NASCAR Rivals: Bobby Labonte Injured by Watkins Glen Mele’

August 13, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

With the laps dwindling down and the middle of the pack getting a little antsy, the field turned to complete mayhem with just 8 laps to go in the Centurion Boats at the Glen on Sunday afternoon. Michael McDowell spun David Gilliland as the two raced for position, setting off a chain reaction that left several cars crippled near the pit road entrance. Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, Sam Hornish Jr, Reed Sorenson, Max Papis, Dave Blaney, and Joe Nemechek were also involved.

As seen in the video footage of the accident, Bobby LaBonte was left limping his way over to the infield care center. It was then learned that LaBonte was taken to the hospital in Elmira, NY with what Petty Enterprises VP Robbie Loomis described as discomfort in his rib and abdominal area, but NASCAR officials later stated that Bobby was released from the hospital and cleared to resume competition.

Ambrose Celebrates a Career Weekend at the Glen

August 12, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Marcos Ambrose took the lead with just three laps to go in Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen to secure his first career Nationwide Series victory in 59 starts. He received the lead by virtue of Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson running out of fuel in the closing laps in an episode of bitter-sweet redemption after all the tough luck he’s suffered in NASCAR road course racing in 2008. He came close, but eventually took a back seat to Kyle Busch in Mexico City … mechanical issues ended his day in Sonoma when he made his Sprint Cup debut … and, a pit road speeding penalty robbed him in Montreal. But, none of that mattered on Saturday when Ambrose finally stood in a NASCAR victory lane for the first time in his life.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I literally could not believe it. I was just praying the car was gonna hold together and I wasn’t gonna get a late caution. But, we got the job done. I feel really good about it, and it’s just a big lift for our team and it feels like everything’s worth it today.”

Marcos didn’t have much time for celebration, though, because the following day served an even much taller task for the Australian native. He was to return once again to Watkins Glen and step behind the wheel of the Wood Brothers Racing no. 21 Ford to make his third Cup Series start, but after qualifying was washed out on Friday, Ambrose would have to start all the way in the back of the field in 43rd at a track where no driver had ever come from deeper than a 16th starting position to win.

Ambrose quickly made people forget that the team he was driving for on Sunday was a team on the verge of obscurity as he climbed his way into the top-15 by the halfway point. Then, with one of the fastest cars on the track, he dashed up inside the top-5 and was sitting in 3rd after Ryan Newman spun with just 13 laps to go. Even with two restarts to try and get it done, though, Ambrose was never able to get around the 2nd place car of Tony Stewart to try and press Kyle Busch for the lead, but if you ask Marcos, he’ll take his top-five Cup finish anyday of the week.

“It’s a big, bad world out here in NASCAR world, and I’m just pleased that I’m able to have a weekend like this to remember,” said Ambrose. “When it’s all said and done, I’ll be able to go home back to Tasmania and tell them how good I was at Watkins Glen on one year.”

It was certainly a well deserved weekend for Ambrose and his team(s). Ambrose has 5 more races remaining on his schedule driving the no. 21 Wood Bros. car before he competes full-time in the Cup Series next year with JTG Dougherty Racing.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tony Eury Jr’s Call Was the Wrong Call at Watkins Glen

August 11, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Everything seemed to be going perfectly for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the no. 88 team on Sunday as Earnhardt was in search of his first Cup victory at Watkins Glen International, and his first win at the track since winning the 1999 Nationwide Series race there. He started the day with the outside pole position after rain canceled out qualifying on Friday, and then he went onto lead 28 of the first 29 laps in the race.

Earnhardt gave up the lead during the first round of green flag stops after being one of the last cars to make their stop. Running several laps on the older tires while the rest of the field came in for some fresh rubber immediately proved to work against the team as he came out of the pits in 6th place, so one can’t help but wonder why they would choose to replay this strategy later in the race.

Junior once again found himself with the lead on lap 58 after the rest of the leaders came in to make their final stops of the day. His lead opened up to more than 25 seconds over second place as he became the only driver in the field that had yet to come down pit road, but he was giving more than a second per lap. Aside from the time that they were losing on the track, it became quite evident that a caution anytime before Earnhardt made his stop would flat out ruin his day, so it’s a bit peculiar as to why crew chief, Tony Eury Jr, would elect to keep his driver out on the track.

