The Chase is on and what a better way to honor it then with some useless facts? That’s right, race fans, I said useless. But useless is as useless does, and like the Chase these facts are certainly useless, entertaining maybe, but totally unnecessary. Sometimes, like these tidbits, unnecessary is fun. So without further ado, here are some fun facts about this year’s Chasers. Did you know:
That Jeff Burton was the 1995 Nextel Cup Rookie of the year? Wonder if that caused any interesting talk around the table on Thanksgiving. Pleas to pass the cranberry sauce ignored, perhaps? See, Jeff didn’t just beat fellow rookies Joe Nemechek, Jeremy Mayfield and John Andretti for the award. He also beat his older brother Ward Burton.
That Jeff Gordon was also a rookie of the year in NASCAR, but once took home a quite different honor? That’s right, long before he was tearing up the pavement (sometimes literally; remember Martinsville?) in NASCAR, he was known in his hometown of Pittsboro, Ind. as Jeff Gordon, Prom King.
That Matt Kenseth is the epitome of the old adage “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?” Back home in Wisconsin, Kenseth had quite a rivalry going with another local racer. By reports, the two were not particularly fond of one another, but they were certainly aware of the other’s expertise. That rival from the early days? None other than Robbie Reiser, Kenseth’s crew chief for his entire Cup career to date.
That Denny Hamlin grew up in Midlothian, Va.? Probably, but I just think that’s cool because I lived there my first year out of college.
That Kevin Harvick was probably the envy of first grade back in Bakersfield? His graduation gift from kindergarten was his first go-kart. Harvick went on to win seven national titles and two grand national championships before switching from karts to stock cars.
That Mark Martin was so small as a teenage racer that his cars had extra safety modifications? Martin’s seat was actually centered in the car to keep him away from the open windows and rollcage. His early rivals no doubt remember Martin’s floppy hair as well as his meticulous attention to detail on his racecars.
That one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s biggest races happened not on the racetrack but in the infield? That would be the day that someone told Junior’s dad he was smoking behind the hauler. Junior took one look at Dale Senior heading his way and took off, leading his champion racer father on a less-than-merry chase through the garage area. Junior reportedly got off light, mainly because Dale was too out of breath to do anything to him when he caught him.
That Jimmie Johnson had a less-than-auspicious Baja 1000 debut? Johnson, 15 or so at the time, jumped at the chance to co-drive with a team owned by Bob Gordon, also known as Robby Gordon‘s dad. Johnson spent most of the 500-mile ride being rather sick. In the helmet he borrowed from Bob. That belonged to Robby. Johnson completed his leg of the race, though.
That Kasey Kahne won 11 of 14 mini-sprint races at Hannigan Speedway at the age of 16? The young Kahne won the track championship and the Northwest Mini-Sprint championship that year, too.
That Kyle Busch would have been right at home as the Lone Ranger? Well, in name anyway. The closest Native American translation to “Kemosabe,” Tonto’s nickname for the Masked Man, is skinny shrub.
See? I told you they were useless. But I hope they were also fun. Remember, just like the Chase, useless is also history!
About the author
Amy is an 18-year veteran NASCAR writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found filling in from time to time on The Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and her monthly commentary Holding A Pretty Wheel (Thursdays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.