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 November 18, 2009
With Jimmie Johnson on the brink of winning his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Championship, one thing stands out as he and the No. 48 Lowe’s team prepare to make history this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway:
Nobody really cares.
That is, no one outside of Hendrick Motorsports, his fan base, or the media at large. Listen to any number of call-in shows, forum postings, or column comments on this site or any other, and the fan interest ranks somewhere up there with standing in line to jam your fist into a beehive. This select group may just be “the haters” that Jimmie dedicated his 2006 Daytona 500 victory to … but their membership is hitting record numbers.
The crazy thing is that in any other sport, Johnson would be the talk of the town, his accomplishments heralded while he’s shown the utmost respect and deference. So why, then, is the most successful and accomplished driver of the last decade treated with the sort of revile and disgust that is usually reserved solely for lepers, sex offenders, and telemarketers?
Part of it may be related to something Johnson contracted in late 2001. It is a conflicting disease that is both empowering and crippling at the same time, one whose origins are unknown and unexplainable. I don’t know how to break this to you gently, so you may want to have a seat first…
Jimmie Johnson suffers from Gordonitis.
The emergence of Gordonitis can be traced back to the early 1990s. Back then, Jeff Gordon had moved south to stock car country, having spent his formative years running roughshod through the USAC midget and Silver Crown series, all the while growing the kind of mullet that any IROC-Z owner would be proud to sport through their T-tops and a glorious mustache that even Sam Elliott would envy. Driving for Bill Davis’ Busch Grand National operation, he jumped ship from what would have been a factory-backed Ford ride, instead signing with Hendrick Motorsports’ burgeoning new No. 24 team in late 1992. It was one assembled expressly for him, with crew chief Ray Evernham putting together the rainbow-hued machines that would soon come to dominate NASCAR competition as we knew it.
Gordon was initially well-received by NASCAR fans, starting his first race at Atlanta at the same time Richard Petty’s driving career was coming to a close. He went winless his first year, tearing off the front clips off the majority of his fleet of DuPont Chevrolets in going through what used to be the difficult learning curve from Busch to Cup. The next season, he won his first race at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, succeeding through a blur of tears to the delight of the crowd and fans everywhere. He would win his second race a few months later at Indianapolis, battling fender to fender with Ernie Irvan for the inaugural Brickyard 400 win in front of his adopted home state crowd.
Then, it happened.
In 1995, a different Jeff Gordon appeared. His hair was perfect. He was sporting the Ray Bans in magazine ads that were once the domain of Dirty Harry and Layne Staley. He was appearing in toothpaste commercials with his former Miss Winston trophy girl wife. He was suddenly the new face of NASCAR, much to the chagrin of many longtime fans – especially those who had No. 3 stickers plastered all over their trucks. It was also the year that he began winning races with such regularity that somebody should have nicknamed him ExLax.
Seven wins and his first Winston Cup championship in 1995 were the reward and the shape of things to come, from the driver who was as clean cut and polished as a new congressional candidate. The next year, he would win a series-leading 10 races, a feat he would match again in 1997 with his second championship. Gordon’s climb to the top peaked in an obliteration of records in 1998, with 13 wins and his third title in four years that left everyone but Mark Martin over 700 points behind him by the end of the season.
It was about this same time that fans began to turn against Gordon en masse – which seems to be about the point where many fans are with Jimmie Johnson today.
There are a number of similarities between these two. Both are from California originally, working their way up the ladder through racing series that some fans may know much about. Gordon cut his teeth through midgets and sprint cars, while Johnson did so through the SCORE off-road truck organization and the now defunct ASA series. Both men have imposing eyebrows and are married to models, both drive Chevrolets for Rick Hendrick, 24 is half of 48 – and Gordon owns an equity stake in Johnson’s Lowe’s Chevrolet.
Each also has had a crew chief that not so much bent the rules, but exploited every square inch of the rulebook to their advantage, causing it to be rewritten several times over with the express intent of restraining them.
And both had roughly the same amount of stock car training in NASCAR’s second-tier division. Johnson came into the series full-time in 2002, with all of one then-Busch Series (Nationwide today) victory to his credit driving for the small Herzog Motorsports operation. His most impressive accomplishment to date had been his death-defying crash at Watkins Glen, where he managed to effectively jump the sand trap in Turn 1 and stuff it into a pile of Styrofoam after his brakes failed. But he won the pole for the Daytona 500 in his Cup debut (Gordon won his first Daytona 125-mile qualifying race), and went on to win three races that season — the first of which came at his home track, Fontana, the type of storybook ending you usually see in fairy tales and not reality.
Suddenly, Johnson’s career was evolving even faster than Gordon’s did. In only his second year of full-time competition, he finished second in the championship battle to Matt Kenseth, falling short by 90 points in the last non-Chase season of 2003. The next year, Johnson won eight races – and came within eight points (one position and one lap led) of winning the inaugural Chase for the Championship, finishing second to Kurt Busch who narrowly avoided disaster (and the pit entrance wall) that day.
