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 April 18, 2012
Did You Notice?… The difference Mark Martin makes with a new team? Yes, Michael Waltrip Racing went through an extensive personnel overhaul and expansion this offseason. But perhaps the best asset they’ve had, in this age of engineering parity is a driver who brings experience, enthusiasm, and that all-important confidence to the table.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the last two times Mark Martin made a move and his first year with a different organization.
2007: Sliding into a limited schedule with new owner Bobby Ginn, Martin came within a whisker (and a caution flag) of taking his first Daytona 500. Four races in, he had four top-10 results, was leading the points by eight over Jeff Gordon and was pushed heavily to bump back up to full-time before ultimately stepping aside at Bristol. Considering this No. 01 car the year before had totaled just two top-10 finishes all year while driven by Joe Nemechek, the turnaround was one of the more impressive we’ve seen in Cup over the last decade.
But it didn’t stop there. Martin ran in the top 20 in every race he started through Pocono in June, a total of eleven races; if not for a team firesale in mid-July, a transaction that ended with a Dale Earnhardt, Inc. merger the No. 01 may have very well made the owner points Chase. In all, he ended the year with five top-5 finishes, eleven top 10s and overall numbers just a hair off what he totaled in his last full-time season with Roush. Ending the year 27th in driver points, he equaled Nemechek’s standing from the year before despite running in a dozen fewer races.
2009: In his first year driving for Hendrick Motorsports, Martin inherited a team that had finished 20th in 2008, totaling just one top-5 finish with Casey Mears as driver. It took just eight races for Martin to equal that when he was victorious at Phoenix after leading more laps (157) in one race alone than the No. 5 did throughout all of 2008. Martin didn’t stop there, winning five times and collecting seven poles as part of an overall Hendrick resurgence that saw Jimmie Johnson, Martin, and Jeff Gordon finish 1-2-3 in the overall standings.
So here we are in 2012. Once again, the team Martin had inherited, renumbered the No. 55 from No. 00, was an absolute disaster a year ago. David Reutimann, its longtime driver, collected only one top-5 result in 36 starts, led just eight laps and stumbled to 28th in the standings. So what has the 53-year-old replacement done, in only five starts? Equaled those numbers exactly, sits 20th and may even have an outside shot of making the championship as a “wild card.” Altogether, the three Michael Waltrip Racing cars sit inside the top 11 in owner points, the highest they’ve ever been during the team’s five-plus year existence.
Some might say that’s just coincidence. But when you look at the focus Martin brings to the table, his unbridled enthusiasm, and the way he thrives when a team leans on him, you have to feel like it’s made a difference across the board. Now, the trick is for MWR to do everything possible and reassure their driver he’s a part of their plans for the long-term. Both stints at DEI and Hendrick ended when the focus was taken off Martin and placed elsewhere, either through trying to keep other drivers happy or simply looking ahead past the veteran and the next, young replacement to slip in the seat (Kasey Kahne, anyone?) Sponsorship concerns, in both cases had something to do with it but as long as Michael Waltrip can keep Aaron’s happy? There’s no reason Martin should be feeling pressure, and they need to make sure that team knows it. For the longer they keep building around the veteran, despite his age… the better off that whole organization is going to be.
Did You Notice?… The Rock’s attendance was not as earth-shattering as everyone thinks? Don’t get me wrong; fans stepped up in a big way to watch racing at the 1.017-mile oval. 27,500 in total showed up, nearly 37.5 percent more fans than came to Martinsville the end of last month. But those looking for a combination Nationwide / Camping World Truck Series race next season may wind up disappointed. That total is still far below even the worst-attended Nationwide race this year (Phoenix), and NASCAR’s recent schedule changes reflect a desire to keep the “AAA”-baseball like series attached to the major leagues whenever possible. Creating a standalone weekend, at a track that didn’t even sell out for the Truck side and whose maximum attendance, at 31,000+ would still fall right at the bottom of the list numbers-wise isn’t exactly a top priority.
