Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday November 7, 2012
Did You Notice?… A focus on everything but the drivers at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing? As we spoke about in Mirror Driving today, EGR is switching to Hendrick engines next season, moving away from an internal program combined with Childress in an effort to improve on-track performance. That follows a total housecleaning, at the end of 2011 where just about everyone important behind the scenes got a Pink Slip lump of coal from Target Santa. Among those who got the axe: Competition Director Steve Hmiel, Team Manager Tony Glover and Lead Engineer Ed Nathman. Considering Hmiel and Glover were at the top of the charts in the ‘90s, with Mark Martin and Sterling Marlin, respectively; they had dozens of Cup Series victories, Daytona 500 triumphs and pole positions earned in a combined six-plus decades of NASCAR service.
In their place, Ganassi tried to modernize, snatching lead Hendrick Motorsports engineer Chris Heroy to head Juan Pablo Montoya’s team while making internal technology position changes to help Jamie McMurray’s program. 34 races in, though, the results can only be characterized as getting worse. The EGR organization has gone the whole season without a top-5 finish in its 68 starts. In fact, EGR hasn’t had one since Jamie McMurray was fifth, squeaking out a solid result, in the August Bristol night race last season. Here’s how that compares to others:
Top-5 Finishes Since Bristol In August, 2011
Those statistics are simply stunning, especially when you consider the big-money sponsors like McDonald’s, Target, and Bass Pro Shops, who are paying to be on the cars. TBR, FRM and Phoenix maybe have one third of Montoya and McMurray’s funding, combined; yet they’ve been able to produce at least one “quality” result during the past year and a half.
With those types of disturbing numbers, you have to wonder how far Ganassi’s loyalty is going to go. McMurray, now two-plus years removed from his dramatic Daytona 500 win is higher in points (20th) than his teammate but hasn’t had a top-10 result since Pocono in June. The pairing with crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion, untouched now for a three-year stretch, would have ended long ago if the initials were “RCR,” “HMS,” or “RFR” on the entry form. At least you could say, for that team, perhaps a change on top of the pit box would produce results.
But where you can’t say the same, with now six years under his belt in the Cup Series, is with Juan Pablo Montoya. Now 37 years old, Montoya has just two wins in 215 Sprint Cup starts – both on the road courses he grew up on in open-wheel – and is averaging less than four top-5 finishes per season. Combined, throughout his Cup career, the former Indy 500 winner and CART champion has led a total of 986 laps: Kyle Busch, in a down year, has led 1,008 this season alone. And while at least Busch, who can get overaggressive at times, can point to his win total, all Montoya has to show for similar miscues are the wrecks. Over six-plus seasons, he has 24 DNFs due to crashes as opposed to just 20 top-5 results.
That’s just the on-track disappointment; off it, a driver who’s often been portrayed as moody and tempestuous has angered more than half the Sprint Cup garage. Take your pick: there’s Ryan Newman, whom Montoya threatened to sue after a Richmond incident led to a punch thrown from his rival in private inside a NASCAR hauler; Mark Martin, who Montoya once referred as “disrespectful” in contrast to the driver’s role model reputation; or Kevin Harvick, whose disdain for the Colombian has never waned after a 2007 Watkins Glen incident that nearly had them come to blows. The list of those on his enemy list, whether it’s fair or not, is long. Their main complaint, that Montoya is impatient and overaggressive, forcing mistakes at the wrong times, still looms large. That can’t be corrected, it seems, despite several crew chief changes through the years designed to get Montoya’s mental rollercoaster, along with his driving style, under control.
Yes, this man is a former open-wheel champion. So is Sam Hornish, Jr. But Hornish, rightfully so, needed a demotion to hone his skills in this type of equipment, then build confidence in a lower series (Nationwide) in order to come back strong. Montoya, unfortunately, has not had that chance, which means that his confidence has to rely on past accomplishments elsewhere. How much longer will Target rely on that? How much does that sponsorship have to do with the open-wheel achievements of Ganassi’s other team, led by Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, than anyone else? And how long will a car owner who’s used to dominance elsewhere put up with outright mediocrity behind the wheel?
Both drivers, as of now, have extensions that take them through 2013 and beyond. But if the season ends this badly, with so many changes producing zero results, at some point you’d think Ganassi would figure this one out.
Did You Notice?… How Brian Vickers really can go home again? His decision to return to the Nationwide Series, 10 years later, mirrors the positive career move made by soon-to-be teammate Elliott Sadler. Sadler, after years of struggle in a middle-class Cup ride, chose the Nationwide Series over a long list of lower-tier Cup choices. The theory was, by starring in a championship battle elsewhere, he’d rebuild a reputation, earn the respect of top-tier car owners once more, and have the resume to convince sponsors to give him one final chance before he got too old. Two years later, following the decision to join Richard Childress Racing in that series, Sadler is on the verge of realizing that dream; he’s a 60/40 favorite to take the championship, then will move to Joe Gibbs Racing, where in all likelihood he’ll get a limited Cup schedule and the inside track on a full-time ride down the road. (Key point: Guess who M&M’s sponsored before Kyle Busch? Good for J.D. Gibbs to think backup plan in case their marquee driver chooses not to re-sign).
All of that brings us to Vickers, who has already benefited from the quality choice of a limited Cup schedule this year, driving for an upper middle-class team rather than making, say, a choice similar to the one made by David Ragan and running 25th every week with Front Row Motorsports. Eight times this season, Vickers has entered a Cup race and the vast majority of those times he’s had a chance to win, bringing him three top-5 finishes on that limited schedule. That’s turned the right heads, in the right race shops. So why blow it now and go with, say Phoenix Racing where even former champ Kurt Busch couldn’t make the equipment work for him?
