Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday October 16, 2013
Did You Notice? … The rabble-rousing excitement surrounding NASCAR’s 2014 schedule? No? I didn’t either. A weak round of minor changes, despite a growing chorus of voices calling for more was all that was handed out this Tuesday. We still have 36 dates, at the same tracks, along with a ten-race playoff that proves increasingly unpopular with the fan base. The one adjustment that raised eyebrows did so in the wrong direction; Darlington, successful for years on Mother’s Day Weekend (but ten times more successful on the Labor Day one) has been moved to April to accommodate one of two “new” night races at Kansas. That switch, which arguably makes the weather situation worse at the South Carolina racetrack, could dent attendance and interest in one of the sport’s legendary speedways.
The other “minor” swaps, involving Texas and Martinsville are really nothing to write home about. Instead, we’re supposed to “champion” the stability of this piece of paper, amidst lagging attendance and revenues while championing the newfound availability of NASCAR’s rain-delay savior… the Air Titan!
“Our goal is to develop this so that it’s feasible for a short track to be able to purchase one of these,” explained O’Donnell, while announcing the technology – absent during last month’s Chase race at Chicagoland – would be provided to all tracks in 2014. “[We want to give them the Air Titan and] use that for their tracks as well. It’s really a game-changer not only for the national series, but all throughout racing.”
At least they’re giving tracks, some of which NASCAR owns through its International Speedway Corporation, the opportunity to use this breakthrough equipment without breaking the bank. But why is that the biggest piece of news we’re seeing? With all sorts of “ground zero” ideas to inject fresh energy into the sport, from new Cup tracks (Iowa?), to a road course in the Chase, to midweek special events… why did we get the “same old, same old?” One could argue 2015, the first year of a new TV package was a better time to experiment. But when change feels necessary, the last thing you want to do with a patient approaching serious condition is wait.
“It’s certainly something we look at,” said O’Donnell when asked that very question, “But it’s not as easy as just flipping the switch and moving [a date]. There’s a lot of things that come into play with weather, TV calendars, travel.”
While that answer is fair, it’s also standard fare for every season. Would two TV networks, in the final year of their deals where they’re supposedly losing money be that opposed to trying something new? Especially when it comes to the season’s second half, it seems easier than NASCAR’s making it sound to shake things up in “lame duck” circumstances. That’s especially true when two entities, ISC and SMI own 31 of the race dates. Are so many stockholders, high up in those companies worried about the financial risk of shifting? What about the financial risk if they don’t? With so many tracks turning red, not black with their budget that’s the simple – and realistic excuse – to buck tradition and make a date change. The track isn’t changing, nor the quality of racing… it’s just the date. Season ticket holders should roll with that.
In the end, that’s not what NASCAR believes; the “status quo” is the safe play by comparison. My fear is that in doing so, they’re confusing “safe” with “stale.”
Did You Notice? … The black eye of “Spingate” has ended with 40 people losing their jobs? Those pink slips got printed Monday, rumors and speculation turned awkward reality as Michael Waltrip Racing announced a pending cutback from three cars to two. As a result, their 265-person workforce will be trimmed, by 15 percent come November while driver Martin Truex, Jr. and crew chief Chad Johnston have been told to look for “other opportunities.”
For some, this move means poetic justice, cheaters proven guilty stripped of not just their dignity but the finances needed to effectively compete. Make no mistake, that’s exactly what happened here; MWR is lucky at all to be fielding any teams for 2014. Co-owners Rob Kauffman and Michael Waltrip, schooled in the art of PR, tried to make it sound all warm and fuzzy this week. “A third, part-time Research and Development car is the way to go,” they tried to say as if this whole bloodbath of money and reputations was a natural step on the road to success. Try selling that story to Lindsay Lohan; I’m sure she’ll tell you rehab and public shame was all part of her “master plan” to capture Hollywood’s attention.
