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 · Wednesday April 8, 2009
With the Sprint Cup Series off this week, you might expect some of the senior writers of this staff or other publications would be absent as well. But that is not the case with me. Although I was sidetracked by a brief hiatus, the reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Having said that, somebody else whose name is also synonymous with NASCAR has returned as well – Jeff Gordon. After 17 starts at the 1.5-mile D-shaped tri-oval, Gordon won for the first time at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, snapping a drought of 47 races since his last win at Lowe’s back in October, 2007. It was a welcome relief for both driver and crew chief Steve Letarte, who — after being credited with Gordon’s six wins and incredible 30 top 10s that year — was suddenly made out to be a pariah by the end of 2008. In just a 12-month span, Letarte became a source of anger, not elation, for many who pointed the finger at Gordon’s slump straight through to the guy on top of the war wagon.
How could Gordon be going winless, after all, while Jimmie Johnson has been running wild for three seasons, scoring a third consecutive title that included five wins in the final 12 races of 2008? I know the Chase makes it a competition between teammates; but aren’t these cars prepared in the same shop? Was there really that much of a difference between the two?
It’s a simple fact that got me to thinking this week. In this day and age of NASCAR, does it really make sense to knowingly equip one team with better parts than the other?
If there ever was an organization that could bring these thoughts to light, it would be Hendrick Motorsports. Truth be told, Hendrick was never a perennial championship contender until Jeff Gordon came along and scored his first title in 1995. Before the arrival of Gordon and crew chief Ray Evernham, HMS was a top-tier team, to be sure, but never one that resembled the current juggernaut with benchmarks that all other organizations have come to measure themselves by. Sure, there were wins: Tim Richmond’s seven in 1986, Geoff Bodine and Darrell Waltrip’s Daytona 500 triumphs in 1986 and 1989, and Ricky Rudd’s runner-up finish to 1991 Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – albeit nearly 200 points in arrears. During this time, Hendrick was typically a two or three car organization, but all his teams seemed to be about on equal – if mediocre – footing.
They were good, but not great.
About the time that Jeff Gordon started winning races and championships, though, a funny thing happened. The car that at one time was the standard bearer of the Hendrick camp, the No. 25 car, suddenly became erratic, if not manic in its performance. It would be either blindingly fast but blow up, simply loaf around the back of the field, or — worst of all — become a combination of both. It wasn’t long until others began to notice that no matter who was at the controls of the third car at Hendrick Motorsports, he seemed to be on a different agenda than his teammates driving the No. 24 or the No. 5. It got to the point where the team was suddenly saddled with the most unfortunate of tags in a multi-car organization:
The R & D car.
Say what you will, but the performance of the No. 25 (now the No. 88 driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. since 2008) has never quite matched that of its stablemates. There may have been a race or two it won in the past decade; but those were far and few between compared to what the other cars were accomplishing. That could be the result of a disparity in driving talent; the ride has been filled by a revolving door of drivers once Ken Schrader left in 1996. But even during the worst of times, there appears to be a clear difference in equipment supplied by an organization that became a dynasty with Gordon by the time he won his fourth title in 2001. And when Jimmie Johnson joined the team the following year — driving the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy — the chasm between teams grew even wider, with the No. 5 car soon joining the No. 25 as the two cars on the outside looking in.
While HMS struggles to make all four cars competitive, its main rival has proven parity is far from impossible. Roush Racing put all of their teams in the Chase in 2005, comprising half of the ten-car championship field. In comparison, Hendrick managed just one that year – the No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson — while Gordon joined Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch in finishing well outside the top 10. In 2007, the gap at HMS widened considerably, with Johnson and Gordon winning a combined 16 races while teammates Busch and Casey Mears combined to win two — one of which was based on a fuel mileage gamble. And while Mears may struggle to live up to the status of that last name, Vickers has performed admirably with his start-up Red Bull outfit, while Busch has more than proved his abilities in Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas.
