NASCAR – Busch Finds The Front in Loudon – Stewart Haas Are Counting on Success

Kyle Busch edged Kasey Kahne and teammate Denny Hamlin for the Pole by a mere .003 and .004 of a second.

Kyle Busch came out of the hauler as the fastest car on the track, and he backed it up by taking the pole for today’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  After setting the pace in the first practice, Busch was the last of 44 drivers to run his qualifying lap. Edging Kasey Kahne by .003 seconds and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin by .004, Busch won the pole for today’s race with a lap at 133.417 mph. It was a lucky Friday the 13th for Busch as he was the 13th driver to set the pole time and also the last.  Just happy that he kept it off the wall, Busch had this to say about his run.

“I got in the throttle really early in [Turns] 3 and 4, trying to make speed and was able to finish it,” Busch said. “But the car slipped right at the last second when you get to that older asphalt — it seems like this tire [new from Goodyear for this race] is different from the older tire, where you lose just a pinch of grip — it slid out right to the cushion point, I guess you’d say. But, no, there’s no mark on the car, so it’s a good day.”

Hamlin thought he lost the pole coming to the green on his first qualifying lap.

“Yeah, I thought maybe I could have gotten to the green a little bit better,” Hamlin said. “You know your first lap’s going to be the money lap, so I typically run into Turn 1 — really at all race tracks — a little bit easier and try to make up the ground as I go.

“But with qualifying as tight as it is, you’ve got to maximize everything to get poles, and obviously that was the difference.”

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Stewart Haas Racing loves coming to Loudon.  Ryan Newman won this race in the spring with a 1 – 2 start and a 1 – 2 finish for Stewart Haas racing, then team owner Tony Stewart came back and won the fall race as the team continued to assert their dominance in New Hampshire. With Newman starting 6th and Stewart starting 10th the team is looking like they know which direction they need to go to make their way back to victory lane here in Loudon.

“We’re decent, I think,” said Stewart, the owner-driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet. “We were pretty good here for both races last year, so I’m pretty excited about coming back here.”

Asked why he thinks the SHR teams are so good at New Hampshire, Stewart said: “I wish I knew, but it seems like where we were last year it’s continuing on so far — even though it sounds like we’ve got a little bit of a different tire. I’m pretty happy with it. I mean the car right off the first lap felt like it had really good balance to it. We’ve just got to keep working with it and see if we can keep making it better all weekend.”

Newman said he thought he had a better idea about why he and his boss are tough to contend with at New Hampshire.

“I think our cars are good, there’s no doubt,” Newman said. “I think the Hendrick engines [are strong], and everything’s clicking. I like the track because I think you have to feel the tires and be on the edge.

“I was thinking about it last week. I think it kind of reminds us of our old IRP [Indianapolis Raceway Park] days. This kind of drives like that kind of race track where your car is on top of the race track, and you get everything that you can. There is nothing to really make it go any faster. It’s not like you’re pushing the car on the banking to make it grip better. There’s none of that really to speak of here. I think just a little bit of our past, a little bit of us as far as the way we drive race cars, is what helps us here.”

“It was awesome for us here last year,” Newman said. “It was a time when Stewart was struggling a little bit, too, so to have the one-two start and one-two finish, that was awesome. Then for him to back it up — for us to win the spring race, and him to win the fall race — it was an amazing place for us here, for Stewart-Haas, this race track here in Loudon. We’ll try to do it again. There is no reason that we can’t.”

When asked about the 6 point penalty assessed by NASCAR for the cooling hose violation, Stewart id not even seemed concerned as he weighed it against the possibilities for this weekend.

“It was a mistake on our team’s part and we deserve the penalty for it,” Stewart said. “Luckily it was in qualifying, so it wasn’t something that made us win the race. We didn’t win the race because of that. Like I said, it was just a mistake on our part and we’ve just got to make sure we don’t overlook that again.”

NASCAR – Biffle Sets the Pace and Attempts to Tame the Lady in Black

Greg Biffle has the pole for the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

It was beginning to look like an all Hendrick front row with Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne ready to lead the field to the green flag, until Greg Biffle showed up.  Jimmie Johnson had taken the provisional pole from his teammate Kasey Kahne but was worried that he had not done his best, that he had left some speed out there on the track.  That speed was found by Greg Biffle as he grabbed the pole for the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

“This is what a race car driver looks forward to, showing up every weekend and having a really fast car to drive,” said Biffle, the Sprint Cup Series leader. “They’re making me look good so far.

“It was a pretty uneventful lap. The car just had a ton of grip — it stuck to the race track really, really well. I felt like I was a little bit light down in Turns 1 and 2 — I should have been a little bit quicker down there — but I got a lot out of it in 3 and 4, so it was a great lap.”

”I feel that special season already. I certainly think that we’re going to be tough in competition all year,” said Biffle.

Johnson seemed to know that more speed could be found… just not who was going to find it.

Jimmie Johnson felt he left some speed out on the track. Greg Biffle found it.

”I left a little speed out there and Greg certainly found it,” Johnson said. ”It would’ve been nice to have a Hendrick front row. But it was a very productive day.”

Jimmie Johnson is looking to get the 200th win for team owner Rick Hendrick this weekend.  He has help at the front with his teammate Kasey Kahne, but Kahne is also hungry for a win.  And let us not forget the 9 time fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. who has been Mr Hendrick’s most consistent performer all season long, and is coming into Darlington with a 6 race top 10 streak under his belt.

