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 July 1, 2008
The New NASCAR: Some love it, others revile it, but everybody’s got an opinion. The Car of Tomorrow has its share of detractors and supporters, as does the television coverage and what has become the “over commercialization” of the sport in recent years (Which always strikes me as funny — here’s a sport that is based almost entirely on corporate America’s advertising and sponsorship dollars, and it’s accused of being over commercialized). Anyways, now that car brand identity has all but vanished, we are essentially watching 43 billboards race against the backdrop of a four hour long infomercial each week.
So, if you’re in the boat of those that think the sport’s been tilting in the wrong direction as of late, the last bastion of hope for NASCAR appears to be the thing that has driven it for so many years: the personalities within the sport itself.
Say what you will about Brian France’s brief tenure at the tiller of the USS LicenseToPrintMoney, but at least he had the good sense to recognize (or be beat into submission) that the only thing able to sustain NASCAR during this period of declining attendance, sagging ratings, and an economic climate not conducive to travel or disposable income are the drivers and crew chiefs who race the now near indistinguishable 43 cars that line up each Sunday. These people that fans back with a blind loyalty not seen outside of a Hezbollah fundraiser along the Gaza strip are the key attribute to a sport that has had more than its fair share of criticism in recent years — be it capricious rules enforcement, track homogenization, spontaneous yellow flags, or issues with diversity.
That being said, it seems as if the most interesting drivers out there are those who drive for the newest member to the party, a member that was met with quite a bit of skepticism in its own right: Toyota. These cars may not have the past connections longtime fans are looking for; but what they lack in history, they make up for in hiring wheelmen happy to break the cookie cutter mold.
Chief among those competitors is current Sprint Cup point leader Kyle Busch. Right now, his talent has triumphed over all else; love him or hate him, the kid can flat out drive. Don’t think so? He was always fast in the No. 5 car at Hendrick Motorsports, winning four races during his tenure with the team. After leaving, he’s won five races this season to date with JGR — leading all drivers in Sprint Cup — and for all intents and purposes, should probably have won eight or nine. For Busch, to have done this well before the halfway point of the season in a new ride is nothing short of remarkable.
But it’s Busch’s personality that proves an equal match for his powerful performance. He is brash, outspoken, and — unlike Jeff Gordon’s wooden and laconic windowfront mannequin responses to fans booing him in the late 1990s — he gives it right back to his detractors, saluting them with faux tear wiping and heart holding, taking bows, and waving back with a smile on his face.
In the meantime, Busch’s teammate Tony Stewart has become the surly, crotchety next-door neighbor of sorts. Short with the media when things go awry and never one to mince words when wronged, Stewart says what 90 percent of the drivers wish they had the courage to say when a microphone is jammed in their face seconds upon exiting what was once a $250,000 racing machine, but is now little more than a candidate to become a container for some Campbell’s Thick & Chunky. Stewart may have put a little meat on those bones over the past year and a half, but the real weight he carries is with his voice as much as his car.
Moving from pressing the issue to peddling products, the twin Red Bull cars of Brian Vickers and A.J. Allmendinger have the might of the largest marketing program on the planet pushing their team each week. In the past, they weren’t the fastest cars on the track, but they did project the image of being the hippest. And now that they are starting to hit their stride and show signs of being contenders, their allure is that much more appealing week in, week out.
Staying in the same vein with Red Bull, enter their newest entry to American stock car racing: Scott Speed. The winner of Red Bull’s contest to see which driver from the United States got the opportunity to fail on a grand scale in front of all of Europe in Formula One, Speed was spared by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and given a second chance at life in cars with fenders and tonneau covers. Currently splitting time with other drivers in the Bill Davis Racing No. 22 Toyota Tundra, Speed scored his first NASCAR victory less than a month ago in Dover, Delaware. Mugging for the camera as soon as he removed his helmet, Speed displayed a side to fans that is as different today as Tim Richmond was in 1986 — and in the process, revealed an eccentricity of painting toenails, as far from the norm in this Southern-bred sport as you can possibly get. While Speed has not made his Cup debut, it is only a matter of time before he gets the call to move up and join another former Formula One driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, in the top echelons of stock car success.
And over in that Truck Series, there’s no competition as far as top manufacturer: Toyota reigns supreme. While the Big Three have either scaled back or largely abandoned factory support of their Truck teams, Toyota continues to move forward unabated, harboring the organizations that are consistently the fastest on the track along with drivers that have become the face of a series that, while considered a stepping stone, is more like NASCAR’s version of the Senior Tour.
