Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday August 8, 2012
Did You Notice?… Dodge’s departure from the sport dashes expansion dreams? In the past few months, the manufacturer has been linked with Furniture Row Racing, looking to add a a second car with driver Kurt Busch; Andretti Autosport, exploring the option of debuting a team in 2013; and Richard Petty Motorsports, whose funding from Dodge could have spearheaded co-owner Andy Murstein’s desire to build from two cars to three. It’s clear, despite the loss of Penske Racing that Dodge had options; they just clearly didn’t like any of them. Why?
“Really this issue started many, many years ago as we consolidated down to one team,” explained SRT’s Ralph Gilles, President Of Racing and Technology. “We had a very, I would say, an elegant situation with the Penske group, having a one-stop shop, an engine, everything, a very high quality team to work with.”
“When that changed, the equation changed dramatically. As you know, being in this sport over the last few years, just like anything in America, things have consolidated, right. So what’s available in North Carolina now is not what was available five, 10 years ago. It’s not as easy as you would think to configure a team at the level that we are accustomed to racing and at the level that we want to perform.”
The key words of Gilles’ answer were what I put in italics. Yes, there were options available but Dodge had the belief that no matter what money they put in or how they aligned things, those cars would never be competitive with the sport’s “big guns.” The three options available, admittedly middle class based on their 2012 performance (zero Chasers, zero victories among them) Dodge felt were no longer capable of moving up; no longer did they feel “B-level” partners, with the right equipment and personnel could be turned into an “A.”
That thought process in itself, a monopoly on competition is the most damaging I’ve seen with the sport in a long time. Here’s a manufacturer that has a lot of money, willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to stay in your sport and they’re saying the current pecking order of Ford’s, Chevy’s and Toyota’s top teams are incapable of being challenged? That’s like the Pittsburgh Pirates pulling out of baseball because they’re convinced no matter what, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers will always be the two best teams in baseball. With no parity, no chance to challenge the bigger markets they’re not getting the return on investment… so in this scenario they leave, with around 20 of the other small and middle-market programs leaving a glutton of 10 “New York Yankee-like” organizations and… that’s it.
How do you survive with the rich… and the rich? I don’t know but with this announcement, my fear grows greater that’s exactly where NASCAR is heading. Once again, there’s no new teams in the pipeline for 2013 except for Danica Patrick’s No. 10 and maybe Joe Gibbs Racing, looking to put Joey Logano in a new fourth car full-time. For the high-end, “Big Six” programs of Roush, Childress, Gibbs, Hendrick, Stewart-Haas and Penske they continue to run at the top, running 17 cars between them (18 in 2013). The “middle class,” led by MWR (who could put two cars in the Chase) is still hanging tough; but they, along with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports combine for only seven cars on the grid. If you count Furniture Row Racing’s single-car program, along with Kurt Busch at Phoenix you get to nine. (Both of them, by the way, receive help from superpowers Childress and Hendrick, respectively).
Beyond that, with all due respect it’s pretty much a junkyard, a ton of cars looking for sponsorship but without the performances necessary to get it. And with the equipment as bad as it is, combined with the widening gap they’re unable to move up the ladder and contend. Dodge recognized that, saw the futility of trying to compete paired with one of these organizations and spent their money elsewhere.
It’s an ugly pattern, one that I don’t think we’re done with. You have to wonder, with patchwork sponsorship at the No. 43 whether RPM’s investors are willing to stay the course with the organization now that Dodge’s departure and Penske’s Ford transfer leaves them the bottom of the barrel in Blue Oval country. Childress’ longtime financial partners are leaving, selling their minority stake and putting pressure on the organization to eventually replace their cash to keep up with his “A-level” counterparts.
How do you fix it? By enticing new owners in two ways: proving they have an ability to qualify more easily for the race (read: ditch the top 35 rule) and then be just as competitive once the green flag falls. But NASCAR also has to do that while convincing the aging “big guns” like Penske and Roush they won’t lose their fortune by cutting costs and enticing others to come out and build teams to beat them. Maybe franchising will force the country club elite to stop simply outspending rivals and get with the program? I don’t know; it’s a solution I used to hate but have come around to in order to ensure fairer competition.
Whatever they do, NASCAR needs to take this one as a wake-up call. All of a sudden, big people that make big money decisions are putting their checkbook in their pocket, saying this sport is too closed off for their liking and the sanctioning body has to make the bleeding stop. The problem, as much as they want to blame the economy is far deeper, more alarming, and most importantly… it won’t fix itself.
Did You Notice?… AJ Allmendinger’s tone of voice when talking to ESPN’s Marty Smith? No question, it was a sigh of relief, part of the “right approach” in finally dealing with his indefinite Sprint Cup suspension head on. In an exclusive interview on NASCAR Now, the ‘Dinger spoke candidly about his failed drug test, the aftermath and an explosive season of stress at Penske Racing that preceded it. But despite tackling such a serious topic, from start to finish I was impressed by the way the driver responded; it was as relaxed a conversation as possible considering the subject matter. No doubt, the sense I got was leaving Penske, despite the ugly circumstances has become a surprising sigh of relief for a driver who had seen his dream job self-destruct long before those final test results came in.
