NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Monday May 14, 2012
Saturday night at Darlington was defined by history, a milestone 200th victory for NASCAR’s most successful modern-era car owner, Rick Hendrick. It was a long time coming, a sixteen-race drought in contrast with the New York Yankees-like efficiency of the organization: five straight championships, from 2006-10 and employer of the sport’s two winningest active drivers. But as the lights dimmed, The Lady In Black fading into the night last Saturday, “the chase” over for a business pursuing a historic number one couldn’t help but remember the date that truly defined it: 27 years, ten months, and eight days since 200 was actually made to mean something within the walls of NASCAR competition.
Before there was Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon or even Mr. Hendrick himself NASCAR was ruled by one man and one man only: The King. Where Richard Petty drove, a legion of fans followed as the man with the cowboy hat, the southern drawl and the charisma that could charm his closest rivals into avid autograph seekers set the stage for this sport’s growth spurt like no other. Petty’s name dots the record books in all sorts of different ways, from seven championships (tied with Dale Earnhardt) to 27 victories in one season, a sensational 1967 campaign that included a now unfathomable ten in a row. (Just think for a second how many drivers have had ten victories in the last two seasons… or five.) Yet the most incredulous statistic, one that will almost certainly never be surpassed is Petty’s all-time victory total of 200. No one else is even close: Gordon, with just a handful of years left to go will be lucky to tie David Pearson for second one day with 105.
Petty’s chase to finish this all-time record came to a climax on July 4th, 1984 where the pursuit turned towards the sport’s mecca of mythical performances: Daytona. As the laps wound down in the Firecracker 400, The King sat leading but with a hard-charging rival, Cale Yarborough sitting plastered to the real bumper. For the driver of the No. 28 car, settling for second was never an option: Yarborough ran a limited schedule, meaning points were about as useful as Kurt Busch at an Anger Management Convention. The goal was to win in those days, nothing more and for a tense final few minutes Yarborough simply sat plotting, waiting to get inside his competitor’s head. Back then, passing was a certainty at these types of tracks, and Yarborough looked for the right moment to slingshot past and claim victory just like at that year’s Daytona 500.
With less than three laps left, the poker hand was forced. A crash by rookie Doug Heveron brought out the yellow flag, forcing a race back to the finish line for all the marbles (there was no “freeze the field” in those days). Darting down the backstretch, the No. 28 pulled alongside Petty’s vaunted No. 43, using some extra speed to complete the pass and slide effortlessly in front entering turn 3. But Petty saw no “point” to relax and accept the award of first runner-up. Sensing an opening, he waited a beat, regathered his car and pulled a crossover move, using the draft to regain footing on the inside exiting Turn 4. Onto the tri-oval the two cars went, starting to beat and bang each other with both knowing the finish line stood a scant 1,000 feet away. Inch by inch, Petty climbed up to the side with the sparks of their contact welding the cars together like glue. Slowly, the metal moved forward, the front bumper of his clearly recognizable Pontiac lurching just ahead of Yarborough on the asphalt. The bulky, blackish head was the first part of the car NASCAR’s flagman saw as he waved both past the stand, putting the No. 43 in front for good. As the crowd of 80,000 cheered – 27 percent more than the attendance at Darlington this Saturday night – Petty got the checkered flag, then pulled in front of the grandstand to salute all those who paid to see him.
That day’s postrace interview, carried on ABC’s Wide World Of Sports also included a special guest: U.S. President Ronald Reagan. It was the first time a sitting president had ever attended the middle of a NASCAR race, much less this type of exciting conclusion and the humble responses of both he and Petty were carried on national news programs all over the country. It was a landmark moment for The King, an opportunity if there ever was one to go Michael Waltrip and give his sponsors a little extra exposure. But you know what? Notice in the “postrace interview”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSzxjO9z_C4 there was no mention of STP, Petty’s longtime backer from 1972 onward; just racing talk, combined with a little “thank you” to the Commander In Chief. There was no backlash from the company in question; clearly, having their logo on camera and on the uniform was more than enough. ABC’s Jim Lampley, while a light-hearted interviewer also had no reason to thank Petty; he was merely a sports reporter covering a story on a historic achievement, the definition of the “blue collar” auto racer that could.