2005 saw Johnson enter the final race 52 points behind Stewart, but a blown tire and resulting wreck relegated him to fifth in the final standings. The season had taken its toll on the team, with Chad Knaus visibly frustrated, and Johnson was unsure if the two should continue working together.
That was similar to the situation that Jeff Gordon experienced in 1999, when the relationship between he and Ray Evernham began exhibiting some cracks. At Dover that year, Gordon was penalized and held on pit road after Evernham had pulled out the front fenders a bit during a pit stop. Evernham was incensed, protesting vocally – and quite visibly – on pit road – and it was subsequently his final race atop the No. 24 pit box. Knaus’ terse comment of, “Good job, good season…let’s go home…,” following Johnson’s spin at the season finale in Homestead in 2005, while in title contention, could have been a similar tipping point. But after a hug-it-out session during the offseason, both renewed their commitment to each other and the No. 48 team moving forward.
Unfortunately for the rest of the field, it has worked out from there.
2006 began with Johnson dedicating his Daytona 500 win to those who had spoke ill of his team and his crew chief – who was serving a suspension for installing what was essentially an adjustable rear window in the back of the No. 48 during qualifying. It was also the year that Johnson and company established their Chase strategy that has them at this point in racing history. They posted but one Top 10 finish in five races leading up to the first Chase race at Loudon, then went on a tear the final six weeks, posting a win, four seconds, and a ninth place finish to win it all. It was a title that would have been won under any points circumstance: 56 points under The Chase format, and four points under the traditional system.
But hey, the Chase makes it more interesting, right?
Their second title in 2007 was another example of their Chase strategy working to perfection, winning four straight races in a year that would have seen Jeff Gordon’s “Drive for Five” come to fruition — by 353 points under the system that saw Gordon win four Cup titles previously — leading to the derision of many fans. A dominant 10-win season and a demeanor that leaned to the mild side started to raise the ire of some of the boo-birds in the grandstand, while others cheered the exploits of seeing an unkempt Tony Stewart attempting to scale the catchfence after one of his victories. To make matters worse, Johnson’s third title in 2008 was one of quiet consistency, legging it out over Carl Edwards in the long run — though under the old system, Edwards would have captured the 2008 title by 16 points.
That title tied him with Cale Yarborough for having been the only two drivers to win three consecutive championships. It also brought into question the significance of the titles Johnson has won, compared to those that Yarborough scored against the likes of Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, and Bobby Allison.
Sure, it is a moot point to keep comparing titles that Johnson would have won or lost depending on the points system – just as it was in 1998, when Jeff Gordon’s 13 wins were compared to Richard Petty’s 13-win 1975 season – and subsequently, the King’s defining 1967 season of 27 wins, which featured 10 in a row. It is, however, yet another similarity that Gordon and Johnson share – and both will forever endure.
Trying to match stats from different eras or championships won in other formats is always difficult. But in NASCAR, it gets muddier due to the variables involved, not to mention the most fickle variable of all.
In no other sport is dominance and dynasty rejected as it is in NASCAR. Even in Formula One, when Michael Schumacher and Ferrari were the predestined championship winners, or Roger Penske’s mastery of Indianapolis, is long-term success viewed as a negative. It’s amazing how much it’s frowned upon when one team – or driver – is bulldozing the competition week after week. Even Richard Petty, when interviewed during Dale Earnhardt’s record-tying seventh championship in 1994, remarked, “I used to beat people, but not like Earnhardt; he will run people right into the ground.”
Jeff Gordon, in a way, picked up where Dale Earnhardt had left off, and Jimmie Johnson has extended that margin of victory even further still. But while in other sports that sort of excellence of execution is celebrated and honored, in NASCAR it is a call to arms, and at certain tracks in Alabama and elsewhere, it can lead to things being chucked onto the track in response.
I can still remember sitting on the backstretch at the Coca-Cola 600 in 1998. Jeff Gordon had just taken the lead from Rusty Wallace in the closing laps coming out of Turn 2. The next time by, I vividly remember seeing a golden Miller High Life can cresting the fence a few rows in front of me, dotting the side of the No. 24 car as it accelerated coming out of the second turn on the white flag lap.
As reckless and irresponsible as it was, I couldn’t help but stare in awe and wonder at how some drunk bastard was able to fire a perfect strike at something 25 yards away, going 170 mph. But while you might think that same respect was shown for the talents of the driver who just took the lead, it was roundly rejected from my seat section. Similar verbal beer can lobs have been coming all year towards the No. 48, reaching their zenith two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway as Johnson’s car was careening off the inside retaining wall, shedding parts and points in the process.
