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.
The Voice Of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Tuesday April 8, 2008
A couple of weeks back, some friends and I made a road trip across the state of Michigan to Detroit for the weekend. While jammed in the back of a three-quarter ton extended cab 4×4 pickup, my buddy riding in the back began to tire of the noise from the stereo. He leaned forward between the front seats to adjust the controls and, in typical GM fashion, the knob came off in his hand. Our other friend — the driver and owner — offered his assessment of the situation:
"My truck â€¦ it's â€¦ crum-bl-ingâ€¦"
This moment helped spur some thoughts of my own concerning another crumbling American institution - Petty Enterprises. Once the dominant force in NASCAR competition, it has, for some time now, been a struggling operation. Every two or three years, there is a renewed commitment to getting the team competitive, to once again make it a threat to win on race day; but sadly, these initiatives have never seemed to pan out. And now — after several failed attempts — there are stress cracks showing in the foundation of a team on the verge of possible destruction, especially after the events of the past week.
Rumors were confirmed Wednesday that longtime sponsor General Mills would be leaving the most famous number in motorsports, the flagship No. 43 entry of Bobby Labonte, to join with Richard Childress Racing and its fourth entry in the Sprint Cup Series for 2009. It is also rumored that Labonte, the 2000 Sprint Cup Champion, will not be far behind, despite comments to the contrary by Petty Enterprises Vice President of Racing Operations Robbie Loomis in an attempt to diffuse the situation. As if that’s not enough, the now-public dissatisfaction voiced by the heir to the Petty throne, Kyle Petty, has become a matter of increasing scrutiny. Kyle did not attempt to qualify his No. 45 Dodge Charger last weekend, leaving that to rookie Chad McCumbee. While the company line offered by Loomis is that it was a group decision to let McCumbee race, Kyle made it known in no uncertain terms that whatever the decision was, he was in the minority on it. Tensions further escalated when the owner claimed that if given an opportunity to drive for another team, he'd probably accept, calling the future stability of his operation into question with one full swoop.
How could it get so bad so quickly for this NASCAR mainstay? Wasn't Petty Enterprises on the mend over the last couple of years? It had a new championship-winning driver in Labonte, acquired the services of former Hendrick Motorsports luminaries Robbie Loomis and Jeff Meendering, and lured an architect of the most dominant Ford teams of the 1990's in Todd Parrott. There was even talk of a merger between Petty Enterprises and arguably one of the most successful Dodge teams in NASCAR, Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Where did it all fall apart?
As The King would say, "It’s just circumstances."
Last season, the decision was made to move the Petty's racing operation from its roots in Level Cross, North Carolina, to the epicenter of NASCAR racing, Mooresville, occupying the space once belonging to Robert Yates Racing. A proposed merger with Gillett Evernham Motorsports never materialized, while talk of entertaining a new potential investor has begun but never been finalized. The team is now also faced with losing its driver and its primary sponsor, increasing the level of changes the team must absorb over a short period of time — all while facing the challenge of rising expectations in the process.
Some of the organization’s best assets have left or are on the verge of walking out the door in recent years; Parrott has long since flown the coop, similar brainy crew chief Paul Andrews was dropped, and longest-tenured financial backer General Mills (nine years) is heading to RCR. As for what’s left, Loomis and owner / driver Kyle Petty seem to have a difference of opinion as to what direction the team should go; and the role in which father Richard is playing in the whole mess — along with how much longer he’ll be a major decision maker — is unclear at best.
But in the meantime, the direction in which the team is headed has never been in doubt.
While Petty Enterprises has amassed 268 wins and 10 championships in 60 years of racing, to say that performance has steadily waned throughout the years is an understatement. Its last win was in 1999 at Martinsville with John Andretti at the wheel, and the last time it finished in the Top 10 in points was 1995, with the late Bobby Hamilton. Things began to look up last year, as Labonte finished 18th in the standings, but now dark clouds are once again forming on the horizon.
