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
Tuesday March 4, 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.
Vito Pugliese · Wednesday June 13, 2007
If the rumors are true, and by all accounts they are, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has finally found a new home for 2008…
I see you looking at me like that! Don't act so surprised. After all, it wasn't just coincidence that Junior hopped in Kyle Busch's car this April after their tangle on the frontstretch at Texas. We didn’t know it then, but the seeds for the future were being planted, with Junior testing the waters with a team no one would have thought to be the favorite to land NASCAR’s biggest free agent this decade.
Once Junior first announced that he was leaving D.E.I. on May 10th, speculation ran rampant about where he was going to go…and most of it didn’t point towards Hendrick. Many fans were pulling hard for a move to Richard Childress Racing, just to see the No. 3 come out of retirement. Well, while everyone loves nostalgia, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had made clear his desire NOT to drive the No. 3 until he's farther along in his career, perhaps with a Nextel Cup Championship or two in hand by that point.
He's now one step closer to making those dreams a reality.
From the outset, the Hendrick deal has tremendous upside. Looking at it from purely a performance standpoint, Junior is with a team that can help him fulfill three of his requirements for a prospective team right off the bat: Win races. Win Championships. Win NOW. Yeah, put some giant check marks next to all of those. Jeff Gordon just won his fourth race of the year this past weekend, and Hendrick cars have won 10 of 14 races this year, including 5 out of 6 Car of Tomorrow events. Hendrick has nearly twice the manpower D.E.I. does, and the people they have building their cars have set the benchmark for racing excellence through most of the last two decades. Since 1994, Hendrick Motorsports has captured four Daytona 500s and six Nextel Cup Championships, more than any other organization during that span. We're not even halfway through the season, and all four of the Hendrick cars have won a race so far this year.
Beyond the competition, there’s the financial impact this move will have for both parties involved: for if it is often said race cars don't run on gasoline, they run on money. That old axiom is clearly true in NASCAR, and the key to starting a race car is solid marketing. With the addition of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Rick Hendrick has scored quite a packaging coup: he’s now accumulated the threesome of Jimmie, Jeff, and Junior, with each driver representing a different part of the United States. You’ve got Jimmie Johnson, the former desert racer and West Coast native; Jeff Gordon, a native of Pittsboro, Indiana (or Vallejo, California, depending on the geographical location of this week’s track) and a Midwest sprint car transplant. Finally, you have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. completing this multi-faceted marketing puzzle; one of the last links to NASCAR's storied past, and a genuine, son of the south hero to millions of Americans born below the Mason-Dixon line.
With all of this good fortune being celebrated in Uptown Charlotte, however, it is bound to come at someone's expense. Let's change gears for a minute and take a closer look at those about to be less fortunate:
Kyle Busch: Somebody had to go to make room for Junebug, and it looks like The Shrub has been trimmed from Hendrick's roster to do so. It's sad to say, but..well… it isn't like we haven't seen this coming. Looking back, the Daytona 500 has become a microcosm of Busch’s roller coaster season. Coming to the checkered flag running 3rd, Busch lost control of his car exiting turn four, triggering a 20-car pileup that had Clint Bowyer upside down and on fire. That type of mixed bag performance has haunted Busch through the year, even during his better races. His win at the first Car of Tomorrow race at Bristol was impressive, but his comments shortly thereafter (namely that the Car of Tomorrow sucked) drew the ire of many, including his ever-supportive owner that appears to have finally lost his patience.
Unfortunately for Busch, it’s easy to see how that patience wore thin amongst a festival of bent sheetmetal, wrecked race cars, and stinging criticism from all angles that has clung to his team these past eight weeks. Following the now infamous Texas incident with Junior, Busch has left behind a wake of scrap metal that would make Fred Sanford green with envy. Wiping out a fleet of cars faster than Lindsay Lohan on a weekend bender, the tipping point for Busch’s career seemed to come at the All-Star race, when Kyle took out his brother Kurt in a pointless, ill-advised pass. Upon delivery of the battered machine to the garage area, Rick Hendrick was standing with crew chief Alan Gustufson, looking very un-Rick Hendrick like and very upset. That moment, more than any other, rings clear as the point at which the younger Busch may have finally sealed his fate.
So what happens now for the 22-year-old? Max Siegel, President of Global Operations at D.E.I. has expressed interest in signing him, and if the organization can retain Anhieuser-Busch as a sponsor, the last name tie-in is perfect for Busch to obtain a fresh start. The only question is… does anyone really care at this point?