That mediocrity pales in comparison, of course, to what Vickers gets in a lower series. Considering the track record of JGR’s Nationwide cars the past few seasons, Vickers will automatically find himself a title contender. In fact, despite the presence of Trevor Bayne, Hornish, Austin Dillon and Sadler, I’d be so inclined to label him the favorite. And should Vickers succeed, winning races in both his Nationwide and Cup rides (remember, the MWR limited schedule in Cup continues next season), his age of just 29, coupled with his prior experience, makes him a more attractive long-term option than almost any top-level prospect out there. His last, best chance at a Cup title could be with the No. 55, or with JGR, or with a team we don’t know about yet. It’s the best path available to create your own options; all you need is patience.
Good thing Vickers has some, for it’s served him well thus far.
Did You Notice?… This Chase is all about the Chasers? Sometimes, we hear about how no postseason would have changed the course of the title race, once and for all. But the strength we’ve seen from both the No. 48 and No. 2 has shown us that they were the top two teams all along. Consider the point standings without the Chase system:
Johnson, Keselowski –19, Biffle -46, Kenseth -49, Bowyer -55.
Based on what we’ve seen all season, that ranking seems just about right. Biffle, while slumping at the wrong time, led the points for a huge chunk of the season and had Kenseth-like consistency that would have earned him that third-place ranking. Remember, it seems like eons ago, but The Biff has already won twice. Bowyer, who had a slow start would be climbing back for a fifth-place result, good but not good enough which is also the theme of his Chase. And Kenseth? From the Daytona 500 to his victories this postseason, it’s clear that the No. 17 has had the speed to contend – just not the consistency over a full season. So yes, we could have determined the outcome of 2012 without a 10-race, playoff format but the drivers involved would not have been dramatically different.
What about those who missed the Chase? What if they snuck into the playoffs? Kyle Busch clearly stands out; his five top-5 finishes are proof that the No. 18 is back on track. But even with those quality performances, inconsistency would leave Busch fifth if he had made the postseason as a wild card, some 65 points outside the title race with two events left. And unlike last year, where we could point to drivers like Jeff Burton and even AJ Allmendinger building momentum among non-Chasers, it’s really been Busch … and no one else. Take a look at this list below:
Top-10 Finishes By Non-Chasers Since Chicagoland: 2012
It’s hard to say two top-10 finishes in eight races, which would translate to less than 10 over a full season, constitutes any sort of momentum. So you’re left with Busch and Joey Logano, who, with five top 10s, is experiencing “lame duck” success that means little when transitioning to a whole new team and manufacturer for 2013. Maybe, just maybe, you could say Aric Almirola, through his Kansas and Martinsville performances and qualifying efforts overall, has flashed some speed; that’s about it.
So are we looking at a year ahead filled with the same old, same old drivers contending? Maybe. The only bright spot is the 2013 car, which will throw a lot of old notes out the window and allow those struggling now to have a better chance when starting from scratch.
Did You Notice?… Some quick hits before taking off:
- Whoever picks the host for NASCAR banquets has got to have a weird sense of humor. Jay Mohr? Howie Mandel? Sure, I know Colbert or even a Jay Leno would be an impossibility but there’s got to be someone better. I guess there’s no need to get sleep in Vegas, because you’ll be all prepped to go to the after parties following the banquet nap.
- Everyone says to ignore the Phoenix stats from Brad Keselowski. He’ll certainly do well there. But check out this stat from Jimmie Johnson: in his career, since a Phoenix debut in 2002 he’s never finished lower than 15th place. That stat is simply incredible; in fifteen of those 18 starts, he’s at least run seventh or better. So let’s say Johnson is seventh, leading a lap, while Keselowski somehow bucks the trend, wins Phoenix and leads the most laps. Best case scenario, he’d go to Homestead up three points and both drivers still control their own destiny.
That’s why, for so many experts, it’s hard to bet against the No. 48 right now. This Chase, as I wrote about Monday, will be more about what the No. 2 didn’t do to put this one away… because now it’s getting taken away.
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anyone besides me not care about the last 2 races? Blah blah blah, chase. Blah, blah, blah the 48 is great. blah, blah, blah. Why should I watch? Can’t think of any reason at all.
Are there two races left jg? I guess I hadn’t noticed.
Just playing devil’s advocate but Jr. hadn’t won in how long & nobody called for his ouster. Same goes for many other drivers without a championship in ANYTHING. Other than Mark Martin, the other drivers mentioned have problems with MANY drivers & are known for alternately bullying/whining. At least JPM is real. He’s like a Colombian Keselowski IMO.
My god this web site just hates Juan Montoya. It’s the engines guys, the engines! The ECR engine is complete junk this year (and last). All six cars are under performing and have a grand total of ZERO wins in 2012. Three teams, one common Chevy engine, and no results to speak of. The switch to Hendrick will do wonders for Ganassi Racing.
I’m not buying that all of a sudden these guys are the best thing on 4 wheels. If it weren’t for the Chase, these guys would not have it so easily. As it is now, everyone else is staying out of their way for fear of taking them out, allowing them to get to the front every week.
When was the last time you saw a non-chaser race a chaser hard? They don’t because they get reprimanded by Nascar for doing so.
Another reason why the Chase is a joke and nobody is watching. What will Brian France’s excuse be this time for the low ratings?
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Did You Notice? ... The Details Behind Busch Double-Duty And NASCAR Teams/Series Needing A Boost
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