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.
The Voice of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Tuesday September 4, 2007
With only one race remaining before the start of the 2007 Chase for the Nextel Cup, the race for 12th place has all been but decided, with Kevin Harvick needing to only finish 32nd or better to solidify his place in the Championship dash. While the Daytona 500 winner will start the race a whopping 670 points out of 1st place, he will end it no more than 50 points out of the top spot, courtesy of NASCAR's new seeding system, awarding 10 bonus points for a win to each driver in the top 12. Which raises a legitimate question:
What exactly does a 700-point deficit convey anything remotely related to the term "Champion"? Is this what it has come to? "The race for 12th"?
A few weeks ago I penned an article promoting the Chase, espousing the positives of it, saving us from a title decided long ago back in April and May of this year. If not for the transgressions of the No. 24 team at Sonoma this past June, the gap would be 417 points back to Tony Stewart who is currently sitting 2nd in the points.
That's kind of a lot.
It used to be that under the Latford points system, a season long championship was decided in grand fashion: A 30+ race season, every race, every lap, every pit miscue, blown tire, dropped valve, and untimely yellow flag (as opposed to caution flags thrown for empty green Gatorade drink bottles, roll bar padding, and Capri Sun packets), counting in the final tally. This has been the source of much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth for many long-time NASCAR fans. For those of us who were on the scene long before the term "Hollywood Hotel" or "Young Gun" was etched into our frontal lobes, there were these classic battles:
1979: The season long battle came down to The King, Richard Petty, and a loud, brash, mound of hair named Darrell Waltrip. With ten races to go in the season, Petty trailed Waltrip by 155 points. D.K. Ulrich was 12th in points, just under 1,000 points out of first place. Entering the final race of the year at Ontario Motor Speedway (a dead ringer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway), Waltrip lead Petty by a scant two points; bottom line, whoever finished ahead of the other or lead the most laps, was going to win the title. They had finished nose to tail the week before at Atlanta, with Waltrip gaining 5 bonus points by leading ten laps to Petty's none. Petty's fifth place finish to Waltrip's eighth place run (the result of intentionally spinning his car to avoid the looping John Rezek) gave Richard Petty his seventh and final title by all of eleven points, a margin that would not be eclipsed for thirteen years.
1985: Awesome Bill from Dawsonville was tearing up every track over a mile in length, in his swoopy No. 9 Coors' Melling Thunderbird in 1985. With ten races to go, Elliott enjoyed a 143 point advantage over Darrell Waltrip and his Junior Johnson prepared notchback Monte Carlo SS. Dale Earnhardt was 12th in points, 808 points in arrears. After winning the Winston Million at Darlington's Southern 500, Elliott's lead would balloon to 206 points. The only problem was that out of the eight tracks remaining, four were tracks of one mile or less, and a road course. Elliott's car floundered on the flat tracks. Waltrip and Elliott battled back and forth between 35 and 20 points over the final five races, with Darrell holding a 20 point margin going into the final race at Riverside. The last car on the track running, Elliott's 31st place finish ensured that Darrell Waltrip would win his third Winston Cup title.
1989: This was one of the closest battles in Winston Cup history, and one of the most over-looked. It was the debut season for the new Chevrolet Lumina, a downsized car similar to the new Pontiac Grand Prix, which had arrived the year before. These two models would duke it out to the bitter end with Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace fighting for the Cup. A wildcard of sorts was thrown in late in the season, when four-time ASA champion Mark Martin, driving for second-year owner Jack Roush, entered the mix, even though he had yet to even win a race in his career. Wallace was intent on making ground up with ten races to go, winning at Michigan while Earnhardt suffered fender damage in a Turn 1 bumping incident with Richard Petty. After the race, Earnhardt held an 80-point lead over Wallace, and a 95-point advantage over Martin's Stroh's Light Ford. Sterling Marlin was 12th in points, 440 points back. Things would get more interesting at Rockingham with three races remaining, with Wallace and Earnhardt tangling at one point, spinning each other out, clearing the way for Martin to win his first Winston Cup race, and draw within shouting distance of the title. Entering the final race of the season, Martin trailed Wallace by 73 points, six points ahead of Earnhardt. However, Martin's car would erupt into a spectacular ball of fire as connecting rods and other important parts vacated the engine block and oil pan. The Intimidator went on to record his fifth win of the year, leading 249 of 328 laps. Wallace finished a lap down in 15th, winning the title by all of 12 points over Earnhardt. Earnhardt would retire to a tree stand in North Carolina for the winter, to sit, think, ponder, and simmer over losing his fourst title by the slimmest of margins.
