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Tag:Coca-Cola 600
Posted on: May 31, 2011 12:32 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 12:33 pm
 

Idle Thoughts: NASCAR wins huge racing day

By Pete Pistone


 Kyle Busch, Driver Of The #18 M&M's Toyota, Leads

Sunday’s two big races at Indianapolis and Charlotte were nearly mirror images of each other. 

Both featured lots of intrigue, strategy, surprises, endurance and in the end dramatic finishes. 

It was somewhat eerie to first watch JR Hildebrand hit the fourth turn wall heading to 500 checkered flag in a National Guard sponsored car only to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. experience the same fate with the exact sponsor six hours later. 

But at the end of the day what the 1,100 miles of competition did for the sport of auto racing was worth its weight in gold. 

The thrilling finishes gave racing a boost in public awareness and generated tremendous publicity outside the racing arena. 

National and local market mainstream media as well as general sports outlets that only talk motorsports when there’s a horrific crash or some other controversy dedicated a great deal of attention to Sunday’s racing doubleheader. 

The 100th Anniversary celebration of the Indianapolis 500 built-up anticipation for this year’s Memorial Day weekend race but delivering the finish it did Sunday was what really elevated the event back to its glory days, when Indy ranked up there with the biggest sports happenings in the world. 

NASCAR was able to bask in that glow for its longest event of the year and in many ways matched the day’s opening drama with its electrifying finish that saw Earnhardt sputter out of fuel on the final lap only to have Kevin Harvick race by for the win. 

That was big for the NASCAR world, which took a PR beating only days before with Kyle Busch’s 128 mph speeding ticket in a 45 mph zone. The sanctioning body not stepping up to at least criticize the behavior or try to make the public aware it does not condone such dangerous highway driving didn’t help the sport’s position in the eyes of many. 

But despite the overall goodwill auto racing created with Sunday’s back-to-back thrilling races, it’s still crystal clear which of the two forms of the sport is far and away the most popular. 

NASCAR hands down trumps Indy Car in that department. 

Overnight television ratings for this year’s Indy 500 were up from last year from a 4.0 in 2010 to a 4.3 on Sunday. That’s certainly a positive to take away from the telecast. 

However compare that to what the NASCAR Charlotte nightcap drew and it’s almost embarrassing. FOX reported a rating of 4.0 for the Coke 600, about flat from last season’s audience. 

That’s right, a regular season NASCAR stop generated roughly the same sized audience as not just Indy Car’s biggest race of the year, but in many people’s opinion still one of the most prestigious sports events in the world. 

And if you want to go head-to-head in sizing up TV numbers between Indy and NASCAR’s crown jewel Daytona 500, the results are even more one-sided. This year’s Daytona race ended up with an 8.2 mark, nearly double the size of Indianapolis. 

The point is although there’s no denying NASCAR’s numbers are down in both television ratings and attendance in recent years, the sport is far from being on life support. 

Held up to other forms of motorsports there really isn’t any comparison as NASCAR dwarfs everything from open wheel to drag racing to sports car racing. 

Take away the NFL, which is the king of all sports even while in a lockout, and NASCAR still holds its own.  Executives of the NBA, NHL or MLB would certainly love to see some of NASCAR’s television and attendance numbers in their respective leagues.

It should bode well for NASCAR as it kicks off its next round of television contract negotiations for the sport to still be as healthy as it is. Will the new deal come in for the nearly $5 billion the sanctioning body received from FOX, Turner and ABC/ESPN the last time through? I’d say yes given the audience size the sport still generates 

NASCAR is still viewed as a very viable asset and there’s discussion new suitors such as NBC and its new cable sports network arm, currently known as Versus, will dive into the mix. 

While it may not be on the same growth projection it was a decade ago, NASCAR remains established as a property with a huge following and one that even up against an event that transcends its sport and leaps into the general consciousness like the Indy 500 can out perform. 

The final evaluation of Sunday’s giant day for auto racing proves it.   

 
More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: May 30, 2011 6:51 am
Edited on: May 30, 2011 9:25 am
 

David Ragan, Joey Logano post Charlotte reaction

Posted by Pete Pistone
       

Q.  From what we saw on television, it looked like you right behind David had a really tight squeeze.  It looked like you had just a tiny little tunnel to get through there.  Could you talk about what was going on from the way you saw it?           

JOEY LOGANO:  To be honest, I relied on my spotter so much.  With these spoilers and the way these cars are, you can't see in front of you that far, so all you can really see is the first two cars in front of you.          

I saw one on the left side slowing down, and my spotter was just like, Keep your foot on it, and then we saw the Ford and he said go low and found me a hole and got right through there.  I just followed David.  He went through there first.           

THE MODERATOR:  We're also now joined by today's race runner up.  That's David Ragan.  He drives the No. 6 UPS Ford for Roush-Fenway racing.  David's second place finish today is his best ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish.  Talk about your run out there.  You were running up front consistently all day.           

DAVID RAGAN:  Yeah, I thought it was going to get ugly there at the end, which it did for everyone else and not us.  We had a top three or four car, I think, and that last caution came out.  We were going to be like a lap or two short, and we knew that if we would have been leading, we would have stayed out.  You can't pit when you're leading that late.  But we were running like fourth or fifth at the time.           

