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 September 12, 2011
The Key Moment: Kevin Harvick caught a late caution, creeped in front of Jeff Gordon on pit road, then held off an assault by Cheez-It Crackers (err, Carl Edwards) to win one of the most bizarre short track races in recent memory.
In A Nutshell: The almanac says a full moon over Richmond happens tonight. That, my friends, would be the second in 72 hours. Need I say more?
Dramatic Moment: At times, we were at Kardashian-like levels. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch sure lit the night on fire, trying to wreck each other out although the No. 48 clearly got the short end of that stick. But perhaps the biggest drama happened eight laps in, when Clint Bowyer lost it under David Reutimann, spun and collected nearly a dozen drivers. Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were among the victims, Chase contenders forced to sweat it out with cars more suited for your local junkyard the rest of the race.
The last few laps between Edwards and Harvick were heated, too. But unlike half of his jacked up competitors, Edwards laid off the bumper this time and raced the No. 29 clean to the finish.
What They’ll Be Talking About The Water Cooler This Week
Blame it on the Chase, blame it on simmering feuds; heck, blame it on Snooki bringing her Jersey Shore drama to Richmond. No matter the cause, at times this race looked, for better or for worse like your local demolition derby. A record 15 cautions left the Cup cars sometimes searching for rhythm, a combination of “bubble” drivers pushing too hard with others letting loose having already clinched postseason spots. It all added up to a sparks-flying, push-and-shove affair throughout where you should keep a running list of the rivalries that flared up. Three stick out that could resurface later, in particular because there are no teammate or manufacturer ties: Marcos Ambrose – Brian Vickers, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Travis Kvapil, and Jimmie Johnson – Kurt Busch.
There are varied opinions on Johnson – Busch, but let’s be clear going forward: The No. 48 team has its biggest Chase distraction yet. Kurt has made it known, through his actions the past two months he’s willing to rough up Johnson whenever the opportunity arises; while I’m skeptical that equates to “in Johnson’s head,” the infamous comment he later tried to take back, that’s a very difficult obstacle for the five-time champ. For years, that’s the one area he’s stayed squeaky clean, winning titles without the Dale Earnhardt, Sr.-ish Intimidation factor where someone was unafraid to bump him anyplace, anytime, for any position. So now, as Busch clearly has no intentions of changing that tune… how will Johnson change his?
Busch, of course has his own problems after not one but two confrontations with NASCAR reporters after the race. I’ve expanded on that scenario in a separate column; the short version? He crossed the line, owing both Joe Menzer and Jenna Fryer apologies for his actions. Busch may not like how on-track dramas get blown out of proportion; I get it. But that doesn’t give him the license to universally decide what fans want to hear about, nor the liberty to threaten physical assault towards a member of the press. As for Fryer, Busch moving towards a female reporter, then physically ripping a transcript out of her hands crosses the line of professionalism. The fact he tried to deny something he clearly said, on national television no less is just … bizarre, confusing, (fill in other “weird” adjective here). There’s no other way to describe it.
The rumors surrounding Kevin Harvick’s merger/closure of his operation will run rampant for months to come. But the question that remains from it is if Harvick can’t compete with the Cup teams running “minor league operations,” who can? Here was a guy who won multiple Truck championships and a Nationwide owner’s title against the likes of Roush Fenway, Joe Gibbs Racing, and the other big heavyweights over in Sprint Cup. Never overly reliant on Cup owner Richard Childress, KHI had built its own successful chassis business, paired with an A+ marketing team that kept collecting sponsors in an era where their favorite place to go is the trash bin. Even now, the two Nationwide cars have all but eight races sold for 2012… but it was also getting progressively harder to get those deals done. Add in a lawsuit, continued struggles to get the No. 33 of Ron Hornaday, Jr. funded over in Trucks and you wonder whether part of the reasoning for this decision is like selling stock – deciding when to cash out at the right time. Hey, if Rusty Wallace can go out near the top as a driver there’s no reason owners can’t do the same.
