Since the Daytona 500, where Stewart-Haas Racing driver Danica Patrick held the pole, SHR has been mediocre at best. As a team, SHR has led 50 laps and gathered one top 5 finish. The team gets chassis and engines from Hendrick Motorsports so why haven’t they been performing and are things finally starting to look up?
This weekend’s Coke 600 can be put in the books as the turnaround point for Stewart-Hass Racing and its three teams. All three teams started off the weekend with great racecars and had very little handling issues throughout the 600 miles of the race. Tony Stewart garnished his best finish this season of 7th, one spot behind teammate Ryan Newman. Danica Patrick ended the day 29th after a late race crash took her out of the top-20.
Newman has by far been the best performer out of the three cars and he has only one top-5 finish and 3 DNFs. His results thus far are sporadic but he has come away with 6 top-10 finishes leaving him 16th in point’s standings.
Stewart has been the biggest struggle this season in the organization. With only 2 top-10 finishes and no finish higher than 7th. As the 2011 Sprint Cup Series Champion, Stewart knows how to perform and how to win races but something just hasn’t clicked this season.
Rookie Driver Danica Patrick took the NASCAR world by storm at Daytona by winning the pole but has had only one top-15 finish since. As a Rookie, her season hasn’t been awful but it hasn’t been spectacular either. She sits 30th in points after her wreck on Sunday dropped her two spots.
As an organization, it seems like SHR hasn’t quite figured out the Gen-6 car quite as fast as the other big organizations. Also, adding a third full-time team mixed up a lot of the personnel. Moving Newman’s race team over to crew for Patrick left them looking for a new pit crew for the No.39.
Greg Zipadelli, Competition Director for SHR, says that no changes will be made within the organization. He said that they struggled getting cars to the tracks the first few weeks of the season and that his people are working countless hours at the shop to produce the best racecars possible.
Unity is something that has been lacking in the organization this season after the change-ups within the teams. The teams are building stronger bonds and stronger connections and it’s starting to show we get deeper in the season.
Zipadelli says that they, as an organization, haven’t been giving their drivers the equipment they need to go out there and run like they know how to do and that they are working each and every week to make their racing product better.
No changes will be made within the organization but keep an eye on the three Stewart-Haas teams. As the summer months kick in, the schedule starts to return to tracks for a second time and that’s when Tony Stewart will kick it up a notch.
Stewart-Haas Racing is gaining ground and won’t be the underdogs for long. Look for one of their three drivers to be in Victory Lane this summer and multiple times before the end of the season. Also, I wouldn’t count Stewart or Newman out of the Chase just yet either.
Watch the interview with Competition Director Greg Zipadelli here (via SPEED.com)
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This is the second full week that drivers and crew get to stay at home instead of staying at the track. They get to sleep in their own beds, spend more time with family and friends, and frankly, stay a little more relaxed this weekend as they gear up for the longest race of the season. The question on everyone’s mind is who will come out on top at the end of the Coke 600? Well, here are my predictions.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne has been running strong this season in his No.5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. With 1 win and 4 Top-5 finishes this season, Kahne is consistently up front and was racing for the win last weekend in the Sprint All-Star Race against teammate and eventual winner, Jimmie Johnson. Kahne got his first win for Hendrick Motorsports during the Coke 600 last season and Charlotte Motor Speedway is clearly one of his best tracks. Look for Kahne to run strong and up front on Sunday and is a definitely favorite to take the checkered flag at the end of the night.
Jimmie Johnson: Like his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Johnson has been on fire this season. With two point’s wins and an All-Star win under his best, Johnson is a clear favorite to make it two in a row at home with the Coke 600. Johnson’s average finish this season is 6.7 with his just three finishes outside the Top-10. He seems more determined than ever to get his 6th Championship and if continues to run strong, he will be well on his way. Keep an eye on his this weekend for the Coca-Cola 600.
Matt Kenseth: Who would have thought that switching teams would have treated this man so well? He has three wins already this season including the last point’s race at Darlington. He took home the win at Charlotte during the fall race in 2011 and looking at the way he has been running this season, he is a clear favorite. Kenseth might just be Johnson’s biggest competition for the Sprint Cup Championship this season.
Kurt Busch: He and his brother were dominant during the All-Star Race last weekend and Kurt won this race back in 2010. Busch and the No.78 team have had some unfortunate luck this season but have been running strong. He will definitely make it to Victory Lane this season and taking home the win at the longest race of the season would be just Kurt Busch’s style.
