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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Getting points lead is a big confidence boost for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is your points leader.

That's right. The man who has the most fans in NASCAR, yet very few wins in recent years, is now your most consistent driver of the season.

It's pretty symbolic on one level, as once the Chase starts Junior and his one win will go down toward the bottom of the top 10. But it's still a nice confidence boost and a good reward for his solid runs so far this year.

Even his haters have to admit that Dale Jr. is doing well this year. Even though he doesn't always have the car to compete for a win, he's pretty much always up front. You couldn't say that at any point of his previous years with Hendrick.

The fact is that this year, Jr. is a contender that his fellow drivers and fans are once again expecting to do well regularly, like he used to do with DEI when he racked up most of his wins.

And as I've said all along, Jr. doing good is not just good for him and his team; and it's good for the sport.

With this confidence boost, I would bet he keeps up his hot streak, though i don't know if he's the guy to beat in the Chase (that would be that pesky Jimmie Johnson).

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Jimmie Johnson's Brickyard stats put him in the company of legends

Jimmie Johnson is officially one of the best drivers ever at the Brickyard, with his fourth win in a Cup race there. He has won four races there (and amazingly, Chevy has now won 10 straight, a feat that has to be a record in NASCAR as far as streaks by a car make at one track).

Jimmie has won four time at Indy -- joining legends from various racing disciplines -- NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, Formula 1's Michael Schumacher, and Indycar's Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr. Not a bad crowd to be associated with.

He was pretty pumped after the race, as you can imagine considering what he accomplished.

“Wow, man that victory lap to go around the track is something special. A big thank you to all the fans out there cheering it lets it really soak in. To come here and win is a huge honor, then to have four wins I’m at a loss for words. I can tell you this I’m so proud of my team. I’m so proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, Lowe’s, KOBALT Tools and Chevrolet. Chad Knaus gave me one heck of a race car today and pit road was awesome too. It was a total team effort and we put it on them today that was nice.”

He said it's crazy to think he is in the record books with guys he looked up to in the past -- such as Rick Mears and Jeff Gordon.

“It’s wild and (Jeff) Gordon as well. I looked up to him and it’s really wild for me to get my start driving a Cup car for him. To tie both of those guys and what they’ve accomplished again I just hoped to come here and race. I had no idea this would turn out. I can remember back to watch the (Indianapolis) 500 with my grandfather and my dad sitting on the couch. My grandfather telling me stories about Indy and that he came here and was at the race track. I’m glad to have my own memories here for my family and also I must say I couldn’t do it without the support of my wife and daughter. It’s a total team effort on all fronts.”

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Chevy drivers give their thoughts on Pocono

“I had a good, strong run at Pocono in June. I felt like we had a great car there last time. I’m definitely looking forward to going back there. I think the whole field will be a little bit stronger than it was. It will be a bit tougher. But I thought we had some good speed.”

“I am excited to go back [to Pocono] because we had a really strong car there in the last race. I think we had a few track position issues to overcome and a two speeding issues, but we still managed a Top 5 finish. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) called a great race. He got me some track position on two tires. The pit stops were flawless and we had a fast car. After last week’s win at the Brickyard the entire team is excited to get to Pocono and keep the momentum going.”

“The first thing you do is you’ve got to survive the restart (laughs). We learned last time that practice didn’t really matter if you could get a good restart and survive going through the corner and get in line then you were in good shape. It’s really fast and the thing I like about what they did at Pocono all the bumps are now kind of swells and you have the same kind of feels that you had there, they are just not extreme bumps. Each corner is fast. Turn one is a corner where you drive in and down shift. The key to Pocono now is getting up off the corners and in the throttle and being able to stay in the throttle really in all three of them.”

“It was pretty hard to pass (in June), but it kind of normally is. I don't think it was really any worse than it normally is. But seemed like at the end of the race it got pretty racy there and guys could move around a little bit. All in all, for a freshly paved track, it was a pretty good race.

“It was frustrating the first half of the race until guys got their cars better. You really just kind of got stuck, and then it seemed like the longer the race went, the easier it got to pass toward the end.

“The restarts were insane, but you had to take full advantage of them. That was the biggest opportunity to make gains and definitely big gains. You could get three or four at a time if somebody got bottled up a little bit. Had to be on your toes for the restarts, for sure.”

“We had really good speed at Pocono in June and just had some bad luck on a restart. The track is so smooth and fast now, but you really need rubber down to pass. We easily had a top-10 car last time, so hopefully we have the luck this time.”

“It’s (Pocono) one of my favorite race tracks just because it is so difficult. It’s really fun to drive. I like it because it’s challenging. Each corner is different – different radius, different banking, and different bumps. Each straightaway is a different length. It just seems like it’s a driver’s race track and a crew chief’s race track because he has to get the car to the driver’s liking in all three corners. It’s all about matching up the combination of how the crew chief sets up the car relative to how the driver drives the race car to make a happy package and have a shot at victory. It’s fun to have unique situations and unique racetracks. We look forward to going to Pocono each and every time.”

"That was a tough race (in June), especially fighting back from a lap down and also having engine temperature issues. I remember two cars running off the track into the dirt that day and I was behind them both times which led to the high engine 'temps.' But the car had good 'speed' all day. I'm hoping the Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet has good race pace again and that we can do a good job of maintaining track position throughout the race.

"It's amazing the difference on restarts when running up front here versus running mid-pack where you'll get a run on a couple cars and before you know it, you're already three-wide with other drivers that have gotten a run on you. This track - even after the repave made it smoother and faster with more grip - still has 'old' Pocono characteristics which I love. The shape and the banking of the turns haven't changed. It still has three unique - and three very challenging - corners."

"I don't think the racing itself changed a lot, but the track is a lot faster. It opened up a second groove in turns one and two. It was pretty narrow around the entire track, but the racing has always been like that there."

“I am looking forward to heading back to the new racing surface at Pocono. I enjoyed racing there in June with the changes that have been made. We had a really good car for the last race, qualifying went well and we brought home a top-10 finish. I made it no secret that I wasn’t a big fan of Pocono before, but I really enjoy racing there now. We’ve had a busy week with the tire test at Michigan right after the Brickyard 400, so we will look forward to getting right back to the action this weekend.”


“I was very impressed. We had a disappointing 14th-place finish with a top-10 car. The last run of the race was our worst run and we lost a few spots in the end. We had fun that whole week and spent over five days there testing, practicing and qualifying. I had Harrison, my 11-year-old son, with me and we took advantage of what the area had to offer. We went to the go-kart race track, played paintball and all kinds of different stuff. We made a holiday out of it. Pocono Raceway took a step into the present. We used to go there and feel like our race cars, haulers and the preparation far outweighed the quality of the race track. We were taking modern pieces of racing technology to a track that was outdated. Today, Pocono (Raceway) is a modern facility with the kind of racing surface that is needed to put on a good race. I was very impressed with the workmanship and quality of the job. It’s as good of a job as any track we have repaved.”