The main ingredient here seems to be machines, not the men.
Let’s fast forward to the present day lineup at Hendrick Motorsports. In one shop are the designated hitters of the team: The No. 24 and No. 48. The No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet was the face of NASCAR for most of the mid-to-late 1990s, and although “The Drive For Five” championship mantra wore itself out about halfway through 2001, Gordon’s 82 wins place him within just two more of tying Bobby Allison for third place all-time. And — if he stays healthy and active the next few years — Gordon will pull within striking distance of David Pearson’s second place tally of 105 wins, a feat believed nearly impossible as recently as 15 years ago. Meanwhile, the No. 48 car of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have conspired to win the last three championships and 41 wins to date, putting them on pace to not just challenge Gordon’s records, but surpass them.
All that success from HMS — and that’s just in one building.
In the other shop, you have Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. One driver should have won four championships and a Daytona 500 throughout a two-decade long career, while another is constantly reminded that he has not won seven championships — making his Daytona 500 win seem as if it was from another era to hear some describe it. No question about it, both of these drivers proved they were weekly contenders long before making their way over to HMS.
But the talent hasn’t translated on the race track, as the performance of both of their cars has not matched that of their teammates in 2009. Both were fast at Daytona this year, with Martin sitting on the front row and Earnhardt, Jr. having a contending car before he completely lost his mind and became a rookie in just a couple of short hours. By the finish, each driver was well outside the top 10, an ominous sign for what’s been a difficult beginning to both their seasons.
Of course, both the No. 5 and No. 88 machines have suffered their share of mechanical troubles as well. Martin was the victim of a pair of Hendrick hand grenades on consecutive weekends at California and Las Vegas, while Dale Jr. suffered an engine failure moments after Martin at Fontana — his troubles preceded by a transmission problem in practice. In contrast, Johnson dominated early in that California race, leading 74 of 200 laps, while Gordon in second stalked eventual race winner Matt Kenseth for the victory.
One week later, the gap in performance showed its ugly face once again. Johnson again dominated the first two-thirds of the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas before spinning himself silly, while Gordon led for 17 laps to come home sixth. And the difference in performance has continued to widen even when all four cars are running well. A broken shifter slowed Dale, Jr. to an eighth place run at Martinsville — the same race where Johnson won and Gordon came home fourth. Martin has won a pair of poles at Atlanta and Bristol, but has yet to come home with a top 5 finish this season in either — tracks where Johnson and Gordon routinely outperformed him once again. On his best days, Martin is consistently a sixth or seventh place car. Junior has been consistently a couple of spots behind, but pretty much in the same boat.
A boat that is simply not as fast as the ones built in the other building.
Does this mean that the No. 88 or the No. 5 is a test mule for the Nos. 24 and 48? After all, it’s the 24 and 48 that are consistently up front leading races, and as of last weekend battling each other for wins. The No. 5 and No. 88 teams have three blown engines, broken transmissions and shifters, and a wrecked race car between them — not to mention the stigma of nearly being on the bubble for making races just a few short weeks ago. That is a far cry from headline-making Victory Lane celebrations with the cute Sprint girls, with someone handing you a pair of six-shooters to fire off into the air. At this point, would you want to arm Dale Jr. following another lackluster run? Or worse yet, Mark Martin after another engine failure? While Johnson and Gordon seem not to even know what bad luck is, the other two men have enough of it to already fill a season — and it’s only April.
While I think it is a stretch to say half of the organization is guinea pigs for Team Unibrow (yes, I know they aren’t technically unibrows – but they are prominent – mine are too), the numbers tell the tale. No question about it, there is a noted difference in performance between the teams of Johnson and Gordon compared to Martin and Earnhardt, Jr. You could say that it’s because Martin is with a new team, or that the cantankerous cousins can’t control themselves — but I think there’s more than that going on in this case. At the risk of sounding like a Martin Myopian or an Earnhardt Apologist, I believe there’s something different at play, secret secrets made that only seem to improve just two of the four cars on the team. For while Jeff Gordon had a subpar 2007 that he has since chalked up to a bad back and lack of physical and mental preparation, he is clearly up to speed this year. But when will the other half of HMS start to resemble that of the two Sprint Cup Series point leaders?