Sure, one claim from those co-owners rings true; with the right people, combined with the right engineering and sponsorship a smaller setup still has potential. After all, the last two champions, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski drove for two-car teams at the time they held the trophy. The big difference? Both men did so, prevailing against the odds without recovering from the stigma of modern-day fraud and humiliation. Clint Bowyer may be a comedian, plus one top-level talent behind the wheel but I promise you he’s no miracle worker. And Brian Vickers? He’s a walking miracle himself, facing health issues that, fair or not, have simply completing a full season in the No. 55 Toyota next year a basic goal in itself. Title dreams, once a longshot for this organization have died on the vine, at least for the short-term.
Still, to sit there, basking in the glory of MWR’s self-destruction would ignore the catastrophic damage they caused. Five weeks after a regrettable spin, the number of people becoming innocent victims simply continues to keep spinning out of control. There are 40 people, sitting at home right now unsure come December how they’re going to earn a paycheck for not just themselves, but their families. Jobs aren’t growing on trees inside this fledgling NASCAR economy; some of these people will be out of the sport, forever unless they take a major demotion, pay cut, or both. A few others won’t even get that chance, despite a resume that lists trips to Victory Lane. That’s reality.
There’s also a driver/crew chief combo, Truex and Johnston sent packing as a consequence of their own success. All they did was run well enough, throughout the course of a 26-race regular season to sit on the precipice of making the Chase. Both men, respected throughout the garage, would have been fine to miss it based on merit. Their season, by and large was successful; they still had a shot at one, maybe two more race wins. No, it’s the people around them, who without their knowledge let thirst for greed and multi-million playoff bonuses overrule the principles of fair play.
What are the duo’s options now? At best, Furniture Row Racing, a lateral move to a single-car outfit whose connection with Richard Childress Racing may weaken in 2014. After all, the multi-car organization has a new alliance, with Germain Racing, is rumored to add JTG-Daugherty and will be preoccupied with their owner’s grandson / superstar heir apparent, Austin Dillon. And if Truex turns down FRR? There’s not enough room at the inn, for any of the remaining multi-car operations unless sponsor NAPA can be persuaded to sign on the dotted line.
Let’s all hold out hope that potential partnership happens, somewhere. For NAPA, through a team’s betrayal has made us all innocent victims along with them. One of the sport’s most loyal backers, since 2001 the company’s potential to turn its back completely sends a multi-million dollar mess of a message. Words need not be spoken; their actions reveal NASCAR’s loss of integrity, from a business standpoint that will be splashed on the internet for every Fortune 500 company looking to one day invest. A difficult sell just got one step tougher; instead of shilling out positives, weary marketers must now spend the first half-hour of their pitch explaining why their sport is “not fixed.”
So yes, the news of Michael Waltrip Racing’s partial demise should be met with the same type of sadness as Brian Vickers’ leave of absence from the sport. There are no winners here, in this sorry sack of a situation.
Only victims and villains.
(P.S. – Many thanks to fellow staffer S.D. Grady for the inspiration. Her column, a good pairing to this take on things can be found here.)
Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off…
- Yes, I know the justice system needs to take its course. But here we are, one week after a domestic violence accusation and Travis Kvapil is still employed by BK Racing. Are there really that few qualified drivers left sitting in the garage area? Or are co-owners Wayne Press and Ron Devine really that cheap? After all, it’s the same duo Landon Cassill claimed owed him hundreds of thousands of dollars after parting ways with the organization back in January.
Let’s assume Kvapil winds up innocent. That still doesn’t excuse an average finish of 30.4, no top-10 results and just seven lead-lap finishes this season. Eight DNFs are mostly not of his making – mechanical gremlins have plagued the BK Toyotas this year – but it still seems like the No. 93 team has taken a step back. So why take the risk, hoping for no black eye in this situation when you’ve got a guy you might end up releasing anyway? Swan Racing, with no controversy facing them is at least taking the right approach, running everyone from Cole Whitt to Parker Kligerman as they look to build up their program. BK should have snagged a young driver, put him in the seat, auditioned him to potentially replace Kvapil and then waited for the marital drama (and potential abuse) to be fully flushed out.
