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 · Monday August 8, 2011
I’m a stats guy living in a writer’s body, a failed mathematician with a healthy dose of superstition on the side. So it’s no surprise to me that as Brad Keselowski crossed the finish line, completing one of the great “iron man” performances in recent history all that I could think about was similar to a closing line from Sesame Street:
This race has been brought to you by the letters K, J, and the number two.
Sounds silly, right? Especially considering what Keselowski did was a physical feat rarely equaled in NASCAR’s Chase era; only Denny Hamlin’s torn ACL, then seemingly instantaneous recovery post-surgery in Victory Lane at Texas last season can compare. It was a two-pronged lift for the driver in his sophomore season – comments after the race, humbly praising soldiers killed in Afghanistan as the real heroes also moved mountains in establishing himself as a role model, not a rebel amongst the fan base. Off the track, Keselowski can no longer be viewed by his peers as a one-hit wonder; he’s the first driver in years to move up the ranks the right way, from Trucks to Nationwide to Cup and develop into a proven major-league talent.
And as I stared at the number two painted on the side of his Miller Lite Dodge, that digit melted into the overall theme of his race. Two days was the time between crashing at Road Atlanta, turning his ankle into a bucket of mush and getting back in a race car to practice at Pocono. Questionable whether he’d even be cleared to drive, Keselowski shrugged off painkillers and won his team’s respect for hanging in there even after a Friday practice spin. The car wasn’t crushed, but Keselowski was clearly dazed just 48 hours after emerging from a wreck he’ll likely never fully remember.
“As far as the pain scale, hell, I don’t know,” he said. “I know it just hurt. But everything kind of came together here, and we were able to overcome adversity, and I think when we look back at this years from now I think that’s what I’ll think about.”
“I woke up [Sunday] morning feeling like we could win the race. I came here to win. And when you let the pain get into your head that far that you don’t believe you can win anymore, you’ll never win.”
Of course, the credit can’t go to driver alone, that second victory the mastermind once again of crew chief Paul Wolfe. It was Wolfe who put himself on the line, taking a top-10 car and choosing to pit it just before a driving rainstorm stopped the race with 124 laps complete. With a bigger radar blob coming behind it, thirty miles wide, Wolfe was one of the few actually present who thought the Pocono mountains would snuff out the moisture, NASCAR sticking with a chance to dry the track rather than call it 200 miles early. Two hours to dry the triangle, thought Wolfe, would mean the race gets restarted with Keselowski sitting alongside teammate Kurt Busch in the front row. And if he’s wrong? They finish 24th, lose ground on that crucial top 20 benchmark and watch their Chase reservations put on a waiting list… for 2012.
“Just tell them, Paul,” his driver said in the post-race press conference, smiling knowing the depth of that decision. “You got balls this big.”
“Because if it wouldn’t have worked out, man it would have been rough.”
But big gambles can lead to big results… and this one certainly did. That move took guts, plus intelligence similar to when Wolfe, plus Brad used fuel mileage to snooker his opponents at Kansas this June. For if there’s anything people have underestimated about this duo, it’s the brains they pair with an award-winning level of Penske engineers that now find themselves building chassis on point. After an ugly start, all parties knew top-10 finishes would do nothing to get them into the postseason; their only chance was to get aggressive, roll the dice and hope to come up with enough wins to make things interesting.
“It’s all about those two wins to get into the Chase,” said Wolfe. “We knew that’s what it was going to take. I felt like it was somewhat of a gamble to come down at that point. But at the same time we felt like it was an educated gamble at that. It wasn’t just a shot in the dark.”
“And once we got the car up front, obviously we showed we had the speed as much as anybody. There on that last restart, the [No.] 18 and ourselves were pretty equal there; it was all about making it happen on the restart, and that was all Brad there, being able to get out front.”
A sense of urgency paid off, with the reward? Two victories and a climb back to 18th in points, perfect position to earn a “wild card” berth with minimal resistance. Barring some sort of epic collapse, it’ll lock Keselowski into a playoff where rival Denny Hamlin, friend Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Hendrick “replacement” Mark Martin could be locked out. And the kicker is that he, combined with teammate Kurt Busch have worked their postseason magic as a two-car operation, this year’s Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in a world where three and four-car superteams reign supreme. Left without a bigger network, like Stewart-Haas Racing has with their four-car HMS counterparts, Penske has taken the small Dodge outfit and made it better, more refined despite the elimination of a third information-sharing car in Sam Hornish, Jr.’s No. 77.
As for Busch, the car with two two’s on the side got busy battling two J’s: a man who’s rarely rattled but left Pocono clearly ruffled by some last-lap contact that nearly wrecked them both. It led to a post-race verbal confrontation, one Johnson described as a “lot of yelling” as both sides agreed to disagree in public while the fans cheered over another version of Pocono Days of our NASCAR Lives.
“I could have run into him. I could have moved him a lot of different ways to get that position, but I didn’t, you know?” said Johnson, who stayed patiently behind Busch only to have his fenders hit when finally pulling alongside on the white-flag lap. “I just don’t understand why, when I finally get position on him, he’s got to run all over the side of me down the straightaway. It was a great race. The thing is here, track position is everything. And every driver is trying to get what they can, when they can, because you can’t pass. And it took me that entire fuel run to set up that pass on him and I finally got it done and then that problem happens. So that’s where my frustration comes in.”
It’s anger shared by Busch, as well, who was called a crybaby by the five-time champ but explaining it seems it’s Johnson that expects to be raced with a 50-foot restraining order around each side of his Chevrolet.