On lap 64, the worst did in fact happen. NASCAR was forced to waive the yellow for loose gravel that Travis Kvapil had kicked up onto the track, and as if it weren’t bad enough that Earnhardt had to surrender the lead to pit, he was one of only a small handful of cars that made that loenely drive down pit road with about 25 laps to go. He restarted back in 37th and was able to climb his way back up to 22nd by the end of the race, but Earnhardt fans everywhere now can’t help but wonder what might have been … and, what was Tony Eury Jr. thinking? To make matters worse, this also isn’t the first time that Junior fans have felt that Tony Eury Jr. may have cost Dale a shot at victory.

The disappointing finish also dropped Earnhardt from 2nd to 4th in the points standings, getting passed by Carl Edwards and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson. Junior Nation has had plenty to cheer about this season, though, as his first season with Hendrick has been far and away better than his final season with DEI in 2007 as he snapped his winless streak with a win earlier in the year at Michigan and he’s been up inside the top-5 in points for most of the year.

BallHype: hype it up!

List of the Week: Longest Winless Streaks Inside the Top 20

August 11, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

The winless streaks by drivers such as Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick have ranked amongst some of the biggest stories so far this season. They came into this week’s race at Watkins Glen as some of the odds-on-favorite to win, but alas, Kyle Busch shut the door on those plans yet again. This week’s “List of the Week” will feature the 10 longest winless droughts amongst the drivers inside the top-20 in points.

10. Matt Kenseth - 22 races - Last Win: Homestead-Miami Speedway, Fall 2007
9. Jeff Gordon - 27 races - Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Fall 2007
8. Greg Biffle - 29 races - Kansas Speedway, Fall 2007
7. Tony Stewart - 36 races - Watkins Glen International, Summer 2007
6. Jamie McMurray - 40 races - Daytona International Speedway, Summer 2007

5. Martin Truex Jr. - 45 races - Dover International Speedway, Spring 2007
4. Kevin Harvick - 57 races - Daytona International Speedway, Spring 2007
3. David Ragan - 60 races - No NSCS wins
2. Brian Vickers - 68 races - Talladega Superspeedway, Fall 2006
1. Elliott Sadler - 141 races - Auto Club Speedway, Fall 2004

BallHype: hype it up!

Rating the Race: Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen

August 10, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Kyle Busch made perfect on his efforts to sweep the road course races in the Sprint Cup Series this season as he nabbed his first career victory at Watkins Glen International on Sunday. He led four times for a race high 52 laps, giving him his 8th win of the season and making him the first driver to win the races at both Infineon and Watkins Glen in the same year since his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, did it back in 2005. He also won the Nationwide Series race in Mexico City earlier in the year, making him the only driver in NASCAR history to win three road course races in the same season.

After rain canceled Friday’s qualifying session, the field lined up based on their order in the car owner’s points standings, setting Kyle Busch out on the pole position for the start of the race. Kyle led the first lap before handing it over to Dale Earnhardt Jr, who started on the outside of the front row. As Busch dropped back to third in the running order, Earnhardt gradually expanded his lead through the next 28 laps, but found himself in 6th after the field completed their first round of green flag pit stops.

Kyle Busch once again took the race lead on lap 30, and was still in charge when the first caution of the day came out on lap 47. NASCAR made the decision to waive the yellow due to debris on the track that was a result of some loose gravel that had been kicked up on the track. The caution was a huge break for Jimmie Johnson who had just pitted a few laps earlier when he had a rear left tire going down, but because he was running up in the top-five at the time, he was able to make his stop without losing a lap. Once pit road opened up, 14 cars remained on the track, including Johnson. Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart - running 1st and 2nd at the time - also elected to stay out.

Kyle Busch was still the race leader when the field went back to green, but the most impressive story to this point was Marcos Ambrose, who was driving the no. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. He was forced to start dead last due to the car’s position in owner points, but had worked his way all the way up inside the top-15 for the restart.

Kyle Busch moved to the side to allow his teammate, Tony Stewart, to lead a lap and pickup the 5 extra bonus points on lap 53, but Tony returned the favor and let Kyle go back by the following lap, and that was the only movement up front until the leaders again came into pit on lap 56. Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmie Johnson each led a lap during the exchange of green flag stops. Johnson came into pit on lap 58, which handed the lead back over to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

With more than a 25 second lead, Earnhardt was the only car still out on the track that had not yet made his final pit stop. Despite continuing to lose a second per lap to the 2nd and 3rd place cars, Tony Eury Jr. - crew chief for the no. 88 team - elected to keep Earnhardt out on the track, but the call completely backfired when NASCAR waived the second caution flag on lap 64. The caution was again for loose gravel that Travis Kvapil kicked onto the track when he ran off the track. Earnhardt was forced to pit while the other race leaders remained out on the track, and with just 25 laps remaining, he lined up 37th for the restart.

