Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Voice of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Wednesday April 21, 2010
Ever since Kasey Kahne was named the heir apparent to Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 currently driven by Mark Martin, many in the motoring press are falling all over themselves, salivating over the idea of Kahne taking over the car a year early in 2011.
Mind you, Martin signed an extension in 2009 to drive full-time through the end of that 2011 season — even though HMS originally wanted him through 2012. But as it turns out, contracts have nothing on conspiracy theories these days.
To say Martin’s the Rodney Dangerfield of racing right now would be a bit contradictory. You would be hard-pressed to find one driver in the garage area that is as universally lauded, applauded, and held in higher esteem than he. It is puzzling, then, when word came down that Kahne was the chosen successor to the No. 5 Chevrolet – announced nearly two years ahead of schedule, Formula One-style – that virtually every pundit in the press was ready to roll Martin out the door before the season was even completed.
Rumors flew wildly in the first couple of days following last week’s announcement, in part because there was little offered by Hendrick Motorsports or Martin himself as to what his future would hold past 2011. All car owner Rick Hendrick said last Wednesday was that Martin would indeed be in the No. 5 next year, and that it is his wish to remain there.
“Mark has said he wants to drive the No. 5 car in 2011, and that’s the way we’re headed right now,” Hendrick said. “Mark made the decision that 2011 would be his last year. He came to me a year ago suggesting Kahne for the No. 5.”
At Texas Motor Speedway last weekend, when the subject was broached repeatedly, Martin seemed to tire of the nay saying, which as of late has become nothing less than obtuse.
“I don’t know why you had to ask that,” Martin said before Friday’s practice. “If I didn’t [want to be in the car for 2011], I wouldn’t be driving it. It’s not clear to me why you don’t understand.”
That’s actually pretty funny.
“These guys wanted me to drive it for 2012. I came here [in 2009], and it was a little bit of a stretch to do one full-time season. I gave them three. It’s been the gift of my career. One of my biggest concerns has been who was going to be the successor – I didn’t want to commit to [full-time in 2012] now, so I wanted to make sure Hendrick was set. And they are set in such an incredibly perfect scenario.”
Sounds pretty cut and dry to me, right?
For those who may remember the circumstances surrounding Martin’s last few seasons at Roush (prior to the Fenway) Racing, I can kind of understand why some would be a bit gun shy about the goings-on as Martin prepares to complete his tenure in the No. 5 – albeit not for over a year and a half. 2005 was supposed to be Martin’s last full season in the No. 6 Roush Fords that he had helped pioneer to prominence since the rebirth of his NASCAR career in 1988.
With team owner and friend Jack Roush in a bind and hurting for drivers, he was convinced to stay on for one more year until a replacement could be found for the No. 6 car. At no point during that time did Martin ever say he was retiring – he only wished to pull back from the strain of so many missed opportunities and a chance to share a relationship with his son that was as special as the bond that he shared with his late father, Julian Martin.
Yet when Martin made it known he wasn’t quite ready to dominate the Truck Series every weekend, as he had through 2006, the powers at be at Roush Racing and Ford seemed uninterested and unwilling to try and piece together a limited program for the cornerstone of their racing empire.
While Roush laments that he wasn’t as involved in the proceedings as he should have been, it set into motion the chain of events that saw Martin nearly win the Daytona 500 in 2007 with the remnants of the upstart MB2 organization, then help DEI through its post-Dale Jr. transition phase, ultimately landing at Hendrick Motorsports at the repeated pursuit and encouragement of Hendrick for Martin to give a full-time schedule one more shot.
The result was five wins, seven poles, and his fifth runner-up points finish that, save for tumbling on his lid on the last lap at Talladega and an incident at Charlotte in the Chase, could have possibly won him a championship. Considering Martin was able to accomplish that in his first season with his fourth team in four years, why are many in the media so eager to see Martin ushered out after what had been one of the most compelling and inspiring stories of what was an admittedly difficult 2009?
For many who are new to the sport of auto racing, Martin comes from the old school, where your word actually means something. He has repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the second chance in a top flight car that Hendrick has provided him at HMS, and the commitment the owner has showed the driver was not something that was lost on Kahne, either.
“Hendrick Motorsports has a commitment to Mark Martin that they want to fulfill, and that’s important,” Kahne said upon announcing he was joining HMS in 2012. “It’s part of what attracts me to the team.”
Another aspect to what might play a role in the future of the No. 5 is the relationship between Martin and crew chief Alan Gustafson. Martin was Gustafson’s childhood hero and when I spoke with him last June at Michigan International Speedway following a win in the LifeLock 400, Gustafson noted that, “I said it before, there is nothing I could do professionally that would top winning a championship with Mark.”