“I didn’t know I was supposed to pull over with five to go,” he said. “And [Jimmie] wants to come over and b*tch about it. Why can’t we race each other like this, put on a show for the fans and not have a problem?”
“Here we go, People magazine,” he added later to a reporter. “We were racing hard. I think that’s what we saw on TV and exactly that’s what should be reported. There are a lot of times when the [No.] 22 is on the short end of the stick of the [No.] 48. And I raced him hard today. I’m glad I did. I have no regrets.”
The real show, of course, lies in postseason positioning, with Busch playing the age-old game of intimidation we’ve seen before. Remember Loudon, New Hampshire, and a run-in with Jimmie Johnson last June? The No. 48 won the race, but Busch made his presence felt with a short-track nudge that left enough ruffled feelings to fill a therapist’s office for weeks.
“We didn’t just flat-out wreck them. We didn’t cut his tire,” Busch said then. “We didn’t drive over him. It was just a nice nudge that we are all used to seeing and appreciating on short tracks.”
It’s a game he has to play, but keep in mind it’s also a mentality this driver, at times struggles to control. Once again, in-race frustration had him venting to the Penske Racing crew so abusively Sunday it’s a shocker one of those four-race tire changes didn’t come with a crew member disconnecting the radio. An unhealthy dialogue, no matter how it’s spun that needs to change and certainly can spill over into the way Busch plays with others.
But in this mess, Johnson is far from blameless. Check out his quotes from that Loudon showdown a year ago:
“If it was his intention,” Johnson said back then of that nudge, “That’s the first time in nine years racing with him that I have experienced that and definitely changed the way that I race with him from that point moving on. My goal was to wreck him.”
Yet here we are, a year later and the second major time (with many minor incidences in between) Kurt pulls this stuff, clearly bent on seeing where he needs to draw the line with the No. 48 and Jimmie stands down.
“I’m not going to run people over to pass them,” he said Sunday. “That’s just not me. I worked on him for however many laps trying to get by him clean, fair and square and as I got next to him we had that issue off of (turn) two. I just keep filing things away. I’ll remember this stuff.”
Hmm. How many times are you willing to file, Jimmie? Couldn’t you say until that memory leads to action, actual payback Kurt’s big hit number two will turn into three, four, five as everyone tries a more aggressive strategy to prevent Mr. Johnson from taking consecutive title number six. So J.J., for all his talk has to shore up that possible weakness. One of these days, a Juan Pablo Montoya with consistency will come along and have no problem knocking the No. 48 out of the way, every time as respect is replaced with that Dale Earnhardt, win-at-all-costs philosophy. Will Johnson clinging to those values cost him then?
His late-race trouble, a disappointment considering the No. 48 was battling for the win on Lap 124 was just one of several issues for drivers hurt by two segments. Men like Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, and Busch the elder joined Keselowski in thanking NASCAR for taking the time to dry the track, believe in Mother Nature and go back green. On the flip side, that decision killed momentum at Joe Gibbs Racing: Joey Logano went from hero to zero, leader at the time of the red flag only to slip into a 26th-place disaster that did nothing to convince Home Depot they didn’t wind up with a consolation prize going forward. Add in Denny Hamlin, dropping down from a top-5 finish to 15th after a loose lugnut, and suddenly Joe Gibbs Racing has a Chase bubble crisis on its hands – courtesy of Mother Nature’s quirky history with the Tricky Triangle.
So two drivers, owned by a J (Joe Gibbs) pulled the ultimate K (strikeout) down the stretch at Pocono. That about wraps it up except hey, did you hear about who won the Truck race Sunday morning? Turns out it was Kevin Harvick… driving Truck number two.
You can’t make this stuff up.
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Tom, in two years it will be Brad and Carl squaring off for the cup title with two races to go.
I can see probation for ONE of those drivers. Hendrick has already called Brian to tell him to keep other cars off the 48. But it doesn’t matter since the title is already decided.
Brad really dug deep and deserved that win. Kurt is exactly right, I guess 5 time expects people to just pull over? no thanks, race him hard, make him earn it,.
I was impressed with the guts that Brad K showed and his comments in the VL interview as well.
I’ve never been a KuBu fan but man, I was hoping he was going to wreck Little Mr. Can’t be Wrong in the 48. I hope that these guys do get into Johnson’s head – it’s about time he doesn’t get to race wrapped with his 50 foot buffer. I hope they keep it up in the chase too. Voldemort & weasley are beatable, it’s just gonna take stones.
Of course Jimmie was right and Kurt was wrong. Stock car racing isn’t a contact sport, it’s about who spends the most money so that the best car always wins. Look at the how much Rick Hendrick has invested in his racing operation… it’s not right that someone can just bump his driver to keep from getting passed. All drivers should remember stock car racing’s roots as a gentleman’s competition, much like croquet or badminton.
Who are you to say what is healthy and unhealthy? I happen to think that venting your frustration is a very healthy thing, especially when you are simply yelling and blowing off steam, and not using violence to show anger. It amazes me that even though EVERYONE involved—driver, owner, crew chief and crew—says that it in no way negatively affects the team, people like you say that it’s “unhealthy”. If you are that knowledgeable, why are you writing about racing on some website? On side note, it never ceases to amaze me how people can’t make up their mind what they want. You have some drivers who are completely non-emotional, and people say they are boring and bad for racing. Then you have drivers that are fiery and not afraid to say what they think, and people say they are crybabies and aholes, and they are bad for racing. Here’s a crazy idea: how about you not worry about their personality and actually pay attention to the racing?
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