NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Vito Pugliese · Monday August 22, 2011
Editor’s Note: Matt McLaughlin’s under the weather this week, so our Vito Pugliese filled in. Cross your fingers, send him a get well note and hopefully he’ll be happy, healthy and writing again by Thursday!
The Key Moment – Kyle Busch chose the outside lane on a green-white-checkered restart to keep Jimmie Johnson at bay. He cleared him within the first ten seconds under green and… that was it. The outside line is now the preferred line on speedways, just so long as the car in the right lane clears the inside one before he gets sucked around. Add in a little aero push for Johnson, some horsepower under the hood for Busch and the No. 18 cruised to Victory Lane.
In a Nutshell – Well, it was typical Michigan. Five lanes of racing, field spread out under green, and no real wrecks until the very end when Kurt Busch blew a tire and pile drove his Charger into the wall, rupturing his radiator and collecting Jamie McMurray in the process. When all was said and done, GM, Dodge, and Ford all had to suck it up as Toyota dealt them a blow to the solar plexus in their hometown. Ouch, quit it.
Dramatic Moment – The final restart looked to sizing up to be a four-car battle between the fastest four on the track the prior ten laps between Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, and Mark Martin. That notion lasted until the exit of Turn Two, when Busch hooked and booked down the backstretch all the way to his fourth win of the season.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
Chevrolet had to eat a big crap sandwich on Sunday, as Toyota won its 100th NASCAR race smack dab in the General’s backyard. Considering all of the hoopla surrounding Chevrolet’s centennial celebration in Detroit, that’s gotta hurt. By the way, that celebration coincided with the Woodward Dream Cruise, culminating with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson physically waving the green flag in the back seat of a V-6 Camaro convertible (no SSs or 2012 ZL-1, guys? Really?) for Chevrolet’s participation in the event.
Also of note is the disturbing trend of the new front end of the Sprint Cup cars to collect garbage and overheat instantly, be it grass, trash, or anything else. It looked like Jeff Gordon would check out and win the race after halfway, leading a total of 50 laps, then Jimmie Johnson took his turn at the point for 18 circuits – though the No. 18 would be his undoing. Both the Nos. 24 and 48, however succumbed to the same fate: garbage on the grill. That loosened up their cars, causing water temps to soar past 260 degrees and helped Busch get a little extra edge under green. Trash all over the racetrack, all day; was this Michigan or Fontana?
It was an ugly ending to what should have been a banner day for Ford. The first half of the race looked to be a foregone Blue Oval conclusion, courtesy pole-sitter Greg Biffle leading 86 of the first 98 laps. The Pure Michigan Fusion looked to be performing a reasonable facsimile of Dale Jarrett’s 1999 Michigan win, where it literally was a green, white, checker finish – no cautions and five cars left on the lead lap. Biffle ended up fading to a rather unremarkable 20th-place finish, though in a run which sealed the coffin on any hopes of making the Chase through any way other than a “wild card” win. He wasn’t the only one disappointed; despite leading 107 of 203 laps, more than any other manufacturer, no Ford Fusion wound up higher than Matt Kenseth in tenth. The Biff chalked the fade of the No. 16 to what he deemed “a bum set of tires, and then we got off on our adjustments.”
But at least they got all the gas in it this time.
The bad ending was bit coincidental for Biffle; after all, he carried race sponsor Pure Michigan on the hood. That initiative was designed to help spark tourism in Michigan, since nothing is built here anymore, but it didn’t work – the race was attended by an estimated 81,000 fans, a 30% decrease from the June race. Saturday’s thunderstorms and Sunday’s early morning showers could have prevented some race day traffic from showing up, but that’s not a full explanation. Some ugly traffic routing Sunday morning surely didn’t help those who came, though; NASCAR has to do a better job of making sure fans get in and out smoothly from these rural facilities.
