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.
What's Vexing Vito · Vito Pugliese · Thursday March 12, 2009
Like many NASCAR journalists keeping up with the sport, I was thumbing through the article links on Jayski the other day – mainly to see if my most recent submission was featured – and came across an article written by Terry Blount of ESPN where he suggested it was time for Tony and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to go their separate ways. The bickering cousins, he surmised, had run their course together, and it was time for them to see other people. If I could agree on one thing with Terry, it’s that the two have been unusually quiet lately – kind of like when couples put on happy faces for public appearances or only stay together “for the kids.” This has been the opinion shared by an ever-expanding majority of fans, too, who seem to want to pin the reason for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s struggles solely on the relationship between he and his cousin.
Well, I have always held tightly to the notion that this was hogwash. But after reading this piece, I wondered… could there be some truth to it all?
At the June race at Michigan International Speedway last year, I spoke with Dale Jr. after qualifying and asked him what he thought of implications that family unity was taking precedence over professional responsibilities. When I posed the question, “What do you think of some of the statements that have been made suggesting that a new chief should be in order?” his eyes opened up and he sheepishly mumbled, “…What do you mean??…”
It was almost as if to imply, “Do you know something I don’t know?”
Later in the conversation — when I rephrased my question to ask if he thought a crew chief change would make sense — Junior shook off the notion with crystal clear certainty. “I would rather run 10th every week with the people I love, respect, and care about than win championships with a stranger,” he explained.
Two days later, I got to ask him the same question again; but this time, I was able to preface it with, “How does it feel now when somebody asks you, ‘Don’t you think you should get a different crew chief?’ “
Tony and Dale Jr. you see, had just won the LifeLock 400 at Michigan after a fuel mileage call from the pit box.
As Junior thought over his answer from the podium, he started nodding in agreement, chuckling and grinning wildly. Right then, he knew full well what I was implying: “Doesn’t it feel good to be able to tell everybody to **** off?” As he started to answer, Tony Eury, Jr. spoke first, saying, “I don’t really pay much attention to what people say about all that.”
It was a clear example of his cousin pulling in the reins a bit on his driver, as well as someone who is more like a brother. And while this little vignette may have come from the euphoria of winning their first race since 2006 at Richmond – as well as relieving the pressure both had been under since it was announced that NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver was joining forces with the most powerful force in motorsports – I think it was illustrative that these two are still stronger together than apart. Take a look back at how they ran following the first time they were separated in 2005, just a few months removed from nearly winning the 2004 Sprint Cup. Had Dale Junior not cooked himself at Infineon Raceway during practice for an ALMS event, or misjudged a pass on Carl Edwards at Atlanta, he very well could have claimed his first title that year, forever silencing those who constantly pose the question, “Why haven’t you won a championship?”
(Oh, I don’t know, probably the same reason I haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize yet. Shut up. But we’ll get to that question in a bit.)
Anyways, 2005 was an unmitigated disaster for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. His new crew chief Pete Rondeau didn’t even last half a season, and then he had a nasty tangle with teammate Michael Waltrip at the Coca-Cola 600 in May. The one bright spot was when he was able to win a race with Steve Hmiel atop the war wagon at Chicagoland that July — but the rest of the season looked a lot like the first half. It was a harsh lesson learned, and Tony and Dale were quickly reconjoined for 2006 — winning at Richmond together in June of that year. After qualifying for the The Chase and finishing fifth in the final point standings, it seemed like everything was back on course over at the No. 8 DEI Chevrolet. But their world was turned upside down again before the green flag even fell at Daytona, when focus was turned to the apparent rift between Dale Jr. and stepmother Teresa Earnhardt.
While Junior tried his best to quell any controversy back then, the Budweiser Clydesdale was already out of the barn. One year later, both he and Eury moved to Hendrick Motorsports, looking for a championship but finding a roller coaster of inconsistency instead in their 15 months with the team to date. As we study the two men’s relationship now, it comes complete with a package filled with one top 10 finish and just 24th place in the season standings through four races.
But despite the slow start, we all know the real reason for the continued questions of if these two are fit to be together; Dale’s last name. Since he is the son of a seven-time Champion, than he surely should have won at least one by now, people say.
