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.
To the Point: With two wins in a row at Watkins Glen, it looked inevitable Tony Stewart was going to bring a third trophy home on Sunday. With main rival Kurt Busch back in the pack and the road course ringers unable to keep up, Stewart brushed aside Kevin Harvick to take the lead with nine laps left, poised and ready to spend the rest of his afternoon soaking up the sunshine in Victory Lane.
Harvick never got that memo.
In a stunning move, Harvick regrouped and passed Stewart back with a shade over three laps remaining, and then held on to take the checkered for his first Cup victory on a road course. Stewart was forced to settle for second, fighting off both Jamie McMurray and Robby Gordon on his way to the finish line. Carl Edwards rounded out the Top 5, moving up after a wild last lap that jumbled the running order and affected the finishes of Chase contenders Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton, and Busch among others.
Who Should Have Won: Kurt Busch. Winning both the pole and the race in the Busch Series on Saturday, Busch started 1st in the Cup race, too, as his Penske team had clearly found a superior setup. Leading 38 of the first 53 laps, all Kurt had to do was make his final pit stop under green, and victory would have either been his or Tony Stewart's. But when Joe Nemechek spun to bring out the yellow on lap 54, Busch dove onto pit road for his regularly scheduled stop - except pit road became closed for the yellow flag just a second before. Choosing to ignore the black flag, Kurt and crew chief Roy McCauley lost a heated battle with NASCAR officials, forcing the No. 2 car to stop in turn one on the restart and race from the rear. Six laps later, Busch was caught up in a wreck at the back of the pack, and his car was never the same after that. To add insult to injury, the Miller Lite Dodge spun out on the last lap, too, relegating Busch to a 19th place finish and ending his hopes for a road course upset.
Five Questions You Should be Asking After the Race Weekend:
While it's incredibly unlucky considering the circumstances, the answer is yes. Replays showed the red light indicating pit road was closed came on less than a second before Busch passed the commitment cone, making it impossible for him to swerve out of pit lane as the yellow flag came out. NASCAR said if Busch had simply driven on through and not stopped, he wouldn't have been penalized, but I do agree with the No. 2 crew that scenario was completely unrealistic. Why in the world would Kurt drive through the pits when neither NASCAR nor his crew chief (who had no idea at the time) told him the car hit pit road a split second too late?
Still, the bottom line is simple; whether it was .01 seconds or 10 seconds, Busch came down pit road too late. Whether the cop stops you going 55 in a 30 mph zone or 31, you're still speeding; you can't avoid the penalty and the speeding ticket that goes with it (well, unless you're good at pleading your case). McCauley apparently needs to brush up on his law courses, because his best defense wasn't good enough for the NASCAR policeâ€¦and the team very likely paid the ultimate price, a chance at the Nextel Cup title.
2) What was with all the pushing and shoving on Sunday?
When Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon pulled their best Bristol impression Saturday in the Busch race, beating and banging to the finish line for the win, the tone was set for the following day. Before the first turn of the first lap, Kasey Kahne had bumped polesitter Busch out of the way heading for turn one, and the fight was on, with a race record 10 cautions for 22 laps (in a 90 lap race, no less) before things were all said and done.
While some of these yellows were preventable, a lot of them were simply a case of impatience and desperation. There are a lot of drivers fighting for a championship in the Cup series right now, and several more simply fighting for their rides; in the end, that tension caused a race that usually is about give and take until the last 10 or 15 laps to be all take, all the time. The worst was the last lap, in which no caution came out but which saw Boris Said and Ryan Newman make contact and spin out while running for 5th; Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch make contact and spin out while running in the Top 10; J.J. Yeley spin off course after the inner loop; and Kasey Kahne lose control in the second to last turn.
3) Is it time for the Lucky Dog rule to be tweaked?
