Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Key Moment – Matt Kenseth slapped on two fresh tires, came out the leader with 49 laps left and became the de facto winner in an event where there were exactly two on-track, green-flag passes for the lead over the course of 400 miles – Lap 1 and during a mid-race wreck.
In a Nutshell – Dorothy, Kansas changed since we left. Blown tires. Crash central. Aero crazy. Oh, my.
Dramatic Moment – When the No. 48 hit the wall, self-induced the collective shock from 90% of fans and media who had already anointed him six-time champion was so massive, it could have fended off a lightning strike.
The first few laps after every restart, with driver aggression amped up and the realization Kansas only allowed for 5-10 laps passing on fresh tires was pretty intense.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around The Water Cooler This Week
Ever hear the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? For the first five races of the Chase, the porridge has been too cold: just 4.6 caution flags per race, most for debris as the cars run in a single-file parade. Sunday was a case of “too hot:” 14 yellow flags, two during cycles of green-flag stops because teams pushed the limits on tires and got burnt. Sure, the racing was better overall at Kansas, variable banking combined with new pavement that means the competition will only improve with time. But when you have only two on-track passes for the lead, under green-flag conditions and even those are a stretch you’ve still got a major aero problem.
I’ve been told the move to shy away from Danica Patrick as the center of GoDaddy’s future advertising campaign has some legs. Publicly, there’s some outright denials but in private there is an acknowledgement that not only is Patrick struggling on-track, the traction she once produced off it is a mere fraction of what it was during her peak years of IndyCar. Of course, intentionally wrecking a competitor, one who is running outside the top 25 no less (Landon Cassill), isn’t exactly the way to button up your image as a potential role model for young women. Sparkle Pony’s magic dust superpowers also appeared to backfire; when she sprinkled the “save” potion on her steering wheel, the car turned dead right and slammed hard into the outside wall. No wonder Greg Zipadelli was making owner Tony Stewart proud with the type of R-Rated language that kept their driver/crew chief marriage functional for a decade!
Anyone find Rick Hendrick’s overenthusiasm, then outright retraction for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s return from injury a little bizarre? Hendrick came out, pom poms at the ready, just before the start of Sunday’s race and indicated on TV that Earnhardt had already been cleared to race at Martinsville next weekend. Truth is, no one knows that answer until he steps inside a race car for a full test at an undisclosed short track facility this week. Rumor has it that if dipping his toe back in doesn’t go well, Earnhardt might even be willing to sit the rest of the season rather than push it, with a focus on healing for February 2013. It was a comeback trail clearly laid out by Dr. Jerry Petty at Charlotte, where the doctor himself admitted sometimes you just won’t know where a driver stands until you get him back up to race pace; it’s a completely different environment than just functioning like a normal person each day. That reality forced Hendrick to apologize for this mistake on air, hours later, as the owner of the program marked a rare moment of sloppiness for someone who’s consistently praised for “being in touch” with his people. When it comes to your biggest source of income, the Most Popular Driver bringing in the most amount of sponsorship his status is simply something you should know…
Turns out fans aren’t the only one tired with the “cookie-cutter,” fuel mileage mentality on these 1.5-mile ovals. Denny Hamlin came out Friday and expressed his frustration with a system that’s seen the best way to pass shift from side-by-side action to what someone is thinking on top of the pit box. “You’re going to make up more positions with your strategy,” he said, “Than you will ever having a fast race car and a good driver.” Ouch. Hamlin also admitted, like others, his No. 11 team contending for the championship spent 120 laps of 334 at Charlotte—more than one-third of the event—running in fuel conservation mode. That’s nearly three green-flag pit stops’ worth of feathering the throttle in a way that’ll make fans… snooze. One hopes that somewhere, a five-alarm bell is going off, preferably in Brian France’s bedroom at odd hours of the night to alert someone of the urgency of the problem.
Sunday was a race in which the wave around removed chaos from an old equation. Twice, during cycles of green-flag stops, major contenders were caught a lap down after the yellow flag flew. It used to be the luck of the draw, meaning you lost that track position and had to earn it back the hard way: by restarting on the tail end of the lead lap and having to race the leader to stay ahead of him. Instead, this rule just giftwrapped free laps for major contenders like Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, minimizing the damage as they simply restarted at the rear of the next double-file restart. Bad luck used to add to Sprint Cup’s unpredictability and on-track aggression; but hey, why face adversity during a race when you can create as many free handouts as possible in the name of parity?
Matt Kenseth did what he had to do, jumping to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2013 to salvage the next five-six years of his career. But after snagging two victories with a team that’s clearly not performing at its best over the final ten races, at times you wonder if Kenseth’s thinking this move cost him a second Cup title. What if the Roush Fenway No. 17 team knew they were sticking together? It’s not often you get a gift of running through the Talladega carnage unscathed, straight to a trophy during NASCAR’s Chase.