Well, not quite.
Call it Kyle Petty Syndrome if you want to: People place unattainable, unrealistic expectations on a driver expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. Even Davey Allison had a similar experience, although he tragically was never fully able to realize his potential. Keeping in this same vein, the common question persists: why hasn’t Dale Earnhardt, Jr. been able to produce the numbers his father did? Junior’s only won at restrictor plate tracks and a couple of short tracks!
Well, not so fast. Let’s take a look at the record here.
From 1996 to Daytona 2001, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. won eight races. Of those eight wins, three of them were at Talladega, a pair came at Atlanta, and he snagged one each at Daytona (another restrictor plate track), Bristol, and Rockingham. How does that compare to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s numbers dating back to 2004 to this point in 2009? He’s got nine wins: restrictor plate victories at Daytona and Talladega, short track wins at Bristol, Richmond (two), and Phoenix (it’s more of a short track than a superspeedway), as well as intermediate track victories at Atlanta, Chicagoland, and Michigan.
In my view, those appear to be pretty well rounded numbers that essentially mirror his old man’s.
Still, some fans are never satisfied. Junior carries the blessing and burden of being the face of NASCAR, and as such is expected to contend for championships and wins every year — regardless of the situation within his team. Those dreams are a bit unrealistic, however, and unfair to both the driver and the guy on top of the pit box calling the shots. The early season struggles this year did begin from the driver not having his head in the game at Daytona — but they were compounded by an engine failure in a competitive car at California. The team’s misfortunes could still easily be remedied with a win; and with tracks such as Bristol, Phoenix, and Richmond coming up, that may very well happen sooner than you think.
Here’s the question, though: is it already too late to change the court of public perception? With so many up in arms, will a win silence the critics who continue to demand a new leader for the No. 88 team?
Most likely, it will not. So, how long until the call comes to swap crew chiefs or teams with Hendrick Motorsports’ other team that has struggled, Mark Martin and Alan Gustafson? After all, it has become a popular practice in NASCAR the last few years to swap teams to help one that is underperforming. Richard Childress tried it in 1998 with Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner, and it seemed to work fairly well. Four years later, Jack Roush followed suit, swapping the teams of Kurt Busch and Mark Martin. Martin won a race after going winless in 2001 and contended for the Sprint Cup, while Kurt Busch went on to win three of the last five races — four total that season.
But Hendrick knows these moves can always backfire. Look at Carl Edwards and Bob Osborne after they were reassigned for the 2006 season. That same year, Jeremy Mayfield was never a factor when Kenny Francis was sent to manage Kasey Kahne, while Kahne won six races with his new crew chief at the helm. Since then, Mayfield had been making about as many headlines as Casey Atwood. As it is, Martin and the No. 5 team have had a car capable of winning every race so far this year, and if not for blown engines and motors, they very well could have a pair of wins already.
Moreover, people seem to not understand where Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is coming from; he would rather win a couple of races a year with Tony Jr., than win championships with Chad Knaus. There are things more important to the man than the final result. Although racing is his life, it also claimed the lives of both his father and his dad’s best friend, Neil Bonnett. And those are the types of tragedies you never forget.
So, if you’re going to dedicate your life to something, you had better be with the people you want to be with — and more importantly, want to be with you. Besides, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. probably said it best after that Michigan win regarding his cousin and crew chief. “Tony Eury, Jr. can win a championship… he will win a championship.”
“And I don’t want to get beat by him.”
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Earnhardts’ problem has never been his cousin . Jrs’ problem is twofold . First , he is apparently incapable of communicating to the crew what the car is doing , at least in any usable form . Secondly , he doesn’t feel he needs to listen .
Well said, Now if it were to just sink in!
Hmmm, I love it when someone makes an argument by cherry picking statistics. Why didn’t you use Sr’s 1986 -1991 statistics instead of 1996-2001?
I think Michael has hit the nail on the head. You have to communicate with accurate information so the crew chief can make the proper adjustments. Jr.‘s yelling and screaming doesn’t tell Tony anything. Therefore, the crew chief has to guess as to what is needed and the results are obvious.
