to the racetrack after all.”
Not only that, but while I think there’s far more than the economy causing the recent downturn in attendance, MIS has been extremely sensitive to conditions in the area. Prices were slashed anywhere from five to 63 percent, including letting children 17 or younger into the stands at half price. That reduced general admission for them to as little as $12.50, with the adults’ minimum price set at $25. Compare that to Bristol, let’s say, where the lowest single-day walk-up ticket price was a shocking $93.
The Speedway also made significant improvements, spending $50 million on a better media center, a brand new set of suites, and a grandstand filled with wider seats, replacements anywhere from two to four inches larger. Add in a dedicated commitment to improving traffic, which sources say was better than ever last Sunday, and you’ve got a facility that’s creating a positive impression inside and outside the community.
Too bad the racing itself left a lot to be desired, something that ultimately will determine the future of putting fans in the seats. But you’ve got to give MIS credit, especially considering the tenuous position they were in just a few months ago. Once considered on the short list of possible tracks losing a date to Kansas next season, a source tells me the focus within ISC has now shifted to Phoenix and California, with Michigan and Martinsville not out of the woods but “all but safe” with two dates in 2011.
Both those tracks accomplished that goal in different ways: Michigan with capital improvements, Martinsville with the quality of racing. Now, if only they’d put two and two together … each one would be one of the top facilities we’d visit each year.
Did You Notice? … How road course ringers are finding it harder than ever to slide into rides in the Cup Series? Notice that missing from the entry list this week is longtime ringer Ron Fellows, on track to miss his first Infineon race in nearly six years. In his place steps just a small handful of drivers: Jan Magnussen (No. 09), Boris Said (No. 26), Brian Simo (No. 36), and Mattias Ekstrom (No. 83), stepping in for Brian Vickers. I’m not going to even count P.J. Jones as a fifth, because we’re uncertain whether the car is going to run the full distance (it hasn’t in the past).
What’s caused the change? Part of it is money; teams just don’t have the extra cash to float around, paying a ringer for a one-race deal and in some cases putting together an extra team with the sponsorship and pit crew needed to compete. There’s also no incentive for Hendrick, Roush, Penske, et al, to field extra teams for research and development when there’s no road course within the 10-race playoff. Compare that to the Nationwide side, where rides could be bought for a dime-a-dozen these days and, to no one’s surprise, over a dozen ringers are entered in a race where only a handful of teams even worry about the championship.
There’s also the simple matter of on-track success on the Cup side. For the ringers, it’s harder than ever to step into the Car of Tomorrow and adjust in the course of three days. Unlike five or six years ago, there are also fewer opportunities for guys to step into top-tier equipment, reducing the ability not only to win, but earn a top-10 finish. Since the Car of Tomorrow came into existence in 2007, ringers have scored just one top 10 since at Infineon (Said, ninth with his own team that first year). More notable have been their epic failures, even pre-dating the CoT. Fellows finished 37th for Cal Wells in ’06, running a specially prepared car that cost the team hundreds of thousands of dollars and continued their downward spiral out of the sport. Last year, Said was blamed for being too aggressive, causing several incidents on the track en route to finishing 24th in the underfunded No. 08 car.
It all adds up to an environment that’s anti-“ringer” right now. Certainly, a solid run by someone like Magnussen or Ekstrom, both making their Cup debuts this weekend, would work wonders in changing things around. It’d be nice to see them have good runs and put some new faces in a running order that’s been increasingly predictable in 2010.
Did You Notice? … Everyone’s trying to figure out what’s wrong with Mark Martin? With just one lap led the last 10 races, he’s yet to earn a podium finish this season and sits a precarious 12th in points. Certainly, as I mentioned in SI earlier this week the distraction of the Kasey Kahne situation is clearly bothering him. But the more you think it through, he’s probably the best example of how racing has become so technology and simulation-based.
People think at 51, Martin can provide the answer to virtually any chassis problem. Unfortunately, using computers to set up your cars, something Hendrick specializes in more than anyone else, takes the driver out of that equation more than ever. And if you get to the track with your software off-base, there’s just not enough practice time to get caught back up, no matter how knowledgeable the man behind the wheel might be. I don’t think it’s a matter of Martin losing a step; it’s a matter of technology getting in the way so he can’t make the team’s lost step back up.
That’s why I’m paying particular attention to this new chassis Hendrick is bringing out for the No. 5 car this weekend, one that hasn’t been tested or raced. You’d have to think they’re going to be more aggressive in the coming weeks, with Martin’s place in the Chase hardly assured. And will they make some changes to help tinker with the chemistry, after losing engineer Chris Heroy and mechanic Kevin Hulstein to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s No. 88 team?