One other quick thought on KHI’s demise: that was supposed to be a future Cup team. Now, with their departure – and JR Motorsports seemingly destined to stay in Nationwide forever – where are the new Sprint Cup owners going to come from? KHI closing, along with Red Bull is sending a message – regardless if true – that there’s a permanent erosion of NASCAR’s middle class. Who’s going to come in, pump some money into a team and stop the contraction before it’s too late?
Conspiracy theory of the Week: Wasn’t it strange a Richard Childress Racing car, 80 laps down and out of Chase contention (Paul Menard) caused the race’s final caution with a harmless spin – just when it looked like Gordon, not Harvick would win his fourth race and earn a top seed for the Chase?
It’s too bad we had a wild and crazy race the one year Chase bids were all but locked up heading in. Sure, at one point around halfway you had Brad Keselowski running top-5 while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was 25th. But the No. 2 car never had a chance to win, the only way he could really have put that extra pressure on his former mentor. Ditto for Denny Hamlin, whose No. 11 Toyota was knocked out of contention for the win by Lap 8 but never had to sweat it with Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, and to a lesser extent Jeff Gordon the dominant cars.
I know the ten-year anniversary is over, but NASCAR (and the NFL, for that matter) did a classy job of honoring what happened on that tragic day. Bravo. And if you haven’t seen our 9/11 tribute Newsletter, please check it out because we’d love to share your personal experiences and what you’ve learned that we can take away from that terrible tragedy…
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
On-track, it was Jimmie Johnson that got the worst of the contact between him and Kurt Busch. But after the second wreck, on Lap 246 designed to knock out the No. 22 car it was Johnson who wound up spending an extensive amount of time on pit road. Mr. Busch? He recovered enough to end the night a solid fifth.
Brian Vickers, looking for a ride next season certainly didn’t plan on adding another wreck-related DNF to his resume – especially one where he was the innocent victim. Guess Marcos Ambrose will no longer be a reference? The No. 83 car blocked the No. 9 for almost a full lap, on-track shenanigans that left Vickers temporarily parked in the NASCAR garage. He ended the night 33rd, and to make matters worse no one even cared once Johnson-Busch wound up the big story.
Jeff Burton, like so many other times this season had a top-10 car early at Richmond only to see it slip away. Making a rare green-flag pit stop on this night, Burton was caught by the Busch-Johnson crash that trapped him at the back of the lead lap. Stuck in 18th, driving hard to make up the gap a flat right-rear tire added insult to injury and totaled the Caterpillar Chevy. He wound up 29th, midpack in an RCR contingent that also saw Bowyer (22nd) and Menard tear up sheet metal. Calling Austin Dillon…
On any other night, a top-5 finish would be wonderful for David Ragan but when a win would have gotten the No. 6 car in the Chase, it left a sour taste in his mouth. With so much on the line, postseason, sponsorship, future employment you’ve got to wonder why Drew Blickensderfer didn’t slap two tires on a car already running fifth to get it out front. I know it would have been tough to stay there, but in a year where track position is everything? How can you not try?
Robby Gordon, already start-and-parking due to lack of funds, may change his future strategy to pulling it in the first lap. Suffering damage in not one, but two accidents the No. 7 was toast by Lap 51. Ditto for Scott Speed, whose No. 46 car finished dead last after getting swept up in that 11-car crash on Lap 8.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
Don’t count Dale Earnhardt, Jr. among those drivers who want to eliminate the sport’s free pass. In the past three races alone, he’s used it a total of five times to salvage a sinking Chase bid. At times, it looked like Earnhardt was trying to sabotage himself Saturday night, frayed nerves on the radio combined with an ugly tete-a-tete with backmarker Travis Kvapil. Frankly, the fact he wound up 16th is nothing short of a miracle… but in the end, crew chief Steve Letarte got what he wanted. Earnhardt is in his first Chase since 2008, driving a conservative style and in a position where there’s nothing to lose.
