Matt Kenseth led 2013 with seven total wins followed by Jimmie Johnson with six, Kevin Harvick with four but there were some drivers that were winless or just barely caught that win in 2013 that must pull out a victory in 2014.
Dale Earnhardt Jr: He led the series with the most top-10 finishes in 2013 and was thisclose to visiting Victory Lane but unfortunately for Junior, the cards just didn’t line up. With two runner-up finishes at Daytona to his teammate Jimmie Johnson, Junior is in dire need for a win in 2014. Breaking a four year winless streak in 2012 with his victory at Michigan. fans don’t want to wait that long for him to reach P1 again. 2014 needs to see Junior in Victory Lane, especially with his consistency.
Kurt Busch: Another driver where the cards just didn’t fall in their favor, the eldest Busch brother hasn’t been to 2011. With a new ride at Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch should have great equipment that he should be able to take to the top of the board. Busch is itching for that win after coming oh so close in 2013 with Furniture Row Racing.
Denny Hamlin: He notched his only win of 2013 at the season finale in Homestead-Miami after a tragic season started with him missing a handful of races at the beginning of the season. Hamlin is a talented driver who is familiar with Victory Lane but 2013 left him with many battle scars, no pun intended. Hamlin needs to see Victory Lane in 2014 more than once and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make a run for the Championship as well.
Brad Keselowski: The 2012 Champion almost went winless in 2013 but pulled one out at Charlotte in the Fall. Keselowski had a new teammate, a new car, and also switched to Ford in 2013 and combining that with his teams trouble with NASCAR’s rule book, it left him looking in on the Chase come Chicago. Keselowski and the team are determined not to let that happen again in 2014 and he needs to visit Victory Lane multiple times next season if he wants to reclaim his spot on top of the board at Homestead-Miami.
Tony Stewart: After a devastating injury left him sidelined for a third of the season, Tony Stewart needs to hit 2014 hard and a win would do just that. Stewart knows how to win and with two new drivers at his organization, he needs to prove that this injury didn’t hurt his career or his winning ways. All eyes will be on him when he finally returns to the track at Daytona.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr: Coming off of his rookie year and a very public relationship with fellow driver Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse is one of those drivers who needs to visit Victory Lane in 2014. The two-time Nationwide Series Champion came had some promising races in 2013 and towards the end of the season, made it look like a trip to the winners circle during his rookie campaign wasn’t out of the question. 2014 could be a big year for the 26-year old.
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Formula 1 Champion Michael Schumacher is in critical condition after a skiing accident in the French Alps early Sunday.
The 44-year-old German fell and hit his head on a rock, said the director of the Meribel resort where Schumacher was skiing.
Schumacher arrived at the hospital in a deep coma and was rushed into emergency brain surgery. According to reports, Shumacher was skiing on an unmarked path where he fell and hit his head on a rock. He was wearing a helmet.
“We have to wait for a police report,” Resort director Christophe Gernignon-Lecomte said. “There is an open investigation going on. We insist on the fact that Michael Schumacher was skiing off-piste and his fall is not linked to an avalanche.”
Schumacher’s spokesperson Sabine Kehm released a statement saying, “We ask for understanding that we cannot give continuous information about his health. He was wearing a helmet and was not alone. For his fall, no other person was involved.”
Stay tuned to Beyond the Flag for more information as it is released.
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Hendrick Motorsports has become the leading organization in the NASCAR industry and moving into 2014, it is looking to be another year of Hendrick domination. The question that teams and fans alike have been trying to figure out is, what makes them so good? In truth, we will never know just what makes Hendrick Motorsports so strong but one thing is for certain, the four men that they have behind the wheel contribute immensely to their greatness.
Since its creation in 1984, Hendrick Motorsports have risen to the top ranks on the NASCAR series. With eleven Sprint Cup Championships, One Nationwide Championship, three Truck Series Championships and a total of 218 victories in the Sprint Cup Series alone. Hendrick Motorsports was on top once again in 2013 when their driver Jimmie Johnson grabbed his sixth Sprint Cup Series title.
Looking back at all of the drivers that have piloted a Hendrick Motorsports machine, there are a few names that stand out and had a significant impact in making HMS all it is today.
Geoff Bodine (1984-1989): Winning the 1986 Daytona 500, Geoff Bodine was one of the frontrunners in the early days of Hendrick Motorsports. Bodine was the first to pilot the No.5 car for HMS and garnished seven total wins. Although he never won a Championship, Hendrick Motorsports wouldn’t be where it is today without Bodine.
