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.
Name: Lake Chambers Speed
The established trend over the past several years in NASCAR has been to recruit new talent through the open-wheel ranks of racing. Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, and JJ Yeley, all have their roots firmly planted in cars without fenders. The most recent convert to taxicab racing is former CART champion and Formula 1 winner Juan Pablo Montoya. Years spent dicing with guys named Rubens, Ralf, and Mika have prepared him quite well to battle against drivers named Dale, Sterling, and Carl. Looking back, there was one open-wheeler in the early 80's who came into fendered racing after defeating possibly the greatest driver in the history of autoracing. With a name that sounded straight out of a Hollywood racing screenplay, he came into the sport at just the right time, during what is now regarded as the "Golden Age" of the 1980's. With NASCAR making its now annual trip to Darlington this weekend, we profile one driver who established his legacy with a win at the Lady in Black, driver Lake Speed.
Lake Chambers Speed was born in Jacksonville, Mississippi on January 17th, 1948. Named for his father's best friend, Lake took a quite a different route to NASCAR's highest series than the usual path. Most drivers who ventured into NASCAR racing at that time started racing on dirt, moved up to a sportsman or modified class, made many Busch or ASA starts, then got into Cup. Speed began racing go-karts, a series more apt to prepare drivers to compete at Silverstone and Interlagos than North Wilkesboro or Rockingham. He would win six International Federation of Karting championships, as well as capturing the World Karting Title in 1978, in LeMans, France, before setting his sights on stock cars. To win the title, he had to beat a man who would come to be regarded as one of the most talented drivers ever to put on a helmet, regardless of the era, Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian would win three Formula 1 titles before his tragic death in 1994. It was said that Senna could make a car "dance with his hands", and his domination of F1 in the late 80's and early 90's was evidence of this. And Lake Speed once beat him.
It was President of Lowe's Motor Speedway, Humpy Wheeler, that first suggested Lake try his hand at full-bodied cars. Driving a stock car is a much different discipline than driving a go-kart or any other open wheeled machine, short of a NASCAR modified. You have a car that weighs two-and-a-half times as much, has half the down force, and 15" wheels with a 10.5" slick tire. Pizza cutters, comparatively, to an open wheeled car with its huge tires. Speed figured things out pretty quick however, notching his first Top 10 at Darlington in 1980 with a sixth place run in the Rebel 500. Not too shabby for a rookie, driving his own car, on a limited schedule. He would go on to rack up four more Top 10's that year, and six the following year, again on a limited schedule. It would be little more than coincidence that his first taste of success would come at the 1.336 mile egg-shaped oval. Speaking of egg-shaped things, Lake would notch zero wins his first seven years in the sport. He came tantalizingly close in 1983, only to lose out to Richard Petty in the final laps of the Winston 500 in 1983. Speed was passed by both The King and Benny Parsons in the final laps of that fateful race. I guess if you're going to get beat, getting beat by eight Championships, eight Daytona 500s, and over 200 combined wins isn't such a bad way to go out.
It would be a significant defeat however, in that it reshaped and changed Lake Speed's career and his life. Success changes many people. One spectacular event, one defining moment, catapults them to greatness and gives them the confidence to achieve. For others, it can also take a humbling defeat or catastrophic occurrence to alter the course of their life. Lake Speed's defining moment was somewhere in between those two. Speed was at a crossroads of sorts. He was on the cusp of doing great things, butit must have felt like something was holding him back. He could continue to struggle, doing things "his way", and beat his head against the wall to keep coming up short, or stay at it, keep the faith and persevere. It was at this junction that he made the decision to enlist the services of the only person who could truly help him. No, not Suitcase Jake Elder or Tim Brewer; Jesus Christ. Lake became a devout born again Christian, and decided that he would not give up; he would stick it out, having faith to believe that brighter days lay ahead.
Those days were not far behind. In 1985 at The Daytona 500, Bill Elliott wasn't driving his No. 9 Coors Thunderbird so much as he was flying it, dominating the event. About the only driver who could clearly read the back of his tail panel that day was Lake Speed. He found himself less than a second behind Awesome Bill at the end, when everyone else in the field was at least a lap down. Lake Speed and the No. 75 Pontiacs owned by Butch Moch and Bob Rahilly would tally 14 Top10 finishes that year enroute to a tenth place finish in the final point standings. An abbreviated 1986 season would pave the way for his entry into the ranks of Owner/Driver. Alan Kulwicki was going to do it, and so was Lake Speed. Back then it wasn't as the impossible feat it is today. His 10,000 square foot shop was the biggest of the day, and all that was needed was an infusion of cash to get things rolling along. With a guy whose last name was "Speed", things were sure to quickly follow suit.
Speed’s career as an owner/driver got off to a rocky start. The car, when it would finish, would finish well. Crashes and parts failures would stymie promising runs. His best finish of the year would be a third-place finish in the World 600 (now the Coca-Cola 600) at Charlotte (now Lowe's). 1988 though, would be the year that things would turn around in a big way. Speed started the year off putting the car at the point in the Daytona 500, only to be slowed down by engine failure well before halfway. A sixth place run in the next race at Richmond, then a runner up finish at Rockingham served notice that the #83 Wynn's Oldsmobiles were for real. A cracked head at Atlanta next week would not slow the momentum the team was building. The next week at Darlington would be his crowning achievement.