It’s a tricky situation, with five teams within 107 points of Martin for that 12th and final Chase spot. You don’t want to get too aggressive with changes, but at the same time, this season is reminding many of Matt Kenseth’s difficult spring and summer last year. At the time, no one believed the 2003 champ would miss his first ever Chase, and Roush chose to stick with the game plan. The result? 2009’s Daytona 500 winner ended Richmond on the outside looking in.
No doubt Hendrick has studied that history, leaving the next month a crucial time for Martin and his team. And that’s not even mentioning what happens for 2011, ’12, and beyond…
Did You Notice? … Some quick hits before we go…
- Honestly, the command to start engines by Kevin James and Adam Sandler was the worst one I’ve ever seen. It makes the vuvuzelas at the World Cup seem bearable; is that the reason Sandler hasn’t made a good movie since 1998? I know it’s a polarizing topic, but count me on the side of “please don’t do that again.”
- Not to be a marketing stooge, but for my take on Sunday’s debris caution (and Mike Helton’s Race Hub comments) check out my weekly mailbag I do for SI tomorrow. Short answer: there should be no instance, ever, where national television doesn’t show the debris that causes the caution. That should be mandatory; and in the final 25 laps, unless it’s a giant spoiler in the middle of the racing groove or oil sprayed every which way on the track, you don’t pull out the yellow flag. Only wrecks – like the Scott Riggs one at Phoenix – should cause the late-race restarts we’ve been seeing virtually every week. NASCAR needs to stop acting like an overprotective father when it comes to safety … yes, Tom Logano isn’t the only one.
- Here’s an interesting factoid: Of the top 12 in Sprint Cup points, only Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Mark Martin have won at Infineon. Among those winless include four-time reigning champ Jimmie Johnson, who has yet to score a victory on a road course, period. It just goes to show you when it comes to winning a title these days, you only need to turn left, not right. More and more, based on the current point system I would love to see a road course in the Chase to shake everything up, making it a true test of driver ability on every type of racetrack.
- A few statistical quirks 15 races into the season: Carl Edwards has as many laps led as Paul Menard (two); Kurt Busch has two wins, six top 5s, and nine top 10s while neither one of his teammates – Sam Hornish, Jr. and Brad Keselowski – have finished higher than 11th; Scott Riggs has finished more races (one in one start) than Joe Nemechek (zero-for-14 … and counting).
- Casey Mears’ removal at Red Bull Racing was still up in the air at press time. My first thought: can you blame them? No top-20 finishes + wrecking your teammate = recipe for a quick fix, soon. When the permanent driver (Scott Speed) calls you out … chances are as a temp, you’ll get the ax.
Connect with Tom!
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I never liked the idea of using road course ringers to begin with so I am happy to see that the race teams are finding out that “ringers” are not worth the effort.
“In both cases, there was a major rivalry occurring mere days before the race”
Tom – Who buys tickets to a race the day before? or the day of?
“Gentleman, Start your engines” was past horrible. Please, don’t let that pair of fools anywhere near a race track ever again. And as far as putting a road course in the Chase; never. That has to be the worst type of racing there is; even more boring that Michigan, if that is possible. As far as Mark Martin, I thought they had switched the decals on the 5 and 88. Now I find out they switched personnel. Wow, what a difference; JR has a car he likes two weeks in a row and Mark has the crap car.Might Mr H be putting some pressure on Mark as to the 2011 season situation?
I’m with DansMom on this one… I don’t think the Harvick-Logano tift made much of an impact on attendance at Michigan. The capital improvements were probably more of a factor, but considering that the race was 400 miles of nap-inducing boredom, I’m reminded of the old adage about lipstick and pigs.
I have never had a problem with road course ringers! When I first started watching NASCAR in the early 60’s, my favorite driver was Fred Lorenzen in the #28 Ford preparedby Holman-Moody. When NASCAR went to Riverside Raceway for the first 500 miler of the year in January of 1963 (which was actually the second time they raced a 500-mile race there. The first time was in 1958!), Ralph Moody decided to pul Lorenzen out of the #28 and stick Dan Gurney in the car. Lorenzen ended up driving the #21 Wood Brother’s Ford. If you know your history, you know what hapened! Gurney won the race. In fact, he won again in 1964, 65, 66, and 1968, but those wins were behind the wheel of a Wood Brother’s second entry. So you see, road racing ringers have been around for quite a while!
(I apologize to DansMom for this posting! I know she know’s nothing about NASCAr as a whole, but also thinks that NASCAR didn’t exist before 2001. And she also hates the true history of the sort! But then again, maybe she’ll learn something about the past, and might, just might, appriciate the sport more! Then she can write with some authority.)
