Tag: Kyle Busch

5 Questions Going Into Watkins Glen

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finds it way to the final road race of the year one of the most exciting races in recent memory. The famed Watkins Glen International track has set the bar for excitement and drama, and this weekend figures to continue that when the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen is run.

With that excitement and the season closing in on the end of the regular season and start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, there are many questions coming into the weekend. Here are just five of them:

Who can pull off the win and get into the Chase?

Looking right off the bat you have to go to a driver who has wins, but is outside the top-30 in points. That’d be Kyle Busch, who’s a two time champion of this event. He needs to earn maximum points to get his way into the top-30 and into the Chase. More on him in a bit.

Two more intriguing names are Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. Stewart is the all-time wins leader at The Glen with five and is on the outside looking in on the Chase. Gordon is in via points for the time being, but with the second most wins (four) at the track has to be a favorite. I would like to say the fact it will be Gordon final race at the track will factor in, but he hasn’t performed that well when running at tracks the final time. In fact, looking at his Watkins Glen record he hasn’t finished better than 10th in his last seven races here.

While in the Chase by points right now, Kasey Kahne must make up for a 43rd place finish last weekend at Pocono. He has an uphill battle to do so since his best finish here has been a 12th, that coming last season. AJ Allmendinger will look to duplicate his victory last season that got him into the Chase. Currently 23rd in points, Watkins Glen represents the last bit of hope Allmendinger has at getting his second career win.

Can Kyle Busch’s Streak Continue?

It is hard to believe that Busch has only run 10 races so far this season and has come away with four wins, four top-5s, and five top-10 finishes. Had it not been for being just shy on fuel last weekend, we’d be talking about how he’s gone five for 10 with wins. Busch is a two-time Watkins Glen winner who had a streak of eight consecutive top-10 finishes snapped last year at the track. He will be strong and quite possibly dominate this weekend knowing he needs to go balls out to get the most points he can.

Will the “Road Course Ringers” have an impact on the race?

Had this been written about 20 years earlier, I would say yes. Now that it is 2015 and quality rides are just not there for “Ringers,” it is an resounding “no” to the question. The only “Ringers” entered this weekend at Boris Said and TJ Bell. Bell will be with Premium Motorsports’ #62 team that has had a terrible record of qualifying for races. He might be a “ringer,” but Bell hasn’t been in a Sprint Cup car since 2012, and that coupled with the car he is in, he’ll be lucky to make the race. What plays in his favor is that there are only 44 cars entered this weekend. For Said he gets to run for Go FAS Racing in the #32 Genesee Brewery Ford. Go FAS isn’t the worst team on the track each weekend, but it is far from being even average. For all his skill, it would be a victory for the team if Said finished in the top-20 this weekend.

Will it rain this weekend?

It seems like whenever the Sprint Cup Series comes to my native New York, rain always tries to ruin the party. In a nine year stretch qualifying was rained out five times. Five freakin’ times, and yes I’m still bitter about having to drive two hours to sit in the rain and not see anything done. This weekend has a slight chance of rain on Sunday, but I’m confident it will stay away. As of this posting Accuweather.com has it at a 40% chance and with this NASCAR will be coming with rain tires just in case. The rest of the weekend looks to be perfect at around 80 and sunny. It’s just Sunday has the possibility, like always.

With it being Jeff Gordon’s final race here, what is your favorite memory?

The easy answer is to go for any one of his four wins, including three straight from 1997-1999, but I’m going to go a different direction. It was the 2000 race and right at the beginning (right in front of where I was sitting) Gordon and Tony Stewart got together through the esses. Both cars continued the race, Stewart finished sixth and Gordon 23rd. After the race is where the real fireworks happened, cameras caught the exchange between the two drivers, which to me made me respect Gordon a bit more afterwards. I had pegged him as a cry baby kind of driver who never would stand up for himself. Here I was proved wrong as the video shows, Gordon was not back down to anyone including Stewart. My favorite part is when Gordon tells Stewart to “speed up and that won’t happen” and closes with “I owe you one now buddy.” Classic. I hope both drivers can get back to their competitive fiery ways on Sunday.

Question Marks Heading Into Atlanta Over Replacement Drivers

The season opening Daytona 500 is over, but there will be many questions to answer in the coming days for the next event on the schedule. Ironically it involves both of the Busch brothers and polar opposite reasons.

The elder, Kurt, has been indefinitely suspended by NASCAR because of the findings of a local Delaware court to issue a restraining order to keep himself away from his ex-girlfriend. Busch appealed the initial suspension by NASCAR, but the appeals panel upheld the decision and for now Kurt will be in limbo waiting to see when NASCAR might let him back into the sport.

