Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday June 1, 2011
Did You Notice? … The inconsistency of NASCAR’s Sunday caution calls at Charlotte? Let’s review what caused a yellow flag and what didn’t:
- Jamie McMurray blowing an engine on Lap 182. (oil on the track) – Jimmie Johnson blowing an engine with five laps to go. (oil on the track)
- Debris cautions three times: Lap 76, Lap 172, Lap 283. – Green-white-checkered wreck where cars were slowing and/or spun around in Turn 1. Jeff Burton’s No. 31 car clearly put debris on the racetrack, limping around simply to complete one of two laps and end the race. No caution thrown.
The concern over those calls was echoed, somewhat by Tony Stewart at Tuesday’s NASCAR teleconference that seemed to jive with the fan reaction from Sunday’s race. Here’s an excerpt of what he said when asked about the sport’s Charlotte caution calls:
“I think NASCAR just has to be consistent. I don’t think anybody really has a problem with however they do it, as long as they do it the same every time all the time. You want to know that no matter what the scenario is, they’re going to make the same decision every time consistently and not change it because it’s the end of the race or beginning of the race. You want consistency all the way through.”
“That way it’s the same for everybody, it’s the same all the time, and you know what to expect.”
Those quotes seemed to hit the nail on the head. People didn’t seem to be upset based so much on favoritism – say, that conspiracy theory of NASCAR holding the yellow on a green-white-checkered restart so Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a better chance to win. Safety, while it should be a bigger concern really doesn’t resonate here, either; a lot of fans, drivers and media agreed with the “no caution” call, letting the drivers race to the flag on that green-white-checkered mess. After all, by the time they got to Turn 1 on the white flag lap, the track was clear. No, the real issue is confusion over what, necessarily constitutes a caution flag. It’s been the issue for years, from the time Mark Martin slowed anticipating a yellow at the end of the 2007 Daytona 500 to “debris” cautions Denny Hamlin openly accused NASCAR of throwing to bunch up the field last June.
What’s NASCAR to do? Kevin Harvick said something interesting in his post-race press conference Sunday that hasn’t gotten as much play as it should:
“The one thing I have learned over the last two or three weeks, and it really kind of puts it all into reality, is there has to be a judge. There has to be somebody making those decisions, and there has to be somebody who’s going to say, ‘Yep, there’s debris on the track. I see it and there it is.’ And if this car is illegal or that car is illegal, here’s the penalty… but it still doesn’t keep me from getting frustrated. If I don’t see the debris, I’m going to be mad on the radio because we just went a lap down.”
OK, I agree with Harvick, and technically there is a judge: but those judges also double as full-time NASCAR employees. The job responsibilities of Robin Pemberton, Mike Helton, and other top officials go far beyond figuring out what’s a yellow flag and what’s not: they’re also representing the sport in about 1,000 other capacities.
So what’s stopped the sport, in this modern age of transparency to finally buckle down and hire an outside observer to make their calls? NFL referees and MLB umps don’t have to worry about the President of their sport either overruling or interfering with calls as they’re made. Just like a head ump can be questioned after the race, why can’t there be a third party who sits in a box, makes the call the way he sees fit and then backs up or backs down based on an official copy of the rules (which still aren’t available for public review). So if someone questions a debris call, let’s say, at least you have someone exclusively responsible for making those decisions and then facing the fire of public scrutiny.
Clearly, the debris cautions are the most subjective because hey, pretty much anyone can spot a piece of metal or rubber on the racetrack by Lap 50: 43 cars streaming by at hundreds of miles an hour + 100,000 fans in the stands are going to make things dirty. The rulebook clearly needs to be clarified there, as well as what, exactly constitutes something unsafe enough that the cars need to bunch up and slow down. Otherwise, competitors don’t know what to expect, fans get confused over bad calls and the whole process loses some amount of credibility.
This issue has been revisited many, many times before so I’m not certain NASCAR will act on this latest pressure. But it’s clear the inconsistency of this race has bothered people more than any other so far in 2011.
Did You Notice? … The way in which points seemed to influence decisionmaking down the stretch at Charlotte? With the race’s final caution, leader Greg Biffle from Roush Fenway Racing was forced to pit rather than let it all hang out and go for the victory. Why better safe than sorry? Simple: at 11th in points after this race, the No. 16 Ford team couldn’t afford another crippling mistake that would have set them back further in the standings. The “wild card” is nice, but a secure position in points? If it’s within your reach, at this point it isn’t worth the risk.
Now compare that with the strategies of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kasey Kahne, two guys on different agendas up front. For Earnhardt, at fourth in points there wasn’t as much of a gamble to stay out because with a cushion inside the top 10, the way team and car are running, the boost from ending a 104-race winless streak outweighed jeopardizing Chase chances that are already somewhat secure. And for Kahne, it’s completely the opposite: 42 points outside a top-10 spot coming in, the only way he’s going to make the postseason is likely through a “wild card” bid, making the risk of going for a victory well worth it.
