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 September 15, 2010
The mantra from many in the media and some of the drivers themselves is that 2010 is the most closely matched Chase field to date, meaning picking a champion this early is next to impossible. The consensus is that there is not a clear advantage to be had by any driver headed into the final 10 races, and no one team has showed enough performance or consistency to stake their claim to this year’s Sprint Cup title.
I, however, am of the other opinion; this year’s Chase will not be nearly as close as some would have you believe.
Of the 12 teams that have qualified for the playoff, there are but a handful of drivers that stand a chance of competing down to the wire. In fact, this year’s Chase will look quite familiar if you’ve been following NASCAR the last 10 weeks, and not just glancing at the final box scores.
With Denny Hamlin’s series-leading sixth win Saturday in the Air Guard 400, the Joe Gibbs Racing pilot starts the postseason with a 10-point lead on four-time defending champ Jimmie Johnson. Want to know who the two leading contenders for the Cup are this year? Look no further than this duo.
Hamlin had stumbled in the weeks just prior to Loudon, experiencing engine failure while leading during the first half of the Atlanta event after suffering when electrical gremlins reared their ugly head in Bristol. What should buoy Hamlin and the No. 11 team, though, are past performances at the tracks in the Chase and their dominance of banked downforce tracks in 2010. Wins at Texas and Michigan (June), coupled with top 5s at Atlanta and Michigan (August) bode well for similar locales that make up the bulk of the Chase slate. California, Kansas, Charlotte, Texas, and Homestead are high-speed, big-horsepower, banked ovals – the type that the No. 11 team used to earn their No. 1 Chase seeding.
With the other half of the schedule comprised of Martinsville (Hamlin won there in the spring), Dover (fourth), and Talladega (fourth), that leaves really only two question marks for this team: Phoenix, where Hamlin finished 30th earlier this season while driving with a surgically repaired knee, and New Hampshire, where he ran to a lackluster 14th-place effort. No worries on the first one – Hamlin hasn’t finished worse than sixth at Phoenix since 2007 if you throw out the last race, and he’s traditionally solid as nails on any flat track. Speaking of flat tracks, how about Loudon? Hamlin finished second last fall at the Magic Mile and won in a photo finish over Jeff Gordon in 2007.
Suffice it to say, Hamlin and his Mike Ford-led No. 11 JGR bunch are leading the points for a reason – and are looking to add to their “all we do is win” mantra over the next 10 weeks.
But wait; there is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Or should I say the 4,800-pound gorilla? With big eyebrows. And a Sonny Crockett beard.
Jimmie Johnson and his Lowe’s team have set the standard for playoff perfection since 2006. Many have cheered enthusiastically at the struggles (read: disappointing final finishes) over the course of the last few months, citing these chinks in the armor as evidence that they will soon be dethroned as Sprint Cup champions. Well, take heart NASCAR Nation … because it ain’t going to happen. After all, it isn’t as if Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have suffered the same performance problems as their teammates on the opposite end of the building at Hendrick Motorsports.
Stat dorks can rejoice by looking at the last 10 races by Johnson and Co.: one win, two thirds, and a pole. The poor finishes during this stretch are nothing more than an anomaly. He got wrecked while running well at Watkins Glen, and had just led his 175th lap at Bristol before getting turned by Juan Pablo Montoya. Johnson led 92 and 96 laps, respectively, at Chicago and Pocono, and you can pretty much throw out Daytona since everybody except the jet blower truck got tore up that night.
So what does it all mean for the championship duo of Knaus and Johnson? Simple: Now it’s go time. Everybody has his or her share of bad luck during the season, and this bunch seems to get it out of the way early. And did I mention his last win before he went on this much ballyhooed 10-race – ahem – “slump” just so happened to be at the kickoff Chase track, New Hampshire Motor Speedway?
So what about the other Chase contenders? They will look stout early, as the first couple of races are great tracks for virtually every driver in the top 12. Loudon is favorable to Bowyer, Hamlin, and Kurt Busch, while Dover has always favored virtually anything Roush-powered or driven by Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart. By the time the Series gets to the halfway point at Charlotte, however, I believe the championship picture will become much more clear.
Why? Only once since 2004 have two of the top three drivers after Charlotte not finished in the top three in the final point standings.
That leaves Johnson and Hamlin in the driver’s seat, watching from above as the rest of the challengers begin to falter. While Kevin Harvick’s turnaround from a year ago is remarkable, to say the least, I see him as this season’s Stewart of 2009; regular season consistency and notching a Chase win, but not quite enough to make it stick for 10 straight weeks. Jeff Burton runs well, but hasn’t really been in a position to win a race since the first half of the season, while the third RCR driver, Clint Bowyer, was sweating out the final few weeks simply because he seems to be a magnet for late-race bad luck (i.e., both Daytona races this year).
The Busch brothers will remain the enigma that they have been since each came to the Sprint Cup Series. The biggest battle for Kurt is that he is the lone Penske and Dodge team in the Chase. It would benefit him greatly this time of year to have another competitive car or two to lean on, or garner some added support from his manufacturer. However, as has been the case all year long, Kurt is the Lone Ranger for the Mopar camp. Younger brother Kyle has come on in recent weeks, albeit at tracks that bare little resemblance to those in the Chase. The No. 18 machines prepared by crew chief Dave Rogers can be as mercurial as the individual piloting them, though, and cannot match the consistency of their No. 11 stallmates.