1992: This season was one of the greatest finishes to a season in any sporting arena. Entering the final ten races, Bill Elliott led the late Davey Allison by all of 37 points. Sterling Marlin in the Maxwell House Ford of Junior Johnson was again 12th in points, this time only 429 points out. With seven events remaining, Alan Kulwicki sat 278 points out of first place, leading him to concede that his title hopes had run aground at Dover, Delaware. Kulwicki, Elliott and Allison weren't the only ones involved in this fight. Kyle Petty, Mark Martin, and Harry Gant were all in contention, with Petty and Martin scoring victories in the final four races, and Gant winning Michigan before the final ten events. No less than SIX driver had a shot at the title heading into the final race of 1992, driving Chevrolets, Fords, Pontiacs, and even a friggin' Oldsmobile. Heading into the race that would see the end of Richard Petty's storied career, and the first start by some kid from Indiana with a mullet and a terrible moustache, driving a rainbow emblazoned No. 24 Chevrolet, it would go down to the final few laps to see who would win the title. It would be decided not by bonus points from a convoluted seeding system, but by who lead the most laps. Alan Kulwicki was able to stay out one lap longer during the final green flag fuel run, leading 103 laps to Bill Elliott's 102. Kulwicki's second place effort to Elliott's victory, allowed him to maintain the 10-point advantage he had over Elliott going into the final race. It would be Kulwicki's only title; his life was cut short just five months later in an airplane crash on April 1st, 1993.
1997: Heading into the season ending event at the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon was primed to cruise home to his second championship in three years. His second consecutive ten-win season granted him a 77-point lead over Dale Jarrett, even after Jarrett won at Phoenix, the penultimate stop on the 32-race circuit that season. He led third-place Mark Martin by 87 points, and 12th place Johnny Benson, Jr. by 1157 points. But a funny thing happened out of the pits on a foggy Saturday morning during practice: Gordon ran into Bobby Hamilton and the No. 43 STP Pontiac, crumpling the fender and nose of the No. 24 team's primary racecar. This put a serious crimp in any tangible practice time. During the race, the two other contenders took advantage of the 24 car, as it limped around the track, two laps down, and not able to muster much of anything. At different points during the race Jarrett and Martin were in the championship lead. With a handful of laps to go, Martin had the race and title seemingly in hand. However, his luck went south as his motor laid over on seven cylinders, burning a piston and clearing the way for Bobby Labonte to win the event. Gordon picked up a couple of positions in the closing laps, winning the title by 14 points over Dale Jarrett, and 29 over Martin.
So where am I going with all of this? Note the 12th place contender in each scenario. Was there anything about the 1979 season that conjures up images of DK Ulrich and his No. 40 Midwestern Farm Lanes Chevrolet? The only thing I can really remember about Sterling Marlin in his Sunoco Oldsmobile was the story of Billy Hagan chasing him around it, trying to hit him with his cane. I'm a big Johnny Benson fan. He graduated from my high school, and his parents live about a mile and a half from me. But I think even JB will tell you that in 1997, the thought of him mixing it up with Jeff, Dale, and Mark at the final race for the title would have seemed ludicrous.
The Chase was instituted to give us "exciting" championships and finishes, and it has in fact done that. Who can forget Kurt Busch narrowly missing the end of the pit road wall at Homestead after his right front tire decided to go in an opposite plane? What about Jimmie Johnson desperately trying to stay on the lead lap in 2005 before he backed it into the wall, wiping away his chancesâ€¦..one year before putting together an unbelievable string of first or second-place finishes in five of the final six events and winning it all.
But then againâ€¦.who really remembers those moments? Granted, it's hard to wax nostalgic over a concept as far removed from our collective conscience as "Three Years Ago", but will these new contrived Chase for the Championships carry the weight of the epic battles waged between Waltrip and Petty, Elliott and Waltrip, or Earnhardt, Wallace, and Martin? This might be the sucker for "the good old days" in me talking, but I sincerely doubt it. Naturally there were some snoozer years mixed in there. 2000 and 2003 namely; the two years that are usually credited with the creation of the current format. But there were other good years as well that went down to the final race, such as 1993, 1996, and 2002.
And I didn't even touch on the battles that went down to the last race in 1990 between Earnhardt and Martin, or from 1981-1983 between Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison, which to this day has not yet subsided in Allison's mind.
But why should teams suffer because of their excellence? Should Jeff Gordon lose a title he, for all intents and purposes has wrapped up, because of someone's desire to make racing more like basketball? The first year of the Chase, Gordon would have won his fifth title, and won it the right way: racing hard, racing consistently, and winning, all year long.
Moreover, should the fans be cheated out of classic battles as we had in the past as well? Take 2006 for example. Although Jimmie Johnson did put together an epic run of races to win the title by 56 points, under the old format, he would have only won by 4 points over Matt Kenseth; the closest finish in the history of the sport. No resetting of points needed or manufactured "drama" to play out by arbitrarily rearranging the standings after a little more than 2/3 of the season had been completed.
If you can win a couple of races and run easy for the better part of the spring and summer, how is that supposed to engender legitimacy and admiration when courting the uninitiated or those of us who know what a bias-ply tire was? ESPN and ABC's new tag line for their NASCAR coverage is "Every Lap Matters", to help promote the Chase for the Championship. I guess it does to a certain extent.
