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.
Key Moment – Brad Keselowski ran out of gas, down the backstretch with 58 laps left, allowing Clint Bowyer to breeze by. That left the No. 15 team virtually unencumbered as they turned on the fuel mileage jets, put a Rip Van Winkle spell over the stands, and advanced to a shocking intermediate oval victory at Charlotte.
In a Nutshell – Welcome to “cookie-cutter” NASCAR 2012! Your template for the race is as follows: x car leads a majority of laps while cars behind run in a single-file parade behind him. X driver starts saving fuel early, leaving the rest of the field copy-catting and a bunch of drivers slowing down like there’s a hidden cop about to ticket them for speeding. X debris caution helps encourage said finish, where engineers spend more energy using their calculators than drivers pushing their cars to the ragged edge. Eventually, x driver tries to actually race and runs out of gas, or doesn’t, leading to two minutes of semi-drama that determines the winner.
Did you stay awake through all that? I hope so; you should be well rested after that Saturday three-hour nap, disguised as what’s supposed to be a “postseason level” Sprint Cup performance.
Dramatic Moment – The first four laps of the race, Greg Biffle and Mark Martin drove side-by-side up front, bunching up the field while acting like two drivers who actually cared about winning over points. That, combined with a lot of through-the-pack action and three cautions in the first 41 laps had you thinking the night ahead was unpredictable… instead, it was all downhill from there.
When Keselowski ran out of fuel, his engine sitting silent on pit road there were a few anxious moments as to whether he’d lose too much time – and the point lead, as a result – to Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48.
Maybe, just maybe, you could include Denny Hamlin’s late-race surge here, where he closed to within a half-second of Bowyer. But you never got the feeling that either driver was going to run hard enough to compete side-by-side, risking emptying their gas tank in the process.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around The Water Cooler This Week
Conspiracy theory that no one is talking about: a mystery debris caution that sets up a fuel mileage finish. It’s bad enough the championship system leaves drivers running in place, afraid to get too aggressive out of fear that one mistake will knock them into the wall and out of contention. But how convenient was it in a race where long green-flag runs – and a spread-out field – was shaping up that NASCAR threw a Lap 224 yellow for debris we never even saw? Immediately, that put gas into play and opened the door for someone other than Keselowski, Johnson or Hamlin to win the race – adding drama to what otherwise was the top-3 drivers in the points trying to protect their position up front. Side note: when we’re at a point in which teams are thinking, with one-third of the race remaining, that the outcome is going to be decided on fuel mileage, that’s a problem— a serious problem. It’s one thing if drivers are riding around for a half an hour, through one pit stop cycle, hoping not to run out of gas. But 80% throttle? For 100+ laps and an hour’s worth of racing? Who wants to sit through people driving really slowly, in circles, not trying to touch each other and hoping their miles per gallon matches new EPA-level standards? Imagine you have a friend who’s never watched racing. You ask them what you’ve been doing for the past hour and you go, “Trying to see if any cars are going to run out of gas.” What would you need to get them to stop laughing? Mace?
Conspiracy theory that bothers me the most: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sitting out for other reasons than a potentially serious concussion. As we’ve seen in the NFL, head injuries left undiagnosed or untreated have potentially devastating consequences later in life. Keep in mind Earnhardt’s dad, Dale Sr., died in the 2001 Daytona 500 of a basalar skull fracture. Don’t you think those reasons alone would make his son, who also went through post-concussion syndrome in 2002, just a tad more sensitive when choosing whether to sit out? Considering he still raced after the Kansas tire test in August, one which included a 40-G crash that created the majority of problems Earnhardt is experiencing now, I think he already took it to the limit far enough. Sure, 90% of the driver’s diagnosis comes from self-reported symptoms, but isn’t that the case for the vast majority of health problems? Not everything is cut and dry, showing up easily on a CT scan or an MRI. Even in a worst-case scenario, where Earnhardt is trying to “send the sport a message” by sitting after the horror story disguised as Talladega competition, I’d rather have the “official” reason for his benching be this one. There’s still plenty of people who follow Earnhardt religiously, regardless of performance in recent years, and this decision sends a clear, role-model message that if you’re having serious headaches or take a blow that affects the skull you need to get it checked out – fast – and follow doctor’s orders.
