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
Tuesday March 4, 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 September 7, 2011
The Key Moment: With two laps left, a slip-sliding, hard-charging Jimmie Johnson misjudged turn 4 just enough to break loose. He kept the car in one piece, but Jeff Gordon scooted away to score his 85th career NASCAR victory – good enough for third all-time behind Richard Petty and David Pearson.
In A Nutshell: Old mentor teaches former student a thing or two, the last twist in one of the more action-packed races held on a 1.5-mile oval in recent memory.
Dramatic Moment: So many TNT could have filmed a random, 30-second promo on their network based on these 325 laps alone. Every restart was a wild affair, three-abreast racing, sometimes four all the way through turns 1 and 2. A midrace mishap between Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, where a slow-running No. 17 nearly caused second-place Busch to jump the start just about wiped out half the field. Kevin Harvick, turned nearly 45 degrees, made one of the best saves we’ve seen on the NASCAR circuit this year to keep control.
During the last ten laps, Gordon and Johnson also ran the ragged edge; while keeping a healthy advantage on third-place Tony Stewart, the duo nearly spun about half-a-dozen times while deftly maneuvering through lapped traffic and each other to go for the win.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
Why do people in Atlanta act like they hate sports? On the heels of another first-rate performance at their racetrack, one of the few intermediates that’s withstood the Car of Tomorrow debacle it’s a phenomenon I simply struggle to understand. For years, baseball’s Braves won their division but often never sold out their stadium in the playoffs; the NBA’s Hawks, making the postseason themselves last season were 22nd in average attendance out of 30 teams; and the Thrashers, sick of poor NHL support packed up and left for Winnipeg, Manitoba this Spring. (Yes, Winnipeg. It’s a Canadian city, not an awkward-sounding carrier in the game of Battleship.) What an ugly track record for a region that’s the ninth-most populous inside our continental United States, right? And alas, despite a weekend’s worth of great racing its 1.5-mile, tri-oval track of beauty suffered through a financial disaster. Blame it on the weather, blame it on work, but Tuesday’s crowd might have been smaller than Senior Center Bingo Night down the street (like the Wizard of Oz, don’t trust any numbers that track just gave you behind the curtain – your eyes looking at the TV screen do just fine). Already down to just one date a year, how can Bruton justify a sales model that’s now screaming bright red? Southeasterners, I know times are tough but if there’s one race, just one you can afford don’t let this place become the latest endangered species on stock car racing’s list.
In 62 years of NASCAR competition, only two men have more Cup Series victories than Jeff Gordon. Let’s just sit a minute and let that sink in. The 40-year-old, once the most dominant force on the circuit has been quiet enough recently that sometimes we forget just how high a standard he’s set. Of those 85 victories, 13 have come at the sport’s three crown jewels – the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, and Darlington’s Southern 500 – while 13 occurred in 1998 alone, setting a modern-era record. Time will tell if it’s another Gordon-Johnson battle for the championship, similar to how a dramatic end to this event unfolded on Tuesday. But clearly, considering the way both drivers are peaking it would be no surprise to anyone if their 2007 battle down the stretch unfolded all over again.
Note to Goodyear: see what happens when you have a tire compound that drops off in speed? Lo and behold, on a wide racetrack you have drivers able to search for their own lines and actually pass people based on how they take care of their equipment instead of driving wide-open, single-file over the course of a full fuel run. And, speaking of which, wasn’t it refreshing to have an intermediate-track ending decided by speed – not a few extra drops of Sunoco?
Sure, the Sprint Showdown was a really big deal and the attention given to the $3 million prize was well-deserved. But why did none of the drivers involved in the competition take a big risk down the stretch to win the money? First, you had J.J. Yeley and Landon Cassill, teams driving for the ultimate underdog teams nearly pull out a victory by staying out with bad weather. Then, on a caution with 82 laps to go, Martin Truex, Jr. pulled off a two-tire stop to gain the lead and track position… and he wasn’t even going for the million. Shouldn’t Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose, and yes even Brad Keselowski – all of whom had their cars on the lead lap, undamaged – tried a similar “no guts, no glory” strategy?