Probably not until whatever is in their building makes it over to the other.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Every excuse you guys can come up with, huh? So was Gordon the guy getting lesser equipment when Jr. was the leading HMS car last season for so long? Oh, and Martin has consistently been running in the Top 10 every race although his engine problems haven’t given him the results. I would call that pretty darn good performance, especially for someone that hasn’t run fulltime in a few years and is with a new team. Gee, that just leaves the #88. But it must be that he is getting the crap equipment, right? Yeah, sure.
Maybe Earnhardt’s crew is getting the leftover driver.
Very well put Vito . This isn’t news to anyone that followed NASCAR carefully over the years . From the mid 90s the 24 always got the best of everything . When Johnson was hired , Lowes demanded that the 48 car qualify for every race , and that meant that the Johnson car would need to have the same performance as the 24 . And as we all saw , with the same equipment , Johnson was fast right out of the box . In fact over the years Johnson has embarrassed Gordon in results . Maybe it was far more car than it was Gordon .
Or maybe Johnson’s a hell of a driver too.
My God! The excuses that the “Jr.” apologists make.
I guess getting that left over equipment is the cause of the complete lack of focus on the part of the Nr. 88 driver and the cause of his lack of driving skills!
I said last year that when Jr. didn’t perform, the excuse would be “He isn’t getting the best equipment.”. Looks like I was right.
And……. According to Jr. nation. Wouldn’t the worst HMS equipment be better than the best DEI equipment?
“I could win reqularly if I was in better equipment”, said Jr.
It would have been much harder to write this story last week wouldn’t it? Up until then the story would have had to be how only the 48 was getting good equipment. I guess the 24 team figured it out and started taking parts from the shelves with the “48 Team” designation. Why would an owner give questionable parts to any of their teams? What would be the incentive… to piss off two sponsors? Sorry but this perceived inequity is an excuse for under performance, lack of team unity or maybe just bad luck. Now, with that said, come Chase time if two teams make it and two teams don’t a little more resources from the organization may be given to those cars for obvious reasons. Additionally, late in the Chase if only one car still has a reasonable shot at the championship then that team may get a little extra attention, but that’s just common sense.
I am not one of the Jr. nation but I do feel the the other 2 cars (88-5) are not and have never been up to 24 and 48 levels. Could the 88 & 5 have been driven smarter? Yes, could they have won regularly? Not in my opinion. 48 & 24 ALWAYS get better stuff!
Mark Martin was a great driver ,but is past his prime and Junior was never a great driver and NEVER will be.He was hired to sell merchandise and Rick always liked him.Why can’t people accept the truth?
I’m not sure what is going on. I do think the cars in the same garage share information. Maybe that information should be shared will all the teams. I think Chad should be giving Crew Chief classes!!! Or maybe Jr and Mark should try not to be so “nice” on the track and drive like Kyle Busch..you know..sort of like a monkey with his head on fire. LOL!!!
OK,How are all of you that don’t like JR going to explain the Kyle
That makes alot of sense for Rick to pay millions for a driver like Jr. and then put him in sub par equipment. Hey I got it, maybe he has a grudge against Jr. and brought him to his team to give him poor equipment to ensure he never succeeds in Cup, thats got to be it! And dont get me wrong Mark Martin is a proven great driver but maybe there is something behind the notion that he has been racing how many years without a championship?
Bill, what the #24 got was a new crew of engineers who figured out a completely new complex and complicated setup over the off season.
Vito, you’ve been wandering through my mind. You are not alone in your thinking. That doesn’t include the new cars that have been built for the #24 and #48 cars.