“I think it’s fun going to Pocono and racing. The layout and the corners make it different from any other track we go to. Plus going to Pocono the second time it’s a little calmer, you know. The Target team kind of struggled there the first time. At the end of the race we got a little bit better, we were just never as good as we needed to be so hopefully this time we’ll get it figured out and get that Target Chevrolet to the front and stay there.”

"If Sunday at Indianapolis was any indication of things to come for our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet than we should be in good shape this weekend at Pocono. We had speed at Indy and ran with the leaders until the left-front fender got smashed in. But for the first 90 or so laps we had it going and it felt great to be running up front. It was a great start with new crew chief Todd Berrier and I look for better things to come in the future, starting with Pocono this weekend. We had a pretty good handle on Pocono's new track surface back in June and expect that to improve too. All-in-all, we're upbeat as we head to Pennsylvania."

“It’s a track that you can never get dialed in perfectly for all three corners. You have to compromise. Other tracks like that are Darlington and Phoenix, where all of the corners are different and you have to work your way through each one. When you’re making setup changes, you have to keep in mind what you do in turn one and how it’s going to affect turns two and three.”

Everything you need to know about Pocono Raceway and the Pennsylvania 400

At Pocono Raceway:
— Opened in 1968 as a three-quarter-mile track, Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971.
— The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in 1974.
— The 2.5-mile track was repaved during the fall of 2011.
— There have been 69 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono Raceway.
— There was one race from 1974 through 1981, and two per year since.
— This season will mark the first time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono will be scheduled for 400 miles. Prior to 2012 all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races were 500 miles at Pocono Raceway.
— Buddy Baker won the first pole.
— There have been 38 different pole winners, including David Pearson who won the pole there in June 1984 but did not race; 17 drivers have more than one pole there.
— The pole has been swept just three times: Bill Elliott (1985), Ken Schrader (1993) and Denny Hamlin (2006).
— Richard Petty won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono.
— 31 different drivers have won races at Pocono, led by Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon, each with five victories; 20 drivers have won more than once there.
— There have been six season sweeps at Pocono, the last by Denny Hamlin in 2006.
— Bobby Allison (1982, ’83) and Tim Richmond (1986, ’87) each won three consecutive races at Pocono.
— 48 of 69 Pocono races have been won from a top-10 start.
— The June 2005 race was won by Carl Edwards from the 29th starting position, the deepest in the field that a race winner has started.
— 14 of 69 races have been won from the pole, Bill Elliott (1985, 2002) and Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep) are the only drivers to have done it twice. Joey Logano is the most recent driver to win from the pole earlier this season.
— Rick Hendrick leads all car owners with 12 Pocono victories.
— Mark Martin leads all drivers in top fives (20) and top 10s (34), but has yet to win at Pocono. His best finish was second, seven times (most recently last June). In June, Martin set the record for most runner-up finishes at a track without winning.
— Jimmie Johnson (8.7) and Denny Hamlin (9.3) are the only active drivers to average a top 10.
— Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono Raceway winner: Joey Logano (06/10/2012 – 22 years, 0 months, 17 days).
— Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono Raceway winner: Harry Gant (06/17/1990 – 50 years, 5 months, 7 days).

Pocono Raceway Data
Race #: 21 of 36 (08-05-12)
Track Size: 2.5-miles
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles
— Banking/Turn 1: 14 degrees
— Banking/Turn 2: 8 degrees
— Banking/Turn 3: 6 degrees
— Frontstretch: 3,740 feet
— Backstretch: 3,055 feet
— Shortstretch: 1,780 feet

Top 12 Driver Rating at Pocono
Denny Hamlin............................ 117.6
Jimmie Johnson........................ 106.7
Kurt Busch................................ 105.8
Jeff Gordon.............................. 100.3
Tony Stewart............................... 99.3
Carl Edwards.............................. 97.1
Ryan Newman............................. 94.9
Mark Martin................................. 94.8
Kevin Harvick.............................. 90.8
Matt Kenseth.............................. 89.3
Kasey Kahne.............................. 89.3
Jeff Burton................................. 88.6
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2012 races (15 total) at Pocono Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2011 pole winner:
Joey Logano, Toyota (172.055 mph, 52.309 sec., 08-06-11)

2011 race winner:
Brad Keselowski, Dodge (137.878 mph, 3:37:35, 08-07-11)

Track qualifying record:
Joey Logano, Toyota (179.598 mph, 50.112 sec., 06-10-12)

Track race record (500 miles):
Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet (145.384 mph, 3:26:21, 06-12-11)

NASCAR in Pennsylvania
— There have been 103 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Pennsylvania.
Pocono Raceway (69); Bloomsburg Fairgrounds (1); Heidelberg Raceway-Pittsburgh (4); Langhorne Speedway (17); Lincoln Speedway (7); New Bradford Speedway (1); Pine Grove Speedway (1); Reading Fairgrounds (2); Williams Grove Speedway (1)
— 138 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Pennsylvania.
— There are three race winners from Pennsylvania in NASCAR’s three national series:
Dick Linder (3 Cup wins); Jimmy Spencer (2 Cup, 12 Nationwide, 1 Trucks); Mark Donohue (1 Cup win)

Jeff Burton (No. 31 Enersys Chevrolet)
— Seven top fives, 17 top 10s
— Average finish of 16.0
— Average Running Position of 14.0, 10th-best
— Driver Rating of 88.6, 12th-best
— 1,241 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
— 1,849 Laps in the Top 15 (64.3%), eighth-most
— 581 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), eighth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Inc. Chevrolet)
— Two wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
— Average finish of 15.5
— Average Running Position of 10.6, fourth-best
— Driver Rating of 105.8, third-best
— 299 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
— Average Green Flag Speed of 159.966 mph, third-fastest
— 2,029 Laps in the Top 15 (74.8%), seventh-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
— Two wins, five top fives, seven top 10s
— Average finish of 13.6
— Driver Rating of 97.1, sixth-best
— 169 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
— Average Green Flag Speed of 159.626 mph, seventh-fastest