Things are so bleak, in fact, that Kyle expressed no reservations this weekend about driving elsewhere if it was determined that he was an obstacle to the team’s improvement.
“I came back here because this is where I wanted to be and this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “But I don’t want to stand in the way of this team being a better team. And if I’m the problem and they figure out that Kyle’s the problem, then this whole deal is not working out. And if that’s what they truly believe and they don’t have confidence in me and I don’t have confidence in them, no driver ever wants to be in that position, whether you own the team or you don’t own the team, no matter how it’s connected to you.”
For the record, replacement Chad McCumbee did not make the field on Sunday; in failing to do so, he was over seven mph off the pole speed.
But even with that failure, had it not been for the name on the door of the shop, this driver change could have happened a lot earlier. Since 2001, when Petty Enterprises made their much heralded return to Dodge after Chrysler’s exodus from the sport in the late 1970’s, the combined efforts of the team as a whole have amassed a whopping 21 Top 10 finishes.
21: That's one less than Matt Kenseth scored all of last year. And of those, Petty has accumulated merely six — in 234 starts. That’s one less than Kasey Kahne scored all of last season, in what was widely assumed to be a major disappointment for the young driver.
Turns out disappointment means different things for different people.
At 47 years of age, Kyle has had more than a plateful as an owner / driver since returning to the operation in 1997. After son Adam was killed in an accident during practice at New Hampshire in 2000, many wondered how long he would remain behind the wheel; he was there physically, but was his heart still in it?
It’s a question that has conflicting answers. Last season, Petty stepped out of the car for five races while serving as an analyst for TNT's NASCAR coverage. He plans to return to the booth for TNT again this summer, and will also be out of the seat at Dover in June to attend daughter Montgomery Lee's wedding. But while Kyle has always had interests and pursuits outside of the car, he is still a race car driver by trade, and his main motivation has always been Sunday afternoons; witness his recent passionate crusade to keep himself in the cockpit of his own car.
So, what is it going to take to get Petty Enter â€¦ well, let me stop myself. Everyone has been asking that question since Richard Petty last captured victory No. 198 at Charlotte in 1983; it’s a race he won with a big engine and right side tires on the left side of the car. The King didn't even drive Petty machines in 1984 for wins 199 and 200; those cars were owned by recording mogul Mike Curb while Petty Enterprises took a brief hiatus. Since then, while there was a resurgence of sorts for the team during the mid-to late-90's, it has been a perpetual one step forward / two steps back chain of events that perpetuates itself at this organization year after year. And while this season started off promising with decent runs at Daytona and Atlanta, the pendulum has begun to swing back the other way, with lackluster performances coupled with sponsor troubles â€” and now the rift between driver and management has gone public.
Let's not be too quick to throw dirt on one of the proudest names and traditions in all of auto racing, as it has yet to be determined where exactly Labonte will end up — and perhaps Kyle's comments last week were needed to clear the air within the organization. No question, the First Family of Stock Car Racing that helped build NASCAR and establish the sport as we know it certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt. However, if the situation worsens, it may very well continue devolving into the old leaky Mopar rotting in the driveway that it’s beginning to resemble; a car no longer functioning, but resting on past laurels and bygone glories to stay out of the junkyard. As the clock starts ticking, we can only hope that Petty Enterprises can forge ahead and once again rise to be a competitive force in NASCAR, and not become a museum full of trophies and old race cars. For them, the knob to turn things around is jiggling loose; let’s hope the team doesn’t make the wrong move to break that thing right off.
For no one wants to see a legend crumble.
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Of course, everyone LOVES Kyle, and all the good works he has done. BUT…
I feel like Kyle wants it both ways and sometimes you just cannot have it. He steps out of the car when he wants for tv gigs and whatnot, but then cries foul when the team wants to try something new. If he intends to be the driver of that car, he needs to weather the good and bad. If he wants to be a tv personality or whatever, he needs to vacate the car permantely. Its that simple. A lot of good drivers sit at home who would be more than willing to drive full time.