Note those differences while transitioning to the other side of the “200” story. A little over two months earlier, in April 1984 a little-known businessman named Rick Hendrick had watched his No. 5 car head to Victory Lane at Martinsville. An up-and-coming driver named Geoff Bodine, driving an unsponsored vehicle no less earned his car owner Cup Series victory number one that day, saving the team from possible extinction as the organization was running low on funds. Hendrick was a single-car team then, just like Petty and Yarborough who battled for bragging sights on that bright Daytona day; after all, in an individual sport no one had thought of two cars working together. But during Hendrick’s two years with only one car, the results were reasonable but hardly record-breaking: three wins, six poles and a high finish of fifth in points during an age when parity ruled the sport. So it was in 1986 when Hendrick chose to win by combining crew chief smarts with a strategy he’d already been successful at: boardroom business. Putting together a multi-car program, with Fortune 500 sponsors his idea was to train two minds to work towards the same goal instead of fighting each other on-track – changing the mentality of an individual sport so that first and second really would be OK if they both worked for the corporation as a whole.
It took several seasons for the businessman to recognize his dream; after all, an old school racer’s mentality is always to finish first, not help someone else try and do it. When Jeff Gordon came on the scene full-time, in 1993 his organization was a battleground of mixed results. Only three times during the first decade – Geoff Bodine (’84), Tim Richmond (’86) and Darrell Waltrip (’89) did the team win more than two races with any car in their stable. Ricky Rudd, in 1991 (second) was the closest the team would come to tasting a championship. At times, the cars were at odds, unable to communicate while single-car programs like Dale Earnhardt’s used a combination of talent and tenacity to blow right by. Richmond, once Hendrick’s dream of a Fortune 500 posterboy to attract corporate sponsors that could carry him to the top died tragically of AIDS by mid-1989.
But then came the man they called Wonder Boy. 1995, Jeff Gordon’s breakout year and surprising title run also signaled a changing of the guard for this sport. Hendrick’s first championship, in NASCAR history was its most life changing: the beginning of the copycat, make-a-second-team-and-have-everyone-share-information era. It’s a road that’s included the car owner’s share of tough times, lows that included house arrest, leukemia, and the tragedy of losing his son Ricky among several other family members and friends after a tragic Martinsville plane crash in 2004. Yet through the ashes of those awful moments has come a permanent NASCAR legacy. There’s ten championships now: five with Johnson, four with Gordon and one with Terry Labonte in 1996. Six Daytona 500s, trophies from three different decades of competition. There’s seven Brickyard 400s, including the inaugural NASCAR race at Indianapolis with Gordon. 181 pole positions, and now? The mythical 200 career victories. Perhaps most importantly, the garage is forever changed by Henrick’s ability to build a four-car empire (and then some, depending on how you view his “engine and chassis services” to Stewart-Haas Racing, among others). The garage these days has become a plethora of corporate dominance, old school racers like Richard Childress and even Petty himself forced to find investors, expand their operations or risk losing their fortunes to the mechanisms of big business and brainpower able to outmaneuver past single-car programs with relative ease. With money has come technology, outside-the-athlete’s-control enhancements that make a significant impact on the ability to post a victory. No matter what happens now, a generation of NASCAR competition has been redefined by a man who holds no “official role” in Daytona Beach, has limited crew chief experience and has never scored so much as a single Cup Series top 10.
That brings us to May 12th, 2012, the date of Mr. Hendrick’s 200th career victory. On this night, it was clear from the drop of the green Johnson was the fastest car; all he needed, with The Track Too Tough To Tame becoming Too Tough To Pass was for the right pit strategy to keep the car up front. During the final laps, there was never a serious challenge, even a green-white-checkered restart leaving Tony Stewart (and HMS half-teammate) sitting in the dust as the No. 48 steered towards a single-file, methodical victory with nary a scratch on the side. As the checkered fell, the neatly-coiffed crew, decked in sponsors came out to meet their Californian driver, with a place in New York (no Southern drawl here) for a business-like burnout on the frontstretch. Afterwards, Johnson was excited for his boss’ place in history, paying homage but never forgetting the training that dots every Hendrick post-race interview.