So I saw Drew made a pretty gutsy call to come in and pit.  When you've got four fresh tires and you're full of fuel, you can be aggressive on those restarts and just very lucky to get through Turn 1 without getting wrecked.  It was either the 4 or the 83, I don't know which one of the Red Bull cars was on the outside, but he ran out.           

Getting into 1, it was just barely enough room.  We actually clipped the right front fender.  We bent it in.  We probably couldn't have made very many more laps.  We were just in the right place at the right time.  We had a strong car all day.  Got the finish that we deserved, but we just went about doing it the hard way.             

Q.  Joey, there was some times earlier in the race where Zippy was like, You've got to tell me what you need, sort of getting feedback from you.  After last week, the little tension you guys had at the end of the race, is everything okay with you guys, and the talk seems to still continue to linger about a potential crew chief change?           

JOEY LOGANO:  We're a couple Yankees from up north, and we yell and scream at each other.  That's just how we communicate.  I think that's how everyone communicates that's from up there.  So that's not a big deal.           

He was getting frustrated.  I was frustrated.  I felt like we got the balance of the car closer.  It wasn't going any faster.  We just didn't have the grip in the car.  So we really need to change a lot of things to try to find some speed back in our race car.           

So no, I mean, that was just -- I just saw both of us getting frustrated, and it is what it is.  You've got to work those things out.  Sometimes it's better to tell people how you feel and get over it.  It works out all right.  We don't hold grudges.  We just keep going.             

Q.  This is for both of you guys.  You guys spent four or four and a half hours out there really working hard, making all your strategy moves, and then the race comes down to like -- you guys are laughing about the finish because it's just like chaos out there and whoever happens to get through gets through and whoever doesn't doesn't.  Is that sort of like bizarre?            

DAVID RAGAN:  Yeah, we could have done all that in 40 laps and been at the house a couple hours ago.           

That's just how competitive the Sprint Cup Series is.  We can race for 600 miles and there's still 15 cars that's got a shot to win it at the end.  So I think that is something that is good about our sport.           

Some strategy finally came into it.  There's some guys on old tires, I think two tires a lot during the night, four tires.  So it was a very, very fun race to drive and to work out.  You know, a lot of times we took fuel only a couple times, in 2, in 4, and I can't remember doing that variation of stuff here in a long time, so it was pretty cool.           

JOEY LOGANO:  Yeah, I think track position played in this race a lot more than what it normally does.  I think it was because of the tire, though.  I'm used to coming in here and we're up by the wall.  This car is a lot more places now, and now they're stuck on the bottom.  Everyone ran on the bottom the whole time, so it was really hard to pass.           

If you didn't get them on the first couple laps of a restart, you might as well ride around the rest of the run.  I think that's why a lot people did a lot of pit strategy, trying to get their car up there.  It was a lot different race than what we normally see in Charlotte.             

Q.  On the final restart there was a pretty big pileup in Turn 1 and 2, and NASCAR elected not to throw a caution.  Did you think there might be a caution coming out there, and would either of you have benefitted if there had been another attempt at a green flag finish?            

JOEY LOGANO:  I was hoping there wasn't a caution.  This is the highest I had been in the whole race the whole time, so I didn't really even know this was a big pileup.  I just saw cars stopped everywhere.  I think by the time we came back around, there was no cars, so everything was good.           

DAVID RAGAN:  Yeah, I guess they made the right call because my spotter said, Hey, they're wrecking in 1 but no caution, and I just assumed that we would get to the back straightaway and they'd throw the caution, but I guess everybody kind of got sorted out and kept going.           

So you never can tell what would have happened if they would have thrown another caution.  We probably would have had another wreck and maybe would have gotten involved.  So I guess we're glad what happened happened.  We'll take it.             

Q.  Talk about your early careers, guys.  You've been -- a lot of people don't know how long you've been around racing.            

JOEY LOGANO:  I think it's really cool.  Me and David have known each other since '99.  I remember pulling in Orlando Speedway with my parents and meeting Ken Ragan, buying a Bandolero from him and racing it and getting to know David and racing him since then.  It's been pretty cool.        

There's not many drivers that can make it to the Sprint Cup level at any time, and to see both of us making it and still being good friends today, I think it's really cool, and it's cool that we finished, both of us, in the top three in a race like this when we used to battle it out on the quarter mile back there not too long ago.  It's pretty cool.           

DAVID RAGAN:  Yeah.  It's fun to race with guys that you grew up racing with.  A lot of guys in the Sprint Cup Series today have come from all around the U.S. and even though Joey is a Yankee guy from up north, he did come south, and it was fun racing a lot.  We shared a little race shop for a few years.  Yeah, it's cool to be able to get to race with him.  And certainly when we're both competitive, that makes it even more fun.           

Q.  David, we had talked about your season and you needing to show some improvement in some things.  Going forward this has got to be the boost that we were talking about that you really need.  How do you feel about the rest of the season from here on?           

DAVID RAGAN:  I feel great about the rest of the season.  We've just been inconsistent.  We've had some fast cars.  We've run good.  Certainly this race is a great race.  It's a great momentum builder, but if we go to Kansas and blow up and finish last and then we go to the next race and wreck and finish 30th, we're going to be back where we're at.           

So we've got to put some finishes together.  We've got to string some top 5s and top 10s week after week after week, and that's what's going to turn our season around.  This was a great race, very proud of our team, and hopefully we moved up a few spots in points and gained some momentum, but we've got to let it do its thing from here on out.  We just can't look back at this one and hope this is going to carry us.  We've got to go get it done next week and the following.  