With the Roush Fenway trio of Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards having been thrust back into relevancy by way of some help from their pseudo-teammates at Richard Petty Motorsports, Ford makes up a quarter of this year’s Chase field. But will they be able to build on their momentum of recent weeks? Biffle’s August win at Pocono was both timely and inspirational for the entire organization – Ford’s first win in over a year and a half, and one that was on the heels of team owner Jack Roush narrowly escaping death in another aerial accident. Edwards hasn’t won, but scored eight top 10s in the last nine races, with the other being a 12th-place effort. Kenseth made it on the strength of not wrecking and nothing breaking; however, top-15 finishes are not going to mean much after about the third race at Kansas.
So what is the final prognosis from Professor Pugliese?
Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Carl Edwards will win, place, and show for the 2010 Sprint Cup, with seven wins divided among these three. Will it go down to the last race to determine Johnson’s unholy fifth consecutive title? Sure, but only due to a mathematical possibility should he not start, or finish 38th or worse in Homestead.
So while the top 12 are separated now by a whopping 60 points, don’t believe the hype; the Chase is not going to be the Rocky vs. Apollo saga between the Dirty Dozen, but rather between the two teams that have put up the wins come crunch time in 2010, along with a third on the rebound and riding a wave of momentum as it crests into the playoffs at Loudon this Sunday.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I just have to question why the Ford teams, aka, Roush Fenway, haven’t been running the new FR9 engine all year. It produces more torque and has a lower center of gravity.
I have a feeling that this engine might be too good, and that they have purposely not used it in order to save it for the Chase… before NASCAR caught on to how good it is.
I hope I am wrong though. I really want to see an RCR guy win it all, especially Burton.
But Vito, I think you are wrong about Hamlin. It appears more like he was on a hot streak early in the year and isn’t going to be consistent during the Chase. It seems like when these guys are injured, they tend to be more focused. As soon as his knee got better, the more inconsistent he was.
I also think JJ’s problems appeared when he had his kid. Having a kid really changes friendship dynamics, and Knaus said during HBO’s preseason special about the 48, that JJ is his only friend. So I think a kid has thrown a wrench in the mix there. Granted, I believe the duo will get their act together and be the team to beat, now that the Chase has begun.
I will make one prediction though… Bowyer will win one of these next 10 races. If it wasn’t for late race bad luck, the guy would have been in the top 5 in points all year. I think he is one of the most underrated drivers, and overall, one of the best personalities the sport has. He’s like a very happy Dale Jr. :)
Who will win the chase is the answer to a question that many of us really dont care about. Sad
Or …… cutesy statistics and anecdotes aside , the champion could be the team with the most powerfull engines ( RCR ) , or the best driver on all types of circuits ( Tony Stewart ) or the most agressive ( Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch ) or the best pit crew ( SHR and Lowes ) or , since we know that all twelve teams are fast and capable of winning , the champion will probably be the driver with the least amount of bad luck .
Unfortunately, it will probably be Johnson again this year. That means that listening to ESPN slobber all over the 48 again and my interest in NASCAR racing will slide even further down the tube.
The chase is a waste. Its all manufactured excitement but then again, that’s what watching NASCAR has become. Bored now
I was looking at my own personal predictions before the season began, and there are some surprises.
I had Johnson down for a 5th straight, with Stewart 2nd, Hamlin 3rd, and Edwards 4th. So not bad there, all of those are in the Chase. But I had Martin 5th, Logano 9th, and Newman 10th, and those 3 missed the chase. I had Harvick 22nd, Burton 20th, and Biffle 14th- I did not expect RCR to rebound, and expected Harvick to be treading water a year before going to SHR. I did place Bowyer in 12th, though.
I still stand by my top 4, but I’d switch Stewart and Hamlin in the 2-3 mark.
But I hope I’m wrong.
I’m with you on Johnson winning his 5th, but I think Kyle Busch has a better chance than Edwards. I’m not buying PBFred’s contention that the FR9 engine is so good that the Ford teams are holding back. Roush teams have ZERO wins this year. Yes, they’ve gotten better, but the Joe Gibbs teams have more wins than any other owner. I keep reading that Kyle is still too immature to win the championship… well, if that’s true, will someone explain to me how Darrell Waltrip managed to win three of them?
By the way, I don’t like Kyle Busch, but I still think he’s a legitimate threat.
Carl, Greg Biffle won at Pocono, so Roush has won more than ZERO races this year. :)
Carl D., no explanation has been given as to why the FR9 engine has only been used a handful of times.
Considering it supposedly produces more torque, while still being in the same HP range, and has a lower center of gravity, it seems rather weird as to why they haven’t been running it every week.
If they were worried about reliability, there is only one way to test that… use it.
But from what I have heard, all 3 of the Roush guys in the Chase plan to run them for the rest of the year.
At the very least, you have to question why they used the engines this way. It’s not like Roush Fenway is an underfunded owner and can’t afford to buy new engines.
To top it off, Biffle’s win was with the FR9 engine, and this is what he had to say about the win.
“This was mostly engine,” Biffle said of the new Ford FR9 engine. “This answers all the questions about Ford.”
So I really might be right on the money about this. I hope not, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Sorry, I forgot about Biffle’s win at Pocono. I do think the FR9 makes the Roush teams more competitive, but I’m going to have to see immediate results from Edwards in the chase in order to believe he’s a contender.
I don’t think Kyle will win the championship. Until he reduces what’s on his plate with running truck teams and boosting his ego in the NW series, he will then be a threat. Not until though. ESPN will slobber all over JJ and Kyle though so not sure how much I will watch.
Seeing how inconsistent Kyle has been during the season, he’s not high on my list.
JJ has to be the favorite. He hasn’t raced on a Chase track since Loudon in June so they have fallen off because of their lack of focus on non plate tracks. He will fire it up again this weekend.