But within that success lies the uniqueness of drivers different from your run-of-the-mill wheelman. Toyota’s got Johnny Benson, Jr., who’s the series’ Most Popular Driver — and for good reason. The soft-spoken native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is consistently among the frontrunners each week, having scored 10 wins in the last three seasons and doing so in a manner that runs contrary to the rough and tumble, “anything goes” persona that the Truck Series implies.
Along with Benson is teammate Mike Skinner, the best driver to never have won a Cup race (save for an exhibition event in Japan in 1997) who narrowly missed winning the Truck Series title last year. Skinner is good-natured, always provides a great sound bite, and is seemingly in the middle of the action — regardless of where it occurs on the track. And when Skinner does win, one can always count on a colorful greeting from wife Angie in Victory Lane.
Finally, there is Toyota’s Onion: Todd Bodine. The 2006 Truck Series champion has notched 13 wins since becoming a full-time driver in 2005, and has done well to carry on the Bodine name in NASCAR since the retirement of brothers Geoff and Brett.
Not to be forgotten amidst all this is the sport’s Triple-A league, the Nationwide Series, which is, in essence, struggling to find its identity. Since many Cup drivers pull double duty there, the list of Toyota triumphs becomes a bit redundant. However, there is one driver in particular who bears mention — and that is 18-year old Joey Logano. Given the nickname “Sliced Bread,” Logano has made four Nationwide Series starts to date, and has wasted no time in verifying his moniker — he’s got two poles and one race win already to his credit. In fact, Logano’s career has gotten off to such a strong start in NASCAR that many have tabbed him to replace Stewart in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing machine should he move on to pursue other opportunities. Whatever happens next for the youngster, it’s clear there has been perhaps no more hoopla and hype surrounding a driver in NASCAR since Jeff Gordon exited Bill Davis’ Fords to drive Rick Hendrick’s Chevrolets over 15 years ago.
It can be argued that Toyota has dominated all three series thus far this season. Busch has the most wins and is leading the Sprint Cup points standings while Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Busch, and Logano have combined to win 12 of 16 races so far this year on the Nationwide side. In the Truck Series, Toyotas won the first three races of the season, and if not for a gust of wind or a balky transmission, Johnny Benson would have claimed three wins in a row and maintained the points lead he had leaving Michigan. But although the vehicles are fast, the one common denominator that links them all together are the uniqueness of the guys behind the wheel. Not only have they succeeded on the track, but have become the face of their respective divisions off the track, as well. Love it or hate it, it’s a strong impression filled with strong personalities that shows no signs of tailing off anytime soon.
Or so they hope.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
ABSTRACT THINKING, (on my part)!
RE: RED BULL!
I vow never to buy any Red Bull, (had some given to me several times on a cross country motorcycle trip), but the real story about Red Bull is I feel I am being ripped off if I bought any!
Has everyone payed attention to just how much money they spend on different sports! Virtually everything with a motor has a well funded Red Bull sponsorship! Plus other sports, again, almost all sports.
The profits on a can of
Thus, if they have that kind of money to spread around the world based on the fleecing of their customers, one of their customers AIN’T GOING TO BE ME!
See, my point!
Gee, I hope so!
No arguing Toyota is dominating Truck – and has been for years – but I’d say that it’s JGR dominating Nationwide, not Toyota – all the Toyota wins have been either by JGR cars (particularly the 20) or the 32 (for all intents and purposes, a JGR satellite operation). The rest of the Toy teams haven’t done much better than last year.
Same for Cup. It’s all JGR, with brief appearances by Red Bull near the front, while Bill Davis and MWR are still struggling to stay in the Top 35.
Take away JGR and Toyota’s season would be at best marginally better than last year in Cup and Nationwide (and Chevy’d have a lot more wins and be as dominant as ever – boy, they blew it letting JGR get away). JGR helped DESIGN the R07 Chevy engine, they’re arguably the best shop in NASCAR – I say that because Hendrick has a lot more data and history to work with using Chevy, and they’re not with a new manufacturer this year, yet they’re not running any better than JGR with a new manufacturer with little background data – so it should be no surprise that they’ve been able to run well. But the other teams, not so much. I think this is all a tribute to JGR’s skills and drivers more than the manufacturer’s contributions. Sure, Toyota might give them whatever they need, but the team needs to know what to ask for, and JGR clearly does, a lot more than the other Toyota teams.
You can’t really say that Toyota is dominating Cup, however, if you look at the total win count (even if they seem to run up front more often):
While clearly JGR is the best TEAM this year if you go by win count – all six Toyota wins are theirs – Chevy and (surprisingly) Dodge aren’t too far behind in terms of manufacturer wins.