Tim Richmond (1986-1987): Bringing the Hendrick Motorsports fleet to a total of two cars, Tim Richmond was a major asset to the organization during his first season in the No.25. Reaching Victory Lane a total of seven times in 1986, Richmond only ran one full season with HMS. He missed the beginning of the 1987 season due to AIDS, while publicly saying he was suffering from pneumonia but won two times that year after he returned to the series.
Darrell Waltrip (1987-1990): Known today know for his likeness in the booth on race weekends, Waltrip helped Hendrick Motorsports grow to a three-car organization when he and Rick Hendrick brought in the No.17 Tide machine. Waltrip would make history with his first 1989 Daytona 500 win after coming so close in years past. His Victory Lane reaction can still be seen on TV today.
Ken Schrader (1988-1996): Most noted for his time at HMS as the man who on three straight Daytona 500 poles, Schrader visited Victory Lane only four times during his long career with the organization driving the No.25.
Ricky Rudd (1990-1993): Taking over the No.5 car for Bodine, Rudd didn’t make the biggest impact but he sure left his mark. His most notable incident on the track came in 1991 when, on the final lap of that year’s race at Sears Point Raceway second-place Rudd spun out leader Davey Allison on the last turn and went on to win. NASCAR penalized the team for rough driving and awarded Allison the win.
Terry Labonte (1994-2004): Labonte really made a name for himself at Hendrick Motorsports when he took over the wheel of the No.5 in 1994. Winning the 1996 Winston Cup Championship over teammate Jeff Gordon, Labonte had 12 total wins before leaving in 2004. Labonte was famous for his sponsorship with Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and later Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.
Kyle Busch (2005-2007): Recognized now as the driver of the No.18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, the youngest Busch brother made quite the impact at Hendrick Motorsports during his three year stint in the No.5 car with the organization. Although he only won four times, Busch won Rookie of the Year in 2005 and also became the youngest driver to win in NASCAR’s top series when he went to Victory Lane in the Sony HD 500 at California Speedway at the age of 20 years, 4 months and 2 days.
Mark Martin (2009-2011): The man who has driven for almost every team in the garage drove the No.5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for three seasons at HMS. In his first season with the team, Martin went to Victory Lane five times and became the third oldest winner and fourth driver over the age of 50 to win a Sprint Cup Series race.
Jeff Gordon (1993-present): Although he made his debut in1992, Jeff Gordon’s ful time career with Hendrick Motorsports started in 1993. Piloting the No.24 since it’s inception at HMS, Gordon has been one of the biggest influences in making Hendrick Motorsports all that it is today. Most recognized for his wild and colorful paint-schemes in the 1990s and early 2000s, Gordon has recorded 88 total wins and four Championships during his career. In 1999, Gordon signed a lifetime contract with Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports that gave him partial ownership in the organization.
Jimmie Johnson (2002-present): Being compared to Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson is one of Hendrick Motorsports most decorated drivers. Making history by winning five straight Championships from 2006-2010, Johnson once again claimed his place at the head table by winning his sixth title in 2013. Brought in to HMS by Jeff Gordon, Johnson made headlines early by becoming the first Rookie to ever lead the points standings and had three wins in his first season. Johnson has a total of 66 wins, four All-Star Race wins, two Daytona 500 wins and six Championships during his time at HMS.
Dale Earnhardt Jr (2008-present): Moving to HMS in 2008, Earnhardt changed the number of the fourth car from the No.25 to the No.88 and brought with him the fandom that is Junior Nation. With only two wins in his six year career with the organization, Earnhardt Jr. has been a solid rock of consistency at HMS. Earnhardt Jr. missed a handful of races in 2012 after a concussion sidelined him late in the Chase. In 2013, he bounced back to become one of the leading drivers in the series with 22 top-10 finishes in 36 races.
Kasey Kahne (2012-present): Although Kahne hasn’t been with the organization long, his young talent is proving to be an asset to HMS. Kahne qualified for the Chase in his first season piloting the No.5 Chevrolet and picked up his first win with the team at the 2012 Coca-Cola 600.
Other Notable Drivers: There were many other big name drivers who drove for Rick Hendrick at one time in their careers, whether it was a full season, part-time or for just one race.
1987: No.35 Benny Parsons
1988: No.18 Rick Hendrick
1989: No.42 Kyle Petty
1997: No.25 Ricky Craven
2003-2006: No.25 Brian Vickers
2008: No.5 Casey Mears
2008 & 2009: No.25 Brad Keselowski
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Jimmie Johnson was back to his winning ways in 2013 and was holding the Championship trophy once again after a two year hiatus. The big question leading into 2014 is, can he do it again?
