Season Closer on South Beach
The 2012 season has come to a close. And it went, without a doubt, in fast paced, aggressive style. With all three series having tight championship battles, a weekend of nerves, speed, adrenaline and heartbreak was to be expected. And Homestead provided us with just that.
The Camping World Truck Series ran their season closer Friday night. A three driver title fight left fans on edge. Ty Dillon, one of those contenders, saw his chances go out the window when he was spun out late in the race. Kyle Busch was hungry for his first win of the season in the series, but was edged out by Cale Gale by millimeters. This was Gale’s first win. James Buescher brought home his first Truck Series championship for Turner Motorsports.
Another close championship battle ensued Saturday night in Miami when the Nationwide Series took the track. Stenhouse, in an attempt to secure his second consecutive title, played it safe all night; keeping his distance from other cars and keeping a cool head. Kyle Busch dominated the race, yet again, but could not capitalize. He lost the lead to Regan Smith, running the No. 5, Hendrick powered Chevy. Smith, who will be running full time in the No. 5 next season, was over zealous in victory lane; chanting about how ecstatic he was for next season.
Stenhouse, won the championship. Sadler, who struggled with his car during the race and suffered a pass-through penalty, finished second to Stenhouse for a second year in a row. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No.6 RFR Ford was surprisingly reserved when accepting his championship trophy. He will be taking Matt Kenseth’s place in the No. 17 in the Sprint Cup Series next season.
#BradVsJimmie was trending on Twitter the entire week leading up to the season finale at Homestead. And in a matter of hours NASCAR would know their champion.
Joey Logano secured the pole but having to move to a backup car due to a pre-race wreck, he had to move to the back of the field at the green, moving BK and the blue deuce to the front row. Despite this prime starting position, he faded back to mid top-10. And, to no ones surprise, the No. 18 of Rowdy Busch was leading early. The points gap between the No. 2 and the No.48 became increasingly close as the laps passed.
Green flag pit stops cycled through several times during the race. Once the race passed halfway, Johnson was pitting. Where his championship battle with Keselowski took a major blow; he was handed a pass through penalty for a missing lug nut. This left a 26 point spread between Brad and Jimmie….a number near impossible to diminish with the race past half way. To add insult to injury, a few laps later, Johnson was back on pit road. Over the radio: “we’re done.” The No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy had a broken a rear end gear. They went to the garage. Jimmie Johnson would not win his 6th championship.
The remaining laps blew by. Points were gained. Points were lost. Jeff Gordon, driven by redemption from Phoenix, was the leader at the end of the 267 lap Ford EcoBoost 400. In victory lane he thanked long time sponsor DuPont, who has been with Gordon for twenty years. He also mentioned his spat with Bowyer in the prior week’s race and said he “regretted” his actions.
Bowyer, completely shocked himself, finished the season second in the standings. Johnson finished the 2012 season in third.
And Brad Keselowski brought home his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. This also marked Penske Racing’s first Cup title. Roger Penske, team owner, dedicated the title to all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, “This goes to all the service men and women….this is a double win.”
Keselowski climbed from his car in a shower of confetti and Miller Lite. The humble driver gave all the credit of the win to his team; “I was always told I wasn’t big enough, strong enough or tough enough…but they [his team] make me big enough, strong enough and tough enough…..without them I’m nothing.” During the 2012 Chase, Keselowski logged two wins, three Top-5s and eight Top-10s. He won a total of five races this season.
Championship crew chief, Paul Wolfe, became the first CC to win championships in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series. He too gave all credit to his teammates and to owner, Roger.
The close of the 2012 season marks the beginning of NASCAR’s “Silly Season.” A time when teams, drivers, employees, sponsors, renegotiate contracts, make switches, and prepare for the 2013 season. We’ve seen Stenhouse move up to the No. 17. Kenseth leaves RFR for JGR. Joey Logano leaves JGR for Penske. Elliott Sadler leave RCR for JGR….and brings One Main Financial with him. Here’s to silly season….
……and 84 days until Daytona.
A weekend full of excitement. Passion. Drive. Tempers. Racing.
anddddddd this blogger didn’t see it. Any of it. Go figure. For those looking for some reading material for Phoenix, click the below links. Great stuff.
Now onto Homestead. Where two of the three series championships are STILL anyone’s game, and one could be decided by a 15th place finish.
Hello warmth and trophies. Goodbye 2012 season.
Kevin Harvick to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014
When the 2013 season comes to a close, Kevin Harvick will be leaving Richard Childress Racing. And it looks as if he’ll be the driver to complete a four car stable at Stewart-Haas Racing.
