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.
Frontstretch Staff · Tuesday February 5, 2013
As the NFL fades away this week, sports fans across the country turn towards the next big event on the schedule: NASCAR’s Super Bowl. After a three-month hiatus, Daytona beckons as the 38-week, 2013 schedule descends upon us.
But the Great American Race is the Great NASCAR Beginning, the start of a journey that takes us to Las Vegas, Pocono and nearly two dozen American locales in between. There’s plenty of unanswered questions about what’s to come, a year filled with changes from the Gen-6, to new qualifying, to new competitive rookies for the first time in over four years. So let us get you revved up once again; it’s Frontstretch season preview time, all week setting up not only the Sprint Cup season and the excitement of our coverage to come.
Today’s Season Preview Topic: There’s only a handful of drivers in new rides this season, but they all have big names attached to them. Which driver within that group has the most to prove entering the 2013 season, and why?
Tom Bowles, Editor-In-Chief: There’s only a handful of drivers in new rides this season. In fact, you can name them all on one hand: Joey Logano to Penske, Matt Kenseth to Gibbs, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. to full-time status with Roush Fenway, ditto for Danica Patrick at Stewart-Haas, and David Reutimann to BK Racing. It was the weakest NASCAR Silly Season we’ve had this century… but I digress.
With such a short list, the answer to this one’s easy, even though others will try and rationalize responses like Logano and Kenseth. It’s because they don’t want to recognize the elephant sitting down, smack dab in the center of the room and I know you probably don’t, either. It smells like a skunk just sprayed right in front of you, then prancing around like a stale fart that’s lingering and staying in your face even when you’re trying not to pay attention (see: GoDaddy Super Bowl commercials one and two. I think the only one who felt good about those was Walter). But let’s face it: 2013 is clearly make or break for Ms. Patrick in the world of racing. Her sponsorship deal, rumored to be on shaky ground late last season could be up for renewal as soon as November. No expert worth a damn in Cup racing expects her to finish on the lead lap most weeks, let alone challenge new beau Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. for Rookie of the Year.
So why does this marketing machine keep popping up on your screen? Like it or not, there’s a whole legion of competitors whose very future may depend on Danica’s ability to overcome the odds. The female Jackie Robinson has been labeled, placed in the best equipment a woman running NASCAR’s top level has likely ever had. There are plenty of young girls looking up to her, waiting for that bulldozer she’s driving to pave a path to their future in motorsports. If Danica gets bulldozed herself… that path could take another decade or so to get created. So yeah, I think Ms. Patrick has something to tackle, as does new crew chief Tony Gibson who got the “pet project” after underachieving with Ryan Newman. Can this duo get it together? Only every top-level NASCAR executive, millions of young girls around the country and three television networks are counting on her. But no pressure…
Amy Henderson, Managing Editor: I don’t think you can say that any one of those drivers has any more to prove than any other. They all do. Matt Kenseth has to prove he has plenty of wins left in him after age 40. Logano has to prove to himself he deserves the “Sliced Bread” moniker… or to the masses that he doesn’t. AJ Allmendinger and Regan Smith have to prove they’re worthy of a full-time Cup ride by making the most of a part-time one (Phoenix Racing’s No. 51). Patrick has to prove she’s not just another open-wheel-defector-turned-NASCAR-wannabe. Stenhouse has to prove his Nationwide titles were won on talent and not Roush Fenway dollars. Nobody needs to prove anything more than the next guy.
In fact, I’d argue that the ones who really have to prove something are the guys who don’t have to learn to work with a whole new team, manufacturer, and/or series, but failed to live up to expectations in 2012 — drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Carl Edwards. To me, these superstars who all struck out on their recent goals really have to go out and show the world that they’re still championship-caliber.
Beth Lunkenheimer, Managing Editor: With the expanded coverage of Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career, it’s easy to point straight to her. However, for this question, I actually look to Joey Logano. Touted as the latest thing since “Sliced Bread” when he was signed by Joe Gibbs Racing, the 22-year-old has failed to impress in the Cup Series. Sure, there have been some flashes of brilliance, like the 2012 Pocono victory over Mark Martin last June. However, points finishes of 20th, 16th, 24th and 17th aren’t exactly the performance everyone expected when Logano was brought in to fill the No. 20 Toyota left vacant by Tony Stewart. Take those results, combined with a dismal sub-top 15 average finish last year in a season that saw Logano snag just 12 top-10 results in 36 races and you see why JGR kicked him out. Yes, there were a whopping nine Nationwide Series victories but success at the “AAA” baseball level can only buy you so much time in the majors. For Logano, that time nearly ran out and now, at age 22 he must prove this second chance was worth giving.