- Mother Nature dealt a cruel hand to nine of the 13 Chase teams this week. A test at Texas Motor Speedway got washed out, with rain for the first two days meaning Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing will come back next week instead. That, to me gives Richard Childress Racing and Kevin Harvick a teeny little extra edge. There was a reason teams chose the weekend between Charlotte and Talladega to fly out there; the race was on Saturday night, giving them more rest time and there’s only so much prep you can do for ‘Dega. A Monday after a plate race, coming back a second week when you’re 24 hours removed from a possible decimating wreck is far from ideal. It’s the end of the season, stamina is low and it’s an extra hurdle Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Gordon just didn’t need.
(Next week: a look at the five drivers, with one win in 2012 who remain shut out in 2013. Pressing news pressed us right out of room on that one.)
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Travis Kvapil being able to race last weekend was a slap in the face (literally) to abused women everywhere. At the very least they should have suspended him until the court case played out. Just another example of the “good ol’ boy system of justice”.
While 40 job losses are unfortunate, it pales compared to the hundreds of thousands in the workplace the last few years.
Well at least someone has called MWR on the positive spin their press release tried sell us. Losing a team as a result of making a huge mistake is a NEGATIVE. No two ways about it.
I’m not a fan of Krapil but this new mentality in the U.S. that you are guilty until proven innocent is really sad. And it’s not just in sports, it seems to be the norm now. The presumption of innocent until proven guilty is what used to set us apart from the “evil empires”.
I’m with you Bill. I’d be very afraid if Thomas, Robin and Russ were on a jury where all it takes is allegations for a conviction.
MWR got what they deserved except that the wrong driver ended up getting punished.
Well, at least we have this booming economy and Obamacare to help everyone out.
Seriously, MWR should state his guilt, then become another satellite Hendrick team. Oh, and hire a good-looking set of boobs to drive one of his cars. That will help bring in extra money.
I also agree with Bill B. Kvapil should be presumed innocent until the facts are known. Why are people so quick to judge, especially when they don’t know all the details?
I for one hope NAPA will fund Truex driving for another major team, though that looks less likely as each day passes. What NAPA, or any other potential sponsor needs to see is what a great story it will be when Truex finds new success down the road. He’s a great driver, and if he ever makes the chase again, it will be the comeback of the decade. Truex is paying for MWR’s sins, but his redemption will be so sweet when it comes.
P.S… Tom, I saw you on “Crowd Goes Wild” the other day. Nice job. Those panelists were another story. They obviously know less about Nascar than my cat does. Still, you handled them with class and it was nice to put a face with your name.
Well, the 2014 schedule sure has nothing for NASCAR to really crow about, but they will anyway. Steve O’Donnell is PR city, but useless. As you said, pretty much same old same old, except that Darlington got screwed big time so that Kansas – yuck – could get a better date. Must be nice to be a wholly owned ISC track and get all the perks. We’ve been going to Darlington for years before the Labor Day switch and continued for the Mother’s day change – I have to say that weather plays a big factor for me in deciding what races I buy tickets to attend. I’m not that interested in throwing my money away. Martinsville, IMO, also got screwed on this deal with that late March date – I’ve sat through cold & drizzly weather there – it is not that much fun. Two tracks that are unique and as usual NASCAR would rather play nice with another 1.5 mile oval. Big whoop.
I would also like to see the Chase go away! Someone buy Brian a football team so he will go away, too.
I am sorry for the people who lost their jobs at MWR – not their fault at all that their “leadership”, if you can call it that, decided that cheating was the way to go. I don’t feel bad at all for Waltrip & Kaufmann however – they are responsible and it has become silly watching them do the dance. Oh yeah of course Ty Norris still has HIS job.
Yes the wrong driver came out on the short end of the stick, but come Feb. DW will spin the story and say how great MWR is and Fox will give them plenty of coverage.
Bill B – I couldn’t agree more with your comments. What has happened to our country or more precise, “American Mentality”. Just because someone is accused, suspected, arrested or charged with a crime, does not make the person automatically guilty of the crime. Your can tell from other comments, that no one is “afforded the due process” anymore. The mentality now, is “Someone said he did it, so he must have did it” end of story. How sad!