“It certainly weighs on the team,” Johnson said before Friday’s practice at Darlington Raceway. “I’m not frustrated yet. I don’t want to see opportunities slip away. I certainly want to get 200 behind us as does everyone at Hendrick Motorsports because it’s lingering around.”

Johnson and Kahne will be starting 2nde and 3rd respectively.  Dale Jr looks to have his work cut out for him if he wants to break his streak and obtain the 200th win for his team.  Starting back in 24th Jr has not shown a lot of speed this weekend.  Running 19th in first practice and 18th in the second, the 88 car looks like it will need a lot of adjustments on the fly to get it where he wants it to be during the race.

Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch will round out the top 5 for the start of the race.

Danica Patrick makes her return to the Sprint Cup Schedule.  It seems her team owner Tony Stewart used his well known sarcastic sense of humor as he chose which track Danica would be driving at this season.  However you never really learn if you take the easy road, and Danica seems up to the challenge.  The experience she gains at the tougher tracks in the schedule should translate to better finishes at the easier tracks in the long run.

“This is a tough place and everything they said about it is true,” Patrick said between practices. “This Lady in Black is very intimidating. I’m just trying to get comfortable with what the car needs me to do — where to brake, how heavy to brake and those kinds of things. I’ve got my Darlington stripes, officially. It’s all the way down the right side of the car. We got that one over with.

“I’ve got everything in my corner, I just need time. I just need to get comfortable. It’s definitely not going to be an easy, breezy night. Like Tony (Stewart) said, I’m probably going to hate him by the end of the weekend. Come the future, I’m going to be glad for it.”

Team Owner tony Stewart agrees.

“She understands the value of why we picked this as one of the races,” Stewart said. “I think she’s keeping the big picture in mind. I think she’s doing a really good job of taking it all in stride, not letting her position on the time sheet get her down, realizing that the whole weekend is a learning experience and trying to just get at that time.

“I want her just to run as many laps as possible. The more time she can spend on track, the more experience that she’s going to get. So the good thing is, running both divisions, she’s getting a ton of track time.”

That may be true, but there is a huge difference between the Nationwide cars and the Cup cars when it comes right down to it.

“When you get to about half-throttle in the Cup car, that’s what a Nationwide car feels like,”Jimmie Johnson said with a laugh. “There’s a lot left from that point down in a Cup car. As far as tracks go, this track in my opinion has the highest sensation of speed over any other track we go to. And it’s due to it being so narrow. But it will be an eye-opening experience. Fortunately, she’s been real fast in other cars so hopefully it doesn’t affect her too much. But we’ve all looked at this race on her schedule and know it’s going to be tough for her. And it certainly will. This is not an easy race track to get around, but she’s going to do it and we’ll see how it goes.”

 

 

 

NASCAR – Newman Snatches the Win From Gordon’s Dominance at Martinsville

Ryan Newman (seen here on the track at Las Vegas) came from a lap down to win the race in Martinsville.

326 laps lead.  Fastest car on the track all day.  Dominance on every restart.  Then came the first attempt at a Green White Checkered finish.   Jeff Gordon was sure he had it won, but on the first attempt to finish under green, both Gordon and Johnson had slow restarts allowing Clint Bowyer to get under them and make a pass attempt, which erupted into chaos as Gordon was pushed up the track into Johnson causing all 3 cars to wreck, and allowing Ryan Newman to pass in the melee along with A.J. Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt Jr.  In what has become the typical Martinsville finish, the final pass to win the race came with under 4 laps to go.

Newman had been running inside the top 10 during the early stages of the race, but had fallen off the lead lap due to a pit road speeding penalty.  As the race worn down to the final laps however Newman earned a free pass to get back on to the lead lap.  A little bit of pit strategy and he was back in contention, running inside the top 10 again.  Then as the first GWC restart happened Newman found himself in 5th position on the grid, and as it turned out, sitting in the cat bird seat when the fireworks started.  As Bowyer slid up into Gordon, pushing Gordon into Johnson, Newman took advantage and passed them all on the bottom of the track bringing A.J. Allmendinger and Dale Jr. along with him through the mess.

“I felt like I wasn’t racing AJ on that restart — I felt like I was racing Junior behind me,” said Newman. “It was really important to me to not spin my tires and get a good start and race AJ and try to eliminate the No. 88 [Earnhardt] from the race for the win.”

Allmendinger raced Newman and Earnhardt Jr clean at the end resulting in a second place finish for the #22 Penske Dodge.

Allmendinger, Earnhardt Jr., and Newman raced each other clean to the end.

“He ran me really clean,” Allmendinger said. “He didn’t shove me up the race track like he could have. He gave me the opportunity to beat him on the outside there. We were just not turning good enough in the center [of the corners] there on the restart.

“But we had a shot at it. That’s all you can ask for.”

Allmendinger had decided to play by the unwritten racing Golden Rule…’Race teh other driver the way he is racing you’.  Running clean and racing to the finish instead of forcing the issue and driving dirty for the win.

“That’s not the way I want to win a race,” Allmendinger said.

“[Newman] did everything clean on the restart. He could have drove me off the race track, and if he would have done that then it’s kind of like, ‘OK, it’s game on.’ But he gave me all the chances that I could to go beat him.”