 
More NASCAR coverage

Posted on: May 30, 2011 6:39 am
Edited on: May 30, 2011 9:24 am
 

Kevin Harvick post-race Coca-Cola 600 comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

THE MODERATOR:  Kevin Harvick drives the No. 29 Budweiser Armed Forces Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.  He's joined up front by team owner, Richard Childress.  Kevin's 17th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win.  He's won the all-star race here, but he had not won a points race at Charlotte prior to today's victory.  It's his third win in 2011.  That tops the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  Kevin, people say you're one of the best, if not the best, closers in the business, and certainly took advantage when opportunity knocked here tonight.  Congratulations.           

KEVIN HARVICK:  Just got to thank everybody on our Budweiser Chevrolet team.  They do this a lot.  They give us chances to win races and put ourselves in position.  I've been on the other side of this fence a lot with the fuel mileage stuff and the strategy.           

It just seems like this year you have to be more aggressive taking chances, and I think winning those couple races early in the year, we had a 30-lap window there with a couple pit stops to go that we were hoping we could make to get to the last pit stop, and I think they wanted to pit it sounded like to me, and I was like, We didn't come here to run 15th.  So we stayed out on the racetrack three or four laps toward the end of our fuel window.  Everything worked out and when that last green flag dropped, I ran about two laps.  When I saw those guys up there racing, I knew I was a lap and a half short, so I just shut my car down.           

I didn't have any pressure from behind me, and we ran probably 10 or 15 laps probably a second off the pace, and I got some good savings under the caution.  And we thought we were plenty good there, so it all worked out.           

THE MODERATOR:  Richard, talk about winning the Coca-Cola 600 for RCR on Memorial Day weekend with a special paint scheme with the 29 Budweiser Chevrolet.  It had to be a big thrill for you.           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Yeah, it's really great, especially on Memorial weekend to let everybody understand what Memorial weekend is all about.  It's not about celebrating racing or a lot of other things, but it's celebrating our fallen troops and our veterans that gave us the opportunity to do what we were able to do tonight.           

I couldn't be prouder of Kevin and Gil and the whole Budweiser Jimmie John's team.  It was one of those deals that they started saving and I was listening to them on the radio all the way through it and just run hard enough to stay in front of -- at the time it was the 31.  And Kevin is as good as anybody knowing how to save fuel, and I felt we were going to be right there at the end.  If anybody could make it, I felt like he could.            

Q.  Two things, Kevin:  Number one, you were miserable for most of the race --           

KEVIN HARVICK:  It's Charlotte.  Even though we won, I'm still miserable.  In about 30 minutes I will be happy when we drive out of that tunnel, and the month of May is over.            

Q.  You've got to be pretty delightful for DeLana.  But you were pretty miserable.  What was going on with your car, and was it just Charlotte?  A lot of times when guys win this way, you've led nine laps and three wins this year.  You start to say, maybe this is their year, maybe things are just lining up and this is your year.  Are you starting to think that at all?           

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, look, when we pull into Charlotte, I apologize before I even get to the racetrack because there's nothing -- this is a great racetrack.  It's a great facility, and I know everybody loves coming here because it's close to home.           

For me it's been a struggle since day one of my career -- well, I shouldn't say that.  We finished second the first time I came here, and that was about it.  So for me it's just been that thing in my mind, that one racetrack that just frustrates the hell out of me that I can't figure out.           

When they threw the green flag tonight, we'd fought the same thing for last week and this week, and I said, Well, we haven't fixed it in two weeks, and Gil said, Well, we've got four more hours and we're going to fix you right up.  Usually when he says something like that, it always comes back to haunt me.           

Honestly, it's great to be a part of this team because everybody knows who I am.  They don't get down on me, and nobody gets really down on each other.  And if we wouldn't have won the race, everybody would have went home and we would have said we'd do this different or that different and we'd have all smiled about it by the time we got done at 8:00 on Monday morning after our competition meeting.           

So it's just the chemistry and the way that everybody is on this race team, money can't buy that.  When you have a race team like that, I've never had that until you feel everything gel and you feel everything come together and you race for a championship and you do everything that you do, it's not about having the fastest car all the time.  Sometimes it's just about believing in everybody around you and putting yourself in position to win      

And these guys put us in position to win a lot, and we've been able to do that over the past couple years.  If we aren't winning we can take -- the championship teams are when you can take a 15th place car and you can finish 5th with it, and that's what we did today.            

Q.  (No microphone.)           

KEVIN HARVICK:  I think it's been a fun year so far anyway.  We're going to have fun.  This stuff is way too hard.  If it all works out in the end, great.  We're going to fight all the way to the end to make it -- put ourselves in position to do everything you can.  But you never know.  It's so early.  But hopefully we're right in the middle of it.           

THE MODERATOR:  Crew Chief, Gil Martin, has joined us now.  Gil, talk about your thought process toward the end of that race having to save fuel, et cetera.  Kevin certainly is a master at doing that.           

GIL MARTIN:  Yes, he does a great job on that.  And we knew with right at 100 laps to go, we had our mindset that we were needing to get to lap 348 to be able to make it in one last stop.  When that caution came out on 343 or whatever it was, we knew it was going to be extremely close right then, and we started -- Jeremy and Matt, the two engineers, they started crunching numbers as hard as they could go.  And any way we could crunch them, we were a lap and a half short.           