Brett Poirier, Senior Writer: Easily Joey Logano. Joe Gibbs Racing gave up on him as a Sprint Cup driver, but he’s been given a second chance with Penske. He’s entering his fifth full season in Cup and has little to show for his time — two wins and no points finish inside the top 15. Logano has more potential than any young driver I can think of, and he’s only 22. Kyle Busch was 22 when he left Hendrick for Gibbs in 2008 and became a star. Logano needs to prove he is capable of doing the same. While he is still very young, if he does fail with Penske, then what would be next? It would be highly improbable for Logano to land another ride with a top-tier team if this one doesn’t work out. The pressure is on to perform now.
Mike Neff, Short Track Editor: I don’t know that any of them have anything to prove, but the one with the biggest expectations on his shoulders would have to be Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Stenhouse is climbing into the seat of a former series champion who made the Chase every year but one and won three races in each of the last two seasons. Roush has long been a top team in the sport and the No. 17 car has been the flagship for years — especially since the No. 6 was shelved. Remember, Stenhouse started his Nationwide career crashing nearly every week and nearly got fired in the midst of a tumultuous rookie season. If he starts to feel pressure to perform, he could end up tearing up a lot of equipment again this year — putting a team behind the eight ball long-term that’s still surviving through little more than patchwork sponsorship.
Danny Peters, Senior Writer: It has to be Danica, doesn’t it? After a relatively poor first season, the step up to Cup will be huge. Can she handle it? It should be fun to watch. I’ll give a second nod to Joey Logano in this category, who really needs to start imposing himself if he’s to live up to all the hype. Having the champ as a teammate should help massively.
S.D. Grady, Senior Editor: I’ll nominate Joey Logano for “Needs to be Most Improved in 2013.” Ever since his meteoric elevation to Sprint Cup in 2009, NASCAR Nation has been holding its collective breath for Joey to live up to his nickname, but things just never quite clicked. Now in a new ride at Penske, with a teammate born in the same decade, the opportunity for true collaboration within the stable shines for him. This will be either a breakout year, or the beginning of his decline into NASCAR anonymity.
Tony Lumbis, Marketing Director: Now, more than ever, rookies are pressured to perform sooner rather than later. I do not think this statement will hold true as much for this year’s rookie class. Danica Patrick would basically have to kill someone to lose her ride at this juncture. Meanwhile, Jack Roush gave David Ragan every chance to succeed over a five-year period before dropping him, so I do not think Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. will be one and done. Many eyes will be on Matt Kenseth for his move of leaving a successful team, but I think the honor of “Most to Prove 2013” goes to Joey Logano. The young New Englander came into the series with lofty expectations and sub-par results. Rarely do drivers in these situations get a second chance, especially with another top organization. Not only does Logano step into a ride capable of winning and in desperate need of stability, he does so at the urging of reigning Spring Cup Champion Brad Keselowski. With two big names still believing in Logano — Keselowski and his boss, Roger Penske — there will be a lot on the line for the organization’s newest addition to win races and make the Chase this year.
Rick Lunkenheimer, Contributing Writer/Photographer: Hands down, Danica Patrick has the most to prove this upcoming season. Whether it’s right or wrong, there’s an instant increase in the pressure for good performance based on the fact that she’s female alone. Add in the additional coverage she receives, coupled with the hype that surrounded her initial foray in NASCAR and you’ve got a recipe for constant criticism. Though she hasn’t been involved in all that many wrecks that were of her making, the driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet instantly takes the spotlight after any incident. Don’t expect her rookie year to be any different.
Kevin Rutherford, Nationwide Series Head Writer: Joey Logano has shown himself to be an expert contender in the Nationwide Series, but his Cup results so far leave much to be desired, especially considering his former team, the always-competitive Joe Gibbs Racing. For 2013, Logano joins Penske Racing and the challenge is immediate. His new No. 22 team didn’t exactly light the racing world on fire last year, struggling with A.J. Allmendinger and Sam Hornish, Jr. But his Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, was famously the Sprint Cup champion.
Because of Penske’s recent success, 2013 is more important than ever for Logano to capitalize on his chances in NASCAR’s top series. If he can’t make it with an organization that is coming off a championship and has one of the sport’s top drivers to work with, he may forever be caught in the limbo between Cup and Nationwide — too good for one, not good enough for the other.