You’ve got to hand it to Clint Bowyer. As I’ve explained more thoroughly in a second column, this performance is turning into the most underrated, underreported success story in NASCAR this season. People forget that Bowyer’s team didn’t even exist 12 months ago; now, with five races left he’s got an outside shot to be a Cinderella Cup champion. Bowyer’s three victories in 2012 equal the amount scored by Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. combined.
So was A.J. Allmendinger in this race? Let’s see: driver suspended for drugs, desperate to keep a stock car career going and jumping in a car who’s survival for 2013 is also in doubt. A source told me the only reason ‘Dinger got the ride for owner James Finch was through generosity; he offered to take it for free while other drivers wanted to get paid. Then, there’s Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. trying to jumpstart his Cup career in a fourth Roush car, a rookie who entered this event with three top-20 finishes in three Cup starts. Those sound like major stories worth telling, in-race, especially when side-by-side competition is few and far between. But the choice for ESPN was to keep showing us the same four championship contenders all the time, giving points updates and talking about how the Chase will be affected. Geez, for a network looking to extend its contract with a sport on a downhill slide they’re still struggling to find the meaning of the work “marketing.” I hear all the time from fans how radio makes even the most boring race exciting; TV needs to relearn how to accomplish the exact same thing.
The worst fears about the point race were realized when the top four title contenders ran 1-2-3-4 for a significant portion of the race Saturday night. Like jogging in place, each one of them smartly knew the best way to stay in the title hunt was to protect their position without getting too aggressive. A side-by-side move gone bad between any one of them could erase a point lead or a second-place standing in a heartbeat. So why try it? Between fuel mileage and a Chase that destroys dreams based on a DNF, people have developed a strategy of racing not to lose. Too bad fans come to the track to see their favorite drivers – and teams – try to win.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Brad Keselowski had a chance to extend his championship lead, putting serious pressure on Johnson but ran into a fatal snag when running his car out of gas. Coasting to the pits before his final stop, Keselowski (mostly) kept his cool both during and after the race. Still, like Denny Hamlin in 2010 you couldn’t help but think “opportunity squandered” in the face of a Five-Time champ who makes you pay for those types of mistakes.
Regan Smith was giftwrapped the dream ride of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88. Early on, it looked like he’d make the most of it, pushing the car inside the top 10 with ease after starting a mediocre 26th. But a surprising engine failure, one that could have been caused by a self-induced mistake (overrevving the car on pit road) left him 38th. Not the way to impress when your job for 2013 still reads “TBD…”
Bobby Labonte had a borderline top-10 run going, one of his best of the season before a flat tire, suffered under green sent him spiraling downward. When all was said and done, Labonte was sitting ten laps down in 32nd.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. had three Sprint Cup starts for his career and three top-20 finishes entering Charlotte. Keeping the No. 6 Ford out of trouble, he seemed destined to add a fourth until the engine soured and finally expired just over halfway through the event. The reigning Nationwide Series champ and about-to-be 2013 Sprint Cup rookie wound up 35th.
”The Seven Come For Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
With the way these new EFI systems are, Brad Keselowski got lucky the engine restarted as quickly as it did. Remember Tony Stewart at Phoenix? Even ten more seconds on pit road could have meant the difference between 11th and 25th.
Hamlin and Johnson have both had well-documented issues with fuel in recent years. It’s rare to see a race where the end strategy works to perfection for both.
Tony Stewart was involved in an early, chain-reaction style wreck that left his No. 14 Chevy looking like a reconstruction project. In the end, after multiple fixes there was more black tape holding together the front of the car than actual sheet metal. An ugly, 17-second pit stop late also cost him precious track position, but somehow he pulled the Mobil 1 Chevy from 32nd starting spot all the way to 13th.
Matt Kenseth caused the race’s first caution when a flat rear tire left him spinning. Falling a lap off the pace, the No. 17 Ford appeared down for the count but Talladega’s winner, plus his crew kept fighting forward. The help of a Lucky Dog, combined with decent fuel mileage left him an admirable 14th by the finish.