Kyle Busch was once again deemed the race leader by virtue of Earnhardt’s misfortunes with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman chasing him. With the laps dwindling down, it almost looked as though we might have another caution when Sam Hornish Jr. spun PJ Jones on lap 70, but both cars were able to get going again, and NASCAR saw no reason to bring out the yellow.

The complexity of the race changed on lap 77 when Ryan Newman got into the corner too hard, resulting in a single car spin in Turn 9. Unable to get his car restarted, he had several close cars as the rest of the field tried to avoid the stalled car as it rolled back out onto the track. NASCAR eventually brought out the third caution, and luckily, the entire field was able to get around Newman without hitting him.

The fourth and final caution came with just 8 laps to go when Michael McDowell spun David Gilliland, setting off a huge multi-car crash that involved 9 cars right near the pit road entrance. Michael Waltrip, Bobby LaBonte, Sam Hornish Jr, Reed Sorenson, Max Papis, Dave Blaney, and Joe Nemechek all got caught up in the mess, and LaBonte appeared to be mildly injured as he was seen limping back to the infield care center.

After NASCAR stopped the race under red flag conditions for more than 40 minutes, they finally got the race restarted with Kyle Busch still in the lead, and behind him were Tony Stewart, Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr, and Kevin Harvick. Busch took the green flag with just five laps to go with Stewart keeping within a couple car lengths for the first few laps. With about 2 to go, though, Busch started to pull away, and Stewart’s new task became keeping the no. 21 of Ambrose in his rearview mirror. Busch went onto take the checkers, and Stewart was able to fend off Ambrose to give Joe Gibbs Racing a 1-2 finish.

Marcos Ambrose fought off Juan Pablo Montoya to hang onto third, and JPM finished 4th. Martin Truex Jr. held onto 5th to earn his first-ever top-five finish at Watkins Glen. He was followed by the 2006 winner of this event, Kevin Harvick, in 6th. 7th place went to Denny Hamlin, who capped off a solid run inside the top-ten for most of the day. Jimmie Johnson rebounded from his cut tire earlier in the race to finish in 8th. AJ Allmendinger walked away with the best NSCS finish of his career in 9th, also giving him his second top-ten in the last 3 races. Carl Edwards completed the top-ten.

Other Notables:
Matt Kenseth had a pretty quiet day, but finished 12th ….. Kasey Kahne matched his best Watkins Glen finish with a 14th place run ….. Dale Earnhardt Jr. wound up 22nd after his team’s race strategy put him in the back of the field with just over 20 laps to go ….. Jeff Gordon had an eventful day. His team had to have NASCAR black flag him to get him into the pits for the first round of stops after the team’s radio became disconnected. Gordon’s car, unfortunately, handled much like the radio, as his struggles throughout the day led to a 25th place finish ….. Robby Gordon started near the back of the pack and never was able to find his way to the front, finishing with a very disappointing 27th place finish ….. Ryan Newman’s spin on lap 77 led to a 28th place effort, as that team continues to watch their Chase hopes keep slipping away.

Kyle Busch now holds a 242 point lead on 1st in the standings, while Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson both moved past Earnhardt Jr. to take over the 2nd and 3rd spots. Tony Stewart’s back-to-back 2nd place efforts have also moved him up to 7th overall, and he now has a 138 point cushion in the Chase standings. Matt Kenseth also moved up a spot to take over the 12th and final spot in the Chase, moving Clint Bowyer back down to 13th. He’s now 22 points out of the Chase.

Grades:
the Race: 75%
Drama: 74%
Coverage: 90%
Pre-Race: 81%

Overall Grade: 78.4%

Complete Results (from nascar.com):