To cover on Sunday, the Stewart-Haas Racing team tabbed Regan Smith. Smith did good job finishing 16th. For Atlanta and beyond, the team has been mum on who might take the reins. This isn’t their first rodeo in dealing with a driver being out, they had to make arraignments prior for Tony Stewart the last two years. My guess is since the Xfinity Series schedule matches up with the Sprint Cup Series schedule, they will have Smith continue to drive for them until Busch is brought back. A wildcard here might be Jeff Burton, who filled in for Stewart last season, and is available until the second half of the season when his new television contract kicks in when NBC takes over.

I like the idea of the team, with its strong Hendrick Motorsports ties, putting in Chase Elliott to make his Sprint Cup Series debut at Atlanta next weekend. It would the perfect setting for Elliott, who grew up down the road in Dawsonville, Georgia, to get his first race under his belt.

For the younger brother Kyle, he is out indefinitely after suffering a compound fracture of his right leg and a broken left ankle. No time table has been announced, but taking in both those injuries, I suspect he will be out of commission for about two months minimum. Thinking back to when Tony Stewart broke his leg in August of 2013, he was out the final three months of the season. He was not even back in a racecar until February of 2014, so that time table for Busch might be even longer.

Who might replace Busch is an interesting question. The team had Matt Crafton fill in on Sunday, with Crafton finishing 18th in his series debut. With gaps in the Truck schedule, he could be a worthy fill in. Looking at the drivers in house for Joe Gibbs Racing you have Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez who could fit the bill. The only question I have with both is being rookies to even the Xfinity Series, would Gibbs rely on them to carry the 18 team with Busch on the sidelines.

A wildcard in this might be Michael McDowell, who’s running for Leavine Family Racing, but they are not expected to attempt all the races. He could possibly pop in when LFR is not planning on running. Anyone who is picked would need Toyota ties, in my opinion, which is why Crafton lined up very well for the team on such short notice.

I would expect both teams to try and line up one driver to take on the schedule instead of picking drivers each week. Who exactly they go with, we’ll have to wait and see what is announced for Atlanta and beyond.

2015 Rules Will Lead To More Cup Drivers Doing Double Duty

As Kyle Busch crossed the finish line yesterday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, many fans let out a collective sigh of disappointment. Once again a Sprint Cup Series regular won a Nationwide Series race. Add to that Busch just won the night prior in the Camping World Truck Series.

Based on new rules for the Sprint Cup Series, this should be a sight to see in each Nationwide (soon to be XFINITY) Series and Camping World Truck Series races, Cup drivers dominating. Starting in 2015, the Sprint Cup Series cars will have less horsepower, putting them in line with the Nationwide Series cars. Add to that talk about a ban on testing and many teams will be putting in work on Saturdays for use on Sundays.

To underscore the point of Cup Series drivers dominating the Nationwide Series, Joe Gibbs Racing got their 100th win with Busch’s triumph in the series. Of those 100 wins, 94 have been Cup drivers winning for them. Only Mike McLaughlin (2001), Mike Bliss (2004), Aric Almirola (2007 big asterisk on this because Denny Hamlin relived Almirola for this race), Joey Logano (2008 before he went to Cup in 2009), Elliott Sadler (2014), and Sam Hornish, Jr. (2014) have been the lone exceptions. And even then some have question marks on how to count them.

If fans thought it was bad before, it is going to get a lot worse. The only silver lining is NASCAR’s rule about getting points for one series will keep the Cup drivers from winning the championship, but we should be seeing more no win champions like Austin Dillon last season.

Brittany’s Fan Experience

For the past two years, I have accompanied Mike to the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen with media credentials and cold garage and pit passes.  Each year, as we walk around the track and I take in all the sites, Mike explains to me what is like to come to the track strictly as a fan.  I have been very spoiled (and thankful) of the opportunities to participate as a member of the media to cover the race, but I also feel like I have missed out on certain passage rights of NASCAR fans.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I came to Watkins Glen to attend their annual Wine Festival; my absolute favorite festival of all time!  We decided that the easiest and most responsible way to ensure our safety and continued fun would be to camp at the track.  Do not be fooled!  I guarantee it was a very comparable experience to camping during race weekend – the late night drinking fests, blaring music until 3 am, toga party, bon fire and fireworks.  There was little sleep acquired, which was okay with us since that was not the intent of our stay.  My imagination (and from leisurely walking around the track at 8am and seeing all the beer cans strewn about) tells me that race weekend is not much different.  So I have checked camping at the track off my list this year.