So basically, we told Kevin that, and he did a great job saving fuel from the drop of the whole last run because there was no way that we were going to make that, and he made it up, didn't lose any real time on the racetrack.  So he was able to save fuel and maintain speed at the same time, and that's two things that's hard to do.            

Q.  Richard, I just want to get your reaction to seeing your three cars lined up there helping each other out, pushing each other at the end.  That was kind of unique.  For the other two guys, how nerve-wracking is that at the end?  That's got to be pretty nerve-wracking.           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Well, this whole race was -- this was probably as competitive of a 600 that I've witnessed.  All night long the field kept changing at the front and changing, but to see our cars working together, that's what an owner loves to see or wants to see.  It was all legal.  You can do what we were doing there.  You just can't push somebody across the checkered flag to win it on the last lap.  I think that's the rule.           

But it was pretty neat to see everybody work together, and I'm sure they're happy to see Kevin win.           

THE MODERATOR:  That is the rule.  You can't do it once the white flag has been displayed.  That's correct.           

KEVIN HARVICK:  Fuel mileage racing is -- there's no gas gauge in the car, and there's really no rhyme or reason.  I have a pretty good idea.  When they say a lap and a half, I feel like I've got half of that under caution after the pit stop, and the way that -- we didn't take advantage of the new tires.           

I ran a couple laps and didn't feel like I needed to be racing that hard.  I feel like the first 10 or 15 laps were probably a second slow of probably what we could have ran, and I felt like we had saved a good portion the next 30 or 35 laps.  He had actually felt comfortable enough with it, with the pace that we had run to tell me to go ahead and go.           

So I felt when he was that comfortable with it, and then Richard overruled him and said, "Slow down," so when the caution came out, the slow down probably worked out pretty good, so it was a good balance between everybody, and we didn't need another caution.  That's for sure.            

Q.  Kevin, earlier in the race you were a little upset about one of the debris cautions, and I just wondered at the end of the race, your teammate, Jeff Burton, got caught up in a wreck on the next to last lap.  They didn't throw a caution.  Is that a different scenario for you, or does that just kind of fuel the fire of your earlier complaint?           

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, I think when you're the recipient of the caution and it's not falling your way, you're going to be mad.  I don't know if there was debris out there or not.  I was frustrated, but all the guys who were the beneficiary of that weren't frustrated.  It's just the nature of the beast           
The one thing I have learned over the last two or three weeks, and it really kind of puts it all into reality, is there has to be a judge.  There has to be somebody making those decisions, and there has to be somebody who's going to say, Yep, there's debris on the track.  I see it and there it is.  And if this car is illegal or that car is illegal, here's the penalty, here's that.           

It took me -- after the whole Kyle Busch thing and the penalty, it took me a couple weeks to get over that.  I was really frustrated and I had a good conversation with Mike and that part made sense to me and I understand, but it still doesn't keep me from getting frustrated.  If I don't see the debris, I'm going to be mad on the radio because we just went a lap down.  There has to be somebody making the calls, and I'm glad I don't have to make them.            

Q.  For Gil, at the end of the race, how much did you pay attention to what problems other teams might have and were you hoping that Kevin would get an opportunity to race to the end without a caution?  Did you think something might happen?           

GIL MARTIN:  Well, I really was because of the fact we watched for the last 40 laps the lap times that some of those guys were running, and knowing that I felt like we got some of the best gas mileage all night long of anybody because there was a lot times when we could have gone a lot further than we went.           

And those guys were talking before the flag even came out that they were going to be three or four laps short, and they were setting the pace at 29.70 and 29.80 and we were running 30.80 and I knew at that point they had pretty given up that they weren't going to be able to make it and they were hoping that caution was going to come out and they would get to pit and it would have cycled right on down the road.           

But the pace that they set and they tried 25 laps later to start saving fuel, I knew they were dead in the water at that point because they extended their self too far early.            

Q.  Kevin, obviously, you're not going to give away any wins, but you've had to endure long losing streaks in the past.  How do you feel for Dale Jr., him being so close to snapping his long losing streak and then losing it right at the end?           

KEVIN HARVICK:  I feel like complete crap, to tell you the truth.  Man, when I saw that thing slowing down, I was like, I really want to win the race, but why can't it be on a day when we're running bad or have something going wrong.           

I think everybody sitting up here would say we want the 88 to win and they're so close to winning and both times they had a chance to win.  We are going to do what we have to do to win the races, and today it all just worked out strategy-wise that we won the race.  But I feel so stinking bad for him, and I know how bad he wants it.  But it's -- it'll happen.  They keep running like that, it'll happen.           

Q.  Kevin, you talked about the chemistry this team has.  When did that begin?  Was that during the Chase last year?  Was it during the off-season, coming into this season, and do you guys feed off of this new closer label that you've sort of garnered this year?           

KEVIN HARVICK:  I think the chemistry part of it, I really think the beginning of last year when everybody was so wound up in the contract stuff and Gil was kind of the ringleader of we're going to go out and we're going to race and we're going to concentrate on racing and we're going to do this and do that.           

And he just corralled everybody and the next thing you know, everybody was on the same page and all that stuff was over with.  Then the extra effort he put it at the beginning of the year to make sure everybody was on the same page, all of a sudden when Richard and I made everything official and put it all out there and told everybody what we were going to do, everybody was already on the same page.  And then everybody was like, Oh, all right.  Everybody was at peace with that.          