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 1 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M’s 195/10 90 Running
2 9 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 175/5 90 Running
3 41 21 Marcos Ambrose Ford Little Debbie 165/0 90 Running
4 25 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Big Red Slim Pack 165/5 90 Running
5 16 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 155/0 90 Running
6 11 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 150/0 90 Running
7 10 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 146/0 90 Running
8 4 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s 147/5 90 Running
9 35 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 138/0 90 Running
10 3 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 134/0 90 Running
11 19 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 130/0 90 Running
12 13 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT 127/0 90 Running
13 30 01 Ron Fellows Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Red Head 124/0 90 Running
14 7 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 121/0 90 Running
15 20 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy / Garmin 118/0 90 Running
16 18 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 115/0 90 Running
17 5 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 112/0 90 Running
18 17 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 109/0 90 Running
19 22 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg’s 106/0 90 Running
20 37 10 Patrick Carpentier * Dodge Charter Comm. 103/0 90 Running
21 8 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 100/0 90 Running
22 2 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / AMP Energy 102/5 90 Running
23 12 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet DIRECTV 94/0 90 Running
24 42 45 Boris Said Dodge Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 91/0 90 Running
25 6 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 88/0 90 Running
26 34 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota Champion Mortgage 85/0 90 Running
27 31 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Jim Beam 82/0 90 Running
28 14 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Kodak 79/0 90 Running
29 27 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Quaker State / Menards 76/0 90 Running
30 32 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 73/0 90 Running
31 40 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Insurance 70/0 90 Running
32 28 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 67/0 90 Running
33 26 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 64/0 88 Running
34 33 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet State Water Heaters 61/0 88 Running
35 15 8 Aric Almirola Chevrolet U.S. Army 58/0 88 Running
36 23 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Hitachi Power Tools 55/0 88 Running
37 36 96 P.J. Jones Toyota DLP HDTV 52/0 88 Running
38 39 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing 49/0 86 In Pit
39 43 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 46/0 82 Running
40 24 38 David Gilliland Ford DISH Network Turbo HD 43/0 81 Running
41 29 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 40/0 81 In Pit
42 21 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 37/0 81 In Pit
43 38 70 Max Papis Chevrolet Haas Automation 34/0 81 In Pit

Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):

RANK +/- DRIVER POINTS BEHIND STARTS POLES WINS TOP 5 TOP 10
1 Kyle Busch 3254 Leader 22 2 8 13 14
2 +1 Carl Edwards 3012 -242 22 0 4 9 16
3 +1 Jimmie Johnson 3010 -244 22 3 2 7 12
4 -2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2985 -269 22 1 1 7 12
5 Jeff Burton 2945 -309 22 0 1 4 11
6 Jeff Gordon 2754 -500 22 2 0 8 10
7 +2 Tony Stewart 2744 -510 22 0 0 8 11
8 -1 Kasey Kahne 2713 -541 22 2 2 3 11
9 +1 Denny Hamlin 2689 -565 22 1 1 6 11
10 -2 Greg Biffle 2689 -565 22 2 0 6 9
11 Kevin Harvick 2670 -584 22 0 0 4 8
12 +1 Matt Kenseth 2628 -626 22 0 0 4 12
13 -1 Clint Bowyer 2606 -648 22 0 1 4 10
14 David Ragan 2539 -715 22 0 0 4 7
15 Ryan Newman 2424 -830 22 1 1 2 7
16 +1 Martin Truex Jr. 2419 -835 22 0 0 3 7
17 -1 Brian Vickers 2418 -836 22 0 0 3 5
18 Kurt Busch 2269 -985 22 0 1 3 5
19 Jamie McMurray 2231 -1023 22 0 0 0 5
20 +1 Elliott Sadler 2159 -1095 22 0 0 2 5
21 -1 Bobby Labonte 2121 -1133 22 0 0 0 1
22 +3 Juan Montoya 2117 -1137 22 0 0 2 3
23 -1 Travis Kvapil 2071 -1183 22 0 0 0 3
24 Casey Mears 2070 -1184 22 0 0 1 4
25 +1 David Gilliland 1979 -1275 22 0 0 1 2
26 -3 Mark Martin 1965 -1289 16 0 0 2 7
27 David Reutimann 1927 -1327 22 0 0 0 1
28 Paul Menard 1883 -1371 22 1 0 0 0
29 +1 Robby Gordon 1770 -1484 22 0 0 0 2
30 +1 Reed Sorenson 1736 -1518 21 0 0 1 2
31 -2 Dave Blaney 1736 -1518 21 0 0 0 2
32 Michael Waltrip 1682 -1572 22 0 0 1 1
33 Sam Hornish Jr.* 1674 -1580 22 0 0 0 0
34 Regan Smith* 1584 -1670 20 0 0 0 0
35 Scott Riggs 1549 -1705 20 0 0 0 0
36 +1 Patrick Carpentier* 1333 -1921 18 1 0 0 0
37 +1 Joe Nemechek 1272 -1982 19 1 0 0 0
38 -2 J.J. Yeley 1263 -1991 17 0 0 1 1
39 +1 A.J. Allmendinger 1226 -2028 14 0 0 0 1
40 -1 Michael McDowell* 1200 -2054 17 0 0 0 0

BallHype: hype it up!

