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 · Tuesday October 12, 2010
It may not be rainy season over in Cali, but Hurricane Jimmie blew through the Ontario flatlands Sunday night. The Santa Ana winds kicked up, leaving debris in the perfect places to harm potential challengers while putting a halo of protection over the No. 48 team we haven’t seen since oh, about last Chase. Causing severe damage to the No. 16, No. 99, No. 18, and No. 17 cars, there’s no need to call out the insurance adjusters: these championship houses are damaged beyond repair.
It just goes to show that even the best Fontana races come with the downside of the same old story in the end. But contrary to popular coverage perception, Johnson isn’t the only driver in the field of 43 throwing heavyweight punches and peaking at the right time. A quick look around who’s Hot and Not in NASCAR country reveals plenty more men hoping that one day they will ascend to Jimmie’s throne. So let’s take a look at them:
Jimmie Johnson: After a first, second and third the last three weeks, NASCAR Nation is moaning “Here we go again” as no “Have at it, boys,” poor pit stops, or championship “challenges” from Denny Hamlin or Kevin Harvick have stopped the freight train marked No. 48. The big question everyone’s asking now is whether this Drive For Five is already signed, sealed, delivered, and sitting in the Homestead trophy room with Johnson’s name on it.
Well, let’s consider this much: if Johnson repeats his win at Charlotte and second-place finish at Martinsville from last Fall, while Hamlin runs 10th (his average at the two Chase intermediates) and wins in those two races, the deficit between them grows to about 73 points entering Talladega. Is that something he can overcome? Only if Hamlin simply consults those local tribal leaders to finally break the curse… of everyone else but the guy in the Lowe’s car whose sponsor helped fund our casino. And you thought recovering from knee surgery was hard…
Tony Stewart: Where there’s Smoke, there’s fire, not an extra gallon of gas. That’s the new term we learned during a sorry New Hampshire Sunday in which the No. 14 car crawled like a snail to the checkered flag, a 94-point swing that will likely prove the difference following a win and fourth-place finish to leave them a top-5 contender in the Chase. Sure, Fontana’s furious ending crossed another “0-fer” track off this legend’s list; Las Vegas and Darlington remain the only places the two-time champ hasn’t stepped foot in Victory Lane. But for anyone hoping a miracle championship comeback in the offing, I present to you the following finishes from Stewart’s five last Charlotte races: 18th, 11th, 19th, 13th, 15th. You fill-in another double digit number, and you can kiss those title hopes goodbye in perfect time for another No. 48 romp at the Chase’s halfway mark.
Ryan Newman: Stewart-Haas’ second car has spent weeks praying for a second chance that never comes. It’s like Groundhog Day every Sunday for the No. 39, putting together a top-11 finish (they have seven straight) while being told each time Clint Bowyer’s penalty came at New Hampshire, not Richmond, and it’s all a waste of time because he’s not in the Chase. What a shame, considering in the “Newman” 2010 postseason he’d be sitting firmly within the top-5 in points, a difference of millions – far more than a $100,000 fine for Bowyer – when you look at that final points payout. But it would be foolish for this year’s likely 13th-place point man to get complacent when there’s still plenty of room to improve. Interestingly enough, despite the streak this 2010 race winner has just one more lap led (31) this season than races run, an ugly stat they’d like to change with a non-Chaser steal in some Victory Lane down the stretch.
Honorable Mention: Jeff Gordon (riding the coattails of the No. 48 with four straight top-11 finishes – what else is new?); More talk about Brett Favre’s anatomy than most ever wanted to hear about any athlete – ever; Random witnesses coming forward and corroborating a story about Brian France trying to take Jeremy Mayfield “down” while drunk (see blackflagbzf.com for more); severe thunderstorms and 75 degree weather in the middle of the Northeast – in Fall (first freeze? What’s that?)