“We came off the white [flag] side by side and he rolled [Turns] 1 and 2 really good, and that was it,” Allmendinger said. “You race people how they race you. And if he would have just drove into the corner, [run into the] left side of me and got me out of the way, then I would have probably run into him. He didn’t do that and he didn’t deserve to get wrecked.”

“For the way we ran all weekend even if the yellow wouldn’t have come out, we would have finished eighth where we were running — I was going to be happy because we were a top 10 car all day,” Allmendinger said. “We worked our way up there and did all the right things. From 27th on, from where we started, we didn’t have any fender damage. We were clean. I was going to be happy with that. At the end, you get a little bit lucky on a restart and you have a chance.”

Dale Jr had a great car all day long, staying inside the top 10 for most of the day, ending the day with a 3rd on the track and second overall in points.

Dale Earnhardt Jr looked good throughout the race, never really falling back too far and staying in the mix for the top 10 all day long.

“Yeah I’m really happy with our finish.  We worked really hard all day, all weekend really, we worked hard to obviously get the best finish that we could.  This is our first race with AMP on the hood so I’m real proud to get a good finish for those guys.  Really, the race, the car was good on the long runs, we obviously drove up there and passed Jeff for the lead, and then at the end of the race we overcome a bad pitstop and drove back into the top three.  So the car was really good on the long run speeds, we didn’t have enough short run speed to run with a lot of people in the first 20 laps or so but after lap 45 or more the car was really great, really comfortable and would do whatever I wanted it to do.  It was a really fun racecar and this is a really fun race track, and I was enjoying how everything was playing out there, right up until the end.  We tore both sides of the car there at the end and that felt really unnecessary.”

“Now that I think about it, the leaders had old tires, more than a 100 laps on them, the guys behind them had new tires at least on one side of their cars.  Well all took of and ran into the backs of the leaders, all of us.  Clint went to the inside and that was his perogative man, he was going for the win.  I thought it was a good move, but there just wasn’t enough room for the three of them down there in the corner and all of them got together.”

“It’s disappointing for us to run as well as we did and not finish up there, I know Jeff is especially disappointed because of the way his season is going so far.  Jimmie is trying to climb back into it, and they both had winning cars all day.”

With the third place finish at Martinsville, Jr. finds himself in second in points now only 6 points out of first.  Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are tied in points for the third position which will of course be adjusted by the number of wins and last season’s points position to give us the current positioning.

Next weekend brings us to the first race break of the season for the Easter holiday festivities.  The next race on teh schedule will take us to Texas for the first Saturday Night under the lights race of the 2012 season.

NASCAR – Kasey Kahne Wins The Martinsville Pole – Allstar Race Rules Change

Kasey Kahne will accept his second Coors Lite Pole award of the 2012 season today during Driver introductions at Martinsville.

Kasey Kahne wants to win, and starting from the pole for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 is how he plans on getting it done. For the second time this year Kahne finds himself leading the field to the green, this time with a speed of 96.128 mph, and hopes for a better ending to the race this time than he has had yet. Moving into Hendrick equipment this year should’ve meant more consistency, better finishes, and better points position, but lady luck has had other plans for Kahne so far. Wrecking out early, engine issues, and just plain bad luck have kept Kahne down in 27th in points despite his excellent starts so far this season.  Since moving to Hendrick’s Kahne has an average starting position of 7.6 but has only averaged 20.6 position on his finishes.

Martinsville is a different beast than other tracks on the circuit.  A short track which has the nickname of the Paperclip due to the unique track layout.  The .526 mile track is the shortest in NASCAR and has a reputation for giving drivers a rough ride, and for shortening tempers.  So how does Kahne feel about Martinsville?

“It’s a tough track to qualify and a tough track to race — always has been one of my tougher ones over the years,” said Kahne, who has only led for a total of 19 laps at the famed short track in his career. “I’m glad we can start up front, have a great pit stall — that No. 1 stall — I think that helps throughout the whole race with track position.”

“Hopefully, we’ll have a solid day [on Sunday]. That’s what we need to do. We’ve had great Fridays and Saturdays but just haven’t put together a Sunday yet.”

Kevin Harvick will start second today in Martinsville

Kevin Harvick will start second on the grid after qualifying only .08 mph slower with a speed of 97.048 mph.  Can “The Closer” get it done from here?  Harvick won here last spring and would love to repeat that feat but there are 42 other drivers.  Making his 400th career start since taking over the ride after the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt Sr., Harvick feels that his team has matured and that things are finally coming together again in the RCR stables.

“I feel like it’s taken seven or eight years to get through the Earnhardt transition,” Harvick said. “There’s a lot of things you look back on now and that effect took a lot of time. Then as the grandkids — Austin and Ty — came, you [can] really see that enthusiasm level come back that I first saw in Richard in 1999 and 2000 as we led into the start of my career at RCR.”

4 time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin will start third followed by Clint Bowyer who ran the exact same time, but will start fourth based on current owner points. Ryan Newman starts 5th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr edged current series Champion Tony Stewart by one spot on the starting grid and will start 14th and Stewart 15th.

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The Allstar race will take on a new format once again as NASCAR changes it up once again.

The format will have the drivers competing in 4 separate segments of 20 laps each and a final 10 lap shootout.  The winner of each of the first 4 segments will be advanced to the front for the restart before the final 10 lap segment, rewarding the sinners of the 4 segments with track position right when they need it most.

Steve Addington, Crew Chief for the #14 of Tony Stewart, talks about how this will change the strategy for the event this time around.