But not nearly as much as it used to.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
There is no way anyone more than 400 points out of first has earned a chance at a championship, period. That’s why I will never consider a ‘chase’ winner a true champion. Since I already know who the top 12 will be (just quibbling over final order), and that no one out of than 12 will be able to finish higher than 13th, I find little drama in this ‘made for TV’ joke.
The Chase SUCKS !! It’s just plain WRONG!!!!!
For every one of those battles — of interest only to the fans of the 2-3 drivers involved — you could find a blowout where the Championship was a foregone conclusion in September.
There is no such thing as a Champion who doesn’t deserve it. Whoever wins under the rules in place at the time deserves it because he used those rules to his advantage.
Does someone who starts the season strong then starts coasting late REALLY deserve a Championship more than someone who may have struggled at the beginning of the year but then came on strong at the end? Hint — saying “yes” would be like saying that Jimmie didn’t deserve the win at Fontana because, after all, Kyle Busch had dominated the race and only faded at the end after a couple late cautions tightened the field and allowed for last minute adjustments.
If a race can legitimately be won in the final laps by a driver who had been nowhere all night and but came on strong late then the season can be legitimately won by a driver who struggled early than came on strong at the end when it mattered.
While I believe that the Chase seeding should be done by a combination of regular season points standings AND win bonus, I can see no reason to be in favor of a system that creates more boring blowouts or, at best 2 contenders and a long shot, over one that provides for a multi-driver points battle at the end of the longest season in professional sports.
The handle says it all. Need I say more….?
The chase sucks? In the old format, Gordon would pretty much be locked in as the champion right now, what would that do for the rest of the season?
If people hate the chase and it has ruined racing. STOP WATCHING! This will make a differnece if there is enough of you out there. It’s funny. 5 differnet years out of 50 odd. The rest of the seasons were over with 10 races to go. Now why would anyone turn off the tv then?
Only the top 5 have a legit chance to win really. So far with the chase, that is how it has worked out.
Well, on the one hand as long as everyone is playing by the same rules the crowned champion is legitimate. But personally I hate the Chase concept and everything it stands for – entertainment over the sport. While I can understand the reasoning for the existence of the chase I have never thought the point differential was fair or that it gave enough weight to the results of the first 26 races. I think the differential from 1st to 12th should start out as a one race deficit (let’s say 150 points) with the increments proportionate for each forward position such as 12th -150, 11th – 135, 10th -120, 9th -105…. 3rd -30, 2nd – 15. Basically whomever is in those bottom spots should be an extreme long shot to win the chase (just like a wild card team in the nfl is a long shot because they have to play an extra game). If they want to give 10 additional points for each win I would be fine with that but they have made the meaning and significance of being the best during the first 26 races meaningless and that is not right.
Comparing the points as they sit with other seasons just doesn’t make sense. Each year has had its points system in place and comparing this season with a season without the Chase is not realistic. The teams are going to race to the system. To say that Jimmie Johnson would have won by only 4 points over Kenseth is not accurate. Each of them would have been racing differenly through the entire 36 race schedule with a different points system.
It seems to me that those in favor of the chase are being sucked into this whole “try to make racing exciting” business that Brian France is wanting you to.
Personally I watch racing for just that….RACING. Who cares if under the old points system that Gordon or Johnson or Kenseth or any driver for that matter is blowing everyone away? I watch every race to see the racing. If my driver wasn’t in contention for the Championship, so be it. If Gordon was up 600 points and had the season locked up with 10 races left, so be it. He probably deserved it. I would still watch the remaining races to see the RACING.
You chase lovers are blindly falling for what Brian France wants you to. It’s kind of sad that you can’t see it.
Excellent point William T..
Couldn’t say it better myself William T.
It used to be you watched for THE RACE – to see who won, to see how your guy did. I don’t care if my guy didn’t have a chance in hell of winning the championship, I’d still watch him race for the win.
Instead we have a “championship” determined on who gets lucky in the last ten races – not who performed the best throughout the season. It’s a joke.
The Chase makes the old adage “Better to be lucky than good” have more meaning than ever. Just ask Kurt Busch.
Comparing the Chase to a race where one guy fades and one comes on late is inaccurate-unless that latecomer was about ten laps down and had every one of them handed back to him for no real legitimate reason.
I go along with william T in that I go to or watch races for racing, I never gave a hoot for the championship even if it was my favorite driver.I started going as a kid to races in the mid-50’s Once a race was over its over, finished, on to the next one. I did get excited once with a championship race, that was in 92 with my man Alan Kulwicki.I don’t like the chase, the hype,or a lot of whats going on. Racing has lost its soul and its humanity compared to earlier years. And for those that say “stop watching if you don’t like it “ – I have been doing that more and more with other of my hardcore friends.