Am I alone in really caring less about “personalities”? I want good, hard, racing every week.
“Personalities” are just a side thing to me, and if it’s going to be your main selling point, well, wrestling has a hold on that market already.
Fix the frickin’ racing. Get rid of aero-push. Stop dropping tracks where the racing is good for tracks where it sucks. Stop changing the window dressing in the form of “the chase” and top35 rule and fix the real problems. Your new car hasn’t done it NASCAR.
Well stated “Steve Cloyd”!
FYI, if your so inclined, “firstname.lastname@example.org”, is a good one to e-mail your thoughts to!
Thank the racing gods for Toyota and Kyle Bush.
First, Toyota for being able and willing to take on Chevy. Nothing against Chevy but I want to see competition. Ford is barely hanging on and Dodge seems to be lost. Dodge was supposed to have a new engine available and it keeps getting pushed back.
Second, for Kyle. The reason I’m more excited about watching nascar now than I have been in 15 years. I sure hope he wins the championship so he can thank Mr. Hendrick for making room at the inn.
Don’t agree with Jack Roush on much but he was right on about Toyota and what they would do to the sport. They are spending probably ten times as much as any manufacturer in Nascar along with unlimited testing. I read on Jayskis that they had rented Nashville Super Speedway seventeen times this year for testing. The problem is the other manufacturers are struggling financially and can’t match the money Toyota is spending. Do you want to see an all Toyota Show with them dominating year end and year out. Remember this is just their second year in cup and they already are dominating. Two of Chevy’s wins were fuel mileage. Dodge had one Sunday so don’t think the manufacturers are that close. How come Busch didn’t run this good with the so called powerhouse Hendrick Chevy Team? Toyota has definitely got a big time advantage and I’m really surprised that the other makes are not complaining about that advantage. I know one thing, when this thing keeps being the Toyota Racing Series is the day I give it up. I also think that’s one reason for some of the empty seats. There are still a lot of us Dodge, Chevy, and Ford Fans out here and if Brian France doesn’t start realizing that it’s going to bite him in the butt.
‘Toyota Racing Series’?
YA GETS WHAT YA PAYS FOR
Kenneth, Ford along with Chevy and Dodge have been in Nascar almost forever, I would expect them to win a few races especially with their talent of drivers. This is just Toyota’s 2nd year in cup and look what they are doing. We all knew Micheal Waldrip, Red Bull, and some of the other Toyota Teams were not going to be very good but compare Gibbs last year with a Chevy and this year with Toyotas. Compare laps led, wins, etc. People are saying its that Kyle is so great is one reason the Toyotas are doing so well. Then compare Kyle driving a Chevy with Hendricks last year. How many laps did he lead and races did he win driving for Hendricks with a team and manufacturer who has been in Nascar for years. Do you see where I’m coming from? And, If Toyota gets another top team or two then if nothing changes don’t see many wins at all for other manufacturers. Nascar needs to change their name to the Toyota Racing Series because that’s what it’s becoming. Again, I do think this will hurt attendance as there are still a lot of Ford, Dodge, and Chevy Fans out here. So tell me again how dominant Kyle was in a Powerhouse Hendrick Chevy last year compared to this year. And, Not only in Cup but truck, and Nationwide Series too. Money can buy anything and Jack Rousch was right on with his comments about Toyota. I remember times when a lot of manufacturers were not in Nascar-Ford, Chevy, Dodge and when it gets to be one manufacturer winnning everything it eventually hurts attendence. Maybe the Japanese will start coming over here to races to fill the tracks up to watch Toyota Dominate. Time will tell but if you look at the article above its about Toyotas dominance in all the Nascar Series. Guess will see but I definitely know when it becomes the Toyota Series I will not support, attend Nascar Races as I did in the past when my manufacturer was not involved in Racing. Wasn’t Brian France Driving a Lexus when he had his little accident a year or two ago. Wonder who makes the Lexus. On, now I remember.
If you’re going to bring up how Kyle Busch did last year in a Hendrick Chevy (which itself is rather silly considering where that 5 car is in points right now; if anything, that proves how much of it is Kyle’s talent and not so much how much his team’s manufacturer is spending), why don’t we look at the man he replaced, J.J. Yeley? He didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his JGR Chevy last year, and this year he’s doing much worse in what is by all means a JGR Toyota. Explain that?