What’s the Points?
Keselowski’s edge over Jimmie Johnson is seven points with five races left. But that’s still close enough that if Johnson wins Kansas next week, leading the most laps Keselowski could lose the top spot with a finish of fourth or worse.
Hamlin, after a runner-up effort Saturday sits 15 points out of the lead in third place. Bowyer, with his victory moves up to fourth, 28 behind and close enough to sniff an outside shot should something happen to the top 3 contenders. Kasey Kahne, now fifth is 35 behind and the only other driver who could realistically dream of holding the trophy after Homestead.
Greg Biffle, after an ugly start to the Chase worked his way to sixth; however, the regular season points champ is 43 markers out and would need a minor miracle to get back in the hunt. Martin Truex, Jr. sits seventh, with Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart (with seven combined titles between them) tied for eighth. Kevin Harvick sits tenth followed by Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – that back half of Chasers is over a full race’s worth of points outside the lead.
In the “best of the rest” category, Kyle Busch now has a virtually insurmountable 62-point advantage on Ryan Newman for 13th place. Call off the dogs, this meaningless party’s already over.
Overall Rating (from one to six beers, with one being a total snoozer and a six-pack an A+ effort): When I was in college, to save cash we used to pregame with (gulp) 40s of Old English, hoping we could simply stomach them enough to keep going. I’m not even sure this race is worth a 99 cent bottle of that; we’ll say a beer-and-a-half, just because there was a slight degree of uncertainty over the ending but I think that’s overdoing it.
Next Up: From one “cookie-cutter” track to another: NASCAR heads to the Midwest and Kansas for their third 1.5-mile oval in six races. A reminder that 50% of the Chase will be contested at these fuel-mileage centric, parade-lap facilities so be sure to plan your naps accordingly.
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glad i didn’t spend 4 hrs of my life on this race. turned race on at about 11 pm. i imagine that even at martinsville na$car will manage to make the end result of the race fuel mileage driven.
if ricky stenhouse was princess sparkle pony he would have been covered like a blanket of fertilizer on the lawn at augusta national. maybe media is gun-shy about almendinger.
my inquiring mind wants to know if jr will actually come back after kansas or just say i’ll take 12th in points and fulfill sponsor obligations and catch you next year.
Tom: Wasn’t that Olde English 800? Colt .45 was the other. But they were equally awful.
The wife & I decided about a third of the way into the race to watch last week’s Saturday Night Live we had on our DVR. Caught up on SNL, then caught the incredibly boring end of the race. Then went to bed. Oh yeah, we’re on the left coast, so it was still pretty early, but the race deadened us to a nearly catatonic state.
And one other thing here… there’s no reason for 500 mile races anymore, with a few exceptions. These cars & drivers are finely tuned, and 500 miles isn’t the test on either driver nor engine that it once was. And nobody wants to watch a 500 mile parade.
The few exceptions I would have would be the Daytona 500, The Southern 500 (AT DARLINGTON), and the Coke 600. Those should be the only races longer than 400 miles in Nascar.
That’s hilarious, and you’re absolutely right. Totally combined the two… I just went back and fixed it. The Colt .45 was too disgusting, even for cheap college students :)
Totally agree with Mike in So Cal. Only 5 reader replies this week. That says a lot in itself. Four Hours of Nothing! And Ford
I watched the South Carolina/LSU game Saturday night. It was pretty good game, with no mystery debris cautions and no fuel mileage mishaps.
You’re right Tom, those guys were driving as if cops were all over the track with radar guns pointing at them. That race was a dud.
By far the most entertaining part of the race was Clint’s post race press conference. It was absolutely hilarious! He seems like such a great guy. I’d love to see him win the championship just for the quotes!
It is hard to find something to like about nothing.
OMG Big Bill must be spinning in his grave…..
I was at the race and was totally and completely sorry that I was. I was cold and bored for the majority of the race. Your comment about watching them run in place was right on the nose. The announcers at the track made a big deal about the “differences at the mile and a half tracks”. Well, maybe that means something for the drivers, for the fans, we get the same dreck over and over at all the tracks these days. Passing takes place on pit road not on the track, the car is either great or junk and as a fan I am bored stupid. If I’m at home, I can at least do chores between the mind numbing minutes – being there means I lose precious time and wasted my money.
ugh! I hope that Jr made the decisions for the right reasons.