Mark Martin: For months, some have wondered whether the now 51-year-old Martin is over the hill and joining Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the world of perennial Hendrick underachievers. Psych! Guess this AARP member had us all fooled; for the second week, a decent setup got underneath his No. 5 car, he led 41 laps and threatened to run away with the race until Monsieur Debris reminded him gently NASCAR said it was his turn not to win. Even still, those experimental setups and equipment that have led to not one, but two back-to-front starts the last two weeks still resulted in top-15 comebacks filled with hope, now paired with a sixth in Sunday’s Fontana finale that has them healing wounds. Fans are praying that his Salute to I’m on Social Security Soon Tour in 2011 will actually be filled with substance, not style, and at this point I think we’re right on track to see that starting at Daytona this February.
Justin Allgaier: We see it in racing all the time. After a blazing start, you’re lulled into a sense of complacency, comforted by job security and a season that’s good, just not great enough to contend for either a title or Victory Lane. Slowly but surely, you drop into an Office Space mentality, filing those TPS Reports and going through the motions knowing you have both money and time on your side to take it slow. Then, all of a sudden, you get the call. Maybe the sponsor’s not coming back, maybe a famous driver needs your spot, or maybe it’s a little bit of both, but the words sting like a pack of killer bees or Lindsay Lohan telling you yes, she did do drugs in your bathroom uninvited. Suddenly, you’re springing into action, calling your friends, your mom, your co-workers, cops, anyone you can get your hands on for a new opportunity to save a career that only recently had been given lifetime immunity.
In the process, pure adrenaline drives you inside the race car, turning terrible finishes into talented potential in a heartbeat. After all, you don’t get a new ride by running 30th, right? That, in a nutshell, is a glimpse into the life of Mr. Allgaier, the likable kid with the Sprint-destroyed sponsor whose streak of six straight top-15 finishes poses as all-too-perfect timing after a Penske breakup-to-be. Can he land elsewhere in Nationwide? You’d have to think the answer’s yes, right? If the highest finishing regular in the standings can’t land somewhere for 2011, well you’d have to think the Series as a whole is doomed.
Honorable Mention: Clint Bowyer with his new crew and car chief (one second-place finish + one untimely “debris” caution = you don’t need your car sent back to R & D to be targeted); the baseball playoffs (making NASCAR ratings look like mush in comparison); Trevor Bayne being the next rookie to make it up to Cup (think he’ll do better than Kevin Conway?); Kyle Busch setting Nationwide Series records (12 wins, no Sprint Cup trophy… again)
Roush Fenway Racing: Well, that was an ugly way to end a championship Chase. A track that was once the twin sister of Ford’s best track, Michigan, turned all Real Housewives of Fontana at the wrong time. Man, what Roush would have given for one of those seven victories here instead of three ugly part failures for Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth. It’s like picking the wrong door on Let’s Make a Deal where all you end up with is an ugly sheep. I’d say there was a consolation prize, but when you’re slapped in the face and told, “Not ‘till next season!” even David Ragan taking out former Roush friend-turned-enemy Kurt Busch won’t let anyone crack a smile. Turns out the six months of being behind on development eventually will come back to bite the Blue Oval crowd after all … a bad relationship can’t ever be fixed in two months, can it?
Jeff Burton: Perhaps a bigger surprise than Bowyer losing his appeal is the sluggish performance of RCR’s third title “contender.” Looks like Burton and Co. are borrowing a page out of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s book, peaking at the wrong time before falling through the field following the last round of stops as if instead of adjusting the track bar a crewman reached behind the racks and pulled out a spark plug. 18th, then 23rd after a runner-up finish at Dover launched the No. 31 briefly into the spotlight? Either Childress made a choice between Burton and Harvick, or there’s just not enough good mojo to go around in that smarting three-car organization right now.
Honorable Mention: Kenny Francis coming over to Team Red Bull – now, will both sides officially mail it in at RPM?; Fontana ever getting a second date again (unlikely … but did you see that crowd?); Danica Patrick (a whole bunch of cheers followed by one big “awwwww” at the end); a sinkhole in Charlotte (if only that thing could swallow up the Chase, it would serve its purpose)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: A 16th-place finish in most circles would be considered acceptable. But when your teammates run 1st, 3rd, 9th and arguably have the three fastest cars in the race that result becomes just a tad bit more glaring. Junior’s now armed with just one top-5 finish in the last dozen races, is in jeopardy of falling outside the top-20 in Sprint Cup points and is getting so frustrated inside the car, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick would be getting on the radio yelling to the man, “Calm down!” I see only one answer to this mess, as does everyone else if Earnhardt is to stay in the seat… “Calling Tony Eury, Sr. please. Tony Eury, Sr., to the Hendrick shop floor — where millions in a suitcase is waiting for you.”
