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
Monday March 3, 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 May 26, 2010
The last few weeks have been quite unkind to Jimmie Johnson. First, he and teammate Jeff Gordon were disappointed with each other, then the “other” Four-Time said he was pissed to the point Rick Hendrick had to get involved and play the role of U.N. Peacekeeper. Then, the No. 48 was the dominant force at Dover a couple of weeks ago, blowing by everything in sight, including the timing traps on pit road that cost him a penalty and the race win. And during last Saturday night’s All-Star Race, it appeared that he was heading towards his third All-Star Race win, once again allowing the Lowe’s team to reference Charlotte Motor Speedway as “our house” – until he lost control coming off of Turn 4 in the final segment that paid a million dollars to win.
Safe to say, Jimmie and the employee-owners of Lowe’s were not stoked about that one.
What they might also be nonplussed over is that there appears to be a bit of a power vacuum developing in the Sprint Cup Series. Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team has set the benchmark in NASCAR’s top division since 2006, but right now, there appears to be no shortage of challengers to the throne as evidenced by the current glut amongst the top 12 in the point standings, with only 203 points separating Johnson in fifth from Martin Truex, Jr. in 12th.
With that in mind, the Coca-Cola 600 marks the 1/3 mark of the season, and is an appropriate time to take stock of things and set the field for the upcoming all-important Summer Stretch that will define the Chase for the Championship come September. Who’s in the best position to take Johnson down? Let’s look …
1. Kevin Harvick Fresh off his first win in over three years (and people bag on Junior?), Harvick and Richard Childress have apparently mended whatever fences had fallen apart, and have recommitted themselves for several years to come. With potential sponsors rumored as either UPS or The King of Beers, the No. 29 is leading a resurgent RCR atop the points standings.
2. Kyle Busch (-69) Denny Hamlin may have coined a rallying cry with “All we do is win,” but Busch threw down the gauntlet with “Somebody better keep me away from Denny Hamlin,” following Saturday night’s All-Star Race incident between the two teammates. Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers are clearly in sync, and Busch is showing the signs of the dominance that he displayed in 2008 when he first joined Joe Gibbs Racing, coupled with a newfound maturity and leadership that has been absent in seasons past. To quote Vince Vaughn from the movie Swingers, “You grows up and you grows up!” As long as the No. 18 doesn’t “blows up,” he could make the Summer Stretch an agonizing one for the competition.
3. Matt Kenseth (-126) Who? Oh yeah, that guy; the one who captured the 2003 championship and scored two-thirds of Ford’s wins in 2009 – all two of them. No longer wandering around aimlessly like Moses and company through the desert, new crew chief Todd Parrott has appeared as a cloud to the Roush Fenway faithful, and the No. 17 team is performing and acting as the Killer Bees of the DeWalt days. Kenseth is as steady and consistent as they come, and a glance down the schedule the next few months reveals the big horsepower honkers – Michigan, Pocono, Indianapolis, and Atlanta – which should bode well for the new Ford FR9 engine. Team owner Jack Roush is fond of waxing poetic of the ebbs and flow of racing, and this rising tide looks to lift all the boats that sail under the Blue Oval banner.
4. Denny Hamlin (-150) It makes you wonder what kind of surgery was performed on Denny Hamlin’s knee, because he has been going, as my Dad likes to say, “Like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest!” Safe to say, the contest has been pretty one-sided as of late, with the No. 11 knocking out a series-leading three wins, tied with defending champion Johnson in that department. No longer a one-trick pony on flat tracks, DH has become the designated hitter on the high-banks as well. Rick Hendrick conceded that Joe Gibbs Racing may have indeed eclipsed his team – and this guy is a big reason for that. If all they do is win, Pocono, Loudon, and Indianapolis might be foregone conclusions if past performance is any indication.
