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 April 14, 2010
ESPN reported Tuesday afternoon that Kasey Kahne has signed a multi-year agreement with Rick Hendrick, leaving Richard Petty Motorsports effective the end of the 2010 season. The announcement comes as quite a blow to RPM, who had been riding a wave of good fortune in recent weeks with Paul Menard’s improbable top-12 points performance and A.J. Allmendinger’s pole-winning run at Phoenix. It also comes on the heels of reports that RPM has defaulted on a $90 million loan and is in the midst of further debt restructuring.
But here’s one emotion no one from that team should be feeling tonight: shock. From as early as last year, Kahne had essentially put RPM on notice he wanted out.
“I got to the point where I’ve got one year left, and I want to do everything I can to do the best job I can for Richard Petty Motorsports in my final year, and it’s up to them what happens,” Kahne said last fall. “They do their thing, and I’ll do mine. All I can do is what I can do.”
The 30-year-old has remained consistent on that position ever since, saying recently he’d make up his mind on his future by June. But it turns out in this case, Kahne decided to go the early decision route, choosing to join forces with what is unquestionably the premier operation in NASCAR – and possibly in all of motorsports.
While the exact details of the contract have not yet been released, and thus there seems to be some confusion as to the what, when, and where of the deal – Kahne will actually not be driving for HMS in 2011, but 2012. The report ESPN aired stated Kahne was leaving for Hendrick in 2011, however, moments later NASCAR.com issued a press release email stating he would not be driving a Hendrick Motorsports car until 2012.
That being said, a few questions and scenarios spring to mind. Chief among them are where Kahne goes for 2011, and what other drivers may be affected by this domino of dominoes falling nearly a year in advance?
The easy way out on that one is that something would be put together for Kahne to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing next season, joining former fellow USAC stars Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. That would make sense, but would also do little to dispel the notion that Stewart-Haas Racing is little more than a creative badge engineering of Hendrick Motorsports; the Pontiac Sunfire to the Chevy Cavalier of NASCAR superteams. While Stewart has expressed reluctance to expand his operation further for Kahne – or his buddy Kevin Harvick – things could very well change with adequate sponsorship, something that Kahne would have no trouble attracting.
After all, just look at his success with middle-aged moms in minivans from those Allstate commercials.
Digging deeper, though, the prevailing assumption in Hendrick pulling the trigger is that Kahne was snapped up early as a suitable replacement for Mark Martin in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Martin, who will turn 52 in January, will be in the final year of a three-year contract in 2011. That extension was signed early last year following a remarkable start by his new team, which saw him win five events and finish second in the final points standings (to Jimmie Johnson) for the fifth time in his storied career.
Originally, Martin was going to drive a full 2009 season, with 26 races to follow in 2010, returning to the limited schedule he had enjoyed the previous two years. Martin has not given any indication to his future plans yet, and Rick Hendrick has pretty much let Martin dictate his own future, after hounding him to come back full-time and drive his cars in recent years. While Martin is signed through 2011, that is not to say that he would be opposed to seeking an extension past that time, sticking around a year or two to help out the boss should something happen with another one of their driver’s situations.
It wouldn’t be the first time Martin put off taking a break from the action and was pressed back into service. So while the general assumption is that Kahne will be in the No. 5 in 2012, there is another seat at Hendrick Motorsports that could very well become vacant by that date.
To say Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has struggled a bit during his tenure at Hendrick Motorsports — particularly the last couple of seasons — would be a bit of an understatement. So far in 2010, the No. 88 Chevrolet continues to lag noticeably behind the team cars of Johnson and Jeff Gordon as well as those of Martin, which are built alongside them. While a second-place finish at Daytona and a pole in Atlanta have been bright spots, the No. 88 still seems to be stuck as a 12th- to 15th-place car most weekends.
With the departure of his cousin, Tony Eury, Jr. as his crew chief, Earnhardt, Jr. has yet to display much consistency – or comfort level – at Hendrick Motorsports despite public comments to the contrary by himself, Rick Hendrick, and new crew chief Lance McGrew.
