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 · Monday August 8, 2005
To the Point: Tony Stewart put nearly a decade of frustration in open-wheel & stock cars behind him at Indianapolis, winning his first Brickyard 400 after a thrilling duel with Kasey Kahne throughout most of the race’s second half.
Who Should Have Won: Tony Stewart. There are a few others who could have fit here; Kahne had a strong car, as did polesitter Elliott Sadler. But the truth of the matter is, no one in this race wanted it as badly as Stewart, and unlike previous years, not only did Stewart have the car he needed to win, but he was able to avoid the mistakes that have cost him here many times in the past.
Five Questions You Should be Asking After the Race Weekend:
2) Sad but true, this column is on its third week and tires are about to be mentioned for the third time. Is it possible to ever have a full fuel run in Nextel Cup again with these Goodyears? It was left front tires flat all over the place on Sunday, just like Pocono in June; and just like in that race, it appeared rumble strips were an issue, as a safety crew had to go fix them after Bobby Hamilton Jr’s tire tore them to pieces (I can just see NASCAR asking Indy to remove their rumble strips; Tony George’s laughter would be heard for miles and miles). And just like about every other race this year, there was never a round of green-flag pit stops due to all the cautions. When will we stop blaming the teams and the tracks for this problem?
3) Now that Earnhardt, Jr. is all but assured of being out of the Chase, will fans of the 8 car seriously stop watching after Race 26? Although several critics of NASCAR’s “playoffs” would love to see ratings plummet with Dale Jr. no longer in the running for the title, are you really a true race fan if you stop watching at race 27? It’s not like the 8 team and Junior are going to stop trying to win.
4) Was it appropriate for NBC’s Dave Burns to interview Jimmie Johnson when he was clearly suffering from concussion-like symptoms? The media crew was all over Johnson on pit road as soon as he exited his car, despite the fact he was knocked unconscious from the crash and had to be physically pulled out by Chad Knaus. A clearly agitated Chad then had to hold back the media as Johnson was checked over by safety officials and caught his breath. While Jimmie consented to an interview to “say he was OK,” his answers showed he was clearly not, and Johnson was sent to a hospital shortly afterward. I know drivers need to be accessible, but should NASCAR be drawing a line here if the media doesn’t know how?
5) Do some of the NASCAR tracks on the circuit need to look at widening pit road? Most pit roads were designed with the thought that 43 cars would almost never be pitting at the exact same time during a race, but with increasing numbers of cars finishing on the lead lap, pit road has become a giant traffic jam, with incidents nearly every week (Greg Biffle & Ken Schrader the latest on Sunday).
Who’s Smiling on Monday:
Kasey Kahne. Certainly, Kasey would have liked to end Sunday in Victory Lane, but in this up-and-down sophomore season of his, I’m sure he didn’t mind a runner-up finish, a nice way to celebrate a contract extension with Evernham’s team that locks him up in the 9 car reportedly through 2010. For awhile there, it looked like the 25-year-old youngster would be celebrating in Victory Lane, passing Stewart for the lead on lap 134 and holding it through the race’s final caution period from laps 146 to 149. But Kahne failed to get a strong restart, let Stewart get under him coming off turn 2, and that was it; there was no way Stewart would let it slip away once he got in front, although Kahne gave it all he had in the last 11 laps.
Jeremy Mayfield. Fighting for a championship spot for the second straight year, Sunday did a lot to give Mayfield some breathing room and silence the critics who claim he hasn’t run up front enough to be deserving of a spot in the Chase. While he clearly didn’t have a winning car, Mayfield had a solid 4th-place machine that stayed in the Top 5 just about all day. It’s the type of solid performance Mayfield needs to stay where he is in the points, and he’s starting to have them at just the right time, creeping almost 100 points clear now of 11th-place Jamie McMurray while maintaining his 8th position in points.
Matt Kenseth. Put on Chase life support after Pocono, Kenseth knows he needs Top 5s every race from here on out to have a shot at the Top 10, and Sunday he delivered. It was vintage 17 team back to their consistent finishes of late, as Matt worked his way into the Top 5 early with pit strategy and never really fell back after that, finishing 5th. For a man that has more rumors swirling around him then he should with a contract that runs through 2006, he’s red hot, although Kenseth will probably regreat his two Pocono runs come race 27 this season. (By the way, for all you “Kenseth is leaving Roush” fanatics, don’t you remember Greg Biffle last year? Roush contracts = Walls of unbreakable steel. I doubt Kenseth is going anywhere).
Honorable mention : Brian Vickers (3rd, best Indy finish); Casey Mears (came back from being punted into the grass by Kurt Busch to finish 6th); Mark Martin (7th in possible final Indy start); Jeff Gordon (strong finish to 8th to gain valuable ground in the Chase).
Jimmie Johnson. Indy has not been kind to Johnson in his four full seasons of Nextel Cup, and this weekend was no exception. The weekend started off strangely, with the 48 team failing inspection due to rear end problems; the team missed the five-minute clock, and Johnson was forced to start on a provisional in 42nd. On race day, the car slowly came up through the pack but Johnson still struggled with the car’s handling, so much so that he spun out once by himself while running in the Top 10. He was lucky not to hit anything, but in hindsight Johnson may have wished he did after the vicious hit he took a few laps later. A blown tire on lap 146 sent Johnson hard into the Turn 4 wall, briefly knocking him unconscious and knocking him out of the race, as well as the points lead. Johnson still has yet to lead a lap here, and now has a best finish of 9th in four Cup starts.