6. Jeff Gordon (-163) It’s kind of hard to feel sorry for a guy that is sixth in points and has already amassed over $2 million in earnings this year, but Gordon has gotten the short end of the stick more often than not in 2010. There really is no reason that he hasn’t won at least three races this year, save for some seriously horrendous luck. He is as focused and fired up as ever, and his much-maligned crew chief, Steve Letarte, who often serves as the emotional punching bag for so many No. 24 fans, has re-dedicated himself physically and mentally for this season as well. Both driver and crew chief are on top of their game, and with 82 career victories, it’s hard to find a track that’s bad for the original Four-Time. Add in some team-building exercises and s’mores parties with their shopmates, and Gordon might seal up the Drive for Five before JJ does.
7. Greg Biffle (-187) Yeah, I kind of forgot he was this high in the standings, too. Like General Hummel in The Rock, Biffle has achieved his position through poise and audacity, to which he now intends to add resolve. With that, he should probably try to mix in some top 5s, as he has only a pair thus far this season, and of his eight top 10s, four of those have been just that – 10th. Combined with three finishes of 22nd, Biffle is consistent, if anything, and manages to stay out of trouble, keeping the No. 16 3M Ford out of harm’s way. With his stealthy demeanor on the track, he might want to swap numbers with Carl Edwards, because the Biff is about as close to former Roush driver Jeff Burton as you’re going to get. Except for maybe Jeff Burton himself.
8. Jeff Burton (-199) Oh hi, Jeff. After throwing away a sure win at Darlington by running over the air hose … or after the tire guy didn’t toss the gun over the hood … or the jack guy didn’t wait to be told to drop it … Burton put his team on notice: get your heads in the game or we aren’t going to contend. Respond they did, with a second-place finish the following week at Dover to right the ship. The Coca-Cola 600 is a race that plays perfectly into the hands of a veteran like Burton; an endurance event that can turn into a gas-mileage affair or a last-lap shootout that means preserving your equipment until it’s go time. To wit, Burton has two 600 wins to his credit, in 1999 and 2001. The Mayor of NASCAR has long since flown under the radar, but is beginning to show up as more than just a blip in recent weeks, and may be carpet bombing the field by the time summer rolls around.
9. Kurt Busch (-237) I have this recurring image in my head of Busch chucking a bottle (not of the Miller Lite Vortex variety) into the cockpit of his Penske Dodge Charger back at Bristol after being one-upped by the No. 48 team. Busch and crew chief Steve Addington may have tipped their hand a bit Saturday night at Charlotte, displaying serious speed that virtually nobody came close to matching – this, after mashing their monster Mopar into the Turn 4 wall on more than one occasion. There is a reason why they’ve been painting their wheels that hideous yellow of late – probably to hide the wall scars. No matter, the Blue Deuce will likely put a hurtin’ on ‘em this weekend, where upon exiting the car in Victory Lane, Kurt will give their winning car another unfortunate nickname. Kurt, if you’re reading this, you’ve got time to think of a really good one. Please.
10. Carl Edwards (-281) That Subway commercial where he lifts his car up looking for his sandy is beginning to get about as annoying as the DirecTV commercial with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. whipping donuts at Richmond a few years ago – just not to the degree of the Pizza Hut commercial several years back where there was a divine light emitting from their cardboard box. But I digress. A quick look at Edwards’ finishes reminds me of a guy trying to kickstart a recalcitrant two-stroke Kawasaki. Solid top 10s are followed by middling finishes in the teens, or an accident – either involving or not involving sailing Brad Keselowski into the cheap seats. Some extra oats between the fenders courtesy of the new Roush Yates FR9 powerplant could help Mr. Edwards position the No. 99 for a chance at a title run.
11. Mark Martin (-293) What a difference a year makes. At this time in 2009, Mark Martin had two wins and signed on for two additional full-time seasons, while the media at large was singing his praises, suggesting that he was finally in reach of a championship that has eluded him for well over two decades. Enter 2010, where the No. 5 has stumbled at tracks that produced convincing victories just a year ago, and with the announcement of Kasey Kahne joining HMS in 2012, the press can’t get Martin out of the car quick enough for whatever reason, regardless of how often he insists that he will be back in it next year. The drop in performance has left many scratching their heads. Is it the new spoiler? Have other teams simply caught up? Has collaborating with the No. 88 team become more of a boat anchor than a benefit? The All-Star Race showed that the No. 5 should be fast at Charlotte, and Martin fans can take heart; he is actually one point closer to first place this year than he was at this time in 2009.
