Harvick Steals One At Richmond

Race winner Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Kevin Harvick burns it down after winning the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

4/28/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Kevin Harvick stole the show at Richmond to win his first race of the 2013 season. Ironically the Toyota Owners 400 would be won by a Chevrolet! Harvick was nowhere to be found until the last stretch of the race where he ran down race leader Juan Pablo Montoya who was trying to end a 94 race winless streak. Harvick led all of three laps en route to victory lane.

Harvick ended up benefitting from the drivers that took older tires. The drivers that pitted got bottled up behind the three drivers that stayed out and Harvick slipped by those three to win. Harvick bumped himself up into the top 10 in the points standings with his win.

Matt Kenseth led the most laps last night with 140, followed by Clint Bowyer who would finish 2nd and lead 113 laps. Juan Pablo Montoya who led late until the final caution led 67 and the only other significant lap leader was Kurt Busch with 36.

The race got really interesting when the #11 car of Brian Vickers slapped the wall to setup a green white checkered finish. What absolutely blew me away with this race is that more drivers did not stay out on the final restart to gain track position. Three drivers with older tires stayed out and after the leaders pit, these drivers had tires that were 60 laps older than the leaders. Track position is so important with only two laps to go and the decision on the parts of the crew chiefs to bring their drivers to pit road could have destroyed their chances at winning and that ended up happening to Juan Pablo Montoya.

Juan Pablo Montoya was in the lead and came out 6th after the stop. He would end up finishing 4th but the caution at the end essentially ruined his night. This race really hurts for him because he was trying to end a 94 race winless streak and get his first win on an oval.

Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch got into after the race and Kurt Busch was also upset with Matt Kenseth. Kurt Busch got into Tony Stewart and nearly wrecked Stewart. Stewart then fell back and finished 18th. After that Kenseth bumped Kurt Busch out of the groove coming to the checkered flag and finished 7th and Busch finished 9th. Busch then rammed Kenseth in the back bumper. Kurt Busch has had a history of run-ins with drivers and easily loses his temper so it was no surprise to see him go crazy last night!

Make sure to tune in next week as the drama continues at the Talladega Superspeedway. The track is notorious for “the big one” where multiple cars wreck at dangerously high speeds. Im going to go out on a limb here and say that Jeff Gordon is going to steal the show with a last lap pass. Adios Nascar fans and I’ll have more insight going into the race weekend!

The fall finish at Talladega last year!!

Flawless Victory For Matt Kenseth At Kansas

4/21/2013

By: Billy Tewes

The #20 Car of Matt Kenseth became the 3rd repeat winner of the 2013 season taking home the STP 400 at the Kansas Speedway. Kenseth was extremely fast all weekend as he set a new track record in qualifying as well as being fastest in practice. Kenseth faced a staunch challenge from Kasey Kahne as it was deja vu all over again. Kahne stalked Kenseth at Las Vegas earlier this year and finished second today. Kenseth’s second victory at Kansas marked his 26th career victory.

The action was a plenty at the 1.5 mile track. Drivers like Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr and even rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all showed they had the ability to get to the lead and hold onto it. It was hard to gauge who was strong enough to win the race as there was 13 different lead changes. This race saw eight cautions which was a stark contrast from last falls race of 14 cautions. Last weeks winner Kyle Busch complained of a loose race car early on and eventually crashed out and collected Joey Logano in a hard hit down the track.

With 20 laps to go the action really heated up as Kasey Kahne began to chisel away at Kenseth’s lead. Kahne was roughly one second off Kenseth’s back bumper and slowly but surely closed in. Lapped traffic helped Kahne close the gap as Matt Kenseth had a difficult time passing the slower cars. Kasey Kahne got into the corners better than Kenseth, but Kenseth sped off the corners faster and that was just enough to keep Kahne at bay.

One driver appeared poised to win late in the race had a caution ruin his shot at victory. Ricky Stenhouse Jr and a handful of others were on a different pit sequence than the rest of the field. They were 13 laps short of the regular pit sequence. These drivers pitted on lap 162 whereas the rest of the field had pitted at lap 175. This caused a problem for Stenhouse Jr when it came down to what would be his final pit stop. Stenhouse Jr came to pit road and completed his stop but the caution came out and he went a lap down. Stenhouse Jr got the free pass as he as the first car a lap down but there wasn’t enough time for him to challenge for the win and he would finish 11th.

