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.
To the Point: Emotional in Victory Lane, Jimmie Johnson captured a special opportunity to honor innocent lives lost, two years later. In doing so, he suddenly has a chance at his first Nextel Cup title once againâ€¦one that seemed lost as recently as two weeks ago.
Surviving a thrilling duel with rookie Denny Hamlin in the final six laps, Johnson held on to win by a car length at Martinsville's tricky short track. The win marked his first checkered flag at the track since the tragic Hendrick Motorsports plane crash killed 10 people the day the No. 48 team won here in 2004. Hamlin held on for second, with Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon rounding out the Top 5. In the points race, Jeff Burton's engine expired early, knocking him out of the top spot and closing up the championship Chase - Matt Kenseth now leads the standings, but eight of the ten drivers are within 100 points of the lead with four races left.
Who Should Have Won: Johnson. Usually, teammate Jeff Gordon is the class of the field at this track, but this time it was the Lowe's Chevrolet that had no trouble running up front. Leading a race-high 245 laps, Johnson fell back to 10th after pitting under caution with 100 laps to go - but while other frontrunners got stuck in traffic, Johnson moved forward with ease, taking the lead for the final time from Bobby Labonte on lap 445. The fact he never gave it back is impressive considering the amount of times Hamlin hit the the No. 48 in the closing stages; on the restart from the race's final caution on lap 494, Johnson's vehicle was treated more like a bumper car than a race car, but he was able to keep control and hang on for the win.
Five Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend:
1) Was Sunday typical short track racing, or were drivers being a little too overaggressive?
Overaggressive. 18 cautions on Sunday were one short of the race record, and too many yellows were caused by bumps that didn't have to happen. The biggest offenders were "rookies":/tbowles/ , but veterans weren't completely guilt-free; Ryan Newman and Casey Mears were among those involved in several bumpfests that turned to frustrationâ€¦then spinouts. In all, 27 of the 43 starters were officially involved in some sort of accident, and less than a half dozen race cars ended the event completely "clean." Of course, that's part of what a short track is all aboutâ€¦but those numbers should be lower.
2) Why didn't more drivers stay out on old tires instead of pitting over the final 100 laps?
Most drivers on the lead lap pitted for their final fuel stop with 160 laps left; with the boatload of cautions that occurred after that, it would have been easy for any of them to make it the rest of the way. Shockingly, though, almost all lead lap cars pitted one more time for tires and gas during a caution on lap 401. Six drivers didn't - including Bobby Labonte, Casey Mears and Jeff Gordon, all of whom finished in the Top 6.
What a surprise! Choosing track position over tires on a track where it's always impossible to passâ€¦and you get a good finish. Meanwhile, cars who ran up front before that caution, like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, and others, never quite made it back to the positions they were in before they pitted despite fresh rubber.
This scenario happens every year at Martinsvilleâ€¦yet, every year crew chiefs make the same mistake of bringing their cars to pit road too late in the race. It's amazing.
3) How badly did Denny Hamlin want that race?
As bad as he wanted Richmond, if not more so. For the second time this year, the Virginian let it all hang out at a hometown track, only to come up just short and settle for second. This time, though, he stepped a bit over the line; Johnson was respectful in his post-race interview, but he shouldn't have been so kind. The amount of bodyslamming Hamlin did to the No. 48 car over the final six laps nearly took both contenders out, and showed that the youngster does still have that yellow stripe on his back bumper. Luckily, this turned into a case of no harm, no foul.
4) How would you judge Ward Burton's comeback?
About average. Driving for a single car team that has yet to finish in the Top 15 this season, Ward didn't have the best equipment, and it showed. Of course, merely qualifying for the event was impressive after two years out of the sport, and while the No. 4 car was spun out at one point, Burton kept the car in one piece during the race. But even after a series of Lucky Dogs put Ward on the lead lap late, he failed to take advantageâ€¦ultimately coming home 26th. Certainly, everyone wants the likeable driver back in the sport, and the finish should get him a second chance in the No. 4 carâ€¦but I doubt Robert Yates took a second look after that performance, you know?
5) Alright, so who has the upper hand in the Chase NOW, you so-called expert?
This thing has just taken on a life of its own. Usually, everyone has one mulligan in the Chaseâ€¦but so many drivers have had two, some three, that everybody has been able to stay alive simply by default. While Burton may have started a fade most have been waiting for Sunday, Johnson clearly made a big move with his win, closing to within 41 points of new point leader Kenseth. But with 1.5-mile tracks looming, it's the No. 17 team that should have the upper hand now that they're back on top of the standings. If anything, it seems Kahne might be Kenseth's biggest challengerâ€¦after ending Kansas 273 points out of the lead, he's gained 174 points the last three weeks, and he won at both Atlanta and Texas in the Spring, the next two tracks on the schedule.
Petty Enterprises – Initially, this didn't look to be their day. Kyle started the day 14th, but spun out before the race got to lap 5 and went to the rear; Bobby Labonte started 30th, got mired back in traffic, and went a lap down. For once, though, luck went this team's way; Petty didn't suffer damage in the spin and worked his way to the front with a strong car, while Labonte used both the Lucky Dog, then pit strategy to assume the lead shortly after lap 400. As the laps clicked down, fans stood in anticipation of the No. 43's first victory since 1999, as Labonte had a front-row seat to the side-by-side antics of Johnson and Hamlin; while the Cheerios Dodge came up just short, his 3rd place finish - combined with Kyle's 10th - marked the first time two Petty cars finished in the Top 10 since Phoenix in November of 1999.