I think equipment explains part of it, but the fact of the matter is that there is only one Chad Knaus. He’s the thoroughbred, while Johnson is just the jockey. Until Hendrick reassigns Knaus to one of the lesser teams, the 48 will be the car to beat every race.
As for Gordon, well, he’s not just a driver, he’s a co-owner. Come hell or high water, Gordon will get the best equipment and his crew chief will have preferred access to whatever makes the 48 team so good.
The 88 and the 5 cars are second tier cars in the HMS organization and they will be as long as the status quo exists with Knaus & Johnson, and with Hendrick & Gordon.
And the first step to improving your car during a race is to find your pit stall, which for some reason Jr. has a hard time doing, but thats got to be poor equipment to, does he not have the gps that the 24 and 48 have?
Oops that second point should have been directed at Marilyn. Sorry Ginger.
Say hi to Mary-Ann and Gilligan for me LOL.
Back in the early 90’s I was at Charlotte for the fall race. Decided to go over to the Hendrick shop to look around. At the time, it’s three teams were in three buildings.
The #24 shop looked like it had been painted the day before. Every person in the shop was in crisp uniforms. There were at least a dozen completed cars lined up with about 40 or so assembled motors waiting installation. In the adjoining gift shop was any memorabilia you can imagine for the DuPont Team. The place was buzzing with employees…too many to count.
Down the hill a bit was the #25 Budweiser shop. It looked as if it had been painted 2 or 3 years ago. There were 6 or 7 cars assembled and perhaps 15 or so motors on stands. Fewer than half the number of employees that were observed in the #24 shop and of those, maybe half were in some kind of uniform.
Further down the hill and around back was the #5 shop. This was only a year or so after Terry won the championship. The shop had NEVER been painted, There were four assembled cars and maybe 10 motors awaiting installation. I counted four guys working…all in jeans and t-shirts. Not a uniform to be seen among them.
There was no question at THAT time where the dollars were being allocated and where they weren’t!
Well since we are still in the early 90’s that seems like a good point Luke, or maybe Hendrick had the business sense to put most of his money behind a new and upcoming driver whom he thought could be the face of his organization and win championships. Seems to me like that worked out pretty well, I heard they haven’t painted the 88 and 5 shop since 1995, and just to think what a new coat of paint to that building could do for those race teams, oh the possibilities.
You know, in thinking about this some more, there may be another factor involved, the amount of sponsorship dollars each sponsor ponies up. For instance looking at how the 18 ran prior to Kyles arrival. I have read (totally unsubstantiated) that Interstate Batteries was on the low end of the amount of sponsorship dollars relative to other sponsors. When Kyle came in so did M&M’s and Interstate became a partial sponsor for certain races. So was the sudden increase in results that the 18 team experienced totally due to Kyle coming in or did the additional dollars that Mars pumped into the operation also a factor. All I am pointing out is that there are a lot of factors that could determine stuff like painted garages. I’m not saying this happened but suppose Dupont said we want to pay for a state of the art facility for our driver to give them every opportunity to succeed. You couldn’t expect the owner to turn down an offer and you also couldn’t expect the sponsor to pay for a facility to house all three/four teams.
And Ginger. You know this, How?
Are you privvy to the internal personnel workings at HMS?
BTW, Kyle Busch did win 4 races in the 5 Car and none of them were feul mileage wins. and if I recall correctly, Terry LaBonte did win a Championship driving the 5 car.
If you look back at when Terry LaBonte won his Championship with HMS Rick didn’t look to happy about it cause Terry beat his Golden Boy! I’ve said this before, why don’t they make the 24 a teamate with one of the other cars and the 48 the other?
I thought the question of the 25 car was answered several years back (if you tend to believe it). Hendrick himself was quoted as to why that Bud car could do no right, he said something to the effect of “we threw everything at that car to make it win. And it was never under-funded”. I seriously doubt an owner would use one of his cars as an R&D car. The 24 and 48 car getting “better” parts is ludicrous and laughable. Step out of your grassy knoll…it’ll clear up the clouding of your eyes and the plugging your ears. Ridiculous!