More like it's time to go back to an original rule and NOT use the Lucky Dog on road courses. During the race, Kyle Busch actually drove his car into the GARAGE to fix his car due to a broken track bar, and came out five laps down. You'd think his day would be over; yet, because nobody gets lapped on a road course and everyone was busy playing demolition derby (see above), Busch was able to get all five laps back through a series of timely cautions.
Now, it's not Busch's fault that a rule broke in his favor, and he took full advantage of that opportunity, finishing 9th to further cement his position in the Chase. At the same time, what if Kyle Busch ends up 10th in points after Richmond, 20 points ahead of 11th, when the No. 5 car would have been a shoe-in for 36th if not for the Lucky Dog? It would almost be like Kyle got a "free pass" into the championship Chase. No question, this rule has to be fixed.
4) How has Kevin Harvick slipped under the radar?
One of the most outspoken personalities on the Nextel Cup circuit, Harvick has quietly become a Nextel Cup championship contender without much fanfare. With his fifth Top 5 in a row, Harvick has moved up to third in points, and remains in contention to become the first driver in series history to win both the Busch Series and Nextel Cup titles in the same year, an almost unthinkable accomplishment as little as six years ago; yet, it seems Harvick's decision to replace Burney Lamar for one race in his Busch Series car has gotten more publicity.
That's what happens, I guess, when you lead the Busch Series standings by so many points you turn the title race into a rout. That's what happens, too, when you go from being on shaky ground with Richard Childress and your entire team to resigning a long-term deal in April and rebuffing a multi-million dollar offer from Toyota.
Between the tenacity of defending champion Tony Stewart, the career year comeback story of RCR teammate Jeff Burton, and the consistency of Matt Kenseth, Harvick is hardly the sole title contender in a race that's clearly Jimmie Johnson's to lose. But with two wins already this season, he can hardly be counted out.
5) What happens next in the Ray Evernham, Robert Yates, Elliott Sadler, and Jeremy Mayfield saga?
Sources say it's all but assured the details will work themselves out in the next week, with Sadler moving over from Yates to take Mayfield's place in the No. 19 Dodge. As for the No. 38 he leaves behind, it's clearly David Gilliland's call as to whether or not he wants the car for the final 12 races, with Mayfield mentioned as a surprising fill-in. More surprising to me is that Ward Burton's name hasn't come up, even though it's common knowledge he had been working with Yates for months on a sponsor deal, a surefire sign that deal may now be on life support. Ironically, both the No. 19 and No. 38 cars found the gravel trap on Sunday, a surefire indication of how their seasons have gone. At least Sadler recovered from his incident to finish 8th, a strong ending to his career at RYR if it is over, while Bill Elliott struggled to 27th in a one race deal with old car owner Evernham.
Jamie McMurray – In both the Busch Series and Nextel Cup races this weekend, McMurray found himself third heading into the final lap behind two aggressive drivers that could have easily wrecked each other fighting for the victory. Unfortunately, neither situation went McMurray's way, but his third place in Cup was his best run since Dover in June, and put a positive spin on what has been a frustrating season with Roush.
Robby Gordon – Anything less than a win at a road course is disappointing for Gordon, but he has to be satisfied with a 4th place finish after crashing at Infineon earlier this year. With Robby's best result of 2006 just 10th entering this weekend, this run could be the lift this team needs to sneak into the Top 20 in points by season's end.
Scott Pruett – No question, 2006 has been the year most of the road course ringers would like to forget, with just one cracking the Top 10 in both races. At Watkins Glen, Pruett held up the flag, running conservative all day to ensure a solid 7th place finish and, more importantly, get the No. 40 team the breathing room it needed to stay in the Top 35 in owner points for the foreseeable future.
Greg Biffle: A rarity that drivers get included on this list two weeks in a row, Biffle's poor luck made it impossible to leave him out. After a crash in qualifying had him starting from the rear, Biffle was moving up slowly but surely; that is, until Kyle Petty decided to take his front bumper and move Biffle into the fence just before the inner loop. Forced into the garage for repairs, the No. 16 placed 38th, and Biffle's 2006 championship future has been officially changed from "who may sneak in" to "what might have been."
