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 February 23, 2011
For 2011’s Daytona Speedweeks, it was feared that the 500 was going to be a crushing bore of a race. Either two-car tandems were going to streak away from the field, said most experts, or the required constant push-drafting would trigger multi-car incidents that would decimate half the field of 43 cars.
As it turned out, they were partially right, wrecks and drafting partnerships defining how the Great American Race was run. But, looking back were those circumstances enough to sour NASCAR’s Super Bowl?
I don’t think so. Despite its drawbacks, perhaps the most important prediction no one nailed is to many fans’ delight, this Daytona 500 ended up being a throwback race of sorts. Naturally, the most notable reason was the return of the Wood Brothers to Victory Lane at Daytona, with the Motorcraft No. 21 Ford Fusion clad in the same colors that David Pearson limped across the finish line some 35 years earlier.
That wasn’t the only surprise, though. A relative unknown, Trevor Bayne won his first race on NASCAR’s biggest stage, following in the footsteps of drivers like Pete Hamilton, Derrike Cope, and Sterling Marlin – not to mention names such as Mario Andretti, Tiny Lund, and Michael Waltrip. Bayne’s Ford was fast all day – almost too fast to draft with – not unlike the days of Awesome Bill from Dawsonville, putting a hurting on the field with his No. 9 Coors Thunderbird.
Going back 25 years, two-car drafts weren’t uncommon, nor were 20-second intervals. There were several of them scattered across the track, in fact, eliminating the two-by-two rows of cars driving around unable to break away from one another. Sure, they would all stick together following a few laps of racing after a restart, but that was about it. So while handling was not the ultimate arbiter at Daytona following a complete repaving that removed all of the lumps, bumps, and unfortunately some of the character of the track, it still meant a little something, enough to break up the packs and lead to strategy mattering just as much as speed. Considering the speedway really hasn’t been that much of a handling track the last four years, plus being saddled with the green-white-checkered do-overs that devolve into a 500-mile race being decided in two laps anyway these separations during long, green-flag runs were nice to see.
In short, the fears of Daytona becoming “Talladega Two” were not completely realized, although the real challenge has become who can change positions in the twin car drafts quicker without getting wrecked.
Taking a step backward, dealing with multiple changes on the mechanical side also led to an added bonus: the unpredictability of parts and pieces to last 500 miles under this new rule system. With as refined and virtually bulletproof as these cars have become lately, engine failures have become as rare as an interview not featuring a driver slugging down a sugary, syrup-filled carbonated beverage (after losing 12lbs in water). Yet, despite a handful of rules changes to keep them durable they became a storyline for the 500 once again. Engines were pushed to the brink of reliability, a quest for eking out not only a few more horsepower but also a few more laps hooked up to the bumper of the lead car of the draft duo du jour. Fans could know that even in the most boring of moments, there was a chance the leader could blow their motor which was enough of a reason in itself to keep watching.
There were, however, some hang-ups and hangovers of plate racing’s past that reared their ugly heads.
Most notably, “The Big One” on Lap 30 wiped out some of the biggest names and contenders to win: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Michael Waltrip and Greg Biffle all sustained damage that effectively ended their chances. Mark Martin would ultimately fall three laps down with front valence damage in the incident, but would recover to be in position to contend for the victory on the final restart.
Also, for the fifth time in seven years one of the two most coveted prizes in motorsports was decided by a green-white-checkered restart. While I understand the whole concept of “putting on a show,” the whole nature of restarting a race over and over at the end, going past the scheduled distance has just never set well with me. The end of the event becomes a drag race and 500+ miles of racing, drafting, and strategy comes down to accelerating for two laps?
That’d be great if this were the Winter Nationals, but it’s not. I guess, if there is a saving grace with all of the pushing that is required now these cars get up to full song faster and won’t blow up and overheat from doing so.
Storylines always help set the tone for the new season, particularly for the Daytona 500 being the premier event run as the first race of the year. There were several big stories this time around, namely speeds exceeding 200 mph. I remember the hoopla and excitement generated back in 1983 when Cale Yarborough had just ripped off a lap over 200 mph in his new snarky-looking Hardee’s Monte Carlo SS – which was then promptly deposited on its roof after catching a 40 mph wind gust in what had become “Calamity Corner.”
Well, with speeds clipping past that barrier at Daytona for the first time in well over 20 years, all of the turns were calamity corners with the push-drafting and impromptu back end breakaways that were experienced by some of the most time-tested superspeedway drivers in the sport.
A side note – Yarborough won that 1983 event in a goofy-looking Pontiac LeMans back up car, while Bayne this year won with a car that was repaired in the garage area after an accident on the final lap of Thursday’s Gatorade Duels sent him careening off the wall, Jeff Gordon and down through the infield grass.
Which brings me to another point: with as large and in charge as the new Car of Tomorrow is, has it become almost too safe?