I’m sure they will find a way to screw up Martinsville. In the spring, it was a bogus GWC finish to create mayhem which cost Gordon the win. NASCAR knows full well what a GWC will do whether its at Dega or little Martinsville – make a mess of things.
correction—- Fox signing 2.4 billion dollar deal. Sorry.
WOW. I totally forgot there was even a race Saturday night. And I used to be HARDCORE for nascar.
Thank God for football. LOL. Nascar, and the chase, are SO boring now.
Regan Smith is testing equipment for Hendrick. If it works, he may have a good finish or win. Otherwise, watch for him to have a problem with the car.
What is REALLY amazing is that there are folks who still defend nascar and this absolute CRAP that is being sold.
I question my OWN sanity for still following enough to look it up on the net. I guess I just like to see the lastest slide into irrelevance from this once great sport.
I don’t even know if the “Show” was good or not. It put me to sleep around 10!
Some thoughts from the fire horse:
What They’ll Actually Be Talking About the Water Cooler this week- The NFL season, who has started hot and who is floundering. Post season baseball. The NHL lockout. Unseasobably cold temps here in the Northeast. A few words may even be spent debating which candidate would make the better pick for the Leader of the Free World for the next four years and which of them will actually put the most Americans back to work after our silent depression that has left the American dream a torn and wasted remnant of what our parent’s generation handed to us. But practically NOBODY is going to be talking about the Chase because it’s become appaerent the Chase will be decided by MPG not MPH. Sure there are fans of fuel mileage races, just as there morons who will lay out the coin for a Prius in place of a two year old off lease Mustang GT at the same price, but MPG races are the ugly younger sister of the Homecoming queen with weight issues, acne, a snaggle tooth, and a lazy left eye. Sure she can cook, she’s well read, nice to a fault, and deserves to be loved on her own merits but the heart wants what it wants, and it what the flash, the sex appeal, and the “never know until it’s over” spectacle of side by side fender clanging, checkers or wreckers, last lap pass out of turn four action that once defined this sport. I’m sorry NASCAR Lite has left a bad taste in my mouth. It might be everything you want, it might be everything you need, it might be everything inside of you, that you wish you could be, it might say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, but it means nothing to you and you don’t know why.
Why did the Frontstretch disappear from Jayski? Well, I won’t be going there again because you guys and racingwithrich were the two columns I still read from that site. And I don’t need to go there to do that. Hey nas$car. After the latest fuel milage snooze fest, I won’t be watching the race at Kansas this week-end. I’m tired of getting shoveled s**t time and again. Good work Tom, Matt.
Link to the Jr. Seau story http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/oct/14/junior-seau-real-story/?print&page=all
I knew who this guy was and the NFL means as much to me as pork belly futures mean to a wombat. Getting the impression old Uncle Matt has a day off tomorrow and is a little bored and missing his old gig?
I haven’t watched any of the Chase “races.” I don’t like to take mid-afternoon naps. I just watch the 12 minute highlight on NASCAR.com the next day and that’s all I need to see.
Matt I like it. Thanks for read. Thanks Tom also.
Self Promoting Buffoons!! If FOX treated the NFL and MLB like NASCAR they would not allow it. Believe it or not, before they tried to become broadcasters I used to actually sort of like those Waltrip brothers. Now I can’t stand either one of them. When I see either of them I always mute them or change the channel. Thank you Robert Adler, inventer of the remote control, my only way with dealing with the FOX broadcasts, IT seems to me like FOX/SPEED has tried to get people that frustrate and aggravate the old race fans. Kenny Wallace and that GOOFBALL act, Larry Mac Screech and his screachy voice and murdering English. Hammond never adds anything and his on air delivery is the worst of anyone on TV. TNT and ESPN have issues, but I enjoy their broadcasts , whereas those FOX guys are terrible. NASCAR is slowly driving me away from watching as I watch less and less. Looks like David Hill is clueless!!
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