His sentiment and loyalty to his driver has not wavered nearly a year later.
“Mark is as competitive as ever,” Gustafson continued. “I don’t think Mark Martin gives up anything to anybody. I think it’s the other way around. Most of the guys are chasing him as far as driver ability. He is going to run [next year], he is going to be competitive and win races. That’s not going to change. He was a huge help in getting all this stuff done. If we could have Mark for 10 more years, we’d all do it. Mark is going to get to that point in his career, but for right now, the next two years, Mark is going to be standing on the gas.”
So why does everyone think he’s hitting the brakes? On Monday’s edition of NASCAR Now, Randy Lajoie made the comment that, “First Mark is going to retire, then he’s not going to retire — it’s a head game, I think he’s getting in his head!” To which Nicole Briscoe affirmed, “Head games …”
Wait, what? What does that even mean? Who’s playing head games? I must have rewound and watched that seven times the other night on my DV-R, and still cannot make sense of it. It reminds me of Walt Kowalski’s insensitive and ingrate family in Gran Torino during the reading of his will. The mother and granddaughter are more concerned about scoring some jewelry, furniture, and his ’72 Ford than they are in honoring the man’s service in Korea and last act of selflessness.
Sadly, that TV show’s not the only one confused. Sunday evening on Dave Despain’s Wind Tunnel, Kahne’s former car owner, Ray Evernham, was sure that Kahne would be in the No. 5 for 2011. Even on ESPN.com, a blog was salivating over the possibility of Martin taking a ride at Stewart-Haas Racing and letting Kahne get in the car a year early, with Budweiser coming to sponsor Martin.
This theory is so flawed and backwards, I don’t know where to even begin picking it apart.
It is highly unlikely that Budweiser will following Kahne to Hendrick in 2012, as that would jeopardize the exclusivity arrangement HMS has with Pepsi and drivers Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt — two drivers that are kind of a “big deal” in NASCAR circles (no pun intended). It was then suggested that Budweiser could follow Martin to SHR should he end up there in 2011.
Right. Because that would be a sponsorship alignment made in heaven: A beer company joining forces with a driver who used to have a drinking problem and has not had a drop in over 20 years. What a brilliant prediction. Perhaps some of these pundits would be best served sticking to their day job of sitting and picking the wrong Keno numbers for two hours while running up a bar tab at lunch.
While Hendrick’s cryptic “Mark wants to drive that car, and that’s where we are headed, right now“ comment could have some believing that something will change in the months ahead to spark a new plan of action, Martin’s terse response to reporters Friday seemed to quell any notion of him doing anything other than serving a full season in the No. 5 for 2011.
The exchange reminded me of early last season, when rumblings began that Tony Eury, Jr. and Alan Gustafson would be swapped as crew chiefs; Martin was asked if he would support such a decision. The answer was diplomatic but quite clear: he would have no say in such a matter and would do whatever Hendrick asked of him – but he would be really disappointed if he and Gustafson were split up.
Whatever the outcome, others in the media and those who might be fed some disinformation from other outlets need to listen to the man, because words mean things. He is neither retiring, nor looking to abandon driving past 2011, and might even have something else in order for 2012.
“I’m going to drive for a long time, and I might get involved in other capacities as well,” Martin said. “For the first time ever, I would consider an opportunity like Tony Stewart had. I don’t want to be an owner, but if I can be an owner like Tony Stewart, maybe I want it.”
Ahhh … now that is something to chew on.
“I’ve been in the sport long enough to know and have the confidence to know that really interesting opportunities come up,” Martin said. “And they will, and they’ll be fun and exciting, and I’ll explore driving and other things as well.”
My silly, wild-ass guess? Martin runs the entire 2011 season as he emphatically stated last weekend at Texas driving the No. 5, but also becomes a team owner with Hendrick backing for 2011. Kahne drives the new Martin-owned car for a year to help get things up and running, while bringing current longtime crew chief Kenny Francis with him, immersing themselves in the Hendrick Motorsports fold.
In 2012, Kahne gets in the No. 5, while Martin returns to drive the car he owns – much like Stewart does now – bringing Gustafson with him to compete on a limited 26-race basis.
Who would he help coach along those other 10 races? Well, there is this one driver who runs open-wheel that currently shares a sponsor with Martin … but maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
One unsubstantiated rumor at a time, people.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Mark gets no respect on tv either. He runs like dog meat for 330 laps and ends up 6th after being 2 laps down. And all he gets a mention after the checkered flag? Hes never gotten any respect from the media or tv.
