Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday January 9, 2013
Did You Notice?… The snoozer of a NASCAR offseason to start off 2013? Of course, last year’s circuslike atmosphere (Kurt Busch’s firing, the resulting musical chairs, Kasey Kahne’s breastfeeding “boo boo,” Greg Zipadelli joining old buddy Tony Stewart) comes around oh, about once a decade. But this time around, even with the new Gen6 car there’s been more excitement surrounding the girlfriend of a college football quarterback in the sporting world than stock car racing. You can bet number two on the list of New Year’s Resolutions for Brian France (behind “find some way, any way to keep my divorce records sealed) is for some giant piece of news to pop out of the sky between now and Daytona Speedweeks.
I don’t see that happening. Right now, there’s a list of 35 teams testing for Daytona in a couple of days and all of them smell of “been there, done that.” Sure, there are going to be a couple of intriguing new partnerships that will be getting a head start on 2013: Matt Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing, Joey Logano and Penske Racing. But there are no “new teams,” per se other than Austin Dillon’s part-time, No. 33 effort at Richard Childress Racing. And even with these combinations, other than establishing a communication pattern between driver and crew chief how much is there to learn? The drafting with the new, Gen6 car, while an adjustment is not going to be radically different in the end; controlled parity, from 1st to 43rd will remain as restrictor plates always make strategy, not speed the ultimate decider over 500 miles. So how many headlines will this test churn out?
The answer is “not much.” In fact, some of NASCAR’s smaller teams, recognizing the limited advantage this track time gets them in the sport’s Super Bowl have chosen not to make the trek at all. Swan Energy LLC’s No. 30, perhaps the sport’s biggest offseason question mark in terms of team restructuring after the “prize” signings of former big mechanics Tony Eury, Jr. and Steve Hmiel won’t be making the trip. BK Racing, whose driver Landon Cassill just got married is sending a “test driver,” David Reutimann in his place.
Sorry; no one likes to be a Debbie Downer. It just seems that, following a year where TV ratings and interest declined significantly in the second half, for the fourth time in five years there’s no “hook,” as of yet to get people paying attention. Perhaps that’ll change over the next couple of weeks, but at this point it looks like the sport will have to hang its hat on a stronger-than-expected 500 or a surprise, breakout performance to generate news early in 2013.
Did You Notice?… The few offseason moves you should be paying attention to? Here’s a quick guide for those who have been busy with the NFL and other pursuits…
- Travis Pastrana’s signing with Roush Fenway Racing in the Nationwide Series. The full-year deal, one initially reported here in November puts the former X Games champ in top-tier equipment for the full schedule as he goes for the championship. (By the way: a source told me the reason for the holdup in the final announcement had to do with some of Pastrana’s contracts outside NASCAR, specifically his rally racing deal.) Certainly, like those before him the transition into stock car equipment and the grind of a weekly schedule will be tough. But Pastrana has proven to be a quicker study than most thought. He led six laps in Atlanta last September, battling with a middle-class RAB Racing car and old tires; the next week, he stepped into an RFR car (in a one-race deal) and qualified fifth at Richmond. Compared to Danica Patrick’s first nine starts, Pastrana has a higher average finish, more top-15 results and a greater level of consistency. Plus, he’s got a quality teammate, Trevor Bayne, on the other side that’s sure to be building a championship resume with the No. 6 Ford. Does that mean Pastrana’s a threat to win? Not yet. But he’ll make noise and that, combined with a unique personality that brings in a new type of eyes (specifically, an 18-34 crowd that’s passed on NASCAR over the last decade) makes his 2013 season a “must see.”