“I want to thank Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for an awesome race car,” he said. “The Kobalt Tools Chevy was bad fast.” Later on: “I wouldn’t have won a bunch of these now if it wasn’t for [Rick Hendrick’s] vision and Lowe’s coming on board to believe in me in the beginning.”
The homage to a boss, armed with a nice guy personality and brilliant strategy… but forever tied to millions in sponsor support and funding that helped create the second “200.” The empire has touched all those who thanked him on-air; from Tony Stewart, who gets the engines and chassis from the HMS program to Jeff Hammond, the FOX analyst who also served as Hendrick’s crew chief during Darrell Waltrip’s Daytona 500 victory in 1989. And then, there was FOX itself, whose network was the beneficiary of Hendrick assistance in the wake of Chris Myers’ son’s tragic death. When a car owner helps fly your people to the funeral, of course journalism loses out to the bias procured by that type of emotional connection. The milestone may pale in comparison to Petty’s 200, or even the 268 procured by Petty Enterprises’ longtime ownership program; however, anyone who works in an office is wise enough to know the old adage, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
What we don’t know is, in this age of NASCAR crossroads, both present and future how much Hendrick’s empire is impacting the current rocky revenue stream. Certainly, in a survey of fans in the grandstands it’s hard to find those who came to Darlington purely to see Mr. Hendrick celebrate his 200th win. The car owner doesn’t drive, nor does he call the shots on the pit box. But on Saturday night, he was the story of the sport, in part because a large percentage of its current grid survives through his presence.
“I am kind of numb, but I am glad it is over,” Hendrick said afterwards, part of a heartfelt, caring speech about the people that work for him. “I’m glad we got 200. Man, I have answered more questions and hauled those hats around and talked about it so much!”
The hat reference links perfectly to a souvenir trailer, one supported by Hendrick employees and hauled around to every racetrack in anticipation of victory No. 200 for the organization. Those items, available for purchase help celebrate the momentous achievement, a stark contrast to July 4th, 1984 and a day defined by Southern roots, its greatest driver and a humility that helped spark its future growth.
Welcome to NASCAR, the next generation. Whether it’s better, or worse, is up for you to decide; but clearly, as these “200” achievements suggest, the differences make it look like two different sports.
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©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Rick has been well over 200 wins for a while now. Stewart and Newman gave him 8-10 wins in the last two years.
Steve Kinser just
Makes 200 seem small.
Are you saying that Hendrick’s 200 are somehow tainted as compared to Petty’s individual 200 because of Hendrick’s business acumen? If memory serves me, Petty’s rise to prominence was boosted by one of the first major corporate sponsors, namely STP. Petty was able to outspend most of his competitors by a considerable amount and his winning record is a testament to both his skillful driving and his exceptional boardroom skills. Maybe there was a time in the mythical NASCAR past where money didn’t matter, but as I reflect on it, money, either personal or corporate or both, has played a major part in successful racing teams for a long time.
Tom, it’s a different world than 1984 and NASCAR is a far different sport. Major sponsorship, major TV coverage and since my favorite driver contributed to the HMS legacy even though he wasn’t the one to get that victory – darn it, I’m happy for HMS as a whole.
They’ve had a lot of tragedy to deal with too, so to me, I feel like be happy for the achievement.
It’s worse than in 1984, but that’s not what I came in here to say.
The article was well written. Good job, and I liked the comparison of the two different celebrations.
But one thing. You seem to be saying that Hendricks invented the multi-car team. Petty, Johnson, Kiekhaefer and others had done that many decades earlier. Hendrick’s accomlishment was making it work better than ever before.
Jeff Gordon deserves equal credit for the 200. I never cared either way for him, but his successes kept the team in business and focused. They weren’t a superteam before him.
I’m happy he got his 200th. With that storyline complete, the Waltrips have more time to talk about Danica and Pastrana. And Toyota, never forget Toyota.
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