Guess I am in the minority but I always love watching the road ringers. Sort of mixed things up for 2 weeks of the year. And it always made the race interesting to see if they could win (normally most of them would lose not due to skill but due to being paired with a poor pit team)
And truth be told – most of the ringers had 100x the personality of the normal Cup drivers. Something to be said about a hungry driver trying to make a mark versus a multi-millionaire in the third year of his 5 year contract.
Guess this is just yet another tradition gone forever….
I have never bought a race ticket in advance. We go to Dover twice a year and buy them the day of the race. Sometimes we buy them from someone selling them on the side of the road but lately we can just walk right up to the ticket window and get one of the best seats in the house.
I don’t agree with MIS attendance going up due to rivalries though. I think the attendance went up because 2009 was so terrible for Michiganders.
I really enjoy watching the road course ringers, and I find myself rooting for them. I love watching the two road course races and think that Sonoma should be in the second half of the chase.
I didn’t like the command to start the engines. It was funny, but inappropriate. Those guys did better jobs in previous commands. I like exciting commands over boring ones, but Kevin James’ high pitch was rediculous.
Annie… you are definitely in the minority. Most Nascar fans buy the same seats year after year, months in advance.
More people are able to buy tickets the day of the race because alot of fans are not renewing their tickets to watch this outstanding product (sarcasm) so there are tickets available on raceday.
I can guarentee you that if you were to poll the people at the race you would find that most of them purchased tickets weeks, if not months in advance.
I will agree that the loss of attendance makes it easy for the casual fan to walk up the day of the race and get a ticket. That might be good for Nascar though. They are able to attract new fans. It sucked when I first started going to races having to fight for tickets months in advance.
I think Mark’s problems run very deep. Or is it very high? You don’t go from running top 5 and top 10 week in and week out to bringing 15th to 20th place cars to the track every week because the driver is a year older. My guess is that Rick Hendrick wants Mark out and Kasey in sooner and not later. More sponsor dollars in Kahne, I suppose. From a business perspective it makes sense. That’s how the rich get richer. Or is Alan Gustafson on drugs? I didn’t think so.
I wish I lived closer to Vegas. I would have found a way to bet big $$ that Mears was not going to make it at Red Bull. If it isn’t clear now that Mears isn’t cut out for Cup series racing, then let the next sucker hire him and pay the price.
I thought the command to start was ridiculous. Slightly over the top..
I like what MIS did to the their facility. I can only hope Auto Club Speedway is smart enough to make similar improvements in the grandstands. They definitely have enough space to spread the fans out and give them a little elbow room, which is at a premium now. That would help bring some of us back. We’re not sardines.
I agree with gopapa Mark d hiI agree with Gopapa, Mark didnt forget how to drive, his cars are absolute crap. Hendrick has given the store to Junior at Mark’s expense. Now they dont care because they want Kasey in the car. Very classy!!!!
When teams are guaranteed to qualify, they don’t need to hire a ringer for a race. Plenty of the teams that aren’t top-35 have hired road racers for the weekend, and the only team inside that did was firing their interim driver anyway.
I read somewhere that since Tony Jr. was making Jr.‘s car with 2007 DEI specs last year, Mark’s car was made with the 24 & 48. This year the 5 & 88 are made in the same garage. I have noticed that all of Jr.‘s new cars this years have been unrace & untested. I also read somewhere that since windtunnel testing is so expensive that none of the HMS cars are tested in the windtunnel now. A slow cash flow.
I think the Red Bull would find that they could learn a lot with Kenny Schrader in the 83 as the fill in driver.
So I guess your saying that last year Hendrick gave the store to Martin at Jr’s expense. Unless your unaware your comment works both ways. Give Jr Gustafson and it will be a complete reversal of fortune. No offense intended for Martin I think he is as good as any out there.
Yes now that Hendrick has Mark and Jr in the same building and the crews working together Jr is doing better. How long did it take everyone to figure out Rick didn’t hire Jr to win races, he just wants to make it off the most popular driver. He don’t care if Jr ever wins a race, Jr is footing the bills for Rick with all his share of Jr’s endorsements. Jr needs to get out of there and be his own boss. You can see how well his Nationwide cars run and he don’t need Rick. Rick should be ashamed of himself for taking advantage of Jr like he has! He even snookered Jr into giving him a share of Jr Motorsports,,,,,as if he needed it. Yeah he does, for the control! Just wish Jr would leave there and be his own man!!!! Go JR. Jr nation is still behind you strong as ever.
“I don’t agree with MIS attendance going up due to rivalries though. I think the attendance went up because 2009 was so terrible for Michiganders” AMEN TO THAT BROTHER As for the command—-it beats the Hell out of some lame baggage boy saying it without any feeling at all.
Recent articles from Tom Bowles:
Did You Notice? ... The Details Behind Busch Double-Duty And NASCAR Teams/Series Needing A Boost
If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.
Want even more Tom Bowles? Check out Tom's archive at SI.com.