Elliott Sadler. A day which started with such promise for Sadler ended with the Virginian shaking his head in disbelief. Starting on the pole for the first time in his career at Indy, Sadler had the dominant car early and often, leading 39 of the first 93 laps. But on a green-flag restart on lap 97, Sadler was snookered by Stewart on a restart and fell behind the 20 and several other cars, ground the 38 car never could make up as the car handled poorly in traffic. Still, the 38 team was headed towards a solid Top 10 finish to right their ship…only to see Sadler fall off the pace after the final restart with what he thought was a flat tire (whether it actually was flat only the team knows). The 32nd-place finish left Sadler deflated and on the outside looking in points-wise, dropping from 9th to 12th with 5 races left to work his way back up.
MB2 Motorsports. Certainly, no multi-car team left the weekend with a bigger pile of junked race cars than MB2. Boris Said started the mess by hitting the wall in Saturday’s qualifying, although he recovered to make the field; he then suffered a flat and numerous problems during the race to finish 31st. But at least he had all four fenders left on his car after Sunday; Joe Nemechek and Scott Riggs weren’t so lucky. The 01 team looked to be a contender, with Front Row Joe surging through the pack and up towards the Top 5 before a flat tire ruined his day, his car, and his faint hopes for the Chase (Joe finished 28th). Meanwhile, Riggs had a solid Top 15 run going before a struggling Kurt Busch got loose and tapped the 10 car straight into the wall; Riggs finished 35th.
Kasey Kahne’s 2nd-place run was his second Top 5 finish in two Indy starts.
Casey Mears’ 6th-place run was his best since a 4th in Texas back in April (14 races ago).
Sterling Marlin’s 9th-place run snapped a 13-race drought without a Top 10 finish. Marlin’s last Top 10 was a 5th in Texas back in April; Marlin was 6th in points after that day. He’s now 25th.
Bill Elliott’s 23rd-place finish continued a remarkable streak of 11 finishes on the lead lap in 12 Indy starts. Elliott has failed to complete just one lap in any Brickyard 400, finishing 23rd one lap behind in 1999.
Bobby Hamilton finished 27th in his first Nextel Cup start since a 10th-place run at Homestead in November 2002, a span of 92 races.
Rusty Wallace was another top driver who struggled on the weekend, crashing his primary car in qualifying Saturday and then limping home 25th, good enough to maintain 4th in points by 59 over Kurt Busch.
Mark Martin moved up to 6th, just 10 out of the Top 5 and 68 in front of 7th-place Ryan Newman, who had a disastrous race and poor-handling car on Sunday, placing 34th. Newman fell 355 points behind the leader and is now just 14 points ahead of 8th-place Jeremy Mayfield. Dale Jarrett moved up to 9th, 72 points behind Newman and 9 clear of new 10th-place man Carl Edwards. At this point, it appears those are the 4 yet to lock up spots in the Chase, as everyone from 6th-place Mark Martin and above is a near-lock with just five races left.
Behind Edwards, the race to sneak in the Top 10 is fast and furious. Jamie McMurray remains 11th, 12 points out of a Chase spot, while Elliott Sadler’s crash dropped him from 9th to 12th, 24 behind the Top 10. Kevin Harvick remained 13th and Jeff Gordon moved up to 14th, both drivers remaining within 100 points of the Top 10. Matt Kenseth moved into 15th, 168 points behind 10th-place Carl Edwards and with faint hopes of a “playoff” run staying alive.
Further back, Earnhardt Jr.’s crash dropped him to 16th, 191 behind 10th-place Carl Edwards and 627 behind Tony Stewart. Joe Nemechek, Jeff Burton, Michael Waltrip, and Kyle Busch rounded out the Top 20.
“If the people at home knew what the first six years of a roller coaster it was at the Brickyard 400, they’d understand how important this was to this team.” – Greg Zipadelli, Stewart’s crew chief
“I’m happy for Tony. Tony is today’s ultimate racer. He’s the ultimate racer of this era. He’s pretty excitable, but he’s very fair. He’s given me more respect than I deserve.” – Mark Martin
“I don’t know what to say. I thought I had a tire going down. I don’t know if it was or not. I guess not. I don’t know. It’s just not our year. It’s not meant to be. The guys gave me a great car and it’s just not meant to be.” -Elliott Sadler, after a late pit stop dropped him to a 32nd-place finish
“Thought we had a really good shot at a Top 10…you know, (until we) had a big-eared knucklehead that wanted to use an excuse that the car got away from him. You know, he’s a champion. A Nextel Cup champion. He apologized, of course.” – Scott Riggs on his wreck
“I don’t really remember coming from Turn 4 to the pits. I just remember kind of waking up on pit road and the guys were pulling me out of the car.” – Jimmie Johnson after his wreck
“If we make the Chase, we make it. If we don’t, we don’t. We’ll still try to win some races before the year is out.” – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on his “playoff” chances
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