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 · Monday October 14, 2013
Check out Tom on TV today! He’ll be on the Crowd Goes Wild, with Regis Philbin on FOX Sports 1 shortly after 5 PM.
Debris cautions. On paper, when you break it down that’s the difference in this Chase between Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, five weeks into a ten-race, blow-for-blow playoff virtually guaranteed to run all the way through the Homestead finale. Right now, it’s NASCAR’s judgment call on teeny pieces of metal, their supposed safety threat to drivers that’s made the difference in 2013, leaving “Five-Time” Johnson five times as frustrated as he hits the points “halfway point” sitting in second place.
For those disgusted with the sport, still angry with “Spingate” or all too willing to yell “Conspiracy!” or worse in the middle of a crowded train station, that’s the easy answer. But bad referee calls, as Charlotte’s final caution for debris we never saw happen in all major sports. How many bad holding penalties were there in the NFL Sunday? How about those “ticky tack” fouls in the NBA we see on a game-by-game basis? Or a “bang bang” call at first base that goes against your favorite baseball team? This list of “woe is me” could be woven into a 50-chapter novel. The bottom line is, Lady Luck always makes her way inside the brains of those guys paid to officiate. These “refs” are human, after all and until computers control every decision, along with the instant replay booth mistakes will be made. They’re inevitable.
True champions rise above that adversity, a hallmark Johnson and his No. 48 team have made famous. Their five titles, three more than any other under the Chase format were won with a seeming invincibility, to the point Kevin Harvick once deemed its driver to be holding a “golden horseshoe” hidden inside his butt. There was even the 2010 season finale, perhaps their finest moment where Johnson and company entered the race a title longshot. Hours later, they used a spin by rival Denny Hamlin, overwhelming speed and a mental toughness to come out holding the trophy. Gaining points, in crunch time is such a specialty for this group they’ve made it become routine, to the point rivals expect him to whip the field at playoff tracks like Dover and Martinsville.
But this Chase, should Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus lose it will be defined by their failure to “close the deal” when the door swung open. Two weeks now, at Kansas and Charlotte they’ve had speed and setups that, on paper could have easily won the race. When debris cautions came out, causing a possible loss of track position the opportunity was there for risky pit road strategy to save themselves. Like Saturday night’s race, for example in which Johnson was on cruise control, out front only to see “debris” cause a yellow with less than 30 laps remaining. To that point, they’d been the dominant car in a race where the tires weren’t falling off too much over the course of a green-flag run. Take two fresh Goodyears? Instead of four? You’re guaranteed a front-row starting spot, control of the ensuing restart, a likely jump into clean air and a convincing victory.
Instead, Knaus chose four tires, extra time on pit road that threw the No. 48 to third and inexplicably into traffic on a restart. It was hitting “repeat” on a failed strategy used once before… one week ago, back in Kansas. Once Knaus’ driver lost track position, on an early debris yellow, he also went conservative and never used “fuel only” (or no stop at all) to put the car back out front. While a fellow fast car, driven by championship rival Kevin Harvick took its chances, under the orders of head wrench Gil Martin the Knaus/Johnson combo played it safe in order to finish fifth. Then, a faulty engine, over the final two laps cost them another position, dropping them to sixth.
The difference between that position and first? Eight points. What about between first and fourth, which is where Johnson finished after that Charlotte four-tire pit call? Another six points (since he would have wound up leading the most laps). Add up those two numbers, those of you with a better than first-grade education and you realize those sour endings cost Johnson the point lead. It’s a fate that was completely avoidable, poor decisions down pit road combined with poor execution on the racetrack.
That’s where we should mention Johnson’s true Achilles Heel – green-flag restarts. At Kansas, last week the No. 48 car was a roving obstacle half the time in traffic. The second the cars hit the green, coming up to speed it was 50/50 as to whether Johnson would, at best, hold serve and at worst threaten to wreck himself in front of the field. At Charlotte, the result was similar when it counted, the No. 48 car bobbling like it lost its spoiler on the race’s final double-file dash into Turn 1. For whatever reason, these boom-or-bust accelerations have gotten into his head over time, to the point it’s difficult for him to maneuver even when he’s on the front row. There was Dover, back in June where a penalty by NASCAR for jumping the start took away a near-certain victory. At Kentucky, a few weeks later Johnson psyched himself out, spinning and sacrificing a second victory to someone else.
That someone else was Kenseth, his main title rival who wound up taking control during the closing laps. That unexpected three-point swing, in terms of bonus points is actually another reason Johnson’s sitting second, the challenger seizing opportunities the champion simply throws away. For in every scenario where the No. 48 has failed, Kenseth has forced himself forward, often times with a junky car into wins, top 5s and top 10s few would have ever achieved. At Kansas, he was 30th with 42 laps to go. Like a bat out of hell, the No. 20 car ran half sideways, like a dirt tracker all the way to 11th by the checkered. At Charlotte Saturday night? Same thing. Starting 20th, the No. 20 car could do no better than 10th by Lap 143. Their rivals, shortly thereafter took the lead and outright control of the race.