Denny Hamlin: After missing half of the season so far with a fractured vertebrae in his back, Hamlin is back and back with a vengeance. His first full race back at Darlington, Hamlin finished second to teammate Matt Kenseth. Thanks to the points system in place for the Chase, Hamlin isn’t out of the running for a wild card spot just yet. In order to make the Chase, Hamlin needs to get into the Top-20 in points and needs to secure himself a few wins. If he plans on doing that, he needs to start now and standing in Victory Lane at the end of the Coke 600 would be great for Hamlin.
Well, there you go; those are my predictions for the Coca-Cola 600. This has to be one of the most exciting race weekends in the season with the Indy 500 and the Coke 600 on the same day; it makes for the perfect day for race fans. So sit back, grab some food, gather up some friends, and enjoy a day filled with the best drivers the world has to offer and see if my Coke 600 predictions come true.
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Winner: Matt Kenseth
Kenseth took his No.20 to Victory Lane on Saturday night for the third time already this season despite not having Jason Ratcliff on top of the pit box. After making the switch from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth seems unstoppable. He fought off teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch as well as Hendrick powerhouses Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon to take his first Darlington win. I would keep an eye on Kenseth during these summer months. If he keeps this momentum up, he might just be in the position to win the Sprint Cup Championship this season.
Winner: Jeff Gordon
Gordon made his 700th start in the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday night at Darlington and many pegged him as a possible winner for the Southern 500 but he came up just short. Gordon may not have won his 700th career start, but he did earn himself his 300th top 5 finish with his 3rd place run. Gordon may have made his 700th start, but I don’t see him slowing down, or retiring, any time soon. Gordon is as competitive as ever and with Hendrick still by his side; don’t count his out just yet.
Winner: Denny Hamlin
With his first full race back coming on one of his better tracks, seeing Hamlin finish second Saturday night was good to see. Thanks to the points system for the Chase, Hamlin still has a shot at getting one of the two wild card spots when regular season ends. He just has to be top-20 in points and he needs a few wins. If he takes the momentum from his runner up finish and carries it into the coming weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if he came out with a few trophies by summers end.
Loser: Danica Patrick
This was Patrick’s second time to the Lady in Black. Darlington was basically Patrick’s first Sprint Cup race last season after an awful showing in the 2012 Daytona 500. This year, the Lady in Black didn’t treat the Lady in Green very nicely. During Friday’s first practice, Patrick, on sticker tires, came out of turn two and hit the wall making her team bring out the backup. Her team rushed to get her out on the track for final practice but she didn’t get a chance to make any mock qualifying runs leaving her starting 40th on Saturday. She finished the Southern 500 28th and many laps down. Although it was better than her first showing at the track, Patrick didn’t impress too many this weekend.
Loser: Kyle Busch
Busch led the most laps of the race and looked like he was going to sweep the weekend Saturday night until he started fading, and fast. Busch dropped from the lead to finish 6th. If Busch wants to rally for his first Sprint Cup Championship then he and his team need to figure out how NOT to use up everything they have in the first half of the race.
The Sprint All-Star Race is this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tune in to see who races their way in and who gets in via fan vote. This race is an all-out, no points, everything on the line race and is going to be one you won’t want to miss. Who will walk away $2 million richer? Tune in Saturday to find out!
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The Sprint All-Star Race is right around the corner. It's doesn't count towards anything yet everything is on the line. $2 Million and bragging rights is what the winner of the May 18th night race will receive and it is one of the biggest victories of the season.
The Sprint All-Star Race is a race between race winners from the previous season (2012) and the beginning of the current season, as well as the past ten event winners and the past decade’s Cup Series champions. But if you don't qualify in one of those four categories, hope is not lost. You can race your way in with the Sprint Showdown or, if that doesn't work out how you plan, just fall back on your fans.
Fans have the chance to vote their favorite driver into the race. The voting opens when the season starts and closes at 5 p.m. ET the day of the race. Miss Sprint Cup announced the top runners on May 1st on their Verified Twitter Page and they are, in alphabetical order, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr.
Looking at the names on the list, who will be the fan-voted entry into the Sprint All-Star Race? Let me break it down for you.
Let's start with Jeff Burton. Burton hasnâ€™t been a part of the Sprint All-Star Race since 2009. In 665 starts in the Cup Series, Burton has 21 wins, his last one coming in 2008. But wins and finishes don't necessarily weigh in on the Sprint Fan Vote. Jeff Burton has a good Twitter presence with almost 78,000 followers. Looking through his tweets, he hasn't rallied his fans to vote for him into the All-Star Race. Will that harm him or help him?
