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.
Tony Lumbis · Monday May 11, 2009
Summary: On Friday afternoon, Joey Logano turned in his best career Sprint Cup qualifying effort, surprising observers when he clocked in with the fifth quickest time. On Saturday night, their eyebrows were raised once more as the rookie proved his Home Depot Camry was fast for more than just one lap. Logano spent most of the first half of the race in or just outside of the top 10 despite battling a race car that wouldn’t quite handle the way he wanted it to.
Even with those complaints, when the seventh of an event record 17 cautions waved on lap 186 crew chief Greg Zipadelli elected to put only two tires on the No. 20 machine in an effort to gain track position. Normally, anything other than four stickers would mean a one-way ticket to the back of the pack at Darlington. However, new pavement and a caution-filled race allowed crew chiefs to get as creative as their imagination would let them in terms of pit strategy.
Zipadelli’s call put his young driver in the sixth position for the ensuing restart. Logano, who had received lessons on driving the treacherous speedway from the legendary Cale Yarborough, proved to be a quick learner from that point forward, as he battled side-by-side with the veterans who were pacing the field while maintaining a spot up front with older tires. His pit crew also stepped up their performance as well, eventually getting Logano out in the lead on lap 278 during the evening’s 12th caution — again using two tires to gain ground on the track. The Connecticut native would respond by leading the next nineteen laps, the most in any one event so far in his young career, before pitting under caution on lap 297.
The teenager would eventually be shuffled back during subsequent pit stops; but when all was said and done, he showed the “Lady in Black” that he would not be intimidated by her. Logano’s ninth place finish ties his career best set just two weeks ago at Talladega, and is also the best finish for a rookie at Darlington since Denny Hamlin took the checkers in 10th in 2006. Logano’s second top 10 run of the season also gave him his eighth Rookie of the Race honor of 2009.
Quote: Coming in, this was the one place I thought I was going to stink horribly. I thought I was going to be worse than we were at Texas this year. [Then,] I was happy. We qualified good. We ran top 10 all day, top 5 for a while. We just [got] too tight… [these cars are] so aero-dependent. It showed when I got out front: I was “see ya.”
It is what it is. I’ll take a top 10. Realistically, the way I look at it, that’s our first top 10. Talladega doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s a top 10, yeah, but it’s Talladega. This is a hard-earned top 10. No luck played into it. It’s where we ran, where we deserved to run, and it’s great for these guys. It’s huge.”
Summary: On Friday afternoon, it looked as if Scott Speed would be watching his second race of the season from the sidelines when he could not find enough speed in his Red Bull Toyota to make the show. The track “Too Tough to Tame” lived up to its name for the rookie, whose practice times got him no higher than 40th on the charts.
However, on Saturday Team Red Bull brokered a deal with NEMCO Motorsports and owner Joe Nemechek which put Speed in the No. 87 Camry, allowing him to make his first career Southern 500 start. It was an ominous beginning for the California native, however, who got into the back of the No. 13 car driven by fellow rookie Max Papis in turn 1. The contact sent both cars into the spin cycle on just lap 4; however, each driver was able limp away from the scene of the accident. Left with minimal damage, the crash still left Speed a lap off the pace, and his night appeared to be over before it even began. However, when simply surviving would be considered a small victory, Speed kept the nose of his Camry clean for almost the entire rest of the race and salvaged a respectable 26th place finish out of what could have been a complete disaster.
Summary: When Brad Keselowski began the Southern 500, he could not even see the front of the pack from this 31st starting position. The Sprint Cup series’ most recent first-time winner would not stay back there for long, though. He spent the entire first half of the event methodically working his neon green and black GoDaddy.com Chevy through traffic, somehow avoiding the wreckage around him that seemed to be everywhere on this particular Saturday night.
Keselowski wasn’t the only one on the team that was doing his part to bring the No. 25 to the front, however. Crew chief Lance McGrew made calls from atop the pit box that put his team into the top 10 by lap 200, taking two tires when needed to gain track position. But no matter how old the Goodyears were on his race car, Keselowski would remain in contention for the final 200 miles, eventually muscling his machine to the finish line in seventh place. The run marked the rookie’s second career top 10 in Sprint Cup, coming just two weeks after the win in his last start at Talladega.
Summary: Max Papis qualified for his fourth race in as many attempts when he put his GEICO Camry on the outside of row eleven, his best career start in the Sprint Cup Series to date. The Italian did not have much time to capitalize on his hard-earned run, however, after receiving a bump from Scott Speed in turn one on lap 4. The back of Papis’ No. 13 Toyota got the worst of that exchange, sustaining significant damage after making contact with the outside wall. Crew chief Randy Goss eventually made the call to bring his driver behind the wall for repairs, using the rest of the race as a test session to get his rookie acclimated to the Lady In Black. After many laps inside the garage, the team was able to get Papis back out on the track to pick up as many positions and as much experience for their driver as possible. Listed as 43rd at one point, the move proved to be a good one as Papis and company were able to take advantage of the event’s high attrition rate and salvage a 35th place finish, 65 laps off the pace.
UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie standings:
Joey Logano 122
Almost Rookie Recap:
Marcos Ambrose’s streak of three consecutive top 15 finishes came to a grinding halt on Saturday. Specifically, the Australian’s quest for four in a row ended in the first 30 laps of the event when the No. 47 bounced off the outside retaining wall, collecting much more than a Darlington stripe. The damage was enough to eventually send the team behind the wall for repairs, ending their chances of a decent finish. In fact, Ambrose could do no better than 33rd, his worst finish of 2009 in a race where he did not blow an engine.
Meanwhile, although not an official member of the Rookie of the Year Class, Brad Keselowski is also doing his fair share of making a good name for those drivers with the yellow stripe on their back bumper this year. Behind the wheel of a completely different car than the one he drove to a win two weeks ago, Keselowski delivered nearly the same results on the track with a top 10 finish. Whether it’s the Nationwide No. 88 team or the No. 09 or No. 25 teams in Cup, this kid is showing the NASCAR faithful that he can get the job done no matter what car he is driving. The only “problem” now is that with Mark Martin’s announcement that he will run full-time in the No. 5 car in 2010, Rick Hendrick is left with too many good drivers and not enough rides at the sport’s highest level. Keselowski will certainly make the Silly Season headlines this year as a result — making it interesting to watch how his future plays out.
Finally, Scott Speed and the No. 82 team is starting to concern me. For the most part, this car has been on the money in qualifying, solidly making the show for almost every race this season. The problem is that when Team Red Bull is off, they are really off the mark — missing the field at both Texas and Darlington. I believe Speed and his crew chief Jimmy Elledge need to start working on a “middle” ground for their cars, making them fast enough to qualify but not with such a bonzai setup that they will either be terrible during the first half of the race or run the risk of a DNQ. With Logano and Keselowski starting to turn up the heat, the pressure will increase on this team to perform… and there will not be too many more “Get Out of Jail Free” cards like the one they got with NEMCO Motorsports this past weekend.
Who Wasn’t Here?:
UNOFFICIAL Driver Points Standings
20th – Marcos Ambrose (-1)
Note – The discrepancy between the driver standings and owner points for Scott Speed is not how he’d like it to be. Speed traded places with John Andretti in the driver points — who did not enter the Southern 500 due to his conflict with Indianapolis 500 qualifying this past weekend — to bump up to 35th in the standings. But Speed’s Red Bull team, which he did not drive for on Saturday, did not earn additional owner’s points for his performance and remained in 36th place.
Qualifying Next Week: Scott Speed may have had a decent top 30 finish on Saturday, but those owner points go towards Joe Nemechek’s No. 87 team. Therefore, Speed will have to qualify on time when he attempts to put his No. 82 Camry in the field at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Next Up: The series will go from one historic race – the Southern 500 – to another when it heads to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600. And if the rookies thought that last Saturday night was a marathon, then they are in for a big awakening when the Memorial Day weekend classic arrives. The rookie who has the strongest finish in two weeks will mostly like be the guy who displays the most patience. This race is known to go well over four hours, starting in the sunlight and ending under the stars, meaning that these cars will go through numerous changes throughout the course of the event. If the rookies can provide good feedback to their crew chiefs and learn to anticipate the those adjustments ahead of time, then a good finish is not out of the question at this intermediate track. In fact, the event has been known to produce its share of first time winners in the past.
Rookie Prediction Poll – The majority of you agreed with me and believed that the egg-shaped track of Darlington would confuse the heck out of Max Papis and force him out of the race. Yet despite his early run-in with fellow rookie Scott Speed, Papis soldiered on and finished his very first Southern 500. In fact, all the rookies were running at the end of the race… quite an impressive feat.
As for this week’s question … Joey Logano has now earned two top 10 finishes in his last three races. Is he finally living up to all the hype, or are these simply two race wonders? Let everyone know your thoughts by voting in our weekly poll.
Tony’s Rookie Prediction: They don’t have “Darlingtons” in the open wheel ranks, but apparently it did not phase Max Papis, who survived the chaos and finished Saturday night’s race. We remain all tied up at 4.
Meanwhile, I was not yet ready to jump on board the Logano bandwagon after his ninth place finish at Talladega because, well, it was Talladega. But his run at Darlington was impressive, and while I’m far from ready to accept the “Sliced Bread” label, I do believe he has what it takes to bring the No. 20 home with a top 10 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Rookie Poll Points: Readers: 4, Tony: 4.
©2000 - 2008 Tony Lumbis and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!