Fantasy Follow-Up: Watkins Glen

August 10, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

TZ’s Picks (Watkins Glen):
1. Tony Stewart - 2nd - 42.5 points
2. Robby Gordon - 27th - No points
3. Marcos Ambrose - 3rd - 41 points
4. Kyle Busch - 1st - 41.5 points
5. Carl Edwards - 10th - 36.5 points
6. Kevin Harvick - 6th - 38 points

Lock of the Week - Tony Stewart - Top Five - 10 points
Sleeper Pick - Marcos Ambrose - Top Five - 10 points
Steer Clear of - Greg Biffle - Outside Top Fifteen - No points lost

Roc’s Picks (Watkins Glen):
1. Kyle Busch - 1st - 43 points
2. Tony Stewart - 2nd - 42 points
3. Denny Hamlin - 7th - 39 points
4. Carl Edwards - 10th - 37 points
5. Jeff Gordon - 25th - No points
6. Robby Gordon - 27th - No points

Lock of the Week - Jeff Gordon - Outside Top Fifteen - No points
Sleeper Pick - Robby Gordon - Outside Top Fifteen - No points
Steer Clear of - Kasey Kahne - Top Fifteen - (Minus) 10 points

Head-to-Head:
TZ - 219.5 points (3,597.5 cumulative)
Roc - 151 points (3,476 cumulative)

Do You NASCAR Fantasy League
Standings After Watkins Glen
:
1. Dalli’s Mom
2. Vanilla Thrillaz
3. Bruce’s Team of Bits
4. TMAX Racing
5. Super Smokers
6. Team Legacy
7. raracing
8. AlexRyan
9. Jimmie’s Rockets
10. do you nascar

Cup Qualifying Canceled; Said in the Show Despite the Rain

August 8, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Corona Mexico 200 Practice

Though they may not admit it, several drivers in the Sprint Cup garage area were probably a bit smitten when NASCAR was forced to cancel qualifying for the Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen International on Friday. The simple fact of the matter is that several drivers near the top at points are going to receive a better starting position that they likely would have, and while it still may not exactly give them a shot at winning Sunday’s race, it obviously provides a good path towards a better finish. That would be the guys like Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne who historically get left in a position where they have to work just a little harder to keep their Chase hopes alive after a long day of racing at Watkins Glen. And, as for guys like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Kevin Harvick - drivers that are typically considered to be among the favorites to win anytime we go road course racing - they should be just as happy that there was no qualifying on Friday - or, at least they almost were.

Per the NASCAR rulebook, no qualifying means that the field will be set based on car owner points from top to bottom with the small caveat of the past champions provisional to be taken into account. Now, that was almost enough to keep the road course ringers from making their way into the show, but because Ron Fellows is replacing Regan Smith for DEI and PJ Jones is driving the no. 96 HOF Racing entry this weekend, both drivers had enough owner points to receive the opportunity to run on Sunday. Max Papis and Marcos Ambrose almost missed the cut as well, but with only 45 entries, they managed to squeeze by as well.

The two cars that failed to “qualify” were Brian Simo and Boris Said, both considered to be road course specialists. This marked the second year in a row that Said showed up at Watkins Glen only to watch Mother Nature end his weekend before he ever even started the engine ….. and, it was also the second year in a row that a veteran driver climbed out of their car to make room for Said’s talents and expertise. Last year it was Bill Elliott stepping out while Boris drove the no. 21 Wood Brothers car to a 14th place finish. This year, it was Kyle Petty sacraficing his no. 45 Petty Enterprises car - 40th in owner points - to give Boris yet another break.

“Boris is known around the world as one of the premier road-course racers,” said Robbie Loomis, vice president of operations at Petty Enterprises. “He’ll give us another great opportunity to assess our program. Everyone at Petty Enterprises is grateful to Boris for helping us out.”

BallHype: hype it up!

Race Preview for Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen

August 7, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Robby Gordon stops in the Pits at Watkins Glen
*Credit photo to Newscom.

This week NASCAR heads to Waktins Glen International for one of their two road course races of the season on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. The race comes just one week after NASCAR made history for itself when they raced in the rain last Saturday in the Nationwide Series in Montreal, which most critics feel came off as a huge success. As of right now there are no plans to break out the rain tires on Sunday, but there’s still plenty to look forward to with just five races remaining until the cutoff for the Chase.