Did we all not see where this was going when it was announced that Eury would go with Dale Jr. to Hendricks? It was laughable at best. Eury was a simple insurance policy for the Hendrick organization. If and when Dale Jr. stumbled Eury would be the fall guy. Let us be real here, Eury going with him to the 88 car was like taking an old girlfriend on your honeymoon with your new bride. Eury is nowhere near the caliber of people at Hendricks. I would like to sit in on a meeting of the crew chiefs during the week and hear just what if anything that Eury has to offer. Eury may be a good fit on the box for somebody but not for anybody at Hendricks. If Dale Jr. thinks Eury will win a championship then he should stay with him and follow that dead end road. Neither will win a championship in Cup either as a team or individually. He wants to race with friends and family then Dale Jr needs to get his own team into Cup and be a 2nd tier team at best.
There are so many facets to this problem. Is it the driver, the crew chief, or perhaps even more this year could it be the fact that the Hendrick possee has overextended themselves? Six full time Cup teams if you count the Stewart-Haas cars. Then figure in the starts for Brad Keselowski and all the Nationwide equipment they field.
The honeymoon was certainly over with long ago but we will wait and see how long it takes before the policy is collected on and the stowaway is removed.
There’s nothing wrong with someone choosing a more comfortable working environment over greater job success. We everyday people do that all the time.
But if Jr. would rather hover at the back of the top 10 with his cousin than make the necessary changes to strive for the championship and if Rick Hendrick is fine than that idea then I don’t want to hear any more criticism when Kyle Busch fans complain that Hendrick replaced a racer with a t-shirt salesman.
Jr. fans can’t have it both ways with claims that Jr. is truly driven and giving his utmost while approving of the choice to emphasize family relationship and comfort level above the potential to improve.
And I don’t want to hear anything more about how Jr. doesn’t get special treatment because of who he is either. How many other drivers would even be given the opportunity to make that choice rather than being told that he’d do what was good for his performance or else?
That would be comparing Apples to Oranges (whatever that means…); the level of competition and dynamic of the sport in 1986 was MUCH different than it is today.
At least the cars and enviornment are somewhat similar in the time frame I referenced.
RCR as a whole was at the top of their game in 1986 – the same cannot be said of DEI the last few years of Jr.‘s tenure there.
Ah another story for the non Junior fans to sink their teeth into and weigh in on, wonder where the guy is that always thinks he needs to workout more?
Jr. has to get rid of his cousin, learn to listen, learn how to drive the car and earn his keep. this is a sport and a business, not for his whims. too much partying, lifestyle, t-shirts et al. He has to concentrate on driving instead of spreading himself so thin. Most corporations ban relatives from working in the same departments – same shou.ld apply here because IT JUST IS NOT WORKING…
Jr is too scared to end the relationship with Tony Jr. If that were to happen, and Jr got another CC, and still ran bad as ever, even with a top notch CC, he would not have one single excuse to fall back on anymore. When he still runs just as bad as he always does, all the excuses he and his rabid little fans use to explain why he is not running well, will be gone for good. Jr will have nothing left to use as his excuse for not running as well as his fans claim he should. The truth that Jr is really just an average driver, would then be exposed. Jr will never let that happen. He has to let his rabid little fans think he is the greatest driver, that is being kept back. He will keep his excuse.
Not to rain on the Jr parade but news is out on screaming & bickering that goes on the scanner of the #88 team. Not many Crew Chiefs are gonna jump at chance to be treated that way by a driver. Not to mention being blamed by Jr Nation for every win that could have been, bad call, bad pit-stop, or every thing else they have blamed on Eury.
I understand how some could blame Jr for his inability to communicate his needs to Eury during a race, however, communication is a two way street. If Eury hasn’t trained Junior to communicate his needs over the radio in the time they’ve been together, it’s not Junior’s fault. The Crew Chief is the team leader. He needs to make sure everything is in place for his team to succeed.
That said, I don’t think that’s the problem. Until I read one quote in this article, I thought nepotism was the problem, but Junior’s quote “I would rather run 10th every week with the people I love, respect, and care about than win championships with a stranger,” pretty much says it all. He doesn’t have a yearn to win and if his father wasn’t Dale Earnhardt Sr, well, the only way he’d be working for Rick Hendrick is when he came by to mow his lawn.