Again, it wasn’t as bad as Kentucky; but if attendance is down 30%, it might make sense for MIS to not block off the main access road and entrance to the speedway. Green Zone barricades set up to dissuade people from entering was puzzling considering the lack of people in the chairs. This is not a knock against Roger Curtis or his fantastic staff at the Speedway, but some rather aggressive traffic mapping and enforcement. And this is coming from a reserve Sheriff deputy…
When Denny Hamlin went behind the wall late in the going, many were nodding their heads and saying in unison, “The only thing missing from TRD engines Denny and Mike Ford is “U!” Not the case; Hamlin suffered suspension damage after plowing into the wall. Meanwhile, the Joe Gibbs Racing, Mark Cronquist-assembled engines was pull everything The Big Three could throw at it in the closing laps. Hiroshima isn’t hurting for horsepower on the big tracks, that’s for sure…
It seems that Dodge makes a resurgence in motorsports every 10 years or so: is 2011 the year they finally surge towards a Cup title? With Brad Keselowski suddenly the poster child for Pentastar power, it is fitting since his father Bob helped to usher in Mopar’s return to circle track competition in the early 1990s when Chrysler fielded the not-legal-for-NASCAR LeBaron (which is French for, “The Baron”) in ARCA, which set the stage for their NASCAR redux in the Truck Series for 1995. Keselowski is the Wild Card to watch right now with two wins and three Top 3 finishes in three weeks – though at his current pace, Keselowski will likely be inside the Top 10 by Richmond. At least Denny Hamlin and David Ragan hope so.
Another race weekend, another sub-Top 10 run by the No. 88 team as Dale Jr. struggled simply to finish 14th. The last race at Michigan saw Dale Earnhardt, Jr. enter the weekend third in points, while everybody was salivating and dusting off their old No. 8 Budweiser gear, heralding the Junior renaissance and the age of enlightenment. That race also marked the downward trend of the No. 88 the last few months, looking more and more like the team that preceded the midseason turnaround that awoke Junior Nation from their slumber. Take heart No. 88 fans; your man is still safely inside the Top-10. That is, until his former protégé Brad Keselowski in 12th mows him down…
If all of the teams and Big Three get so pumped about Michigan, then how come Toyota keeps handing them their head on a platter? ‘Yoda won four out of the last five, they have.
Considering how the last few oval track races have played out compared to the road course races at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Watkins Glen, Road America, and Infineon, is there really any question as to whether or not we need switchbacks in The Chase – let alone a couple of more on the schedule? And spare me your North Wilkesboro e-mails; there are weeds growing out of it right now like a dilapidated Soviet air base.
The two F-16 Fighting Falcons performing the pre-race flyover must have gotten their timing off, since sporting events in Michigan include playing Canada’s National Anthem as well. First they taunt us with their exchange rates and duty free shops… now this?
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
If you missed the entertaining radio chatter from the No. 22 of Kurt Busch last weekend at Watkins Glen, you’ll probably get an earful from this weekend. Kurt’s car was decent for 15 laps then, as it has through most of the speedway races this year, got too tight and slowly faded backwards into obscurity. A brush with the wall early in the going set the stage for a proper wall-job with two laps to go courtesy of another blown tire. Considering the Penske car’s penchants for blowing tires this year – from Keselowski at Las Vegas while leading on the last lap, to New Hampshire in Cup, Kurt last week at the Glen and now Michigan, whatever makes them go fast must also be stretching those Goodyears to the limit.
Rough day at work for Carl Edwards. The hood went up on the No. 99 early in the going, then was seen backing down pit road to go to the garage area for what Edwards believes to be electrical related. While the Penske cars seem to have problems blowing tires, the No. 16 can’t get it full of gas, while the No. 99 has more than its fair share of ignition issues. Remember the debacle at Charlotte back in 2008? Edwards’ car would shut off for no apparent reason, and it ended up costing him the championship; today’s 36th-place finish would have done so again had it happened in September or October.
Marcos Ambrose set the stock car racing on its ear this week, winning two races in 6 days: his first Cup win at Watkins Glen and again in Montreal in the Nationwide Series yesterday. Then he comes to Michigan, gets wrecked on pit road, nerfs it into the wall and winds up 27th. Maybe Kevin Harvick can buy some Jimmy John’s to make up for it?