Nascar heads to Richmond for the first night race at a short track. Night racing at short tracks is always exciting and there is bound to be a lot of close racing and more than likely a lot of crashes. Last year’s winners at Richmond were Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch. Toyota has had a stranglehold on Richmond winning 7 of the last 8 races. So look for the Toyota teams to be up front next week and all of the excitement that Richmond brings!

Shoot To Thrill! Kyle Busch Runs Roughshod At Texas

4/14/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Kyle Busch was back in victory lane after having a flawless night in his Interstate Batteries Camry. The NRA 500 came down to a battle off pit road between Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Busch. Busch’s team jumped him up one stop but that didn’t even matter because Kyle’s car was superior to Truex’s.  This win marks Busch’s first win at the Texas Motor Speedway and his second of the 2013 season.

Busch led 171 of the 334 laps and it was obvious from his new track record that he had a strong car all weekend. Busch also won the Nationwide Series race the night before in dominating fashion as well. The only other driver to come close to Busch’s level would be Martin Truex Jr who led 142 laps and was leading the race late until the final pit stop. It should be noted that Martin Truex Jr did however fail post race inspection for having the nose of his car too low which was not up to par with the inspection policies. Any penalties for this infraction will come later this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was docked some points and his crew chief might get suspended.

There weren’t a lot of drivers who could stick with Busch and Truex who combined led 313 of the 334 laps. One of the drivers that could hang with the cream of the crop was Jeff Gordon, but his day was ended on lap 306 with suspension issues.

The big story out of this weekend comes in two parts. It happened before and after the race was over. Before the race started, the Penske Racing cars of last years champion Brad Keselowski in the #2 Miller Lite Fusion and the #22 of Joey Logano failed pre race inspection for having rear end housing parts that Nascar ended up confiscating. Both ended up racing but Brad Keselowski was fired up after the race:

“The way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is absolute shameful. I feel like we’ve been targeted over the last seven days more than I’ve ever seen a team targeted in my life. My guys keep their heads on straight and they showcased why they’re a winning team and a championship team.”

I sure hope Brad is ready to open up his pocket book. Earlier this year Nascar fined Denny Hamlin for criticizing the generation six car. I would not be surprised to see them fine Keselowski for saying damaging things about the integrity of the sport. I don’t really know what is going on behind the scenes, but I believe he could have handled this much better by saying nothing than opening himself up to Nascar for fines.

My prediction of Matt Kenseth winning the NRA 500 fell short so now I am 0/2 since beginning this prediction segment. Kenseth and crew could not get front grip out of the car and he seemed to be tight off the corner so he could never make significant progress toward the front and would finish 12th. Next week is first of two spots at the Kansas Speedway which is the sister track to Las Vegas. I won’t pick Matt Kenseth again even though I think he’ll be strong like he was at Vegas. My pick instead will be Greg Biffle in the #16 Fusion to get his first victory of the season. Biffle’s won at Kansas twice and the Roush cars are historically strong at 1.5 mile tracks. There is always more excitement instore so stay tuned for the STP 400 post race wrap up!

A glimpse of the potential madness at Kansas!!

Martinsville Domination Jimmie Johnson Style

4/7/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Martinsville might have to be renamed “Jimmie Johnsonville” after Jimmie Johnson took home the Grandfather clock at this afternoon’s STP Gas Booster 500.  The mayhem at Martinsville was contained due in part to a dominating performance Johnson. Johnson led 347 of the 500 laps en route to his second win of the year and his 8th career win at Martinsville.

Johnson dominated this weekend from start to finish. Johnson took the pole position in qualifying Friday afternoon with a speed of 98.4 which was good enough for a brand new track record. Very few drivers were able to challenge Johnson and it seemed as if his car was on a rail all day long.

Early on, it seemed as if the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were going to be the dominating drivers. But after lap 363, Jimmie Johnson would prove to be too much to handle. Johnson and his #48 Lowes team were no lower than fourth position the entire 500 laps of the race. This comes as no surprise as I noted in my last blog, the Hendrick cars have always been extremely good at Martinsville.

Martinsville is generally a one lane race track. It is nearly impossible for drivers to pass and that caused trouble, especially when it came to flat tires. Drivers tried desperately to get to the bottom lane on restarts as well as when trying to pass another driver. In some instances, the cars would collide and one drivers’ fender would dig into the tire of the driver next to them. Drivers had to bump each other out of the way for position and that caused for a lot of beat up cars and dented hoods. This race was old school Martinsville at its finest!

