STP500 Victory for Kurt Busch

March 31, 2014 by  
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In a race featuring a record-breaking 33 lead changes, Kurt Busch crossed the finish line in first place in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, beating Jimmie Johnson to the win by a mere 0.263 seconds. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took third place, followed by Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose. Six races into the 2014 season and six different NASCAR drivers have taken the checkered flag, reportedly a first in Sprint Cup history. Had Johnson won the race it would have been his ninth at the historic Martinsville Speedway, nonetheless he was in the lead for 296 of the 500 laps. While this was Busch’s 25th career victory, it was his first win driving the #41 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing.

An earlier collision with Brad Keselowski nearly put Busch out of the running and cost Keselowski 31 laps, although he returned to the track and gained points. Following the predetermined caution on lap 40 to allow teams to check tire wear, upon leaving the pit lane Keselowski ran into Kasey Kahne as he entered the pits. At that point Keselowski reported damage to the #2 Ford, but things got worse as Kurt Busch, in attempting to pass the two cars, drove into the back of Keselowski’s car, pushing him even further into Kahne’s car. (Kahne went on to finish the race in 22nd place.) Keselowski put the blame for the damage to his car on Busch, but observers have noted that he started the incident by running into Kahne. Once back on the track, Keselowski brake-checked Busch, who retaliated by making contact, only to have Keselowski brush up against him again. In post-race interviews and on-the-spot tweets, it appears that the incident between Busch and Keselowski during the STP 500 may become an out-and-out feud.

Currently, the top five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings are:

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – #88 Chevrolet – 227 points

2. Matt Kenseth – #20 Toyota – 218 points

3. Carl Edwards – #99 Ford – 217 points

4. Jeff Gordon – #24 Chevrolet – 216 points

5. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevrolet – 209 points

Carl Edwards Wins NASCAR Food City 500

March 17, 2014 by  
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The less than orthodox ending to Sunday’s NASCAR Food City 500 Sprint Cup Race on Sunday apparently did nothing to dampen the high spirits of Carl Edwards, who did his trademark backflip after earning his first win of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway, and his third career victory at this popular NASCAR venue. Second place went to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., followed by Aric Almirola, Tony Stewart and Marcos Ambrose respectively. After leading for 44 laps, Jimmie Johnson entered the pits with tire problems, and with a caution for rain in his team’s subsequent pit cycle Johnson slipped to 39th place, eventually finishing the race in the 19th spot.

With two-and-a-half laps remaining, and Edwards quite comfortably in the lead, the caution lights came on and drivers responded by slowing down. As NASCAR officials tried to figure out what prompted the caution, heavy rain started falling and the race was declared over at 503 laps, with Edwards being declared the winner. While it is agreed that the early finish had no impact on the outcome, it left NASCAR officials with some explaining to do.

Initially it was suggested that the excessive rainfall had shorted the system in some way, but then it was discovered that one of the people manning the flag stand had leaned on the manual override switch for the caution lights and switched them on. In response, the flag man raised the caution flag and the field was frozen from the tower. NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing development, Robin Pemberton, later described the incident as a “stupid error”. In a post-race interview, Edwards noted that NASCAR officials are called upon to make a lot of tough calls, going on to say that he was “glad to be part of something where they say, ‘Hey, we just screwed up.'”

The standings in the 2014 Sprint Cup series so far are Brad Keselowski in the number one spot, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson. With competition this stiff so early in the season, there is plenty of excitement up ahead for NASCAR enthusiasts.

NASCAR Sprint Cup May See Big Changes in 2014

January 20, 2014 by  
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The possibility of NASCAR reinventing the format of the Chase for the Sprint Cup has drawn commentary from many quarters – some positive, but more leaning toward the negative. It’s no secret that NASCAR chairman Brian France wants the focus to be on winning races rather than the accumulation of points, and has made some adjustments over the years to the original format introduced in 2004 to achieve this goal. The latest proposal, however, is the most drastic of all and will change the series completely if it is introduced.

The proposal reportedly includes increasing competitors in the Chase for the Sprint Cup from 12 to 16, with a win in any of the season’s first 26 races putting a driver in line for entry into the championship. Should there be more than 16 winners in those 26 races, then the 16 drivers with the most wins as well as the highest in points would qualify for the Chase. Once the field for the Chase was established, a round of elimination races would whittle competitors down to 4 for the final winner-takes-all race. The elimination races would take place after the third, sixth and ninth races of the Chase with 4 drivers being eliminated each time and the remaining 4 drivers going into the final race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway with points reset and tied in the Sprint Cup standings.

When asked to comment on the proposed changes, vice president and chief communications officer of NASCAR, Brett Jewkes, was quoted as saying that NASCAR had started the “process of briefing key industry stakeholders on potential concepts to evolve its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship format.” He went on to state that the briefing was the final phase of extensive research, feedback and “data-driven insights”.