Bobby Labonte is no doubt a fan favorite. With 700 starts and 21 wins and 1 Championship in his 20 plus seasons in the Cup Series, Labonte is one that the fans of this sport know and love. Labonte hasn't won a race in 10 years but was in the Sprint All-Star Race last season. He has a stronger Twitter presence than Burton with over 83,000 followers. Labonte was the 2012 Sprint Fan Vote winner but will he be able to win it a second time?
Jamie McMurray has really shown his skill with three top-10 finishes this season. McMurray just missed out on the Sprint All-Star Race last season after he finished third in the Sprint Showdown. With over 143,000 followers on Twitter, McMurray has a lot of fans standing behind him. If his fans fall through and he doesn't get in via fan vote, he shouldnâ€™t be counted out as a potential winner for the Sprint Showdown.
As the lone female in the Sprint Cup Series, Danica Patrick is no doubt a hit among the fans, although her results on track are pretty average. After a whirlwind Daytona 500 where she finished 8th, Patrick's only finish above the top-15 was her surprising 12th place result at Martinsville. Voted the Most Popular Driver for six straight years (2005-2010) in the IZOD IndyCar Series and also the 2012 Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Patrick has one of the strongest fan bases in racing. With over 903,000 Twitter followers, Patrick's fan base stretches far beyond racing. Her primary sponsor, GoDaddy, sponsored a spot with Patrick and fellow Sprint Cup Driver and boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr about voting for her for the Sprint Fan Vote. Patrick's fans have also been rallying for other fans and celebrities to vote the Lady in Green into the All-Star Race. Will all of their hard work pay off?
Ricky Stenhouse Jr has been in the media more this season than he ever has been, but it hasn't been because of his racing. He is dating media mogul Patrick and that could play well into his favor for the Sprint Fan Vote. Â Stenhouse has close to 94,000 followers on Twitter and his latest spot with Patrick that hit the airwaves just a few days ago tells fans that even he is voting for himself. The 2-Time Nationwide Series Champion is in his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series and his best finish was 11th at Kansas. He has led 29 laps this season and has his best start of 3rd at Kansas. Stenhouse races well on mile-and-a-half tracks and has a good chance of racing his way in to his first Sprint All-Star Race if someone else takes the fan vote.
The No.56 driven by Martin Truex Jr. is off to its best start this season. Truex has four top-10 finishes in 10 races and two of those are top-5s. Truex is a strong contender and would be a great addition into the All-Star Race. He has over 151,000 followers on Twitter and with a fan base that large; he could get in with the fan vote. He hasnâ€™t made an All-Star appearance since 2010 but finished fourth in last season's Sprint Showdown. Truex could be a favorite to win the Sprint Showdown so even if he doesn't get the fan vote, I wouldnâ€™t count him out.
After breaking down the top six in the Sprint Fan Vote, it's clear to see that each and every one of these drivers has a fan base that stands behind them. Unfortunately, only one of them will be chosen as the winner of the fan vote. My prediction is that we will see a Rookie in the All-Star Race this season. One, if not both, of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie Title contenders will make it into the May 18th night race. Danica Patrick will be your fan vote winner and her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, will be your Sprint Showdown Champion. Tune in May 18th at 7:30 P.M. ET to see if I made the right predictions.
Want to watch Danica and Ricky’s Fan Vote Spoof? CLICK HERE
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It was a very wet weekend in Talladega but that didn’t stop NASCAR fans from sticking it out through the mud and the muck. It seemed like the only dry days were for practice and Nationwide Series qualifying.
The rain started on Saturday and forced NASCAR to cancel Sprint Cup Series Qualifying which left the field being set from Friday’s first practice session. Carl Edwards captured the Pole but since they didn’t race for it, it doesn’t count towards next season’s Sprint Unlimited race. Having Pole qualifying rained out left many to wonder who really had the fastest car for the Aaron’s 499.
The cancellation of Sprint Cup Qualifying was just the start of the issues that the rain would cause. Saturday’s Nationwide Series Race was delayed over three hours after rain dampened the track. It was beginning to look like the Aaron’s 312 was going to have to be run after the Sprint Cup race on Sunday but, after shortening the race a few laps, they were able to get it in before dark sending Regan Smith to Victory Lane in a very close and chaotic finish. Watch it here!
Sunday was a day for blue skies, but not over the race track. The race was delayed an hour to dry the track and when they finally did fire up the engines, drivers and the crews were making bets as to how many laps they were going to be able to get in before the rain forced the cars down pit road. Shortly after lap 100, drivers were starting to report rain drops on their windshields and by lap 125, the race was red-flagged and the cars sat covered on pit road, for three hours.