In a major crew chief shakeup this week, the biggest news wasn’t Tony Gibson assigned to Danica Patrick for 2013, but Matt Borland coming over to help out Ryan Newman and the No. 39. (Note: the changes are effective beginning at Martinsville this weekend.) Borland, when at Penske Racing, was the head wrench for Newman from 2002-06, during the driver’s most successful seasons (12 wins, 37 poles). I’ve always felt the plug was pulled prematurely there, Borland’s engineering knowledge ushering in a new era of Cup competition behind the scenes while clicking with the type of Hall of Fame chemistry in a driver you see once in a blue moon. Seeing the duo reconnected makes you wonder whether Newman won’t be the third wheel in 2013 at SHR after all…
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Mark Martin had a car that appeared ready to run away and hide until a caution just after a green-flag stop, with 52 laps remaining sealed his fate. Losing a cylinder on the engine over the final 50 miles, shortly after earning that lost lap back (and half the positions dropped) added insult to injury. He finished 24th.
Aric Almirola had the race of his career, leading 69 laps and at times running away with the race in Richard Petty’s No. 43. But Goodyear’s tires, combined with a risky handling setup, bit the team not once, not twice, but three times as it led to spins and wrecks that took enough of a bite out of the car to send it packing inside the garage. Twenty-ninth place, on a day when victory was possible, is not the finish you need when news items like your current company renewing with Ford don’t mention your name as part of the 2013 program (at least not yet).
AJ Allmendinger had a phenomenal weekend, qualifying 13th and even cracking the top 5 on several occasions with James Finch’s No. 51. But a blown tire left his car totaled and sitting in the garage before even 70 laps were complete; he wound up 35th in the final running order.
A transmission from Landon Cassill‘s radio said it best re: Danica Patrick’s self-destruction of her No. 10. “Rule number one in stock car racing,” someone said. “Is to wreck someone without wrecking yourself.”
”The Seven Come For Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
Jimmie Johnson, for all intents and purposes, should have seen his title bid end with a trip into the Turn 2 wall at Kansas. How crew chief Chad Knaus kept his cool, then pieced back together the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet under several caution flag periods without losing a lap, was one of the best orchestrated racing performances I’ve seen. Should this team catch Keselowski, they’ll point to this day, and the battered rear end of their race car (that still finished ninth) as where it all came together.
Kasey Kahne, despite being the pole sitter ran into all sorts of problems. His car would drop like a rock during the first ten laps of every green-flag run; the crew again churned out a series of slow stops; then, a call to save fuel under yellow left the engine shut off too long, the driver losing race pace and an overall drop of about four spots. To go through it all and come out fourth shows you how good they could have been up front under the right circumstances.
Regan Smith had an awful qualifying effort, starting 39th, but had the right amount of time and track position strategy to work himself into the top-10 finishers (see below). During the final 100 miles, despite a strong Kenseth restart Smith was as high as third/fourth and seemingly ready to put together a rare checkers-or-wreckers dash for the win.
Kenseth narrowly avoided disaster midrace when Almirola spun beside him on a restart, pushing the No. 17 Ford up into the wall on the backstretch. It was perhaps the most cosmetic damage you could sustain on a race car without having to pit for extended repairs.
What’s the Points?
Brad Keselowski, after all that mess, sees his lead stay steady at seven points ahead of Jimmie Johnson. Denny Hamlin, still third, is now 20 back and will need a victory at Martinsville to reassert himself back in the throes of title contention. Clint Bowyer, 25 markers back in fourth, and Kasey Kahne, who closed to within 30 after Kansas, remain your longshot picks at best. Should the three drivers ahead of them be in the same short track wreck Sunday, spending significant time in the garage area that’s the only way you can count either one back in the race.
In the “racing for pride” Chase division, Martin Truex, Jr.’s solid performance left him surging to sixth. Tony Stewart sits seventh, Jeff Gordon eighth while Matt Kenseth sits a staggering 55 points behind in ninth. That’s his reward for having more victories in the playoffs (two) than any other Chaser… system flaw? Ya think?
Kevin Harvick, whose Chase highlight has been a trip to the doctor’s office to ensure he still had a pulse (report inconclusive) sits tenth. Greg Biffle, after his wreck is eleventh, a dramatic fall which could make him the first regular season points champ to not even get a formal invitation to the postseason banquet at Las Vegas. Not Roush Fenway Racing’s finest moment…
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., having missed two races now due to post-concussion syndrome sits dead last (12th) in the postseason “tournament.”
Overall Rating (from one to six beers, with one being a total snoozer and a six-pack an A+ effort): Considering at some points during the event, racing consisted of actual side-by-side competition, even some that included a sense of urgency we’ll say this was one of the year’s better intermediate track events. The problem is, with how putrid the 1.5-mile ovals have been, that’s not saying much. Two beers, from the Friday Happy Hour Special menu, where the bar’s just trying to kick the oldest kegs in the back room before they turn skunked.
Next Up: The final short track race of the year, typically one of the most action-packed will be this Sunday at Martinsville, VA. Two words for that stop on the schedule: Thank God.
