NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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.
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Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Thomas Bowles · Tuesday September 14, 2010
In the words of Jim Mora: “Playoffs! You want to talk about playoffs? You kidding me?”
That’s the reaction of the majority of the NASCAR fan base nowadays, but like it or not, the seventh edition of the postseason format is finally upon us. Has it really been that long since Matt Kenseth lulled us to sleep in 2003, a one-win season causing sheer panic in the offices of Daytona Beach that led us to the current contraption we have now? Once a shiny new Mercedes, the Chase seems sold to us by that shady used car place where they didn’t tell you it had been through an accident, has a faulty transmission, and “new” tires with 50,000 miles already on them.
Now, we’re simply limping to the finish, hoping for that moment where the car just craps out and we can go buy ourselves a new one and start from scratch. Will it be this year? Will it be next year? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, we all have to do our jobs; and in this case, that’s to head off the hype and give you the real hot streaks, at least on paper, among the 12 drivers competing for a spot in the Chase. And since all 43 still compete each weekend – not that anyone else will pay any attention – I’ll throw some wild card drivers in for good measure.
_Deal? Deal. Just don’t turn me off before the end of the column like your NASCAR
Jimmie Johnson: You mean to tell me the four-time champ woke up in time to post back-to-back top-5 finishes just before the Chase? I’m shocked. What’s that you said? He’s led 204 laps the last four races? Nooooo. Get out of town. And he’s the defending champ at the first race on the Chase schedule, Loudon, where he snuck up on the competition and knocked aside a hard-charging Kurt Busch in June? Seriously, you must be on LSD. Are you sure Dale Earnhardt, Jr. didn’t slip you some sort of AMP hallucinogen he’s using to get through the rest of his season?
Here’s the bottom line for the Chase: this system allows the favorites to take the summer off, pursue a “Win or Spin” strategy, and then rise to the top when it really counts. As I pointed out last week, last season Johnson had the worst average finish of any of the twelve Chase drivers the last four races before the postseason, then came out like a lion and had the title on lockdown with five races left. With that type of track record, it’s hard to knock him out of the role of title favorite until the fat lady actually gets up and sings. I hear she’s still at Burger King with Tony Stewart, so …
Kyle Busch: If momentum counts for something, anything, then I guess you have to side with the only Chaser armed with three straight top-5 finishes – including an impressive Bristol sweep. But it’s one thing to be a short track ace, another one altogether to be running circles around the competition at the 1.5-milers that comprise five of the ten tracks in the postseason. That appears to be Mr. Busch’s weak point right now, 17th at Chicagoland and 18th at Michigan before this current hot streak started with a fifth at Atlanta. Chances are he’ll have to improve those numbers in the face of Johnson, his teammate, Kevin Harvick, and one or two other Cinderella title contenders to be named later. Kyle also credited the No. 11 team with giving him the right air pressure adjustment needed to close the gap on Saturday night. Think those teams will be swapping secrets like teenage girls when they’re going for the title in earnest? If the answer’s yes while the race is being run … this sport is losing all sense of real competition. Oh, and note to Kyle: Todd Bodine is running the Cup race at New Hampshire this weekend. You might want to smooth things over before you come up on him as a lapped car this Sunday…
Marcos Ambrose: Whoa there, Aussie! The Ford faithful had to be trembling in their boots the second he said, in perfect English, “I’m second guessing my decision” to leave JTG-Daugherty Racing for greener pastures on television. Typically, those choices to run towards the ex leave us with a hangover and a heavy heart the next day, but this time there’s reason to give this pending divorce another look: back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time all year showcase the type of potential this team was supposed to achieve back in February. Will it inevitably be enough to keep this guy on the Toyota side of the fence? Probably not; but the Blue Oval crowd better make sure there’s enough money and plenty of permanent signatures on their contract just in case.
Honorable Mention: The NFL (record ratings for their Thursday night debut: 16.5 rating / 28 share. That makes this year’s Daytona 500 look like the local dog show by comparison); Richard Childress Racing (three cars in the Chase for the first time since … 2008. Did we forget they used to do that every year?); Rafael Nadal (career tennis grand slam champion; you know, similar to that Winston Million thing NASCAR used to do); the Truck Series (huge summer ratings increases; who knew The Onion and the Shrub could be such a popular theater attraction?)