With the drivers descending on Phoenix International Raceway for this weekends race, many are looking ahead. Harvick, looking way ahead. In 2010, when his contract was up, he almost left RCR. But he resigned and has had two successful years since. He said in an interview today at PIR that he has every intention on building upon his success next season with RCR but “anything beyond that, once I know my future plans are set, I’ll let you know.”
Mike Arning, a spokesperson for SHR, said ”when we have something to tell you that is different than what we’ve got going on, we’ll obviously tell you,” but continued on to say, “”If a driver of the caliber of Kevin Harvick is available, it’s something [we] would pursue….anyone would.”
Stewart-Haas has had every intention since it’s creation to become a four car team. After running a two car team for several years, the No. 14 of owner/drive Tony Steward and the No. 39 of Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick was added to SHR for a limited 2012 season in the No. 10 Go Daddy Chevy. By 2014 they plan on adding a fourth team. Kevin Harvick?
Harvick joined RCR in 2001. The young driver took the place of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., in the iconic GM Goodwrench black Chevy. He has a total of 18 Cup series wins and won the Daytona 500 in 2007. In his time at Childress, Harvick has made the Chase six times, including this season. He rolls into Phoenix 11th in points; and is seeking his first win this season.
Coulter to KBM
Big news for CWTS driver, Joey Coulter, made waves this week in an announcement that he will be driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports next season.
The following is a link to the Sporting News site with an article by the fantastic, Bob Pockrass. When I first heard this announcement I thought the same thing….Ironic.
Take it away Bob…
With the season dying down in a hasty manner, drivers are getting antsy. All three NASCAR series are proving this to be one of their most competitive years ever and it seems that a champion will not be decided until turn four in Homestead in two weeks. But last weekend, drivers in all NASCAR tiers fought hard for every point earned in the great state of Texas.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck series took the track last Friday evening in a pedal-to-the-metal shootout. The WinStar World Casino 350, lasting only an hour and a half, saw just two cautions, both coming before lap 100. The strength and dominance of Nelson Piquet Jr., could be seen through practice and qualifying. The driver of the No. 30 Chevy qualified on the pole and dominated the greater majority of the 147 lap race. He lost the lead to Johnny Sauter with just inside 50 laps to go. Sauter went on to sweep the CWTS events in Texas, making him the third driver in series history to do so.
James Buescher, who started 2nd and finished 11th, maintains his points lead over Ty Dillon, by a mere 15 points. They move onto Phoenix for the Lucas Oil 150 on Friday, November 9th.
The Nationwide Series also ran their race under the lights at the track with ‘No Limits.’ Kyle Busch, aching for success for his KBM team, won the pole. Cautions started early in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. The No. 19 of Hal Martin met the wall on lap 13. On lap 44, the caution waved for everyone’s favorite….debris.
The 200 lapper went green on lap 50 and within 15 laps it was the No. 33 Chevy of Cup driver Kevin Harvick charging to the lead. Harvick continued holding the top spot through green flag stops and several more cautions. Series championship contender, Ricky Stenhouse, struggled throughout the entire race; fought tooth and nail to maintain a top ten position. Sadler, sitting P1 in the standings, also battled his No. 2 Chevy throughout the night.
Junior Motorsports had highly efficient cars as Cole Whitt and Danica Patrick were turning some of the fastest laps of the night. Both drivers, breaking into the top ten, never posed a threat to the No. 33 but were strong and consistent all night. Another impressive race was run by ARCA Series driver, Kevin Swindell. Swindell started toward the back of the field and finished 9th. This was his 5th NNS start. Also worth mention: the phenomenal talent of Ryan Blaney; a 2nd place finish and strong race overall.
Kevin Harvick, who has dominated NNS races this season but failed to obtain the win, held on and brought the RCR Chevy to victory lane.
The Nationwide series heads to Phoenix with the two top dogs, Sadler and defending champion Stenhouse, tied for first place. Austin Dillon, who had an on-track-altercation with Denny Hamlin, sits third, 21 points back.
Two intense championship battles had flared on the mile and a half track….and it was to be no different come Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas. The neck-and-neck duel for greatness between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski only intensified as the AAA Texas 500 ran on Sunday afternoon. Johnson, in his dominant nature, won the pole. Keselowski rolled off 8th.
Teams needed to be on their toes all race. Unlike the previous two nights of racing, the Cup race started in the direct Texas sun and finished under the glimmer of speedway lights. Tire wear, handling, fuel, all issues with the ever changing track condition.
The 335 lap race saw 9 cautions, most of which were thrown for debris. Johnson danced with the front row all day. Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota was another car vying for the top spot most of the race. Track bar adjustments, two tire vs. four tire stops, and fuel conservation discussions flooded everyone’s radio.
