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 February 29, 2012
Did You Notice?… The alliteration for 2012 Daytona Speedweeks was Demolition Derby? From the drop of the green in the exhibition Bud Shootout, an 82-lap race that saw roughly half of its 25-car field fail to finish the return of pack racing brought with it a propensity to wreck. Here were the official DNF counts due to crashes for the four biggest events:
Shootout – 12 of 25 cars (48%)
Such carnage can kill momentum for teams, along with putting them in an early financial hole. But which ones will be hurt the most, long-term by the way their dreams of success turned into superspeedway scrap metal? Here’s an overview of the organizations leaving Daytona in pieces – literally…
If anyone can withstand the strain of Daytona disaster, it’s NASCAR’s Most Valuable Team, estimated by Forbes to be worth $350 million entering 2012. Johnson, for one is no stranger to restrictor plate setbacks: since winning the Daytona 500 in 2006, he has just one top-5 finish at the 2.5-mile oval. Perhaps the biggest thing to watch here, then, isn’t rebuilding confidence but crankshafts: Jeff Gordon was absolutely perplexed over a motor failure that happened despite extensive reliability tests during the offseason. As it is, HMS came to Speedweeks and got whipped, speed-wise from Ford’s FR9 engines in qualifying; each of which then lasted the race distance despite overheating concerns. That disparity will hurt this team slightly heading to their bread and butter, intermediates like Las Vegas and California where horsepower, as much as handling remains the key.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
One year removed from a nightmarish season, the EGR organization entered 2012 with a clean slate. Now, they’re leaving Daytona fueled with bizarre endings, a freakish part failure causing vicious wrecks for both McMurray and Montoya while making the Colombian Jet Dryer Enemy number one (we’ll explore that more shortly). For a team with so much offseason turnover – virtually their entire executive staff on the mechanical side was cleaned out – wrecking so many chassis that incorporate ideas from the new regime could be costly. With just two cars, not four there’s half the information to go around and Phoenix won’t exactly be a momentum-builder for either program: they averaged a 16th-place finish in November. Will the volatile Montoya let a slow start get to his head?
Front Row Motorsports
FRM’s three-car outfit does so much with so little; but after Speedweeks, they simply have little to no margin for error. Typically, the 500 has been an opportunity for the underdog team to gain points on the rest of the field, capitalizing on a rare moment of parity to seize momentum and secure spots within NASCAR’s top 35 in owner points. Instead? David Ragan leaves dead last in the standings (43rd), the victim of a first-lap melee not of his making after winning the July race at the very same track. Then Gilliland, who placed third last February in the same car Ragan was driving socked the wall hard in a late-race wreck that left him limping to the finish.
Only Tony Raines, signed for a one-race deal brought the team’s typical start-and-park third car, the No. 26, home in one piece with a 19th-place result. The organization would love to run that car more races with proper sponsorship; instead, they’ll be forced to park it, playing it safe while running conservative with the other two mainstays to recover financially. And for Ragan, it’s a confidence hit, going from the multi-million dollar UPS deal to an ugly start at his best track – with little chance of a top-20 finish ahead until Bristol.
For Kurt Busch, the first month of 2012 may prove a tougher test than even last November’s meltdown. Armed with A-level cars in the Budweiser Shootout, Saturday’s Nationwide race and Monday’s Daytona 500 Busch left the speedway having wrecked them all. Clearly, not every crash was his fault but the damages, combined with an engine failure after hitting a bird would have left plenty of drivers flipping the bird to anyone who crossed them leaving the speedway. In public, Busch was the consummate professional, showing dedication and focus while thanking his team for handling adversity well. But the amount of cars left sitting inside Phoenix Racing’s shop is now seriously depleted. What happens after another wreck at, say, Las Vegas, where Busch is now forced to run C-level equipment while struggling to keep the car inside the top 35 in owner points? With perfection now the only option – media is tracking his every move – it’ll be difficult to impossible to keep this temper in check forever. And when it boils over… uh oh.
Did You Notice?… The furor surrounding Danica Patrick’s return to the racetrack? Only running a 10-race schedule, many fans were angered by her attempt to finish the race, which she did some 64 laps off the pace running with a heavily damaged car. With her virtually ineligible to make the Chase, along with declining to run for Rookie of the Year many thought her “comeback” was little more than a giant publicity stunt.
They thought wrong; in this case, fans’ anger over Danica coverage is clouding their ability to recognize racing common sense. As a rookie, the open-wheel convert needs as much seat time as possible, especially under superspeedway conditions while gaining the respect of her peers in the draft. It’s the same reason Trevor Bayne, running just 12 races this season was out there limping along in his Ford; and in his case, that car was struggling to simply keep up with the lead pack. Last I checked, no one was complaining about him…
The second reason, which some find silly is earning enough owner points to keep the No. 10 car “locked” inside the top 35. That guarantees Patrick a spot for each of her nine Cup starts, as opposed to having to qualify on speed at a tricky track for rookies like Darlington in May. A month ago, I would have laughed at the concept considering less than 35 cars had funding to go the full distance. But a recent boost in cars running full-time, like the two BK Racing entries mean it is possible for this car to drop out – especially considering the downgrade in TBR parts and equipment once Reutimann takes the wheel. By returning to the track, Patrick gained three points and, who knows? That may make the difference in keeping the GoDaddy ride from going home.