So Clint Bowyer has a few choice words for his potential employers: show me the money. A well-placed source told me Childress has offered far less than what Bowyer is looking for, not just a pay cut but a similar amount to what veteran Jeff Burton re-signed for earlier this year. It’s an amount that the 44-year-old was eager to take for a possible final contract – after all, he’s been the veteran leader at RCR for half-a-decade – but for Bowyer, 32, it’s supposedly far too little considering he’s still got at least 5-10 years of upside left. That’s allowed teams like Richard Petty Motorsports (through investor Andrew Murstein), Roush-Fenway Racing and potentially even Joe Gibbs Racing to enter the fray… but will any of them give Bowyer what he really wants? Sponsorship in every situation seems questionable at best; that means a manufacturer, like Ford or Toyota must step up and pick up the tab. And will anybody really reach out for a guy who, for all this pomp and circumstance has now missed the Chase two out of the last three seasons? (There’s a small matter of one 150-point penalty, too, that defined the one playoff run he actually made back in 2010.) He’s a competent driver, but one wonders if Bowyer might be risking pricing himself out of a market where even 2003 Cup champ Matt Kenseth doesn’t have a sponsor yet for 2012.
David Ragan claims he’s not worried about his future. Wow; I didn’t realize the Georgia unemployment checks were that good.
NASCAR has no problem throwing an instant caution for debris, but David Gilliland spins out, in the middle of pit road and it takes laps for NASCAR to throw the yellow? Sure, it’s nothing short of a complicated calculus problem to sort out the field in the middle of green flag stops. But when we’re stopping races, instantaneously for things like a plastic bag on the racetrack doesn’t that compromise this sport’s motto of safety first?
Yes, unless there’s a major catastrophe Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has made the Chase for the first time since the 2008 season. But the way he and Steve Letarte were talking on the radio, doesn’t it seem like we’re sitting back at square one?
As reported here first on Frontstretch.com, Rockingham is expected to announce its NASCAR return today; it’ll host a Camping World Truck Series race for 2012. It’s the perfect test run in the face of the series needing replacement tracks after Nashville, Lucas Oil Raceway, and possibly even Darlington won’t return to the schedule. But, without a major support series there comes a lingering question for the locals: will fans actually put the money where their mouth is and show up?
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
Clint Bowyer looked almost certain to gain significant ground on Tony Stewart for the Chase until Juan Pablo Montoya failed to give up any ground off turn 4. Whether it was Bowyer’s fault or Montoya’s is debatable… the problem is, it’s the second driver on that list who’s got a dirty driving reputation. Bowyer’s calls of “jackass” in his post-race interview will likely come with a Wednesday apology once he remembers the Colombian fights back in the worst way possible: legal action.
Kyle Busch was in contention for the win, along with the Sprint Showdown $3 Million Prize until losing it off turn 4 midway through the race. He didn’t spin, but did enough damage physically and mentally to wallow away in midpack the rest of the day. He fell apart, a spotter failed to calm him, a pit crew thrashed… and in the end, the car was only good enough for 23rd.
J.J. Yeley, at one point seemed headed towards an improbable win when his VAMPT-sponsored car stayed out during a rain delay for a light mist that fell over the track. Despite nothing on the radar, the bad weather persisted long enough for both he and second-place Landon Cassill to start wondering, “What if?” However, once the clouds eventually lifted the jet dryers made quick work of the drizzle – both cars were forced to pit and wound up 25th and 22nd, respectively.