Tony Stewart should slowly revert back into Old, Temperamental Tony should be continue his stretch of mediocre runs and fall out of Chase contention. Today’s nondescript ninth just won’t cut it; and as Danica Patrick questions commence, with the impending announcement of her move to NASCAR full-time in Nationwide, expect the owner/driver to simply get more testy until the press conference considering SHR’s Cup connection to the deal. Teammate Ryan Newman is solidly in the Top 10 in points with three races to go, but it might take a bit of the former cranky, surly Stewart to do the same for the No. 14 the next few weeks. The Summer of Smoke has simply not come to fruition as so many had believed.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
Jimmie Johnson seems to have located that elusive horseshoe. After nearly missing his pit stall, Johnson was among the first to pit when the caution flew following his final stop. That left him on the lead lap, with a free pass to stay out and inheriting the track position he lost earlier in the race to run second.
Mark Martin posted his second best finish of the year with a strong fourth-place result, among the fastest cars on the track the last 30 laps. Martin dominated the Camping World Truck Series race Saturday, only to be collected while battling for the lead with Kevin Harvick and Parker Kligerman. A lot of people have been down on Martin this year, but it’s not as bad as it seems. He’s essentially driving the No. 88 car that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove last season yet is one position higher in the points than Junior at this same time a year ago.
Bobby Labonte brought out the second caution on lap 57, a single car spin between Turns 1 and 2. But Labonte rebounded to finish 15th, his third-best of the season. Labonte earned his third career win 16 years ago at this same race from the pole, driving the Interstate Batteries No. 18 JGR entry which, naturally, won today as well.
Worth Noting – Kyle Busch’s win was his 23rd Sprint Cup Series victory, tying him with his brother Kurt and Ricky Rudd. The win also clinches at last one of the two Wild Card spots in the Chase, and was the 93rd win for Joe Gibbs Racing.
- Brad Keselowski (third) recorded his first top-10 finish in five Cup races at his home track at Michigan International Speedway. It was also his third top-3 finish in a row.
- While Fords captured the front row and three of the first four positions, they only had one car in the top-10 at MIS Sunday (Matt Kenseth in 10th).
- Jimmie Johnson is still winless at MIS, but his second-place finish is now his career best at the track that continues to taunt and tease him.
- Jeff Gordon led 50 laps in Sunday’s race; he had led just one in the previous seven MIS races. Gordon ended the day in sixth.
What’s the Points?
Kyle Busch’s win, while locking him into the Chase gives him a 10-point lead over his closest competitors. As of now, Busch would also be the top seed for the second time in the past four years entering the postseason.
Jimmie Johnson sits second, ten points behind Busch but armed with just one win – that’ll hurt him for seeding purposes. Kevin Harvick’s 22nd-place effort left him third, 39 points behind Busch and tied with Carl Edwards for the spot. Matt Kenseth rounds out your top-5 in the standings, followed by Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch. All those drivers cannot fall out of the top-10 after Bristol and, with three races left are virtually guaranteed postseason spots of their own.
Brad Keselowski vaulted to 12th in the standings, 52 points out of 10th. Keselowski can make it in the Top-10, but will need some help from Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to get there; they’re the only points-eligible Chase drivers who appear vulnerable at this point. Further back, Denny Hamlin is currently ranked as the second Wild Card driver, needing to win a second race and eclipse Keselowski in the standings to move. Hamlin trails Keselowski by seven points while remaining just eighteen in front of the next one-win driver, Paul Menard.
Overall Rating (Using Matt McLaughlin’s scale of one to six beer cans, with one being justifiable suicide and a six pack ESPN Classic material) — I’ll give this one two cans. Being at the track, I couldn’t really fire my shirt off in the Media Center and Stone Cold a pair of PBRs, but it probably would have given me instant street cred and a heroic mention on Jayski.