But everybody was already getting along and understood who each other was, and these guys had been together for a long time.  I really think the beginning of last year was when that really fell into place.           

GIL MARTIN:  Well, I mean, it does work like that way because I came to RCR in 2000 and I had the opportunity to come into the Busch shop then, the Nationwide shop now, and when Kevin was driving for the AC/Delco car, and I got to work hand in hand with that group and with Kevin through that whole season.  And I think through 2002 we won at Chicago basically the same kind of race like that in a Goodwrench car.           

So myself, I've had pretty good chemistry with Kevin the whole time because I've watched his driving style and everything else, and no matter where he goes with his -- if he gets mad or whatever has happened through the years, I've learned to deal with it.  It doesn't bother me.           

And I think all these guys have learned the same thing, that we can sit up in the lounge and we can throw punches and take them pretty easily with each other and nobody gets offended, and that's what it's all about, because this sport is so much about feelings and everybody wearing their feelings on their shoulders.  Then one of you interview one of us and say, This one said that and you got mad on the radio and Kevin thought the car was terrible and what are you going to do.  Well, this was one of those nights, and we just worked our way through it.           

Basically, he has a right when we come here to Charlotte where we have it run bad.  We basically haven't given him a very good car because he obviously can get it done here, and that's the stuff that we're working on because the chemistry end of it is where we need it.  I mean, I don't know what else you can say about it.  It's working pretty good right now.  I like it.            

Q.  This is more a question for Richard.  With that last lap crash or second to last lap crash, you had a car that was actually involved in it.  There was no yellow flag thrown for it.  Were you concerned that there should have been a caution thrown, or did you understand the reasoning, that because of the fact that all the cars were off the track that it was clear to go green?           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Well, I didn't see it.  There wasn't any other cars in danger at the time when Jeff got -- I think he got hit from behind.  I was actually watching the front and didn't see really what happened.           

But I watched to see if he got going, and I was hoping he would get going because we didn't need a green-white checkered.  NASCAR, like Kevin said, somebody had to be the judge, and they let it go.  Then I seen Jimmie blow up, and I said something -- I can't say what I said, but I said something, and anyway, it worked out for the better of us tonight.  29 Budweiser is here in the Winner's Circle.            

Q.  I heard you say while you were in victory lane, and I know you explained that this track has been a struggle for you, but you were saying something like it's not your style, it's not how you run on this track.  Can you explain what your style is and what you run better at?           

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, it's kind of like -- I guess it would be kind of like the way you dress.  I don't really have a style because I don't really have any style at all.  I have no rhythm.  I have no style whatsoever.           

I wish I could explain that to you, but it's just a -- I finally got it somewhat figured out before they repaved the racetrack, and with this particular type of asphalt and everything, the way that the corners are and the way you have to use the throttle, we fight a lot of the things constantly, tight into the corner, and it used to be you couldn't feel the side of the car and didn't feel like it had enough bite and side bite.  We don't fight that anymore.         

But with this new style car, it's pretty much been just tight into the corner, and I think we've overcome a lot of that to where we can run 7th to 12th, and that was a huge step for us.  I think tonight we were easily able to do that.  But that 5th to 1st part of it is just going to be taking that next step.  We'll figure it out.  We've figured everything else out, and they can't take the trophy away from us, so we have won here.            

Q.  You may have mentioned this earlier.  I'm not quite sure.  Did somebody tell you that Jr. was out of gas or did you see him around the corner or how did you find out?           

KEVIN HARVICK:  Spotter was going nuts.  He's like, 88 is out of gas, keep going.  I'm like, Well, I'm not going to let off.  What do you want me to do?  I'm going as hard as I can go.  At that point he had told me just to go.  I didn't need to save.  I saw the 11 wiggling coming off of 2.  I knew he was out of gas.  All of a sudden 88 just shut off.  They must have sucked every drop out of the fuel cell.  I had just passed the 11 and as he went into 3 you could see it just shut off and he was dead in the water.            

Q.  Kevin, not to beat a dead horse, but to follow up on the previous lady's question, I haven't ever heard you say I hate Kansas or I hate Texas or I hate Atlanta, so what is different in the other mile-and-a-halfs that you can't seem to put your arms around here in Charlotte?           

KEVIN HARVICK:  I wish I knew.  I wish we knew.  You know, really, I would say that the 31 has probably been the best car that we've had over the years, even when Skinner was driving.  I think the 31 has always been the best car, and he just likes the racetrack.  I think maybe I just need to have a better attitude.  I don't know.  I think a better attitude might go a long ways.           

But over the last couple years it's gotten better.  I don't know.  I wish I knew.  I guess --            

Q.  You have won the All-Star Race and you have won the Coke 600 now.           

KEVIN HARVICK:  I just need to have a better attitude.           

GIL MARTIN:  If anybody has a couch with them we'll put him on it and talk about it right now.  (Laughter.)            

Q.  You've only led nine laps in your three wins.  Can you talk a little bit about the emotions of making those last passes and kind of fill us in on that?           

KEVIN HARVICK:  That sounds like a three-lap average per race.  We're doing good.           

You know, at Martinsville and California -- California I really knew coming to the white flag I knew what I wanted to do because the year before I had given the race away coming to the white flag.  Martinsville our car just came on strong, and it all just played out and we were able to capitalize with a fast car there at the end.           