Joe Gibbs Racing: They seemed like the most logical player in all of this, what with the chummy relationship Junior has with both Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, as well as the Gibbs cars being among the few that could keep pace with Hendrick CoT machinery. However, Joe and J.D. Gibbs wanted nothing to do with the Budweiser sponsorship for religious reasons, and with a very powerful personality like Tony Stewart, Gibbs would probably not be the ideal situation for Junior to move into when you think things through. J.J. Yeley has shown improvement in recent weeks in an attempt to retain his seat in the No. 18 car, and if Denny Hamlin had any semblance of luck, he would have won four races by now. While anyone would be a fool to turn down Junior, it appears this probably would not have been in anyone’s best interest.
Ginn Racing: Many thought Bobby Ginn's operation would be the place where Junior would make a good fit. Not afraid to spend money and spend it in the right places, the former MB2 team has exceeded even the wildest expectations so far in 2007. Mark Martin is currently sitting in a Chase spot after missing three events; had he run them, he’d most likely be sitting fourth in points right now. While Martin has run strong, though, his best shot at a win was Daytona, and though the cars are consistent, none have been real contenders since then. Just look at Martin’s teammates for proof; neither Joe Nemechek nor Sterling Marlin have a Top 5 finish to their credit this season.
It’s clear that Ginn has just begun the building process, and Junior wants to win NOW. While Ginn Racing appears to be a reincarnation of Hendrick Motorsports from the late 80's, they are still a few years away from being near the level Hendrick is currently at. In all honesty, this would actually be a perfect situation for Kyle Busch to step into. He has always earned the praises of Mark Martin, and Mark in his newfound role as mentor and coach has the perfect lump of coal to mold into a diamond with Busch. Busch respects Martin and is one of the few people who he'll listen to and abide by; he also desperately needs a boost of confidence and guidance from somebody who knows a little something about disappointment. In the end, while Ginn lost out on Earnhardt, Jr., the alternative may not be so bad after all.
Penske Racing South: This was a longshot at best, and was mostly the result of Kurt Busch doing his best impersonation of his brother the last few weeks: wrecking all by himself, going Mad Max on pit road, and producing other such Kurt-isims the last couple of months that have endeared him to nobody besides his wife Eva. Couple that with the wild inconsistency of the Dodge Charger, and it’s been rumored Penske would possibly be switching to Toyota or Chevrolet for 2008, in addition to adding a 3rd team. While I believe that 3rd car is for Sam Hornish, Jr., many were under the mistaken impression that the proposed Mobil 1 car would be driven by Little E. Alas, such a farfetched marriage is not to be.
Casey Mears: Just Casey's luck; wouldn't you know it, he FINALLY breaks through with that first win at the Coca-Cola 600, beginning to establish himself and the No. 25 as a winning combination with Hendrick Motorsports. Now, with this announcement the very same No. 25 car could very well be relegated back to putting the R & D in Rick HenDrick. The No. 25 team has, since the dawn of Hendrick's inception, been teetering on the verge of greatness. Tim Richmond established this car as a winner shortly before he fell ill and his subsequent untimely passing, but since the early 90's, the team just never seemed to be able to pull it together and become a weekly contender like all other cars in the Hendrick stable. A smattering of wins, a smorgasbord of drivers, no matter what…the No. 25 just can't ever seem to catch a break. With Junior coming on board, it’s likely that streak will continue for the fourth team left on the totem pole.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: That's right; while Hendrick certainly is a powerhouse, it is not without its struggles as well, just like any other race team. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are the established drivers at Hendrick, and their So-Cal buddy Casey Mears finally won a race, beginning to establish himself as a top-tier driver in the premier racing division in North America. Junior has gone from being the driver an entire company revolved around to arguably 3rd on the depth chart as far as Hendrick Motorsports is concerned, with a driver behind him that’s won more than Junior has over the past season of racing. During the shop tours he has been taking lately, Junior was surprised at just how well equipped D.E.I. was compared to other teams. With Martin Truex, Jr. suddenly running up front and winning in dominant fashion with what’s soon to be his old team, Junior may actually end up having taken a step backwards at this point a year from now.