- AJ Allmendinger will get himself a second chance. The driver, suspended for a failed drug test last summer in what became the last straw in a Penske Racing nightmare will drive a limited schedule for James Finch. Finch, who is running JR Motorsports’ Regan Smith in the Daytona 500 will then transition to Allmendinger for about two dozen of the 36 races on the schedule, giving the hungry Californian a chance to reprove himself. While I do think open-wheel opportunities could still lure this driver away, expect him to make things interesting in a world where too many drivers are comfortable. Unfortunately, the equipment isn’t good enough that we’ll see a Brian Vickers-like renaissance, where every time the ‘Dinger steps in the car he’s a threat to pull off an upset win. But if the parts and pieces hold up, a handful of top-10 performances on intermediate tracks aren’t out of the question and, once again you’ve got an engaging personality mixing it up and making it interesting within a group of drivers who will be “pacing themselves” for the Chase.
- The “Bud Shootout,” brought back to its original format in 2013 (for pole winners only) has now been renamed the “Sprint Unlimited.” The reasoning is simple: rival Coors backs the Pole Award each week so there’s a conflict of interest there. Supposed “fan participation” perks will accompany this race reorganization, perhaps a ploy to sell tickets as the Shootout typically draws a fraction of the full 500 weekend – especially with qualifying no longer as important as it once was.
- A bunch of people saw their NASCAR probation “expire.” In other news, a recent study revealed wrist-slaps across North America are reduced by 50% during the “stock car offseason” of December and January.
- NASCAR’s new qualifying rules for Cup, bringing back the old provisional system (and, in theory making it easier for new teams to qualify) has done little to entice owners to make the jump. A total of zero new Cup teams have been announced for the coming season – zero. (If you want to stretch, you can say David Stremme’s No. 30 and Brian Keselowski’s No. 92, running a limited schedule are so completely revamped they’re “new.”) Also of interest: a replacement sponsor for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., also known as the sport’s Most Popular Driver has not been found for AMP Energy, which is reducing its primary load in 2013. We’re getting pretty late in the game for that, the latest sign of how funding problems have paired with a lack of interest from potential owners who are viewing the NASCAR climate as too expensive. I talked to an investor the other day that has chosen specifically to go the open-wheel route, even with the upheaval surrounding the ouster of CEO Randy Bernard because it’s more cost effective. That’s an issue the sport needs to address, one our NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski even brought up to me last month in an interview that’ll be out in the 2013 Athlon Preview Magazine. (Shameless plug.)
Did You Notice? … Some odds and ends before we take off for the day. Know this column is back, up every Wednesday afternoon between now and the start of the season:
- News came out this morning that Guy Roofing has signed to sponsor Phoenix Racing and driver Regan Smith for the Daytona 500. Good to see them get backing considering at the end of last season, Finch said he’d fold his operation without proper funding. Smith, with the direct Hendrick/JR Motorsports connection and a solid restrictor plate history (remember his win taken away at Talladega a few years back?) should be on top of your list of Daytona darkhorses.
- So Jeremy Mayfield wants his NASCAR career back — just without doing any of the reinstatement work required? My answer to the bizarre call-in, in the middle of a Brian France interview where the driver asked directly to get back in the NASCAR game: sad. Just sad. Because Mayfield said, after years of a once-believable story reduced to rubble over several methamphetamine felony charges, “Pretty please let me back in, but I’m not going to do rehab.” That’s like saying, “I committed a heinous crime, three years ago but can you just throw me a not guilty plea and we can all pretend it never happened now?”
No, Jeremy. No you can’t.
Connect with Tom!
©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The off-season has been a bit dull. Very few people want to invest in the sport right now, so the status quo remains the status quo.
Hopefully the racing this season brings the sport back to life with more competitive races, new entries, and more fluidity in the NASCAR caste system.
Another team “Sending the Scrubs” to the Daytona test is Front Row, sending Josh Wise and only Josh Wise. Their designated parker.
The qualifying changes are lip-service. No one has qualified 36th or better and got bumped by the T35 rule since 2009. The new rule will actually be HARDER for new teams to establish a presence, because they’ll have to be fast out of the box. Instead of just outunning the Start and Park guys, they’ll have to qualify at least 36th. If you’re 40th or below in points, you MUST qualify 36th or better. Theoretically anyone 7th in points or lower COULD miss a race, but that won’t happen. What it will bring back is the “qualifying only” setups of Start and Park guys with cars physically incapable of running more than a dozen laps. But, we shall see.