And today you just -- when you have a strategy race, I mean, we were going to -- I think we were running 7th there at the end of the race before that last caution came out.  I just thought when they told us we were a lap and a half short I just looked up there and I saw those guys and I could hear in the tone of everybody's voice that they were just racing too hard, and I think it's really not -- I've never been a guy that's led a bunch of laps.  We've always been around at the end and we've never just -- I mean, we've had a lot of days where we've gone out and dominated but just not an astronomical amount of days where we're going to go out and lead a bunch of laps.           

It's one of those deals where you get toward the end of the race and I feel like we can take the car to another level and we always have something left, we always have race car left, we always have brakes left.  I guess that's kind of the way I was taught to race.  I was always taught to race, save everything you had, keep all the fenders on it, and then when it's time to go, whatever you've got to do, you've got to do.  You've got to be there at the end to make something happen.  It's just never been our style to lead a bunch of laps.            

Q.  Obviously this wasn't a typical Charlotte race for you because you've never won a points race here, but did it seem like -- was it a different kind of race before that?  Did it seem different from your perspective overall because it seemed like it was one of the best races in recent memory.           

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, it was crazy.  I mean, there was just -- with the way that the cautions fell, with all the pit strategy, and I mean, I'm a firm believer if we weren't sitting here with two races won already and the strategy that we played with, the next to the last pit stop coming with only 30 laps left to our pit window, we would have pitted.  I might be wrong but we would have pitted.  But the way the pit strategy has been at Dover, has been at Darlington and you've seen these races won, you've got to be aggressive because if you're not, somebody else is.  We've talked about that, and two or three times tonight we made pit calls that we wouldn't normally make.           

Gil is very aggressive, but I think tonight we took it to another level as far as the aggressiveness of staying on the racetrack and putting two tires on and just doing things that aren't normal for us that were a little bit outside the box.  But it seems like over the past couple weeks you've got to be more aggressive and you've got to take more chances if you're going to win.  You can finish 7th or 8th, but if you're going to win the race you're going to have to take some chances when all the cautions start coming out.           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Like Kevin said, at this point we can be a lot more aggressive.  Three wins should put you in the Chase.  If it don't, something's wrong.  And that's what we had talked about earlier is it's time to take some chances, and that's what it's going to take to win.  Gil made some great calls tonight, and we're proud to be here with these guys.            

Q.  Richard, with a half a lap to go, one laugh to go, whatever, in your heart, and I know how much the Earnhardts mean to you, were you even halfway starting to celebrate maybe a Dale Earnhardt, Jr., win?           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  With about ten to go, I went to the condo, and I said, I don't think we've got much of a chance to win, so I'm going to beat traffic.  It's a good thing I was up there because I got to talk to the 27.  I could see some things going on that I wouldn't have seen down here.         

But yeah, like Kevin said it earlier, we all want to see Dale Jr. win but not at our expense.  When I see him come down the back stretch, I said, Dale is going to win this race, and then all of a sudden when I heard our spotter start screaming, I said, hell, we're going to win it.  Great.           

We all want to see Dale Jr. win.  Like Kevin said, he's going to win his races, and I'll be the first one there to congratulate him because I am an Earnhardt fan at heart, no doubt.  But I pull for my guys and I want to see them win, and I'm really proud of everybody on this Budweiser team for what they did, and Junior will win.            

Q.  Kevin, looking at your racing résumé, you've had the Daytona 500, you've had the Brickyard, now you've got the 600.  What does it mean to have this race on your résumé, and what do you still hope to accomplish in the future?           

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, this is a huge accomplishment for us to be honest with you, for me and the team and everybody.  We've been at this for ten years now.  Just every time we've come here, just nothing has really went our way.  I've struggled, so just to be in position to win the race was an accomplishment for us tonight.  But to know the history, to know how much Charlotte -- the Charlotte area means to this sport, to know all the families and the teams and everything is here for NASCAR racing means a lot.  And I mean, that thing will sit right next to those particular trophies and mean just as much as those trophies because this is a hell of a race to win.  I mean, this is a 600-mile marathon that not very many people get to experience the chance to win here.           

We're going to celebrate it like it's our last one, because it might be.  You never know.


 
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Posted on: May 30, 2011 12:55 am
Edited on: May 30, 2011 9:23 am
 

Coca-Cola 600 Speed Read

By Pete Pistone



COCA-COLA 600 RACE REVIEW

After the day’s dramatic ending to the Indianapolis 500 the question was what could NASCAR do for an encore? 

Well Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 provided a thrilling answer to the fireworks that decided the 100th Anniversary running of the 500. 

In fact it was nearly identical.

A last lap, last turn pass for the win when disaster struck the leader decided the outcome of both races. 

And the unfortunate victims shared sponsorship from the National Guard. 

COMPLETE COCA-COLA 600 RESULTS

While it was J.R. Hildebrand who suffered the agony of defeat at The Brickyard, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the victim in Charlotte

Dan Wheldon was the beneficiary in Indy while Kevin Harvick continued to build his reputation as NASCAR’s top closer in the 600. 

But even Harvick knew what was at stake for NASCAR’s perennial Most Popular Driver and perhaps the sport itself. 

The one sure way NASCAR could have taken the spotlight away from the unbelievable story that unfolded at Indy was to have Earnhardt Jr. in victory lane. 

“I feel like complete crap, to tell you the truth,” said Harvick.  “Man, when I saw that thing slowing down, I was like, I really want to win the race, but why can't it be on a day when we're running bad or have something going wrong. 

