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.
Voice of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Wednesday September 2, 2009
On Tuesday, the worst kept secret in NASCAR was made official, as it was confirmed that Brad Keselowski has joined Penske Racing as the new driver of their No. 12 Dodges for 2010 and beyond. The 25-year-old from Rochester Hills, Michigan, who has been at the employ of JR Motorsports for the past two seasons in the Nationwide Series, is making the jump to Sprint Cup next season full-time, as well as competing full-time for the Nationwide Series championship with his new organization. But with his existing ties to Chevrolet (and perhaps more importantly, Hendrick Motorsports), some have questioned as to why Keselowski would make this move at this point in his career.
My initial reaction: Why wouldn’t he?
Many place Hendrick Motorsports upon a pedestal of sorts as the holy grail of racing organizations. It is a reputation that has been rightfully earned, and considering its teams have combined for nine wins so far this season, it would be hard to argue that success. They are, to be sure, a dynasty that is not far removed from a certain company that makes fast red cars in my homeland – or another that has won the Indianapolis 500 a total of 15 times. Yet while NASCAR and the Indianapolis 500 are worlds apart, the potential for Keselowski to do great things with Penske is certainly there – and for this he should not feel beholden to one racing organization.
First of all, let’s examine the facts here. Keselowski is ready to go racing at the Cup level. He’s won a race, which qualifies him, particularly with the move he made to do so at Talladega. But while the initial plan was for him to split time with Mark Martin in the No. 5 car in 2010, that has since faded, what with Martin tied for the series lead in wins and showing no signs of slowing down – or wanting to slow down – as he did a few years ago. Sitting around waiting for Martin to hang his Nomex footies up could take literally years. And even if the 50-year-old chose to step back, Brad running a partial season at this point would serve little more than to reinforce that he is ready to race at this level, and further complicate the Chase standings next year with two drivers splitting time in one car.
Besides, if you are going to drive for an owner whose last name isn’t Hendrick, you’d be hard pressed to do better than “The Captain.”
Sure, there were other choices … but would any of them have worked? Stewart-Haas Racing might have been an option, but sponsorship and team expansion isn’t in the cards quite yet, and with General Motors and Chevrolet racing budgets slashed, it likely isn’t the right time to put a crash program together for a rookie, much less expect it to be successful. And if Brad had stayed in the HMS umbrella waiting for a seat to open, what would he end up doing? Replacing either Martin or Jeff Gordon – where the scrutiny and parallels would be quite a bit to endure, along with the expectations that would no doubt accompany such a move. Ask David Ragan how that one has worked out so far. So what’s a man to do?
Enter Penske Racing.
In my mind, this is quite possibly the ideal team for Keselowski to align himself with, compared to the complex juggling act that he would have faced at Hendrick. Penske has ample resources as a three-car operation, with a good mix of an established veteran and a successful open-wheeler in Sam Hornish, Jr. who continues to improve. The flagship No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge that Rusty Wallace made so famous from 1991-2005 currently has Kurt Busch at the controls, and he is in place for the foreseeable future – though there is some speculation as to just how far beyond 2010 his contract extends. At Penske, Brad has room to grow, succeed, and make a place for himself. At Hendrick, I am afraid he would have ultimately suffered the same fate as Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch, and Casey Mears: being lost in the shuffle amongst a collection of champions, legends, and essentially the face of an entire racing series.
So unless you are a Bow-Tie loyalist, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a legitimate reason why Keselowski would stay where he was at. This isn’t Rocky V, and he isn’t Tommy Gunn, joining with a new promoter to get a shot at the big time because his current trainer didn’t think he was ready yet. As mentioned before, he has already won a race at the Cup level. Yes, it was the result of Carl Edwards driving across his front end, but a win is a win, and there are a lot of other veterans who did not have themselves in a position to have their hoods driven across that day. In the subsequent races this year, driving the Nos. 25 and 09 cars as part-time entries, he has three top 10s in 8 starts while another strong showing at Chicago was thwarted by a flat tire late in the going.
While some might question Dodge’s commitment to the sport, the Penske organization is the best representative of the brand currently in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series today. They are responsible for half of Dodge’s victories so far this year, which sounds mighty impressive until you check to see there have only been two wins total. So while the rumors swirl that Penske may be the next to make the move to Toyota — and it would be hard to find fault with such a change — it would position those drivers to be aligned with a company that is still in a position to properly and competitively fund its motorsports endeavors. Plus, with Roger Penske now having taken ownership of Saturn, might there be a new nameplate on the horizon? While that is unlikely in the foreseeable future, as with any investment – and motorsports – it is best to get in on the ground level.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Brian Vickers with Team Red Bull’s Toyotas or anybody aligned with Michael Waltrip Racing.
With a story that has such tremendous upside, there is bound to be a loser in the equation, and that appears to be David Stremme. Having served as Penske’s test driver last season and driver for Rusty Wallace’s Nationwide entry, he was given a second chance at Cup after his first stint with Ganassi Racing resulted in points finishes of 33rd and 21st in 2006 and ’07. However, those three top 10s earned his second season are all there’s been to crow about so far. Considering the driver took over for a team that was struggling with Ryan Newman at the wheel, coupled with a testing ban this year, the results have been dismal… but not surprising. Stremme has yet to win in NASCAR competition, but he has had a steady history of getting as much out of the equipment as it had to offer, along with being a steady, reliable driver. Might he be moved to a fourth Penske team or return to the Nationwide Series? That remains to be seen, but it would be a shame if he didn’t get another opportunity with an established organization.