Matt Kenseth, also a leader during one of those “Will They Call It?” rain delay cautions had Jimmy Fennig say “They’re struggling” on National TV while the No. 17 was busy restarting on the front row. Almost as if on cue, Kenseth faded badly down the stretch and wound up ninth despite leading 64 laps of the race.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
At one point, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was doing everything possible to keep the No. 88 out of the Chase. Between a possible splitter issue, faulty handling and a terrible starting spot (29th), he fell a lap down at one point, lost confidence on the radio and got within 13 points of losing his grip on the top 10 in points. But a timely caution saved his season; a Lucky Dog recipient, crew chief Steve Letarte hammered on the National Guard Chevrolet long enough to leave it 19th at the finish. It wasn’t great – Earnhardt claimed “I’ll never run this %^&& again” on the radio – but plenty good enough considering rival Bowyer ended the day with a DNF.
Tony Stewart, too was in trouble after an ugly pit stop cost him track position with a car capable of a top-5 finish. It took almost the entire day to earn it back; but when all was said and done, it was the No. 14 Chevy which was the fastest car on the racetrack en route to third by the checkered.
Jimmie Johnson, whose car handled so badly it came within seconds of going a lap down early in the race, charged from 27th 100 laps in to nearly steal the win down the stretch. Carl Edwards, too, had an awful-handling car – although not nearly as bad – only to climb back into fifth. Good signs of Chase recovery to come?
- Jeff Gordon (winner) led his most laps at Atlanta in one race since the Spring of 1995 (146 circuits overall). That year, he went on to win his first Cup Series championship over Dale Earnhardt.
- Jimmie Johnson (second) has three straight top-5 finishes for the first time since last year’s Chase.
- Tony Stewart (third) had his best finish since a second at Loudon in July.
- Carl Edwards (fifth) had his first top-5 result since Kentucky in July. It’s also his best performance since re-signing with Roush-Fenway Racing.
- Denny Hamlin (eighth) has back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time since Charlotte and Kansas in late Spring.
- Brian Vickers (eleventh) had his best finish since a 10th at Michigan in June.
- David Reutimann (31st) has either failed to finish, wrecked, or had a mechanical problem in four of the last six races.
- Clint Bowyer (36th) had four DNF’s in the last four seasons combined. So far in 2011? He has five.
- Bobby Labonte (38th), a six-time winner at Atlanta has not had a top-10 finish there since 2003.
- The Bowtie Brigade reigned supreme at Atlanta: Chevys took the top 3 spots and four of the top-10 positions overall. Three Fords, Two Dodges and a lone Toyota (Denny Hamlin) rounded out that top 10.
- David Starr was the highest-finishing “rookie” in 29th place. He also gets the award for Largest, Red-Colored Roadblock disguised as a racecar: Jeff Gordon, in particular, along with the NASCAR tower had a few choice words for the driver of the No. 95 after putting front-running cars in several precarious positions throughout the day.
What’s The Points?
Considering the pending Chase reset, well, we might as well retitle this column “What’s The Point?” Nine of the 12 postseason spots have been clinched, beginning with Jimmie Johnson’s surge to the top of the standings. He now has a 21-point edge on Kyle Busch, comfortably in front heading into the season’s final week. But expect Mr. Busch, the sport’s winningest driver this season to get the last laugh come Chicagoland mid-September: his four victories leave him the No. 1 Chase seed out of 12.
Carl Edwards sits third, Matt Kenseth is fourth, while the surging Jeff Gordon now makes an appearance to round out the top 5. Those drivers, along with sixth-place Kevin Harvick, seventh-place Kurt Busch, and eighth-place Ryan Newman are solidly in the Chase: Richmond amounts to nothing more than a glorified test session unless any driver can nab the three-point bonus for winning. Brad Keselowski, further back in 11th has also clinched a “wild card” position based on his season’s three victories; even a last-place finish will leave him firmly within the top 20 in points after Richmond.