“I think everybody sitting up here would say we want the 88 to win and they're so close to winning and both times they had a chance to win.  We are going to do what we have to do to win the races, and today it all just worked out strategy-wise that we won the race.  But I feel so stinking bad for him, and I know how bad he wants it.”

If you think Harvick feels bad, put yourself in the shoes of the legion of fans that make up Junior Nation. 

Or better yet crew chief Steve Letarte, who is looking more and more like the savior Earnhardt needed to resurrect his Sprint Cup career and get things headed in the right direction after nearly three years of frustration. 

If you don’t believe that to be true, just listen to Earnhardt himself. 

“To be honest, I know there will be disappointment about coming so close tonight but our fans should be real happy about how we are performing and how we are showing up at the race track,” said a surprisingly upbeat Junior given the turn of events Sunday night. 

“How competitive we are. We've definitely improved things and we want to keep getting better and better. I think they are pleased with our efforts and pleased with the results so far this year and I'll be the first to admit we need more, but this is going in the right direction. I felt like a true front-runner tonight.”

 

RISERS 

David Ragan 

He was the favorite of many to be the next first-time winner on Sunday after his string of recent runs and win in the Showdown last week at Charlotte. And he came very close to proving those predictions true with a nice performance that ended up in a second place finish among all the last lap madness. 

Joey Logano 

While his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates were dealing with possible engine issues (Denny Hamlin) and spinning out (Kyle Busch), Logano turned in a much-needed third place finish. Charlotte’s been a good track for Logano in his Sprint Cup career and he’s beginning to show some of the life that was on display at the end of last season. 

A.J. Allmendinger 

Behind Ragan for first time winner picks, Allmendinger brought the storied Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 home to a fifth place finish Sunday night. But it wasn’t easy. Perserverance was the operative word for Allmendinger who stayed at it through a night of challenges to knock down the Top 5 finish.

 

FALLERS 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

The end of his nearly three-year winless drought was in sight until the No. 88 Chevrolet ran out of fuel heading out of turn four to the finish line. Although he held on to finish seventh, it had to feel like a giant punch in the gut to Earnhardt and Junior Nation. 

Kyle Busch

Looked well on his way to following up his controversial week and the speeding penalty heard ‘round the world with his first Sprint Cup Series win at Charlotte. But once the sun went down Busch seemed to lose handling and a pair of spins the second of which included a trip into the wall ended his night. 

Jimmie Johnson 

His new-found Charlotte Motor Speedway misery continued Sunday with a blown engine and a 28th place finish. It didn’t help matters when FOX caught crew chief Chad Knaus using the most colorful language imaginable to describe the turn of events.

 

RADIO WAVES 

(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs) 

“Tell the 99 if I get to his bumper I'm going to turn him sideways like he did to me. That's how we'll race.” – A.J. Allmendinger

"It started shaking, and one second later, it was, 'Boom.'" – Jamie McMurray on his engine failure

"As our season's gone, I can't even tell you what to expect next." – Kurt Busch

"We come here to try to win it, that's all we do." – Steve Letarte

 

RACE RATING 

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 a five. After the opening act in the Indianapolis 500 set the bar so high on this giant day of racing it was questionable how the 600 could possibly come close to the drama at The Brickyard. But darn if the race didn’t basically mirror “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Lots of drama, a long and grueling afternoon and evening, fuel strategy then wham – fireworks at the end of the night with a last lap pass for the win.

 

DOWN THE ROAD 

For the first time in its eleven-year history Kansas Speedway will host two Sprint Cup Series races this season with next Sunday’s STP 400 the opening act for the track’s pair of NASCAR weekends. Last October’s Chase was proved to be a memorable one with payback and championship implications. It will be interesting to see what the inaugural summer trip to the Heartland will bring.
 

 
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Posted on: May 28, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Charlotte Happy Hour to Reutimann

Posted by Pete Pistone

Former Coca-Cola 600 winner David Reutimann led the weekend's final practice session Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway as team's ready for Sunday's longest race of the Sprint Cup Series season:


COCA-COLA 600 FINAL PRACTICE 


 
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Posted on: May 28, 2011 4:56 pm
Edited on: May 28, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Menard tops Saturday practice

Posted by Pete Pistone


Paul Menard may have injured his foot earlier in the week but the Richard Childress Racing driver was still fast behind-the-wheel leading Saturday's first Sprint Cup Series practice session at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


COCA-COLA 600 PRACTICE SESSION TWO


 
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Posted on: May 26, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 9:19 pm
 

Coca-Cola 600 race preview

By Pete Pistone




COCA-COLA 600 PREVIEW 

It’s still debatable whether Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 is bigger in stature than the Indianapolis 500. 

But one thing is for certain – it’s a lot longer. 

An additional 100 miles may not seem like much, but the extra distance has often made the difference between a driver getting to victory lane and ending his night in the garage. 

Engine issues, mechanical problems and pit road miscues all have a knack of popping up in the final stages of the traditional Memorial Day weekend race. 

“It is a long race,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. “It is fun and it is challenging. Those last 100 miles can be pretty tough on you, more mentally than physically. Real tough mentally to stay focused for that long. 

"You might remain a little more relaxed early in the race. If things aren’t progressing like you would want, you might be a little more calm knowing that the race is longer. You have time to turn it around. It is a real long event. Plenty of things can happen and you can reverse your fortune and have plenty of time to get a good finish." 

