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 October 6, 2010
So we’re three races deep into the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup, and everybody is prattling on how this year marks the closest field ever and a Chase like none other. Yes, the points are close. However, last year at this time the standings were pretty similar, featuring seven drivers within about 100 points. I still maintain that it takes until Charlotte to get a sense of how the final five races will shake out. Talladega, of course, is the game-changer where you just might find yourself holding the winning Powerball ticket in the S.O.L. lottery.
But after the first trio of tracks in the Chase, I do believe some trends are emerging, and I think despite the closeness of the points, the true title contenders have already revealed their hand.
Who’s Out: Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth
With John Middlebrook’s upholding of the appeal committee’s decision regarding Bowyer and RCR’s 150-point fine stemming from their No. 33 Chevrolet not passing tear-down inspection at NASCAR’s R&D Center, Bowyer’s midseason rally to make the Chase is now for naught. Although he won the first event at Loudon, the penalty he received ultimately provided him with what amounted to a 40th-place finish. Dover was equally disastrous, with a wall encounter relegating him to 25th in the final rundown, while hope for a rebound at his home track in Kansas only yielded a lackluster 15th-place effort.
Meanwhile, the team which all season had the fastest cars to not win races finally got it together just in time for it to all unravel, fall apart, and completely implode under their own weight.
Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 former Killer Bees (what are they now, the Bad Ass Barneys?) are a different story. Kenseth is on his third crew chief in less than a year, achieving his Chase credentials primarily on the strength of consistent early-season runs with long-since departed head wrench Todd Parrott. Roush Fenway mainstay Jimmy Fennig has helmed the ship since June, with Kenseth scoring his first top 10 since Bristol in August last weekend at Kansas. Kenseth was slow out of the gate, however, finishing 23rd at Loudon and 18th at Dover.
While a top-10 at Kansas is good, it is likely a case of too little, too late. The No. 17 team has not been in a position to win since Martinsville in March, and there has been little to suggest that will change anytime soon.
Just Don’t See It Happening: Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle
Kind of a coincidental paring for two of these drivers. It was at the end of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte that we saw the normally reserved and mellow Burton cussing out Busch for running into the side of him during the final laps of the race. Jeff’s parting shot to Shrub was to “Use your head!” Unfortunately, the younger Busch has been consistently using his mouth – and bumper – making more enemies than friends on the track. The incident that likely will prove his undoing, a retaliatory shot from David Reutimann, will be one he will not overcome, and one that could have been prevented about a month ago.
Had Busch not made the disparaging remarks in his winner’s press conference at Bristol in August about the line Reutimann was running – one being run while suffering from food poisoning – perhaps the No. 00 would have not slammed the No. 18 into the backstretch wall last Sunday. That might be the one freebie that Busch gets. And with Martinsville and Talladega being back-to-back on the schedule, I’d rather have one in my pocket to spend between those two.
Burton sits 101 points out of first, and while he has been traditionally labeled, “The Guy Who Will Top 10 You To Death” – something that would seem to work pretty well for a 10-week playoff (or raceoff, whatever …), that’s not going to work when Jimmie Johnson is back to the form that has seen him win four straight Sprint Cups. Moreover, it really doesn’t work when you trade a top 5 for a 15th courtesy of an unnecessary fuel-mileage gamble, as the No. 31 team did at Loudon. A runner-up finish at Dover was good medicine, indeed, and another top 10 was in play until the final stint in Kansas, when either a bad set of tires or a failed bump stop saw him retreat to the rear, barely managing a top-20 run.
It’s likely going to be a tough year for incumbents across the nation this November, and “The Mayor” looks like he’s in trouble, too.
Greg Biffle may have won this Sunday at Kansas and scored a $100,000 winner’s bonus from Ford, but the first two races dug a deep rut that the No. 16 team may not be able to pull out from. Biffle has excelled on low-banked speedways this year; Indy, Pocono, and now Kansas. Look for a strong run at Auto Club Speedway, the sister track to Michigan International Speedway where he ran fourth in August. But Biffle’s cars have had a history of being streaky this year – a pair of bullets followed by a squib.
The lack of consistency and feast for famine with the No. 16 means that he may win another race – or even two – but a title is unlikely.
Holding On – Just Barely: Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick
If you want a memorable sound bite or some salty radio traffic, it’s hard to top these three hotheads. Get them out of the heat of the battle, and you’d be hard pressed to find three more articulate, measured, and composed individuals. That warrior spirit, though, has conspired to cost them some valuable ground early on in the Chase, and it may prove costly when it’s all said and done.
There is really no way Tony Stewart should not be leading the Sprint Cup standings right now. Not to rub it in, because I’m sure Smoke already realizes that. After radioing to his crew that, “I could give a **** less about fuel mileage right now” during the closing laps at Loudon, Stewart threw away a win and nearly 100 points in the process. A speeding penalty at Dover that left him two laps down and unable to rebound siphoned off at least another 30 – which marries up nicely with the 127 points in arrears he currently finds himself.
I think Smoke’s learned his lesson going forward, and if there is one driver that builds momentum quickly and exponentially, it has traditionally been Tony Stewart.
Remember when The Tasmanian Devil was (regrettably) a prominent fixture in NASCAR promotions about a decade ago? I could have sworn he had taken over the controls of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge in the first two Chase races. Kurt Busch went Berserker at New Hampshire, spinning out and spouting off – though Steve Addington and company were able to help him salvage a 13th-place run. Fourth at Dover was a minor Mopar miracle, following a speeding penalty in the final timing section into his pit box. Kansas saw Busch taking it easy and not getting over aggressive, resulting in a sane, if pedestrian, 13th-place run. So not exactly a stellar start, but there are some very attractive tracks coming up for the flagship Penske team, including Charlotte, where he dominated this past May.