By that I mean not that of the driver, but of the vehicle itself? The cars have become so hearty and reinforced that no longer is a dinged up fender – or a completely smashed in nose – a barrier to entry of Victory Lane. It used to be that if a driver scrubbed the wall in practice, out came the backup car. Now, there is little consequence for a bonehead move or over-aggressiveness. Maybe that’s good (if you yard sale it down the frontstretch), but I kind of miss seeing Bobby Hillin, Jr. spinning down through the grass with his hood flopped over his windshield while Kyle Petty cusses him out and flips his visor shut in frustration.
And why aren’t guys getting out of their cars during the red flag to yank the fenders off their tires?! Some of the fragility of the car is what makes for good racing – but again, to the detriment of “the show.”
There were drivers who had to race their way into the field this year as always; however, with the advent of the top 35 rule, that has become less of an issue. The practice of selling team numbers and points to secure a spot in the 500 makes next to no sense to me, and at some point the Past Champion’s Provisional needs to have a serious re-examination as well. That said, Brian Keselowski’s unfounded effort being pushed into the race by his brother Brad’s Penske Dodge Charger was one of the most encouraging, you-can-make-it-in-America moments we’ve seen in quite some time.
Perhaps the biggest story throughout Speedweeks, though was an obvious one: the 10th anniversary of the passing of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. It would have been a watershed mark of sorts, especially had it been an RCR car or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. that won the race, but the cold reality of crashes and car parts going south made that all but impossible by the second of two green-white-checkered finishes. I also believe it would have had the appearance of being all too convenient, another storybook NASCAR finish that would have raised a few eyebrows and possibly raised a question of legitimacy – one that ESPN “Pardon The Interruption” host Tony Kornheiser raised with regards to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winning the pole. While Kornheiser “don’t know much about racing,” as Junior so succinctly put it, it unfortunately would have likely been an issue that clouded what was otherwise a perfectly fine sunny Sunday in Daytona Beach, Florida.
So with a fresh-faced new driver winning in only his second start instead, and doing so with a legendary team made up of some of the finest, most genuinely kind people you will encounter in this sport or in life, period perhaps we can turn the page on the passing of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., and move forward on a positive note for a change.
As it turned out, NASCAR and the fans were treated to a great Daytona 500. It was one that had just enough old with a touch of new, a race that will hopefully set the tone for the 2011 season and beyond. With as much negativity that has surrounded the sport the last few years with dwindling dollars, fan frustration and anemic attendance, the Daytona 500 provided a timely reminder as to why it’s called “The Great American Race.”
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Sunday was nothing like the races of old. Engines blew because they were twisted to the very edge in the quest for more power, this year they blew because they were choked by restrictor plates and restricted grill openings. Back in the day a single car could use the slingshot and not have to have a partner. Back in the day the caution was not thrown for a car tapping the wall, and 30-50 laps of solid green was not unheard of.
Looks to me like Nascar added a little steam to the pile, and everyone is trying to find a reason to get all excited about Nascar again. Same old scripted racertainment that we have been fed for the last 10 years.
Exactly: Damaged cars, running up front at Daytona. And I plainly stated that it was in no way related to driver safety, but rather the car being able to be mashed in, but still compete at 200mph. I don’t think that’s always the best thing – just ask Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth.
I think there’s a happy medium… The more cars running up front that are competitive, the more exciting the final stages of the race tend to be. On the other hand, a damaged car up front that can’t keep up with the leaders is basically an obstacle. And while I don’t watch Nascar for the wrecks, I’m no fan of parades either. It’s a fine line.
Tens of thousands of hands in the air holding up 3 fingers on the third lap 10 years after Earnhardt’s death is a testament to what he meant to fans of the sport.
Well said, Carl D. I don’t believe that the majority of race fans are watching for the wrecks. As much as I dislike this form of wheelbarrow racing, the finish was as exciting as it gets, even with the idiotic green-white-checkered. The lap 3 tribute to Earnhardt was great. To many, many fans he will never be forgotten.
The problem with rolling wrecks on the track is exacerbated by Nascars idiotic points sytem that encourages people 15 laps down to stay out there with steaming piles of dung. If Points were only awarded to the top 20 or 25 cars, you would cut that nonsense off at the pass. As for me, having lost a few friends racing over the years, I cringe when I see a wreck; I suspect most intelligent race fans do the same.
I’m with Don. I too cringe when I see a wreck. I do not get excited about “The Big One” at all. Perhaps if everyone could throw one race out for points we could stop some of the rolling wreck problems. I just don’t want to see a system where a driver is taken out of contention for a championship based on one bad performance.
Yes, the race had some exciting moments. Unfortunately the race also had 60 laps of caution. With a Pace Car speed of 70mph on a 2.5 mile track, that meant we spent over 2 hours under caution. No wonder I felt bored as the race went on.