That being said, just how will Keselowski fare in the No. 12 Dodges? It is, after all, the car without a sponsor-that-kind-of-has-a-sponsor coupled with the aforementioned struggles the team has experienced this year. Is this a recipe for success, or might it spell disaster? Will this turn out to be an ill-advised move for a driver who had a Hendrick ride all but lined up for him at the dawn of his career?
My fearless prediction is that the 2010 results will appear similar to that of Kyle Busch with his move to Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 18 car.
Think back to the position that Busch was in upon his joining Joe Gibbs Racing – leaving Hendrick Motorsports under the auspice of being an outcast from a team that was essentially Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. At JGR, he took over the reins of a car that had quite a bit of history surrounding it a couple of years earlier with Bobby Labonte at the wheel and Dale Jarrett before that. Yet after J.J. Yeley spent a couple of seasons at the helm (by the way, get well soon, J.J.) and failed to generate the desired results, Kyle returned what had degenerated into a middling-pack runner to its once former glory as a consistent race winner in a matter of months. While I have high hopes for Keselowski, I think the results may be somewhat muted compared to Busch – mainly due to experience and perhaps the lack of a large chip on Brad’s shoulder. But they’ll still be substantial.
As I said last week when the question came up in our Mirror Driving column, why would Brad jump ship and abandon a chance at a Hendrick ride to a team that appears to be a struggling side-project with Penske Racing? To me, it comes down to dollars and sense.
If somebody was going to offer you a salary paying what today would likely bring in $3 – $5 million a year, plus 40 percent of winnings (which so far this year for the No. 12 car in 31st place in points amounts to $1.2 million), along with 40 percent of souvenir sales compared to remaining in Nationwide, waiting for a chance that might not come for a couple of years – if at all – how could you say no?
Speaking of Nationwide, Keselowski will be running that entire schedule as well, which is making its move to their CoT in 2010. So he will get more than enough seat time in CoT-type cars; plus, he gets to do it in a badass Dodge Challenger – not in a dopey-looking Impala. Why Chevrolet insists on fielding that in the Nationwide Series instead of the Camaro is beyond me… but that is another rant for another time.
One thing I do know for sure is that I hate clichés, and one of them that ranks atop the list with “at the end of the day” and “it’s a win-win…” is “it’s a perfect fit.” That being said, I feel this really is a perfect fit for Keselowski. The No. 12 car is a blank slate enough on which to write some history of his own, without the comparisons and obsession that would likely follow had he landed a seat at Hendrick Motorsports or its satellite team.
That’s not to say Keselowski may not end up at Hendrick Motorsports someday, but at this point in his career, Penske Racing may prove to be his best decision yet. Without a doubt, that’s just as good of a move as he put on Carl Edwards to win his first Sprint Cup race earlier this year.
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Vito, I agree with you 100%. Brad has made a good move based on the current situation with Hendrick’s drivers.
I have yet to see it reported how long Brad’s contract runs with Penske. Was that info released?
I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head. Good column.
Hmmm, comparing him to scrub…? Doubt it, Penske in Cup isn’t anywhere near JGR in terms of equipment or success.
Well what else can he do? Hendrick isn’t going to remove top T-Shirt seller Dale Jr. to let Kez drive for them, even though Kez has proven himself currently to be a better than Jr.. (Thought: Jr. might enjoy racing more as an owner than a driver these days, then his fans could root for his teams.)
Kez has proven he has the talent to stay up front, lurk in the top 10, with a great sense of timing and savy to be there at the end when the stars screw up and he steals the win from them. He may not get the fastest cars yet, but his smart, clever driving earns him wins.
There’s NO WAY I’d go into a Dodge car. But if Dodge leaves then maybe that team will switch to Toyota.
You can bet your a$$ that Chevy will do whatever it takes to get Kez back….just like they did for Smoke.
(Well, on second thought, chevy is owned by Obama now and Kez might have to give up half his salary for the privilage to drive the car)
Great to see Brad driving for a good team that isn’t Hendrick. It seems that showing enthusiasm and personality is frowned upon there, and I’d hate to see Brad follow in Dale Jr.‘s footsteps: happy, successful kid becomes dejected, mopey guy with the weight of impossible expectations on his shoulders.
LABONTE to Stewart HASS in 2010????? Hmmmm.
I agree with this article. Ton of potential at Penske with or without Dodge…this is a big time organization that does most everything in house, Penske indeed ranks right up there, and their cars have actually looked pretty good this year, many times.
You make another fine point about expectations at HMS, Brad will have a lot less pressure on himself at Penske. Think about the double-standard…at HMS if he ran top-20 /top-15 the media and fans would all be saying, “what’s wrong with Brad?” yet in the #12 following Stremme poor season, top-15 or even top-20…he will look like a hero…let alone if he manages (and likely could) a win somewhere.
If Dodge leaves NASCAR, The Captain has another option. Remember, he bought Saturn from GM earlier this year. While I don’t think they could get an “Ion” ready for 2010, Brad Keselowski driving the 2011 Saturn Ion is not out of the question!
In other words, if it happened now, Penske might have to go to Toyota or something if Dodge pulled out, but given time, don’t be surprised if you see Penske Saturns on the track.