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 · Thursday July 8, 2010
Did You Notice? … That in today’s world of sports, giving athletes the benefit of the doubt is suddenly a thing of the past? Instead, steroids, cheating scandals, and bad calls have turned us into a nation full of doubters, cornered into a defensive stance of guilty until proven innocent for our own emotional protection.
As proof, look no further than a blue and yellow number 3, 1980s vintage Wrangler on the side wrangling its way to Victory Lane Friday night. In the final drive with his daddy’s number on the side, Earnhardt drove like the restrictor plate master of old, leading the final 33 laps of the race in holding off challenges from Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and a handful of other Cup veterans. It was a made-for-TV moment, NASCAR’s best-case scenario in which their Most Popular Driver took home a trophy for the first time in two years – and doing it with a classic new car design to boot, hopefully tearing at the heartstrings of everyone who sat there nostalgic on the couch.
“It’s hard for me,” he said post-race, the magnitude of the moment clearly weighing on him. “It’s a balancing act between you and the public and myself and my own feelings [to run the No. 3].”
“I always loved the scheme. I just love the car. I wanted to race it once, and I did… I don’t ever want to do it again. And I’ll never change my mind, ever.”
Ten years ago, those quotes would be the clincher, dramatic realism capturing thousands of new fans almost instantaneously. But now? What you get is a slew of emails and comments that infer Earnhardt’s virtually reading from a script, the final act of a race too good to be true in which everyone was seemingly holding back for a forced coronation of NASCAR’s favorite son.
It’s a sad state of affairs, really, but not the only one. Lance Armstrong challenges for the lead at the Tour De France this week, but all we can talk about is whether he was doping the whole time. In both cases, fans have been barraged with negativity from all sides, a slew of criticism and questioning that makes the word “fix” impossible to block out of your head. There’s Earnhardt’s 2001 victory in the No. 8 at Daytona, five months after his father’s death where not only did he pass with ease, but legend says the car was never properly examined during post-race inspection. Then there’s Earnhardt’s first race in the No. 3 car after his father’s death, another Daytona domination in which he led 59 of 120 laps in February, 2002. During a time of great despair – where his slump has reached career-worst proportions along with NASCAR – securing the victory could be looked at as a convenient step one, a brilliant strategy to try and salvage the sport’s popularity before it’s too late.
When you put it like that, it’s so easy to buy into this notion of fixing a finish. But aren’t sports as much mental as they are physical? Isn’t it fair to say Earnhardt and Armstrong have emotional boosts during these special events, inward confidence from attempting something that’s really important to them? Could their competition also be awed by what’s it stake, losing their focus just enough on the letdown of somebody else instead of buying into their own strategy to walk away with the first-place trophy?
You see, not every storybook ending we see is courtesy of a little extra horsepower in either your system or your stock car. It’s just that a decade filled with too many bad eggs in all sports have made us willing to throw the whole batch away now, fighting off an emotional investment that comes attached with the risk of getting burnt.
It’s just a phase, I hope, but one that needs to turn around for this sport to be fully on the upswing again. When we grow up, we learn a sad lesson that most of what we’re taught to believe in as kids – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny – aren’t real. At some point, though, the optimists within us have to start believing the occasional fairy tale really does come true.
Did You Notice? … How sometimes stats on paper are nothing more than just that? At NASCAR’s halfway point, a handful of numbers have been trumpeted to showcase how the racing has “never been more competitive.” Here’s one that stuck out the most to me: an average of 43 green-flag passes for the lead all along the track, the highest through 18 races since the inception of Loop Data in 2005.
If you read that, you’d think the racing is the equivalent of a July 4th fireworks show on crack every week. Far from it. Of course, that number doesn’t take into account how the pass was accomplished. Was it the type of move that made the 1992 Winston an instant classic? Or are they more like the one at the 8:39 mark of this clip, Denny Hamlin blowing by Sam Hornish, Jr. to grab the lead late in the race at Pocono?