For me, the fact there wasn’t a sellout is more significant than people are giving it credit for, also making me wary they’ll get there in 2013. Keep in mind this race was advertised, heavily, for well over six months as a historical event; it’s not often the sport returns to a racetrack eight years after ditching it. The track also had picture perfect weather conditions, a cushy place on the calendar and special appearances by drivers like Kasey Kahne and David Reutimann. All of that could potentially disappear next season, along with The Rock’s “newness” on the Truck Series slate, which makes it potentially harder to promote.
The racing itself, while generally entertaining wasn’t a ten out of ten in terms of a photo finish either. I’m not saying it was bad, but Piquet had a dominating lead at one point and the expected favorite, Kahne, wound up in Victory Lane. So the real trick, in my view, is to avoid the sophomore slump in 2013 and the fate of North Wilkesboro, which returned to racing in general with great fanfare but disappeared quietly before earning NASCAR’s major attention within one year. There’s a lot more going for the racetrack in this case, including its top-notch owner, Andy Hillenburg so I’m much more optimistic about its future. Let’s just be careful; one race does not a dramatic “we’re on top of the world!” ending make.
Did You Notice?… One of the sport’s few remaining driver/owners has faded quietly into the background? After a year of trying to make a go of it, starting and parking in most Sprint Cup events Robby Gordon just isn’t even bringing the No. 7 Dodge to the track anymore. So much for the new Charger jumpstarting his program in 2013; at this rate, there isn’t even going to be one to even associate with. Roger Penske refusing to give him an engine, resulting in a catastrophic failure during the Daytona 500 was apparently the final straw. DNQs soon followed, along with slinking back into obscurity as debt and disastrous equipment has finally caught up with him.
I’ve always felt that Gordon, while known as difficult to work with (he goes through crew chiefs faster than you can eat a row of Girl Scout Thin Mints) has suffered from a case of bad timing. Back in 2000, when he formed a self-owned team for the first time the garage was overloaded with fully-funded cars and he just didn’t have enough stock car experience. At less than 20 career starts, it was easy to get buried, especially when fighting the well-funded efforts of fresh rookies like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Matt Kenseth. Luckily, Richard Childress was watching, picked up on the raw talent and that was enough to eventually land Gordon the best Cup ride he’ll ever have for four seasons, from 2001-04.
But then, the second driver/owner time around, when Gordon formed a team in 2005 NASCAR came up with its ridiculous top-35 rule. No one was hurt by that early more than Robby, who failed to qualify at Daytona despite a seventh-place run in his Duel and was instantaneously resigned to a full season of having to qualify on speed. All of a sudden, the financial burden became overwhelming, especially when faced with unlimited spending of teams around him that suddenly jumped from two to three to four cars in many cases. Robby tried jumping manufacturers, he tried alliances, he revamped his personnel several times but none of those “catchup strategies” worked. Losing Jim Beam for good, at the conclusion of 2009 killed off any dream of a much-needed second team, and from there it’s not been a matter of “if” but “when” Gordon’s Alan Kulwicki-like dream would die on the vine.
Long-term, the Californian will be fine as he continues to build both a successful off road career and a strong financial off-track venture (his SPEED Energy Drink). But in a season filled with too much drudgery and too little drama, it’s drivers like the colorful Gordon who are missed. After all, this man is the same one who once threw a helmet at Michael Waltrip’s car, wrecked Jeff Gordon in the midst of winning his first Cup race (New Hampshire, 2001) and once had a road course victory ruined by a black box fire in the cockpit. When Gordon had equipment, there was never a dull moment and the sport would be better off with him in it.
Sadly, the business model doesn’t have room for people like that. So when are we going to rethink the model?