Last week I mentioned that Dale Earnhardt Jr might win his first race of the year. Unfortunately for him, he would end up finishing 24th, worst of all the Hendrick cars. Johnson, Gordon and Kahne would finish first, third and fourth respectively. I also mentioned in last week’s blog that there had been five different winners this year. My thunder was completely ruined this week as Dale Earnhardt Jr did not win and Johnson became the first multi race winner.

I want to talk about one really cool thing that came out of Martinsville that I’ve never seen before. With 15 laps to go, Kurt Busch broke a brake line. The combination of the brake fluid spraying on the hot engine caused a huge engine fire. This video shows the accident and also shows that Kurt Busch reaches into his dash and pushes a button that triggers a fire extinguisher that is inside the engine compartment. This is a really neat feature that was designed with the generation six car that really shows how safety minded the engineers were when they built this car.

With Martinsville in the books, Nascar moves out West to the Texas Motor Speedway where high speeds will be the storyline. Texas Motor Speedway is a mile and a half track with high banked turns that allow drivers to hit over 200 MPH. Will Jimmie Johnson carry the momentum of winning this week into back to back victories? That is quite possible; however my pick for next week is going to be Matt Kenseth. Kenseth is coming off a disappointing finish at Martinsville after leading nearly 80 laps. Kenseth has won twice at Texas and he has truly found his way with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. He has already won at Las Vegas, a similar track and has won Texas twice in his career.

Matt Kenseth’s last victory at Texas in 2011.

Early Season Reflection; Update on Hamlin’s Condition

By: Billy Tewes

Happy Easter to all and welcome to my premature reflection of the 2013 Sprint Cup Season. What can we say that hasn’t already been said by the great competition on the track? Aside from Daytona, nearly every race has had a memorable finish and some sort of strategy employed to determine the victor. So with that being said, here are the three things that have been a pleasant surprise for me.

1. Generation six car

Nascar redesigned the car template for the 2013 season. Overall, I would give this car an A grade. The drivers love it and know that it is a few tweaks away from being competitive on all of the tracks. The look of the car is so much more visually appealing than that of the Car of Tomorrow. The car of tomorrow was Nascar’s attempt at making a safer car. The car was extremely safe, but it also came at the cost of an ugly boxy looking car. The 2013 generation six car looks closer to the street cars that manufacturers sell to us consumers and I think that is an important part of Motorsports. Nascar wants to build a big connection with their fans and what better way than to make them feel like they can drive the same cars that their favorite drivers race.

2. Five Different Winners

When I heard about a new stock car style with the generation six car, I kind of assumed that some teams would have greater competitive advantages than others. But so far, it seems like all three manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota) are on a level playing field. There have been five different drivers who have won in five races. Chevrolet has won two, Toyota has won two and Ford has won one. Matt Kenseth almost broke that trend at Bristol but was wrecked out by Jeff Gordon’s flat tire. I think this is a great indication for the generation six car and who knows, maybe we’ll go up to ten races with ten different winners!

3. Strategy

Strategy has always been an important aspect of Nascar. Teams are not familiar with the brand new generation six car when it comes to older tires and different adjustments. I am very surprised to see teams who are racing for wins take risks such as not taking tires or only take two tires to get in the top spot. I think with the generation six car, we are seeing how valuable clean air is. Clean air is when the first place driver has no cars in front of them and have a clean air flow and generally have a better advantage speed wise. Its just shocking to see drivers like Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano on older tires actually being as fast or faster than the drivers who have four fresh tires. It is a true testament to how good this generation six car is and that we can expect some great racing to come!

With all that being said, we are on to Martinsville, the paper clip in Virginia! Much like Bristol, this track is known for short tempers. The track is the shortest distance wise on the cup schedule at .526 miles. The flatness of the track, combined with the fact that generally the only way to pass someone is to bump them out of the way is the reason this place is so chaotic.

Denny Hamlin has won three of the last seven Martinsville races but will sidelined for the next five races due to a compression fracture in his back. With that being said I think Dale Earnhardt Jr could get his first win of the season at Martinsville. The point leader nearly won this race last year but Kevin Harvick passed him late to win. The Hendrick cars are always competitive at Martinsville so it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the four (Earnhardt Jr, Gordon, Johnson, Kahne) could take home the trophy. Until next time, adios and God speed Nascar fans!

A Gift Wrapped Win For Busch; Hamlin Airlifted to Hospital

A Gift Wrapped Win For Busch; Hamlin Airlifted to Hospital

3/25/2013

By: Billy Tewes

In order to take home the trophy for the Auto Club 400, drivers had to survive a twelve lap dash to the finish. Kyle Busch and Joey Logano battled for six of the final twelve laps, until Denny Hamlin challenged the two for the lead with six to go.