This weekend (yesterday), Mike was very motivated to be out of the Media Center as much as possible in order to freshen our horizons and spark creativity by experiencing the garages before and during practices.  This may sound boring or naïve to some, but for me, it was absolutely amazing!

First, we casually walked past the cars and their appropriate teams working diligently to perfect them for the races.  I am accustomed to watching these guys work from my living room couch.  I know they work fast and there are constant sounds of power tools and engines, but to smell the exhaust (and other fumes) and feel the rumble of the cars travel through my body as they light up the garage area really brought my attention to how much this is new to me… and I love it!

Mike successfully set up a few interviews yesterday, including Jeremy Clements and Chase Elliott.  Normally, I do not attend the interviews.  Initially I figured I would be a nervous mess that would rub off onto Mike, so I would just let him go on these adventures by himself.  This year he insisted I come along and I am so appreciative.  Though I probably did not say more than three words to either driver from what I remember, it was a remarkable experience for me because it yet again reminded me that this is real, these people are real, and it is not as easy as it looks on TV.

Thanks to Can-Am Spyder, Mike and I received Hot Passes this year which has allowed us the freedom of wandering the garage and admiring the atmosphere to my heart’s content.  During the Sprint Cup practice, my adrenaline surged as I watched the cars go in and out and crews work speedily from inside the garage area.  Because I like paying attention to small details that probably means nothing to anyone else, I was fascinated focusing on when drivers choose to get out of their cars.  Jimmie Johnson caught my attention a few times when he jumped out and immediately began working on the car with his crew.  Kyle Busch was another one I watched relatively closely and was a little surprised at the speeds he used while literally pulling his car into the actual garage.  The roar of the cars was phenomenal; I cannot think of words that truly justify an explanation of exhilaration.

I am excited to see what I experience today and cannot wait to report back!

The Double Edged Sword Of Kyle Busch

It’s debatable what was more predictable about last night’s Camping World Truck Series race, that Kyle Busch won, or that as soon as he won Twitter blew up with fans calling for Sprint Cup Series drivers to be banned from the series.

While it is annoying that Busch now has five wins in five Truck Series starts, he isn’t going anywhere. A conversation with NASCAR President Mike Helton laid out that they will not be limiting drivers from participating in any series. Basically it’s a free country, and they can run where ever they want, be it Truck Series, Nationwide Series, IndyCar, or your local race track.

Add to it that Busch’s presence in the series is one to race, but also to provide additional funding for his Kyle Busch Motorsports team. Sponsors are on teammates Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Erik Jones’ trucks because they get a piece of Busch. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a Kyle Busch Motorsports to run 1-2 last night.

This brings this conversation back to something that has been preached before on StartNParkBlog.com, the costs and effectiveness of the Truck Series schedule needs to be adjusted. If star drivers can’t simply own teams without having to run races, there’s an issue. When around 30 teams show up, there’s an issue.

And it is not just isolated to the Truck Series, the Nationwide Series finds itself in the same situation each week. Not only are they short on cars for the field, but the divide between the have’s (Cup affiliated teams) and have not’s (everyone else) is staggering.

This weekend this trend finally hit the Sprint Cup Series, as they will have only 42 cars for Saturday’s race for the first time since 2001. The list will go on, when Roush Fenway Racing struggles to find sponsors, there’s an issue. When stands and ratings are declining, there’s an issue.

Here’s to hoping that the summer stretch makes it painfully obvious that NASCAR has to do something to help teams, lower costs, and put on a better show for the fans.

Fourth Joe Gibbs Racing Team Could Come At Expense Of Nationwide Team

The newest rumor pegging Carl Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing has a bit of an interesting twist. Motorsports.com’s Lee Spencer is reporting in order to get the funds to create a fourth team at JGR, they would take M&M’s away from Kyle Busch and put them with Edwards. For Busch, Monster Energy would move up and sponsor his car.

On the surface a few questions arise, the first being what Spencer mentions in her article, Edwards being a health nut being sponsored by a candy company does not make much sense. Sure a driver needs to endorse a product, but I can’t tell you if I’ve ever seen Kyle Busch actually eat M&M’s on camera. It might be a slight conflict of personal interests, but I’m sure Edwards wouldn’t say no to the opportunity to drive for Gibbs.