Jeff Gordon – Anything less than a race win at Martinsville is a disappointment for Gordon, but considering his streak of three straight DNFs, finishing 5th is something to be proud of. Dominant early, Gordon led 165 laps, contending until crew chief Steve LeTarte brought the DuPont Chevrolet in to pit under caution on lap 366, 30 laps earlier than the leaders. While the strategy eventually worked out, Gordon damaged his car during the short period of time he ran midpack, ruining the handling just enough so they couldn’t win. Still, Gordon now technically has an outside shot at the title, 141 back with four races to goâ€¦and no one would have thought that possible after last week.
Jeff Green – Reunited this week with new crew chief Harold Holly, Green was happy for two reasons; not only did the pair win the Busch Series title together in 2000, but the move was a sign Haas CNC actually will keep its driver for more than a full season, the first time in team history that's happened. With a vote of confidence assured, team and driver responded; Green brought the car home eighth for his second Top 10 in three races.
Matt Kenseth – 11th isn't all that great for what's supposed to be a championship team, but considering Kenseth's record at Martinsville entering Sunday - an average finish of 17.2 - he will gladly take a Top 15 and move on. It wasn't easy; the R&L Carriers Ford spun coming out of Turn 4 at one point, and was lucky not to hit anything, and Kenseth later got involved in an on-track feud with Kevin Harvick. They'll be dueling much more than that in the final four races; Harvick has moved into second place in the standings, with only 36 points separating the two.
Jeff Burton – Looks like RCR's tendency to be occasionally overaggressive came back to bite them Sunday; the engine package they gave the No. 31 and Burton couldn't even last half the race. If it's any consolation for the engine tuner, things weren't going well to begin with; during Petty's spin on lap 4, the No. 31 car had run into Joe Nemechek hard enough to loosen the hoodpins, ruining the Chevy's handling for the rest of the day. Put out of his misery by the engine failure, Burton came home 42nd and dropped out of the point lead.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – A Top 5 car all day, Junior suffered a bit of a setback with 100 laps to go when he pitted under the yellow flag and several cars stayed out, putting him outside the Top 15 for the restart. While Junior charged back up to 8th, he got a little greedy as the laps wound down, getting impatient with Kasey Kahne in front of him and racing him side-by-side into the corner, spinning himself out and taking away a large chunk of points he sorely needed to gain ground. Winding up 22nd, the end of November looks more and more like Junior sitting around wondering how he gave his title dreams away.
Kyle Busch – With Burton's engine failure, there was a chance for even Kyle to get back into the hunt for the championshipâ€¦but a late race spin by David Ragan (one of many for the 06 car on the day) sent the No. 5 car into the outside wall in order to avoid the wreck. The car drove like junk the rest of the way, and Kyle finished 18th, losing his chance to get back involved in the Chase.
Mark Martin – Clearly, Martin's comments about the title "not being meant to be" seem like they're coming true. After posting the 42nd best time, then crashing his primary car in Friday's practice, Martin seemed to be doing better with the backup; he drove it right into the Top 10 during the race. But with a handful of laps left, water exited the engine, taking a solid finish with it and relegating Martin to 24th.
As previously described, Kenseth's 11th place run moves him into the point lead with four races remaining, 36 ahead of Kevin Harvick. Jimmie Johnson jumps four spots to third, five points behind Harvick, with Denny Hamlin another six points back in 4th place. Burton's engine failure cost him dearly; he drops from first to fifth in the standings, 48 out of the top spot.
As for the other five Chasers, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. dropped from fourth to sixth in points but gained on the lead; he's now 94 behind. Mark Martin fell to seventh place, 96 back, while Kasey Kahne is now just 99 points out in 8th place, completing the list of drivers with a realistic shot at the title. Mathematically alive are Jeff Gordon, 141 behind in 9th, and Kyle Busch, 171 back in 10th.
"You don't want to wreck from the lead, and you don't want to win one like that. You can maybe rub the guy out of the way and take the win, but you don't want to wreck â€˜em. That's just a bad deal. I had that in mind, and Jimmie had the best car, and he deserved to winâ€¦so he did." Denny Hamlin
"That was my mistake. I was tryin’ too hard. I felt like we were quicker than (Kasey) Kahne, so I was anxious to get all I could and get around him. I was under him, but the rear brakes locked, and the wheels started hopping and I spun out. We had a great car, and we had something for ‘em all except for the 48 (Johnson). It got down the end of the race, and I got greedy. I can’t blame it on nobody but myself." Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on his spin with Kasey Kahne
"We had a rookie out there that was kind of a dart with no feathers. The best thing would have been to black flag the 06 and park him for the rest of the day and save half the cautions." Tony Stewart
"I had a ball. I think they did a good job with the car." Ward Burton, on his return to the sport
"Stuff happens, and everybody in the Chase has had trouble. We certainly didn't want this to happen, didn't need this to happen, but at the same time, it did happen. But by no means are we out of this thing." Jeff Burton
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