That leaves Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (ninth in points), Tony Stewart (tenth), and Denny Hamlin (second “wild card,” 12th, one win) the only ones slightly vulnerable on Saturday night. Earnhardt needs just a 20th-place finish to clinch, while Stewart can simply finish 22nd; of course, both of those scenarios are based on if Keselowski scores maximum points, winning the race along with leading the most laps along the way. Hamlin, meanwhile, can only lose his spot under the following scenarios:
- Paul Menard wins a second race
- Marcos Ambrose or David Ragan win a second race plus secure enough points to move inside NASCAR’s top 20
- A.J. Allmendinger (-11 behind Hamlin), Clint Bowyer (-12), Greg Biffle (-28), Martin Truex, Jr. (-33) or Kasey Kahne (-42) win the race and secure enough points to move past Hamlin in the overall standings
For men like Menard, Ambrose, and Ragan, there’s a slight chance they could make it without winning a second race. If Keselowski or Hamlin slip inside the top 10 in points – they’re the only ones capable of catching the Earnhardt/Stewart duo – that would open up a second, “wild card” slot for a team with at least one victory. The same scenario goes for any other driver sitting inside the top 20, like the ones mentioned above, Joey Logano, Mark Martin or even Juan Pablo Montoya in 21st if they can eke out first place: Keselowski’s inclusion in the top 10 alone would be the loophole that scores them a major postseason upset if they reach Richmond’s Victory Lane.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – A few quick lulls here and there were the only thing keeping this race from a perfect score. Five-and-one-half cans of good, quality beer that made skipping out of work on a Tuesday (or watching the DV-R at 2 AM, whatever fans preferred) totally worth it.
Next Up – NASCAR’s 26-race regular season concludes with Richmond’s Saturday night short track spectacular. Will Bowyer get the last laugh on Montoya? Will payback, aggression, and postseason intimidation become an overriding theme, especially with so many Chase spots locked up? Stay tuned…
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Matt would have pointed out that really only ties Jeff with Bobby Allison, who has always been one ahead of Jaws. Get well soon Kid Lighning.
Great race, and article. Seriously, what’s going on with Matt?
Rod, exactly! Jeff Gordon is tied with Bobby Allison for third in all-time wins, he is not third overall by himself! If all the media and NASCAR is going to push that Kyle is so great with his 102 wins across all three of NASCAR’s top series’, then Bobby Allison will FINALLY be credited with that illusive 85th win in that race where he drove a Mustang, and beat Richard Petty in his Plymouth Roadrunner!
Let the record finally show it!
“A midrace mishap between Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, where a slow-running No. 17 nearly caused second-place Busch to jump the start just about wiped out half the field. Kevin Harvick, turned nearly 45 degrees, made one of the best saves we’ve seen on the NASCAR circuit this year to keep control.”
Surely you jest. It was Busch’s actions which caused the problem, not Kenseth’s.
Its nice to read a positive review of a race for a change, but we still miss Matt.
Has Matt invoked his HIPPA rights or can we get an update on his condition. Thanks.
In terms of the Sprint Summer Showdown, it would’ve been nice to give the $3,000,000 to the driver who finished the highest in the race, which would’ve been Brad Keselowski (6th). I wanted him to win the race and the cash so much. He would’ve been like Bill Elliott in ’85: winning a million bucks on Labor Day Weekend.
Re: Matt’s Condition
Annie, in each individual situation I make it the writer’s call how much information the website wants us to share with the public. I do believe Matt’s going to write a full column describing his ordeal upon his return… so for now, let me just say he’s doing well, it won’t be too much longer and he’s looking forward to getting back to the normal routine of writing and responding to you all.
Chances are he’ll be out for this weekend at Richmond, but based on what I’ve been told it shouldn’t be much beyond that. We’ll keep you posted, and if Matt approves me making more information public I’d be happy to share with you all.
Silly to blame ATL fans (and those that travel from other states for the race) for Attendance on Tue…maybe Tue was attributed to people being responsible and keeping their job and getting kids to school? AMS could move this to Sat night and build in additional day buffer.
Ticket prices are killing NASCAR at all Tracks..and last time I checked most tracks including Daytona, Talladega, Brickyard, Dover,Charlotte have had significant drops in attendance. Once tracks figure out a competitive pricing model people will come.
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