So considering the struggles Earnhardt, Jr. has endured, along with the constant criticism and critique of his performance the last few years, I don’t believe it would be much of a surprise if he were to leave such a star-studded team and drive for an operation where he would be the primary focus – much as he was at DEI during more prosperous times in the first half of the new millennium. Many scoff at that notion, claiming that Hendrick would never let a cash cow like Earnhardt, Jr. go, but who could have predicted that he would have also left the building that once had his name on it?
Not only that, but one does not have to look all that far to see somewhere else where Earnhardt, Jr. might fit in a bit more than he does now.
It is no secret that Kevin Harvick was looking to drive somewhere other than Richard Childress Racing late last year. A stunning turnaround in 2010 has Harvick fourth in points, bringing a contender to the track every weekend the first two months of the season. But his contract still expires in November, leaving no guarantees he’ll re-sign with Childress now that things appear to be headed in the right direction.
This scenario leaves a potential opening at RCR, with up to two more after 2011 (when both Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton’s contracts expire). Richard Childress also still has the rights to the No. 3 that Earnhardt, Jr.’s father made so famous in capturing six titles. You can connect the dots from here, but there are more than a few fans that would welcome the return of the No. 3 to the track with an Earnhardt at the wheel. Granted, in the past Earnhardt, Jr. has balked at the notion of running with his dad’s old number, but that was also the number that he won two Busch Grand National championships with in 1998 and ’99. Couple this scenario with his existing relationship with the Wrangler Jeans Co., and the nostalgic throwback possibilities are off the charts.
So while Earnhardt, Jr. is signed at Hendrick Motorsports through 2012, stranger things have happened, and there are potentials abounding at RCR – so HMS snagging Kahne a year early is a smart insurance policy.
And what about Martin? This is where I have to issue my standard disclaimer when discussing Martin’s recent past or future plans: He never said he was going to retire, only that he was pulling back from the grind of a full season.
He is still having the time of his life, in competitive cars, working with a crew chief who idolized him growing up, and very well could have a pair of wins already this season if not for a gouged Goodyear and a blind Biffle. Pick whatever analogy you want to assign to Martin; Rocky, The Terminator, the dismembered knight from Monty Python and The Holy Grail – he shows no signs of slowing down, nor has he expressed a desire to pack it in anytime soon.
So what might Martin do if the No. 5 is no longer in his future? There is one seat that right now appears to be open for 2012; and to a legion of fans who still have a wardrobe full of faded Valvoline – or Viagra – memorabilia, it is a familiar one.
David Ragan, current driver for the No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford, is signed to drive the iconic No. 6 car through 2011. But after a promising 2008 season, Ragan has had little to show for his efforts on the Sprint Cup side of things, except for that last second slingshot at Talladega that saw him capture his first Nationwide Series win in 2009. He currently sits 28th in points, and was on the cusp of falling out of the top 35 in owner points before his 19th-place finish at Phoenix last Saturday. With the lucrative UPS sponsorship on the line for what was the original car for Roush’s NASCAR venture, might its original pilot return to the seat where his career was reborn in 1988?
While the circumstances surrounding Martin’s original departure from the machine that many still identify him with today for 19 seasons were muddy, to say the least, he has never appeared bitter or resentful towards Jack Roush. When I had the opportunity to interview Martin last year at Michigan prior to his win in the LifeLock 400, he smiled and spoke warmly of Roush, who was one of the first to greet him in Victory Lane following his first win in nearly four years at Phoenix last April. Roush has said that he should have been more involved in the discussions to help keep Martin involved in their Cup program, and Martin himself has often stated to “never to say never” in regards to what he might do in the future.
Granted, all of this is conjecture, theory, and wild accusation. It is hard to gauge where and when Kahne will actually end up at Hendrick Motorsports until an announcement is formally made. While it likely will be the No. 5 car, nothing is for certain just yet, as Hendrick Motorsports is about as buttoned down as any place you will find outside of Quantico when it comes to leaks or releasing information before the time and place of their choosing.
Whatever the ultimate plan ends up being, the signing of Kasey Kahne remains yet another coup for Hendrick Motorsports, who essentially has the market cornered on driver talent in the Sprint Cup Series. Kahne may well be headed for a brief stint at Stewart-Haas Racing in the meantime, but 2012 will see him in a Hendrick ride full-time, and likely back to the form that he displayed in 2006 that saw him capture six wins and six poles.