The problems at Petty Ent. have often been attributed to Richard’s reluctance to spend money on the team . It’s certainly plausible. He came up in racing at a time when every single dime counted , often being the difference in having gasoline to get home after a race .
I hate to say it, but PE’s problems are not going to be solved from within. They need intervention (and money) from an outside source.
The question is, are they even an attractive target for an investor right now? The move to a new shop was a good one, but it came too late. Now with a long-term primary sponsor leaving, a driver likely to follow, and one of the two cars outside the top 35, the organization is beginning to look like a money pit.
The question of Kyle’s role with PE, both in and out of the driver’s seat, should have been addressed long ago. Now the organization is caught with Bobby Labonte expected to leave, Kyle is 47 and not sure of his role, and no development driver is ready to step up to a full time Cup ride and be competitive.
The driver line-up for 2009 needs to be settled ASAP, so they can go after sponsorship. David Stremme, perhaps? Another chance for Johnny Sauter? Beyond that, you get into veterans who would only be a short term solution, or just taking a wait and see approach and hoping that someone marketable becomes available. PE is in a tough spot, but it is their own doing and has been coming for a long time.
At 47 yrs old, no one at the Cup level will hire Kyle to drive for them. His career is essentially over. All this talk of him leaving is nothing more than public posturing in anticipation of his departure. If a young driver would come along and start performing well in the 45 car, Kyle would be out sooner than even he thinks.
Kyle has never been 100% dedicated to racing and his craft. When he was in his 20’s he fancied himself as a Nashville country music star. Anyone remember his songs and that horrid NASCAR album? On second thought, don’t bother. Point is, Kyle has always been interested in many things besides driving a race car on Sundays. The only thing that kept him in it was his son and his subsequent death. Its sad to say but Adam’s death sort of reinvigorated Kyle’s career. Until that point the entire future of Petty Ent. was focused on Adam. The entire organization really has not recovered from his death, probably because the people responsible for all the decisions were so overcome with grief and sadness. At least for Kyle and Patti they’ve had something they could focus their lives on besides the racing and the pain.
If Kyle truly cares about the future of Petty Ent. he needs to focus his energy on creating a future for the organization and its people. It won’t be built on the backs of the Petty family but maybe 20 years from now, the legacy of success will carry on. Otherwise, might as well close up shop and spend the rest of their days doing charitable work, fund raising and the ocassional TV appearance.
A couple of years ago Kyle fired John Andretti as his second driver. At the time, John was ahead of Kyle in points. Why are you firing a guy who is doing better than you? Kyle thinks of it as a hobby, I guess.
I realize that he does a lot of good things (the Camp, etc.), but driving is not one of them. Sorry.
There is nothing wrong with Kyle other than getting a few “ghosts” out of the car. First off he wins his ARCA debut, right away everyone figures well here comes the crown prince to take his fathers crown when he retires. That didn’t happen, then along comes Davy Alison, wins rookie of the year and goes on to major stardom in his short career. Does anyone know won rookie of the year when Kyle started? It was some kid named Earnhardt, nuff said about that. Davy was compared to his dad, Bobby and uncle Donnie, while Kyle had to live up to two legends his father and grand father, because it was Lee Petty’s records that Richard broke no one else’s. Three things happened in April of 2000, one Adam made his first Winston Cup start, then Lee Petty passed away, then Adam was killed. Overnight Petty enterprises lost its past and its future, at a time when the team was just starting to gain some headway. Here’s some irony Adams total points as a driver was 43. Look what happened to Hendrick when Rick lost his brother and son in the plane crash they were strong in depth and they still struggled of sorts also, heck since Ray left as Jeff’s crew chief that team still doesn’t have the consistency it had before. Maybe the move closer to the center of racing may attract some much needed talent and leadership. I certainly hope so rooting for team Petty is the only reason I even care to watch racing now days.