Denny Hamlin also needed a free pass to get his lap back, seemingly down for the count after the No. 11 was junked during the Bowyer wreck on Lap 8. But while never a factor for the win, he worked his way from 40th into the top 10 by Lap 250 and wound up finishing a solid ninth.
Kyle Busch rotated on and off the lead lap after an early, unscheduled stop for what he thought was a loose wheel. But in classic “new Kyle” fashion, by the checkered the No. 18 Toyota was sitting sixth.
What’s The Points?
In the world of “meaningless victories,” Kyle Busch has earned the 2011 “regular season” Cup championship, ekeing out Jimmie Johnson by three points. (Maybe he’ll claim that puts him one step closer to Richard Petty’s seven titles?) Carl Edwards was third in the standings, followed by Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth who were all within one race’s reach of rising to the top. Looks like we’d have one barnburner of a title chase in store…
But wait! Clearly, a six-driver battle won’t keep you entertained so NASCAR has blown up the standings, reset them for the real Chase and left a dozen drivers – nearly one-third of the starting field – championship-eligible. In Busch’s case, at least it’s small consolation he remains the top seed on the strength of his four victories. However, Kevin Harvick, with his Richmond triumph is tied alongside; both will start the Chase with a boost to 2,012 points.
Jeff Gordon, the lone driver to take three 2011 checkered flags stands third in points at 2,009. Then, it’s Kenseth, two trips to the Winner’s Circle earning him a total of 2,006. The real logjam comes behind them, a four-way tie for fifth that includes Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, and Ryan Newman. Each has visited Victory Lane once, good enough to earn a single three-point bonus and leave them all tied with a total of 2,003.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin round out the Chase with 2,000 apiece. Those totals came in different ways: for Earnhardt and Stewart, they earned their Chase position on points but remain winless during a rollercoaster regular season. In Keselowski and Hamlin’s case, they earned the 11th and 12th playoff spots through the sport’s new “wild card” rule, their victories (three and one, respectively) sneaking them in the field. But NASCAR maintains that “wild card” competitors don’t get any type of bonus points to start – simply qualifying is considered bonus enough.
Back in the pack, the race for “Mr. Irrelevant” in 13th finds A.J. Allmendinger in front by 12 over Clint Bowyer. Read those ten times over, please, because we’re not supposed to mention those names after Homestead unless A) They wreck a Chaser; B) They win a race; C) They berate a reporter, flip a competitor, make mention of another driver’s wife’s firesuit or have Juan Pablo Montoya threaten legal action against them; D) All of the above.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – We’ll give this one a solid five cans. The constant on-track action, combined with flared-up rivalries left this one a must-see at a track that’s always one of NASCAR’s best. But there were times, especially midrace where either Harvick or Carl Edwards drove off into another time zone.
Next Up: The ultra-exciting, super-competitive Chase gets its start in … Chicago-land? That’s like saying they’re holding this year’s Super Bowl in Casper, Wyoming where the halftime act will be local band Cowboy Bill and his harmonica. So let’s click our heels like Dorothy in Oz, close our eyes and go, “There’s no place like a rivalry… there’s no place like a rivalry…”
Connect with Tom!
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I was glad that Carl Edwards didn’t win the race… not that I don’t like him, but that Cheez-It/Kelloggs car was waaay too ugly to sit in victory lane.
I kind of like the new “Wreck me and I’ll wreck myself trying to wreck you back” Jimmie Johnson. If he keeps that up we won’t have to worry about having to call him “six-time”. Otherwise, he’s still the favorite; I don’t care who is in his head.
Bobby Labonte got a top-20 finish. Yes, the moon was indeed full.
Carl Edwards would have won this race hands down, EXCEPT he has a idiot for a crew chief! This dope should be shown the door!! What a stupid call!!
