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 November 10, 2010
In 2005, Jimmie Johnson left Texas Motor Speedway 38 points behind eventual champion Tony Stewart with only two races remaining. 14 days later, that Chase culminated in Johnson driving around on a flat tire for two laps before backing it into the wall. The friction between driver and crew chief nearly tore them apart, and led to the now infamous “milk and cookies” meeting with team owner Rick Hendrick.
Five years later, Johnson and Knaus find themselves behind current leader Denny Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford’s No. 11 Toyota team. The Lowe’s Hendrick Motorsports team could never seem to consistently beat the Joe Gibbs Racing team during that 2005 campaign, and in 2010 history appears to be repeating itself, albeit with a different opposing driver and crew chief from the JGR stables – and now, apparently, a new pit crew for the No. 48.
Going into the penultimate race at Phoenix, Hamlin leads Johnson by 33 points, and third-place challenger Kevin Harvick by 59 markers. The race for the championship is far from over. However, those midseason chinks in the No. 48’s armor that everybody was going on about all summer have proven to be the early stages of corrosion. The Kobalt forcefield which Johnson and Knaus had surrounded themselves with over the course of the past four years was brought down Monday evening, when it was confirmed that the No. 48 pit crew would effectively be benched for the final two races – leaving Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 crew the group shouldering the responsibility of completing the Drive for Five.
But what I see, instead, is a revival of the Drive for ’05 – the memorable championship chase where the No. 48 group completely melted down and nearly tore themselves apart.
Going back to last Sunday, the impetus behind the move was the fact that the No. 48 crew had lost positions on all but two pit stops. Some of these mistakes have been well-documented; difficulty getting into the box, Paul Menard in such close proximity that he inadvertently booted a tire while leaving, and recurring issues on the right front of the car. After teammate Jeff Gordon was turned head-on into the wall by Jeff Burton on Lap 191, the decision was made to give the No. 24 crew of Steve Letarte and Gordon a shot at it. The analysis from many in the media was swift and consistent.
Feel free to regurgitate whatever cliché you care to – “It’s a results-oriented business,” “it’s no different than a relief pitcher coming in,” or “We needed to make a change,” – because each one is equally tired, trite, and a rationalization more than an explanation. Chad Knaus on Tuesday told ESPN’s NASCAR Now reporter Shannon Spake that the move had been something they planned “for months,” and was not isolated to any one event on Sunday.
So let me get this straight – you had planned all year to swap your four-consecutive-time-Championship crew with the crew that, while your shopmate has not won in over a year and a half, was essentially feuding with your driver earlier in the season? Was this idea before or after he won his sixth race of the season? To quote Dr. Evil, “…..rrrriiiighhht…”
Let’s take a look at the No. 48’s Chase performances so far, aside from the 25th-place result at the first race in New Hampshire –
By the looks of it, the only sub top-10 performance by this group so far was the first race out of the gate, which was largely the result of getting caught up in two spins that were not of their doing.
For shame, No. 48 crew!
It isn’t as if these men were the reason for much of the talk of the No. 48’s reign being over this past summer. It was not the pit crew that caused Johnson to miss the pit entrance at Chicago after dominating the first half of the race. Was it the right front tire changer’s fault he lost it at Charlotte during the Coca-Cola 600 and drove it into the inside retaining wall on the backstretch? I’ll have to YouTube this next one, but I’m pretty sure Mike Lingerfelt didn’t spin Jimmie at Watkins Glen, slide up into him during the Southern 500 at Darlington – or drive across Greg Biffle’s nose at Talladega.
Perhaps it is the No. 48 crew’s fault that they kept him up front at Bristol long enough this past August to get hooked into the fence by Juan Pablo Montoya, after leading 191 laps? Using this logic, Johnson should have been swapped out for Jeff Gordon earlier in the season to give him a shot at a fifth title – or even Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for an opportunity to merely win a race.