Three people on three completely different strategies: far different than when this race was simply a “crown jewel” where drivers were gunning for the victory at all costs, right? At this point in NASCAR’s modern era, people are simply looking at the “bigger picture” instead which is dramatically changing the way these races pay out. At some points this season, that will create exceptional racing (August and September) but in others, when you want to see every driver let it all hang out for one of the sport’s biggest races points concerns, not the trophy may win out.
Did You Notice? … Some quick hits before we take off:
- Jeff Burton has now gone 12 races without a top-10 finish. That’s the longest streak in his career since 1995; I’ve heard of bad luck, but for Burton this season is getting borderline insane. Once again, the No. 31 Chevy was on track for a solid finish before being the guy who got wrecked the worst in that chain reaction restart on the green-white-checkered.
- So if Penske and Rick Hendrick are really considering an IndyCar partnership, what does that do for Dodge’s future in the sport? Surely, Penske can’t switch manufacturers in one sport and align itself with another on the stock car side. And, at 74 is Roger Penske inching closer to either hanging it up or making a major transition within his company?
- He’s a wonderful colleague of mine, one of the better up-and-coming writers in the business but after this weekend, I now “disagree”:http://www.frontstretch.com/bkeith/34127/ with Bryan Keith’s theory on Kimi Raikkonen’s future in NASCAR. The more information I collect about the situation, the more I’d be surprised to see Kimi again beyond Infineon and Watkins Glen this year in the Cup Series – much less accepting a full-time ride with Red Bull Racing.
Why? Simple: Raikkonen won’t run around in the back, and while his Truck Series race went OK (15th) he was a disappointing 27th, four laps off the pace at Charlotte in the Nationwide Series. Those aren’t close to the numbers Scott Speed or even A.J. Allmendinger put up when developing in NASCAR’s lower divisions, meaning further development (and dollars) are necessary from Raikkonen. And I just don’t know, after watching the Finn these last two weeks that he’s willing to put in the time – and most importantly, the cash – to improve. Red Bull isn’t like a bank handing out free money; in fact, they’re using Fuel Doctor sponsorship to support current development driver (and Truck Series point leader) Cole Whitt.
- Unreported in the midst of an outstanding finish was Charlotte’s attendance, up 5,000 from year-to-year. And while the All-Star Race struggled to meet Track President Marcus Smith’s insane marketing promises (the way things got portrayed, you wondered if Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick were going to have a fight to the death) his savvy helped buck the trend and get more fans in the seats. And heck, they even got treated to a fantastic, unpredictable finish that lies at the heart of what racing’s all about! Let’s hope this race is the start of a trend, not an aberration for a sport looking to build on positive news.
- The one big difference between the Indy 500 ending and Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600: a rookie losing his one big chance versus the sport’s Most Popular Driver getting a new lease on life. We’ll see which one leads to a bigger boost for their respective series.
And while this isn’t an IndyCar column, one couldn’t help but notice the irony Dan Wheldon whizzed by the team who released him on the way to capturing the sport’s biggest trophy. Sometimes, revenge is a dish best served by cold, hard on-track results.
- One other little-reported quote going around: David Ragan’s quote on the bizarre ending to Charlotte’s race: “We could have done all that in 40 laps and been at the house a couple of hours ago.”
It’s a quote worth revisiting, as drivers continue to recognize that falling a lap, even two laps down early in the race means nothing when they can get it back and race for a top-5 finish without much effort in the closing laps. Heck, Joey Logano was third in the final running order after getting two free passes! Back in the old days, there was drama and unpredictability involved when drivers were faced with early in-race crises: some would spend a whole afternoon getting their laps back. When you hand it to them on a silver platter instead, too much intrigue is lost for a fan dedicating four hours of his life to watching this stuff.
Connect with Tom!
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
A perfect illustration of “what’s wrong with this points system” was prior to the 600, Harvick was behind Earnhardt in the points despite having more wins, more top 5s, and more top 10s. A championship system shouldn’t come down to “who has the better worst finish.”
Agreed with everything up untill the Ragan comment. Was no one watching the All-Star Race the weekend prior. I’m pretty sure that we witnessed what running 40 laps was like. One of the worst races in recent memory…. The 600 had unpredictablilty and excitement!
I just don’t get all the flap over a point system to determine the Cup championship. Jayski did a thing last week that showed the top 10 now and under the old system. Very little change, e.g. two guys 8th & 9th in the currents standings and those two drivers reversed in the old standings. But that was only a couple of instances and not at the top.