Drunk Talladega Fan: This guy's main purpose for getting up in the morning and not throwing himself into a woodchipper is to get all beered up and wait for Jeff Gordon to come by, just so he can hurl 12 ounces of rebellion over the catchfence that Bobby Allison couldn't tear down with a 210 MPH Buick. But now that his arch nemesis is going to be his favorite driver's teammate, who is he going to throw stuff at? Looks like the guy that never got much attention from mommy and daddy is going to have to find a new outlet for his angst. Perhaps finger-painting will be his calling.
Well, now that this decision is over with, now we can begin obsessing over who will fill the No. 8 seat at D.E.I., Toyota's continued struggles, how much longer will Kurt Busch test Roger Penske's patience, and where Kyle Busch will end up in 2008. Personally, I knew it would be Hendrick all along. Consider the parties involved, what holiday is Sunday, and also do some simple math:
8 - 3 = 5.
Have fun with that one, all of you numerologists and conspiracy theorists. Except for you, Drunk Talladega Fan. Go back to eating your paste and talking to your mittens.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Great article – both funny and insightful. I especially enjoyed your characterization of the beer can tossing Talladaga fans and the 8 – 5 = 3 insight.
Jr. is a teammate of Gordon’s. Are all the Jr. fans going to embrace their most hated driver? This should be better than politics, when they suddenly change their minds and embrace him.
Hendrick must be NUTS!
He is actually throwing Gordon & Johnson to the DOGS!
Scenario: last race of the year, Johnson, Gordon, Jr. all can win the championship! Wonder what the “team orders” will be then! (or even thru the regular season fighting for the chance to make the (sic) CHASE!)
AND!!! If for some reason
The only winner here is Hendrick himself and the money he will make thru this move! Each of the three (3) drivers turn out to be losers fighting one another for track position and for the chumpionship! (pun fully intended)!
For reasons I explained in detail at www.racejournalonline.com/index.cfm?Pagename=column&id=286 I think that, if the Kyle Busch out — Dale Jr. in rumors prove true, whoever gets Kyle will be the long-term winner in the situation.
People were quick to blame the contract distractions for Jr’s iffy performance early in the season. Again, if this proves true, I guess we know why Kyle’s been so unfocused and erratic recently. Nothing like winning a race and being told that you might lose your job to break your concentration.
I thought this article was great, and I too thought all along that Jr. would either go with HMS or that HMS would back JRMotorsports if Jr. were to start up his own team. As a Gordon fan, I too am very curious to see how many TRUE Jr. fans are out there that will follow their driver to HMS. It’s always been my opinion that half of the Jr. Nation of fans only became fans because of Jr.‘s popularity, not because of his driving abilities. Yes he’s good, but he’s no Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and I won’t bring up the other recent past champion because I personally cannot stand him. Also, as a Gordon fan, I welcome Little E. to the team. One thing can be said of us Gordon fans, we never disliked Jr., he was a competitor of ours and a good one at that. I guess we’re just on a higher playing field (or track) than what Junebugs’ fans are.
I am a Gordon fan but I have always liked Junior, and think he is a good driver. I also believe if he does come to Hendrick he will win a title.
I called my sister last night and related how ironic it was that JR would be racing with Hendrick, ironic in the sense that many of his fans literally hate JG. She thought it was funny as well.
Talk about just rewards. Many JR fans cheered when JG wrecked into the wall at Lowe’s, and then booed when the race was called at Pocono, and Gordon won.
Now JR goes to Hendrick, talk about topping on the proverbial cake, what will they do now?
Personally I don’t think Jr. is as good of driver as everyone thinks he is. He had just as good of equipment at DEI as did many of the other teams that had top competitive drivers. And I hope he goes to HMS and doesn’t win a single race next year…..that way he can start whinning & moaning all over again….and blame his lack of driving skills on something else
So now the Red Army throws what….FLOWERS instead of beer cans the next time Gordon wins?
I think Jr. is smarter than some would give him credit for. What better place for him to go and learn more about the business of running a race team than Hendrick. He has five years to get the cup, then go back home to run his own team with experience from racing with the best in the business.
Is it possible that Rick Hendrick is letting Kyle Busch go, because he’s worried that there could be some kind of “insanity DNA,” that runs in the Busch family? Maybe he’s concerned that in the future, these traits might “explode” into a situation that could cause “intolerable embarassment” for the HMS sponsors and teams. Kyle’s comments at Bristol, could have been a wake-up call to Rick.
I’m sure that Roger Penske and Miller Brewing are “totally p**s*d,” with Kurt Busch,
Possibly, Rick Hendrick in all his wisdom, forsees a similar situation that he wants to avoid. Just speculating!
8 × 3 = 24