The explanation of the drug use itself is still a little shaky. ‘Dinger explained the positive test was triggered by Adderall, an ADHD drug Jeremy Mayfield claimed he was taking when NASCAR indefinitely suspended him back in 2009. Not eligible for a prescription, Allmendinger claimed in this case he “took a pill from a friend” the Wednesday before the race in Kentucky without knowing what it was. Tired from a day of “hanging out,” he needed a little extra energy boost and the friend explained the pill was a supplement that had always helped him. Allmendinger took it without a second thought, never worrying the day of the drug test or checking what it was.
If that’s true, at best we’ve got a driver who made a very poor choice in judgment. How could someone, especially considering their status as an athlete just “take a pill” without checking what was going into their body? And what type of “friend” is randomly carrying around these prescription ADHD supplements? ‘Dinger swears he’d never knowingly take a drug, and the Road to Recovery program has been tailored more for stress management than abuse; that’s why, on Tuesday the rumor was he could be done with the program as soon as the end of this month. But you still have to carry a healthy level of skepticism, no matter how truthful AJ seems on camera. You’re telling me one pill, this one time triggered the positive after two days in the system? When no other drug was ever taken? Better yet, NASCAR is going to suspend someone for having the equivalent of an ADHD drug in their system? The whole scenario seems a little extreme, especially considering AJ wound up fired for this “one-time use.” You’d think Penske, with a history of problem children on the IndyCar side (see: Castroneves, Helio) would have more compassion if the story were true. Maybe he didn’t believe it?
Or maybe all the information, the confirmations needed by NASCAR weren’t available. One of the most shocking portions of the ‘Dinger interview was the sanctioning body’s response to it, in which they admitted not knowing exactly what drug triggered the positive test. Spokesman David Higdon, in response to Smith’s report claimed the sanctioning body was unaware of the specific substance taken, just that it was an amphetamine.
Doesn’t that seem a little bizarre to you? Wouldn’t you want more information if you were NASCAR in making a decision that, you know affects a driver for the next 10, 15 years of their career? I just felt like that claim didn’t really mesh, especially considering that if these circumstances are true, a month’s suspension seems not just extreme… it’s torturous. So which side is hiding what? I’m almost afraid to ask, as the Mayfield affair still brings up new answers and arguments every day.
At this point, though what’s done is done; the focus is on AJ and what happens now with this damaged racing car. Along those lines, Tuesday was a good first step; he looked Smith in the eye, looked genuinely remorseful and put forth a positive image of himself. It’s going to be a lot harder when Fortune 500 companies are involved, being pitched for tens of millions of dollars for a driver whose resume will always read “Suspended – Drugs.” But we’re off to a good start.
Did You Notice?… Kyle Busch is in crisis? With five races left in the regular season, Busch is bordering on Chase desperation mode after losing his spot in the “wild card” standings to Jeff Gordon. The race on Sunday was a microcosm of his 2012 season as a whole; fast car, almost certain top-5 finish ripped away once something inside the M&M’s Toyota ripped apart. This time around it was the brake rotors, not the candy melting that put the car hard into the wall and gave the No. 18 team its sixth finish of 29th or worse in 21 starts. To put that in perspective, Busch has the same number of top-5 results (six) as he now sits just 15th in points, mired in mediocrity despite a laps led total of 463.
“Getting down into turn one with a three-wheel brake is about the worst situation you can have as a race car driver,” said Busch, whose 33rd-place disaster left him 12 points behind Jeff Gordon for a postseason spot. “I kept trying to pump (the brakes) to keep it off the fence but just couldn’t do it. It’s just the way it seems to be, the way our year has gone it’s just inevitable to have something every week happen.”
Busch kept it together well for the press, but when the interviews were over Claire B. Lang of SIRIUS Radio caught him slumped behind some equipment, head down and hardly in the right frame of mind. Minutes later, upon returning to the track the radio reflected that: “Who the hell knows? Who the hell cares?” the driver said after questioning some technical information from the team, all before bemoaning the fact he “probably” still had the fourth-fastest car in the race.
Of course, “probably” just doesn’t cut it in a NASCAR world where parity is making them pay the ultimate price for mechanical mistakes. It’s a stretch that will challenge Busch, long-term even though his much-maligned mental breakdowns have been mostly kept in check. With the right frame of mind, there’s still plenty of time to bridge this postseason gap; a whopping 12 of Busch’s 24 career wins (50 percent) have come at the five tracks remaining on the schedule. But those numbers mean nothing on paper if Busch doesn’t have the confidence to carry through. Dave Rogers must learn a lesson from Alan Gustafson, who kept Jeff Gordon in the game when factors outside their control threatened to sink the No. 24 Chevrolet. Gordon wound up in Victory Lane this Sunday, perseverance finally paying off and Rogers can do the same if he can make Busch believe.