Yes, it’s a nice sentiment and all his rabid 15 year old fannettes will call me mean for saying it, but that’s not the way to win a championship. That’s the way to end up as a footnote.
Dale Jr said: ““I would rather run 10th every week with the people I love, respect, and care about than win championships with a stranger,” he explained.”
If any other driver had said that, he’s be out the door on his ass. Just more proof he’s overrated and now he thinks he priviledged. The other Kevin said it above, too.
And if you want to compare Sr to Jr, why not compare them at the same age? Dale Sr getting only a handful of wins at the end of his career is nothing like Dale Jr getting only a handful of wins at the beginning of his career.
And speaking of Chicago 2005, he STOLE that win with two tires and a couple of timely debris cautions from NASCAR.
I don’t remember Dale Sr. getting into a very ugly and very public rift with his car owner/stepmom. RCR in it’s prime was like Hendrick today; DEI was never at the level of organization that either one of these shops have been. His 2004 season was impressive, was it not? From 2005-2007 he was not in the best cars and not in the best situation; that would be the polar opposite of what his father had in his prime, or Jeff Gordon had in his prime.
I am not making excuses for Dale Earnahrdt Jr. He is convinced that the only person he can win with is Tony Jr., and his record more or less proves it.
Roush Racing was built on the back of Steve Hmiel, as was DEI. Junior was taken out of more than a few wins in 2008, and for the first half of the year, he was consistently the best Hendrick car. Everyone was ready to throw dirt on Jeff Gordon last year….now everyone is patting him on the back, calling him, “Big Daddy”, and trying to jump on the bandwagon.
This is a fickle sport if I ever saw one.
As we all know, a crew chief change doesn’t always ensure more success, and I don’t necessarily think that separating Eury Jr. and Dale Jr. is going to instantly propel the 88 to a championship, but I do know that Rick Hendrick runs a BUSINESS.
Therefore, he will only tolerate so much monkey business on the 88 team before he steps in and makes a decision to do something about it.
They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results.
Thus, I see far more scrutiny on the 88 team after this year if the on-track results don’t eclipse 2008.
That you can bet on.
I am positive he will watch this year’s progress with a keen eye, and if Junior goes in the tank at the end of the year like ’08, then changes will be made.
To: Russ The Spotter
Hendrick has built one Nationwide car in the last 2 years and that was for Stewart at daytona
Jr.Jr.Jr. when will it all end. First it was the team DEI the move to Hendrick would solve all his ills. Now its poor ole Tony Eurys’ fault. How about Jr, try another team? Perhaps he can replace Kyle Bush again. Im sure that car is faster than the one he drives now. Of course he better take Eury with him as another attempt at winning and more excuses he can allow the fans to continue to blame the crew chief.
The thing that bothers me the most is Jr nation will scream the loudest when anyone questions Jr. and his driving ability. I do think he can drive but I also question his drive and committment. One reason is he is so physically drained after a race he can hardly talk. Most other drivers know physical conditioning is important to a driver, ask Mark Martin.
So before all Jr fans start throwing bottles at me let me end by saying I wish Jr the best. I just wish he would step to the plate and focus focus focus. To many distractions can never be good for him or the team.
Everyone had to see this coming a mile away if Junior didn’t win often right off the bat at HMS. Juniornation won’t settle for that.
I give him credit for taking the chance and leaving the family company to work for a stranger, but he never should have brought Eury Jr. along with him (unless deep down he wanted a built in excuse for failure). I don’t think Tony Eury Jr. is a bad crew chief by any means, and he could, in another situation, certainly be a championship caliber crew chief. I just think he’s Junior’s security blanket right now in the situation he put himself in.
So many people are saying how they think Eury isn’t fitting in at HMS. Has anyone thought about whether Junior is fitting in there? He certainly has a different personality and life style from his 3 teammates – maybe there’s a level of discomfort for him, too?
I wouldn’t be shocked to see Junior run the way – flashes of good starts to races, mediocre finishes – until his contract is up, and then have him “mature” and decide to go back to “save” DEI, where there’s another built-in excuse.