So, what gives? After all, he is an affable fellow, he doesn’t make a fool of himself or disgrace the sport with outlandish or boorish behavior. He is approachable, doesn’t get rattled, and his charitable works through his Jimmie Johnson Foundation have helped those in need through Habitat for Humanity, Victory Junction Gang, Lowe’s Toolbox K-12 Education Programs, and the Hendrick Marrow Program.
Then again, this is a sport whose foundation was built upon tax evasion and distribution of contraband — two things which you’ll likely never see this man be a part of. Maybe it’s because they are fans that want to see Mark Martin finally break through and win the title that he should have won four times already, or they are having flashbacks to the late ’90’s to Jeff Gordon’s reign as the most dominant driver in the series.
Whatever the reasons, Gordonitis can affect fans as well as drivers, and the only vaccine known is the bumper of another car, or a new driver to come and take the place of whomever is the one racking up wins and championships — like a 100 yard Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl touchdown run. But for those who have contracted this dreaded affliction, take heart; the plug will be pulled in five days, and you will be off to rest and convalesce once again in Daytona Beach, Florida in three short months.
Just know this much before you go. Barring some sort of H1N1 or Tamiflu inoculation program undertaken by the other teams and drivers during the offseason, the probability for a relapse in 2010 still remains very high.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The problem with Jimmie Johnson and the fans is not that he IS a boring, plain vanilla personality so much as it is that he presents a boring, plain vanilla personality ON PURPOSE.
When fans complain about how dull he is we are continually assured that “if we knew the real Jimmie” we’d like him because “he’s a different person away from the track.” Once again a new documentary is promising to reveal, “the real Jimmie” and is supposed to provide an epiphany of fresh admiration for we fans who are now yawning.
Which reinforces my point rather than counters it. How are we supposed to root for a mask when we know that what we see is a false facade? The talent is real, but the man fans see on TV — the only way we have to form an opinion of him — is a fake. Authentic enthusiasm for a fake is impossible.
I know that the hotheads and hard-chargers who capture my interest — Biffle, both Busches, Hornaday, etc. — are often their own worst enemies and that Jimmie’s hyper-controlled style is part of what puts him in front of them. But I also know that what I see from my guys is authentic and that even when I’m itching to whack them upside the head with a 2×4 after some particularly boneheaded stunt they never, never, never bore me.
You touched on it Vito, his equipment comes from a convicted felon, who sleeps with Brain Farce, with a many time caught cheating crew chief. Knowing he could not hold Mark Martin’s jock, he does what he has learned to do…….kiss butt so that he gets ALL the breaks…..May the fleas of a thousand camels infest his crouch, and may he hit the wall hard enough to give him a DNF!!
Huge difference in Jeff and idiot jj!…Jeff had to be great for 36 Races to win his 4 championships! idiot moron and his cheating crew chief only has to be great for 10 Races…I’m sorry, but there’s NO WAY you can compare those championships, no matter how hard you try! idiot moron will never come close to the driver that Jeff is! End of story!
I hope so much that idiot moron goes straight into the wall on the first lap at Homestead! nascrap has been horrible this year, but that would make it a GREAT year in itself!
I dont get it either, Vito. Anyone who rants about Chad being such a “cheater” sure as hell doesnt know much about the history of Nascar. “Bending the rules” has always been a necessary part of a crew chiefs job description.Smoky Yunick, one of the most revered figures in Nascar history called it creative rules interpretation. Some of you may remember his famous seven eighths size Chevelle of 1966 or 67. No one could figure out why the car was so quick. That exercise was the reason Nascar went to templates. As far as Johnson is concerned, its sure as hell not his fault that Nascar came up with the idiotic chase format. Maybe we should all pray that he coldcocks Brian in front of the TV cameras some day.
To johnboy60: I could not have said it better. May Mark Martin get this one and retire. I would like Martin better if he were driving for someone else. I vagely thought Hendrick would see to it that Martin wins the championship but it appears not so, but it ain’t over till the fat lady sings and she is tuning up now.
You’re pretty much spot on about Jeff Gordon and gordonitis, but a large part of the backlash against him was aimed at the new fans he brought with him who thought Jeff Gordon was the Alpha and Omega, and the new image he brought which started to turn Nascar into the Vanilla Snow Racing Series. It also did not help that his car was painted with the international symbol for a certain non mainstream group of people.
The fans that Jeff Gordon brought to the sport were fans of Jeff Gordon and not so much fans of stock car racing. I have said before and will say it again here; I had never seen fans of any other driver at the track during qualifying get up and leave as a group after their driver had qualified. The fans that came in with Jeff Gordon had no knowlege of the history of Nascar or of the drivers that they considered backwards rednecks. They just tuned in to watch Vanilla Ice Pudding Pop put a whooping on the old southern hicks or because young females found him cute, and Nascar started to notice and figured they could grow the sport by ditching the ones who brought them to the dance for the new sexy yuppies with money and the coveted 13-35 year old females.
