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 May 12, 2010
With the schedule for the 36-week Sprint Cup Series as jam-packed as it is, what do drivers in NASCAR’s premier division do in their free time?
Fly up to Michigan on a windy and rainy 45-degree spring day to race me in a go-kart, for one.
Kyle Busch made a stop Tuesday in Grand Rapids, Michigan to Craig’s Cruisers, part of a promotion by Michigan International Speedway for next month’s Heluva Good Sour Cream Dips 400. MIS has spent over $55 million dollars in upgrades to the 2.0-mile oval, and has lowered ticket prices to as low as $25 for the upcoming June 13th race; this effort was their latest, greatest attempt to showcase those changes to the public. The event had fans turning lap times on an indoor slick track from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM, where the fastest qualifiers from two heats would race against Busch, driving a cart clad in his familiar yellow No. 18 M&M’s livery.
There was then a separate race held for Busch to race against members of the media, yours truly included.
Prior to all the beatin’ and bangin’, I asked Kyle about the success he and crew chief Dave Rogers have enjoyed thus far, and Rogers’ assertion that the No. 18 team is about where he expected it to be at this point. With the upward trend Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates are experiencing in 2010, might they be the group that displaces Hendrick Motorsports as the top team in NASCAR?
“I certainly hope so,” said Busch. “We have a lot going for us. Joey’s really doing a great job, able to help us and give us a lot better feedback and information. (Greg) Zipadelli, Mike Ford, and Dave Rogers really work good together. The way the cars leave the shop now this year, I feel like they are a little bit better prepared, and whenever you start that way, the weekend goes a lot smoother.”
“I’d say that’s the reason for our success.”
I then asked Busch to take that question a step further. With a new crew chief in Rogers coming on board and the return of the rear spoiler, is it a slew of new cars that’s been the reason for the rebound of the team that just a year ago many had picked to prevent Jimmie Johnson from winning his fourth consecutive championship?
Turns out that couldn’t be further from the truth, as for this dynamic duo older is actually better.
“We’re still running last year’s cars,” he revealed. “There’s really not a whole lot of difference between cars. It just seems that the more you run these cars, the more they taper off a little bit. The fresher the car, the better it runs. We’ve got a lot of new things coming, and the team’s excited about it, the Mars and Interstate people are excited about it, so, as you said, we keep progressing towards the Chase, and when we get there, we’ll really hit our stride.”
I was hitting my stride as well on this day. Since I arrived at the track a couple of hours early, I got a chance to evaluate a couple of different carts and got in a few practice sessions. Following my second go round, I put up the fastest time of the day – a number that would fall to only eighth-fastest overall by the end of the event.
Yeah, that’s right. It’s important, it matters, and it makes a difference.
What has also made a difference many believe for Busch this year has been him simply maturing as a competitor. There have been precious few moments this season that have shown a despondent Busch storming away from his car while ESPN holds the camera a few inches off the ground, filming him storming away back to his motorhome while offering little or nothing in the way of a response. There’s been enough of a change for Denny Hamlin to refer to Busch as the “new Kyle” at Darlington, a nickname Busch eats up faster than a pack of M&M’s that sponsor him.
“I put on a good act, don’t I? That’s what I’m here for – I’m just kidding. It’s a show, right? That’s what I hear (chuckling). I seem to be a pretty easy-going guy off the racetrack,” he said. “Owning the race team, I’ve got a lot of people who work for me and a lot who look up to me in that respect. Rick Ren (Director of Operations for Kyle Busch Motorsports) wouldn’t have come to this deal if he didn’t like who I was as a person, or what my goals were or what my mentality was.”
While it’s no secret that Busch is one of the more polarizing drivers on the circuit for many race fans, he keeps pretty good company in the “boo bird” category. But when the issue was raised to him by another reporter that he is the next in line of some drivers who weren’t universally accepted or welcomed when they first started, Busch was also unapologetic.
“Jeff Gordon wasn’t. Dale Earnhardt wasn’t. Rusty Wallace wasn’t. Darrell Waltrip wasn’t,” he emphasized before running out of names to recite. “I could make excuses all day long. I’m here to do what I need to do – to win races, and keep sponsors on the side of my race car.”
Achieving those goals entails rubbing fenders and ruffling feathers sometimes, even if it’s your own sibling. Indeed, it took awhile for the rivalry and inner-squabble with brother Kurt Busch that arose from a much publicized wreck at the 2007 All-Star Race to work itself out. After both drivers really struggled to move on from it, they were forced to endure a bit of prodding from Grandma before things finally cooled down.
“Well there’s not much of a rivalry, really,” he claims now. “Maybe there was a couple of years ago, [but] things have sort of simmered – we have a sibling rivalry, we always want to out do each other, but it’s a friendly one – we like to go out there and compete. Him having Steve Addington this year, those guys really have it out to beat us. For me, I’m just out there trying to learn what I can this year for the Chase, and beat anybody I need to beat. “
“There’s 40 other guys I have to worry about besides my teammate and my brother.”
On this day, however, there was one more guy for him to worry about. This guy. I’m pointing at myself with my thumb right now. – - – One of the changes this year has been retrofitting of the cars with the traditional blade rear spoiler, ditching the wing that most never warmed up to. Considering Busch won a career-high eight races in 2008, one might believe he misses the Erector Set contraption. Busch, however, prefers the spoiler despite many drivers downplaying the effect it has had on how the cars perform.