It is what it is!
Why hasn’t Mark Martin ever won a championship?
Why hadn’t Junior Johnson ever won a championship?
Nice try Veet. It gets us all talking anyway.
I know! Even if Jimmie and Jeff have worked their butts off with their teams the past few years, they should give every single team member to that #88 team. Steve and Jeff have said they worked their butts off after Homestead to figure out how to help their team. They chose to restructure some things. When The #88 driver is asked about making some changes that could improve his team he says that he would rather race with his cousin and have fun out there. Missing pit boxes and hitting the wall isn’t his fault either y’know. I see there is still no explanation for the #24 team’s struggles last season in comparison to Jr.‘s being second in the standings the majority of the pre-Chase season. Funny thing too, when all that was going on last season I sure don’t remember many Gordon fans or media claiming that he was getting the crap equipment.
Mark Martin has performed very well for a guy adjusting to a new team and new crew chief and returning to fulltime. I expect him to only get better.
As for Kyle’s win totals, it’s no secret that he is very aggressive and loves a loose race car. The COT plays right into his hands. He can scrap the wall a few times and keep on trucking where in the old car he was on the wrecker. Look how many times he got the wall at Darlington last season and still won. He even won the very first COT race.
maybe Jr. could borrow some of the left over paint from the 24 or 48 cars and paint his pit sign so he can find it
I do have friend who works at HMS but we’ve never discussed this particular info. Satisfied?
I didn’t say anything about KyB, his wins and/or Terry. OK?
Bill, I don’t think Jr would ever ask Rick for a new engineer or anything else. He is very shy and understated.
I’m sure Mary Ann and Gilligan would say Hi back to you if I knew where to find them. LOL
The “DRIVE FOR FIVE” wore out half way thru 2001? WTF? Gordon didn’t even clinch his 4th title until the fall of 2001! If Jr. doesn’t win a race this year, that would mean in two years at Hendrick, he would have won 1 race on fuel milage. THE SAME AS CASEY MEARS! Who do you think Rick Hendrick should put in the 88 in 2010?
With JR. unable to find his pit stall, or stopping outside his pit box, WTF? Thought NASCAR drug tested the drivers this year.
Sorry. 2002. It wore itself out halfway through 2002. Because he won his fourth in 2001.
I knew that. I know that.
Please explain Tony Stewart He’s geting motors and chassis from HMS Also gets set-ups and all info that HMS drivers get He’s a top 5 car and newman and JR are not Please explain you nuts!
For all those that think Mark Martin is past his prime…
I don’t buy into the idea that Rick Hendrick would spend the time, effort, and money into bringing the 88 and 5 teams together in this era just to let them run mid-pack.
Poor Jr. once he finds his pit stall maybe they will give him some scraps form the 24
usetawuz said: “BTW, Kyle Busch did win 4 races in the 5 Car and none of them were fuel mileage wins. and if I recall correctly,”
Guess again. 2006 New Hampshire race. Look it up. Kyle Busch gets his third career cup win by staying out and stretching his fuel as the race goes an extra 8 laps.
Kyle did ok at Hendrick, but better at Gibbs, perhaps because he joined two bad-asses who had similar attitudes to him. Jeff and Jimmie are a bit more sponsor-friendly, and Kyle’s aggression likely did not fit in. This is similar to Beriun Vickiz, too. Sometimes a change in scenery and some new responsibilities can work wonders. Maybe nobody listened to Kyle at HMS…who knows?