The point has been made that implementing these changes would make historical comparisons impossible as the formats are too different. Also, the championship title would lose its value if the final race is the decider, rather than awarding it to the driver who has shown skill and endurance through the season under varying conditions and on different tracks, thereby gaining points. Some observers have noted that it’s entirely possible NASCAR is putting the idea out there to gauge response before making an official announcement. With the 2014 Sprint Cup Season starting in February, fans won’t have long to wait to find out if a new format is on the cards for 2014.

2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductees

December 16, 2013 by  
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Established in the North Carolina city of Charlotte in May 2010, the NASCAR Hall of Fame honors exceptional drivers, crew chiefs, owners and other players in this exciting sport. The 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees are Tim Flock, Maurice Petty, Dale Jarrett, Jack Ingram and Fireball Roberts, who will join the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Bill France (Senior and Junior), Richard Petty, Lee Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore, Cotton Owens, Herb Thomas, Rusty Wallace and Leonard Wood, among others, in the history annals of NASCAR.

Coming from a family of auto racing enthusiasts which included his sister Ethel Mobley (NASCAR’s second female driver) and bothers Bob Flock and Fonty Flock, Tim Flock (1924–1998) is considered to be one of the early pioneers of NASCAR. Tim Flock finished NASCAR’s first official season in 1949 in eighth place, with brothers Fonty in fifth and Bob in third overall points. After sitting out the 1950 season, Flock won seven races in 1951, and eight in 1952, the year he won his first Grand National Championship title. In 1995, Flock won his second Grand National Championship title, with 19 poles and 18 wins in the 45 races he completed that year. In 1998, shortly before his death at the age of 73, Flock was honored as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. Other achievements include induction in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1991; the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1999; the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 1972; the State of Georgia Hall of Fame in 1972; the Charlotte Motor Speedway Court of Legends in 1994; and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

Known to many simply as “Chief” Maurice Petty was the engine builder and crew chief for Petty Enterprises for many years. He is the fourth member of the Petty family to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the others being his father Lee, older brother Richard, and cousin Dale Inman. Although he had a brief driving career which included seven top five and sixteen top ten finishes, his talent in the auto racing industry lay in engine building, which he did with remarkable skill.

Currently a sport commentator for ESPN/ABC , Dale Jarrett’s racing career includes winning the Daytona 500 three times and the Brickyard 400 twice. He won 32 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and was winner of the 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. With his father Ned having been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in May 2011, the Jarretts are the third father-son inductees, the other two being Bill France Sr. and Jr., and Lee and Richard Petty.

Former NASCAR Busch Series race car driver Jack Ingram won 31 races and five poles, along with the 1982 and 1985 championships, during eight Busch Series seasons. It’s worth noting that Ingram was over the age of 45 when he claimed his victories, and held the record for the most Busch Series wins until Mark Martin broke the record in 1997. In addition to being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Ingram was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007.

Nicknamed “Fireball”, Edward Glenn Roberts (1929-1964) was one of NASCAR’s pioneering drivers who gathered a host of achievements during his career, including winning the Daytona 500 in 1962 and twice winning the Southern 500 (1958 and 1963). He was voted 1957 Grand National Series Most Popular Driver and named as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1995. Sadly, Roberts crashed in the World 600 in Charlotte on May 24, 1964, and died from complications related to his extensive burn injuries on July 2, 1964. His accident prompted NASCAR to introduce more stringent fire-related safety measures and his memory lives on in NASCAR history.

Sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship for Johnson

November 18, 2013 by  
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Denny Hamlin crossed the finish line in first place at the Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but it was Jimmie Johnson who stole the show by winning his 6th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in eight years, making him one of the most successful competitors in the history of the sport. Johnson only needed to finish above the 23rd spot to win the championship, and with his only challenge being brief contact with Matt Kenseth following a restart, which put him back in the field, Johnson finished the race in 9th place, beating Kenseth to the Championship title by 19 points.

Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth led for 144 laps of the 267 lap race, finishing the race a close second to teammate Denny Hamlin. Having suffered a fractured vertebra earlier this year, which kept him out of action for more than a month, Hamlin’s victory on Sunday was especially sweet. In a post-race interview, Hamlin noted that racing during the ‘Jimmie Johnson era’ was unfortunate for competitors as Johnson was, in his opinion, the best that there ever was.

Statistics reinforce this viewpoint as Johnson is the youngest driver to win six Sprint Cup Champion titles, beating Richard Petty by 83 days. His record of six titles in the space of eight years is a first in the sport, and his 66 Sprint Cup victories since 2002 put him 30 wins above any other driver in the last eleven years. His crew chief Chad Kraus has a record of 62 wins, all of which have been with Johnson.

Jeff Gordon can be credited for introducing Johnson to Hendrick Motorsports and the Sprint Cup series. He discovered Johnson racing in the Nationwide Series in 2001 and persuaded Rick Hendrick to hire him. Gordon was quoted as saying that as a team – Johnson, Kraus and Hendrick Motorsports – they are “unbelievable”. Many would agree!

The top five places in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship went to (in order) Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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