NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Sprint Cup Rookie Report · Tony Lumbis · Monday April 27, 2009
Summary: Brad Keselowski raced the Aaron’s 499 in the same manner as one would want to play a game of poker. After starting in the top 10, Keselowski spent much of the afternoon darting to the front of the pack, only to fall off the pace soon thereafter — leaving his competitors scratching their heads as to exactly what was under the hood of his Miccosukee Chevy. In fact, the Michigan native almost unknowingly twice caused an accident – once on lap 82 when the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. quickly came up on the back of the No. 09, forcing Keselowski below the yellow line; and then again with 55 circuits remaining, when he pushed Elliott Sadler to the front, only to lose momentum and create a log jam behind him.
Keselowski and his Marc Reno-led team showed their hand when it counted, however, and in the end, they had a full house. With just four laps remaining, the rookie looked much like his mentor’s father when he emerged from his 11th place position and pushed Carl Edwards to the front with just one lap remaining. Only this time, the Hendrick-powered Impala would not fade back into oblivion. This time, Keselowski squeezed his nose in between the No. 99 Ford and the infamous “out-of-bounds” double-yellow line through the tri-oval. Edwards did not realize the 25-year-old was there… until it was too late. The contact sent the Claritin Ford across the track, into the path of Ryan Newman, then launched the Roush Fenway Racing machine into the air.
The frightening wreck allowed Keselowski to drive off into the sunset and across the finish line unscathed for his first career Sprint Cup victory, coming in only his fifth career start at that level. Although Keselowski is not officially running for Rookie of the Year, the victory marks the first time a car with a yellow stripe entered Victory Lane since Juan Pablo Montoya won at Sonoma in June of 2007.
Quote: “Wow, pinch me. I don’t know, am I awake? How about this team? How about all them fans out there, man thanks for coming. This is the best show on earth. I’ve got to apologize to Carl (Edwards) for wrecking him at the end. The rule is you can’t go below the yellow line, and he blocked and I wasn’t going below it. I don’t want to wreck a guy, but you’re forced in that situation. There was nothing else I could do. We had a lot of fun today. Man, was that fun. I hope the fans did too because this is NASCAR racing and this is cool.”
Summary: Scott Speed turned in his best qualifying effort of 2009 when he placed his Red Bull Toyota on the outside of row four. However, before the green flag even waved, the bad luck that has plagued this team all season long reared its ugly head once again. The brakes were not working on the No. 82 Camry, and crew chief Jimmy Elledge make the call to bring Speed down pit road during the pace laps. As it turned out, a piece of wire that the crew used to tie the brakes up away from the wheel for qualifying was not snapping when Speed hit the brakes as designed, forcing a crew member to manually cut it in order to get it fixed. Unfortunately, the NASCAR officials viewed this action as working on the car before the green flag — illegal for an impound race — and penalized the team one lap as a result.
But after experiencing neglect from Lady Luck so many times this season, this particular Sunday afternoon would be different. As it turned out, Speed — who had lost the draft due to his penalty — missed the “Big One” on lap eight, which occurred right where had would have been racing. Not only did the rookie miss the crash, but he got the “Free Pass” as well, negating the penalty and getting his race back on track.
From that point on, the driver chose to hang at the back of the pack until the final segment. At that point, the former Formula One driver began making his way to the front with a little help from a friend, Kyle Busch, who was one lap down at the time. When the checkered flag waved, Speed had cleared the carnage on the frontstretch and had pushed up through the field at exactly the right time. Awarded with a fifth place finish, it was a Sprint Cup career best for the 26-year-old who didn’t even have a top 10 to his credit. His first top 5 also resulted in rookie honors for the race, Speed’s third award of 2009 and first since Bristol in March. Perhaps more importantly, the team is now only 18 points from the 35th position in the owner standings.