Recent Winners:
2007 - Tony Stewart
2006 - Kevin Harvick
2005 - Tony Stewart

Recent Polesitters:
2007 - Jeff Gordon
2006 - Kurt Busch
2005 - “Rained Out”

the Usual Suspects:
Tony Stewart is in the midst of the longest winless streak in his Sprint Cup career, but that should be of little concern to the no. 20 team this weekend. ‘Smoke’ built up a bit of momentum for himself after a 2nd place finish last week at Pocono, and now he heads to Watkins Glen where he holds the best driver rating over the past 3 years and has the second best average finish amongst active drivers. He’s one three of the last four races at the Glen, along with a 2nd place finish in 2006.

The only driver to breakup Stewart’s winning streak at the Glen in the past four years was Kevin Harvick, the winner of this event in ‘06. In his seven career races at Watkins Glen, last year’s 36th place finish is his only run outside of the top-15. He also has four top-10’s in that span ….. Jeff Gordon is considered a threat to win at most tracks, but perhaps even moreso at road courses. Once dubbed “King of the Road”, Jeff has had a rough go of it with only one top-10 finish here since 2002, but he did win 3 of the 4 events prior to that stretch ….. The series points leader, Kyle Busch, was never thought of much as a road course racer heading into this season, but already in 2008 he’s managed to win the Nationwide Series race in Mexcio and then went onto win the Toyota Save/Mart 350 at Infineon. After a 33rd place run at Watkins Glen in his rookie season, Kyle has since rebounded with back-to-back top-10’s ….. Denny Hamlin has run here only twice, finishing 10th and 2nd in those races.

the Unusual Suspects:
Robby Gordon has been in dire need of some good runs for the sake of his own race team, Robby Gordon Motorsports, and many fans have long expected that success to come at one of NASCAR’s two road course events. Robby has six top-5 finishes in eight races run here, and even won the event while racing for RCR back in 2003. He currently has a string of three consecutive top-5 finishes at Watkins Glen.

Marcos Ambrose competed in his first Sprint Cup event earlier in the season at Infineon. Known for his road course specialties, Marcos didn’t disappoint, as he had a great top-five effort going until issues late in the race put an end to his day. This will be his first visit to Watkins Glen with the Cup Series as he once again fields the no. 21 Wood Bros. Racing entry, but there’s no reason to think he won’t rise to the occasion once again ….. Juan Pablo Montoya is always a favorite to keep an eye on at road course races as well. An incident with Kevin Harvick here last year put an early end to his day and he finished 39th, but that should be considered a one-off deal. He does have an Infineon win to his credit at the Cup level.

Road Course Ringers are sure to be a factor in any NASCAR road course race, regardless of the series. Though they don’t typically win these things at the Cup level, many of the drivers leave their mark with exceptional runs. Amongst the ringers included in this weekend’s entry list are: Ron Fellows (DEI) - two top-5’s in the last 4 years; Boris Said- finished 3rd in 2005; PJ Jones - finished 4th in 2002; and Brian Simo and Max Papis are on the list as well.

the Unusual Slackers:
Greg Biffle picked up his first ever top-10 Watkins Glen finish last year when he crossed the line in 10th, but each of his four starts previous to that were 30th or worse. His overall average here is 30.2 ….. When you think of road course racing, Kurt Busch isn’t a name that immediately jumps out at you as someone you need to avoid carrying on your fantasy roster, but like Biffle, he also has only one career top-10 at Watkins Glen. Four of his seven races here he has finished outside of the top-15 ….. Dale Earnhardt Jr. managed to put together a string of solid runs here at one point, finishing 3rd, 5th, and 10th from 2003 to 2005, but in 8 years of racing here, he’s finished 35th or worse three times, holding an average finish of just 20.6.