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
— Five wins, 17 top fives, 27 top 10s; two poles
— Average finish of 10.4
— Average Running Position of 10.3, third-best
— Driver Rating of 100.3, fourth-best
— 106 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
— Average Green Flag Speed of 159.770 mph, fourth-fastest
— 2,159 Laps in the Top 15 (75.1%), third-most
— 660 Quality Passes, third-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
— Four wins, eight top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
— Average finish of 9.3
— Series-best Average Running Position of 8.6
— Series-best Driver Rating of 117.6
— Series-high 426 Fastest Laps Run
— Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 160.346 mph
— 2,043 Laps in the Top 15 (82.7%), sixth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet)
— Five top fives, eight top 10s
— Average finish of 14.0
— Average Running Position of 14.0, ninth-best
— Driver Rating of 90.8, ninth-best
— Series-high 1,324 Green Flag Passes
— 630 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)
— Two wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; two poles
— Average finish of 8.8
— Average Running Position of 10.2, second-best
— Driver Rating of 106.7, second-best
— 213 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
— Average Green Flag Speed of 159.987 mph, second-fastest
— Series-high 2,278 Laps in the Top 15 (79.3%)
— 686 Quality Passes, second-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)
— One win, three top fives, five top 10s; two poles
— Average finish of 17.7
— Average Running Position of 14.4, 11th-best
— Driver Rating of 89.3, 11th-best
— 176 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
— 1,267 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford)
— Three top fives, 10 top 10s
— Average finish of 13.9
— Average Running Position of 13.6, eighth-best
— Driver Rating of 89.3, 10th-best
— Average Green Flag Speed of 159.439 mph, ninth-fastest
— 638 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Mark Martin (No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota)
— 20 top fives, 34 top 10s; three poles
— Average finish of 11.1
— Average Running Position of 11.9, sixth-best
— Driver Rating of 94.8, eighth-best
— 81 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
— Average Green Flag Speed of 159.648 mph, fifth-fastest
— 2,055 Laps in the Top 15 (71.5%), fifth-most

Ryan Newman (No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
— One win, seven top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
— Average finish of 12.7
— Average Running Position of 11.3, fifth-best
— Driver Rating of 94.9, seventh-best
— 1,193 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
— 2,190 Laps in the Top 15 (76.2%), second-most
— Series-high 715 Quality Passes

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot Back To School Chevrolet)
— Two wins, 10 top fives, 19 top 10s; two poles
— Average finish of 11.5
— Average Running Position of 11.9, seventh-best
— Driver Rating of 99.3, fifth-best
— 80 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
— 1,278 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
— Average Green Flag Speed of 159.636 mph, sixth-fastest
— 2,075 Laps in the Top 15 (72.2%), fourth-most
— 658 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Monday, July 30, 2012

Brickyard and stock cars are a bad fit; Bad week for Danica; Get rid of top 35 rule

There were two green flag passes for the lead at the Brickyard on Sunday afternoon.
They both came on the first lap after a restart.

After that, separation city.

The race was boring, the action was weak, and as per usual the Brickyard proved itself to be a terrible place for stock cars to race. The amount of empty seats in the stands confirms this.

I watched the race live once many years ago, and it was among the weakest experiences of my NASCAR viewing career. I much preferred my time that weekend over at the Indianapolis Raceway Park short track, watching the Nationwide and Truck series races.
There are many ideas that have been floated to spice things up at the Brickyard, such as bringing in lights and racing in prime time, but it wouldn’t do much to help in my opinion. I’ve never been a big fan of stock cars at Indy, and I know I’m not alone due to the empty stands I saw at the track. It is historically significant as a track, but while I prefer NASCAR overall I’d much rather watch Indycars race at the Brickyard -- it’s actually pretty fun to watch at times.

Bad week for Danica
First, Danica Patrick gets into a wreck at the Brickyard Sunday. Then, Monday, her luck got worse at Michigan Speedway when she wrecked during a TIRE TEST. Now that is bad luck.

Get rid of top 35 rule
There is a rumor NASCAR may get rid of its top 35 rule -- which gives the top 35 a guaranteed starting spot in the next race. That would be good news in my book. I say get rid of most provisionals, or at least limit them. You can only use about five each year, then you’re out, for example. This limited number of provisionals allows for a few bad-luck situations.

Biffle talks after MIS tire test
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16, was one of five Ford drivers participating in a Goodyear tire test today at Michigan International Speedway. Biffle took time to speak with MIS President Roger Curtis before the afternoon session on the track.

GREG BIFFLE, No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – HOW IS THE TIRE TEST GOING OUT THERE? “The track is in excellent condition. The tire that Goodyear brought, we were all fearful that this tire would be really low on grip and the car would be hard to drive and it would chatter out from under us. That is certainly not the case. The tire has a lot of grip. It slowed the speed downs a little bit. They told me it is the same right side tire, which I am pretty happy with, they just thinned the tire out a little bit so it doesn’t get so hot and it is really the same compound on the left. I am really pleased with the tire. I think we are going to see a great race when we come back here. Everybody will feel a little better about it.”

NO BLISTERING? STILL PRETTY FAST? “No blistering and it is still pretty fast.”

HOW ABOUT THE GROOVES? ARE YOU GOING TO BE ABLE TO PASS? “Yeah, I think so. I think just like before, even probably a little better. Since the speed is down just a tiny bit I think you will see that groove continue to widen out. I have even floored it down lower on the race track and the car has some turn in it down there. I think we are going to see some good racing.”

HOW MUCH OF TODAY IS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM TO GET READY AND HOW MUCH IS FOR GOODYEAR TO HELP THEM FIGURE OUT THE TIRE? “Well, the good thing about it is that this is really a verification test for Goodyear. It isn’t, try this tire, this tire and this tire. They are pretty happy with the tire they have so this is to make sure it works. That opens it up for us to do whatever we want. This morning up until lunch we have been trying all kinds of things. We just got done with a 12 lap run which really helps Goodyear and helps us as well. We are seeing 295 degree shoulder temp which is well within range and we are running some fast laps. I think everyone is happy. We are happy we get to test and they are happy the tire is working out.”

SO THIS WILL STILL PROBABLY BE THE FASTEST TRACK IN NASCAR, BUT NOT AS FAST AS JUNE? “I am going to try but I don’t know if that will work. Maybe if we get it cold. If the track is green and cold we might be able to rip one or two off. I feel pretty good about running the fastest unofficial time in NASCAR ever. I guess it isn’t official because it wasn’t qualifying or anything but it was with NASCAR timing and scoring that we ran that 204.7 mph lap. I think I deserve a mini-cheetah for the fastest lap recorded in NASCAR.”

HOW DOES THE REST OF THE SEASON LOOK FOR YOU? “We just got done with Indy and coming here for this test we feel really good about where we are as a team. Indy was a real eye opener for us. We ran very well and we were just a little short of the 48. We feel like we can come here and close that gap even more. We will go to Pocono and here and compete for a win and we feel like we are right there for the Chase. That was a brand new car, a Chase build that we ran at Indy and we have for our five of those coming down the chain. We feel good about it.”

SOUNDS LIKE YOU ARE ALREADY THINKING PLAYOFFS. “Yeah, we are thinking playoffs. We are trying to figure out how to win and win the title.”