This is just wishful thinking on the part of a long-time Mark Martin fan who was so disappointed that he went to race for “Satan”, but I would like to see Mark go “home”, as in back to the #6. So he never won a championship with Jack, so what? He will never win one with Satan Racing, since all the best equipment is given to either The Sleeze (Jimmie) or the Crybaby (Jeff). He only left because he wanted a part time ride and to help his son get his racing career started. But his son lost interest! Come on, Mark, make us all happy again! Go back to the #6! Please!!!
Ken, wishful thinking indeed, but right on, man!!!
Rick Hendrick is about as transparent and trustworthy as President Obama.
Well here’s another scenario . Lame duck drivers often leave teams early so that the new guy can get up and running as quickly as possible . Mark leaves Hendrick early ( at or near the end of 2010 ) and moves to another team , quite possibly to a third Stewart Haas team . I really don’t think Budweiser will have a problem finding another team . And there really isn’t any reason why Bud wouldn’t follow Mark to a new team . If you were Bud , and looking for a popular spokesman , you could do a lot worse than Mark Martin . If Mark has handled sobriety for twenty years , i doubt having a beer sponsor is going to pose any big problems for him .
ken, why don’t you tell us how you really feel…. Hendrick is no more satan than Roush, Childress, or Penske. They all work in the gray areas and pay off the Frances, Period. Mark Martin is OLD and needs to get out of the race car before he hurts himself or someone else.
Vito…….I think you’re SPOT ON with your “silly, wild-ass guess”! Nothing would make more sense. JMHO As far as 24Crazy’s comment….the Crazy part of your handle is also SPOT ON!!
24Crazy, I have two words for you: Harry Gant. Gant was still winning when he was 54 years old. Mark is the next Harry Gant, and the 6 is a perfect place for him! He should have never left that seat!
24 Crazy – Your man cleaned out a good part of the field on Monday. Mark – Bud wont sponsor a non-drinker! Vito – good article!
I dont understand why everyone keeps thinking that Martin is going to be the driver to leave Hendrick. Wouldnt it make the most sense to get rid of the weakest link? Kick JR out and bring in someone that actually knows how to win.
I don’t see a scenario where Mark opens his own race team. Even with Hendrick backing, that’s a tall task.
Stewart enjoyed success, but he also open a shop when many other teams were contracting. This allowed him to hand pick through the recently let go talent, and create a strong team.
Starting from scratch is tough.
Martin could go start and park for a team. Too bad he won’t have a championship provisional to fall back on…. too soon?
are there some nut out there,
JR Motorsports is going cup racing in 2012. Limited schedule, and martin will be the driver. Possibly a partnership. Martin wants to secure his kids financial future. jrm possibly fields a fulltime team w/ jr driving when his hendrick ride is up. hendrick backing, of course. rick n jeff gotta make sure their investment is safe.
Oh, Im not a Kahne fan. He isn’t my boy or anything… but I think a trained monkey could do better in the 88 compared to its current “driver.”
mark talks out his a ss
That last bit [about Martin being an owner/and bring Gustafson with him to his own team is an interesting theory…
it sure doesn’t do much for Gustafson’s career, does it?
I think Martin leaves Hendrick and goes back to Roush in that 6 car replacing Ragan. The irony (not mention the friendship an loyalty) would be perfect.
And Gustafson? He goes with Roush and Martin and they team together to teach Roush how to win again…
How’s that for theory?
Martin goes to the James Finch team (with a boatload of support already) and becomes an “owner” (thanks to some serious cash and a nod of thanks to Martin from Hendrick for making room for Kahne) and they drag Gustafson along, too.
Also a theory.
Martin/Gustafson and JR team up (with a boatload of support from Hendrick to kickstart JRs Cup team…
You’ll notice so far there’s no theory involving SHR…
So, here it goes:
Martin goes to SHR with Gustafson (which sure wouldn’t hurt SHR), hangs on a couple of more years (which he now says he wants to do) until SHR has three teams in the clandestine Hendrick fold and all things are running smoothly and then Martin really retires and then SHR starts to fade and needs to hire new blood…
And that’s the end of my theories… for now.
All of this begs the question(s): what of Harvick and Danica Patrick in 2011?
I think they’re both left out in the proverbial cold.
The #6 and steal Valvoline back.
Hmm… the # 2 option on my list is looking like a real possibility now that James Finch has put his cut team up for sale…
Maybe Martin will be a Cup—with a truckload full of cash and suport from Hendrick—owner after all.