Best Driver Ratings:
1. Tony Stewart - 137.9
2. Denny Hamlin - 112.1
3. Jeff Gordon - 108.2
4. Robby Gordon - 106.3
5. Jimmie Johnson - 104.5

Best Driver Averages:
1. Scott Pruett - 5.8
2. Denny Hamlin - 6.0
3. Tony Stewart - 6.1
4. Mark Martin - 8.8
5. Robby Gordon - 9.4

Watkins Glen Facts:
- 8 of the 25 races at Watkins Glen have been won from the pole position. The last driver to do so was Tony Stewart in 2005, but before that it hadn’t happened since Jeff Gordon did it in 1998.
- 16 of the 25 races have been won from a top-five starting position.
- The deepest starting position a driver has ever come from to win at Watkins Glen is 18th. Steve Park did it in 2000.
- Jeff Gordon holds the track record for most wins with 4.
- Mark Martin holds the track record for most poles (3), top-five’s (12), and top-ten’s (16).
- The most different leaders ever during a race at the Glen was 12 - back in 1995.
- Chevrolet leads the manufacturer race at Watkins Glen with 14 wins.
- 5 drivers currently in the top-12 in points have never led a lap at Watkins Glen: Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, and Clint Bowyer.
- In the midst of a 35 race winless streak, Tony Stewart’s last victory came here at Watkins Glen in 2007.

Video of the last 7 laps of the 2007 Centurion Boats at the Glen race:

Six-Pack Challenge:
Winner - Tony Stewart
2nd Place - Robby Gordon
3rd Place - Marcos Ambrose
4th Place - Kyle Busch
5th Place - Carl Edwards
6th Place - Kevin Harvick

Lock of the Week - Tony Stewart
Sleeper Pick - Marcos Ambrose
Steer Clear of - Greg Biffle

BallHype: hype it up!

Brad Coleman Joins HOF Racing; JJ Yeley Out of Work

August 7, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

JJ Yeley
*Credit photo to Newscom.

After what most would consider to be an unsuccessful run with Joe Gibbs Racing to get his career started in the Sprint Cup Series, it didn’t take JJ Yeley long to once again find himself looking for work. Hall of Fame Racing announced on Wednesday that they were parting ways with Yeley in favor of 20 year old, Brad Coleman.

Coleman will run his first race with the team on August 17th at Michigan, as the team already made plans to run road course specialist, PJ Jones, in the car this weekend at Watkins Glen. Michigan will mark Brad’s official debut in the Sprint Cup Series after just two season of competing in the Nationwide Series, during which he has compiled 3 top-five and 6 top-ten finishes. He’s going to have his work cut out for him as he takes over the reigns of the no. 96 car, which currently sits 38th in car owner points.

“J.J. is a talented race car driver and a great person and this was a difficult decision to make,” said Tom Garfinkel, co-owner of HOF Racing. “We all share responsibility that our performance hasn’t been what it needs to be, but we concluded it was time to make a change.

“I really appreciate Jeff Moorad and Tom for giving me this opportunity,” Coleman said. “I have really enjoyed my time testing with the people on the team and I’m looking forward to having a successful weekend at Michigan in the DLP HDTV Toyota and helping Hall of Fame Racing finish out the season as strong as possible.”

BallHype: hype it up!

Race Preview for the Allstate 400 at Indianapolis

July 24, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

92nd Indianapolis 500 practice
served by picapp.com

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (aka: the Brickyard) is home of the Indianapolis 500 and is highly regarded as one of the most prestigious tracks in all of motorsports. After taking a week off, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will now return to the Brickyard for the fifteenth time in a race whose prestige to NASCAR regulars is rivaled only by the season opening Daytona 500. In the previous 14 trips to the track, Indianapolis has produced only three multiple winners in NASCAR, and only two of them will be in the field on Sunday - Jeff Gordon (4 wins) and Tony Stewart (2 wins), with Dale Jarrett being the other. With the garage area finally being able to weed their way through much of the notorious Silly Season and a week of R&R in the rearview, the drivers will hit the track on Sunday more focused than ever as the countdown to the Chase begins to wind down.

Recent Winners:
2007 - Tony Stewart
2006 - Jimmie Johnson
2005 - Tony Stewart

Recent Polesitters:
2007 - Reed Sorenson
2006 - Jeff Burton
2005 - Elliott Sadler

the Usual Suspects:
As previously mentioned, Jeff Gordon has four wins at Indianapolis, which is tops amongst all drivers in NASCAR. Equally impressive, though, is that he also has 7 top-five’s and 10 top-ten’s through 14 races at the track, both of which are also the best in the Sprint Cup garage area. His 16th place run here in 2006 was his worst since he finished 33rd back in 2000, but he was able to rebound with a 3rd place effort last season. Though he is still without a win 19 races into the 2008 campaign, Gordon’s quietly been creeping his way up through the points standings, and the no. 24 team is beginning to show signs of life again - which could mean very bad things for the other 42 cars out on the track.