Saturday, July 28, 2012

ESPN's NASCAR analysts give their thoughts as network takes over Cup coverage

ESPN analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, lap-by-lap announcer Allen Bestwick, and Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, production, participated in a media conference call this week to discuss ESPN’s coverage of the final 17 races of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, starting with the Brickyard 400 on Sunda. A transcript of the conference call follows:

RICH FEINBERG: Good afternoon, everybody, thank you for calling in, we appreciate it.
On the production side, our entire team is excited now that we're making the turn halfway through our season to continuing our Nationwide coverage but adding to it the privilege of covering the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
We come off a very strong year in 2011 where our Chase ratings were up 14%. We put forth some new initiatives like our ESPN side-by-side, we actually call it NASCAR NonStop, approach during the Chase, offering fans the ability during the second half of our races to see continuing coverage during our commercial breaks.
We have momentum on the Nationwide side. Last week's Chicago race ended up 57% higher than last year's prime time June Chicago race.
We look forward to debuting several new technologies during our run the second half of 2012 on both Nationwide and Sprint Cup, including adding our dual in-car camera path coverage system to Nationwide and experimenting with ultra slow-mo cameras on pit road.
I was on a call earlier today that Andy and D.J. and Allen all participated in. I can tell you on behalf of those three gentlemen, who can speak to it themselves, but in addition our entire team, we're excited to get going this week at Indianapolis, which is a special place for our company.

ALLEN BESTWICK: We ended last season when we left off our Sprint Cup Series coverage with a virtual tie for the championship and a race decided by one driver winning the final race of the year and another driver finishing second and losing out on the championship in a tiebreaker. You stop and you sit back and think, How do you top that, that's just outstanding?
Yet as I look ahead to the next seven weeks, I see the situation building for Richmond that could lead up to this incredible night with all of these drivers fighting for a way to get into the Chase and winning never meaning more than it does right now and how will this Chase play out. There's so much to look forward to.
We're very excited about having the privilege to bring it to people at home, of course starting out at Indianapolis. What more can you say? A race that's featured many late-twisted plots in recent years and all ends with someone getting the chance to replicate the tradition that D.J. started of kissing the bricks. What a great place to start off. We can't wait.

Q. Dale, we've seen the last several years the guy who finishes second in points just can't seem to keep up that momentum. I look back at your record, you were second and third in points leading to the year before you won the title. I'm wondering, is it an emotional letdown they're having and what can they do to prevent that in the future?

DALE JARRETT: Good question. Don't really have a good understanding as to why because you hope that you keep that championship team together.
I think that some of it is a mental thing because you put so much effort into trying to win that championship, and obviously Carl and Bob and that team did that. There can be somewhat of a letdown.
We came out strong the next year in 2000. We won the 500 and had a lot of good things going. But we ran out of gas. I think you put so much into that, so many commitments there, that you have to be careful with that. Sometimes it's easy to lose that focus and that determination that got you in that position.
I really think - nothing against Bob Osborne - but this is something that should have taken place before now. Literally, even Carl did such an incredible job of keeping that team in a position to win last year, I mean, he had a lot of people that helped him, but he did a great job of driving. They didn't win after Las Vegas and they didn't start this season off. You had to know that something had to be done there. Carl is an incredible driver. Bob has a great place in their organization.
These life expectancies of these driver/crew chiefs, they were at the end of that.
It will be interesting to see if they made this soon enough to get them in position. It is difficult to come off of something like that and rebound and be right there for it.

Q. Do you think the Nationwide winner should kiss the bricks or come up with a different tradition?

DALE JARRETT: Well, I don't know. It will be interesting to see do they come up with something different.
I think the IndyCar guys have adopted it, so I don't see any reason that the Nationwide winner on Saturday shouldn't go do the same thing.
It's a pretty special feeling. If they come up with something else, fine, but I think they should go do that because it's a pretty special place.

Q. Were you mad the IndyCar guys started doing it?

DALE JARRETT: No. Took it as a compliment, to be honest, yeah.

Q. Dale, this is in the context of Jeff Gordon going to Indy where he's had great success. You won a title at age 42. What does he have to do or does he have to do anything to adjust or remain competitive in his 40s?

DALE JARRETT: I don't really know there's anything that Jeff has to do. They had a tremendous run of unfortunate luck. To win any title or be competitive, you have to have some good fortune on your side.
In racing terms, I can't say they had a lot of good fortune. I think Jeff has done a pretty good job of driving the car the majority of the years. He's still as talented as he ever was.
They're going to have to dig a little deeper here. I know he's driving every lap as hard as he can. This weekend would be a great place for him to kind of turn things around. If they saved up that good fortune for these next seven, then that would be good.
I don't think it's not anything that Jeff is not on top of his game or paying less attention to what is going on within that race team or anything. I think he's working as hard or harder than he ever has. They just need to have some good fortune.
He could have more than that, but I think in looking and knowing Jeff, he could go at this hard another three or four years and still be very competitive with an opportunity to still win a championship again.

Q. Dale, it's still a crown jewel for drivers, the Brickyard 400 is a big deal for ESPN, but it's in its fourth year of declining attendance. Has it lost its luster? Do you think bringing in GRAND-AM and Nationwide, do you think that might inject some excitement?

DALE JARRETT: It will be interesting to see. Hopefully it will generate some excitement, give a full weekend's worth of things going on. It's going to be a full weekend's worth. Hopefully fans will rally and come back.
It is a great event, great venue. I promise you, it has lost nothing from the driver's perspective. It is a great honor and a great place to go race, obviously a tremendous place to get a victory and visit that Victory Lane.

Q. Dale and Andy, this Brickyard marks 10 years since the SAFER barrier made its debut in the Sprint Cup Series. Now it's at every racetrack. It's become second nature to think of it as part of racing. Can you discuss, as you were both involved with the series around that time or just prior to it, the impact that the SAFER barriers have had on the sport?

ANDY PETREE: I was involved in it from an owner's standpoint, did some testing. I thought they were testing the car, turned out they were testing the wall. Destroyed my car. But it was part of the process.
Really I think it's changed the attitudes of the drivers the way they race. I think they race a lot harder, they race a lot more aggressive.
Dale can speak to this, but I think with the SAFER barriers and all the other things, it wasn't just that that made the cars and the series so much safer, it was all of it put together.
That SAFER barrier thing, they really did their homework on it. They worked I guess probably a couple years on it before they really got it right, enough to install it everywhere.
They're putting it in more and more places at more tracks. It just made the sport so much safer. You don't have that in the back of your mind worry about a driver getting seriously hurt or worse in the series anymore.