Kasey Kahne : Since Biffle made the list twice…Kahne can't help but get added, too. The No. 9 team had high hopes after Kahne began the day on the outside of the front row, but it seemed they could never quite hang with the leaders. Still, Kahne was in position to finish reasonably well, until for the second straight race, he lost control on the second to last corner of the last lap. Just like that, Kahne was down to 22nd, and his mission to make the Chase had lapsed into critical condition.
MB2 Motorsports : While a seven car incident two thirds of the way through the race collected Chase contenders Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch, it was MB2 that ingested the most Tylenols after that headache. Both Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek had their cars too damaged to continue, giving the team eight DNFs between the two cars. 30th and 35th in owner points, these teams haven't been disappointing this season - they've been disastrous.
Terry Labonte : After finishing third at Infineon, longtime fans were hopeful Texas Terry could work that magic once again in his final start on a road course; but before the race was 5 laps old, Labonte's chances for the win went cold. A broken rear end sent the team behind the wall for 10 laps for repairs, and Labonte spent the day nursing the car home to 37th.
Mark Martin remained in sixth, with Tony Stewart's second place run moving up two spots from ninth to seventh. Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon each dropped a spot to eighth and ninth, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. held his ground in tenth. Dale, Jr. remains 54 points ahead of Kasey Kahne for the final spot in the Chase, with Kurt Busch now 12th, but 172 points out of the Top 10 and a longshot at best to make it in.
"At the end it was fun, racing with Jamie, and my buddy Kevin Harvick there, it's two guys who you trust when you're around them. You know you can race side by side with them and not have a problem. We didn't, we didn't have any trouble there." Tony Stewart
"We put ourselves in position for NASCAR to make a call, and it didn't end up in our favor. Bottom line. Each week, it's a new call and when you put yourself in position for them to make a call they're not going to make it. There was no missing the commitment line. I was on pit road when the green light was on when I made (the commitment)." Kurt Busch
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The past 2 weeks have proven that the ‘charity lap’ rule needs to be changed. Either limit the number of times one car can ge given laps back, or have them start next to the leader to race their way back on the lead lap. As is, it’s a joke.
Over time the Lucky Dog business averages out so that all drivers end up benefiting.
As for Kurt’s penalty—well, that’s the letter of the law. But perhaps the rule should include a uniform policy that Nascar officils immediately inform the driver/team about such a pit violation and if the officials can’t react that fast then they lose the option to call a penalty because they have no right to expect either the drivers or the teams to react that fast.
To expect Kurt to teleport the car sidways back onto the track or to see through the roof of the car to tell if a light almost directly above him is green or red is not very realistic.
Statisical analysis of the Lucky Dog rule would be in order at this point. Some seem to feel it averages out over time, however, I question that thought without really looking at the numbers.
There are possibly some drivers who have never had the benefit of the lucky dog, and I believe, there are other drivers/teams who have used the lucky dog rule to the extreme.
As fans of racing, we’ve seen the extremes of this rule used in our most recent race experiences, however, it’s not the only times this rule has benefited drivers/teams. The big difference is that Lucky Dog rule is now affecting who will be in the Chase for the Championship.
A question that I’ve had now for awhile regarding the road courses. Why is it NASCAR, unlike other series ends up using full course cautions instead of local yellows? Although they are talked about from time to time I rarely see a local yellow, just full course cautions which in many cases makes no sense to me when taking into account the incident that brought the caution out. The only reason I can come up with is its NASCARS way of bunching the pack back up as well as giving another chance for commercials..and we know those couldn’t be the reasons..;-)
Recent articles from Tom Bowles:
Did You Notice? ... The Details Behind Busch Double-Duty And NASCAR Teams/Series Needing A Boost
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