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.
Vito Pugliese · Wednesday July 29, 2009
As Jimmie Johnson and his team kissed the bricks (with Chad Knaus pulling up short) along the start/finish line following their second consecutive win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Brickyard 400 was in the books and the attention turned immediately to racing at Pocono. I guess that’s to be expected; after all, we are in the grind of the summer stretch, and NASCAR’s scheduling is a smidgen more intense than the IndyCar Series docket. As I watched the race Sunday – well … most of it at anyway, while slipping in and out of a pizza-induced and five-second lead supplanted coma — there were three common threads which began to emerge as they do every year during this event.
What were they? Let’s take a look back and find out …
Cliché upon Cliché: Playing second fiddle to the Daytona 500 doesn’t mean that Indy’s a weak sister in the department of tired and trite expressions. And that’s just for open-wheel’s Indy 500. The Cup Series event brings its own set of worn storylines and setups for previews, news pieces, and interviews. For instance, is it possible for any piece about the Brickyard 400 to not address the location of the race as, “the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway…”?
Note to all other media: would it be possible to stop perpetually fawning over this place? It isn’t exactly the Vatican, so let’s not make this track something it isn’t. There’s a stupid golf course in the middle of it, for God’s sake.
To me, Indy’s simply a racetrack that used to hold one race a year until 1994, whereupon it was determined that NASCAR was actually the most popular form of motorsports in North America. Only then were stock cars allowed to make an appearance at what used to be Eddie Rickenbacker’s (and Tony George’s) masonry depot that’s been in existence since 1911. But judging by the wide open sections of seats that looked surprisingly similar to Fontana or Michigan International Speedway this past Sunday, the big, flat 2.5-mile oval looked like any other track of that length — old or new.
I remember back in 1993, when the first test session that took place was open to the public to gauge fan reaction and to help promote the upcoming race. Back then, Kyle Petty expressed concerns with allowing NASCAR stock cars to compete at Indianapolis, saying that, “they don’t run dogs at Churchill Downs.” It was probably the last original comment about this track that was ever made; and thankfully, it was a memorable one.
Even back then, I didn’t understand what the big deal was about Indy, and I’m admittedly a sucker for tradition, accepting change only while kicking, screaming, and foaming at the mouth. While there have been some great races at IMS, and it has been around for 100 years — making it an epicenter for motorsports — I don’t see Indianapolis much different than Daytona. It is a great venue for racing, so why not run what you can there? In recent years at Indy, they actually hosted Formula One until a tire fiasco (sound familiar?) caused their abrupt departure. Now comes word there might be another exhibition later this year with NASCAR and the Grand Am Series machines joining the MotoGP motorcycle series in running the infield road course.
Tradition run amok, you say? Hey, they race dirt bikes at Daytona, while Grave Digger and Maximum Destruction run amok on the same field where Peyton Manning is rewriting NFL passing records during Monster Jam. Nothing is sacred in motorsports.
A Nap: If you did not doze off at one point Sunday, you were either A) Lying, B) Jeremy Mayfield in positive-sample mode, or C) In the race.
To say things can get a little boring at Indy is to say that PBS pledge drives bring a lull to those Nova marathons. Keith Richards and Layne Staley didn’t get as strung out as a Brickyard 400 field can, and this past Sunday was another exercise in passing futility.
I know I’m one who likes to harp that not every race is going to be a three-hour Talladega nail-biter, but these 400-mile Indy races seem to challenge even the most seasoned spectator to gut it out from flag-to-flag. Flat, one-groove race tracks don’t offer much in the way of passing, particularly when they’re entering those corners at over 200 mph in cars that have exacerbated aerodynamic balance issues. I remember going there for the race in 2007, sitting at a picnic table to get something to eat and drink and to take a knee from the noise (and the mutant in front of me who had his shirt off, exposing what appeared to be a tattoo of Castle Grayskull on his entire back). My brain was warm applesauce from the constant ear piercing exhaust blast off of Turn 4, and I was shaking my head, telling my buddy Brian that “It’s just too much …” Oh, how I yearned for some Caldwell Shooting noise-canceling headphones…
So it seemed a little more than a coincidence, as I drifted in and out of alpha-wave, that I had a dream that something happened to Juan Pablo Montoya’s Target Chevrolet; and as I awoke, he was getting popped for speeding on pit road. Right about this same time, the engine in Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s No. 88 machine blew more chunks at the speedway than … well, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
While I would never wish bad luck upon either one of those guys, it was a welcome relief as The Great Gatsby on wheels was mercifully paused.