I believe Junior knows he’s not his father, but isn’t ready to admit it to himself. JMO :)
Rick Hendrick fielded the #5 car in 35 Nationwide races last season and finished 11th in owner points. I would think they did this buy building more than 1 car in the last two years.
The Nationwide efforts will not be the thing that chokes them down. How much of the JR Motorsports equipment came from Hendrick? I would say ALL the engines.
Some of you may not remember what happended in 1993. Hendrick went into the the ’93 season with Schrader Rudd and of course this would be Gordons rookie year. Hendrick at the last moment fielded a car for Al Unser Jr for Daytona. Rudd was less than happy about it and was all but finished with the team after 1 race. Rudd went on to win the only race that season for Hendrick at Michigan. Most likley somebody in the Hendrick camp is having similar feelings now. Martin has to be wondering what he is in for, and Dale Jr. is out of excuses. Johnson and Gordon will do fine but with Keselowski thrown in the mix one can only wonder what the breaking point will be for the underachievers. Also dont forget the #14 and #39. Hendrick is the finest organization in NASCAR period. But everything has a breaking point. History will not repeat itself as far as the ’93 season goes. Hendrick is still a solid threat to win it all be it the 24 or 48 this year. But, this team is turning into more of a clan of the haves and have nots than ever before. Hendrick has never made more than 2 of their cars a legitimate threat for the championship and the cousins and their fans should have known this
Dale Jr said: ““I would rather run 10th every week with the people I love, respect, and care about than win championships with a stranger,” he explained.”
And there’s the reason for no championship. Why even be in the cup series?
People, like say, oh…..Kyle Bush….they want to WIN. And so did Sr. in his heyday. Just watch the interviews on DALE.
Theresa had it right and got crucified for her comment.
“Jr. needs to make up his mind as to whether he wants to be a celebrity or a Race Car Driver.”
More and more, from Jr., I’m hearing the attitude that being popular is more important than winning.
For those of you who think Dale Jr’s work environment is more important than winning…Go sit outside his property and watch him drive by. The Jr nation wants to see Jr go to the front. Would you pay to watch people drive down Rt 95 with the comfort of having their families around them? No. This is the best racing citcuit in the world and winning is the name of the game. Rick needs to fix this team.
Let’s clear things up a bit –
Does Dale Junior WANT to run 10th instead of winning? NO.
Does he want to win and do it with his family? YES.
Does he think that he’d be able to accomplish his goals without Tony Jr.? NO.
He was trying to make a point, not make a case for riding. He gets mad on the radio and raises hell because he IS running 10th, and not winning.
Just want to clear that up, in case it came off like he was being flippant in his reply. He took about 10 minutes to answer the question and was using very deliberate and measured words to do so. It was used to underscore his loyalty and commitment to his crew cheif who is also his brother who is also his cousin.
I have never seen so many people/journalists make so many excuses for a driver. There’s always some new reason for why Jr. isn’t running well and it’s never about him. First it was the evil stepmother. Now there are people blaming it on Eury Jr., people saying Hendrick isn’t giving Jr. as good of equipment, people demanding that the 24/48 shop be split and one of them go help Jr.
I can think of a handful of drivers offhand that if they made the same comments as Jr. has of late and made the mistakes he has as of late would be crucified.
I don’t take Junior’s “I’d rather finish 10th..” comment to mean he’s not interested in winning – anyone who has seen him out there knows he wants to win as much as anyone. I think what he meant is that it’s just as important to him that his work environment be livable – and I agree because he’s under enough pressure already from the fans and media without living with it on the track, too.
Buddy Baker on Sirius posited an idea that by his admission won’t happen but might be a good one – bring back Junior’s Nationwide crew chief, Tony Eury SENIOR (a/k/a “Pops”) for a few races to get things on track, while Tony Jr takes on the car chief job (again, like Junior’s NW days). He’s not like his son, more no-nonsense, but Junior likes and respects him. But Pops is more comfortable grooming up-and-comers (right now it’s Brad Keselowski) than the Cup racers, and I can’t see him replacing his son unless his son asked him to.
I love Dale Jr!!!! Regardless of wins or no wins. If you are a true Dale Jr fan you will always be one.