Quote: “We went back and forth. If you did this race a bunch more times over, I don’t think we’d end up there just because it’s so hard to get anyone to push you, especially me. Like I said, it was really lucky that Kyle was there at the end and was able to push me [laughs] because without anyone behind you, you know, supporting your row, you don’t go anywhere.”
Summary: Joey Logano did not waste any time in racing his Home Depot Camry to the front. On lap eight, Logano had pushed the No. 6 car of David Ragan to the lead in a move that may have very well saved the rookie driver’s race. By aggressively racing the front, the No. 20 was well ahead of the pileup that ignited when the Nos. 17 and 24 made contact. For the remainder of the event, Logano then looked like a restrictor plate racing veteran, keeping his car at or near the front of the pack while showing plenty of muscle under the hood. In fact, the car was so strong that just before lap 100, crew chief Greg Zipadelli had to remind his driver not to take the lead, knowing that the rookie would only be hung out to dry by the more experienced drivers around him.
Logano would have to survive one near miss with less than 20 laps to go. After receiving a bump from Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch started to lose control of his Toyota, spinning right in front of his rookie teammate on the track. Logano just missed the No. 18 before continuing on, staying ahead of the final two “Big Ones” of the day while bringing the No. 20 home in ninth. The top 10 finish was a career best for Logano, whose previous best was a 13th earlier this season at Las Vegas.
Quote: “Just going down to the end of the race and I thought the No. 6 [David Ragan], if we had hooked up to each other we were going to go. Kept backing up and backing up [to find him]… but we never hooked up. I don’t know why. He hit me once and we tried to go and we couldn’t stay together and keep going, so we ended up losing spots because of it and that was kind of that.”
Summary: Max Papis received quite an introduction to restrictor plate racing after starting last in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 and getting swept up in the first “Big One” of the day on lap eight. The Mike Hillman, Sr.-led crew was able to make enough repairs to the GEICO Toyota in a timely manner, one that allowed Papis to stay on the lead lap and remain competitive for the rest of the event. Not only did the Italian gain valuable experience by completing all 188 laps, but he finished a career best 18th, which represents the first top 20 of Papis’ young Sprint Cup career.
Quote (Mike Hillman, Sr.): “I think he (Papis) learned a lot because he found out that he needed to keep somebody behind him, so when people were getting runs at him … I think he earned some respect, because the last half of the race people would push him where in the first half they’d just leave him out [to dry] all the time. You can always learn out there, and he did a good job today.”
UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie standings:
Joey Logano 96
Almost Rookie Recap:
Not to be completely outdone by the rookies, Marcos Ambrose turned in his best performance on an oval when he crossed the finish line in fourth place with his Little Debbie Toyota. It was same song, different verse for Ambrose, who once again managed to stay out of trouble all day — even surviving getting cut off by his teammate Michael Waltrip. The Australian had worked his way into the top 10 for the final restart, quietly managing to keep the No. 47 up front to record his best finish of 2009.
Tony’s Take: It was just a week ago that I wrote about how the so-called “young guns” of the sport were getting spanked by the veterans. The series had gone over a full season without a single Rookie of the Year candidate finishing in the top 10, and it looked as though this class was not going to change that anytime soon based on early results. That all changed this past Sunday at Talladega, however, which certainly lived up to its reputation for producing unpredictable racing.
Sure, almost half the competition was eliminated or severely handicapped in the first 10 laps, and I am also well aware of the fact that equipment plays a much bigger role in restrictor plate than the driver. Still, each and every rookie turned in career best performances that most of them desperately needed.