Otherwise, with the difficult year the No. 18 team has had both Busch and Rogers will be outside on the Chase looking in – and Rogers will be out of a job.
Did You Notice?… Quick hits before taking off…
- Two races, two large declines in viewership for ESPN. This one was blamed on both the Olympics and the rain, as the final numbers clocked in at a dismal 3.3. Yes, both events had fans putting their eyes on other places. But June was one of the best races of the year and you still clock in at down 15 percent? This sanctioning body should specialize in giving middle schoolers excuses on not getting their homework done, because when it comes to admitting blame they’re worse than Todd Bodine in Saturday’s Truck race. No, it couldn’t possibly be the cars or the competition that’s the problem…
- NASCAR is expected to come up with a different weather plan going forward in case of an approaching lightning storm. But in the meantime, read S.D. Grady’s touching column on how to handle the perils of being out at the track until they do. You’ll be better off for it…
Also, kudos to those involved for getting Carl Edwards connected with the No. 99 fan injured by the lightning strike. That’s the type of direct connection that still has NASCAR’s access and fan/athlete relationships head and shoulders above other sports.
- There are so few road racers this weekend, replacing regular drivers you can pretty much count them on one hand at Watkins Glen. No doubt, when Boris Said is running dated equipment and the only “driver you’ve never heard of” has one NASCAR start, a 15th-place result at Road America the chances of them pulling off the upset grow slimmer every year.
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ADD is treated with Adderal which is a powerful drug that helps intensify focus and can give some users a burst of energy. The street name for Adderal and its variants (including metamphetamine, Benzedrene, and others) is “Speed.” When AJ says, “I took some Adderal,” we all say, “Oh, my kid takes that for his ADHD.” Yet, what AJ did by taking Adderal or some form of amphetamine without a prescription is illegal. AJ took “speed.” Does that change how we think about what he did?
In Alabama and most states Adderal is considered a schedule II narcotic, which the state says has a high risk of abuse. Adderal is a drug which you have to go to your doctor on a monthly basis and pick up your prescription and hand carry it to the pharmacy. The pharmacy can only dispense a thirty day supply. The doctor can’t fax the script to the pharmacy and you can’t get a 90 day through your mail order pharmacy. The drug is tightly controlled because the probability of abuse is so high.
I’m all for giving AJ a second chance and I’m willing to accept that he made a mistake, but I think the media is doing the public a diservice by minimizing his mistake. Adderal is prescribed for a very specific reasons to people with disorders that respond well to the use of this drug therapy. AJ took “speed” because he needed a boost. This is the reason most people take “speed”.
Great article as usual Tom. The quick fix to help competition is more short tracks, which eliminate the aero disadvantages the lesser funded teams have. Maybe the new car will help this? I’m not really confident based on the fact that the big teams still dominate NW with the same style cars. I’m willing to bet SHR will only have two cars in 2013 and Gibbs will stay at 3 with Logano moving elsewhere (#22?). The 17 with Stenhouse will be financed out of Jack’s pocket as long as he can tolerate it, and the 31 will have patch-work sponsorship until Austin Dillon moves up to drive it in 2014. The 1, 43 and 9 also have questions regarding sponsorship past this year. And who knows about the 47, 34, 38 and 51 for next year.
I agree with Bobby. More short tracks would be a quick fix to a lot of issues plauging the racing and parity issues.
Don’t you guys know that there’s nothing WRONG in NASCAR? Brian France tells us everything is wonderful – didn’t you drink your kool aid today?
Ha! Me either!
Totally agree on more short tracks. Even better a driveable race car that isn’t an IROC spec car.
Bobby and Bill in case you haven’t noticed Nascar (ISC) and SMS (Bruton Smith) own the majority of the tracks. No way will you see those tracks go away. So if change is to come it won’t be different tracks.
GinaV24: I’ll take an IROC spec car over the COT anyday. They actually looked like cars.
Dodge probably came to the idea that they were not going to sell many Chargers and Challengers to the younger viewers if many are left. Most of this group had rather see Honda Civics or a Nissan SER race than a pretend nascar box on wheels. I had also!
I was about to state that the easiest way to “fix” NA$CAR was to reintroduce more short tracks, but Bobby beat me to it. Tracks that put a premium on mechanical grip and driving talent even the playing field. But NA$CAR, in their blinding greed, booted tracks like Rockingham and Wilkesboro, while refusing to give Iowa a race date over visual lobotomies like Kentucky, Kansas, California, Michigan, Pocono, Loudon, Chicago, Texas, etc…. Those chickens are coming home to roost.
Kyle isn’t in trouble until he doesn’t win Bristol and/or Richmond. I still have him in the chase.
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