Other than the restrictor plate event, what we’ve typically seen is more of the “quick ‘n’ easy” version, the one that happens so fast that if you blink, you just might miss why you watch the darn three-hour thing. And there’s a big difference between a one-turn, keep ten feet apart and get it over with pass versus a sparks-flying, fender-banging, wondering if both cars are going to make it through the corner type. It’s those passionate side-by-side battles that were a weekly highlight of the NASCAR scene in the 1990s, the pre-Loop Data stats we’ll never know about – because we weren’t keeping track of them back then. But even if we had, say, 20 green flag passes on-track in those classic races, most of those events were guaranteed to have at least one or two that left you talking at the office that Monday.
I’m reminded here of a quote I read about in Sports Illustrated’s midseason report (July 5th) that included a five-driver roundtable on the state of the sport. It’s a simple, direct philosophy on how these men are trained to think, courtesy Greg Biffle: “We’ve all figured out that we don’t get paid until the end.”
So if the finish is what you’re focusing on, of course those early passes at the start aren’t going to be ones that put the driver at risk – and when they happen between teammates, it’s the equivalent to making a pass on your local highway. Does your heart beat when you pass that Mazda that pulls over from the left lane, 10 feet apart from you while going about 15 miles an hour slower just so you could get by?
Moving on, we have 31 drivers this season who have scored at least one top-10 finish. Sounds great, right? But let’s break that number down a little bit. When you take the road course at Infineon and the two “lottery” races away – Daytona and Talladega – that number falls to 26. Of that lower number, they come from just eight different chassis and engine combinations, all of which are familiar faces: Penske, Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs, etc. So in one sense, we do have parity… with the same people and the same faces we see up front all the time.
Beyond that, this year has just seven different winners who come from just six teams: Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, Stewart-Haas, Earnhardt Ganassi, Penske, and Childress. If you take out those plate races, once again the number drops to just four: Hendrick, Gibbs, and then three big ones eked out by Kurt Busch (Penske) and Newman (SHR). There are no new first-timers in either the driver or owner category, with the Gibbs/Hendrick combo combining to win 67 percent of the first 18 races with Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin. Again, it’s a case of the same faces in the same places, with Johnson still looked at as a dominant force, albeit a slightly more vulnerable one.
Now, the numbers aren’t all bad – how much would you have bet Kevin Harvick wouldn’t be leading the points, let alone still aligned with Childress at the halfway point? – but they’re not the type that has me hyping this racing as the best we’ve ever had. Have we bottomed out from the low point of 2009? From a competitive standpoint, absolutely; I do believe things are on the right track. You just don’t go from an F to an A in a heartbeat, and that’s the problem NASCAR faces right now: I’d have a hard time arguing for a better grade than a B- so far, at a time where fans are demanding nothing less than an A+ after years of frustration.
Did You Notice? … That two weeks after Jack Roush claimed Todd Parrott had trouble getting Matt Kenseth’s car through tech at Infineon, the reassigned crew chief has now been picked up by the No. 19 of Richard Petty Motorsports? Not only does it show how connected the Roush and RPM organizations are, but how must you feel if you’re Sadler? Yeah, I know the two worked together during their time together with the real Robert Yates Racing (you know, before Doug “bought” it and suddenly Roush runneth over). But let’s not forget this is years later, and the last time we saw Mr. Parrott, he wasn’t exactly being complimented.
“We were a little slow in the garage area,” Jack Roush said of Parrott’s swan song with the No. 17 on that road course. “I don’t fault the guys for that, but the direction and the plan may not have been as well-defined or understood.”
In English, that means he wasn’t getting the job done. But never fear! Keeping him on the roster, the Roush/RPM conglomerate has found the perfect pairing: black sheep with black sheep. Man, if I’m Sadler, I would have to see the writing on the wall by now.
Did You Notice? … Some quick hits before we go:
- Could ESPN roll in an announcement on Jimmie Johnson’s baby name tomorrow night with LeBron? Good way to kill two birds with one stone (and congrats to Jimmie, while we’re at it). On a serious note, make fun of the hype all you want but the bottom line is it’s getting the NBA both free publicity and a popularity boost. When’s the last time we had an hour announcement on a leading cable network for a Silly Season move?