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and princess sparkle pony wonders why “no one will race with her”….she proved it yesterday at kansas. she’s a rookie. regardless of happens on track, she is not ready to do “pay backs”. i loved it when the reporter asked her what zippy said to her and she paused and said “be honest”. i can almost guarantee that is not what he said to her. wonder how many torn up race cars stewart will tolerate. a princess attitude and his temper might prove volatile .
another spot i enjoyed was hendrick eating crow on national tv. first they tout “jr will be back next week”….oope spoke too early. dr. petty as to do testing and clear him to race. i cannot shake the feeling that regan smith will be in the 88 at martinsville.
Two cans seems harsh to me. Yeah, the on-track action was no better than at any other 1.5-miler this season, but for once this year, stuff HAPPENED for the entire length and breadth of a 1.5-miler race. Not a long, dull slog before some late debris caution (of which there was not one on Sunday) breathed a modicum of excitement into the event. Not a hectic start that quickly degenerated into the same single-file green-flag runs like last week. The new, slick surface generated a level of tension and uncertainty unseen for a while at 1.5-mile tracks. I would have very much liked to see more actual racing as well as a surprise winner like Almirola, Martin, or Menard, but after the season we’ve had, I’m willing to give that race four or five cans.
I don’t know if NA$CAR has a minimum weight limit on cars post race, but it seems to me, the 48 would have come in under weight.
I thought the racing from second-on-back wasn’t bad. Give Kansas a couple of more races to wear down the asphalt and maybe it’ll be half-decent for once. Variable banking can only help.
I feel for Patrick, she gets wrecked left right and centre in both series, regardless of how good she’s running… She’s had three or four top 5s and possibly one win thrown out the door because someone else doesn’t want to get beaten by a girl.
But she might want to just take it on the chin and put her head down, rather than wrecking back. It doesn’t look good. We need more of the Danica Patrick from Road America (pole, leading laps) and less of the Danica from Kansas.
Watching cars wreck over and over isn’t my idea of a race. There was some side by side racing – at least on the restarts, but that on track passing one is the one that says NASCAR has lost it’s “edge” with me as a fan.
Looking forward to Martinsville – I’d like to see Gordon in VL once more this year but I’m sure that NASCAR will orchestrate another GWC finish to muck it up as they so often do at the short track.
Danica needs to show a little respect if she expects to get it. I don’t see any other female racers – like Johanna Long – stamping their feet and acting out. I’d love to see female racers who are running on a shoestring budget get the opportunities for sponsors that Danica has had.
You just have to love Princess Sparkle Pony’s message to the other drivers at Kansas – “Mess with me and I’ll put myself in the wall.” She sure had the house laughing after she took herself out.
I wonder what she’s going to do for sponsorship once the GoDaddy conract is up (I think at the end of 2013)? Sparkle Pony isn’t as sparkley as she used to be.
Why are people still writing about the ‘cookie cutter, fuel mileage, lack of passing’ racing & NASCAR needing to do something about it. I believe it is generally accepted that the current version of the car being raced is the reason for the type of racing that we’re seeing. I also think that everyone knows there is a new car being built, and undergoing testing, with an eye on improving the racing.
Kansas turned into a short track for one weekend. I know we need some cautions, but this went over the top. I know most disagree with this, but I like the wave around rule. It removes the chaos that used to occur with cars who got caught pitting when a yellow came out. I remember the Kansas Chase race in 2007. One of those situations caused a huge wreck that knocked multiple Chasers out. With the waive around you still get penalized, but at least you don’t have a gaggle of lap down in front of the leaders causing a mess.
The new car may be a work in progress as you say, but remember who is responsible for the current car. You say Brian France realizes there is a problem? Well, he ought to since most of the current problems facing Nascar today including lack of sponsors, the chase, and the poor on-track product can all be traced right back to BF and his mismanagement of the sport. Sorry, but with France’s record so far, it’s hard to have any confidence that things will improve.
I agree with Zetona, for a cookie cutter, Sunday’s race deserved at least four cans, but nothing better than cold Bud or Coors (choose your poison). At least there was on-track racing, along with drivers just plain getting over their head. The blown tires kinda sucked, but that’s on Goodyear.
I’d like to go back to the Frontstretch articles written when the wave-around rule was first announced. I remember people being happy about it because thats how it done in other racing series. Now Frontstretch is calling it a bad thing. I wonder why.
its just become sad. One day someone will write a book about what happened.
Hate the wave around rule, never did like it. Same with GWC and Lucky Dog.
So…after that “wild-card” race at Kansas….
Not much changed. Hmmmm.
What makes the new car a real car?Better decals.
Bill B, so a race is more exciting to you with 1 or 2 drivers on the lead lap, than it is with 20 drivers on the lead lap? I just have to ask that, because excitement to me is many drivers racing for the win, rather than one guy spanking the field with a 10 second lead.
the only “problem” or issue that brian france knows is that isc lost a million for the year. brain fart is the problem! problem started when bill jr was too sick from cancer and turned the “company over” to his “son”. idiot….brain fart just is concerned about $$$ and making sure he’s not nabbed by the substance abuse police.
Kevin in SoCal,
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