But Kenseth, combined with crew chief Jason Ratcliff never gave up on improving. Without the final caution, they would have finished fourth; that last yellow gained them one spot, to third as their biggest rivals slid behind them in that No. 48. It was the challenger showing stability, gradually improving with every stop while the five-time champions found a way to stop themselves.
Yes, on paper it was debris cautions, legitimate or lousy calls that have changed the outcome of this Chase halfway through. But one team in position to win the championship has known exactly how to roll with the punches. The other? They’re putting themselves in position to get punched.
With five races left, and just four points separating the two this championship is still a relative toss-up. But if these patterns don’t change? Banning debris yellows forever won’t change the winner. Johnson and Knaus, once the best in the business need to learn how to learn the art of the “save” once again. They better go watch a whole lot of 9th-inning, playoff baseball or David Ortiz’s game-tying homer Sunday night.
For if they don’t? They’ll be toast… as in toasting the champs, as a runner-up finisher come this December’s season-ending banquet in Las Vegas.
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©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The difference between other sports and NA$CAR is you can almost guarantee France/Helton to call the tower and demand the “Debris” caution with 30 to go at all races that aren’t close. Do you expect a personal foul on the defense at every football game if the losing team is driving late and stalls or throws a pick? How about the umpire calling an automatic balk on the pitcher in the bottom of the ninth if the home team is trailing with runners aboard? That’s what NA$CAR does, and its why their credibility is crap.
It seems Brian didn’t realize who was leading when he fell off his bar stool and called the tower for the last caution. I wouldn’t want to be Brian when Hendrick calls him this morning.
84 green flag laps and a phantom debris caution. 132 laps and another PDC with about 25 laps left. It’s nice to see NASCAR’s credibility hasn’t changed.
it seems to me that in real sports the officials try to stay out of the game towards the end and try to only make obvious calls. in other words they seem to try to NOT alter the outcome. occasionally though they get it wrong but is seems not to be the norm. i don’t think the same (or anything close to it) can be said for nascar. it seems to be completely the norm as it happens much too often to be coincidence.
on the other hand, thank heavens nascar knows what really matters and has a strong focus on keeping their participants political correctness squarely in line.
NASCAR has credibility. They, like every other sanctioning body in the USA, have to worry about litigation if any driver gets injured from any action not taken by himself. That includes driving over a piece of debris at over 180mph and wrecking into the wall with a blown tire. NASCAR errs on the side of safety for this obvious reason. When cars are going this fast around an oval, sometimes stopping the race is the only way to determine whether debris is dangerous or not.
NASCAR has, as a result of safety/litigation fear, made the rules for the cars so tight that there isn’t enough speed differential for much side-by-side racing and passing for the lead. Being unable to pass for the lead and very difficult to pass except on re-starts makes teams much more likely to toss debris onto the track late in a race. This also makes NASCAR more likely to call debris cautions late in races. I am tired of hearing people complain about NASCAR’s integrity when calling debris cautions.
It is good for the sport that no one can believe their own driver didn’t win because of a debris caution. That indicates intense driver loyalty, which is the most important ingredient for fans wanting to show up to see the race.
Litigation and the fear of crippling lawsuits is what drives most of the ridiculous behavior by all public institutions in our society. That is why our public schools are so messed up and why we all speak political correctness instead of our minds. So, don’t blame NASCAR for what they cannot control any better than we can.
My driver is Matt Kenseth and I like thinking that Jimmie has at least one Achilles heal, because Matt has a couple of his own to overcome.
Pokey I have no problem with Nascar waving the yellow for real debris in the racing area. Where I have a problem is when cautions are repeatedly thrown for invisible debris that only Nascar can see.
Carl D, I agree—though I’d add that I’m fine with throwing the caution debris that looks menacing but turns out to be a hunk of tape or something. NASCAR is right in erring on the side of caution (pardon the pun) in those cases. As we’ve all said a million times, though, they need to have someone guiding the TV cameras to the debris to make sure the viewers have no doubts that there was, in fact, something on the track.
DoninAjax, I’m pretty sure the first debris caution was for a piece of metal in the groove, and they showed it on TV. Doesn’t excuse the second one though.
Anytime there’s a debris caution, the debris in question needs to be shown ON CAMERA for cryin’ out loud. Why don’t nascar fans demand a little more truth in their sport? Are we so bored and cheaply entertained that we don’t really care? The obvious manipulation of race finishes by nascar to keep races tight by use of fake debris caution flags for fake drama and ratings has transformed nascar from a legit sport to some traveling corporate ‘speed show’ who’s powers that be thinks it’s fans are stupid or don’t care. I’m anything but a 48 fan or Hendricks fan for that matter but Johnson and his fans have a right to be pissed off.
The debris caution are not for litigation purposes but because they can, its called manipulation. If a real piece of debris is on the track, show it for dangs sake. Funy comment about Brian calling up to the tower. Good article, well written.
I guess these comments prove that most NASCAR fans believe that their driver can do no wrong, and that if their driver loses, somebody must have been cheating.
PS – Brian France doesn’t even come to the track for most of the races. He is a third generation ‘silver spoon’ and he couldn’t care less which driver wins as long as the money keeps flowing in the direction of his bank.
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