DALE JARRETT: I have to agree with all that Andy said there. I look at it to me the one thing that everyone within the sport, from car owners to manufacturers to sponsors to NASCAR, that everyone agreed on. There's not many things that everybody agrees on. Obviously the drivers agreed, too. They worked hard together to make all of this happen.
It's been a wonderful thing. We've seen some horrific crashes to where you don't know what would have happened before, but you can only imagine. These SAFER barriers have literally been lifesavers. It's tremendous.
As Andy said, we see them in more and more places around these racetracks. As we've seen, these accidents can happen about everywhere. It's nice these drivers are protected.
The owners and sponsors put a lot into them. Not only is it saving lives, but keeping them from getting injured where they can be in there next weekend.

Q. D.J. and Allen, can you address what has been the most surprising element for you so far this season? It could be anything involved with drivers or some other issue. What has been something that you can literally say, I didn't see that one coming?

ALLEN BESTWICK: Carl Edwards. Didn't see that one coming. Ran so well last fall. The other Roush Fenway cars have been up front. Matt Kenseth leading the championship, so on. I just didn't see Carl Edwards and company having the drop-off in performance that they've had this year. I'm very surprised by it.
Obviously there are things going on there that have resulted in some changes. We'll see if it's enough, if there's enough time for them to find a way to win and have a chance to make the Chase again.

DALE JARRETT: I'm going to stay on that side a little bit. A driver that's in the top 10, but I expected more, Kevin Harvick. He's kept himself there by being consistent, but hasn't seemed to really have all of that that he's going to need to try to win a championship. I think he's in a real battle for trying to stay in the top 10 there and make all of this work.
On the other side of that, I don't know that I was expecting as much out of Clint Bowyer and that race team. Obviously getting a victory, being inside the top 10, that's a nice surprise to see. They've really done well.
In general, the entire Michael Waltrip organization showing the strength they've shown. Even though they have that one victory with Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, then when Brian Vickers has been in that car, and then Martin Truex, Jr. has done extremely well and challenged for some victories. So they've been a really good surprise.

Q. Andy, we've seen a couple of crew chief changes heading into this race. What are these guys up against coming in cold and trying to win the confidence of teams and drivers coming in midyear like this?

ANDY PETREE: I think on the Carl Edwards side of it, he has a big challenge. It's not like, okay, we have a few races to get to know each other, we'll start building something. He's sitting on the brink of not making the Chase after almost winning it last year. They're under a tremendous amount of pressure to go out and win races because that's the only way they're going to make the Chase.
I'd hate to have that job. If they don't go out and win, it's going to be tough on that crew chief, whoever it is. I wouldn't want that position. It's going to be a challenge for them.
For Chad to have an opportunity to work with the driver of the caliber of Carl Edwards is a great opportunity you relish. It's a double-edged sword for sure. I see where Bobby Labonte lost his crew chief. Todd Berrier, he's going over to Furniture Row. They have a new one over there with Dave. He really is very competitive. I like his style. Everywhere he goes, especially in the beginning of the relationship, they seem to do well. That might spark that team to do something here at this point.
They're not near under the pressure of the Carl Edwards team is under to start getting it done right now.

Q. Does the new crew chief almost have to prove himself when he comes in in the middle of the year?

ANDY PETREE: Absolutely. When I went over to Childress in '93, I went over there, the same thing, I thought what a great opportunity to work with Dale Earnhardt. I also thought, If we don't perform, don't do well, I might be gone, gone from the scene. I felt that pressure.
Early on, we weren't bad, we just weren't putting up good numbers. Finally turned it around. I think we won at Darlington in the spring. That relieved a little pressure.
The crew chiefs feel it just as much as the drivers do when they make a change.

Q. D.J., what is it like from the driver's side? Are you waiting for a guy to show you something when he comes in?

DALE JARRETT: You have an idea going into that. You know it could take a little bit of time. You're hoping he has some magic in his pocket or pen or skills that will help there. It is a difficult situation, as Andy said, to walk in and make a big change and a big difference in the way that things are going.
I think bringing in someone like Chad where he's been a part of that organization should be a little bit of help. It's not like that they haven't known one another and Chad not knowing how things go at Roush Fenway. That could help them to kind of jump-start this thing a little bit sooner.

Q. Dale, you raced many 500 milers at Pocono. If we could look ahead a week, how do you think these races are going to be now that they've reduced the length?

DALE JARRETT: In talking to the drivers after the first race, they were all very pleased. That was a long, long afternoon of 500 miles. It's generally extremely hot. You factor in the fatigue, the carbon monoxide factors. There were a lot of things that went into that extra hundred miles. Certainly how much that racetrack beats up equipment, in particular the engines because of the rpm's.
I think everyone appreciated it. I would have to think that the fans really enjoyed what they saw there back in June. So I think it was a positive step in the right direction there for everyone involved.

Q. Andy, we can't have a conference call without asking you about Danica. From an analyst's perspective, what kind of progress do you see her making? Do you think she'll be ready to race full-time in the Cup Series next year?

ANDY PETREE: I think she's doing a great job in the Nationwide Series. I think she's going to struggle big-time in the Cup Series regardless.
I'm sure they've had good cars. I'm not sure they've got the best cars to be comparing Danica to Stenhouse or Sadler. I'm not sure where that team is performance-wise. We did a side-by-side comparison in Chicago. Stenhouse leading the race. She was talking about how loose her car was. We took an in-car shot. She is absolutely wheeling that car. She's doing things that impress me every week, she is getting better and better. Nationwide Series, very competitive, a lot of great drivers in it. When you make that next step, it's going to be a big one. I'm very skeptical about how she'll do when she makes that step full-time.

Q. Rich, you mentioned the new ultraslow-mo camera. How do you plan on deploying that and what do you think it's going to bring to the broadcast?

RICH FEINBERG: It's going to be a RF hand-held on pit road. We've seen a lot of ultra-mo's find their way into the sports broadcasting landscape in many, many forms. I believe this is the first time an RF hand-held ultra-mo will be placed in pit road in NASCAR.
Our goal is to offer unique looks, whether it's for our audience, for Andy and D.J. to break down. So many times we say the words, Races are won and lost on pit road. If we can take certain moments in time of what happens on pit road and really break them down and analyze them and offer viewers a new look, this camera will do close to one thousand frames per second. Typical HD signal is 60. Hopefully it's an enhancement that our fans will like.
I think one of the things we've done a lot this year is taking existing technology and trying to push its limits, and we'll try to do so.

Q. Last year you introduced dual path transmission for onboard cameras. Any changes from last year or plans to ramp that up for this year?

RICH FEINBERG: We're going to continue to feature it in every Sprint Cup race starting at the Brickyard. All the races at Sprint Cup weekends, I believe that number is 12 or 13 the second half of the year, we're going to use it on the Nationwide Series. We used them in Daytona and in Talladega, now we'll use them on Nationwide side through the end of the year at all the Cup races they're co-located at.
They've been a great tool. Again, in analysis, they allow us the ability to not only see what the driver is seeing in certain circumstances on the racetrack, but also give the fans a sense of what the driver himself is doing by offering those dual paths.

