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.
Editor’s Note: Matt McLaughlin is still suffering from health-related issues. As soon as we have a firm date on his return, you’ll be the first to know! In the meantime, please continue to send your “Get Well” messages to email@example.com; we know how much he appreciates your support as his recovery continues.
The Key Moment: Tony Stewart had the pit crew to give him track position on his final stop of the race, the speed to get past Matt Kenseth on the restart and a little extra Sunoco to survive when almost all his rivals ran out of gas.
In A Nutshell: About the best you’re going to get from a cookie-cutter track whose races often win the Emmy for Least Inspired Sprint Cup Performance. But if all these 1.5-mile tracks turn into fuel mileage finishes…no one will be watching by the end of the show.
Dramatic Moment: Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson held a spirited battle for the lead for about 10 minutes. But then, all the crew chiefs screamed, “Save fuel!” and everyone ran like a cop was pointing a radar gun, threatening to stop them for speeding at any point over the race’s last 30 laps.
What They’ll Be Talking About The Water Cooler This Week
Whenever a driver falls loses track position, has a top-5 car but then can’t get it back you’ve got a long-range problem that needs to be addressed. It’s funny NASCAR wants to stick in these big-range markets, like Chicago and Los Angeles but they won’t spend the money to actually revamp their boring racetracks in the process.
Kurt Busch claims the aluminum debris, perhaps the most legitimate of the race’s six debris cautions didn’t come from his car. Umm… has he looked at the video replay? Did the Metal Fairy randomly drop some random pieces out of the sky? That’s the only other explanation I could come up with… so why did the No. 22 team try to cover it up?
By the way, when it comes to Kurt Busch I’ve got a whiny radio transmission back. “Yes, Kurt. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. You know, this stuff gets old after awhile, I have to tell you. It just gets old. If only you could be the worst you can be, setting a new standard for verbal abuse every week. Oh wait! You did… again. Just don’t start crying when Steve Addington quits in the middle of a race because he’s sick of taking your %^&*!”
Fuel mileage criticism has been levied enough the past few months; so instead of rehashing the same old stuff, let’s just have Matt Kenseth handle it. Sayeth the ’03 Cup Series champ: “I don’t know what to do about the fuel mileage. It is really frustrating to be a race car driver and they drop the green on the last run of the day, when you are supposed to put on a show for the fans and you have to run half throttle and can’t floor it or you will run out of gas. It is pretty aggravating to do all the work and qualifying and pit stops and adjustments but none of it makes a difference. It is not a great definition of racing, but how are you going to fix it? There were so many races this year that have been like that already where the guy running half throttle, or pitted off sequence or whatever and has won. I wish they could figure out how to fix it because it is not a lot of fun.”
What in the world was J.J. Yeley thinking? In his post-race comments after the race, the excuse for pushing Matt Kenseth on the last lap, a NASCAR no-no is he didn’t know the rule existed. At best, for someone who’s been a Cup driver for six years that’s a terrible excuse considering most casual fans learn that inside the first three weeks. At worst, some Ford or Roush-Fenway official made a secret order, one that became a big mistake as someone, somewhere had a major brain fart. Yeley does bring up an interesting point, though, about every driver in restrictor plate races getting “pushed” on the final lap with the new two-car tandems. That does mean NASCAR officials should clarify the rule… but it’s hard to side with Yeley on this one.
First Menard’s Richmond spin, setting Harvick up for victory then Yeley’s push of Matt Kenseth across the finish line (remember, Front Row Motorsports gets engine and chassis help from Roush). How much worse will team orders get in a Chase that still appears wide open?
Looks like Clint Bowyer and 5-Hour Energy have a career-saving marriage in the works. Rusty Wallace admitted this weekend the sponsor was all but gone, pairing with Bowyer for a reported 20 races as they’d rather use their money to run Cup. Rumor has it Michael Waltrip Racing is now the frontrunner, with the team exploring a reported expansion to three cars. But keep in mind there needs to be other money, from Toyota backing to additional sponsor funding in order for this deal to be complete. If I’m David Reutimann right now? Coming off an ugly finish this weekend, a race where he was the defending champ I’d be doing my resume tonight just in case.
There’s one name that popped up in the race for the No. 33 car sweepstakes that could pull a major upset. If Childress can get the sponsors to agree, how about sliding Mark Martin inside the No. 33 in a one-year deal to keep the team afloat for Austin Dillon? You’ve got a veteran driver, teaming with another leader in Jeff Burton that’s willing to take less money to stay involved. The Stewart-Haas Racing deal is not yet complete, so this one bears watching considering Burton and Martin have worked together in the past.
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
Just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for Kyle Busch. A decision to take two tires didn’t work, the pit crew lost him 20 spots, he ran over aluminum debris at the 300-mile mark and ran out of gas on the white flag lap. Winding up 22nd, Busch scored points by at least publicly restraining from throwing anyone under the bus – that’s exceptional under the circumstances. But for a guy whose challenge is overcoming adversity, that’s one explosive-laced playoff welcome package to hold heading to Loudon.