And that means a tragic blow, once again, in the Blue Oval office. For if there is any irony in all these moves, it is that Ford has once again lost the one driver it had originally tabbed to help break the dominance of Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
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Who’s going to hire a driver for 1 year?
And Vito – you missed the BIG scenario. Gordon retires, Kahne (the previously-coined “next” Jeff Gordon) takes over the 24. Danica takes over for Martin part-time, and Kahne’s Budweiser sponsorship returns to Dale Jr. And everyone’s jacket’s, t’s, and hat’s get dusted off and return to prominance!
Your scenario for Gordon’s retirement could be spot-on. I remember an interview he gave in the mid-90s, saying he couldn’t imagine driving the cars for twenty years. 2012 would be his 20th season. Danica will give up on NASCAR while still in the Nationwide series. She has NO talent for IndyCar and less for stock cars. Her experiment is because she had used the “I’ll go to NASCAR, if you don’t pay me more money,” tactic twice in the IndyCars. The IndyCar owners were prepared to let her go, she would have come back begging to drive for minimum wage. Now she looked dismal in 3 NASCAR starts, and is seriously off pace in the IndyCars. She doesn’t have the focus to make it in the stock car world. Don’t forget that Hendrick still holds a long-term option on Keselowski (if I’m not mistaken). That could put Kahne and Keselowski in the 5 and 88 and Jr could return to the Nationwide series and drive his own equipment while trying to figure out where it all went wrong.
Gorodn signed an extension that has in in the No. 24 through 2013 and possibly 2014, which is why I didn’t persue that angle. I can’t see him retiring in 2012 – besides, his back seems to be doing a lot better.
I thought Danica might split time with Mark at some point as well, but I think she needs to get some serious seat time and acclimate to stockcars before being plugged into one of the best cars in the business.
It seems to me that most people forget what makes Junior lucrative—cash. If you look at the Hendrick stable, Junior is funding the 88, the 5, and on some weekends the 24. It doesn’t matter if he runs 6th or 36th, he is bringing $$$ to HMS. Unlike Kyle Petty, who Junior is often compared with, Junior is an economic force that has expanded way beyond his father’s coattails. Junior may have been loved for being Dale Sr.‘s son; now, most fans love Junior ‘cause he’s Junior.
I don’t see Junior getting kicked to the curb by Hendrick, though I can see Junior saying, “where’s my championship” and hitting the road with sponsors in tow. I think the Jamie McMurray running @ JrMotorsports is intriguing. Are the lines of communication reopened and the possibility of ownership in Ganassi/Earnhardt a possibility? Maybe Theresa is finally willing to sell and Junior is willing to buy.
Speculation is fun “as the world turns.”
I have never understood all the love for Kasey, he has never shown me that he was a consistant top 10 driver. If the Casey he replaced was given the seat time this Kasey was given he could have won too.
JPM didn’t have serious seat time until he got to Cup. And his career is pretty solid at this point. As soon as he wins on an oval (i.e. when he gets to INDY in July) he’ll be considered a top tier driver.
Let’s recap, Hendrick has (through):
So Kahne would have to slide into the 5 car in 2012. Unless Rick Hendrick knows something we don’t.
Hendrick 2014 Could look vastly different than today:
Is this the beginning of the end for the Hendrick Dynasty?
Casey (Who?) Mears got YEARS in the 5 car and was never competative. Kasey (My Boy) Kahne had immediate success his rookie campaing. Do you not remember the drama of “where will Kahne score his first win” after he ran second all those races and got screwed by oil at Dover?
I like HOOD’s thoery of Junior starting his own team and taking the sponsorship with him, but remember – sponsors have contracts and relationships with teams too. Hence why Tony Stewart drives for Old Spice and not Home Depot anymore.
On a side note – how finny would it be to see Tony Stewart shirtless riding a horse backwards???
I think Danica will pick up a full time ride in Cup but I seriously doubt it will be with Hendrick. I think that, as we have pointed out, Hendrick will have too many drivers to stay under the 4 car cap.
Perhaps we get a Hendrick spin off team? Let Gordon retire from racing and run it? Oooohhhh.
When does Mark Martin’s son start driving for Hendrick?