Anyone? Anyone? I guess pink slips don’t really get people circling ‘round the TV these days.
- Among the drivers still searching for more sponsorship next season: Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger, and yes, Jeff Gordon. That’s an A-list group of names, including up to hypothetically seven men who could make the Chase. Sure, they’re negotiating with companies, but it’s an issue to keep an eye as the industry struggles to remain economically viable.
- The new NASCAR Licensing agreement for merchandising, announced Wednesday, joins together 11 total teams that have signed on board. In a perfect world, those 11 owners, running four cars apiece, would be able to fill a 44-car grid under a franchising system. Sure, some of them don’t even have Cup cars yet, but you wonder how this could be testing the waters for more “new ideas” down the road.
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Jr.‘s Nationwide Win – I saw the end of the race and I don’t know if I would call it a conspiracy,but I truly believe that Joey Logano was told to not pass Junior for the win or wreck him. Right before the last re-start, Junior was on the radio telling his crew chief “tell the #20 to push me, but don’t wreck me.” Joey said in his post-race interview that he was really going for the win if Ricky Stenhouse had been able give to him a push past Junior. You can’t convince me that Stenhouse’s crew chief didn’t tell him to back off. None of these guys are going for the Nationwide Championship, so if they ended up 2nd, 3rd, or 4th it didn’t really matter from a points standpoint.
Watch the last lap of the cup race and the same scenario played out. Some tried a run early and when it didn’t play out, they got back in line and followed Harvick to the finish. I don’t think there was a conspiracy to get Harvick a win, although it probably is important that your points leader have a couple of wins to legitimize his high points standing.
I think the writer of this article makes some important points about Junior’s extra motivation and the mind games played on the other drivers because of the Wrangler #3. If I’m Joey Logano, I want to win, but do I want to beat the #3 on the last lap? Hell yeah!
I think the reality is some people think that Junior is a crap driver, and when he wins, it must be a fix. But, looking at the Nationwide Series and the dominance by Busch/Keselowski/Harvick/Logano, why is anyone surprised that a good plate racer named Dale Earnhardt, Jr., wins the race? If Danica wins her next Nationwide start, then I’ll agree the fix is in, but come on. Dale Jr. Plate track. Great finish. The odds of that are pretty good.
Blue and Yellow Wrangler Car! #3! An Earnhardt at the wheel. Wins @ Daytona!
Only someone in complete denial would not believe that this was a scrpted win.
All I heard from the time that car was first unvieled was “How good for NASCAR it would be” if Jr. could take that car to victory lane. What a tribute to a legend.
Yeah, Jr. could have been caught up in a wreck. He wasn’t.
He could have blown a tire. He didn’t!
He could have had a half dozen of his friend battling him for the win but backing off to allow him to “Honor that car and his Dad.” He did!
Who didn’t know that he would win at Daytona in July 2001? the same people who didn’t know he would win on Saturday night.
Anyone who believes otherwise is living in a world of denial
And, one more thing.
I can hear Mike Helton now, going around the
“I’m not saying you have to let him win. but, if that car is leading as the end of the race nears, just remember how Dale Earnhardt would be honored if that car went to victory lane.” “Now, remember, I’m not saying you have to let him win.”
Totally agree with you Budreaux. I won’t deny the fact that Joey “wanted” to win…but would it have been a smart move on his part – probably not. If he had tried to pass Jr. and accidently caused him to wreck, Joey would have been the biggest “LOSER” in the eyes of the media, the Jr. fans, and everyone in the NASCAR family (read “the France family”).
yep, sounds like you guys were all watching the same race as me and oddly enough I can hear Helton saying the same things. “just sayin” and they wonder why the fans just aren’t as “engaged” with the sport any more between the number of races won by the SAME few drivers – for anyone who isn’t a fan of theirs, it has become who cares, rather than must see.