What happens if Knaus botches a pit call or runs it out of gas? Do Steve Letarte or Alan Gustafson start picking up their gear for a jog down to the silver and blue war wagon? Sure, RCR may swapped crews between the Nos. 29 and 33 teams, but at least they had the decency to do it post-race.
Taking everything into consideration, I see the No. 48 crew being made a scapegoat of sorts. It’s masking a lack of confidence in either the driver, crew chief, or entire organization that has led what has been the most dominant team in NASCAR since Petty’s Plymouths and Dodges ruled the roost in the early-mid 1970s, a maneuver setting up the most visible racing team in American motorsports for a major league choke job.
So instead of rallying the troops and giving them an opportunity to redeem themselves at a track that they have won at four times in the last six starts – the others being a fourth and a third – you hit the eject button, then swap out the crew of the No. 24 car. It is not only uncharacteristic and unfortunate, but also almost unfathomable for this bunch. Is there any driver/crew chief/crew in history that has been synonymous with each other as the triad of Johnson/Knaus/and the No. 48 Lowe’s team?
Some may call this a tactical error. Others, such as Denny Hamlin’s crew chief Mike Ford, have deemed it, “kind of a desperation move.” That quote may have been simply some post-win exuberance, braggadocios bravado, or maybe a bit of psychological warfare, but it really is hard to find fault with his comments.
Ford continued on, saying, “I think our race team is better than their race team, and I’m not going to tiptoe around them because of where they’re at. I’m going to do what it’s going to require for us to win a championship and beat them. Not that I’m playing dirty by any means, but we’ll take what’s ours, and I’m not afraid to go toe-to-toe with them.”
In this game of Championship Chase Chicken, it looks like Chad Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports blinked first. Should the No. 48 crew rally and win the title, it will carry a bit of a stigma to it, having had to use half of the race day manpower of Hendrick Motorsports to beat the core group of the No. 11 FedEx team. However, if Knaus and the new pseudo-48 bunch fails to come back, how much of it will be attributed to not playing as a team, staying together, and leaning on the family that just made history last year by becoming the only team to have won four consecutive championship in this or any era in NASCAR?
It isn’t typically the last race that determines the champion in NASCAR, but the events that happen two or three weeks before the final checkered flag of the season. No matter the outcome of the 2010 Chase for the Championship, there is a pretty good chance that Texas will have been the watershed moment that dictated either an unprecedented fifth title for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team – or a first for Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 crew.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The pit crew swap may be a sign of desperation or it may be a brilliant tactical move. Time will tell. It seems to me that Johnson’s pit crew has had several meltdowns during the past year and there have been multiple times when the crew has allowed Johnson to be passed in the pits. Sunday was a case in point. As I understand NASCAR, the pit crew would be the most expendable part of a NASCAR team, especially when the competition is clipping off pit stops 1/2 second to a full second faster. Loyalty is important but so are results, especially when the championship is within a pit stop or two.
There is a mythology in NASCAR about the team, and the pit crew plays into the mythology. The reality is the pit crew members are expendable to the extent that their underperformance costs the team as a whole. Dale Jr. and Joey Logano are going to be given a lot more room for underperformance than the left tire changers on the 88 and 20 teams. They are like the cashier at McDonalds that can’t keep their drawer in order. The cashier is going to be fired well before the manager gets the boot. Professional sports is a cut throat business, and the only thing that protects the players are contracts or unions or both. In NASCAR the pit crew member probably has no contract and hell will freeze over before there is a union in NASCAR for the drivers and pit crews (crew chiefs would be considered management).
In the end, the 48 crew swaps with the 24. Both are still pitting cars this Sunday. Both have a lot to prove. The former 48 can knock of some quick stops and get Gordon to the front and redeem themselves. The former 24 can knock out some quick stops and boost Johnson to the front and to a 5th championship. The downside is it might fail. But my guess is it will prove to be a brilliant tactical move on the part of the Hendrick organization.
I don’t think they’re panicking. Denny and Mike are playing the mind game well, but the Hendrick boys know what they’re doing. They’ve done more radical things than this winning nine championships.