“Those 20-lap segments are going to be a lot like the 10-lap segment,” said Steve Addington. “Everybody’s going to be wanting to get up front. I think it’s going to be really important to win one of those segments, because coming down pit road, that opens it up to a lot.”

Former All-Star Race winner Kasey Kahne said it would be tough for a driver on old tires to hold off another with four tires for the entirety of the final 10-lap segment. But the potential scenarios seem endless.

“If four guys don’t get anything, and then you restart sixth with tires, you might be able to win from there,” said Kahne, who won the event in 2008. “It will be interesting how it all works out. It will be a crew chief’s game late in the race.”

“I think the 20-lap segments are going to mean a lot,” Kahne said. “You want to be in that top four coming to pit road for the final 10, because 10 laps goes by quick here. You’ve got to be in those front four spots if you want to win the race in 10 laps, I think.”

 

NASCAR – Tony Stewart Scores the Pole for Charlotte in the Half Way Race of the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship

Tony Stewart - Image courtesy of JDTImages

Half way to the end of the Chase for 2011.  Race number 5, and the only thing that is certain now is that nothing is certain in regards to who the winner is going to be.  with only 20 points separating the top 8 drivers and with the big points swings that we have seen thus far, it is still almost anyone’s to win.  Tony Stewart wasn’t the fastest car in practice, but he was 11th quickest, so in the knockout qualifying runs he anxiously watched as 10 drivers floowed him in an attempt to knock him off the pole, all unsuccessfully. With a top speed of 191.959 mph Stewart completed his lap in 28.131 seconds Stewart will lea the field to the green for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Many had expected the lap times to increase from practice to qualifying due to an increase in the track temperature, but it wasn’t as big a swing as we have seen in the past.

“I was watching guys’ lap times, and looking at the sheet to seeing what they practiced, and it wasn’t as much [of an increase] as what we’ve seen,”  said Stewart. “I think, obviously, we’ve had a lot of cloud cover today and cool temperatures here the last couple of days, so I don’t think the track changed as much and got as hot during the day as what we typically see here.”

“I think that’s the reason that we didn’t have the big pick-ups. But you still anticipate that, at night, the guys are going to pick up speed. It just seems like the air’s a little muggier right now. I don’t know whether that hurt horsepower or even created more drag and kind of evened everything out.”

Matt Kenseth will start beside Stewart on the front row, with 2 of his teammates with him in the top 5.  Carl Edwards will start from the 3rd position on the grid, after giving us the only drama during the qualifying rounds.  After running what looked like the pole setting lap time for the first part of his run, his car tightened up in turns 3 and 4 causing him to lose speed and fall back to third on the grid.

Carl Edwards tosses a hat to the crowd - Image courtesy of JDTImages

“I came to the green [to start the run] and I had a ton of grip in [Turns] 3 and 4, so I was real excited to get back to 3 and 4 to do that again,” Edwards said. “And on the qualifying lap, I just got tight down there. I was just too aggressive, I think.

“But if I had it to do over again … I thought that the pole was going to be so fast that I don’t know if I could make myself slow down. If I could do it again, I think I could definitely run a little faster than we ran, but I’m sure everybody could say the same thing — so that was the best I could do.”

Edwards is ready to put last weeks near disaster of a race behind him.  After falling back to 2 laps down at one point, Edwards and his team captained by Bob Osbourne managed to rally back and finish on the lead lap in 5th place ahead of some much better cars, due to pit strategy at the end of the race in the succession of quick yellow flags that fell in the final laps of the race.

“It is more unpredictable,” Edwards said . “I truly went into Kansas thinking, ‘Boy, I sure hope we don’t finish second or third in this race. I’m here to win this one.’ And then about 15 laps into it, I thought, ‘Man, I’d give anything to finish second or third in this race.’ So you just don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Your best race track could end up being your worst nightmare. You just don’t know.”

“First of all, last week we got very lucky to get the breaks we got,” Edwards said. “But we did come back and we didn’t lose our heads — and I believe that comes from the maturity that we’ve built through a lot of pain and frustration through the last couple of years. When I watched some of the interviews [from Victory Lane] afterward, it reminded me of 2008.”

“I remembered how I felt in Atlanta that day when I found out the 48 had finished second. They came back that day and I could see that look in Jimmie’s eyes [last Sunday] like, ‘Man, I didn’t know they [meaning the No. 99 team of Edwards] finished fifth.’ They were probably really counting on putting a pretty good beating on us in the points. So I think to win the championship, you have to not have bad days. And I think [the Kansas finish] showed our team is better prepared to recover from some days like that than we have been in the past. … I was very proud of it. That’s the best way to put it.”

“I hope we come out of here on Saturday with a win,” Edwards said. “We have not run well at this race track. This has been one of my tougher race tracks, but this year I feel like we turned a corner with our All-Star win and our run in the 600. Our car was very fast.

“We’ve got the same kind of theory for setup and some of the same approaches for our car and our suspension as we had in the All-Star race, so I’m excited. … I hope this is the race we can turn it around and win a points race here. That would be huge.”

Although the bottom 4 of the standings are at least a full race in points behind the leader, you can’t count any of them out yet either.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Image courtesy of JDTImages

In 9th place you have Dale Earnhardt Jr., sitting 43 points behind the points leader Carl Edwards.  We have seen a lot of improvement out of this team in the past 2 years, especially with the arrival of Steve Letarte at the beginning of the 2011 season. Letarte and Earnhardt have been working well together and improving and developing their personal communications with each other.  Letarte’s cheerleader style during the race works well to keep Jr’s spirits up and his head in the game.  Jr will break his winless streak soon, and Letarte will be cheering him on right to the checkered flag when he does.

