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 November 9, 2010
Three drivers. Two races. One championship. However, they’re far from the only major storylines as the Sprint Cup season heads to a whirlwind close over the next two weeks. Let’s not waste any time after an action-packed Texas; instead, it’s time to figure out who’s in the best position to capitalize on their late-season success — or run from their failures — with Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in NASCAR.
Denny Hamlin – Here we are, 13 days before the end of the Sprint Cup season and Jimmie Johnson’s ironclad grip on the Sprint Cup title has finally been hospitalized in critical condition. That’s courtesy one priority overnight Fed Ex knockout punch, Denny Hamlin packing a Texas tornado in the form of a season sweep that left Johnson 33 points behind and suddenly the underdog in a Chase that was on the verge of being named in his honor. Instead, the challenger that may bring down racing’s version of the Roman Empire holds the confidence, charisma, and plain on-track speed to bring Johnson to his knees where others have failed. Six months from his own knee reconstruction, the way Hamlin has approached the Chase is brilliant, staying on his feet and beating Johnson at his own game by making a living on “playing it safe.” Only at tracks like Martinsville and Texas has the No. 11 Toyota risen to the challenge, maximizing opportunities at places where they were favored to win while simply “surviving” in the form of top-10 finishes elsewhere. What you’re left with is a scintillating Chase average finish of 5.8, two wins and a low mark of 12th where consistency has combined with this cunning mental game to bring J.J. and company to the precipice of losing the throne. The key now is for this healing ACL patient not to get too big for his britches, as already Mike Ford, Hamlin and Co. were starting to play mind games with some off-the-cuff comments about how they’re in a much better position than the No. 48. Every time Hamlin’s talked the talk, he’s walked the walk in this postseason. But the more you wrestle with a sleeping giant … let’s just say he’s been warned.
Mark Martin – It’s too little, too late for the 51-year-old to make the Chase, but perhaps seven straight top-15 finishes can build a solid foundation as he works towards a “final” full-time season in 2011. It’ll be known as the Mark Martin Does Anybody Still Listen To My Retirement Plans XI Tour, one last gasp at a title in Hendrick equipment that’s finally responding to the changes both Martin and Alan Gustafson are throwing at it. A darkhorse to land a surprising Phoenix victory, this team took over 13th in the standings after Texas and is the prohibitive favorite to end the season armed with the title of “best of the rest.” Oh boy, just what NASCAR’s Charlie Brown needs; another runner-up finish award.
Joey Logano – Looks like school’s out for this college-age kid whose sophomore slump ended sometime in early December. Runs of seventh, sixth, fifth, and fourth have set a new high mark in a Sprint Cup career and actually have him saying things like “Heck yeah!” and “Cool, man!” in interviews instead of trying to passive-aggressively insult Kevin Harvick’s wife. A calmer, more confident Logano is just what Joe Gibbs Racing needs in the shop this week with Hamlin privately a nervous wreck and Kyle Busch publicly verbally assaulting anyone within a 50-foot radius. For 2011, he becomes the darkhorse to be the sport’s first new playoff participant since 2008. But right now, he’s just the upbeat, level-headed kid that gets to fly under the radar and watch his teammates swallow up the attention for another two weeks.
Honorable Mention: Trevor Bayne’s future Sprint Cup prospects (can one top-20 finish be enough to topple Kevin Conway for Rookie of the Year?); Throwing Jimmie Johnson’s fifth straight title bid under the bus (after all, it’s not over ‘til it’s over); dumping on the Dallas Cowboys until the blue star turns red with embarrassment; Pretending all is well at RPM when the truth is anything but
Clint Bowyer / Kevin Harvick – One driver was penalized 150 points, left for dead and given the scraps of a Kevin Harvick crew their former driver said didn’t perform. The second wheelman won the regular season points title going away, has been putting pressure on both Hamlin and Johnson during the Chase and is a trendy pick alongside Jamie McMurray for Comeback Driver of the Year.
Yet for both these men, the Chase will be just as memorable in completely different ways. Only Hamlin has as many wins than Mr. Bowyer this postseason, with the latter scoring one at Talladega last week even with his regular crew chief and car chief sitting at home. That “never give up” attitude has been critical for Richard Childress’ youngest Cup driver, showing his peers how it’s done while merely doubling his win total in the midst of pure chaos surrounding him these past eight weeks.
Then there’s Harvick, leading RCR’s first serious title bid since losing the man they call the Intimidator (Dale Earnhardt, Sr.) a decade ago. This man intimidates in his own way, all kinds of creative expletives on the radio making it remarkable the men on pit road actually come out and service the car. But the tough love routine can’t be doubted when the man would have clinched the championship under NASCAR’s old system this weekend — the would have, could have, and should have routine that is useless to debate because it will never be. Now 59 points out with two races left, this No. 29 team is free to go for broke, ready to see what happens but don’t be surprised if they find themselves needing to pass their own obstacle in the closing laps: Bowyer and the No. 33.
Matt Kenseth – Ever so quietly, the man most thought didn’t deserve to make the Chase could now be in position to grab the ultimate steal. Despite just six top-5 finishes, the 2003 Cup champ is fifth in points and poised to rise as high as fourth after a second-place finish at Texas that literally came out of nowhere. Sure, this man would like to end a 68-race losing streak that dates all the way back to the February, 2009 race at California. But considering the ugly year Ford’s had combined with the fact he’s on his third crew chief this year, anywhere in the neighborhood of fourth to sixth in the standings would make him this year’s Chase Cinderella by a longshot.