Some drivers have a tendency to forget just how long the event is until they hit 500 miles. In reality, that’s usually when the race is just getting started. 

“Once you get past that 500-mile mark, that’s when things get interesting,” said Carl Edwards, who is hoping to pull off a May Charlotte sweep and follow-up his Sprint All-Star Race win of a week ago with a trip to victory lane Sunday night. 

“And what really makes it interesting is how the race ends under the lights after we start in the heat of the sun. It takes a lot of adjusting and dealing with the handling issues which change so drastically over the course of the race.” 

Kurt Busch, who has been struggling in the last few weeks after starting the season off so well in Daytona, knows just what a successful May can mean to the rest of the season. The Penske Racing driver pulled off the Charlotte double a year ago and looks to the accomplishment as a turning point in his season. 

But Busch says that boost doesn’t last forever. 

“That was special,” Busch said. “It gave us some momentum for June and July; you can’t hold on to that performance forever. You have to continue to post results and that’s what we need to do - get back to that same style of the car having that feel in it. We need solid pit stops and be a solid threat in the top-five every week."   

 

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Track Size: 1.5-miles 

Race Length: 600 miles 

Banking/Frontstretch: 5 degrees 

Banking/Corners: 24 degrees

 

Qualifying/Race Data 

2010 pole winner: Ryan Newman (187.546 mph, 28.793 seconds) 

2010 race winner: Kurt Busch (144.966 mph, 05-30-10) 

Track qualifying record: Elliott Sadler (193.216 mph, 27.948 seconds, 10-13-05) 

600-mile race record: Bobby Labonte (151.952 mph, 05-28-95)

 

Race Facts

There have been 104 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, two races per year since the track opened in 1960. In 1961, there were two 100-mile qualifying points races held the week before the May race. The first six fall races at Charlotte were 400-mile events (1960-65).        

37 drivers have posted poles, led by David Pearson with 14.        

Fireball Roberts won the pole for the first race, in 1960.       

David Pearson posted 11 straight poles at Charlotte from the fall of 1973 through 1978.        

Ryan Newman leads all active drivers in poles, with nine. Jeff Gordon has eight.        

Jeff Gordon won five straight poles for the spring races between 1994 and 1998.        

43 drivers have won races, led by Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson, with six each.        

Joe Lee Johnson won the first race, in 1960.        

There have been 13 back-to-back victories, including three consecutive by Fred Lorenzen (fall 1964 and both 1965) and four straight by Jimmie Johnson (both in 2004 and 2005).        

A sweep has occurred eight times, including each season from 2004-2007.        

14 races have been won from the pole, the last by Jimmie Johnson (October 2009).        

Jimmie Johnson won the 2003 Coca-Cola 600 from the 37th starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started.        

Joey Logano is one of two drivers with more than two Charlotte races to average top-10 finishes (8.5); Jimmie Johnson is the other, with an average finish of 9.8.        

A number of active drivers earned their first win at CMS: Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears and David Reutimann. Inactive drivers David Pearson, Buddy Baker and Charlie Glotzbach also got their first series win at Charlotte.

 

Who’s Hot at Charlotte 

Carl Edwards – His overall statistics may not be the best at Charlotte but nobody has more momentum coming into Sunday’s race than Edwards. His dominating win in last Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race makes Edwards the favorite Sunday as he tries to duplicate the sweep of both races turned in a year ago by Kurt Busch. Edwards did have two finishes outside the Top 10 last year at Charlotte but that was an eternity ago. 

Jimmie Johnson – While Charlotte hasn’t lived up to its name in recent years Johnson still considers the track his house. Winning eight times in your Sprint Cup career will do that to a driver and although he hasn’t visited victory lane since 2009, Johnson looked strong in the All-Star Race and will carry that into the 600. 

Kyle Busch  – He’s won in everything at Charlotte except a Sprint Cup car but has a very good chance at ending that drought on Sunday. Another driver who was solid in the all-star outing, Busch brings a string of seven straight Top 10 finishes into the 600.

 

Who’s Not 

Juan Pablo Montoya – Charlotte has not been the best track for Montoya during his Sprint Cup career. He has one Top 10 finish in eight starts and has racked up a less than impressive 27.6 average finish. 

Marcos Ambrose – Another road racing standout who has struggled to make the transition to the Charlotte mile and a half oval. Ambrose has been able to muster only a 16th place as his best finish in four Cup outings. 

Paul Menard – The Richard Childress Racing driver will make his first Charlotte start for the team in Sunday’s 600 and comes off a nice run in the All-Star Race. Menard only has one Top 10 in eight starts and a 23.9 average finish.

 

Notebook 

Construction began on Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1959.       

The track’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 19, 1960.        

The track was repaved midseason in 1994.       

The track name changed from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 1999. It changed back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the 2010 season.

The track was re-paved again before the 2006 season.

There have been 512 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in North Carolina. 

 
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Posted on: May 26, 2011 8:44 pm
 

Keselowski takes Charlotte Pole

Posted by Pete Pistone


COCA-COLA 600 STARTING LINE-UP


Brad Keselowski
scored his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole when he grabbed the top spot for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Keselowski's teammate Kurt Busch won the race a year ago in the Miller Lite Dodge the defending Nationwide Series champion will pilot in Sunday's longest race of the NASCAR season. A.J. Allmendinger and last week's Sprint All-Star race winner Carl Edwards rounded out the top three qualifiers.


 
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