As things continue to change in NASCAR, there are still some constants, one of which is Darlington. The track dubbed "Too Tough To Tame" is just that; where else do teams actually install 4×4 blocks of lumber in the quarter panels so they can run up against the wall? Back then the Spring race at Darlington was 500 miles, not the 400 miler that we have become accustomed to. All those extra 100 miles did was give Lake Speed a chance to lap every car up to third place, and outrun fellow owner/driver Alan Kulwicki by 19 seconds. In victory lane, Lake was visibly moved. He gave credit to his team, but also thanked his main "spotter", for giving him the faith to continue. "Had it not been for my faith in the Lordâ€¦..after 1986, I'd have sold everything and moved back to Jackson, Mississippi." He was gracious, contrite, and thankful for what he was able to accomplish. He was also looking forward to this win jumpstarting his career and his new operation. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you hear Lake speak of it today) that would not be the case.
In the late 80's and early 90's, you didn't need a multi-car team and a $20 million annual sponsorship to run competitively. Back then a top-flight team cost less than a mid-pack Busch team gets in today's dollars. With GM funding no less than FOUR manufacturer makes, along with Ford's re-commitment to circle track racing, one would have thought that after strong start the No. 83 team was off to, that the money and support would follow. For whatever reason, it did not.
In 1989, on a shoestring budget courtesy of Bullseye Barbecue Sauce, things just weren't materializing. It went from a situation, of when the car would finish, it would run well, to if it finished, well, at least it was running. Ever the roadracer from his karting days, Speed still managed a fifth place finish at Sears Point, the highlight of an otherwise somber season. NASCAR was about to take the next step at the turn of the decade. More technology was being introduced into the sport, radial tires were replacing bias-ply tires, and NASCAR was about to hit the big screen with the popular, if wildly inaccurate motion picture, "Days of Thunder". While Lake Speed and his organization were positioned to help be part of this burgeoning explosion of popularity, he was more or less an also-ran than a contender.
It wouldn't be until 1993, following the tragic death of Davey Allison that Speed would get a shot a driving a competitive car. He ran a few races in the No. 28 Havoline Ford for Robert Yates Racing, running well at Watkins Glen, and putting the car on the front row the following week at Michigan. However, his tenure in the No. 28 was to be short-lived, as he was merely keeping the seat warm until Ernie Irvan could get out of his contract with Morgan-McClure to come to Yates. Speed would close out the year in Bud Moore's No. 15 that driver Geoff Bodine had abdicated to acquire the assets of Speed's owner/driver counterpart, the late Alan Kulwicki, who had also tragically died months earlier in an airplane crash.
In 1995, Speed would drive the No. 9 Fords for Harry Melling. Ironic, as the previous best view of the No. 9 that Lake Speed had was ten years earlier, placing runner up to it in the Daytona 500. The SPAM car was never really a threat to win, posting a pair of Top 10s that year. His most notable moment was at Michigan, following the race on pit road. Still strapped into his car, he was approached by Michael Waltrip, who after some incidental contact with Speed on the track, was none too happy with him. Waltrip punched Speed while he still sat strapped into his car, helmet intact. Waltrip was still helmeted as well, making the incident that much more memorable.
1998 would be the last year that Lake Speed would drive in NASCAR. At Sears Point in that year, the former karting ace was putting his skills to good use, posting the second fastest lap time on the newly configured "Chute" course. However, Speed wrecked hard during practice, and unbeknownst to him, had a broken sternum. It didn't help matters much that in the next race at Loudon, NH, when he crashed again. This time the injury was discovered, along with four broken ribs.
Today, Lake Speed has no feelings of bitterness or regret regarding his career. He would have every right to and be justified, after things looked so promising following that win at Darlington in 1988. However, Speed realized that the Lord had a different plan for him than what he himself had in mind, and he is at peace with that, growing to embrace and celebrate the path that lead him to a much closer relationship with his wife Rice and his three children. Speed and Rice, former driver Bobby Hillin and his wife, as well as Darrell and Stevie Waltrip, helped to form Motor Racing Outreach, now an established and important part of NASCAR’s top touring series. The focus of MRO was to bring church services to the track, as most races are run on Sunday, and people figured it doesn't hurt to have some help from above when you're hurtling around at over 200mph.
Speed has recently started racing go-karts again as a hobby. He also occasionally competes in vintage auto racing, with one of his former No. 83 Purex Thunderbirds winning four times between 2002 and 2003 at Daytona's infield roadcourse. With many of today's drivers putting undue pressure on themselves to perform and preserve their legacy, it is refreshing and inspiring to see Lake Speed as a counterpoint to the obsession of performance. While he most certainly would welcome the opportunity to get behind the wheel again in Nextel Cup competition, Lake Speed learned a valuable lesson these last few years away from the track. The best times of a driver's life are often when he puts it in park.
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