In 10th place is Jeff Gordon, 47 points out of first.  Gordon also had a crew chief change at the beginning of the season moving over to Jr’s old garage in the Hendrick Motorsports complex and his finishes have improved over last year, although the consistency still isn’t as good as he would like.  Being 47 points out may be difficult to overcome, but with a win and a few good runs he could be back in this thing just as fast as Johnson’s was with 2 good races (2nd place and a win) moving him up 7 places in the standings in 2 races.  Gordon, a 4 time Champion in his own right, knows what it takes to get there and will stop at nothing to make sure his chances improve before the chase is over.

Ryan Newman - Image courtesy of JDTImages

11th place in the standing is held by Ryan Newman.  54 points behind the leader Newman has struggled since the chase began.   Although his team ran a consistent season his finishes have slowly dropped since the beginning of the chase.  This means that for them there will be more chances taken as they “Go For Broke” trying to get the win and move up in the standings as best as they can.

Last but not least in 12th place in Denny Hamlin.  Hamlin was the contender to be the first guy to win a Championship and knock out Johnson’s chances last year, and even leading in the points for the final 2 races, his luck ran out and Johnson took his 5th consecutive while Hamlin stood on the sidelines.  Hamlin barely made the chase this year after earning a wild card spot with his win total and started the chase in 12th where he has remained ever since.  Even still being 79 points behind the leader he is not to be counted out yet.  Just like Newman , Hamlin really has nothing to lose.  He can try things the leaders can’t in an attempt to get to the front and go fro broke to the end of the chase.  There is a chance that he could still win it, and however slight that chance may be, you can bet that Hamlin hasn’t shown us everything he’s got just yet.

NASCAR – Kurt Busch Takes the Third Race in the Chase and the Leader Board Sees Big Changes

Kurt Busch - Image courtesy of JDTImages

Kurt Busch did not lead the most laps, but he did lead the most important laps.  Just as we saw last week with Stewart leading only the last 2 laps, Kurt Busch out ran Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards to the checkered flag in the diminishing laps of the AAA 400 at the Monster Mile in Dover Delaware.  After taking the lead on the final restart, Kurt Busch drove away from the field, taking advantage of the battler between Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson behind him, and beating them both to the checkered flag.

“It was just perfect execution today, with pit stops and with making the car better during the race,” Busch said. “I couldn’t be happier right now. To win a Sprint Cup race in the Chase, this is what it’s all about. This is the playoffs.”

“We had everything go wrong for us last week. We had everything go right for us this week. We just need nice smooth races from here.”

Jimmie Johnson - Image courtesy of JDTImages

Johnson, in a rare mistake on the track, spun the tires on the final restart and lost ground that he was never able to regain on Busch.  Johnson wanted everyone to know that he felt the mistake was all his fault, and not on his team.

“I did a really good job, up until those last two [restarts],” Johnson said. “I have to say, when you’re the leader, you have a small advantage, because you go when you want. I blew it by spinning the tires. Kurt got a good launch, and we were door to door going into 1, and he was able to get by on the outside.”

“And then the next one, I was going to try to do that same thing back to him, and I was just trying to time it when he was going to accelerate. And I didn’t time it right. And I had too big of a gap, and fell in behind him going into Turn 1.”

“I put it on me, because the starts I had earlier in the day, regardless of the lane, leading or not, I cleared them typically going into 1 so, it’s on me.”

Carl Edwards - Image courtesy of JDTImages

Carl Edwards, however, made his mistakes earlier in the race during a routine pit stop.  In a section of the pit road where he had specifically spoken to crew chief Bob Osbourne about speeding, he did it anyway and blew through the section and incurred a pass through penalty.  Although he was able to get back on to the lead lap and race his way back to the front of the field, 3rd was as close he could get back to the lead.

“It was a great day, other than that feeling I had when I ruined it there on pit road,” Edwards said. “That’s about as small as you can feel in a race car. We talked about it before the race. We looked at the pit-road speeding lines and that last line. … Bob and I actually discussed the last section. It’s 25 feet, 8 inches long, and we talked about that run and how I was not going to speed through it, and I just blasted right through it.”

“We were very, very fortunate. As frustrated as I am with myself for messing that up, I’m really, really grateful for the gift that was given to us with that caution and the ability to come back up there. And the other thing that was really important to me was my guys sticking behind me, because they had every right to be really, really upset with me. So it ended up being a good finish.”

Tony Stewart - Image Courtesy of JDTImages

Tony Stewart had come into the race as the points leader but mechanical issues with the handling of his race car kept him mired deep in the field and going backwards from the leaders position.  Stewart managed to get up to 15th at one point early in the race, but he and teammate Ryan Newman continued to fall back until they were multiple laps down and simply unable to compete.  Stewart finished in 22nd and in a tie for 3rd in points with Kurt Busch, 9 points behind the tie for first between Kevin Harvick and Edwards.

“When you run 25th and finish two laps down, I don’t think you can assess [your day] as very good. We were terrible,” Stewart said

Asked what his team struggled with the most, Stewart replied: “Just the whole package. Even when we got the balance halfway decent, the car didn’t have speed. So we just missed it.”

