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 August 9, 2011
When we look back on the 2011 Chase field, likely to include Brad Keselowski NASCAR’s new “iron man” has but one woman to thank for his inclusion. No, it’s not his mother, nice as she is or the nurses that helped him heal in the hospital after Road Atlanta. It’s not even the Lady In Black, a Darlington track whose third-place result spurred Keselowski’s initial comeback in May. Instead, the answer comes as simply as standing outside, looking up at the clear blue sky one sunny day and appreciating the type of perfect weather for racing we weren’t supposed to have for long on Sunday afternoon.
What a nice little assist Kes got from Mother Nature, right? After a raging thunderstorm stopped the racing, forcing out the red flag on Lap 124 for all intents and purposes, most fans and drivers thought the 500-mile race would be rain-shortened. Indeed, a quick look at the forecast and the radar meant no one would have blamed NASCAR if they didn’t dry the track, pronounced it a lost cause and ended the event right then and there. The fact that they didn’t, rolling the dice and making an ending happen changed the face of the race and in some cases, perhaps altered the course of driver’s seasons. How important was restarting this race? These drivers can tell you… let’s start with the losers first.
MOTHER NATURE HATERS
For “Sliced Bread,” his heart was sliced in half once the track dryers finished up their work. As the rains came, it was pure elation for the 21-year-old who’d seemed to finish a picture-perfect weekend: win the pole, keep his 2012 job (with an assist from Carl Edwards), then use a two-tire stop to bolt into clean air and pull away. Jimmie Johnson had the faster car, but it was Logano still out in front when the raging downpour and subsequent yellow left the youngster in position to score his second career win.
Instead? The restart left his Toyota filled with handling woes, the final 74 circuits filled with pit road gaffes and flat tire follies which left him hobbling home a distant 26th.
“What can you do?” said crew chief Greg Zipadelli. “We did all we could. We sat on the pole, we led a bunch of laps, we had a very respectful top-5 car. I think [it’s] one of our better performances in the last two and a half years so I’m not going to hang my head and be miserable over something on the race track. I can’t control that.”
But note those answers came from the guy who sits on a pit box every Sunday… not the one who presses the accelerator pedal. At an impressionable age, just hours removed from free agent relief one can only wonder how this ending messed with Logano’s confidence. Because for all the wonderful things he did, the 44 laps led on Sunday Home Depot executives out of the loop Monday turned on Sportscenter and saw four things: A smiling Carl Edwards finishing well ahead of their driver, a different “young gun” in Victory Lane (Brad Keselowski), their home improvement rival in the news again (Jimmie Johnson), and Logano down in the bottom half of the final results.
Sources tell me different things about Home Depot’s contract, but this much we know: other big names, like Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers have yet to be fully locked down. It’s not quite Mr. Edwards, but Mr. Logano had a chance to nail down his job in 2012 with superglue; instead, there’s still just the slightest bit of a loose connection. And that’s tough to swallow.
For Hamlin, third was not quite a win but part of a Joe Gibbs Racing trio that each got what they wanted by Lap 124. For Logano, it was a victory that would have actually left him a “wild card” in the Chase (talk about adding insult to injury); for Kyle Busch, it was a fourth-place finish that proved an amazing, confidence-boost recovery after a spin. And for Hamlin, it would be the jolt upwards inside the top 10 in points; he’d scoot past Tony Stewart while firmly pushing the Fed Ex Toyota towards the right side of the Chase bubble.
Instead, what’s being pushed is Hamlin’s crew, a “come to Jesus” meeting led by Mike Ford inside the JGR shops after an ugly ending – again – left the power players at the No. 11 completely exasperated. This time, it was a loose lugnut that left Hamlin in dirty air and disastrous position on the restart; falling out of the top 20 at one point, it was all he could do to rally back to 15th. At a track where Hamlin should be slaughtering the competition, not getting snakebit that’s a crucial loss of points considering his average finish last year at Watkins Glen, Bristol’s Night Race and the Atlanta Labor Day event was a gaudy 38.0. Hanging on to the second “wild card” spot, it makes a possible Michigan sweep even more important for this team; otherwise, they’ll need to win Richmond just to be safely in the field. And the more pressure that gets put on them leading up ‘till then…
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
No, I don’t have it out for Junior. I perfectly understand how the ninth-place Pocono finish, at a track he runs so badly at simply finishing on the lead lap is an accomplishment could be a confidence boost. But… and it’s an important but… when the rains came on Lap 124 Earnhardt was in perfect position to sign, seal, and deliver his Chase bid. Not only would he be 15 up on Hamlin, who moved inside the top 10 but the sport’s Most Popular Driver would have leapfrogged Tony Stewart. With Watkins Glen looming, one of Stewart’s most popular tracks Junior would have carried a 20-point cushion on him, the now-11th place man in the standings and have definitive room to breathe.