Clint Bowyer: In what amounts to a mild surprise, the only member of the RCR trio riding three consecutive top-10 finishes into the Chase is the one who only made it by the skin of his Clinty-chin-chin. The Cheerios No. 33 is clearly No. 3 on the totem pole, but in a year where everyone in Bowyer’s organization could win Comeback of the Year, their equipment clearly deserved a postseason bid. And Mr. Chase Cinderella has been here before, going from 12th in 2007 to winning New Hampshire and becoming an unlikely championship challenger to both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. I’m not saying Bowyer will do it again … but I’m not saying he can’t, either. Sorry, just preparing for my post-NASCAR career as a politician…
Juan Pablo Montoya: Just like teammate McMurray, consistency within Earnhardt Ganassi Racing came too little, too late for this year’s version of the playoffs. Personally, neither team will really complain, armed with three victories between them – more than each of the Chase-bound Penske Racing, Stewart-Haas, and Roush Fenway Racing programs. But while his teammate at the No. 1 car seems to be more hit or miss, Montoya has developed into a true wild card contender to stir up trouble heading into the Fall. Five straight top-10 finishes are easily a season best, and let’s not forget this team won the pole at Loudon in June before a late-race wreck left them mired back in 34th. Don’t be surprised if the Target car becomes the bulls-eye everyone’s chasing come the closing laps of Sunday afternoon…
Honorable Mention: Roush Fenway Racing (three cars in the Chase, but can any of those three run up front long enough to win a race?); Joe Gibbs Racing (1-2-4 finish on Saturday night, two cars in the Chase, but will reliability issues keep them from finishing a crucial race?); the Nationwide Car of Tomorrow (three races in show a marked improvement in the quality of competition; now, about cutting down those ugly expenses…); Saying this Chase is the closest, bestest thing that ever happened before it even starts
Mark Martin: One of the most complex puzzles that’ll be debated long after the Chase and this rough and tumble season get put to bed is how Mark Martin lost his mojo. At 51, did age finally catch up to a grizzled vet who’s made a career out of being more physically fit than drivers a generation below? Or was it taking away a prized engineer, handing him to the sport’s Most Popular Driver with a Sympathy note from Mr. Hendrick that said, “Sorry, buddy; your time to win the title was last year?” I’d go with option three: Kasey Kahne, uncertain plans for 2011, and a major circuslike distraction that caused chaos internally at the No. 5 shop. By the time a resolution came, they were already in desperation mode to the point Martin made some uncharacteristic on-track mistakes. You’d hope 2011 will be better, and I think we’ll see a turnaround in the final ten races; but clearly, Barnum and Bailey press conferences for four months was not what this guy signed up for when he inked an additional two full-time years on his contract.
David Ragan: Now here’s a name that hasn’t come up much recently. Funny, considering his three teammates have been charging up the standings these past five races while Ragan’s sponsor, UPS, remains one of the highest-paying this sport has to offer. But runs of 11th, 32nd, 19th, and 23rd these last four weeks aren’t what the doctor ordered for a program that’s struggling under the radar with a driver that once showed unlimited potential. In 2008, we saw the Chase near-miss as a launching pad to bigger and brighter things for this young man; now, it may have been the high ceiling on what will be a career that ends next season as Jamie McMurray At Roush: The Sequel. Only Jamie Mac is too busy elsewhere to land the starring role…
Honorable Mention: Thanking fans in every single interview before the second sentence (apparently, the “in” thing to do in the face of declining ratings and attendance); all the 9/11 ceremonies over the weekend (cool to know that nine years later, we never forget); Brad Keselowski (15th in Cup but still upset over the finish, claiming there’s not enough speed; and he’s right); Cape Race, Newfoundland (56 degrees tomorrow … winter’s coming, folks; we can’t stop it)
Joe Nemechek: OK, I understand start-and-parkers aren’t going away anytime soon. But even PRISM runs the occasional race every once in awhile to try and keep things honest. What bothers me about NEMCO this year is they’ve failed to finish every race they’ve entered, a whopping 24 of 26 in which only two of those efforts lasted past the halfway point. Even worse, sponsors like Washington Music, Hostgator.com, and others have signed on simply for the exposure of qualifying. I guess I understand their logic, since it’s not like these backmarkers get TV time during the race itself – but sponsoring a car to qualify and park? Come on! That’s like getting a sponsor to walk to and from your office cubicle. Sure, it’s cool for you; but does anyone else really care?
The Labonte Brothers: It doesn’t matter who you focus on, Richmond stood for “rock bottom” with one of the sport’s best brotherly tandems of all-time. Bobby had his car catch fire shortly after the final round of pit stops, his eighth straight finish outside the top 25 amidst driving a merry-go-round schedule for putt-putt programs Phoenix Racing and TRG Motorsports. Speed proves elusive when the engine and the chassis are simply second-rate; and now, the 2000 Sprint Cup champ stands ten races away from going without a top-10 finish for the first time since joining the series as a baby-faced rookie back in 1993.
Those were the glory days of brother Texas Terry, now 14 years removed from a second title in ’96 and another four from a tearful retirement from Hendrick Motorsports. That was supposed to be his swan song, but the 53-year-old stubbornly refuses to let go of his driving dreams. He’s gone without a top-10 finish since then – a total of 20 starts the last four years – leading to more frustration than fun. But maybe money’s at the root of it all, the nearly $2 million he made in that span more than double the prize money he earned in his first year driving for Mr. Hendrick in 1994.
Early this year, it looked as if the driving gloves had finally been laid down for good. But Labonte and businessman Bill Stavola stayed busy trying to build their own program, earning the trust of sponsor Gander Mountain and a three-race deal to test the waters for a possible 2011 expansion. The Terry of old would have turned that around into a performance worth writing home about; this Texas Terry? My friends, he’s just old. A DNQ with the newly-painted No. 10 led to the duo buying a ride from PRISM just to make the field, a hasty partnership turned sour through a cut tire that sent him pummeling into the wall just before halfway. The only car to DNF due to an accident, you wonder if that licking made the driver wonder if it’s worth it to keep ticking much beyond the end of this season.
Honorable Mention: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (For more, check out Doug Turnbull’s Fight Club column from yesterday; it says it all); Kevin Conway (three races, three start-and-parks with Robby Gordon’s No. 7; ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 Rookie of the Year!); Sam Hornish, Jr. (four straight races outside the top 20); the New York Jets (some Hard Knocks Super Bowl contender they are)
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©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
No way is Kyle worrying about the bald-headed cue ball. Todd Bodine is not a good enough driver to get payback by intentionally hitting Kyle. Bodine would have to be aiming at someone else!
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