12. Martin Truex, Jr. (-334) Michael Waltrip has to be wondering why his flagship car wasn’t running like this the last few years he was driving it. While the 2004 and ’05 Nationwide Series champion no doubt has had some influence over the performance of the NAPA Toyota, so has new MWR crew chief Pat Tryson. Few war wagon generals are as motivational on the radio as Tryson, and his quiet confidence off the air has helped guide his teams to Chase appearances in all but one year since its inception in 2004. Some early-season teething problems have worked themselves out, and now the No. 56 can be expected to be around the top 10 every week. But that’s not all; how about winning that pole at Dover and just about catching Kurt in the All-Star Race after racing their way in through the Showdown? They may not know how to get to the moon, but to make it to the Chase, these guys both know what to do.
Keep in mind, all of this in contingent upon the No. 48 team folding and falling flat on their collective face. The chances of this happening are about as likely as Alice In Chains offering to have me to fill in on vocals for a few dates this year, even though I can totally nail “Would?” at a karaoke bar. With three wins already this year, and another couple that slipped away, this is a team that prepares during the summer months for the big show in the fall. If these contenders wish not to look like pretenders, they had better make hay while the summer sun is shining in the months ahead.
Otherwise, the only sucking sound to be heard will be that of the other 11 competitors left in their wake yet again.
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Take it from a long-time fan like myself. Jimmie has a tendancy to come on strong during the Chase – when it matters. To draw a correlation to one of my posts earlier in the week – Just as you can’t win a 100 lap race on laps 1-99, you can’t win a championship before the Chase begins (but you can lose it – again, see Kyle Busch).
Let’s check Jimmie Johnson’s place in the standings at the All Star Break for the past 4 years, all of which he won the year-end Champtionship:
And just as a side note – 2006 was Jimmie’s smallest margin of victory for a championship – 56 points.
Early season points leads do not translate into championships.
vito, have you been feeling well lately?
I just hope Vito hasn’t taken a page Matt McLaughlin’s book and write inaccurate articles. I thought Matt was giving up on Nascar?
I tried to leave your demo tape with Alice in Chains on Sunday but they wouldn’t bite! They’re coming back in September, you’ll have to up your game between now and then.
I would not say Jimmie is struggling at all. Far from it as matter of fact. He is just having some bad luck for a change. Nothing more then that. For the past 4-5 years, all Jimmie has known is perfect luck all the time. Everything has always fallen his way for 4-5 years straight. This is the 1st time in many years, he is not having that perfect luck. He is finally experiencing what every other driver on the circuit already has: Bad luck more then once a year. He is just not used to having bad luck, and neither is the media. That’s the only reason it looks like he is struggling, but he is not. The law of averages may have finally caught up with him. I kind of hope so, I am sick to death of one driver dominating race after race, year after year. I just wonder if Jimmie finally has an off season, how he will react to it. I hope it’s with as much class as his teammates Jeff and Jr have shown in simalar times.
The wrecks may have made things look worse than they really are, but Jimmie has had some recent struggles as well. Take Richmond, where he was never overly competitive and “only” finished 10th. Then at Darlington…yes, he was taken out in a freak accident with Allmendinger, but what many people forget is that he was running back around 25th at the time. He hadn’t had much to brag about all evening and had already hit the wall once on his own.
Of course, he has since dominated the race at Dover, but the other 42 drivers have learned something very critical: Jimmie no longer appears to be invincible, and that knowledge may be just enough to push some of those other teams into contention for this championship.
Kenseth has 3 championships by now if he is driving for Chad Knaus at Hendrick. I’m just saying.