Next Up – Bristol! Racin’ The Way It Oughta’ Be! Thunder Valley! Though after the reconstruction of the track in 2007, it’s kind of been muted more into Rumble Gorge. Either way, short track racing in a big concrete bowl in Tennessee at night in August… if you have a problem with that, then we’re not friends anymore. I’m de-friending you on Facebook, and I want my CDs back.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
And what was up with that pace car? Is that what passes for GM (Government Motors) horsepower these days?
Did not like the apperance of favoritism during last pit stop. Dave Blaney was slow down backstretch and turns 3 & 4 coming to pits, nascar could have had him stop in one of the early pit stalls of a start and parker (there were 7 of them) until pit stops were complete. But NO “5 TIME” Pits and then nascar throws caution. Just saying.
Brad Keseloski gets win two weeks ago, finishes 2nd last week, and finishes third this week. If this troubling trend continues, he’ll be finishing outside the top 5 by the time the chase starts. Go Brad!
i wondered the same thing about the pace car. didn’t know gm made a car that looked like that.
Was that pace car the new Volt? The car GM developed that no one demanded.
All but one of those cautions yesterday were questionable.
i too thought that was an odd choice for a pace car. another sign of the end times? Although those cautions were highly questionable they were just about the only thing that kept that “race” even remotely interesting. Good thing Harvick beat up the little league’rs in the truck race otherwise we might have heard an even worse tantrum. I also think those stands were indicative of people getting fed up with a p*ss poor product with particularly prohibitive prices. Sorta looked a lot like california without the palm trees.
I think the pace car, a Chevy Sonic, is Chevy’s answer to the Ford Fiesta. At least it’s built in the US, unlike the Fiesta.
It sucks that they would use such a thing for a pace car but with $4/gal. gasoline, ya gotta market what people want to buy.
The race ended nineteen minutes early. It’s surprising there weren’t more Pierre DeBris cautions. I guess JJ didn’t need any more help. Too much time for interviews. Had to use drivers other than the chosen few. Extra time for the fans to try to get out of the parking lots.
Vito, your CDs are in the mail. I find it sad to not be able to be pumped for Bristol. They trashed the track and now it’s just another ho hummer on the schedule. Proof? I could get tickets right now for what used to take your first born to get.
Matt, I hate to break your bubble, but Mark Martin has NOT driven one of Dale Jr’s old cars. He has had NEW ones every race or one he had driven once before this year. He got the very best selection of cars, yet hasn’t been able to do much better than Dale Jr did last year. Perhaps it’s the driver. Or the CC.
Was anyone really surprised at the end of the race when NASCAR threw a caution to let the 48 catch up after the 18 had driven away, taking away the 18’s earned advantage?
Fortunately, the fairness gods prevailed on the g-w-c and the 18 drove away again.
It sure looked to me like NASCAR didn’t want the 18 to win.
Considering the wheelbarrow-sized pacecar, will the next race be paced by a golf cart?
One more thing—did anyone proofread this article before publishing it? The sentence structures are atrocious.
Pepper, It’s Vito, not Matt, but thanks for reading.
Mark did not get “his” cars until well into the season this year; I believe it was just before Charlotte. The focus for HMS has clearly been trying to get Jr. up to speed and get the 24 back to its former glory – with Martin and McGrew making way for Kahne and Francis in 2012 has to be taken into consideration as well.
Martin and Gustafson had the 5 back up front each week at the end of 2010 after getting off to a slow start with the spoiler/new tire combo. Martin has ran better than Jr. did in 2010 this season, he has just been caught up in more wrecks than since probably the early 1990s.
Vito…your comment about North Wilkesboro looking like a derelict Soviet air base is spot on. I drive past it several times a month and it’s just a sad sight.
I know Jim…it’s downright shameful. Trust me, I take no pleasure in drawing that parallel. That track was about as Old School as you can get.
I still firmly beleive that the less exciting racing at Bristol is more a product of points racing and the Chase than it is about the new configuration. This race is too close to the Chase so everyone is playing nice and trying to get out of there with the best finish they can. Another reason to can the Chase and go back to a full season points system.