If the crew got benched it was for a good reason that we may not all be in on. Until someone beats the 48 team, they aren’t gonna be champs.
Let me understand this a little better….you “planned” this pit crew swap for months and it all came together when Gordon’s car ended up as a crumpled-up mess. Perfect timing – I would love to see the flow diagram for that plan.
Hey, what happens if Gordon’s “new” pit crew starts banging out pit stops 1.5 or even 2 seconds faster than Johnson’s “new” pit crew this weekend? Do they switch back? I’m sure they were “planning” that for a while too.
OK, Chad’s “we’ve been practicing this” excuse is a complete farce. A “we at HMS must do what we feel gives us the greatest advantage to make up positions on the 11,” would have been honest, and therefore, more acceptable.
Is it a collosal blunder? Everybody will know in two week’s time, or maybe not. If Johnson wrecks, or has a mechanical failure before the checkers fly in Homestead nobody will ever know whether or not the #24 crew could have helped him win the championship. However, if, on the final stop at Phoenix, they get him out with the lead and Denny’s crew is 5th or worse (that would put Johnson back in front of the chase), it will look like a brilliant move.
Besides, the 48’s streak has to end some time, and if it ends this year, the 48 fanboys and media will have endless amount of material to debate over whether or not it was Texas or just Toyota’s inevitability that caused the 48 to stumble.
The FELON has reeked his poisoned soul into his teams! Win at ALL cost!! No room for soul, morality, sportsmanship! Just plain greed….last time it put him in prison, this time his mindless fans probably will cheer him! No wonder he has a “bodyguard” around!! uhhhh personal assistant.
It’s sad how this “sport” has degenerated. Guys used to race their guts out for bragging rights and a $5,000 purse. Now, everything is sacrificed and compromised – teams, relationships, people – to win and keep their $20 million sponsors happy. I’m sure Hendrick looked at how hard it was to get a sponsor for Jeff Gordon and he freaked out. His “do ANYTHING to get the 48 a championship” mentality sucks.
NASCAR wants to talk about parity (which is BS), making the sport more affordable for smaller teams, and creating a car that helps even the playing field. Nothing they’ve done has worked, because in the end, the big teams get the big sponsors and, if they don’t, God only knows what they will stoop to to compensate.
If NASCAR wants to be like stick and ball sports, why not create a ‘salary cap’, so to speak. Limit primary sponsorship contracts to $10 million, associates to $3 million. That would limit the resources of Hendrick/Stewart-Haas, Gibbs, RCR, and Roush. Maybe even help guys like RPM, Front Row, and the start and parks have a better chance at being competitive. I hate the thought of legislating “fairness” – its a ridiculous concept. But NASCAR has gone so so far down this road of money and greed, turning a sport into a business product, that I just don’t see any other way of giving back to the fans that feeling that their driver could win on any given Sunday.
This has all the looks of a desperation move. Watching the whole Chase, the 24 team hasn’t been stellar either. They had bad stops at Charlotte and Martinsville. The one at Martinsville put the 24 right in the gunsights of the 2. Be careful what you wish for Chad, you just might get it. Just another example of the 48 team trying to leach off the 24. As a Gordon fan watching this whole thing reminds me of the relationship between Biff and George McFly in Back to the Future. Whatever Chad wants Chad gets. If the roles were reversed, I don’t see Chad letting Steve have his crew.
I just shudder at the message the Hendrick management just sent to the 48 crew. “Despite the fact that you’ve pulled a ‘win’ out of just about every bad turn we’ve encountered, screw you because we don’t care about that today – go take a powder.”
Those guys have pulled out the impossible so many times its unreal!
Now if management’s not going to stand behind them on one bad day (and as you say, most of the issues were not necessarily of the crews doing), why should they perform like that in years to come? It won’t make a difference anyway – working their guts out doesn’t really matter…
If the #48 team ends the season without winning the championship, then yes, it was a meltdown. If they come back and win the championship in the final two races, it was absolute brilliance by a genius of a crew chief.