Controversy: That moment brings me to my final point. Seldom does a Brickyard 400 conclude without some sort of controversy, something being thrown in either a race team’s pits or in a fan’s living room. Last year, it was Goodyear’s new IED Eagles, and the year before that was Tony Stewart bumping his friend (and part-time employer) Kevin Harvick out of the way so he could swear on TV. This year, the centerpiece was Montoya, surrendering a near-certain win by exceeding the 55 mph speed limit on pit road.
The official published numbers put JPM’s speed at a blistering 60.06 and 60.11 mph – though NASCAR says they allow teams a fudge factor of up to 5 mph, and that Montoya exceeded it. Yet considering the advantage he had at the time, coupled with the notion that these are cars without speedometers (and driving something with 900 horsepower off the tachometer is an inexact science at best) the fan response surrounding the ticket-issuing shows that NASCAR’s response was a bit Roscoe P. Coltrane-ian for many.
No matter what you believe, the timing of the penalty could not have been worse for either NASCAR or Montoya, as green flag pit stops were in the process of being completed when Junior’s engine took a dump all over Mari Hulman George’s hallowed grounds I’ve heard so much about. That caution alone would have set up quite a battle between Montoya, Johnson, and Martin, as all three cars proved just about equal by the end of the race. The resulting scenario, however, had plenty of red meat for even the most passing of conspiracy theorists.
Those who see Hendrick Motorsports as the shadow arm of NASCAR pointed to this as their Grassy Knoll moment, with Johnson waiting in the wings to capture his second straight win at the Brickyard — even though his teammate was in position to take said win away had he made the slightest bobble on the final lap. And let’s be honest, it isn’t like many Martin fans would for a second believe that NASCAR would pull any strings to benefit him during the course of a race — if he was in contention for anything. In the end, the penalty may have done nothing than to conspire to provide some semblance of a close finish in the closing laps, since the only other resulting action was Montoya himself strug-gl-ing worse than Joe Namath hitting on Suzy Kolber to get around rookie Joey Logano for 11th.
Considering Montoya is a driver who has been rock solid all season long, a model of consistency and good behavior, his was a sweet story that was sacrificed for a combined .17 mph of justice. The Colombian, in an Indianapolis 500-winning throwback paint scheme, was set to make a major statement and justification for his spot in the 12-driver Chase field, as well as becoming the first driver to win here in both open wheel and fendered competition.
Instead, after leading 116 laps, he was left only with the sick satisfaction of knowing what likely would have been. You can say it was a balls and strikes call… but balls and strikes are subjective. To say that he broke the speed limit even with a little wiggle room is a non-sequitur. If the speed limit is 55, but you’re allowed to go up to 60, why not just make it 60 and anything over that is illegal? After all, weren’t pit road speeds enacted and enforced in the interest of safety?
Taking all of that into consideration (look how much I just blabbered on about this for five paragraphs), this is the kind of stuff that NASCAR thrives on, as it certainly helps to generate interest in a series that has suffered its share of attendance and ratings losses this year. This kind of attention is even more welcome than normal, since the nap to end all naps is coming shortly; remember, there’s yet another 500 miles at Pocono to endure next weekend. However, it usually rains at one of them each year, and those turn out to be rather interesting …
Either way, it’s OK, because as a lifelong follower of Mopar, I know the real reason why they black flagged Montoya’s No. 42: It’s because NASCAR was just penalizing him so a Dodge wouldn’t wi … oh wait … never mind. I’m sure something else will happen next year at the Brickyard 400 for me to write the same column, causing you all to fall asleep — or to put your fist through your monitor.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The real reason Montoya was sacrificed at Indy is Nascrap couldn’t have a Colombian putting a spanking on the good old boys in America’s heartland! obama, Gates or France, there’s no difference.