I don’t generally believe in conspiracy theories, but there was certainly a “perfect storm” of coincidences that led to Junior winning: Kyle Busch pits before the green-white-checker, putting himself back in the pack and out of contention unless we have multiple GWC’s; Kevin Harvick spins his tires on the restart (didn’t happen Saturday night, did it?); Joey Logano relies on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to draft with him, and then chickens out when the 6 doesn’t appear to be coming with him. And Logano is not racing for points, and has lamented helping his teammate to win on other occasions.
I don’t think there was a payoff or a “fix,” just a lot of guys who weren’t trying very hard to win. And for guys like Kyle, Brad, and Kevin, that just isn’t part of the normal script! Add to that Junior’s depressed demeanor after the Coke 400 and you have to wonder if he realized the victory Friday night was not so meaninful after all.
Just like the WWE wrestling. It is entertainment, not sport.
Budreaux is spot on!
There’s too much smoke for there not to be a fire.
And Tom, how about Richard Petty’s 200th and final win at Daytona with President Reagan in attendance? Also, in the late 90’s, a lot of us speculated about how one or another driver had gotten the call or the “good restrictor plate.” Once I even suspected my own favorite driver had gotten the plate, because he was much better at Daytona than he had recently been. Circumstances (racing luck)kept him from winning, but I was upset that he did not win the one race that had been set up for him! That is not even being paranoid, since I thought the fix was in for my own guy!
If all you “experts” really, truly think the race was fixed, why are you here talking about it? Why are you still watching races? If its that obvious to you that the sanctioning body controls every driver and owner every race then quit whining and get a new hobby. Don’t you think that if that were true the most respected man in the garage (Mark Matin) would have a championship by now? Give me a break. This is why I seldom read comments anymore.
Nobody has been able to explain to me why the leader, the sitting duck in any other plate race, was not passed in this plate race. 2 or more cars are faster than 1 and should have been able to just pull out drive around the leader. So why didn’t they?
This nonsense about espn and lebron james is ridiculous. It’s like a slave auction in reverse, which makes it hilarious if you think about it.
Anybody with half a brain knew who was going to win the race when the car/driver was announced. The only thing Jr. had to do to be assured a win was to keep from blowing or wrecking. Everything else was set up for him.
Also, Frank, many people are not watching and many will watch NA$CAR like people watch professional wrestling.
I completely disagree about the so-called “fix”. There’s not a driver out there (at least one whose not a teammate) who’s not going to do everything they can to win a race. I can see a driver not taking a chance on wrecking themselves when a championship is on the line, but Logano wasn’t points racing. If anyone thinks he would purposely let Junior win the race because Mike Helton or Brian France told him to, you don’t understand racecar drivers. Besides, I can’t think of anything would dishonor Earnhardt Senior more than someone being allowed to win a race because his old number was on the car.
The only conspiracy involving Jr. is the one that Mr. H directs. The one thing that the win friday shows is that when you give him the best equipment, Jr. can still win. But then the two golden boys at hendrick would look too bad. Just sayin’
NASCAR HATE JACK R MARK, HAD CHAPIONSHIPSS STOLEN FROM HIM BY NASCAR……..
As someone in the non-NASCAR media said (Wilbon on PTI,) if NASCAR could just fix a race for Junior, why the hell would they wait this long? If they can decide who wins, then they would have been doing this far earlier when it became apparent that it was necessary. When Junior does bad, it’s a conspiracy (Hendrick gives him the bad equipment!) When Junior does good, it’s a conspiracy (NASCAR fixed it!) In any case, whenever it comes to fans’ opinions on Junior, it’s always a joke.
I didn’t state any form of opinion. I asked a simple question, on several sites, to which NOBODY has attempted to answer. Still waiting for ANY reply. (Why didn’t any of the 3 cars that could have pulled out and passed junior even try to do so?) (1 car is a sitting duck on ANY plate track, 2 or more cars should be able to pull out and drive around 1. It didn’t happen. Why not?)