The end of the race had fans and non-fans alike glued to the edge of their seat. The final laps held some of the most intense beating and banging [literally] that we’ve seen all season. Keselowski, running on older tires having only changed two in a previous stop, nudged Johnson successfully out of the way to capture the lead. But a final caution foiled his chances of winning. A final restart resulted in a momentary drag race between the two but it was Johnson, having started from the pole, who went on to win. Keselowski finished second.
The Blue Deuce of Penske Racing is currently second in points; seven behind Hendrick hotshot, Jimmie Johnson. This seven point spread is the largest gap between these two thus far this season. Johnson said it best in his post race interview “It’s gloves-off, bare-knuckle racing.” And the same is anticipated this weekend heading out west.
NCWTS: Friday, November 09. Phoenix 7:30pm on SPEED.
NNS: Saturday, November 10. Phoenix 3:30pm on ESPN.
NSCS: Sunday, November 11. Phoenix 2pm on ESPN
Charlotte: Home, sweet home. Greg Biffle, breaking track record, qualified on the pole. Clint Bowyer fought his way to the front and took the checkered. Brad Keselowski maintained points lead.
Kansas: The new surface was boss in the Chase Race at Kansas. Kasey Kahne won the pole. Matt Kenseth held on and won his third race of the season. Miraculously, after a poor qualifying attempt, Keselowski fought the field, finished 8th and maintained the points lead over Jimmie Johnson.
Martinsville: Chasers vs. Paperclip. NASCAR’s shortest track proved once again as a non-issue for Jimmie Johnson. He qualified on the pole, was a key factor throughout the race and won. This marked his third win this season (fourth including the all-star race) as well as solidified the No.48 as the championship leader. Keselowski heads to Texas a mere 2 points behind Mr. 5x.
This weekend all three NASCAR series take the track at Texas Motor Speedway.
It was announced early this morning that Dale Earnhardt Jr., will not be racing inCharlottethis weekend, norKansasnext. After being involved in the wreck atTalladegalast weekend, Earnhardt was diagnosed with a concussion on Wednesday, and told by doctors it would be best to sit the next two weeks out.
Earnhardt said he had a headache immediately following the race which continued until Tuesday. He then decided to reach out to this sister, Kelley Earnhardt, who told him it would be best to consult a doctor.
A press conference was held just before noon today at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Rick Hendrick, Steve Latarte, Earnhardt Jr., and Dr. Jerry Petty addressed the media about the decision. Earnhardt said after he wrecked in Kansashe had similar symptoms but never sought medical attention. Dr. Petty added to that by saying “if there is a headache, the brain hasn’t healed.” Junior also added that he left this decision up to the doctors and will race again when they clear him to do so.
As a result, Regan Smith will drive the #88 Hendrick Chevrolet. With Kurt Busch’s early departure from Phoenix Racing, Smith has been the front runner to take his place. But Hendrick has also been speaking with Smith about running full time in the Nationwide Series. But for now, Smith will take Dale Earnhardt’s place in the next two cup races.
But don’t count Phoenix Racing out this weekend. It has been said that recently reinstated AJ Allmendinger will drive the #51 this weekend inCharlotte.
Dale Earnhardt does not plan on being at the racetrack this weekend as he does not want to deter his team from what they are there to do. He will visit again with doctors next week to see if he will be driving again comeMartinsville.
Chasing an Update
Chase race #3: A not-so-scary Monster [Mile].
A relatively uneventful Cup race on the concrete track in Delaware, gave Brad Keselowski his first win at Dover as well as the points lead. He led second place Jimmie Johnson by a mere handful of points.
Chase race #4: The Big One
Talladega. Known for pack racing and huge wrecks was fairly mild in comparison to past events. Minor incidents occurred throughout the race but a last lap pile up changed everything. And when I say pile up, I mean PILE. UP. It was like the last scene of Talladega nights….the entire field was involved in the wreck. It was the front two cars, of Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon, who made it through unscathed. Kenseth picked up his second super-speedway win of the season. Brad Keselowski, who suffered some damage in the wreck, was able to cross the start finsh line leaving Jimmie Johnson, still second in points, a little further beind him.
This week NASCAR comes home one last time in 2012 for some night racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Trucks are off until Martinsville. Nationwide will be running Friday nigh [10/12] and Cup Saturday night [10/13].
See you at home!
KuBu to Furniture Row
A week after Regan Smith announced that he was not staying with Furniture Row Racing, Kurt Busch announced he has just signed a one year contract to drive the #78.