Around this time last year I seem to remember very clearly the Gibbs cars being the only ones who could match up with Hendrick as far as the COT was concerned last year, and I remember Denny Hamlin specifically having multiple chances to win races but little problems doing him in (much like what’s happening with Smoke this year), and Smoke was starting his hot summer stretch, so I don’t see how JGR was any different last year than this year with the sole exception of Kyle Busch instead of J.J. Yeley (along with the added influx of cash from Mars/Masterfoods). So, with just about every non-Kyle Busch variable the same (and the results about the same, as Hamlin and Stewart aren’t significantly better or worse than they were at this time last year), the emergence of the #18 team is suddenly an example of how Toyota is suddenly a dominant typhoon sweeping through the lands of NASCAR? The only other Toyota team that has improved significantly over last year has been the #83 TRB car, and that’s more due to what Jay Frye has been doing than Toyota spending millions (or billions, as the typical NASCAR fan would like to believe) on the program.
It’s funny yet depressing at the same time to see how biased people are against Toyota. It’s on the same level of ignorance as Bernie Ecclestone’s constant ‘we don’t need America’ mindset (and accompanying disparaging remarks).
Kenneth, I’m not gonna argue with you about this but JJ Yeley and Casey Mears are not in the same league as Kyle. Again, I ask you, compare Kyle in the powerhouse Hendrick Chevy last year and in a Toyota this year. Nuff said. Also, I’ll bet if Mark Martin goes over to Hendrick in the five car it will run better than it is now. Don’t know that Mark will win a championship but I do think he will run better than who’s in the car now. Remember, Mark got robbed by Nascar in last years Daytona 500 driving for Haas with Hendrick Power. I stand by what I have said.
But what have you said? You claim this has become the Toyota Racing Series, and the only evidence you have to back that up is because Kyle Busch is dominating and attribute it ENTIRELY to Toyota’s spending or whatever. You’re also acting like he was running 22nd each week last year in Hendrick’s third car; I’m sorry, but if you win the first COT race ever and finish 5th in the standings while being a lame duck basically the whole way (and while your teammates are absolutely making a mockery of the series by how dominant they were), that’s awfully good.
Just because Yeley isn’t as talented a driver as Busch doesn’t discount my point; your point is ENTIRELY that Kyle Busch in a Chevy is less than Kyle Busch in a Toyota. I respond with my point that J.J. Yeley in a Toyota is less than J.J. Yeley in a Chevy, which contradicts your point. It has nothing to do with Yeley vs. Busch, it has to do with your point of ‘Driver switches from Chevy to Toyota, driver dominates’ which is laughable itself as it doesn’t take into account silly things like chemistry or a new team and crew chief.
Kenneth, the point is Kyle was with the best team in Nascar last year with Hendricks in a Chevy. Now he is with a another quality team but in a Toyota and his stats are definitely better this year than last. Sure, I know they have switched teams but it wasn’t like he went from a sorry team to a good team. Chemistry does play some part in it but Kyle has won in all three series this year driving Toyotas with different crews the only difference being the make of car which tells me something. Compare his stats and you will see it has to be the car make. Also, look how many wins Kyle would have won except for some cars he lost on his own, some flat tires, and if he and Tony had worked together would have won The Great American Race in a great Japanese car. Tony Steward has had terrible luck this year. Just look at Loudon where he dominated and still lost the race to weather. And, he has also had some flat tires that cost him races. Denny Hamlin absolutely dominated Richmond until a tire robbed him of the win. IF not for a few cicumstances mention. This year would be a joke for everyone else except Gibbs Toyota Teams. The only exception may be the races that Edwards dominated. That has to be pretty amazing for a second year cup team to dominate the cup series like Toyota is doing against the established teams of Ford, Dodge, and Chevy. Also, at least two of Chevys wins came on fuel miliage-Phoenix and Michigan. Another Chevy win came at Bristol after Busch spun hisself out and Tony got bumped at the end of the race after they dominated. I was there and saw Burton sneak in and get the race. For a second year manufacturer to dominate like this after they had a so so year last year with another manufacturer tells me that there is an advantage somewhere. The aerodynamics are about the same with these COT’s so it’s left up to the drivers and the engines. I believe Toyota has got an engine advantage. Remember, Toyota built their engine from scratch. They never had a two valve, cam in block V-8 engine until they built this engine for Nascar. The other manufacturers have been using modified car engines not racing engines. Remember, this is just Toyota’s Second year in cup. Wait a few more years and see if this doesn’t become the Toyota Racing Series unless Nascar throttles them back some. I don’t look for that to happen with the money they paid Nascar to let them in a reported 94 million dollars. I’ve said it before, I don’t believe much of what Jack Roush says but he was right on about what he said about Toyota and what they were going to do to the sport. Brian France had a little accident I believe last year. What was he driving? I believe it was a Lexus SUV. Wonder who makes them?