IMO, if Hendrick wants Kahne in 2011, Martin will leave Hendrick in 2011 because that’s just the type of person he is.
Hmm, reading these comments is a bit like reading comments on the tv show “LOST”. Lots of wild theories in the absence of many facts.
I especially like the comment from noel-w referencing an interview from 15 years ago and dismissing more recent interviews in which Gordon stated he plans to run another 4 or 5 years.
VaBlueGrass: Mears was actually only in the #5 car for 1 year (2008). He was in the #25 Hendrick car the year before (2007). In all, he spent just 2 years at Hendrick and had a major team/crew chief change in the middle. In fact, Casey’s entire Cup career has featured one change after another. I think he’s a better driver than we’ve seen, but he needs to have something constant for a while in order to show his abilities. Despite all that, he still finished a solid 15th in points in 2007.
from what i’ve read, martin’s son wants nothing to do with racing. when he was younger, he was being groomed for next star rousch racer. i think matt martin got burned out on racing at such a young age, as he raced when he was 10 or 11 in a series.
I was talking about Casey Atwood who drove for Evernham his first year as an owner. He should have won at Homestead as a rookie, but for a late race caution, him and the team were really starting to jell, when he was replaced by Kasey Kahne, who did not have immediate success.
Sorry I was wrong Casey Atwood was replaced by Jeremey Mayfield, and Kasey Kahne replaced Bill Elliot.
I believe the Casey WCFAN is referring to is Casey Atwood, not Casey Mears. My guess is many of you do not remember who Casey Atwood is.
I also read an announcement on Jayski’s today stating Kasey would replace Mark in the 5 in 2012 in “ “ from Rick Henderick.
I hope he dumps Jr. Puts Kasey in the 88, and signs Mark to a lifetime contract. When Mark is done, so I am with Nascar.
Casey Atwood hasn’t been relevant this NASCAR era.
Neither has Casey Mears, actually.
This is also the Rick Hendrick who claimed he had NO PLANS to sign Dale Jr. because his “stable was full.” So I wouldn’t cash they check too premature.
This is one of the nuttiest articles I have ever read. Hendrick is not going to let Junior go no matter what. There are too many dollars there to let them fly away. Additionally, Junior drove the number 8 car in the Busch series when he won his championships.
I still like the Ganassi/DEI (Daddy’s old company with a piece of the pie) or RCR angle for Junior.
Looks like the highly overpaid Henrick test team driver, Dale Jr., will have a busy summer doing R&D under race conditions, building a data base of info for the 2011 driver of the #88 BUD Chevy, Kasey Kahne.
Well, Kahne never really specified <i><b>which</b></i> June, did he? Everyone just assumed he meant by<i>this</i> June he’d make up his mind where he’d be going. I think the writing was on the wall last year…
I’m most intrigued by that 2011 year. Let’s say Kahne goes to SHR for a year. How would that benefit SHR in any way? Unless Kahn brings his sponsorship with him to SHR and it stays with SHR when Kahne leaves to take over the 5 car in 2012, then there’s no real upside to the deal from a financial standpoint (unless, of course, there’s money changing hands which allows for some sort of sub-sponsorship—and offshoot Budweiser product maybe—that’ll stay with SHR long term. If that isn’t the deal, and Budweiser stays with SHR they could (after Kahne leaves for Hendrick) at least have sponsorship money to attract an up and coming driver to their Cup team or even an established star. If the sponsor goes where the driver goes, what good does that do SHR? And will Budweiser stay with Kahne or go to Earnhardt at Hendrick—who had such a long association with them?
And speaking of which, what does the Kahne thing do for to Harvick’s situation—he’s the one most mentioned to leave RCR for SHR? What will he do now? I think Kahne’s switch to Hendrick changes everything, but not that way people think it will.Like Formula 1, there’s no such thing as “Co-number 1’s,” everybody else on the team fights for second place. How’s it going to sit with Jr and Gordon if Kahne is the # 2? I’m guessing not very well. I’ll go on record now as saying that Kahne will have a Mark Martin year (his good year with Hendrick) in that 5 car his first year, then drop off and become ordinary again.
This deal benefits Hendrick, but I’m not so sure it helps anyone else in the Hendrick “family.”