His teammate Ryan Newman agreed completely.

“We just didn’t have it right all weekend,” said Newman, who remained 11th in the Chase standings and dropped 41 points behind the leaders. “We didn’t have any grip, which caused us to have poor track position all day. We tried a number of adjustments and pit strategies, but nothing seemed to work in our favor.”

“We’re a much better team than where we finished [Sunday]. We have to put this weekend behind us and move on.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr - Image courtesy of JDTImages

Dale Earnhardt Jr suffered possibly the most frustrating day on track since the chase began.  Unloading a reasonable car, then not really finding speed during practice.  The mechanical issues with the front right sway bar really held him back in the early stages of the race.  Managing to get the sway bar fixed and then getting a lucky dog to regain the lead lap was a big relief for both Jr and his Jr Nation fans.  The final nail in the coffin however was late in the race when, after getting tires on a pit stop, one lug nut was loose and causing a big vibration in the wheel.  After stopping to fix the vibration, Jr had fallen back to 27th and down 2 laps, running with Stewart and Newman and fighting to be the last car down a lap, on a caution that never came.

“That’s racing — that’s all I can say,” Earnhardt said after the race. “I’ve had a lot of stuff happen to me over the years, good and bad, and you just have to roll with the punches. I don’t think I’m BS-ing myself when I think that we brought a good car to the track. … There were a couple of promising things today, but we didn’t finish like we wanted to.

“We had a pretty good car and ran well, and we didn’t do anything stupid. We just kind of got snake-bit there a little bit today, so we can’t be too upset with ourselves.”

Here’s how the leader board looks after Dover:

Pos. +/_  Driver                      Points     Position

1    +1     Kevin Harvick           2122        Leader
2    +2    Carl Edwards             2122        Leader
3    -2     Tony Stewart            2113         -9
4    +5    Kurt Busch                 2113         -9
5    +5    Jimmie Johnson        2109        -13
6    -3      Brad Keselowski      2108        -14
7    –      Matt Kenseth            2108        -14
8    -2      Kyle Busch                2107        -15
9    -4      Jeff Gordon               2103        -19
10 -2      Dale Earnhardt Jr.    2088        -34
11    –     Ryan Newman          2081        -41
12    –     Denny Hamlin          2054        -68

NASCAR – Ryan Newman Sets the Pace For Bristol

Ryan Newman - Image courtesy of JDTImages

Bristol under the lights on a beautiful Saturday night.  This time Ryan Newman returns to the front row and will lead the field to the Green flag.  This is the 48th career pole for the “Rocket Man”, who got that nickname for being the guy to beat on qualifying day.  As good as the day was for Newman, his teammate and team owner Tony Stewart was just the opposite, showing the slowest speeds out of 46 cars to qualify, Stewart will be starting 42nd on the grid.

“It wasn’t a good day for the 14,  you saw that in qualifying,” said Newman, who set the pole at 122.811 mph (15.624 seconds) winning his second Coors Light pole award of the season putting him 10th on the Sprint Cup all-time list.

“I think it’s one of those deals where you spend time overnight regrouping,” said Newman. “I felt our car was pretty good in race trim. Obviously, it worked good in qualifying trim. You don’t ever want to see the cars that far apart, whether it’s the setups or results because of a setup change.

“I’m happy that we’ve given the 14 the opportunity to look at our notes. We always share information — there’s no question about that.”

Tony Stewart - Owner and Driver of the #14 car - Image courtesy of JDTImages

Stewart has his work cut out for him if he hopes to stay in chase contention.  However after his comments last week in regards to his feelings show that his heart might not be in it  right now.

“I don’t know what we got to do to get one balanced for a day but we haven’t figured it out yet,” Stewart said. “We were on both sides of the coin all day long, just back and forth between tight and loose. So, just take what we can get I guess.”

“I will be perfectly honest,” Stewart said, “at this point of the deal, if we are going to run this bad, it really doesn’t matter whether we make the Chase or not because we are going to be occupying a spot in the Chase that somebody else that actually can run for a championship is going to be trying to take because our stuff is so bad right now.

“We’re wasting one of those top-12 spots right now.”

Carl Edwards looked like he was having a great run until a slight misstep had him a little bit sideways on his qualifying run.  His effort landed him on the front row beside Ryan Newman for the start of tonight’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol.

“It is really neat to be that fast in practice but we have to go race, still,” Edwards said. “And with the speed we have had so far [Friday], it will be a good race.”

“It always takes me a few laps in the race, 10-15 laps in, to get comfortable with the pace of it because things are happening so quickly here.  It is a really neat place to race at. It is unbelievable they built this place how they did — amazing they sat down and designed this place and made it how they did.”But I am really glad they did. It is really fun to come here.”

“Ryan did a good job, and we did everything right today,” Edwards said. “I probably could have done a little better job coming to the green. To come off Turn 4 that last time, coming to the white, I was a little bit loose and I left my foot in it and almost hit the fence. I figured that was enough. Second place will be a good starting spot. Hopefully we can get a victory.”

Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin rounded out the top five.

And finally the Kyle Busch Speeding saga has a conclusion.  After having been caught May 24, 2011  for speeding and reckless driving for driving 128 mph in a 45-mph zone in a residential area in Mooresville, N.C.

He appeared in N.C. District Court for Iredell County on Tuesday for a hearing that lasted about 35 minutes. He pleaded guilty to driving 128 mph in a 45-mph zone and no contest to careless and reckless driving.