The big corporations also took notice, and figured they could jump on the New and Improved Nascar to shill their products. After a while we started to get the scripted Victory Lane interviews where it was all about getting the sponsor plugs in, and making sure the label of your sponsored drink is facing the camera while you take a refreshing swig. Never again would we hear real feelings or emotion on camera for fear of upsetting a sponsor or Nascar.
That’s pretty much the reason for my Gordonitis, not so much personally against Jeff Gordon but what came along with him into the sport. All these changes would have probably came about with or without him, but he is the face of the change that has happened to Nascar over the last 15 years. Nascar chose to go Hollywood and turn the races into storylines, scripts and marketable drivers over letting the on track action tell the story. If done right with good Nascar leadership and in small doses the new fans and sponsors could have been assimilated into the old Nascar culture without changing the whole template. Instead the leaders in Daytona embraced the new Uptown Nascar in the quest for money, then it went into overdrive when the child prince Brain was installed as King of Nascar.
It all worked for a while with ratings and attendance growing each year, but even the new fans are growing weary of the bland racing and vanilla drivers, while the old fans are, after years of warnings turning off the show and doing other things on the weekends. Jimmie Johnson has taken the baton from Jeff Gordon and is now the new face of powdered suger in Nascar, driving the Hostess Twinkie COT with such consistancy that he is on his way to his 4th straight Cup title. Time to stock up on skim milk and rice cakes to celebrate come Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson is a victim of circumstances. It’s not his fault everyone is crapping on NASCAR these days – he’s just a scapegoat.
Jimmie didn’t invent the chase, the cot, double file restarts, goodyear tires, or anything that people complain about. He – unlike the media and fans, adapted and made the best of it.
Why don’t more drivers save their stuff and use the first 26 races as a test session?
Why don’t other crew cheifs use creative engineering?
The only was Jimmie Johnson has changed NASCAR is by beating everyone else. So You have two choices… get better, or complain till you leave.
You didn’t need to draw it out Vito , you had it right at the begining . NO ONE CARES .
Then of course we have the favoritism question , it never seems to go away . How many times has NASCAR thrown a phoney debris caution just as Johnson has a tire going down , or Gordon is about to get lapped . Some say Dale Jr. now gets the same calls from NASCAR , but in his case it doesn’t seem to be able to help his dismal performance .
You did a great job of trying to sell us on the wonderfullness of your two favorite drivers Vito , but the hatred for those two , and their teams , and their car owner , run far deeper than just dumb uninformed race fans reacting to drivers who win all the time .
Interesting you mention their charitable works . This area is one where i do have a problem with the facts being far outweighed by the hype . While they both do give to charitable causes , they usually do so by writing checks , not by getting their hands dirty . I know they’ve both made feeble efforts to look like heros and pound a nail or two , but those times were mostly photo ops . When it became fashionable to have foundations , they both jumped on the bandwagon . Any amount of giving is a good thing ,and they should be proud of helping , but lets drop the sainthood idea for those two , because they are pretty far down the list of racers who really do give of both themselves and their money .
Nobody is disputing the fact that Johnson is a great driver. He is just that. The problem is there is no connection made with blue collar people that so loved Earnhardt because of his forcefull personality. The sad thing is that Johnson came up the hard way from a blue collar environment. I used to watch him in the off-road truck series. Even in the Busch series he showed personality. What happened? Part of it is that Hendrick Motorsports does not want drivers that spark even the remote possibility of controversary. They all fit this robotic state. Dale Jr. does not fit into this mold and I think that is one of the reasons for his failure at Hendricks. God, even Stewart is suddenly suffering from Hendrickitis. Not Gordonitis, but Hendrickitis. The reason Johnson is viewed with such hostility is that he shows the personality of a fence post to the public, just as Gordon did. Like I said, no connection with the common fan I’m sure Johnson has a different personality away from the track, but until he’s allowed to show it, this is the way he will be perseived. This is my take.
I am very rarely at a loss for words but I am now…and saddened. I cant believe the hatred and vitriol directed against people in our sport by others who dont even know them. My God, in the great scheme of things its really not that important!!!
Bad Wolf said: “I had never seen fans of any other driver at the track during qualifying get up and leave as a group after their driver had qualified.”
I have heard many stories of Dale Jr fans showing up to watch him qualify and then getting up and leaving afterwards, too…. As well as leaving the track and/or turning off the TV once Dale crashes out during the race.
Gordon has two things Johnson doesn’t, a personality and a better looking wife.
Matt said: “idiot moron and his cheating crew chief only has to be great for 10 Races…”
Tell Kyle Busch or Matt Kenseth they only have to be great for 10 races…