Denny Hamlin limped into the Chase so badly few thought last season’s runner-up had any chance to contend. Two flat tires and some on-track contact later, he did nothing to indicate this ten-race stint will be anything more than a test session. The No. 11 was 31st, dead last out of the 12 Chase finishers after starting the day seeded 12th.
Jeff Gordon entered the day a championship favorite; he ended it with major questions surrounding this program’s intermediate track setup. Never a contender, Gordon seemed frantic at times during the race, radioing the car was tight from the center off but also suffering from a lack of rear grip elsewhere. Tight, loose, tight loose… not even Alan Gustafson can Goldilocks two opposite problems into place. Running out of fuel on the last lap added insult to injury; he wound up an ugly 24th.
Chad Johnston is turning into the gambling addict of Sprint Cup crew chiefs: somebody better keep him off the craps table in Vegas. Leaving Martin Truex, Jr. out during the final caution, hoping another yellow would force a round of stops his strategy backfired when the race went green the rest of the way. Truex, who went from the lead to 18th, learned a hard lesson… or did he? Kudos to this group for stepping up, recognizing they had nothing to lose and going for the win.
Speaking of gas, a long list of drivers will look back on that white flag lap with disgust. Among those hurt the most: Johnson (3rd to 10th); Kenseth (4th to 21st, courtesy that Yeley assist); Ryan Newman (5th to 8th); and Paul Menard (7th to 20th).
The “Seven Come Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was horrible on new tires. He was horrible on old tires. By the race’s halfway point, it was all crew chief Steve Letarte could do to pull out a top-15 finish. But low and behold, after a three-month disappearance the ability for these two to put their heads together and make the right adjustments on the No. 88 car suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Charging into the top 10 during the final run of the race, fuel mileage played in their favor for once and left them sitting on the “podium” third.
Penske Racing, down the stretch seemed headed for a miserable day. Between Brad Keselowski’s verbal meltdown, a poor pit strategy call by Paul Wolfe and handling issues that never died down, it was a miracle the No. 2 car even ended up on the lead lap. Right alongside him sat Kurt Busch, who led 64 laps early only to drop like a rock during the final 50 miles of the race. But when everyone ahead started running out of gas, Lady Luck smiled down and left them fifth and sixth, respectively at the checkered flag.
Kasey Kahne, an intermediate track specialist hit the wall so hard early in the race it’s a wonder his Red Bull Toyota didn’t pull inside the garage. But his crew hung in there, kept adjusting and a Lucky Dog on the race’s final caution led to a second chance. Kahne made the most of it, charging to 12th while cultivating a setup that makes him a sleeper at Kansas and Charlotte.
For every driver that ran out of fuel, there’s one that blew past them at full song. Among the biggest gainers late: Earnhardt (6th to 3rd), Carl Edwards (8th to 4th), Clint Bowyer (12th to 7th), Mark Martin (13th to 9th).
What’s The Points?
Kevin Harvick, by simply keeping his car filled with gas used that runner-up finish to open a seven-point lead in the championship over Stewart. Carl Edwards is third, ten points back with an edge over Kurt Busch by one. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in perhaps the biggest surprise of all jumps up to fifth in the standings; he’s now 13 markers back of the No. 29.
Ryan Newman sits tied for sixth, along with Brad Keselowski as both are just 14 points off Harvick’s pace. Interesting note: if Keselowski earned the bonus for his three victories he, not Stewart would be sitting pretty at second in the standings. Jimmie Johnson sits eighth, now 16 points out but easily within striking distance.
Really, this Chase is still a crapshoot as only four drivers have cause for concern after this event. Kyle Busch, at -19 drops from the top seed to ninth and needs to have his Joe Gibbs Racing team forget about Chicagoland quickly. Kenseth sits 10th, 24 off the pace but is heading to Loudon, a track where he hasn’t finished better than 17th in four seasons. Jeff Gordon, sitting 11th is now 25 off the pace and has four 1.5-mile track hurdles left to clear. And Hamlin, dead last is 41 behind Harvick and must be perfect the rest of the way to have a chance.
In the “Best Of The Rest” category, Clint Bowyer slipped in front of A.J. Allmendinger; the margin is now eight points heading to a race where Bowyer is the defending champ.
Overall Rating (from one to six beer cans, with a one being a clunker and a six being a perfect race): We’ll give this one three solid cans of generic stuff. At times, the racing was better than expected at this racetrack but that’s not saying a whole lot. And a fuel mileage finish, for the first Chase race? Not exactly the way you’d want it on paper.
Next Up: We head to a Chase market the series abandoned, No. 7 in the country (Boston) so they could run an average race in market No. 3. Go figure. Loudon, New Hampshire is your destination, a one-mile oval where Tony Stewart was part of a 1-2 finish with Ryan Newman this July.
Could Smoke be saving his summer surge for early Fall? Either way, don’t hold your breath; last Fall’s race here was decided on (gulp) fuel mileage. Here we go again…
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In other news, the NA$CAR Hall of Fame lost a whole pile of dinero this year, costing Charlotte taxpayers dearly. But wait, the NA$CAR PR staff assures us it will turn a profit this year. They put their crack scheduling team on the job and found all it needs is some visitors. So they increased capacity and found official sponsors for facility toilet paper and floor mats.