His plea resulted in a $1000 fine and Judge H. Thomas Church gave Busch a 30-day suspended jail sentence with a year of unsupervised probation.

He had his license suspended for 45 days (with no limited driving privileges), was fined $1,000 and ordered to do 30 hours of community service with the B.R.A.K.E.S. teen safe-driving program. Sentencing for the reckless driving charge was continued, so there will be no penalties for the no contest plea.

“Obviously I had a lack of judgment and just made a mistake,” Busch said two days after being cited. “And I’m sorry for making that mistake. … Fortunately there was no one hurt, but that doesn’t make any kind of an excuse for what happened and for my lack in judgment for what I did.”

Last month, Busch announced he would be taking an active role in the B.R.A.K.E.S teen safe-driving program developed by drag racer Doug Herbert, whose 17-year-old and 12-year-old sons were killed in a January 2008 accident that resulted from speeding.

Any other sanctions issued by the team will remain confidential, JGR President J.D. Gibbs said Sunday.

“Doug Herbert, his sons went to my boys’ school,” Gibbs said. “And so it was just, for me, it just made sense because he could use the extra exposure anyway. Kyle gets that.

“We told Kyle he could pick whatever he wanted to do, he didn’t have to [do Herbert's program]. I think it’s going to be good for him to be a part of. The rest of the stuff, we’ll probably keep some of it confidential and hopefully we can move on.”

NASCAR – Stewart Haas Team Finish The Way They Started, 1-2

Ryan Newman - Images courtesy of JDTImages.ca

Team owner Tony Stewart met Race Winner Ryan Newman in Victory Lane with the biggest smile we’ve seen on his face all season long.  Newman makes the 13th different driver to snag in win in the 19th race of the season, and with only 7 races to go before the chase it could not have happened at a better time for the driver of the #39 Army car.  With sponsorship once again on the line, putting a W in the win column will go a long way to re-securing this sponsor for next year as well.  The Army has supported the No. 39 car since the Stewart-Haas Racing organization debuted at Daytona in 2009.

While other teams were slowing down and conserving fuel to make it to the end, Newman and Stewart were running flat out giving the fans a race at the end of the Lennox Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon New Hampshire.  So what did Newman have to say to all the nay sayers who said he couldn’t back up his qualifying effort with a win?

“We backed up what everybody said we couldn’t back up, and that was our qualifying effort on Friday,” Newman said. “We put it on ‘em today. We don’t put it on ‘em every weekend, so we need to relish this moment and figure out what we did right so we can keep doing it.”

”This is huge for our team, even bigger for our organization,” Newman said. ”It puts us in a lot better position that’s for sure.”

Moving up one position from 9th to 8th Newman can breathe a little easier with only 7 races to go before the points get reset for the chase as he moves into a better position to be locked in to the top 10 at the end of the regular season.

But how did he feel with his boss breathing down his next for the final few laps of the race?

“I’d rather have Stewart behind me than anybody else,” Newman said. “I have a lot of respect for him. I know the way he races. If we were side by side coming to the checkered, we’d have smoke coming off the fenders . . . We’re not going to crash each other, but that’s the kind of guys we are.

“Looking in the mirror seeing that Mobil 1 Chevy was music in my ears. I know he’s going to respect me, respect our situation. It never came down to it, but I’m glad that it didn’t, but he was one I didn’t mind seeing in my mirror.”

Tony Stewart - Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

Stewart was all smiles during the interview session after the race.  A smile that has been missing for much of the season as the team has had some really bad luck in 2011 so far.  Tied for 10th in points with Denny Hamlin, but marked as 11th since Denny has a win, Stewart also moved towards a better points finish and improved his chances for locking in a chase spot before seasons end.

”It’s no secret we’ve been struggling this year,” Stewart said. ”But it really shows me the depth of the people we got in our organization. It’s been one of the weirdest years as far as weird things and bad luck happening to both of us.”

“I think hindsight being 20/20, I don’t mind running second and having Ryan win the race versus us winning the race and him running out of fuel,” Stewart said. “This is a much more gratifying weekend for me.

“I was happy, period. I mean, you know when you’re in that situation as an organization; it can’t get any better than that. I can promise you, I didn’t leave anything out there. That was as hard as I could run till the end. I couldn’t get the rest of the way. I couldn’t get any further than that.”

“This was the perfect weekend to have Ryan on the pole and us on the front row and to sit here and get our first, first and second finish — it’s just an awesome day for Stewart-Haas Racing,” Stewart said. “These cars have been good, we just needed one weekend where we didn’t have something stupid go wrong and it happened for both of us.”

Stewart had special praise for his crew chief, Darian Grubb.

“They told him yesterday he’s got pneumonia,” Stewart said. “He’s battling through a weekend like this, never missed a beat on the box today.”

Denny Hamlin - Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

Denny Hamlin finished 3rd and was wishing he had the fuel to run flat out like the 2 guys he was chasing.  After surviving some big issues of his own and recovering from a race low position of 31st, Hamlin has to ease back at the end to conserve fuel and finish the race before he ran out.

”As bad as I wanted to go up there and race those guys, I had to make the smart move and finish the race,” Hamlin said.

“We had to do some different kind of strategy to get the kind of day we wanted,” Hamlin said. “We fought for track position all day. We knew our car was good, but we had absolutely no track position. So we had to do what we had to do — and that was save fuel.