Q. D.J. and Andy, I want to ask you about the idea of sportsmanship in the series. The reason I ask that is, watching the Tour de France a week or two ago, there was a circumstance where a guy competing for the yellow jersey had a flat, the rest of the field slowed down and waited. Are there certain elements that sportsmanship is portrayed or takes place on the track that people don't see or is there less of that nowadays than years ago?

ANDY PETREE: I think I see our sport is very much being filled with that. Down on pit road you see guys a lot of times helping each other. I'm trying to remember, there was an incident not too long ago, a jackman got hurt, it wasn't a teammate, it was actually from another manufacturer, loaned out their jackman. You see that.
You want to beat everybody. I mean, it's a very competitive arena. You're going to do everything, look for every advantage, but you want to do it on a level playing field. You see somebody like that, that needs some help, you'll help them out. You'll still see if you can beat them heads up.
I can't speak from the driver's side. From where I see it, there's a lot of clean driving going on. When they kind of basically took the gloves off a couple years ago and said they could 'have at it,' they did for a while, but I don't see it as much now as I did before. I think when guys started taking advantage of each other on the track, it kind of came back to them later. I think that's why we've seen a little bit of an adjustment there.
You definitely still have the sportsmanship on pit road and the garage area.

Q. Do you see the same thing in regards to that, Dale, kind of the 'drivers have at it' correcting itself in a way?

DALE JARRETT: Seems to have. More abiding now to what we might consider the Mark Martin standards, which is a good thing in a lot of ways. I just see more give-and-take. A lot of times it goes unnoticed.
There are times and situations that drivers could push the issue. They're giving their fellow competitor a little more of a break there. So we're seeing quite a bit of that.
As I talk to the drivers, you know, a lot of it has to do with not putting themselves in too bad of a position to lose so many points because they have seen it as we've restructured the points, that it is more difficult if you, you know, finish 40th or worse, it takes so much time to try to catch up.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, I know it is about winning, but it is about crowning a champion in our sport, too, just like others.
I think that things have calmed down a little bit from that. It got pretty furious there for a while. But I see that drivers are willing to give each other a little more of a break.
Will that change here as we wind down to getting to who's going to make the Chase and who won't? I think we'll pay close attention to that and see if that's ramped up a little bit.

Q. Dale, on that point, I think when people hear that, what you and Andy talk about, they'll almost think of it as when guys are giving each other breaks, they're not racing each other as hard. There's always that complaint that the fan wants to see drivers race hard for every lap. In some ways that's not the way it's done or the right way to do it. How do you get that point across to fans who will listen and see what you say, look at that as further validation that these guys aren't trying, that the points system has impacted the type of racing to where guys aren't going for it all the time?

DALE JARRETT: This is not something that just took place. I used Mark Martin's name. He's obviously been around a long time. It goes back to the '70s and '80s, too. It's not a matter that they're not racing hard and trying to get positions or just letting someone have a position; it's just keeping yourself out of unnecessary trouble.
I think guys are more aware of that now. Has the points situation created some of that? Maybe so. I had a talk with Robin Pemberton a few races ago, I sat around for some weeks off traveling with my son, I was thinking of different ways, hearing and seeing things that fans were saying. Hey, should we make it 30th on back is the same number of points where you don't lose so many. There's so many things out there.
As there's a positive there, there can be a negative there, too, for that type of situation.
I promise you, these drivers are giving it their all. They want to win. Some of them are driving for their careers to stay involved, others are driving to get sponsorship. Others are driving to get a win and get sponsorship.
They're giving it a lot. It's just that it's, for some reason, not creating accidents which people sometimes equate with driving aggressively. So I think they're pretty aggressive. I just think they're really good and the cars and the tires are probably the best that they've ever had in the series.
Used to be able to count on some of those things, the lack of some downforce, tires giving up, blowing out, things like that. Goodyear has gotten so good at it, you don't see that. It's creating a sense of that somewhat.
I promise you, these drivers are giving it everything they have.

Q. Looking to Pocono, there's always that rumor going around that they may take a race away from Pocono. Do you think the changes that have been made, the repaving of the track, shortening the race, has changed the image of Pocono and it has become a more popular spot amongst the guys?

DALE JARRETT: I'll speak from a driver's standpoint. I loved the racetrack. The fans are fantastic there, always have been. Deserving of two races? Yes, sure. I think a step in the right direction, as I said earlier, cutting back to 400 miles. The repaving has made for exciting racing. I think when we get there next week, the racing will be even more exciting if people find out more about what it's going to take.
I know a lot of the drivers enjoy racing there.

ANDY PETREE: I hope they keep two races there. That's one of my favorite tracks. Love the area. The racetrack has always been great racing to me, even when it was rough, pavement wasn't so good. Now it's good and fast. Now it's only 400 miles. That's one of the best things they've done up there, is shorten that race. Makes it a lot better show, better race for everybody.
I can only speak for myself and hope they keep two of them.

Q. What are you most looking forward to? When ESPN gets the package, we're kind of heading toward the stretch run here. What excites you guys about the remainder of this season? What are some of the story lines that have you most excited?

ALLEN BESTWICK: I was going to add on the Pocono thing, people talk about cookie cutter tracks. There's nothing cookie cutter about Pocono. That's one of the things that makes it a favorite of mine, the different corners, the different action you see, just makes for fun racing.
As far as the story lines, unpredictability. It's hard to know who is going to win these races week-to-week. 12 different winners so far this season, such a deep, competitive field, hard to know how it's going to play out.
We were talking about Jeff Gordon earlier. Martinsville, where he led so many laps, who thought Jeff Gordon wasn't going to win that race? He led three-quarters of the race. Who would have thought that Jeff Gordon hasn't won yet this year?
Carl Edwards, just how important wins are, the unpredictability of this season, how it's all going to play out, is something I'm very excited about. I really do enjoy, as my old buddy Benny Parsons says, I really want to see who is going to win. Truly this year, I really want to see who is going to win, because you just don't know.

DALE JARRETT: No hyping it. We don't have to do that. Just the uncertainty there this year. Who is going to be the Tony Stewart this year. He came out of nowhere last year. I'm a good friend of Tony's. I was talking to him. He had no idea what was coming, what they were going to be able to accomplish.
Is Carl going to be able to fight his way in and then make a run like that? Brad Keselowski jumped into the scene last year. He's right there, a lot of wins this year, inside the top 10. Is he going to be this young champion? Or is it going to make a lot of people really happy with our most popular driver and a lot of people love, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is this his best chance and is he going to take this championship? A lot of unknowns and it's going to be fun to cover.