With MWR dropping down to two teams, I wonder how many races will have a short field next year. There were several races this year that had 43 entries and next year – barring a miracle – there’ll only be 42 full time teams.
I hope that Truex finds a ride for 2014, he deserves better than what happened to him.
To all the people who say Kvapil is innocent until proven guilty, as far as I am concerned if his wife was slapped, hit, or pushed by him or felt threatened enough by him to call 911 to begin with, then he is guilty. And you can be rest assured that this wasn’t the first incident. It may be the first time she has reported it. And I might add, that women who are abused are very reluctant to press charges due to being afraid and that is why the state has to end up prosecuting the aggressor.
One thing NASCAR failed to consider in the stupid date switch between Darlington and Kansas is that Kansas is in tornado alley and May is the peak of the severe weather season in that part of the country.
Steve O’Donnell is full of it. The only honest thing he said in the press release is that “NASCAR is happy with the current length and makeup of the schedule”. He’s been “hinting” at new venues and changes to the schedule for years. Newsflash – it’s not going to happen in 2014. As long as ISC and SMI have a stranglehold on the schedule and NASCAR keeps charging these outrageous sanctioning fees it’ll never happen. Once the independent tracks like Dover or Pocono start to struggle, ISC or SMI will swoop in and “save” their company, and also move their race dates to tracks like Vegas and Kentucky. Just what we need, more tracks that provide boring racing. As a fan since 88, I decided to sit out the Chase after the whole spingate and 13 driver Chase nonsense. I still check the results and feel like I haven’t missed anything. I was hoping that some tweeks to the schedule for next year would rejuvenate my interest, but I think I’ll be sitting things out next year as well and just check the results. With the schedule change Darlington is now beginning it’s slow death. Martinsville will eventually cut back to one race because of “attendance”. If NASCAR actually cared about improving their product, they’d have a schedule of 30 races max, with half on 1.5-2.5 milers, and half on short tracks and road courses. They aren’t dumb – they know short tracks and road courses provide the best races. In the end, money talks – It’s too bad they will no longer be getting any of mine.
regarding schedules changes i find it hard to believe that nasacre leadership would want to throw away darlington with out a reason. whatever it is is probably money related. i’m afraid you might be right though about the “stale.”
the whole MWR thing is just sad but a fitting statement on the how the very bones of nascar’s inner working and culture are rotting from the inside. does anyone think that either of the bill france’s would have reacted the same way?
Glen H has a good point about full fields or at the very least the actual quality of the field. i suppose they can always throw morgan shepherd a few bucks to show up at a race so there’s 43 cars.
My son came home from work late one evening and his wife, who had stopped taking her bi-polar meds, flew into a rage. She began destroying things in the home and then came at him with a kitchen knife. He was able to subdue her, and afterwards she called 911. Although he did not hit her and left no marks on her body, he was taken to jail and charged with domestic assault. The next day, when he went before the judge for his bail hearing, a victim’s advocate was there trying to talk his wife into not pressing charges. My son had no prior arrests for any violent crimes or domestic disturbances. He ultimately pled no contest to the charges in order to take advantage of a first-time offenders program that would keep him out of jail. And his wife will be the first one to tell you none of this would have happened if she hadn’t gone off her meds and instigated the confrontation.
Men can be the victims of domestic abuse too.
Correction… the victim’s advocate was there trying to talk my son’s wife into not dropping the charges.
MWR is very lucky to still be fielding 2 full time teams in 2014. I feel bad for the Truex, Johnson and the employees that will lose their jobs, but this is the price MWR paid.
As for the schedule, I’m optimistic there will be big changes in 2015. Hopefully, a major shake up of Chase tracks (+ a road course), Darlington back on Labor Day and maybe a new track (Road America or Iowa).
I think slowly but surely NASCAR is listening. The test at Charlotte on Monday is a really positive step, and shows they will be more pro-active about improving the racing.
