What To Watch: Tuesday
– Carl Edwards will be a special guest, making a third appearance on the syndicated talk show Kelly & Michael. Expected to talk everything from current NASCAR issues to his time as a “chauffeur,” Edwards will join actor Robert Downey, Jr. as celebrities spending time on Tuesday’s show.
– Matt Kenseth will hold a national media teleconference to discuss his current season, NASCAR’s recent penalties against his team at Joe Gibbs Racing and plenty of other off-track topics. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota, following a 50-point penalty for an illegal engine after winning the race at Kansas sits 13th in points, 102 behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
– Tire testing for Goodyear will go on at Indianapolis this Tuesday and Wednesday. This test does not count against NASCAR’s four allowed each team during the season. Trevor Bayne, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart are expected to be in attendance for Ford, Chevy, and Toyota.
by Tom Bowles
Denny Hamlin Cleared For Talladega
Denny Hamlin will be returning to NASCAR competition this Sunday, if only for a few short minutes. Hamlin has been medically cleared to start Talladega, according to the driver’s official Twitter feed and will run until the first caution of the race. Substitute driver Brian Vickers will then take over and run for the remainder of the event. According to NASCAR rules, all points will go to Hamlin, meaning the driver will begin his long, arduous task of climbing back into the championship Chase. As of now, the driver sits 29th in points, 71 behind 20th-place Kurt Busch and 126 outside the top 10. To be eligible for a “wild card,” the winless Hamlin must at least make it up into the top 20, where he would currently have to win just once to make the field.
“I can not wait to get back in car,” said the driver on his Twitter. “The smell of fuel and tires…”
Hamlin’s status for Darlington and beyond remains unclear at this point. Substitutes for the driver of the No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota have scored two top-10 results in four starts, with Brian Vickers bringing home an eighth-place finish at Texas earlier this month.
ESPN May Scale Back On Nationwide Series
The Sports Business Journal (http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2013/04/29/Media/ESPN-Nationwide.aspx) is reporting ESPN may scale back on the Nationwide Series under the next television contract, set to begin in 2015. The Worldwide Leader In Sports, who has been the exclusive rightsholder since 2007 may only bid for the Nationwide races it does in conjunction with Sprint Cup events, claiming production savings as a reason for the change in philosophy.
Currently, ESPN does the full season of Nationwide event but for the season’s first half, they send out a full crew, truck, and separate vendors that work on Saturdays while FOX or TNT does the main Sprint Cup event. A new contract, one where they’re working a reduced schedule would result in millions saved, the same crew working both the Saturday and Sunday races similar to what they do once ESPN picks up the Cup Series in July.
ESPN is expected to be one of several networks in negotiations for NASCAR rights fees this summer, where the second half of the Sprint Cup Series remains up for grabs after FOX’s 13 events. NBC, Turner Sports, and perhaps even CBS are expected to make a bid for the property, while FOX and its FOX Sports 1 network may move in on the Nationwide Series.
News ‘N’ Notes
– Full ratings for Richmond aren’t in yet, but the early numbers don’t look promising. Saturday night’s race earned just a 1.3 Nielsen rating in the crucial 18-to-49 age group advertisers covet, according to statistics accumulated by zap2it.com. That’s down seven percent from Texas, a few weeks ago in what became the lowest-rated race for the Cup Series all season long. So far in 2013, it’s been a mixed bag for television viewership; while Daytona numbers were way up, five of the other seven Cup races have been flat or suffered Nielsen ratings declines.
– Set your calendars for Wednesday, May 8th at 9:00 AM EST. That’s when Matt Kenseth’s appeal, regarding penalties for both himself and the No. 20 team of Joe Gibbs Racing will be heard. The driver was penalized 50 points last week for a connecting rod in his engine that was three grams lighter than allowed according to NASCAR rules. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff was fined $200,000, suspended six weeks while owner Joe Gibbs also had his owner’s license suspended. Should the penalty hold, Gibbs – who lost 50 owner points as well in the incident – has also been prevented from accumulating additional points over the next six NASCAR events (excluding the All-Star Race).
– Red Horse Racing drivers Timothy Peters and German Quiroga were among a group testing at Texas Motor Speedway Monday, in preparation for the Truck Series event to be held there June 7th. Kyle Busch Motorsports rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr. was with them; speeds for the three drivers were not released. Meanwhile, Nelson Piquet, Jr. was gathering information for Turner Scott Motorsports, on-track at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. That Truck Series event, which added an official sponsor Monday (Chevy Silverado) will be run on September 1st.
Numbers Game: Toyota Owners 400 / 2013 Season To Date
by Tom Bowles
Laps led by Aric Almirola this season in the Cup Series.
Driver on the Sprint Cup circuit riding a streak of three consecutive top-10 results. That’s Almirola, whose solid performance has bumped him up to 11th in points and resulted in an eighth-place finish Saturday night.
Driver to complete every lap of every race this season. Jimmie Johnson? Nope. How about Richard Childress Racing’s Paul Menard, whose worst finish is 21st at the season-opening Daytona 500.
Positions gained by Jeff Burton for his decision to stay out on old tires late in Saturday night’s event. The result, a fifth-place finish was the first top 5 for the veteran at an unrestricted track since Phoenix in November 2011
Total number of laps led by Kevin Harvick this season. Harvick, who led just three laps Saturday night had made it up front for just three of the last 19 Sprint Cup events before Richmond.
Consecutive Spring Richmond races won by Kyle Busch before Saturday night. Busch, who led 40 laps wound up 24th and saw his impressive streak come to an end.
Lead changes at Richmond, the fewest for any Cup Series event this season. For the first 253 circuits, only Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer led the race; neither one would get out front, though from that point on.
Laps led by Juan Pablo Montoya throughout all of 2012.
Spots lost by Jamie McMurray in the final two laps of the race. McMurray, on the outside of the front row for the green-white-checkered finish was pushed out of the groove on old tires and slid back to 26th.
Laps led by Juan Pablo Montoya at Richmond Saturday night. Fourth place was the best performance for the Colombian, on track since a fourth at Martinsville in April of 2011.
Laps led by Kurt Busch at Richmond Saturday night. That’s the most for the 2004 Cup champ since pacing the field for 57 circuits, at Phoenix driving Roger Penske’s No. 22 Dodge in November 2011.
The margin of victory this season, through nine events. That’s compared to 1.759 seconds last year, one of many reasons NASCAR is claiming the Gen-6 car has been more competitive than the older version this week.
Percent of cars running on the lead lap this year, through nine races as opposed to 38.2 the year before.
The number of Cup Series starts for Dave Blaney since he scored a top-10 finish at an unrestricted track. Blaney was ninth at Dover, in June 2008 before beginning his current slump; he does have a top-5 result from Talladega, in the Fall of 2011 as his lone highlight.
Number of additional green-flag passes we’ve had through nine races, compared to 2012 which averages out to about 134 more per event.
Number of laps Matt Kenseth is on pace to lead this season. His previous high, for any year was 1,132 during a four-win season of 2006.