Should Busch and the No. 2 Penske team rally to win from 70 points back, it truly will be a team effort. They are the only Penske car in the Chase – as well as the only Dodge team that is consistently in the top 10 … or top 20, for that matter.
After leading the points nearly all of the regular season, winning three races and sitting third in the standings, I’m still not sold on the No. 29 team as a championship contender. They run well often, but enough to consistently beat the No. 48 and No. 11?
Granted, similar feelings have cost me a fantasy football championship or two, but with the four-week suspension of crew chief and car chief on their No. 33 teammate Clint Bowyer’s machine, there has to be some sort of ripple effect through the RCR organization. Sure, there can be all kinds of talk about focus and keeping your eye on the prize, but the dominoes of decline seem to be making their way down towards Harvick: first Bowyer, with his fine and tough luck at Dover, then Burton at Kansas with late-race handling demons.
Harvick’s best bet to gain some ground will be at Talladega, where he won in April, and Martinsville, where he led 57 laps before going behind the wall with a failed rear gear.
In It To Win It: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards
Yeah, I know, big surprise here. Jimmie Johnson, really? Way to go out on a limb there. About the only thing that looks out of place right now with the four-time champ is his lettuce. A win and a second, plus a fearlessness to go three-wide on a flat one-mile track should serve as evidence of who everybody else is going to have to beat; and do so by winning races, not just racking up top 10s.
Denny Hamlin has been the one driver to display the ability to match wins, as well as composure, throughout the year. From early season knee surgery to taking an active leadership role among the drivers at JGR, Hamlin has positioned himself well to apply what he’s learned from failed past-Chase bids.
Jeff Gordon, meanwhile, is beginning to assert himself with the top-5 consistency that saw him look to challenge his former protégé to once again become the top dog at HMS. The No. 24 is still missing just a little bit of whatever it is the No. 48 has, but then again, so are 41 other teams in the series.
Of this bunch, the one that I believe stands the best to come out of nowhere is Carl Edwards. He’s made more headlines this year from his run-ins with Brad Keselowski than he has with Sprint Cup results, but I have a feeling that is about to change in the coming weeks. Some of Edwards’ best tracks are coming up, the No. 99 has consistently been the best Ford team the last couple of months, and this bunch is longing for a win. Really bad. As in, they haven’t won in nearly two years.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the 2008 season saw this team win nine races, including three of the last four. Edwards has six Chase victories on his resume, and number seven is just around the corner. One other little fun fact about the 2008 campaign that saw Edwards miss the Cup by 69 points: under the old points system, he would have won the title by 16.
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Vito said: “under the old points system, he would have won the title by 16.”
No. No. You CANNOT compare results from two different points systems and years against each other. There’s no telling what would have happened if there was no Chase. The drivers race differently during a 300 mile race than they do during a 500 mile race, and so they race differently during a 36 race season than during a 26+10 race season.
Kevin in SoCal,
The Chase is irrelevant unless you are the guy getting the check and the trophy. It appears, if nothing changes from now through Homestead, 2010 will be another year in which we find ourselves with two popes. Jimmie on the upstart throne and Kevin on the classic throne. At least last year it was unified.
I really am beyond caring, but that’s just me.
Edwards? I don’t think I’d bet my hard-earned spending cabbage on a guy who hasn’t won a race all year. Yeah, he’s improved since the spring, but the #48 team is still better. Ditto for Gordon’s chances. I don’t think a guy who’s been winless for 29 races is going to all of a sudden put together enough good runs to beat Knaus.
As for Hamlin, I’m not convinced that he’s matured enough to avoid his usual self-destruction in the chase. A 9th and a 12th in the last two races may be signs he’s faltering already.
I don’t think I’d count Kyle Busch out just yet. Last weekend may set him off on a tear that puts him right back into contention.
Vito: Carl D is right. Edward’s problem is the same problem that you use to eliminate Biffle’s chances. Jack Rousch’s cars are terribly inconsistent. There is no quick fix to that over the next seven races. Furthermore, you do say that Edwards is solid on the tracks in the chase, even winning 3 of the last 4 in 2008. I’m a little foggy this early in the morning, could someone remind me of who won the chase in 2008?
Bill B: “Welcome to NA$CAR, I hope you will stay around to watch your second race,” I say sarcastically.
It’s Roush. Not RouhCh. And Carl has been pretty consistent in The Chase so far – Biffle and Kenseth have not.
Yes, JJ did with the Chase in 08, due to the 99 having ignition failure at Charlotte.
From what I understand, points racing is not a new concept. Its been around since the dawn of the sport. If a driver realizes his car is not a winning car, then he does his damnest to finish in the top 5. If he doesnt have a top 5 car, then he tries to finish in the top 10. How is this such a foreign concept to some of you?
Really? Gordon has a better chance than Harvick? I think Biffle has a better shot than Gordon at this point. Harvick’s still a strong favorite, right there with Hamlin and JJ. But I’d definitely put Biffle ahead of Kurt Busch. Does Kurt even have a top ten in the Chase yet? Not sure he does.
I don’t think Harvick, 30 points out and in 3rd is “just barely” alive in the Chase, especially since he beat both Edwards and Gordon on tracks that dominate the rest of the Chase, but maybe that’s just me…
You’re right; I should have had Harvick under, “I Just Don’t See It Happening.”
Vito: Thank you for correcting my spelling. Now should I correct your correction? (lol)
Well, at least I know not to bother with any further articles…