Honorable Mention: Brad Keselowski, your 2010 Sprint Cup regular turned Nationwide Series champion; Roger Penske, who wins his first NASCAR title in any of the sport’s top three divisions – just not the one he covets the most; David Ragan (two top-10s in the last four races; impressive considering he had three in the previous 66, but UPS isn’t paying over half-million a race for the occasional top-10); IndyCar making deals and getting interest from other manufacturers, including Chevrolet in a possible partnership with Chip Ganassi in 2012 (who’s looking at NASCAR? Your used car guy down the street?)
Juan Pablo Montoya – Has anybody called Juan Pablo’s house lately? I haven’t seen him on the track these last two months and I was wondering if or when he might show up. A man who was once considered a Chase wild card – an impressive title seeing Montoya isn’t actually involved in the playoff – is now resigned to little more than racing out the string, just one top-5 finish in the same postseason where he was a pesky obstacle in Johnson’s fourth straight title bid last year. It seems the oomph and the swagger is out of this team on raceday, an August victory at Watkins Glen now a distant memory as momentum comes in the form of simply trying to finish inside the top half of the field. Can this Colombian learn from Jamie McMurray in 2011? Did we really just print that sentence? That’s how far his stock has fallen as of late.
Chad Knaus – Speaking of falling, the man who’s the mastermind of four straight title runs is going out of his way to ensure he can do everything possible to ***k (rhymes with cluck) this one up. Not only was pulling his own over-the-wall crew a terrible move, it distracted the man from the one thing he’s supposed to be doing on the radio with Johnson: making the right adjustments. Think back to Martinsville, where a team who once counted that track as an automatic victory simply struggled to run in the top 5 while the guy on top of the pit box shrugged his shoulders and basically said to Jimmie, “I don’t know how to fix it.” It’s the same man who’s struggled to account for both race trends and other cars like usual, leaving the No. 48 the equivalent of a dead anchor in traffic when succeeding in this series has become all about mastering short runs. And now, he pulls the equivalent of dropping Peyton Manning’s offensive line two weeks before the Super Bowl as a way to “invigorate” this ailing program? How in the world will Johnson and the guys in the shop respond to that? Don’t you win and lose as a team, not when it’s convenient for you?
I really respect Knaus for all that he’s done with this program. He’s undoubtedly one of the great crew chiefs in NASCAR history. But this latest rash of decision-making has me scratching my head and wondering if the magic, at least for now, has gone on hiatus.
Honorable Mention: Changing the Chase format under any circumstances other than its complete and total elimination; Sam Hornish, Jr. and Scott Speed remaining in NASCAR; the performance of pit crews contending for a championship; my fantasy football teams, one of which has lost three straight after a 5-1 start; Brett Favre making the worst decision other than LeBron’s Decision, ever, by coming back to the NFL
Kurt Busch – Over at Penske Racing, the offseason will be filled with plenty of engineering and team improvement meetings all asking the same question: “What happened in the Chase?” A trendy darkhorse pick to contend for the title has done anything but, Busch armed with just one top-10 result this postseason – a fourth at Dover – to go along with five laps led and an ugly streak of five straight finishes of 16th or worse. Maybe he’s trying to get the Miller Lite folks prepared for their switch to Brad Keselowski? Could a similar Kevin Harvick-like series of tirades have finally worn down the enthusiasm of his pit crew? Or did this team suffer from a lack of Dodge “teammates” when the rest of the cars in the Chase had a mountain of manufacturer sharing at their disposal? Who knows. All I can tell you is not even making the banquet in his hometown of Vegas – which is right where Kurt sits at 11th in the season standings – would be the equivalent to a personal embarrassment.
Jeff Burton – It isn’t just the 1-2 punch from Jeff Gordon that has this well-respected veteran feeling blue. Two straight DNFs for wrecks have highlighted a two-year period where this driver has been involved in more than his fair share of crashes, many not of his making as the innocent victim card makes him guilty of an extended period of winless frustration. Still without a victory since the Fall 2008 race at Charlotte, this man’s been reduced to nothing but a dignified assistant for the next two weeks as it’s a pair of successful teammates poised to go for all the guts and the glory of both wins and, if Harvick’s lucky, a Sprint Cup title. With maybe one, two more full-time seasons under his belt you wonder if Burton’s getting resigned to the fact such success may never happen to him – a crazy statement considering a decade ago people were labeling the man the next successor to Jeff Gordon. See, there’s something these two share other than a couple of awkward shoves and the same first name!
Honorable Mention: NASCAR officials’ feelings towards Kyle Busch (and trust me … they’re reciprocated); Joe Morgan’s future in MLB broadcasting; Front Row Motorsports (two blown engines within the first 25 laps Sunday, the fourth team DNF in just the last three races after only incurring four since the beginning of May); Manhattan, MT (not to be confused with the Big Apple; 29 degrees and a Winter Storm Warning in effect. Arctic chill, coming soon to an East Coast city near you)
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I’d have waited another week to put Montoya in the “cool” column… he was on the pole just the previous weekend.
(Cue the “anyone can qualify at Talladega, it’s all engine and zero driver!” crowd.)
I agree with you completely, Ramblin. A couple of breaks in the right places and Montoya would be a three time winner this year on circle tracks.
Tom, I just read on Race Journal Online from someone who listens to the radio that, “JEERS to Lance…how does a team run out of tires with almost 25% of the race left? Let’s hope it was race dictated and not the pre-race plan. Glad Jr didnt have a flat and actually need a tire to avoid his first DNF this year. I’m pretty sure the 24 tires followed Jeff’s pit crew over to the 48 camp.” What…? I have NEVER heard of a team running out of tires in a Cup race. Why hasn’t anyone else reported it? Writers are always looking for stories about Jr.
Montoya broke his splitter during the race. And they have mostly been testing. They never put him on two tires and a couple weeks ago, they kept putting him on two almost every stop.
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