Johnson recorded six season wins plus a victory in the Sprint All-Star Race in 2013 and, taking into consideration the handful of races mid-season that didn’t go his way, he could have had a few more. In the end, Johnson finished 19 points ahead of Matt Kenseth to claim his sixth title.
Why is Johnson so good? One name: Chad Knaus. Johnson and Crew Chief Chad Knaus are the big masterminds in the Sprint Cup Series garage and it is hard to find another pair that come close. Knaus has been on top of Johnson’s pit box since his Rookie year in the Cup series and even after some “marriage counseling a few years back,” the two are stronger than ever.
With his sixth title firmly in hand, can Johnson and Knaus do what only two other drivers have done before them? Can they reach the glorified number seven?
And they can do it in 2014.
Johnson said in an interview early in 2013 that his ultimate goal is to win eight Championships. Winning eight would put him past Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt and into the record books once again. With Johnson and Knaus together and a seemingly flawless pit crew, the No48 Lowe’s Chevrolet will be the ones to watch in 2014.
The only driver to qualify for all ten of the Chase seasons, Johnson is always a factor for the Championship. With a handful of drivers/team changes within the series for 2014, there may be a few surprises in store for Johnson out on the track, but don’t ever count him out.
He will be up front before you know it.
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Each season, contracts come to a close and new ones are formed. Drivers switch teams, some willingly and others not by choice. 2013 saw many new pairings like Matt Kenseth in the No.20 or Joey Logano in the No.22.
This season, it might take a bit longer than usual to learn which driver is behind the wheel of what car. Multiple driver changes are happening in the Sprint Cup Series with some of your favorite drivers leaving their long-time teams and new faces being introduced.
If you can’t seem to remember them all, here is how they all break down:
STEWART-HAAS RACING: One of the most notable driver changes in 2014 will be the long-awaited move of Kevin Harvick. Harvick, who took over the No.29 (formerly the No.3), after the tragic passing of Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing, will pack up and move on over to Stewart-Haas Racing in the new No.4 with long-time friend Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch as teammates. Busch will also be a new face at the organization in 2014. Leaving the single car team of Furniture Row Racing, Busch will be making a jump to SHR into the No.41 after a surprising offer came from co-owner Gene Haas just a few months ago. Starting in 2014, SHR will be full force with a four-car lineup and four of the biggest personalities in the sport under the same roof.
RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING: Filling the vacant seat left by Harvick’s departure from RCR, the 2013 Nationwide Series Champion Austin Dillon will be making the jump up to the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2014. In an announcement just last week, RCR and Dillon revealed that the famed No.3 will be making its first appearance in NASCAR highest series since Earnhardt’s death in 2001. Dillon, who also won the 2011 Camping World Truck Series Championship, will be running for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award. Moving to RCR in 2014 will be Ryan Newman. Newman, vacating his seat at SHR, will be behind the wheel of the No.31. With Rookie Austin Dillon and Paul Menard, Newman will be the lead driver at the organization for the first time in his career.
FURNITURE ROW RACING: After his teammates actions cost him his spot in to 2013 Chase, then his sponsorship with NAPA and finally his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing, Martin Truex Jr. was left without a ride for 2014. Furniture Row Racing saw the perfect opportunity to pick up another talented racer to pilot their No.78 when Kurt Busch decided to move to SHR. Truex is on a multi-year contract with the team and after an impressive 2013 for the No.78 shop. In an alliance with RCR, Furniture Row Racing has all of the qualities to be a Championship contending race team once again in 2014.
MICHAEL WALTRIP RACING: A controversial blowout before the Chase left MWR scrambling to pick up the pieces of its organization. Loosing the contract to one of its major sponsors, NAPA, MWR had to cut back to a two-car team and said goodbye to Martin Truex Jr. The only returning full-time driver at the organization in 2014 will be Clint Bowyer in the No.15. Taking over the No.55 will be Brian Vickers after a long-awaited return to the track full-time. MWR will also be fielding a third car part-time, the No.66, with Jeff Burton and Michael Waltrip behind the wheel.