Even with Kyle Busch, M&M’s tries to be family oriented, and Busch’s actions sometimes clashed with that. Edwards has shown he’s a “good guy” of the sport, run ins with Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth aside, and could push the family values side M&M’s probably wants.

Having Monster Energy sponsor Busch would make sense as they could embrace the image the Busch has. Such as when they embrace Kyle and brother Kurt starting a few years back. I’m just surprised that Monster would be willing to put up that money to be in the Cup Series, as I assumed they were in Nationwide because of the lowered costs.

If Joe Gibbs Racing loses that Monster sponsorship in the Nationwide Series, would we see an end of Kyle Busch running down there? The team has struggled to get sponsorship over the past few years, including putting the #18 team as strictly part-time. I’m sure they could find some sponsors to run Busch, but would those companies put up enough funds to keep the #54 going all year long like how Monster has the past few years?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but you won’t hear much for right now as all parties involved have no comment to share.

Commentary: Truck Series On Uneven Ground

The old adage goes take one step forward, take two steps back. While the Camping World Truck Series hasn’t taken that second step backward, it seems it is inevitable that something else is coming down the pipe line.

Just 16 days ago NASCAR and Camping World announced that the company was extending its entitlement sponsorship through the 2022 season, marking 14 years of sponsoring the series. There was much promoting of the series as the place where young talent is found and pushed along to succeed in NASCAR. Camping World gushed about how it has helped their RV sales since joining NASCAR.

That is good PR spinning on the state of the sport, but the reality is it is struggling. After starting the season with full fields, 36 trucks, at Daytona and Martinsville, the number of trucks has dropped off. Only 31 raced at Kansas, just four days after the announcement, and only 33 raced this last weekend at Charlotte.

Of those trucks, only 18 drivers have attempted all four races, with Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch winning three of those races. That number will drop when the series next goes to Dover because of Tuesday’s news that Red Horse Racing was ceasing operations of their #7 team driven by Brian Ickler to this point.

Without much sponsorship, the team did not want to pull down the performance of its other two teams to keep Ickler on the track. That says a lot that a team that currently has the second and third place teams in the standings can’t find sponsorship for a third team. Go a step further and Timothy Peters, who sits second in points, has run the past two races without sponsorship on his car.

The sponsorship woes didn’t begin this year, numerous teams folded including on of Busch’s teams despite his on track success. In fact, Busch has stated that he runs the series as a means of funding his teams, although adding trophies to his collection can’t hurt.

For the long-time health of the series the schedule needs to be lengthened to at least 25 races to get maximum value for sponsorships and cost reduction is needed. While it was great to see underfunded teams running higher than they ever have, it shouldn’t be because of short fields and start and park entries.

Expanding the schedule to 25 races could be seen as adding costs for teams. The rationale to adding the three (or I’d be open to a few more) is to bridge the large gaps that start the season. They open the season on February 21st, but then it’s not until March 29th that there is a second race.

From there it’s not until May 9th do we see the third race of the season. That is just enough time for everyone to forget about the Truck Series and for drivers to be off their game. This was evident with the number of accidents seen in the third race Kansas.

What sponsor would invest in a product that disappears for a month right after its season kicks off? Brendan Gaughan told me as much at Watkins Glen last season. He’s seen the Truck Series from the side of owner and driver during his career.

“The Truck Series needs more races, 22 races is not enough to give value to a sponsor. And it doesn’t save us any money having less than 25 races. Get us back to 25 races,” explained Gaughan.

He indicated he didn’t care where those races were added, as long as they were venues that deserved the series and were up to par on safety around the track. I would take that one step further and say you need to hit locations with this series you don’t go to now with the Sprint Cup Series.

This would go back to the origins of the Truck Series which saw it go to tracks such as Masa Marin Raceway, Milwaukee Mile, Indianapolis Raceway Park (now Lucas Oil Raceway), Heartland Park Topeka, Flemington Speedway, and others.

To cut costs, make the events one day shows if possible by running night races. That way teams can save on external costs, such as hotels, and fans get the ultimate bang for their buck. They don’t have to worry about coming back for qualifying or a practice another day.

NASCAR and Camping World need to build on the momentum that was found last season by running at Eldora Speedway and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Both venues, that had not run another other series until then, were praised as being successes by fans and media from not only the show the Trucks put on, but the facilities themselves.

It is too late to do anything about 2014, but it’s not too early to start planning changes for 2015. With rumblings of a major shakeup in the Sprint Cup Series scheduling for next season there is hope there will be a trickledown effect that will benefit the Truck Series. If not, this model of doing the same old, same old will slowly kill the series.