Your Jeremy Mayfield comments reminds me of the way Ray Lewis is treated. There is still an unsolved double murder and Ray Lewis still obstructed justice in the case, yet the national media continues to slurp the thug. Why can’t Mayfield get the same treatment?
I think the qualifying changes are great. Look at last season, qualifying was nothing more than a dull routine. Everyone racing was already locked in. It left Trevor Bayne and the S&P’s as the only cars that actually had to qualify. Now that security is gone for most of the field, which makes qualifying exciting again.
The new system makes more sense too. Remember the restricter plate qualifying sessions where the non locked in cars would have crazy qualifying setups? Only the first 8 non locked in cars would qualify, so a non top 35 driver could be 9th fastest and would fail to qualify, regardless of being faster than over 33 other cars. Now you just have to be in the fastest 36.
The S&P qualifying setup issue is a problem with either system. It became an issue with the top 35 because there were only 8 spots open for the cars low in points. It only went away this season because entry lists were pretty weak in all 3 series. There was no reason to use the qualifying setups. Now there are 36 open spots instead of just 8 for all the cars low in points that want to race.
I think the top 35 was harder for new teams. Very rarely has someone outside the top 35 earned their way in. Instead, it was easier to buy owner points from another team. Stats from 2004 and back show it is possible for new teams to get in the races and gradually grow into stronger teams through the provisional system.
Happy to see Phoenix Racing running a full-time schedule, splitting AJ Almendinger and Regan Smith for the races. They really are the little team that could.
Honestly, I’m more excited this season for Nationwide and Trucks, which both have a better schedule and a great championship battle brewing. Regan Smith, Sadler, Dillon, Kligermann, and in Trucks, the same great battle over again, plus Mosport and Eldora!
As for Cup, I’m interested in seeing how Kenseth gets on in the #20 car.
I think its a bit much to harp on a “boring” offseason being overshadowed by college and pro football right now. What else do you expect this time of year? Any big marketing push needs to be made after the Super Bowl is over to get any attention. It’s a fool’s errand to think any NASCAR story, outside of something generated by a big named driver is going to cause much excitement on Sportscenter during the NFL Playoffs and Bowl season.
what a stupid name for a race! Sprint Unlimited sounds like a phone/data plan, not anything I’d associate with a race.
The polls need to have a 3rd response available to the fans. The choice needs to be “who cares?”, rather than just yes or no. Having that option would give you a much better point of view about the fans perspective on things.
I check Jayski every day and this whole offseason there have seldom been more than 10 items listed per day.
NASCAR better hope that the Gen6 car actually does provide better racing — as in passing and side by side capability or it is in really bad shape.
This new car better produce better racing or the decline will continue. I’m hoping but I will believe it when I see it.
I too worry about guys setting up their cars for qualifying, bumping someone who actually would have raced well, and then running like crap (or parking) once the race starts. Making qualifying more interesting at the expense of the race is the tail wagging the dog. My gut feeling though is it that it is going to have little effect on the overall season.
Why not the Sprint Shootout? I think fans liked that word “shootout”. At least it made an exhibition race sound exciting. Perhaps with all the BS surrounding gun control percolating in the public eye right now they opted for a more PC name. Even Sprint Showdown would be better. What the hell is the word unlimited supposed to imply? No restrictor plates? No rules? If that were the case then it would mean something.
I read that Mayfield said he’d go through the reinstatement process if it were tailored to him. He should have to go through the same process anyone else does. BTW, even if reinstated he’d have a snowball’s chance in hell of landing a top notch sponsor. Good luck with that Jeremy.
Upstate24fan makes a good point. NASCAR can’t outdo the NFL when the chase is in full swing, it’s hilarious to think that anything that happens in NASCAR during the offseason will compete with the NFL playoffs. Go Ravens.
Steve K, Ray Lewis is actually a HOF player. Mayfield is a footnote. Perhaps that has something to do with it.
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