“It’s tough when you want to run a guy like  Ryan  down there at the end, but you’ve got your crew chief screaming at you that you’ve got to slow down and save fuel. I was doing it the whole last run, so I’d be interested to see how much [fuel] we have left. If we can see where we’re at with that, maybe next time I’m in a situation like that we can run a little bit harder.”

Joey Logano finished 4th, but it was Jimmie Johnson’s comments after his 5th place finish that made a lot of people see that there are some cracks in the armor of the defending 5 Time Consecutive Champion.

Jimmie Johnson - Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

“We started off with a bad qualifying effort on Friday, and we paid the price for that on pit road and in track position at the start,” said Johnson. “Then with the 42 [car driven by Montoya], I don’t think the three times he’s wrecked me it’s been intentional. But he’s out of mulligans. I’ve had enough of, ‘Hey, I’m sorry you’re spun out.’ It’s happened way too often, so hopefully we can get that corrected.

“We just didn’t have speed. It was frustrating,” Johnson said. “We would run some good laps and from a fuel standpoint, the balance was good — but we were slow. And that’s the worst kind of deficit you can have. If there is a dramatic loose or tight condition, it’s easy. You just go to work.

“This started toward the end of the Chase last year. We’d run as hard as we could and just didn’t have the speed.  Well, you look at the result and there’s nothing to complain about there. We made up a lot of points on guys that were ahead of us [Sunday],” said Johnson,now sitting second in the point standings, seven behind Carl Edwards who has retaken the lead. “But if you look at the journey and plotted a chart of where we started to where we finished, that thing’s all over the place — and we can’t have that. I’m in harm’s way week in and week out, trying to get to the front.  And when it comes to the Chase, you need to dodge all those wild situations as often as possible. Qualifying poorly and having bad things happen that affect your track position are not the path to a championship.”

 

NASCAR – Stewart Haas Take the Front Row With Newman on the Pole

Ryan Newman ripping it up in Texas earlier this year - Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

For the first time this season we find the Rocket Man Ryan Newman in a familiar place as in years past, on the pole for the Lennox Industrial Tools 301.  With a track-record run at 135.232 mph (28.165 seconds) Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Newman claimed his first Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his fifth at New Hampshire and the 47th of his career.  Although he has placed well so far this season with 5 tops 5′s and 8 top ten’s Newman has struggled with being there at the front for the checkered flag. Newman edged out his teammate and team owner Tony Stewart who completed his lap around the 1.058-mile distance in 28.200 seconds (135.064 mph), and led the  12 drivers who broke the track record of 133.572 mph (28.515 seconds) set last year by Brad Kesolowski.

This race will also be the first time that the Stewart Haas teammates start together on the front row.

Ryan Newman - Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

“Reutimann clipped off a lap that I didn’t think could be beat,” Newman said. “But I’m just proud of the U.S. Army team and everybody at Stewart-Haas to get our first front row together, first of all, but for us to be the winning car and have a good start for the entire weekend.

“The car felt good in practice. The lap itself was nice and smooth. I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but it was good enough, and if we can make that a little bit better for Sunday, we’ll be in really good shape.”

When asked if frustrations are getting to the Stewart Haas team Newman’s answer was straight to the point.

“Ultimately, we want to be first or second [in the races] in either order, so yeah, I’m sure he’s frustrated,” Newman said. “This is crunch time and this has usually been his time, but it hasn’t been this year. … That’s going to happen from time to time. Everything does cycle, but you don’t want to see that part of the cycle when it’s your teammate.”

Stewart, starting second, credited the tires that Goodyear brought to Loudon New Hampshire for the speeds that just kept on

Tony Stewart - Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

coming as the track record just kept being broken throughout qualifying.

“It’s just a grippier tire,” Stewart said. “What we’ve fought here in the past is a tire that normally would chatter for two or three laps until it got some temperature in it and [got] some bite. This tire just seemed to take off better.

“Obviously, for qualifying, when you’ve only got two laps to do it, it’s faster because it takes off right away.”

Stewart’s thoughts on the frustrations his team has felt this year were a little more colorful and a lot less restrained.

“I am frustrated because I keep having to answer the question. … Are you happy when things aren’t going the way you like it to go? Makes you frustrated, doesn’t it? So yes, we’re frustrated.”

“Same as we did last week and the week before. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re working on it.”

“It’s just business as usual for us,” Stewart said. “Try to get as many points as we can and hope we can get in on our merit of points, and not have to rely on the wild card.”

Tony did make it clear that he is still loving what he is doing, both as a driver and as an owner, but that he is looking forward to breaking his own winless season.

“I like what I’m doing. I enjoy it still,” Stewart said. “I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m still just as happy doing it as I was two years ago when I started doing this as a car owner and a driver.

“Nothing has changed from that side. Every week is a challenge. Every week is a different obstacle. You work hard to try to accomplish the goal each week. It hasn’t changed.”

David Reutimann (134.763 mph) had been holding his own out front until Newman’s run, is fresh of a second place finish last week in Kentucky, but still thinks it is a bit early for people to be saying that his 00 team is gaining momentum.

“We’re certainly, finally running like we’re supposed to, but I don’t know if you’d call it a roll,” Reutimann said. “But it’s certainly better than it has been. Just because you qualify up front doesn’t mean that you’re going to stay there, but it certainly does get your weekend off to a good start.”

Kurt Busch (134.340 mph) and Penske Racing teammate Keselowski (134.150 mph) round out the top 5.