Bottom line: All NA$CAR cares about is $$$, or the allure of $$$. The racing doesn’t matter to them. Who needs Rockingham, Darlington, and Wilkesboro when some “excitement” can be manufactured with a timely wave of the yellow.
3 cans was generous. Putting this type of racing against the NFL will not work.
If you save your tires and win you are a genius.
It was an ok race. The dominos fell to make a fuel race, so what. I thought the end was exciting and hilarious at the same time. I certainly did not want a caution thrown to fix the fuel situation.
I agree with Matt L, one can at most. If you watched the last 5 laps of the race you saw everything that mattered.
Tom thanks for talking again about team orders, after a little research, which Amy missed last week, I found that at Richmond last week;
Lap 162 Landdon Cassel (hendrick chassis & engines) spins. Jr gets his first Lucky Dog
Lap 246 Jimmie Johnson (hendrick driver) dive bombs Kurt Busch. Jr gets his 2nd Lucky Dog
Lap 304 Cassell (hendrick chassis and engines) spins on Frontstretch. Jr on lead lap no caution.
Lap 384 Paul Menard spins into infield. Jr lap down caution thrown. Jr gets 3rd Lucky Dog.
Yes Menard caution helped Harvick win race but it also GUARANTEED Jr made chase.
Cassel spun on track Jr on lead lap no caution, Menard spins into infield Jr lap down caution thrown.
It sounds like this race was more fun to be at, rain delay and all, then it was to watch on TV. I was there, thought it was a blast, and to be very very honest, couldn’t really tell that anyone was on fuel strategy, except when Truex went sailing past Stewart. I then looked at my wife and said “no way does Truex make it on fuel”, and came to the realization that the 14 team knew the same thing. My basic message is this. At the track, 160 (lets say) doesn’t look that much different from 180, as long as everyone is running 160…and you don’t have the 3 wise men talking about fuel non stop for the last 30 minutes of the race. 4 cans by being there live.
The only reason this race would get three cans of beer, was because it ran on Monday, not up against the NFL. Although I rated it as zero cans, due to the gas milage finish. Where the hec was the mystery caution when it was REALLY needed? Does Brian France actually get excited about running ouy of gas? Maybe they should go to yet smaller tanks to match the capacity in his head.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t NASCAR shrink the fuel cell after the Charlotte 2005 debacle to save Goodyear from the embarassment of their inability to build tires that last more than ten laps? Perhaps that has something to do with the preponderance of fuel mileage finishes?
Bill, you don’t think that saving tires or the motor slows down the car?
Well, if the drivers don’t want to slow down and conserve fuel they certainly don’t have to. You can always pit to fill up. No one forced anyone to make the pit/no pit calls they did. The guys that ran out gambled and lost. Tony crossed the line first. Overall average, he was the fastest.
The only way NASCAR can stop fuel mileage races is to throw a competition caution inside the final fuel window and require everyone to pit for fuel. Is that what all you anti-fuel mileage people want?
Hell, lets take all strategy out. Lets have a competition caution every ~50 laps, and everyone has to pit for 4 tires and fuel.
Bleh. I’d rather have a fuel mileage race than a plate race any day.
Weather was perfect in New Hampshire on Sunday. Crystal clear with temp in the sixties. Of course NA$CAR chose to change schedule and go to Chicago!
I don’t know why Joey Logano was not given orders to spin out with 10 to go. Then Kyle could have come in for a splash! For being a former NFL coach, Joe Gibbs certainly does not do much in the teamwork department! Is this a team sport or not? If not, outlaw teammates tandem-drafting at Dega. There is some sarcasm here, but why is some teammate help OK, but some not? Other than it’s NASCAR, so nothing makes any sense.
Anybody grumping about fuel milage take a look at “Kevin’s” comment in Racing with Rich… contenders. I think you’ll like it
If there is a competition yellow to check tire wear shouldn’t it be mandatory for every car to change all four tires?
I thought the rule stated that a car could not be pushed across the finish line on the last lap. Wasn’t there a race at Talladega where a car was pushed almost to the finish line and the driver got the win? (Harry Gant?)
A radio transcript from the tower that you will never see:
I gave this race 0 cans of beer. ‘nuff said.
Racing is about getting to the finish line first. Not having to stop and refuel works and has worked for over 50 years.
I was listening to the “Jeff Gordon” channel on Sirius during the Chicagoland race. On the last lap I heard what I am pretty sure was Matt Kenseths voice: “Get the 38 to give us a push” at least twice. Then I heard a different voice (I assume either the spotter or crew chief) reply: “Can’t get pushed on the last lap”. As the TV showed them (the 17 & 38) coming out of turn 4 heard over the radio: “Get the 38 to back off”. Why I was able to hear this on the Gordon channel, I have no idea, but being a Kenseth fan, I’m very sure it was him.
I don’t know what planet you watch races from Tom, but about the only time I hear about the no-push rule is when it happens, not every three weeks.
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