Has Gordon commented on this? I wonder how he feels about having his team confiscated in an attempt to secure the #48 team’s fifth championship.
I’m just curious as to how everyone would have reacted if they only swapped the front tire changer for Gordon’s guy. Any thoughts? Intelligent ones only please.
If Johnson’s pit crew has been that bad all year – how has it escaped the notice of every NASCAR journalist in the country? Surely someone, somewhere, sometime, trying to find a topic for their column, would have written about it.
Last time I checked winning is done on the track. Who the heck cares about the pit crew. A trained monkey, heck even Jacob, could change a tire. Why are we wasting our time talking about this?
DansMom, Jeff Gordon has used Jeff Gordon’s pit crew all year, and he hasnt won, either. Whats your point?
Need One More?, dont you know? Its “so hard to pass” on every track on the schedule, “the cars are aero-sensitive”, and “its easier to pass on pit road than on the track.” So of course the pit crew and your pit stop times are everything.
@ Don Mei –
A better question would be, would everyone be reacting this way if the mid-race swap was the 48 crew over to the 88 car? I’m sure the same people who are condemning HMS loudly and strongly would be saying “Its about time!”
I stumbled across this announcement a few minutes ago…
“Danica Patrick will do a fan Q&A at 3 p.m. Friday at the Budweiser Roll-Bar stage behind Turn 1”
Here’s your chance to knock back a few Buds with probably the most talented driver to ever be named Danica Patrick. Maybe she’ll even put you in a commercial if you’ve got what it takes to be a GoDaddy girl.
In Na$crap everything is based performance on the track. Only Dale Jr. and Danica Patrick do not have to perform on the track. All they need to do is sell T-shirts off the track.
What’s funny is through all this, the 48 car last weekend was not good enough to win the race anyway. Looks like Chad was more worried about the pit crew than trying to make the car better for the end of the race.
I also heard that Chad is so demanding on his pit crew that there are some crew members who didn’t want to be a part of the 48 team. That doesn’t surprise me at all. These guys aren’t making Chad’s money so I don’t blame them one bit for going to another team. If they are good I“m sure they will be welcomed with open arms at another team.
Randy Nacho, I see you’ve given yourself yet ANOTHER name, this time it’s “Need One More.” You are a truly pathetic child.
Taking a look at the No. 48’s Chase performances so far, aside from the 25th place result at the first race in New Hampshire –
Vito, you’re having such a gleeful time commenting on the 48’s “meltdown” but then you point out the above statistics. Hardly a “meltdown” by anyone’s definition.
Jimmie’s reign as champion had to end sometime. Heck, it’s what all you writers have been wanting, right?
So if he finishes second, will you write the simple fact that he hasn’t finished in a position lower than 5th since he came to the top level of Nascar? Or will you make the big story his “meltdown”?
Choose now. It’s not like we don’t already know where you stand.
Care for a few more regurgitated cliches? The 48 crew got thrown under the bus. Then to make matters worse they were made to clean up the 24 pit box, therefore rubbing their noses in it, or is it pouring salt on the wound?
….uh, pulling your crew after posting those finishes (and the afforementioned FOUR championships in a row) is the deffintion of melting down.
us old timers remember when a 20 second pit stop was fast and that was with 3 air wrenches. 18 second pit stops were rare. i remember when benny parson’s had his under 13 second pit stop award. what’s next 4 tires in 10 seconds?
RandyG just doesn’t get it – it’s not the ‘chase.’ It’s the fact that except for three guys jockeying for points, everyone else is free to RACE. Good racing = happy fans. Something NASCAR needs to realize as well – but they’re so stupid they, like you, would think that the interest is because of the ‘chase.’
That’s a bold statement. Could you please provide proof by listing every story and the number of comments each received. Or were you just making chit-chat.
@DansMom- Danica Patrick couldn’t win a race with Jeff Gordon’s pit crew even if Jeff Gordon was driving for her!