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.
Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. It’s actually a bit of a tougher call here than most might realize, as Carl Edwards looked like he was ready to dominate the race out front before losing a tire and spinning out on lap 47. But Edwards had worked his way back to the leaders by the last segment of the race, and even he didn’t have anything for Kyle, whose car was a rocket ship in the final 100 laps and did everything it needed to do in order to stay out front.
Five Questions You Should be Asking After the Race Weekend:
1) Who the heck was responsible for the metal debris that caused the final caution? And yes, I know that was a huge piece of debris, but is that the latest you’ve ever seen NASCAR throw a caution for that type of stuff? I mean, we had less than 25 miles to go on a 2-mile track…people’s Chase fortunes should not have lived or died on that piece of metal, and I think for McMurray and Newman that may end up being the difference. On a side note, Scott Riggs, Robby Gordon, and several others are probably not too happy about that caution either, because the late wreck that tore up their race cars would never have happened.
2) What was everyone thinking following Kyle Busch down pit road on that last caution? Why does Kyle Busch even pit?? There’s less than 10 laps to go on the restart, and you’ve got the best car. If several drivers in the Top 10 had used their heads and stayed out on the track, not backmarkers Robby Gordon and Jeff Green, there’s no way Kyle would have worked his way back to the front. True, it all worked out for the 5 car, as it should have, but…
3) Alright, who was really buying into all that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. conspiracy theory stuff to get him in the playoffs, now that the 8 car is finally eliminated from the Chase? Truth is, Earnhardt, Jr. was out of the running for this year’s title long before tonight, and no type of playoff system Brian France can concoct will protect you if you can’t put your car up front. Ditto for Jeff Gordon, because he’s on the outside looking in too if his car at Richmond runs like it did at California, and to be honest, he doesn’t deserve to be in the way they’re running.
4) I know NASCAR’s trying to cater to the West Coast audience, but why are they starting a race that’s guaranteed not to end until after midnight Eastern Standard Time? Not everyone has Labor Day off, and I’m sure several of the sport’s younger fans were fast asleep for hours by the time this race was over. Starting the race two hours earlier at 6 ET would have not only secured an earlier finish, but would have allowed the race to end in darkness on the West Coast as well AND in primetime.
5) Does it bother anyone else how NBC doesn’t automatically cover the Top 3 leaders’ pit stops when everyone pits under caution? I mean, I know Ryan Newman’s fighting for the Chase and all, but putting him as one of the three drivers on the screen when he’s running 15th is meaningless when he won’t be a factor in the race off pit road.
Who’s Smiling on Monday Besides the Winner:
Carl Edwards. There may not have been a happier man in the building besides Kyle Busch than Edwards Sunday night. Out front early, it looked like it was the 99 team’s race to win, not the 5’s, until a left rear tire came apart for Carl on lap 47. Spinning out, Edward’s chances for the Chase were about to hit a skidding halt, with a likely 42nd-place finish on the other side of that outside wall and Carl’s questionable short track record being put to the test on Saturday at Richmond. But miraculously, the car spun just short of the barrier, nobody hit Edwards, and there was no real damage to the car. That left the team and Carl with 400 miles to work their way back to the front, and they did just that, with Carl battling back to a 4th-place run and all but assuring his spot in the “playoffs.”
Matt Kenseth. Not the back-to-back wins several were predicting, but a 7th-place run for Kenseth this weekend vaulted him into the Top 10 in points, enhancing his chances to make the Chase after a horrific start to 2005. The 17 team never had a car capable of winning the race, but kept it steady in the Top 5 most of the night where Matt could stay out of trouble and run in clean air. A couple of late passes on the final restart that pushed Kenseth out of the Top 5 could cost him though if the 17 runs poorly at Richmond.
Jamie McMurray. For the first 475 miles, the race at California was a disaster for Jamie and his Chip Ganassi team. McMurray never got a handle on his race car, and the 42 seemed to fluctuate from 15th to 25th just about all night. At one point, Jamie was almost 75 points behind the Top 10, and his chances of making the Chase were just about over. Then, the miracle debris caution occurred with a dozen laps left, and when all teams pitted McMurray’s team decided to go with just two tires. The move pushed Jamie up into the Top 10, and shockingly, the 42 car had enough grip after that to hold his position from there; Jamie’s 8th-place finish put him one point above the cut line for this year’s Chase as a result.
Ricky Rudd. Certainly, this was not a week for Rudd to smile, as the passing of his father on Tuesday caused Ricky to let Jon Wood practice and qualify the car this weekend. Rudd was close to his father, a man responsible for sponsoring Rudd’s first runs on the Nextel Cup tour back in the late 1970s as part of a small, family-owned operation. This weekend, Rudd was at the track, but as he said himself, his head was clearly not in the game. On Sunday, however, the 21 sprang to life, and Rudd methodically came from the rear of the field to finish 9th, a run that did his father proud.
Who’s Hungover on Monday:
Jeff Gordon. One look into Gordon’s eyes after the race, and you had no problem seeing the frustration he has with his car. Week in, week out, the 24 is like a ping pong ball through the field. It’s either really good or really bad, 5th or 25th, and lately it’s ended up on the wrong end of that back-and-forth movement as the checkered flag falls. Sunday was no different, as Gordon started strong, then faded, then came back to the Top 10, then chose not to pit on a caution with 35 laps left and dropped like a rock to the back of the field. Call me crazy, but there was something about seeing Gordon fight with Tony Raines for 30th with 20 laps left in one of the biggest races of the season that doesn’t seem to bode well for Robbie Loomis’ career, no matter what anyone says. Gordon fell to 12th in the points, but in several people’s minds, it might as well be 25th.