ANDY PETREE: The first thing I'm looking forward to, or one of the first things, is that wild card. I've not seen it be this competitive for that spot to come up with this. This can shape up to be one whale of a race, probably as much for that spot as it would be for the winner.
As Allen said, I want to see who is going to win, am excited to see, and have no idea who it's going to be.

Q. Rich, why not more side-by-side for just the Chase races?

RICH FEINBERG: The main reason for us is we need to offer variety for to our sponsors. While we've been very successful at getting a lot of support in the Madison Avenue advertising community, not everybody is onboard. So by offering the package the way we do pre-Chase and during the Chase, then during the Chase the first half and second half, we're able to work with all our sponsors and make sure that we're delivering what they're looking for.
Hopefully someday we can expand the breadth of NASCAR NonStop, but right now after doing it for the first year ever last year, we're tracking in the same direction and we continue to get a lot of positive feedback both from the advertising community as well as our fans.

Q. During the recent Sonoma telecast, a full 73% of respondents stated there should be a road course in the Chase. I talked with Watkins Glen president, he's in agreement. My question is, should there be a road course race in the Chase, and if so, which road course?

ANDY PETREE: I think absolutely, yes, there should be one. I'm a big fan of road course racing. I think it showcases diverse talent. You see the most talented drivers in the series. They're good everywhere, including road courses. I think they should be.
I'll serve up one place they ought to go, Elkhart Lake, Road America. It's a great, great venue. I would love to see a road course there and it be in the Chase. That's how I'll weigh in. I'm sure there's a whole lot more complicated issues on how to do that. If I had my wish, it would be to have one in the Chase.

ALLEN BESTWICK: Then you get down to what do you take out, which race that's in the Chase are you going to label as doesn't belong there. You know, the weather, the scheduling, the whole thing, I don't have a problem with there not being road course in the Chase. I love going to Watkins Glen in August, the weather around the Finger Lakes is perfect.
Would I object to a road course being in the Chase, no, not at all. Which one and what are you going to take out, those are two questions I don't have an answer for.

DALE JARRETT: As a driver, I wouldn't mind it. You run on them. It wouldn't matter if I wasn't part of it. I wasn't the best on a road course, but I appreciated the challenge that was presented there.
I kind of agree with that, what do you take out, where do you go, a lot of things there. It's not easy for the fans to say, We want one in there. There's a lot of other things that go into there.
But it does, it showcases all the talents. That's what you expect your champion to have. Actually with the way it's structured now, the champion has to perform well at the two that we have now and they're not part of the Chase because you have to really do well to get yourself in that position.
If they decided to do that, I'm sure the ones that do better would certainly want that, but it would be a nice addition. Going about it may be a little more difficult.

Q. Dale, what are some of the things that have surprised you most about making the transition from being part of the show from a racing standpoint to being part of the show from the broadcast booth, maybe some of the things you do to improve things you might improve on before you get into this position where you're part of the broadcast for the next couple of months?

DALE JARRETT: I think one of the things is the number of very talented people that it takes to make all of this happen. Now that I'm on this side, and my dad had told me a lot about it during the years, everything that kind of went into it. I've been even more surprised at all the preparation, again, the very talented people in so many areas that it takes to make this happen.
I would encourage every single driver that is in the Sprint Cup Series to sometime take one of their days on the weekend - I know they're very busy - but if it is a Saturday that they're not running the Nationwide race, go ask to look at what all it may take. Look in the truck, see how things are done there. Come in the booth, see how things happen. You'd gain a greater appreciation of what everybody goes through to make all of this happen and to try to help our sport and make it look good.
I'll assure them it's nowhere as easy as what it may seem from the outside. There is a lot of preparation in getting ready. I think maybe 12 of our 17 weeks coming up, we have back-to-back with Nationwide and Cup. Some of the times we have a lot of those other weekends the Nationwide races at another place, so we need to have more talented people there. It's just a lot of people that it takes to make it happen.
When you're preparing for two races in a weekend, like this weekend, there's a lot that goes into it. Even though it's just talking, you have to go up there and have a sense of direction to what the day is going to be about and the participants. It's a lot more involved. I'll make a little bit of a joke, an inside joke of ours, that we do have plenty of meetings, I will say that much (laughter).

ANDY PETREE: From my side of it, the preparation for the two are still kind of similar, believe it or not. I like staying involved on the technical side of the sport. I've always been very involved on that. I have a passion for it. So to stay up to date, connected with the latest things going on, networking with people that I know in the sport, every week I get down there, talk to guys, What is going on this weekend, what is new, what are you learning. I talk to some of the engineers, crew chiefs.
What makes a good crew chief is to be out there and well-connected. You cannot do it by yourself. The sport moves along at a pace. The cars are always getting better and better. It's a collective thing. If you're getting behind, it might be because you're not networking enough with what's going on in the sport. Teammates are obviously very important, but keeping up with what other people are doing.
My preparation is still kind of similar to when I was a crew chief. Staying out there, staying in the garage, talking to the guys that are making it happen.

Q. Dale, I don't recall back in the '80s or '90s this Allmendinger thing. Were you drug tested back then? Did you have any concerns that you were racing against guys that may not be altogether there?

DALE JARRETT: I don't know exactly when the policy was put into place. But, yes, before I retired, certainly it was a part of that.
When you're talking about the '80s and '90s, it was a little more self-policed. If you had concerns over something or thoughts of it, you went to the people at NASCAR and had a discussion there. But that was very rare that that ever happened for anyone that I know of.
But it's because of the world that we live in today, this has become necessary. Obviously there's a reason that NASCAR went to this procedure. We've seen it be implemented and put into place, used and implemented, a number of times.
There was a reason behind it. I applaud NASCAR for doing it.

ANDY PETREE: From my side of that, we have to go back a few years, when I was getting started in racing, we didn't have any people. We only had a handful, a dozen maybe, on a Cup team. You worked all the time, daylight to dark seven days a week. You didn't have any time for nonsense. You didn't have any time to think about who was doing any kind of drug because we were working too much to even think like that. There wasn't any room for it on the crew side because you demanded so much of the people.
I think, like Dale said, it was self-policed. It almost took care of it. If somebody had a problem, they didn't last long in the sport. Every person, you had to get a lot out of everybody back then.

ALLEN BESTWICK: It's also a reflection of where society has gone. How many jobs in the '80s and '90s is drug testing required for now that wasn't required for then? Not that different than many jobs around the United States.

Q. Dale, does it matter what he tests positive for? He said a stimulant. Brad Keselowski says it matters to him. Do you think it matters as far as a death sentence for his career?