PHOENIX RACING: After multiple seasons in the Nationwide Series, Justin Allgaier is finally getting chance in the Sprint Cup Series with Phoenix Racing. Piloting the No.51, Allgaier will team up with Tony Stewart’s former Crew Chief Steve Addington as he runs for Rookie of the Year. Also driving for Phoenix Racing will be Bobby Labonte. This week, it was announced that Phoenix Racing would field a second car for the Daytona 500 with Labonte behind the wheel. No number or Crew Chief has been revealed yet.
JTG DAUGHERTY RACING: Making his return to the Sprint Cup Series full time after being suspended in 2012 for drug use, AJ Allmendinger will pilot the No.47 in 2014, replacing Bobby Labonte. With an alliance with RCR, this team will be in good hands with Allmendinger behind the wheel and this partnership could lead to a few race wins for this team in the coming years.
EARNHARDT-GANASSI RACING: With just one season in the Nationwide Series, Kyle Larson will be making the early jump to Sprint Cup in 2014. Replacing Juan Pablo Montoya behind the wheel of the No.42 Target Chevrolet, Larson will be running for Rookie of the Year against Dillon and Allgaier. Many think he is making the leap to the big leagues too soon and 2014 will be a big learning experience for this young driver.
TOMMY BALDWIN RACING: Michael Annett will be piloting the No.7 Chevrolet for TBR in 2014 and although this team isn’t expected to contend for wins, the full-time sponsorship Annett brings with him will do wonders for this small team. Given that they stay together for a few seasons, having Annett behind the wheel could be a great move for this organization. The organization is still looking for another driver to pilot the No.36.
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In what was another one of the “worst kept secrets” in NASCAR, Richard Childress Racing announced today that Austin Dillon will indeed be driving the No.3 in the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 with sponsorship from Cheerios and Dow Chemicals.
Gil Martin will be on top of he pit box.
Dillon, the reigning Nationwide Series Champion and 2011 Camping World Truck Series Champion, will be competing for Rookie of the Year this coming season. Grandson of Richard Childress, Dillon has raced the No.3 in all major touring series in the NASCAR circuit.
“I feel the pressure of the number because I want to make it run well for the fans, keep it up front,” Dillon said. “It’s a very special number to our family. … Having the opportunity, the equipment, that stuff is always going to be with me from the very beginning. The number is more for me, putting pressure on myself. I like doing that. It’s something that pushes me. Not everybody can say they have a number that pushes them, and I can, so that’s nice.”
Race fans were outraged when it was officially announced that the No.3 would be returning, many screaming out that it’s a disgrace to Earnhardt legacy.
Dale Earnhard Jr. has no problem with his fathers famous number being brought back to NASCARs premiere series.
“I think it will be great. It was an iconic number for my father and it means a lot to a lot of his fans. This sport doesn’t really retire numbers, and all the numbers have history tied to them for several different reasons. The No. 3 is no different,” Earnhardt said earlier this year.
Even Kelley Earnhardt, Dale Sr’s daughter, is happy to see her fathers number returning. She took to Twitter to congratulate Austin Dillon on the announcement saying “Congrats @austindillon3 you have carried the “3″ to its championship ways:) I expected no less!”
Along with the No.3 announcement, RCR announced that they will not be fielding trucks for the Camping World Truck Series in 2014. Also, Ty Dillon will be taking over for his older brother in the No.3 Nationwide Series Chevrolet.
What are your thoughts on the No.3 returning to the Sprint Cup Series? Leave your comments below!
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For the 11th year in a row, Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver award.
It humbles me deeply to know that you have so many fans in your corner each race weekend,” Earnhardt said in his speech. “There are a lot of motivating factors in life that drive our race team to be the best we can but none impact us more than the support of our race fans that they’ve shown over the years. We thank you for your devotion to NASCAR and we look forward to giving you a lot to be excited about in 2014.”
Earnhardt Jr. ranks second behind Bill Elliott for most MPD wins. Elliott had won eleven times before he retired.
“I don’t really keep track of the stats or the score, but Bill was a great driver and ambassador for the sport,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “He represents the sport really well to this day, as does his son, Chase, who’s coming up and carrying on the family name. But I’ve always looked up to Bill as a driver so it’s pretty neat.”
Junior Nation seemed a bit worried that their driver would be dethroned this season with Sprint Cup Series newcomer Danica Patrick but, need not worry, Junior Nation rose to the top.
Patrick was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the IndyCar Series six out of her seven years in the series and also won the NASCAR Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver award last season. This season, Patrick was ranked fifth after the votes were tallied.
The top 10, in order, of the voting were: Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. There were more than 1 million votes cast, and Earnhardt collected more than 700,000 votes according to NASCAR.com.
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