As I watched the buildup leading to this race and running the number 3 to honor Dale sr., I began to chuckle. This was done for one reason and one reason only , merchandise sales, diecast cars, hats, shirts lots and lots of money for all of them.If tugging at the heart strings of some fans also resulted, then that’s OK too. But following the money usually holds true, especially in NASCAR.Even Kenny Wallace who usually just babbles and rants, mentioned the HUGE merchandise opportunity that this created.Don’t be offended by this, it’s just realty, these people have huge houses, some multiple,expensive planes, pilots to pay and more toys to buy. The money must keep coming in and what a teriffic way to do it, HONOR DALE sr. hope you were not fooled by this!
If you listen to both Joey and Jr in their post race comments, Joey peaked outside. When he did, Ricky peaked down low. Joey didn’t get off 2 very well so he didn’t have a run. Joey then peaked outside but when he did Ricky wasn’t going to go with him. Joey wasn’t going to go and get shuffled back without any help. Ricky knew he didn’t have a chance at the win so he was hoping Joey would go and he would move up to second.
Windy – this was a plate track, E was protecting the yellow line, only leaving the high line open and everyone knows that. When you’re making your move, you go high – period.
What is clear is that most of the media is more concerned with a story that sells, than with getting it right.
Actually, in the Nationwide, Jr has done more with the #3 than his dad ever did. Race was not fixed, there is no X Files scenario here. Maybe, just maybe, since the whole field was in new cars never previously run before, and very similar to the current Cup cars, Jr had the best of the best on this day. He has, after all, between cup an NW, had the best of the best more than 40 times before. Just sayin.
Plus, everything said over the radios on race teams is open to the public. You don’t think somebody would have noticed if Joey Lagono’s Crew Chief told him to sandbag it? Come on ya buncha knuckleheads, Jr won that race the old fashioned way, he was the fastest car on the last lap. Plain and simple.
Amazing, isn’t it.
The amount of denial from the Jr. Camp.
I am a racing fan and have a bunch of drivers I like – no faves. To say a fix of that perfect magnitude was in is beyond ridiculous. You Jr. haters (another dumb-ass thing – hating a driver that never did anything bad to you, your family, your friends or country) need to get some kind of life – take up yoga and chill a little. Sheesh. And Tom – writing about the possibility of it is below hair salon gossip.
Y’all can say what you like, but I thought that 3 car in victory lane looked mighty sweet! Sometimes all the hub bub just don’t matter.
I agree with Wayne. It was done for merchandise money. I thought the whole deal was sickening.
I am not a Jr. fan and I am not a hater either. I was perfectly fine with the fact that Jr. won – however, I still believe in my heart that Joey, Stenhouse, etc. did not pass Jr. for the win because it would not have been in their best interest.
Joey to Ricky, “If I pull out to pass will you go with me?”
Who seriously believes debris cautions after long green-flag runs are legitimate? Kasey Kahne doesn’t; Joey Logano used the word “fix” in his on-radio comments last night in the Nationwide Race. If NASCAR will use debris cautions to get a more dramatic finish or tighten the field in a run-away, how much of a leap is it to suggest they will go the next step to get the result they want? The problem for NASCAR is that they have lost credibility with their abitrary rules enforcement, so when a win looks like a fix, a lot of fans are going to call it a fix. NASCAR made its own bed on this one.
Amazing isn’t it? The amount of denial in the Hater camp.
People, give it up already. You sound like idiots with this tinfoil hat and WWE stuff. It was a great win. The fans enjoyed it. If you want to believe it was fixed, then I have some ocean front land in Arkansas to sell you because obviously you’ll buy any amount of baloney.
Karie, the amount of denial in Junior Nation, not to mention Danica Nation, is what is truly amazing! Brad and Joey were so miffed at their own mistakes last night that they refused on-camera interviews. Last Friday, they were all smiles. Where was all that competitive fire when they were supposed to be trying to beat Junior? Logano is not even racing for points, he has no excuse for backing off.
And for the record, I don’t HATE any of the drivers – I just think the drivers who get the most publicity aren’t necessarily the ones who deserve it.
Recent articles from Tom Bowles:
Did You Notice? ... The Details Behind Busch Double-Duty And NASCAR Teams/Series Needing A Boost
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