I have an interesting question. If the networks wanted the Chase gone, would Brian actually end it? I’m anxiously awaiting what 2015 will bring with these new networks. Will they follow along with the status quo or demand some changes. Will be interesting to see.
Mr O’Donnell’s comments on the schedule totally lost credibility when he stated that they liked the balance of tracks on the schedule. I think his scale is a little off compared to everyone else.
I have a lot of trouble believing everyone at MWR wasn’t in on the shenanigans. You can’t make me believe that lots of scenarios weren’t addressed before final race. I can’t believe Mikey & Martin’s Sergeant Shultz demeanor.
No Labor Day Weekend at Darlington Raceway, no Road America, no Iowa Speedway, no Circuit of The Americas, no Eldora Speedway, no Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and no Rockingham Speedway. There are no new tracks added, tracks that would really spice up NASCAR’s premier racing series. NASCAR built our hopes up, then dashed them.
Here is MY 2014 Cup Series schedule. You will all agree that mine is better.
MY 2014 NASCAR CUP SERIES SCHEDULE
Daytona Beach Invitational – Streets of Daytona Beach, FL – Feb 9 – 12:00 PM – CBS
Duel 1 – Daytona Intl. Speedway – Feb 13 – 12:00 PM – CBS
Duel 2 – Daytona Intl. Speedway – Feb 13 – 4:00 PM – CBS
1 Daytona 500 – Daytona Intl. Speedway – Feb 16 – 12:00 PM – CBS
2 International Trucks 300 – Circuit Of The Americas – Feb 23 – 1:00PM – CBS
3 Bodog 400 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Mar 1 – 8:00PM – CBS
4 Armor All 500 – Phoenix International Raceway – Mar 8 – 8:00PM – CBS
5 California Pizza Kitchen 500 – Irwindale Speedway – Mar 15 – 8:00PM – CBS
6 Corona Extra 250 – Sonoma Raceway – Mar 23 – 3:00PM – CBS
7 Old Milwaukee Northern 500 – The Milwaukee Mile – Mar 30 – 12:00PM – CBS
8 Richard Petty/Dale Earnhardt 343 – Rockingham Speedway – Apr 6 – 12:00PM – CBS
9 Dodge 500 – Martinsville Speedway – Apr 13 – 12:00PM – CBS
10 Bud Light 500 – Talladega Superspeedway – Apr 20 – 12:00PM – CBS
11 Rita’s 400 – Kentucky Speedway – Apr 26 – 7:00PM – CBS
12 A&W 400 – Gateway International Raceway – May 3 – 7:00PM – CBS
13 Uno Chicago Grill 400 – Iowa Speedway – May 10 – 7:00PM – CBS
14 Johnny Rockets 400 – Nashville Superspeedway – May 17 – 7:00PM – CBS
15 World 600 – Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 25 – 5:00PM – CBS
16 Valvoline 400 – Pocono Raceway – Jun 8 – 12:00PM – CBS
17 Wendy’s 250 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – Jun 15 – 12:00PM – CBS
18 Samuel Adams 300 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Jun 22 – 12:00PM – CBS
19 Castrol 400 – Dover International Speedway – Jun 29 – 12:00PM – CBS
20 Firecracker 400 – Homestead-Miami Speedway – Jul 5 – 7:00PM – CBS
21 Red Lobster 250 – Lime Rock Park – Jul 13 – 12:00PM – CBS
22 Coors Light 500 – Pikes Peak International Raceway – Jul 20 – 2:00PM – CBS
23 NAPA 500 – Evergreen Speedway – Jul 27 – 3:00PM – CBS
24 Brickyard 400 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Aug 3 – 1:00PM – CBS
25 Cracker Barrel 500 – Atlanta Motor Speedway – Aug 9 – 7:00PM – CBS
26 Buffalo Wild Wings 400 – Richmond Intl. Raceway – Aug 16 – 7:00PM – CBS
27 Mack Trucks 500 – Bristol Motor Speedway – Aug 23 – 7:00PM – CBS
28 Southern 500 – Darlington Raceway – Aug 31 – 5:00PM – CBS
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