Three hours and thirty-six minutes to be exact. That is how long the red flag lasted. After a few sprinkles, the new track dryer, the Air-Titan, took to the track and it looked like racing was going to resume until lightning and thunder off in the distance nixed that idea. The storm produced small hail and a torrential downpour that, after it passed, took over 90 minutes to dry.
The three and a half hour rain delay left the broadcasters scrambling for fill. Denny Hamlin, who started the race then made a driver switch with Brian Vickers, sat up in the Hollywood Hotel for the entire red flag and the end of the race which probably left him with a sore rear-end but great publicity for sponsor Fed-Ex. The pit reporters and broadcasters interviewed most if not all of the drivers and many Crew Chiefs, even taking over the drivers Motor-home lot to catch a few of them playing with their kids.
While many local Fox stations took over the broadcast to show local news after hour two, NASCAR and Fox Sports stayed on air for those stations, like mine, who stayed with them.
The race ended up lasting 7 hours and 2 minutes. That is over 7 hours of LIVE broadcasting. Add in the 2 hour live program on SPEED titled RaceDay that airs before each race, that’s over 9 hours of live NASCAR racing. From someone who is hoping to one day be out there on pit lane with a camera in her face and a microphone in her hand, that sounds both terrifying and exhilarating. Live TV is unpredictable, especially when you are doing interviews and scrambling to fill time, I really do applaud each and every one of the broadcasters, camera crew, and whoever else was involved that stuck it out, even in the rain.
In the end, the race restarted and the Goliath were taken down by two Davids. David Ragan and David Gilliland, both driving for Front Row Motorsports, snuck up through the field, avoided two “big ones” and beat the Sprint Cup ringers to send Ragan to Victory Lane for the second time in his Sprint Cup career. It was great to see an underfunded team come out victorious and finish 1-2 in the end. So to the broadcasters and crew who stuck it out during the rain to bring us continuous race coverage, again, I applaud you. And to the David’s, a hard battle fought really does lead to the great taste of victory.
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It’s that time of year again. The weather is nice, school is almost out, summer is looming and Talladega is calling. It is finally time to hit the pavement at the biggest track in NASCAR and fans couldn’t be more excited. Talladega is known for nasty wrecks, top speeds and big parties, and I’m not just referring to the infield campground.
[caption]. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Taking to my various social media sites, I asked race fans what they loved most about Talladega Super Speedway. The responses I received varied between the happenings on track and the party off track.
There are two aspects of Talladega that set it, and its sister track Daytona, apart from every other track on the circuit. The size of the track allows for 3 and 4-wide racing lines and big packs of cars running together. One fan said that he loves the wide open spaces that define Talladega because it gives the drivers lots of space to make moves.
The other part of Talladega and Daytona that set them apart from other tracks is the size of the wrecks. Race fans love to see the big wrecks, even though that might mean that their driver has been taken out of the race. With cars running so close together, the “big one” is inevitable.
The party inside the track is even bigger than the party during the race. Campers from all over make the trip to Talladega to camp out in the infield. Out on Talladega Boulevard, you will find people handing out beads, souvenirs and lots of food. This season, there is even a contest through Coca-Cola to find the best tailgating party site in the infield. Daytona 500 Pole Sitter and Coca-Cola Racing driver Danica Patrick will be scoping out and crowning the winner this weekend (Check out the promo here ).
The best thing about Super Speedway races is that it is really anyone’s race. Drivers with underfunded teams and even drivers with little Sprint Cup experience have a chance to win the race. Many drivers and fans think of Talladega as the wild card race but there are a few drivers who excel at this type of racing.
One of those drivers is Danica Patrick. She made history in Daytona when she became the first woman to sit on the pole in the Sprint Cup Series and went on to finish eighth. Her Crew Chief Tony Gibson and his team know how to set up great Speedway cars and they are bringing her Pole car from Daytona to the track this weekend. She will definitely be one to watch for on Sunday and also on Saturday as she makes her second start for Turner Scott Motorsports in the Nationwide Series.
Both Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer have multiple top-5 finishes as well as a win at Talladega and have been running strong this season. Keselowski and his team are under scrutiny after failing pre-race inspection in Texas and a good run for them will be very beneficial, especially if they lost the final appeal that is set to be heard in the coming weeks. Both drivers have a good speedway record and if they start up front, they have a good chance at staying there.
Looking at a track like Talladega, anything is possible. You never really know who is going to take the checkers until they cross the finish line. So whether you are at the track, at a bar or watching from the comforts of your own home, gather up some friends, get some good food and be prepared for one wild ride.
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