DALE JARRETT: You'd have to think that whatever it is, that would make a difference, yeah, certainly to the drivers wants to know, but certainly to owners out there also. So, yeah, it could make a difference there.

Q. Andy was pretty outspoken about Danica Patrick's chances next year in the Cup Series, what is your assessment of Danica this year in Nationwide? Do you think she's ready to make the full-time leap to Cup next season?

DALE JARRETT: We've seen a lot of improvement from when she started. She continues to improve each and every week. I agree with Andy with the evaluation of the team, with what we have to look at there. She seems to be improving quite nicely.
The jump to Cup is going to be tough. The cars are different, the horsepower's different. The number of people there on a weekly basis that run really, really good is going to be different.
Results are going to be hard to come by. To say is she ready, that's something that she and Tony have to decide and make sure on. They're obviously committed to do that. She is very focused on becoming better.
Would it benefit her to stay in the Nationwide Series another year? I'm not sure it would. If she's going to make that move, I would say she has an understanding of what it's about, going and get there, learn there, because it is a lot different driving with the horsepower and some of the different tracks that you go to and the level of competition certainly.

Keselowski, Penske make new history at the Brickyard; drivers say passing is nearly impossible

First things first, Congrats to Brad Keselowski on his win at the Brickyard Saturday.

The Rochester Hills native picked up his 20th career Nationwide series win, and amazingly Roger Penske picked up his first ever stock car win at the track where he has so dominated in Indycar. On top of Brad winning, Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. came in second. That is the third Penske 1-2 finish in the history of his Nationwide program.

If Brad can run like this again Sunday, he may be kissing the bricks for the second day in a row – and it would give him four wins on the season.

IRP gets the shaft

Among my favorite memories of the days when I would travel to attend races as a fan was attending the races at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park) that accompanied the Brickyard 400. I would watch the trucks and Busch series (now Nationwide) on a great short track that never disappointed in terms of excitement.

This year, with the move of the Nationwide race to the Brickyard for the first time ever, the IRP race disappeared. That is too bad, and it’s a shame newer phones won’t get to see races there.

I would suggest that if they want to run at the Brickyard, maybe come back to Indy a different weekend and run at IRP. It’s still a great track and deserves to have a Nationwide race.

It’s not likely to ever happen, though, and that’s a shame. Short tracks are the roots of NASCAR, and the more there are that remain on the big 3 series schedules, the better it is for the sport in my view.

What they said

Here are some quotes from after the Nationwide race

Hint: There’s a theme – everybody says you can’t pass. Hopefully that’s not the case Sunday.


DENNY HAMLIN; Finishing Position: 4th

How was your car during the race?

"Our car was just too loose all day and especially on restarts -- we couldn't make any ground up. I was in the way for

the first 10 laps. Track position is so important. Once you get going you have to have it. We just didn't have a car fast

enough on the short run today."

How difficult was it to pass during the race?

"It's so much -- it's a tough balance because there's just not enough horsepower in these cars and the drag is too high to make a pass. It's really tough. Overall, a good day for our Sport Clips Toyota. Top-five is not what we were lookingfor, but still a great day."

JOEY LOGANO; Finishing Position: 7th

"We didn't do very good this weekend. We were just slow from when we unloaded. We tried to make some improvements here and there, and we just never did. We got a little better. It's kind of frustrating. We couldn't run with the fast cars. Battling for track position back there. You can't pass a car on this race track to save your life. So, that makes it real difficult."

Is there anything from today that will help in tomorrow's race?

"Yeah. Some things. The fact that you can't pass a car is one thing, for sure, you can take over there."

TRAVIS PASTRANA; Finishing Position: 13th

"It's a very intimidating place. This is it for motorsports -- this and Daytona. Definitely an honor to race here. After practice I was really worried, I didn't think we had the speed. Definitely was a big gap between the guys out front and the guys in the back -- bigger than most of the short tracks. I felt really good. We learned a lot. They did a great job getting the car working because we just went back to what we had. It took me awhile to get the line on this track just because there is so much speed. This is the biggest track I've ever raced. I'm really excited with a top-15 – the first top-15 and the crew did a great job."

What did you learn in today's race?

"The drafting and everything -- I'm just clueless. I understand racing, but when you have guys making up huge runs coming up and two or three-wide and all of the sudden it's like, 'Wow.' I'm earning a little respect in here and there's always going to be those few people that you lose respect for or they lose respect for you as it goes on. It's just racing situations. I'm really excited. We're just trying to go out there now and not damage the car, get all the experience we can, not crashing in qualifying -- I've done that a lot of times where we just didn't get the benefit of racing the race because I messed up the car early. That's what we did the last two races. I've learned my most in the last two races. Respectable finishes, but still every driver wants to win. It's going to take time."

MICHAEL ANNETT, No. 43 (Finished 6th) – YOU JUST WON $100,000 IN THE DASH FOR THE CASH, HOW DOES THAT FEEL? “This is awesome. This is the Brickyard. We aren’t kissing any bricks today but we have a big cardboard check that we can lay our lips on. This was fun. I was so confused this morning. I just wanted to drop the rag and figure it out as we went. About 20 laps in I realized what we needed to get through the field and we had a heck of a strategy that got us in the right place at the right time. I can’t thank Nationwide Insurance enough. Everyone at Pilot Flying J that have been with us from the beginning, this is the kind of stuff the deserve. The look on the faces of the guys is just awesome. We did everything right today. We didn’t have a winning race car, but that is what makes the Dash for Cash that much cooler. The sixth place car can be racing for something. Ricky was two cars behind me the last 10 laps and I knew he was coming quick. That was the hardest I have driven in a long time for a sixth place finish. We have something to hang on the shop now.”

WAS IT A TOUGH RACE? YOU SAID YOU WERE HAVING STRUGGLES EARLY. “Yeah we weren’t necessarily struggling early it is just this race track, track position is everything here. We had the same car from the green flag to the checkered. We didn’t make one adjustment on the race car. It was strategy. Felipe Lopez had a great strategy. We took two tires early so we would know what it would do later on and that is what we did and it put us up front where we needed to be. Everything just worked out perfect. I knew Ricky was coming. I think I was sixth and he was eighth and I was trying to hold of the 20 and keep that car between us. It was a very hard fought sixth, I can tell you that much.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 6 (Finished 9th) – “We just couldn’t really get going. On long runs I felt like we were okay. I don’t really know what we needed. The balance of the car felt okay, I don’t know. I really don’t. I don’t know what to point to. Our Sam’s Club Mustang was decent, it just wasn’t great. It was kind of an average day. We ran pretty much eighth to 10th all day and that is all we had. I really don’t know why. We will have to go look at some notes. It looked like two tires held pretty good there so maybe that is something we should have looked at. All in all we finished ninth, which isn’t terrible, but isn’t what we were looking for.”

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