Jr. is NASCAR. If Jr. can’t do it, then NASCAR has to make sure Hendrick wins to keep hope alive for Jr. fans. I used to watch every race on TV but now I watch if there is nothing else to do. I don’t care who wins but watch to see what stupid thing NASCAR does next. I’m never disappointed.
You know, years ago (25 or so) I used to be embarrassed to admit I was a NA$CAR fan. Now a days I’m embarrassed to say I used to be a NA$CAR fan. NA$CAR has turned into joke….a really, really sick joke.
Its strange that you don’t understand the Hallowed Ground feelings that fans have about Indy . Indy has earned those feelings from fans . And trust me , when speaking of the great race tracks in the world , Daytona comes in far down the list . Indy is probably the most famous and revered track on earth .
I understand it…I’ve been there. I just don’t need to be reminded of it every second, only to see half of the stands empty in front of the flagstand.
As iconic as Indianapolis is as a racetrack, the bottom line is that it is not suited for stock cars. Nascar will continue to go there once a year, because it is a legendary track. But the racing isn’t legendary by any means (even for an Indy Car). If you wanted good racing I hope you were watching the Trucks and Nationwide races at ORP. And the Kyle Petty line is classic!
Good for you Vito; I agree completely. Im 65, spent 20 years roadracing around the country and have been to Indianapolis twice. Its just another racetrack to me and as you said, a rotten one for stock cars. Once again I would suggest they use the road course to make the race interesting..and yes, Montoya got screwed, BIG Time.
Wow. I live 20 or so miles out of Indy, so I’m biased, but to call Indy, “just another race track?” Really?
I agree with this Mario Andretti quote; “In Indianapolis, racing is religion. The Speedway is our temple. That’s the best way I can explain my worship for Indianapolis.”
Hell, I get chills walking through the place when it’s empty, let alone on a race day.
Balls and strikes are not subjective; if the ball passes over the plate and between the batter’s armpits and knees, then it’s a strike. And if it’s off by .17 of an inch, it’s too close for a professional to look at. Similarly, 60.11 MPH is too close for a professional to push it.
Otherwise good article though.
I was at the race on Sunday. Two things I knew from the beginning, Montoya and Vickers were NOT going to win. I am a Jr fan and was not expecting him to win but happy he was doing well. When they told Montoya to come back in for a pass through I turned to the other 5 people I was with and said,” Oh my God, they are going to let Jimmy win this race. I knew right then what was going on, as did everyone else. Nascar will always find a way to let the one win they want to win. Look for JJ to get his 4th championship this year.
Balls and strikes are not subjective? Bull!! How many times do you see diferent umps call different “strike Zones”. Ask any Atlanta Braves fan about the “strike zone” the Phillies got in 93. I think under the circumstances Juan should have been let go. I am a Jeff Gordon fan but I’ve had about enough Jimmie to last for quite a while. It would have been nice to see someone else win for a change.
Hey Vito! Your comment “ know I’m one who likes to harp that not every race is going to be a three-hour Talladega nail-biter”!
I think this statement misses the point! And is misleading!
When you refer to Talladega as three (3) hours of “nail-biting”, it is simply waiting on the BIG ONE! Or as the most recent events given us, THE BIG TWO (2) OR THREE (3)!
“NAIL BITING” Racing has not a bit to do with it!
And, hey Steve Cloyd! I was at the hallowed Speedway recently, yes one gets goose bumps walking thru the gates! But your “Hell, I get chills walking through the place when it’s empty, let alone on a race day.”
Is well stated, when it is EMPTY! (The 500 excused)!
Gee, goosebumps & chills, and then along comes NA$CRAP!
What a way to ruin a good day at IMS!
During the first or second yellow flag I mentioned to a freind of mine that Montoya looked like he was speeding leaving pit road he was pulling away from the car behind him and he should slow down a little one of the na$cops will nail him.