“For me, it’s just a little more…comfort,” he said. “Everyone knows I like to run the car a little bit loose. With the wing, anytime you’d be running a little bit loose, it would seem like you’d be too loose. You couldn’t go fast, you wouldn’t have enough comfort to drive it harder. With the spoiler, it seems like the car is a little more planted all around the racetrack. Down the straightaway, through the corner, everywhere. I don’t know what it is, it just feels that way. I feel a little more security to be able to just tug on that wheel a little more and not feel like the car is going to slide out.”
I felt comfortable in my car that had an integrated spoiler into the body as well Tuesday. I may have had an advantage that others didn’t – 205 lbs of self-generated downforce – which usually translates into increased drag. (Don’t worry, ladies… you won’t be seeing me strut about in skinny jeans anytime soon.)
There was just one more item of business before we got started. Busch’s new Truck team made headlines in the offseason, but has became an even larger story following his win at Richmond, when it was reported that there were non-payment issues with the subcontractors who were hired to finish the new KB Motorsports building. I asked Busch how he has handled starting a new team with the distractions that have recently come to light surrounding the project.
“Yeah, isn’t that fun?” he joked before turning serious. “Actually, that got resolved… so, yeah, it’s been a challenge.”
Part of the challenge has been just getting the operation up and running to begin with.
“I started with a Late Model team for a few years, then Toyota came to me after the Bill Davis deal shut down, and said they needed some more truck teams out there. I said, ‘OK well, how much are you going to sponsor me?’ [Toyota said] ‘Oh we’re not doing that,’ so I was like, ‘Oh, well…alright…’ Miccosukee came on board, then they left. Tayler Malsam (Busch’s prospect driver), we haven’t been able to find anything for him, so we’re running this thing kind of whole-heartedly. We’re making it happen. It’s been a challenge, it’s frustrating when you can’t find the dollars to make it happen and you’re spending all of your own.”
You’d think a driver who has already amassed over $47 million in career NASCAR earnings already can fund pretty much anything out of pocket. But the risks associated with running your own race team in a sputtering economy have instead become glaringly apparent.
“Yeah, it’s nice that I can do that and give back to the sport a little bit, but – right now – I’d have nothing to retire on,” he explained. “Yeah, I’m 25 and I’ve got years ahead of me, but I don’t want to take the chance on getting hurt and not having anything either. You have to try to watch out for yourself sometimes first.”
I was looking out for Number One on this day as well. – - –
With the media members assembled in the pit area, I scoped out the car I posted that hot lap with a few hours earlier. There it was, in all of its mustard yellow glory, car No. 47. It was somewhat decked out in Marcos Ambrose Little Debbie hues, which caught the eye of Detroit Free Press motorsports writer Mike Brudenell, a native of Melbourne, Australia. Yes, I know Marcos is Tasmanian; I, however, am Italian, and even though my given name – Vitaliano Pugliese (Pull-YAY!-zee) sounds more Monza than Martinsville, I was into fendered fencing first, and it was go time.
As the cars were lined up on the starting grid, Dave Goricki of The Detroit News slid up in front of me and assumed the outside pole. Since no cars were assigned, it wasn’t exactly a 1960’s Le Mans-style start, but even at this level of competition, if you snooze, you lose.
No matter; I had eight laps to get to the front and avenge this injustice. I reached up and pulled those belts tight – one more time.
The green flag – well, the checkered flag – fell and the field of 19 was released for eight laps. I quickly dispatched of Goricki – in part because he drove across my nose and spun himself out. I proceeded to hound the No. 88 Mountain Dew car of Grand Rapids FOX 17 anchor Tara Miller for the next four laps.
My cart was as fast as it had been in morning practice, and I was trying to make a clean pass for the lead. After all, I harp all the time on how I think the bump and run is Busch league (no pun intended), and how guys like Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, and Jeff Burton have set the standard for doing things “the right way.”
After the third circuit, I wanted to do it the wrong way. Really, really bad – but I didn’t have the heart. She had been most pleasant speaking with moments earlier.
Just about the same time I was wussing out, I slid a little wide and suddenly found myself four-abreast as my little electric motor struggled to spool back up and propel me forward again. My cart then suddenly began to lunge forward violently, and as I glanced over my left shoulder, I saw the reason why I got so loose to begin with: a bright yellow machine emblazoned with a No. 18, and a comely green M&M in white hooker boots winking at me.
I kept my foot in it and maintained pace with the other drivers as we entered an esses portion that I guess kind of resembled Turns 2-5 at Watkins Glen. As two cars got by me, I found myself side-by-side with Kyle Busch. The misgivings I had minutes earlier about pushing a girl or driving dirty had evaporated, and I put my left front bumper against Busch’s right rear, challenging him to take my line away from me in the upcoming right-hand turn.
Then all hell broke loose.
Two cars in front of us collided, one of whom took out Miller in the No. 88 machine that was leading. I juked right at the same time Kyle Busch went left. I missed one spinning car, while Busch shot the gap and squirted forward in front of me. Mike Brudenell avoided disaster as well, leaving just one car between Busch and I.
Sadly, however, that is how things would end. Busch sped away to victory, as I tooled around on the cool down lap with the cold consolation that I got to race side-by-side with one of the top drivers in NASCAR’s modern era. It’s funny how something as simple and silly as a go-kart race can turn you into the racing equivalent of Softball-guy. I didn’t stick around for tech inspection to see if the No. 18 passed, but I didn’t file a protest, either.
It might not have mattered to me, but at least it was irrelevant. Only time will tell if Busch’s season will gain greater importance – although on this day, it seemed like it was all headed back in the right direction.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I have been having nightmares involving Vito in skinny jeans, Dansmom, and a Big Wheel.
Please make it stop
HornK that is funnier than the entire article.
WTG Michigan!!! Spending on upgrades and taking in less on tickets. Thats the way to do it! Hang in there and God bless!