This signing sure dashes the hopes of Keselowski ever coming back to Hendrick (as some have speculated). And it also limits the hopes of anyone in the Busch series moving into quality rides in Cup…
I’m not totally convinced that this deal is as good a deal as it looks on paper.
See, I was totally right about Kasey switching to Hendrick Motorsports. I’ve been telling everyone, but they never listened.
I also said that Dale Jr will be going to Richard Childress Racing too. That is where Dale needed to be in the first place. Every time I see JR, I think to myself why is he running like 20th and his three teammates are 1, 2, 3? I hope to god that Dale Jr leave Hendrick Motorsports. Then once he does, Harvick will join his buddy at Stewart Haas Racing, that would leave the seat open for Brad Keselowski to jump to Hendrick Motorsports with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Kasey Kahne, and with the #12 seat open at Penske, they will grab Justin Alligar from the Nationwide side.
J.J. said, “Let’s say Kahne goes to SHR for a year. How would that benefit SHR in any way?
It would benefit Hendrick so that is all that needs to be said. SHR is Hendrick to an extent and SHR is not going to bite the hand that feeds them.
@Stephen HOOD, We think along the same lines, RCR or EGR would be fine. I do hope that Kasey gets the #25 next year. :) What I have not understood is Jr. ran great with “Pops” as cc. Pops stepped back and Eury Jr. took on cc alone. They faltered and Pops did not step back in and bring them back to the top and Pops yelled at Jr. for leaving DEI, it would take away their money. Now Pops works for JR Motorsports. It is Jr. who brings the money in. They could bring in a lot more money if Pops were back on Jr.‘s pit box & Jr. went back to winning. But what do I know…? I would be happy with Jr. back in the #8, if they can work that out. Time has a way of changing perspective. :)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove the No. 3 to win his Championships; the No. 8 cars were driven by Martin Truex, Jr.
As long as Jr is a cash cow, regardless of how bad he runs, he will not be released by Hendrick.
I see Kahne signing with SHR for one season to run a 3rd car and to remain under the Hendrick umbrella. Then he goes to the 5 car in 2012.
Gordon retiring is an interesting thought. Although, I think Jeff will still be racing past 2012
Jr has NEVER been a consistent front runner in the Cup series. He was not only consistent, but dominant in the (then) Busch series. Consistently leading laps at a restrictor plate track, does NOT qualify as consistency. His entire cup career has been marked by wins, with stretches of 15-25th place finishes between. That is why he has failed to qualify for the chase, more often than he has made the chase.
@Bill B: I didn’t say Gordon would retire. I said he could retire. My referencing the old interview, was only meant to illustrate the point that Gordon will not still be driving at 52, like Martin is. Anyway you look at it, Gordon is much closer to retirement, than even the mid-point of his career. And as he rapidly approaches the 10th attempt at his “drive for 5,” I think the odds go up that he retires sooner rather than later to enjoy his family and money.
@Vito: Hendrick signed Gordon to a lifetime contract 12 or so years ago. I’m not sure how many contract extensions are required on a lifetime contract. When DuPont re-upped, the announcement may have been that Gordon will be the driver, but I doubt DuPont or Hendrick would do anything but wish Gordon good luck if he decided to retire tomorrow. That is not meant to say he will retire before the next 5 seasons are over, but who would stand in his way if he chose to?
Gordon has a lifetime contract with Hendrick, however he committed to drive the 24 through 2013, with the hopes of sticking around through 2014. Rick Hendrick confirmed this back in November.
I am not sold on it being an absolute to put Kahne in the No. 5 in 2012. I find it unlikely that Gordon will retire anytime before 2013, JJ isn’t going anywhere – I still think the biggest wildcard is Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Im not a doctor, but what financial sense does that make? Hendrick pays Jr all this money but they dont want him to win? They are intentionally screwing him because they Fill in the blank. No, really, fill in the blank, because I cant think of one reason why they would do it.
And how does this “scenerio” apply to stewart/haas racing, which buys equipment from Hendrick? They seem to be doing just fine and their garages arent even in the same building.
Im really tired of the equipment excuse Jr fans use. One of these days they will accept that he just isnt a Jimmy/Jeff/Tony calibur driver. One day…
to fill in the black I would have to say that They only want the name and the money that comes with Dale Jr