Kevin Conway: The Extenze Racing product may have a problem extending his career if there’s no No. 7 car to jump in this February. After a month of starting-and-parking, this rookie started running the distance but still hasn’t posted a top-30 finish for one of racing’s last independents standing squarely on his last legs. That’s allowed the No. 38 of Front Row Motorsports to come within 25 points of knocking this car outside the top 35, posing a problem for a freshman that often ends each session the slowest driver in the starting field. Will the sponsor wind up backing Gordon when they see the writing on the wall? Or will they step out of the sport altogether, leaving marketer and the driver/owner he rode out on sitting there watching their Sprint Cup dreams slip away.
Honorable Mention: PRISM Motorsports (Mike Bliss DNQ’d, Jason Leffler ran last, now their engine is an R & D Center relic for Charlotte); Landon Cassill (will he ever run a full race again?); Latitude 43 Motorsports (currently making the DNQ a way of life – 3-for-4 with Patrick Carpentier and Jeff Green); NASCAR Appeals process (perhaps the biggest knockout punch received during the whole Childress-Hamlin-Harvick-Bowyer-half the garage brouhaha)
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Pick on Earnhardt if you want, but Jeff Gordon finished ahead of him because of fresher tires. Dale did pass a lot of people @ Fontana. I think he led the stats for quality passes. His problem on Sunday appeared to be restarts. There was one restart where he started sixth and dropped into the twenties in three or four laps. I had the sound off so I didn’t know if he was gambling on tire strategy or if he just sucked that bad.
I noted at one point it was Hendrick 1,2,3 and 27 and I did tell my wife that a new crew chief was needed. But, I don’t think Earnhardt will be a factor until the testing ban is lifted or NASCAR changes the car. I think Earnhardt’s driving range is too narrow for the finicky car of tomorrow.
StephenHOOD: What good would lifting the testing ban do for Earnhardt? Don’t you remember 2005? Back in the heady days of DEI, and lil Jr. demanding that Theresa hire a testing driver so that he didn’t have waste his days off testing a race car.
Danny: I am sure that dump trucks of cash, and not mere suitcases, have been offered to Tony Sr.. My take is that Tony knows it is Jr.‘s prima donna attitude and lack of focus that is getting in the way.
So, who else here cannot wait for 2012? Lets just say, Earnhardt and Hendrick just WAS NOT the way to go. Like this article said, when your teammates are running 1, 2, and 3 almost the whole race, and you are stuck back in 20th or so with a crappy race car, something just isn’t right. No one listened to me when I said he either should have gone to RCR or stayed at DEI…I knew something like this would happen, but, no one listened.
I looked at Brett Favre’s anatomy on Deadspin. I was not impressed!
Tom, On SB Nation Sunday, Jeff Gluck reported that Jr. said after the race, “at Fontana, where the No. 88 team ran a “wicked, weird” setup Earnhardt Jr. called “alien.” The information will be shared with the other Hendrick teams in hopes of helping Chase drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.” I translate that to mean he was still r&d-ing, yet & again. Maybe if you tried doing a little more research before writing…? After reading the caption under the picture I will never believe you again when you say that you like Jr. Facts are facts. I believe that, Brian France, could pull off a huge public relations coup for himself, & make more money for himself…by dipping into some of his petty cash fund & buying out or doing whatever it takes to get Jr. out of HMS, & to an owner who wants him winning. It would fill seats at Brian’s tracks to have Jr. running up front and winning again, which I do not believe that Rick is ever going to allow. If Rick wanted Jr. winning, he would be. I don’t believe that it is going to happen as long as Jr. is yoked to Rick. Chevrolet (aka Chevy) owes Jr. for all he has done for them, & getting him away from Rick & putting him with an owner who wants him winning would be a nice way to show their gratitude, or maybe Toyota can do it for him…?
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