Ryan Newman. The ping pong atmosphere that surrounded Gordon’s team was a part of Newman’s night as well. The 12 car never seemed to hit on the right setup, and the 12 was bouncing back and forth between 10th and 20th for the majority of the night, with the last set of tires also sending Newman towards the back. An 18th-place run dropped him out of the Top 10, and now the 12 has to hope he doesn’t get run over at Richmond, a place where he’s never won, in order to make the Chase. Not known for short track success, this could be a tough road to hoe.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Millions of fans turned off their sets early last night, and one can only hope it’s not for the rest of the season as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver was officially eliminated from Chase contention. Never a factor and again struggling on an intermediate race track, Dale Jr.’s engine went up in smoke while he was running towards the back on lap 211, and the 38th-place finish mathematically eliminated him from the title hunt. Now, the question is whether the team will relax with the pressure off and try to win some races.
J.J. Yeley. In his first start of the year in the Fed Ex car in what is likely a 2006 audition for the ride versus Denny Hamlin, Yeley had a solid Top 10 qualifying run on the weekend, but then followed that up by backing the car in the wall on lap 3. If you’re counting at home, that’s 3 Nextel Cup starts and 2 DNF’s due to accidents so far in Yeley’s career, with a DNQ or two mixed in. Not exactly a stellar resume to sell to Fed Ex after they spit out unproven Jason Leffler in half a season…
Kyle Busch’s win made him the youngest Nextel Cup winner in history at 20 years old. Busch is only four days younger than the previous recordholder, Donald Thomas, who won at the old Atlanta speedway in 1951.
Tony Stewart’s 5th-place run was his 11th consecutive Top 10 finish, and 9th Top 5 during that span.
Jamie McMurray’s 8th-place was his best finish at a non-restrictor plate track since Darlington on Mother’s Day. It’s also the best run for him since he announced he was leaving the 42 team to join Roush Racing for 2007 back in early July.
Back in 23rd, Bobby Hamilton, Jr. gave his team their 3rd Top 25 finish in the last 8 races (with 1 DNQ in that span). Considering the 32 car had only 4 Top 25 finishes in the first 17 races, that’s a big improvement.
With a 40th-place finish after a blown engine, Bill Elliott now has 3 DNF’s in the 8 races he’s run this season.
After Sunday’s race, six of the Top 10 drivers in points had clinched their spots in the Chase for the Championship. Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, and Kurt Busch maintained their points positions Sunday (Busch actually gained a spot) and ensured themselves of being in the 10-race Chase come the conclusion of Saturday night’s race at Richmond. Those six drivers could take next weekend off if they wanted to.
Behind those six, it’s a furious battle for the final four spots in the Chase. Jeremy Mayfield dropped one spot to seventh in points, but finds himself 145 points ahead of 11th place, so all he needs is a 39th-place finish to secure a position in the Top 10. For the next three drivers though, it’s not so simple. Carl Edwards is 86 ahead of 11th, but still needs a Top 15 finish to secure his spot, not a lock considering the many short track issues he’s had this year.
Matt Kenseth used his third consecutive solid finish to vault to 9th in the points Chase, the first time all year he’s been ranked in the Top 10; however, he’s just 10 points ahead of 10th-place Jamie McMurray and 11 ahead of Ryan Newman in 11th. Behind those three, Jeff Gordon lurks 30 points out of 10th place, with Elliott Sadler 52 points back in 13th. Dale Jarrett, Kevin Harvick, and Joe Nemechek round out the Top 16, but all three are mathematical longshots to have a chance at the Top 10, being over 100 points behind with one race left.
Behind the Chase contenders, Brian Vickers moved up to 17th in points, knocking Dale, Jr. down to 18th, a career-low for him at this point in the season. Michael Waltrip and Kasey Kahne also moved up one spot apiece, knocking Jeff Burton out of the Top 20 in points and down to 21st.
“To be able to beat all 42 competitors out here on the NEXTEL Cup Series level. It’s just amazing. It’s been a great task…but these No. 5 team guys deserve it so much. We should have been here at least five times or so but we haven’t been able to close the deal. But tonight we did.” – Kyle Busch on his win
“We’re just thinking about everybody in the gulf coast right now and all the National Guard soldiers that are down there helping everybody and supporting the efforts of rebuilding that place (the Southeast) and getting everything out of there. It’s been a tough week for us here and we’re excited to go home and we have a home to go home to.” – Greg Biffle
“I didn’t really expect it (to be back in the Top 10). We’re not in it yet. We still have another week to go.” – Matt Kenseth on his Chase chances
“We’re still alive. We’ve got our heads just barely below water, but we’ve got time to pick it back up and get a breath of fresh air.” – Ryan Newman after finishing 18th
“We sucked today. That was just pathetic. We haven’t (been running good). That’s why we’re where we are at. We’ll go to Richmond and see what we can do.” – Jeff Gordon after finishing 21st
The Nextel Cup drivers finish up their 26-race “regular season” at a fast-paced short track, as Richmond International Raceway hosts the Chevy Rock ‘n’ Roll 400 this Saturday night.
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