Jeff Meyer, Senior Writer: Matt Kenseth will definitely have the most to prove during the 2013 season. Moving from one high profile team to another, especially when Kenseth had expectations of staying in Roush’s stable for his whole career, there will plenty of people just waiting to say, “I told ya so!” no matter which side of the fence you fall on. I can’t help but think of Kurt Busch and his leaving for “more souvenir profits.”
Danica and Ricky? They will cancel each other out now that they are dating, as each tries to desperately to stay out of each other’s way so as not to cause discord in the bedroom. Joey, paired with Brad will do fine and probably will even excel. AJ may be a big surprise… if the equipment holds up… and will shine for Phoenix. Finally, Reutimann will show spurts of promise (as usual) but he can never sustain it.
Phil Allaway, Senior Editor: Likely Joey Logano. He’s no longer within the Gibbs fold, where he has been since age 16. Even though it’s his first year with Penske, the expectation is he’s got to produce and produce now. I don’t think 19th in points is going to cut it this season. Remember that he is still in a perennial Chase-contending organization. After last year’s quagmire, Roger Penske is going to want the No. 22 to be right back at the form they had when Kurt Busch was still driving the car. The pressure is going to come quickly.
Summer Dreyer, Writer/Assistant Editor: I would say that Joey Logano has the most to prove. With all of the hype that was built up around his move to the Cup Series, his career thus far has been nothing short of a disappointment. While the argument can be made that he was moved up too fast, expectations were too high, etc., four full seasons is more than enough. That’s not to say Logano isn’t a talented driver. You can’t be nearly unstoppable in the Nationwide Series and still suck. Perhaps Penske Racing will be that extra “oomph” he needs to translate that success to the Sprint Cup Series.
Matt Stallknecht, Senior Writer: Many will likely disagree with me on this point since she is still only a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, but Danica Patrick has the most to prove of anyone piloting a new ride in 2013. No matter how much us media types insist that Patrick still needs time to adjust to stock cars after years and years of running open-wheel, public perception is unfortunately reality, and the public has been none too impressed with Ms. Patrick’s efforts in the NASCAR ranks. If she goes out every race and runs 33rd, she will likely be viewed as a 33rd-place driver the rest of her career, no matter how much she actually improves. Such is life for someone who is subject to incessant media attention; if you don’t produce consistently, you get labeled an overrated failure.
With all these mental concepts in mind, it is absolutely paramount that Danica Patrick comes out of the gate swinging in 2013 and posts some decent finishes. She needs to prove that she belongs in this sport based not just on the level of her sex appeal, but on the merits of her driving skill. Whether she has it in her to silence the doubters remains to be seen, but there is no question that Danica Patrick needs to at least prove she can be competitive this year if she wants to have any sort of respect in the eyes of fans across the nation.
Jeff Wolfe, Senior Writer: Without question, the driver with the most to prove in this group is Joey Logano. He’s dominated in the Nationwide Series when he’s run there but has been far from a contender in Cup. His average finish last year was 17.4, but besides his victory in the Spring Pocono race, he had only one other top-5 result. At the very least, he needs to go into the final couple of races of the regular season as a serious Chase contender. He can only live on potential for so long.
Brad Morgan, Senior Writer: After being ousted from his seat at Joe Gibbs Racing, Joey Logano finds himself facing heavy demands behind the wheel of Roger Penske’s No. 22 Ford Fusion for the 2013 season.
Since entering Sprint Cup competition full-time at age 19, Logano has had a tough time living up to his teenage nickname “Sliced Bread” despite driving JGR’s highly touted No. 20 Toyota made famous by three-time champion Tony Stewart. But the road doesn’t get easier from here, as the 22-year-old driver lands at a newly crowded championship organization with the same pressures to succeed as the team he departed from over the offseason.
Some of the sport’s biggest names have seen their misfortunes in Penske Racing cars culminate in ride termination in recent years. After watching the departures of Ryan Newman and David Stremme, and as drivers such as Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger quickly fell from Penske into the clutches of bottom-flight teams, it’s evident that Logano will have only a few seasons to prove that he can progress into the Chase-caliber driver that many people thought he could be out of the box.
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I recall Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson had horrendous careers in what was then the Busch Series.
I thought,they’ll never make it! Look what they have done since. Between them 8 Cup Titles.
For all the talented young ladies whom will follow her into the sport,they gotta be pulling for her to succeed!
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