This is a huge moment for all those involved. Busch’s leaving Phoenix Racing and going to FRR serves as a second step in his comeback after leaving Penske Racing at the end of 2011. The road has been rocky as Busch continues works on his attitude and his racing. He has struggled this season at PR which is difficult for Busch, who is used to being at the front of the pack. Moving to a better funded team, Busch has the opportunity to really capitalize on possible success.
Adding Busch to the #78 is also big for the team itself. A single car operation based out ofColorado, they are a team that has struggled for the spotlight. Kenny Wallace, Joe Nemechek and Regan Smith have all driven for the team, but Busch will be their first elite driver. He has the Cup championship and 24 wins to put him at the head of that list. The addition of Busch has the potential to raise the one car team to a new level.
With Busch’s departure, Phoenix Racing now has an open slot. And Regan Smith is also looking for a ride. With current and potential openings at Richard Petty Motorsports, Junior Motorsports and now, obviously, PhoenixRacing, there could very well be a driver shuffle in the coming weeks.
Busch also stated that he does plan to continue racing the #54 Monster Camry part time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Nationwide Series.
Only time will tell how this move will effect Busch’s career and the success of Furniture Row Racing.
There was a time when names like Trevor Bayne, Ty Dillon, or James Buescher would invoke the question, “wait, who?” But those days have since passed. Those drivers, amongst several others, have driven their way to success and have made a name for themselves in a cut-throat racing world.
And those names have been replaced with new names. Fresh meat in NASCAR’s premier series. Driver’s hungry for success; running with more heart and drive than those already in the sport. But one thing needs to be pointed out about NASCAR’s newest faces: talent. Young drivers have been transitioning into NASCAR and making waves while doing so. With each lap proving they deserve a place in that respective series, as well as the hearts of those watching.
For instance, this weekend inDover, four up and coming drivers will strap into Nationwide cars to run along side drivers like Ricky Stenhouse, Elliott Sadler and Samhornish Jr. Bubba Wallace, Ryan Truex, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman will all start Saturday atDover.
Wallace has three career starts in the Nationwide Series. His average finish? 8.6. Ryan Truex, who ran in Doverearlier this year, is back for vindication. He won the pole and was edged out by Joey Logano and finished second. Ryan Blaney, who has double dipped between Truck and Nationwide, is making all kinds of head lines. He has finished no worse than 11th in his truck series starts and also has one win under his belt. And then there is Alex Bowman, ARCA driver turned Nationwide Driver. In his two career starts he has finished in the top twenty and ran, on the lead lap, in as high as 4th. Young drivers racing into their dream and making it clear, they’re not there to run three laps down or to cause wrecks. They are there to win.
It was also announced recently that a new face will be seen this weekend in the truck race. Ryan Reed, another ARCA driver, will be making his debut in Vegas. Reed is a development driver for Venturini Motorsports. In the handful of races he has run with them this season, he has logged one top five and five top ten finishes. Adding to that, last year Reed was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes [T1D] and told that he would not be able to continue racing. A year later, Ryan Reed is on a mission to prove doctors wrong and continue on his path to becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver.
Travis Pastrana, X-Game gold medalist turned NASCAR Nationwide Series driver, will also be making his Camping World Truck Series debut this weekend for ThorSport Racing. He has 9 career starts in the Nationwide Series with an average finish of 21st.
With young drivers hungry to further prove themselves in NASCAR, this weekend should hold some heart pounding, edge-of-your-seat racing. Don’t miss it!
Chase Race #2: Getting Loud in Loudon
This season’s second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup took us up north toLoudon,New Hampshirefor theSylvania300 this past Sunday. Jeff Gordon, needing a strong rebound after a devastating finish last week inChicago, clenched the pole and brought the field to the green on a gorgeous, fall afternoon in New Hampsha [said withBostonaccent].
The race was conservative with no major incidents. The 300 lap race only saw 5 cautions and seventeen lead changes. The driver to beat proved early on to be Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Camry. He was a key player at this track earlier this year but lost the lead late in the race to Kasey Kahne. He was back for redemption.
The field fizzled out into single file racing within the first five laps. The lead was lost by Gordon and Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart were the race front runners. A competition caution waived on lap 41. Green flag racing ensued on lap 46.
The hunger of the Chase driver’s could be seen from the beginning of the race. Most of the Chasers dominated the top 15 for the majority of the race. Hamlin nabbed the lead on lap 92 and never looked back.
Two hours later it was Denny Hamlin in victory lane. Redemption from July. Vindication from last season and glory for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin’s win marked JGR’s 100th Sprint Cup win. Hamlin, Logano, Busch as well as former drivers: Jarrett, Labonte and Stewart have all amassed the 100 wins that have put Gibbs on the map as one of the best teams in the sport.