Tony Stewart seems to be getting back to enjoying life once again, and there are few places he likes to visit better than the Brickyard, as he has proven with wins here in 2005 and 2007. He’s going to need some strong showings to secure his place in the Chase, as I’m sure he’d love nothing more than to give the Coach one more championship before departing at the end of the season.

Indianapolis has yet to be conquered by the driving prowess of Kyle Busch, but then again, there were a lot of places Kyle had never won at prior to this season. He’s gradually improved each year he’s been here, though, going from 10th to 7th, and finally cracking the top-five with a 4th place finish last year ….. Kevin Harvick had his opportunity to kiss the bricks with his win here back in 2003, and another opportunity to do that would really straighten his season out as he continues to recover from his mid-season slump. He’s finished 11th or better in six of his seven races at Indy ….. Matt Kenseth has never won at the Brickyard before, but he’s been very consistent. In 8 races here, he’s cracked the top-five on four occasions, which includes a pair of runner-up finishes, and he’s finished 16th or better in each of his last six Indy races.

the Unusual Suspects:
Juan Pablo Montoya has run very well in a stock car at almost any track that they also race in the open wheel circuits, and Indianapolis was no exception last year as he finished 2nd in that race. With Pocono and Watkins Glen up next on the schedule, JPM could be looking at a pretty good stretch ahead ….. Brian Vickers has finished 21st or better in three of his four Indy races, which includes a 3rd place finish back in 2005. He’s been running much better this season and could be staring at a potential berth in the Chase field. He ran well at Pocono earlier in the season, a track that many feel shares similar characteristics to the Brickyard ….. Reed Sorenson has come to Indy only twice. The first trip resulted in a dismal 30th place finish, but last year’s visit was much brighter as Reed won the pole and then went onto finish 5th in the race itself.

the Unusual Slackers:
In three races at Indianapolis, Martin Truex Jr. has never finished better than 12th and holds an average finish of just 24.3. This is not a good place for Martin to be right now, either, considering that his team was just handed a 150 point penalty by NASCAR, and he’s going to need plenty of good runs if he plans on having any shot at making the Chase this year ….. Hometown crowd or not, Indy has not been kind to Ryan Newman thus far in his career. Seven times Newman has come home to Indiana with high expectations, but 2002 was the only one that resulted in a top-ten finish, when he finished 4th. He has only two top-15’s here since then ….. Despite winning the race here in 2006, Jimmie Johnson has experienced some unusual struggles here. The results haven’t typically been very indicative of how he’s run, but nonetheless, he’s got three finishes outside of the top-35 in only six tries. His other finishes were a win, a 9th, and an 18th ….. Greg Biffle has seen his share of struggles at Indy as well. In five races here, he’s finished in the top-ten only once, and only twice in the top-15. His overall average finish at the track is 19.2.

Best Driver Ratings (from racingone.com):
1. Tony Stewart - 121.4
2. Juan Pablo Montoya - 120.7
3. Kevin Harvick - 108.7
4. Matt Kenseth - 106.1
5. Mark Martin - 102.9

Best Average Finish (from racingone.com):
1. Juan Pablo Montoya - 2.0
2. Kyle Busch - 7.0
3. Tony Stewart - 7.6
4. Jeff Gordon - 7.6
5. Kevin Harvick - 7.7

Indianapolis Facts:
- 3rd is the only starting position to produce more than one winner at Indy. Three drivers have driven to victory from the third spot. The 1st and 2nd starting positions have produced one winner each.
- Four drivers have driven six different car numbers at Indianapolis: Bill Elliott, Joe Nemecheck, Jeff Green, Kenny Wallace.
- Dave Blaney is the only driver to have driven five different car makes at Indy. He has driven Pontiac, Ford, Dodge, and Chevy twice each here, and has also driven a Toyota once.
- Only four drivers have finished in the top-ten in each of the last three years: Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Mark Martin.
- Jeff Burton has led more laps at Indianapolis than at any other track that he has not won at.
- The second NASCAR race held here, back in 1995, saw only one caution flag during the race. In 2004, there were 13 cautions.
- Chevrolet has won 9 of the 14 Cup races held at Indy.

Six-Pack Challenge:
Winner - Jeff Gordon
2nd Place - Kyle Busch
3rd Place - Mark Martin
4th Place - Tony Stewart
5th Place - Matt Kenseth
6th Place - Clint Bowyer

Lock of the Week - Tony Stewart
Sleeper Pick - Juan Pablo Montoya
Steer Clear of - Greg Biffle

Video Footage of the 2007 Allstate 400:

BallHype: hype it up!

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