Jeff Gordon sucked last year for one reason…Jeff Gordon. He didn’t gripe last year but he had (i) no sleep, (ii) a couple of horrible early-season accidents, (iii) no sleep, (iv) zero fitness and (v) a bad back. So, he could qualify well, and run well at the beginning, but he would fade at the end. Simple fitness. He also threw everything that he had into his racing in 2007, but still got beaten. This was after a crappy 2005 and a quasi-crappy 2006. Plus, in 2007, half of those six races were gimmes. They were not dominant performances, etc etc. This year is very different. JG is a kickass driver. JJ is a quiet bad-ass. Nobody thinks he can drive because he doesn’t tell everybody how good he is, and doesn’t storm out when he loses. I dunno what the deal is with Mark Martin. I think he’s enjoying himself. Likely doesn’t care if he wins or not. And Dale Jr…is sending a clear message that it is not his team that is the problem. Dude wants out, and is not sure how to handle it.
However, let’s talk more about the resource-sharing. If there are pieces of the pie to go around, let them be earned.
_MI Mike said: Poor Jr. once he finds his pit stall maybe they will give him some scraps form the 24
You hit it! Jr has to be driven and Tony Jr. can’t find the whip. Put Tony sr. back on that box and Dale will start to win in three races.
What a stupid article.
R&D shop? I thought that black helicopter landed years ago.
That was some dellusional ranting! Why is Mr. H. paying good money to Jr. and Mark just to thwart their efforts. Heck, if they’ve drawn Mr. H’s ire, how do you explain Tony’s performance with HMS engine’s? Heck lets go further back, Bobby Labonte had plenty of success with Hendrick engines. How did Mr. H. manage to orchestrate all Jr’s pit road miscues?
Yes! That’s it! Why didn’t I see it before? Hiring Junior was a diabolical plan by Rick Hendrick to assure Jimmie or Jeff would get more championships! Junior would be a much larger threat at Childress. He wooed Junior and Eury into his evil web, kept them isolated in a separate building away from his golden boys and threw substandard equipment at them. (In case you can’t tell, that was sarcasm.)
It’s ridiculous to think of the 5 and 88 teams as R&D. I remember in 2005 the Hendrick teams all ran Mid Valley transmissions at Sonoma. Every HMS car finished 33rd or worse due to a mechanical failure. Every team took the risk, not just the 5 and 25.
When Junior had problems with his transmission popping out of gear at Fontana, Jimmie had the same problem.
In 2008 Junior had one problem with the car all year that caused a DNF. But then again so did Jimmie. Jeff Gordon had two DNFs attributable to car problems.
Last year Junior started off strong. As a matter of fact in the first half of the year Junior out ran Jimmie 12 of 18 races and out ran Jeff 10 of 18 races. He had seven top five finishes and twelve top 10’s. (That’s the very numbers he had for the entire year of 2007 at DEI.) His average finish the first half of the year was 11.2 which was better than any year end average he ever had at DEI. And he was sitting 3rd in points. Yeah, sounds like junk equipment to me.
The second half of the year was a different story. He finished outside the top ten fourteen times in the last 18 races. He finished ahead of Jimmie only once in the second half of the season, but did finish ahead of Jeff 9 times. That’s [i]half[/i] of the races.
Someone explain to me how the 24/48 shop has better equipment if Junior finished better than Jeff Gordon 52% of the time. Someone? Anyone?
So what happened the second half of the year? Was Junior suddenly handed poor equipment? I don’t think so since he was able to beat Jeff on the track in 50% of the last 18 races. Did he forget how to drive? No. Most likely everyone in the field was working on improving their setups and/or driving styles by testing. It’s just my opinion, but I think the 88 sat back on their laurels a little and expected to achieve the same success they had in the first part of the year. Even if you improve, you have to make strides above everyone else on the track just to stay the same.
We know both Jimmie and Jeff tested throughout the year to get a handle of the COT. Jeff’s average finish improved slightly from 14.8 for the first 18 races to 14.2 for the last 18 races; Jimmie’s average finish soared from 14.3 to 6.8; and Junior’s plummeted from 11.2 to 16.9.
As far as this year? Well, he’s starting a little behind the 24 and 48 who worked their asses off last year.
There’s an old saying that says “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. I’m not sure if it’s the crew chief, the driver, the attitude… but there’s no way it’s the equipment.