Hamlin moved up to third in the Sprint Cup Series standings. Mr. Five-Time, Jimmie Johnson, finished second moving him to first in points. And despite a strong finish for Gordon, finishing 3rd, he still rests 12th in the standings.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as well as the Nationwide Series both raced this past weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Joey Coulter, driving the #22 Chevy for RCR brought the field to the green Friday night. But it was James Buescher who brought home the win. This was Buescher’s fourth win of the season. He is second in the standings; just four points behind leader and rookie, Ty Dillon. Dillon finished third.
NNS raced Saturday afternoon inKentucky. KS is considered, by several NNS drivers, to be one of the most difficult tracks on the circuit. With the lack of banking in turn three plus the bumps, it is hard to navigate. Plus, left side tires don’t have to work as hard which makes the steering into and out of three a challenge.
Ricky Stenhouse, coming off a win last week in Chicago, started off incredibly strong. But a pit road run in with Eric McClure on lap 31 served as a race foil. He had issue after issue and it was Austin Dillon who won. Dillon started and finished at the front of the field. Stenhouse finished 17th. Series points leader Elliot Sadler finished 5th.
Next weekend all three series will be racing. NNS and Cup go on to the Monster Mile of Dover, Delaware while the CWTS heads out west to duel in the desert.
NNS: Dover3pm Saturday. ESPN
CWTS: Las Vegas 8pm Saturday. SPEED
Cup:Dover 1pm Sunday. ESPN.
Chase Race #1: Gone with the Wind[-y City]
The 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is underway. And what an incredible chase it’s shaping up to be.
The first race in this year’s championship run was at Chicagoland Speedway. Often described for its “character,” Chicagoland is a driver’s track. It is fast and aggressive. And bumpy. Bumps are like curve balls….could really mess with a driver’s day [not to mention their run for the Sprint Cup].
Jimmie Johnson, who is running for his 6th Cup title, won the pole. The race went green on a sun-soaked, mild Sunday afternoon. Johnson lost the lead to the infamous #43, driven by Aric Almirola.
Green flag pit stops began to cycle through on lap 40. Just in time for Dale Earnhardt Jr., as he had a cut tire. Johnson was race leader, followed by teammate Kasey Kahne.
The first caution came out for debris in turn two on lap 65. Leaders pitted. Most drivers were battling loose handling race cars so pit stops involved major track bar adjustments. Most teams also took 2 tires. The race ran quiet until another debris caution waived on lap 103. Again, leaders pitted. Two tire stops. Unlike other tracks, like California and Michigan, tire wear is not normally an issue at Chicagoland. Fuel strategy and pit stops are keys to strong finishes at CS.
Race dominators Johnson, Kahne and Keselowski swapped out the lead through another set of green flag stops on lap 147. Cars were still pitting on lap 150 when a caution came out for Casey Mears. Several lead lap cars took the waive around on the restart.
The one driver in Sunday’s race who deserves mention is Jeff Gordon. Having just barely raced his way into the 2012 Chase, Gordon has a lot to prove in the coming weeks. The Jeff Gordon who left Richmond was not the same one who showed up at Chicagoland this past weekend. The aggressive demeanor of the driver was reminiscent of the “old Jeff Gordon.” Gordon came to the track ready to win. However, just as his regular season had played out, late race woes ended his day. On lap 188 Gordon’s throttle stuck bringing out the caution and sending his #24 Hendrick Chevrolet careening into the wall. The exasperated driver came over the radio and simply stated, “We’re done.”
A final round of green flag pit stops came and went with 40 laps to go. The blue deuce of Brad Keselowski was the race leader. He held off Jimmie Johnson for the win. This was Keselowski’s fourth win of the 2012 season. The win also catapulted him to first in points for the first time in his Cup career. Jimmie Johnson rests in second and Tony Stewart jumped to third. Jeff Gordon, sits in 12th.
The Camping World Truck Series ran in Iowa this past weekend. Ryan Blaney, in just his third career start, won the race. This makes Blaney the youngest driver in the series’ history to win. The NASCAR Nationwide Series drove in Chicago on Saturday. Defending series champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., overcame the difficulties he’s faced at this track in the past and won the race. This was Stenhouse’s 5th win of the season. He also regained the points lead.
NSCS: New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Sunday, 1pm. ESPN.
NNS: Kentucky Speedway. Saturday, 3:30pm. ESPN.
NCWTS: Kentucky Speedway. Friday, 7pm. SPEED.
Onto Chase race #2…….