Brad Keselowski also should be commended for not only knowing the rules, but using them to his advantage. Learning from Regan Smith’s mistake last season, Keselowski resisted every temptation to drive onto the apron to avoid the closing machine of Carl Edwards. Staying the course while knowing that your actions, while perfectly legal, could create a disaster, takes guts… and Keselowski showed NASCAR Nation that he had just that today. His interview in the winner’s circle was even more impressive, as he showed concern for his fellow competitors but also defended his actions, knowing he was in the right. If Keselowski continues to race with that kind of confidence, this will only be the first of many more victories. I’m just still shocked that win number one came in a car not “owned” by Hendrick, though…
Meanwhile, Scott Speed and Joey Logano had finishes that were just as good as wins. The two have struggled mightily this season to the point where both have been on or just outside of the top 35 bubble. But both drivers managed to avoid trouble on a day where trouble was everywhere, displaying enough patience to be in the right place at the right time.
And it’s important not to lose sight of another impressive performance amidst the top 10 finishes of the other rookies. Max Papis, who had never raced on a superspeedway in any of NASCAR’s top three levels, turned in a stellar top 20 performance in a beat up race car. The former open wheel veteran is now three-for-three in qualifying this season, and is slowly building a nice part-time effort with his Germain Racing team.
Who Wasn’t Here?:
UNOFFICIAL Driver Points Standings
19th – Marcos Ambrose (+7)
Qualifying Next Week: Scott Speed will need to qualify on time once again next week. However, he is only a stone’s throw away from the top 35 and can earn back his guaranteed qualifying spot with another good, solid run.
Next Up: While last week’s race was the prime territory for an upset win (go figure), Richmond will be quite a bit different, as the freshmen have struggled at short tracks so far this season. Strong performances are not completely out of the picture, however, at the three-quarter mile track in Virginia: both Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won at Richmond in their rookie seasons in 1999 and 2000, respectively. More recently, David Ragan turned in a career best third during his first full-time season in 2007. The two grooves at this short track produce some of the best racing on the circuit, but it is still a short track race, meaning that drivers will need to stay up on the wheel for the entire 400 laps or risk falling a lap down in a hurry.
Rookie Prediction Poll – Where is the love??? The majority of you could not fathom even one rookie finishing in the top 10, let alone three, as the majority of you said that not a single rookie driver could do it. But wait; the poll specifically said “None of these drivers will finish in the top 10.” “These” did NOT include Brad Keselowski, so technically, you are correct and I will give you a point. The “yellow line rule” wasn’t the only rule that was up for interpretation this past weekend.
It was a fierce battle among the rookies and almost rookies at Talladega to see who would record the best finish. Hopefully, the battle will continue with the same intensity under the lights this Saturday night. Who do you think will come out on top?
Tony’s Rookie Prediction: Joey Logano looked more like the Logano of the Gatorade Duel and less like the Logano of the Daytona 500 as I expected. Therefore, we will go into next week tied once again.
While I don’t expect Scott Speed or Joey Logano to fall flat on their face next week, I would not be surprised to see them come back to down earth, either. I do expect Marcos Ambrose to continue his solid finishes and beat the other drivers carrying rookie stripes at Richmond.
Rookie Poll Points: Readers 3, Tony 3.
©2000 - 2008 Tony Lumbis and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Thanks for the heads up on that SN, it’s been corrected. No excuse other than heavy spell-checker reliance.
F.S. Readers – Today’s Rookie Report contained an inexcusable mistake, repeated three different times no less. You expect and deserve only the best when you come to our site and today, I did not deliver on my end of the bargain. I appreciate all of your support that you have given this site and especially the Rookie Report for the two and a half seasons that I have been writing it. My goal has always been to deliver the highest quality of news and commentary and unfortunately, I fell short of that goal today. You can be certain that such mistakes will not be made in the future and that you will once again see the quality of articles that you have grown accustomed to reading.
I completely understand SpellingNazi’s frustrations and could not agree more with the message, although I do not necessarily see eye to eye with the deliverance of this message. When I attempted to reach out to SpellingNazi, I found that he or she had provided a fake e-mail address. (The e-mail addresses you provide are sent to the columnists only). I find it unfortunate that a person can criticize the work of another, and rightfully so, but does not have the courage to defend his or her words when questioned further about them.