If you go back many many years on this championship thing—at least back to early 70s when the format was made up that lasted for 30 years you will find that it’s all about 2-3 cars every year, sometimes 3-4 but mostly 2-3 cars every year at the top. They are the same ones at the top no matter how you look at the point awards — the one used 04-10 or this year’s format. It has been that way. It’s not about how points are awarded it’s about who is in the zone that year to win. You have seen it time and time again. Bobby Labonte one year or two, Dale Jarret a couple of years. It’s always been that way: 2-3 cars strong enough that year to fight it out down the stretch. And it is still that way. The only thing that is different, to me, is that NASCAR—by virtue of the Chase—allows 8-10 cars more to be involved in the deal and at least there is an outside chance those cars will make it to the final swing toward the championship.
Lookit for at least 40 years that I have been following this sport not too many times if ever has a guy 10th come back to win the title. There is a reason that you are 10th in the points all year because you just don’t have a championship team that year. The Chase allows those guys a seat at the table when they don’t really need to be there. Helps the sport.
My point is that fans gripe and the media fuels it to keep it going but it’s much ado about notin. A guy in 10th doesn’t have the stregth to make a title run but the Chase allows him to be in the game. Makes better copy. But there are only going to be 2-3 guys in it the last 8-10 races anyway—with some minor exceptions and only very rarely.
And by the way some of the best title fights ever were under the old system used 71-03ish. The best ever was Alan Kulwicki v the filed in 1992. To me the old way was the best but the new way isn’t that much different.
Ed, the issue with alot of folks is that these drivers are points racing alot more than they used to because of the Chase. Before if you weren’t one of the 2 (like you said) the rest would go after wins every week, which made the races more exciting. Now everyone is points racing the entire year. While it gives more people hope, it makes the races alot less exciting and it doesn’t live up to all the hype that Nascar and the networks give it.
The issue with inconsistent rules enforcement has alot to do with the fact that Nascar seems to enforce their rules based on certain drivers/teams and that’s where their integrity falls into question.
1975-Richard Petty 13 win
In these examples above in most, not every year, but most the champ won most poles, most money won, most top 5s and most top tens, with again some exceptions. In 1985 Bill Elliot had 11 wins compared to DW’s 3. But the champ dominated or nearly dominated in every or most categories. Now as the champ crowned by the old system how could you not be the champ. And look it’s still that way as you work your way to 2011. In every year the cahmp does one helluva job in top 5s and top 10s when he doesn’t win and usually has a 3-10 win season or more when he is champ. How could that not be a champ when all is said and done. And how could the 2-3 guys chasing him not chase the same things? Wins, top 5s top 10s.
In 2008 Carl Edwards had a helluva year but lost out to Jimmie Johnson much like Bill Elliot did in 1985 to Darrell Waltrip but under different point systems. It does happen.
I just don’t think the actual facts support the “stroking” theory. Sorry just don’t. I am not being argumentative and certainly Steve respect your point of view. But when you do a detailed analysis of the last 40 years of crowing a Cup champ and the entire championship race that particular season you just don’t get data that says these guys are points racing. This is a fan gripe and media gripe that just doesn’t hold water.
Sometimes I thinks fans and the media just gripe. I am not a fan of the Dunces in Daytona Beach because they can screw up a race series but the points racing thing just doesn’t compute. Besides, what if they are points racing? I thought that was the whole point. Go after wins and you score the most points in wins laps led most laps led etc. So don’t all the champs points race? They do if they are consistent winners. Win races and the points take care of themselves.
Tom, perhaps if you actaully did a little research on Roger Penske, you’d probably surprise yourself when you find out Penske Racing has run in various racing series with different brands…for years. FYI, the world of Penske Racing doesn’t revolve around Na$crap.
Ed, why did you cut off your list at 1991? Because the next two years also went counter to your point?
1992, Davey Allison and Bill Elliott, 6 wins each; Kulwicki, 2 wins and a points championship.
1993 Rusty Wallace 10 wins; Dale Earnhardt, 6 wins and a championship.
“Win races and the points take care of themselves?” Not really. Drivers now and in the past have been penalized for bad finishes far more than they are rewarded for good finishes.
I have my doubts about the “new” points system making a significant difference. But what was always wrong with the points system is still wrong. Winning is just another finishing position with no particular significance. Try that in any other sport.
Correction: Allison and Elliott, 5 wins each.
Nascar does have a man in the tower who makes all the “in-race” calls (caution or not,, who gets black flagged or not, etc.) and that is his only real job. He is called the Race Director. In the Sprint Cup Series that man is David Hoots. Aptly named, he is a “hoot” to listen to on the scanner. He is “THE GUY” during the actual race itself, not Darby, Helton or Pemberton. He is the person one needs to go whine to if one isn’t happy with a call made during the race.
Recent articles from Tom Bowles:
Did You Notice? ... The Details Behind Busch Double-Duty And NASCAR Teams/Series Needing A Boost
If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.
Want even more Tom Bowles? Check out Tom's archive at SI.com.