Did You Notice?… The long-term consequences that last beyond that bizarre jet dryer wreck? Look, the crash and resulting fire was hardly Juan Pablo Montoya’s fault. I was listening to his radio leading up to that freak accident, and it was clear a part inside his car was malfunctioning. Montoya complained about it, repeatedly, and teammate Jamie McMurray also suspected a similar parts failure, laps later caused his multi-car wreck. As we’ve seen in the past, like with Steve Park’s tragic Darlington disaster when your steering linkage breaks, the driver is simply along for the ride.
But rotten reputations don’t give you the benefit of the doubt amongst your peers. Already, one driver was on record swearing at Montoya over the radio and calling him an idiot for “delaying the Daytona 500.” And after the Ryan Newman fiasco last May, where the Colombian threatened to sue after a punch was thrown at him during a confrontation in the NASCAR hauler, acceptance from his peers dropped to an all-time low. Increasingly isolated by the end of 2011 inside the NASCAR garage, one key to Montoya’s 2012 season was to work on rebuilding those relationships. After all, how can you make the playoffs when every other week, you’re driving around a guy who has no issue “accidentally” running into your rear bumper as payback?
Now, the Colombian has taken one step back before there’s ever a chance to move forward. Already, in the minds of many his aggression will be blamed, unfairly for that two-hour red flag (he could have slowed down, people will say. Or was a part really broken?) Like the case of the boy who cried wolf, Montoya has fallen victim to his own past history of guilt.
Did You Notice?… Some quick hits before we take off…
- How bad was it for Hendrick Motorsports at Daytona? Their four-car team led a grand total of one lap during the 500 (Jeff Gordon), their lowest total since getting shut out altogether in 2000. Even more surprising was Dale Earnhardt, Jr., despite his second-place finish failing to lead a lap, extending his restrictor-plate winless streak to 29 (he’s 0-for-17 with Hendrick). Hard to believe, but the Earnhardt name once branded with being able to “see the air” at these historic tracks hasn’t gone to Victory Lane on the superspeedways in Cup since the Fall, 2004 race at Talladega.
- If Elliott Sadler had any hopes to return to Cup, anytime soon they were probably shelved with that Daytona 500 performance (27th). There’s nothing worse than sitting at the scene of the crime moments after wrecking a certain five-time champ, plus the series’ hand-picked Sprint Cup Princess in one full swoop – and on Lap 2. Did I mention, too, that Sadler was sponsored by the man who owned the car he bumped (Hendrickcars.com?) So much for the “Big Five” working together on cutting costs…
- Yeah, I know Robby Gordon was whining about getting a Penske Racing engine after making the 500. But he was right about his equipment not lasting – the one in his Dodge blew after 25 laps – and you wonder why that partnership never happened. Remember, Penske gave Brad’s brother Brian one last year (along with Discount Tire sponsorship) and while there are obvious family connections in that case, let’s not forget there were only three full-time Chargers in the field this Sunday. You would think that manufacturer, with as much work as they’ve done on their 2013 model, would have done a little arm-twisting behind the scenes to make sure this small team, financially on the ropes didn’t flame out.
- Biggest improvement of Speedweeks you never heard about: Joey Logano. Sliced Bread had his heart sliced to pieces by the end of 2011, but crew chief Jason Ratcliff quietly did an exceptional job of rebuilding confidence during Speedweeks. Ever so briefly, the Bud Shootout shattered that fragile psyche after wrecking out with a top-5 car. But a lead-lap, ninth-place finish was the No. 20 team’s best since Watkins Glen last August, leading to hope the youngster has one final shot to mold his Cup career with Joe Gibbs Racing before it’s too late.
- Biggest disappointment in the 500 you never heard about: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. I was expecting big things from the rookie, a longshot candidate like we talked about last week who had a top-10 effort in qualifying and jumped inside the top 5 for most of Thursday’s Duels.
That type of success never happened Sunday, though. Stenhouse struggled in the pack, looking lost at times during various portions of the race and wound up a disappointing 20th. For most, that would be a successful second Cup start but with the equipment given, plus Nationwide experience of Stenhouse? I expected more.
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No, Tom, Danica sucks…period The adoration and air time heaped on her is more than over the top. She has done virtually nothing in open wheel and will do nothing in NASCAR. FOX and NASCAR better reevaluate the coverage they give her or I can guarantee there will be alot more TV’s being muted and MRN tuned for the race. I hope you don’t become a cheerleader too unless she starts putting up some decent finishes.
Jim, I totally agree.
While it probably was a parts failure that cause JPM’s issue, he should have at least been wise enough to not try to diagnose his problem while passing the jet blowers at such a speed.
These so called “speed weeks” have evolved into the most expensive,high speed demolition derby on record.
Hope your not that bad on fact checking but Steve Park had his steering wheel come off (not locked) during a yellow when he was hit by a car making up their lap…& Danica is’nt at fault for this (I would’ve run it for points & practice) & the only crash I can fault her for is making the wrong evasive moves on lap 1.1 all the rest she was a victim
I tend to agree with those who say that JPM was driving too fast toward the safety equipment, particularly knowing he had a problem in the drive train.
After all that wrecking and preaching about not touching the left side of the back bumper, it didn’t take Sadler long to run out of what cup level talent he has.
DW and the commercial-fest 500 has put a sour note in me. Hopefully I’ll cheer up in time for Phoenix.
Penske did not give Brian K an
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