Did You Notice?… Quick hits before we take off…
- Travis Pastrana and Michael Waltrip made a great decision to pair with RAB Racing. But there are a number of variables stacking up against the pairing: not quite “A” level equipment, Pastrana’s time recovering from injury (and out of racing altogether), a disturbingly small schedule (seven events). Danica Patrick had the advantage in all these categories, and you know how much she struggled her first season. I’m not optimistic it’s going to be any better over in this camp.
- My colleague Garrett Horton did a good job expanding on the mysterious slump of Kyle Busch this season. I think he’ll get it together in Cup, eventually; my concerns lies more with his actual team. Let me tell you, for all this extra time on his hands the car owner is struggling more than ever to create the right chemistry at KBM. Three races in, Jason Leffler already has more DNFs (two) than top 10s (one), including a disastrous engine failure at Rockingham. And Busch’s Nationwide Series problems are well documented; he’s crashed twice, failed to finish higher than eighth and brother Kurt blew a motor on Friday night. For the money Monster Energy is pouring in, along with high-profile sponsor Dollar General you have to expect more from this group. Yet people think KBM is going Cup racing in 2013? Not if they keep up this type of track record.
- NASCAR visited the White House Tuesday with all 12 Chasers from last season in attendance. Best quip of the day: Barack Obama asking Tony Stewart how to deal with the media. Seriously, though, it was nice to see the respect from all involved after the controversy of some missing the yearly trip last summer.
- Big weekend for Jimmie Johnson heading to Kansas; but how about Edwards? Hometown track, winless in 2012, both teammates have already won… a good run this weekend is a necessity to relieve some of that pressure.
- Speaking of pressure, here’s a quick look at the Chase: it looks like Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and Brad Keselowski have already cinched up bids through a ton of points and/or Victory Lane. You’ve got to believe Jimmie Johnson, along with Kevin Harvick gets a spot and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is tied for second in points: no one has been that high, this early and then missed the playoffs. Martin Truex, Jr. also looks like a bid stealer based on the way Michael Waltrip Racing is running (fourth, 38 points ahead of 11th-place Carl Edwards).
I just named ten of twelve spots right there. Big names I didn’t call: Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne. Only two of those names have a chance to sneak in, if the above theory holds… which could lead to some shocking omissions once the postseason starts come September.
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Everybody fails to mention that Four Wide Nationals (In Charlotte a few miles down the road)were also held the same day as the truck race in Rockingham.
As long as nas$car ties the Cup and nationwide series’ together at most races and lets the cup financed team take the top money, AAA is not a good moniker for the nationwide series. It should be called “the scavenger hunt” I’ve always called it “cup light”.
To compare Rockingham to Wilkesboro’s failed venture shows a total lack of understanding. You are comparing apples to oranges.
Hillenburg did his homework, BOUGHT the track, has continually improved The Rock and has a solid operation.
Alton McBride ran Wilkesboro on a lease, a wing and a prayer.
What were you expecting from the truck race? It, without thousands of fans already having multi-day tickets for a following Sprint Cup event, outdid Martinsville by over 30%. That is success in any book.
Will they get a Nationwide event? Possibly, eventually after they have proven that trucks can draw 20,000 plus for a few years.
NASCAR’s return to Rockingham is a success even if Nationwide never darkens it’s doors.
Maybe if NASCAR put as much emphasis on advertising the Truck Series as they do the Cup Series, they might get a bigger turn-out overall for all the Truck Series races.
Having it be on the weekend taxes are due didn’t help either. For those of us “last minute” people, I didn’t have time to travel to/from NJ for the trucks.
I DID go to Martinsville. I love that little track. I’m still not convinced that NASCAR isn’t trying to destroy the track thru a crappy early spring date. The weather was great this year, but I’ve sat thru cold and misty weather in late March in those stands.
Rockingham is a great track with no so great facilities, they had better facilities on the back side of the track, i guess that’s all gone now.
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Did You Notice? ... The Details Behind Busch Double-Duty And NASCAR Teams/Series Needing A Boost
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