Starting the Chase in the number 3 media market in the country, and 2nd largest media market they race in, if you count Fontana as being in the LA market, is like playing the Super Bowl in Casper, Wyoming? HUH? Tom, would you care to amplify on that a little bit? Chicago isn’t maybe a little bigger and has maybe a little bit more to offer then, say Loudon, New Hampshire? Come on, Tom, you strayed way far from the pack on that comment.
Now that was what I call a race. NASCAR, are you listening? Rivalries, trading paint without hurting anybody, patch it up and get back out there, no fuel mileage finish, no imaginary debris cautions, getting laps back, cars passing each other on the track, spots made up on pit road or by staying out. Full moon Saturday night racing.
This is what NASCAR used to be like every week; this is what fans like to see. Give us more, please!
What a rip. Jeff Gordon had that race won and then Menard (Harvick’s teammate) and many laps down spins out by himself and brings out a caution. Talk about suspicious.
Well, I’ve always considered the Busch brothers to be a little unstable. Listening to KuBu mangle the English language in his interview for years was kind of interesting, but trying to unsay things, well, that one takes the cake. He clearly said it – why the heck not go with it? After not being afraid to play rough with the 48 – which personally I think is the perfect way to get into Johnson’s head, now he wants to take it back?
Obviously I’m biased here, but it was just oh so convenient for Menard to spin out all by himself. At least he wasn’t dumb enough to say he did it on purpose on the radio like another driver did once upon a time.
So much for the simplified system — didn’t seem simple at all and just annoys me – a lot like the chase. I sure won’t be making a trip to Chicago – from what I’ve seen on TV, it’s just another track that produces boring races even if it is in one of the biggest media areas. Are da bears playing on sunday?
Regarding Kevin Harvick Inc. selling out to Richard Childress… I think most Nascar fans realize that the Nationwide Series is nothing more than a way for racing’s elite owners and certain cup drivers to stroke their egos. Personally, I’ve come to detest watching Busch & Edwards beat up on the true Nationwide teams week after week. For the long-term survival of the series, Nascar needs to:
Kyle Busch has earned the 2011 “regular season” Cup championship, ekeing out Jimmie Johnson by three points. (Maybe he’ll claim that puts him one step closer to Richard Petty’s seven titles?)
Now that’s funny… and probably true!
Menard spinning to cause a caution isn’t any worse than Johnson and Earnhardt blocking Harvick until Gordon could catch and pass him.
The only reason JJ retaliated was because he had nothing to lose. He is in the chase and his finish would not impact the next “season.” Not a JJ fan, but he knows what he’s doing.
Dale Jr. had a “ugly tete-a-tete with backmarker Travis Kvapil”? It was more like Travis Kvapil had an ugly tete-a-tete with BACKMARKER Dale Earnhardht Jr. Bowles did you even watch the race? Or were you too busy clapping for Dale Jr.? Dale Jr.just ran out of talent on that lap. Don’t think so? Na$crap didn’t even give Jr. the “Lucky Dog” pass, because HE caused the accident!
nascar not Menard(who was in infield) threw the last caution which gave Jr his 3rd lucky dog of the night, why no caution for the 51 car when he spun and was stopped on frontstretch?
Katie nailed it. That was good old fashion racing.
Watched RaceHub on Speed tonight and listened to Menard’s radio chatter…sure sounded like a planned caution to me….hope NASCAR was listening
wcfan nailed it. No caution for the 51, but the 27 goes for the exact same spin and the yellow comes out.
I think its great that the points are tight even before the reset. Makes Nascar look stupid for implementing the Chase once again.
Looks like ole 5 time is getting a little rattled going into the Chase. Hopefully the rest of the drivers see this and continue to try to rattle him.
Recent articles from Tom Bowles:
Did You Notice? ... The Details Behind Busch Double-Duty And NASCAR Teams/Series Needing A Boost
If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.
Want even more Tom Bowles? Check out Tom's archive at SI.com.