Instead, Earnhardt finds himself still smack on the bubble, 10th in the standings with a slightly worse ending than he could have had. Now 23 points up on Denny Hamlin, he’s still vulnerable with the road course looming and will lose ground to ninth-place Stewart barring a major, unexpected surprise. The door is still open to exit the postseason… and, because of that, Junior Nation can’t rest easy for a few more weeks. If Hamlin needs to get in on points, 23 is still easily enough made up with five races left…
Clint Bowyer, already feeling like junk didn’t mince words during the rain delay. “Everybody I’m racing for the Chase is in front of me,” he said. “So I better get my butt back out there.”
Turns out in hindsight, a seventh-place finish would have been OK for the Richard Childress Racing veteran; he’d still be within striking distance of making it in on points. Instead, an 18th-place freefall cost him crucial positioning, now nearly a whole race’s worth (41 points) from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with precious little momentum left to mount a charge. Considering Bowyer’s numbers (just three top-5 finishes in 21 starts), a rough road course record and off-track free agency distractions it’s hard to see any type of turnaround coming. This No. 33 team would have to win, not once but maybe twice to get in and there’s nothing here to indicate they have that type of hot streak in them.
Sure, it doesn’t seem like much but it’s the emotional ending, not the stats that ruined Johnson’s weekend. If the race had stopped during the Lap 124 red flag, J.J. and company could leave knowing they had one of their best weekends in recent memory. Picture this alternate ending: they run second, come within 2-3 laps of stealing a victory and have a lightning-fast day by their pit crew, their Achilles’ Heel of about the last 18 months. There would be no negativity to focus on, only positive vibes as the No. 48 team settled into their usual pre-Chase rhythm.
Instead, an awkward dip to fourth led to the last-lap contact with Kurt Busch, putting the Lowe’s team in the news for all the wrong reasons. And while yes, Johnson has been through the ringer before and yes, distractions were all part of five previous Chase bids don’t you get the feeling now “it’s always something” lately with this program? Ruffled feathers is not exactly the way this team goes about its business, and with Johnson’s Loudon outburst they’ve now got two dramatic news items within a four-week period.
MOTHER NATURE LOVERS
Where there’s Smoke, there hasn’t been fire lately but something got lit under Tony Stewart’s belly this Sunday. With a flat tire leading to a 28th-place run, one lap down, it was looking like this Chase team more than any other, even Junior was vulnerable to losing their spot in the postseason. But blessed with a second chance, Smoke made the most of it by both using the Lucky Dog and then blowing by the competition en route to a shocking top-15 comeback. In the process, he went from bubble to burning Junior out of taking over the ninth spot in points; Holding on, he’s now 24 ahead of Denny Hamlin with five races left.
“They never gave up today,” said Stewart of his crew. “And we won’t give up until it’s over.” Considering there’s a month still to go in the summer… watch out for a team capable of heating up at any time.
For Biffle, Sunday’s rain-shortened ending would have been a self-inflicted postseason dagger. An ugly penalty for changing lanes on a restart, coming just before a long green-flag run had limited the ability of the No. 16 car to work its way back through the field. Add in strong runs by Chase rivals Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Denny Hamlin, even Clint Bowyer and The Biff was looking at a near-impossible mountain to climb over the final five weeks. Now? The Sunday sun gives him a hint of life, closing the gap to 44 over Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and keeping the door ever-so-slightly open to make it on points. Remember, Biffle has quietly been a top-5 car at Watkins Glen, Roush Fenway Racing has owned Michigan in the past, and the team started second and finished eighth at Bristol this Spring. If there’s one team other than Hamlin who can get in the “old-fashioned” way, it’s now this one.
Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch
Of course, this one’s so obvious we won’t repeat the story you’ve heard 1,000 times; Keselowski can thank the weather and his crew chief, and an “iron man” attitude for bringing the car home first. But let’s not underestimate Busch’s boost, too, the cagey veteran leading 38 laps all his own while serving notice that Five-Time won’t have a halo around his car in a couple of weeks.
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