What would happen next could not be scripted by the best of writers. With five to go, Joey Logano in the #22 AAA Fusion would be nose to tail with Denny Hamlin’s #11 Fed Ex Camry as both drivers passed race leader Kyle Busch. Denny Hamlin had four fresh tires whereas Joey Logano only took two right side tires. This is signficant because generally speaking four tires grip the track better than two and Hamlin was able to catch the leaders at a much quicker pace. The two battled it out until the final lap where things got really crazy really quick!

Entering turn four, Joey Logano drove the low lane and slid up into Denny Hamlin in the top lane with both losing control of their cars. Logano hit the top wall and continued on to finish 3rd,  while Hamlin spun down the track and hit the infield wall head on. Kyle Busch was stalking the two and just managed to sneak by before they wrecked and won the race.

Denny Hamlin would have to be airlifted to the hospital after his hard hit. Hamlin got out of his car at first, but collapsed shortly after while being attended to by the infield medical crew. Hamlin was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure and appears he will be ok.

The intensity of this race escalated with the final restart being the key to the mayhem. Joey Logano was wrecked last week by Denny Hamlin at Bristol and vowed he would pay him back.

Joey Logano’s post-race quote does not help his cause, but I think what he said will be taken out of context. Here is the quote:

”He probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week, so that’s what he gets,”

That definitely sounds like someone seeking payback, but hang on a second. I have always believed that people say things they do not mean in the heat of the moment. Logano had a microphone shoved in his face within minutes of the incident and was still upset about losing the race and wrecking his car.

The incident itself was not payback; however it will certainly be misconstrued as Logano intentionally trying to wreck Hamlin. For starters, drivers top 200 MPH entering the turns at California and it is very dangerous to intentionally wreck someone here. Also, Logano and Hamlin were racing for the win and Logano slid into Hamlin and wrecked both of them. If he really wanted to intentionally wreck Hamlin, he would have done it in a way that would have only wrecked Hamlin’s car and not himself in the process.

This race ended in such a crazy fashion that it aboslutely overshadowed Kyle Busch’s dominating performance. Kyle Busch led all but 75 of the 200 laps at California. When all is said and done, this race proved that drivers weren’t afraid to race side by side with each other. This race was hands down an instant classic and one of the best at California, which is generally a snooze fest. The generation six car is becoming extremely competitive and there have been some fantastic finishes so far.

Nascar is off next weekend so look forward to my extremely pre mature review of the first six races of the season.

Kyle Busch Celebrates His 25th Career Sprint Cup Win at California Motor Speedway

Kahne Wins the Crashfest 500

3/18/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Just as expected, the drivers put on a show at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Food City 500 trophy belongs to Kasey Kahne. Kahne won his first race of the season as well as first career race at Bristol. Kahne finished runner up to Matt Kenseth last week at Vegas after having the dominant car, but the real race winner might have been wrecked out of the race with nearly 100 laps to go.

Jeff Gordon was leading the race and facing mounting pressure from Matt Kenseth. Jeff Gordon’s pit crew decided to take left side tires only when the rest of the field took four tries. Jeff Gordon’s right side tires had 154 laps on them and on lap 391 as he sailed into turn 3, his right rear tire cut and sent him hard into the wall. Gordon would end up collecting Matt Kenseth, as he was right on his back bumper at the time. Many will question why Gordon’s team put him out there for so long as tire failure had been a noteworthy issue throughout the day.  Kenseth had a great car and it looked as if he was a serious threat for winning back to back races and was a participant of unfortunate luck.

Matt Kenseth was one of the only drivers who could consistently drive the bottom lane of the track with success. I continue to reference the generation six car as a test for the sport.  Nascar is hoping we see good racing, but it has been a challenge for drivers when it comes to these shorter tracks. Bristol proved to us today that drivers preferred one lane and that was the top. This is due to the newly designed progressive banking that was reconfigured for this year.

They call it “progressive” because the degrees of banking increase from bottom to top. Tracks like Phoenix and Las Vegas feature this style of banking. Tracks that get a reconfiguration packages usually end up with progressive banking as it supposedly allows for more passing. As of 2013, the bottom lane at Bristol is 26 degrees and the top features 30 degrees of banking. Before the reconfiguration  Bristol had 36 degrees of banking from top to bottom. Instead of having to bump a driver out of the way, drivers are supposed to be able to pass on the top or the bottom. Ironically now they are only running the top line, something we won’t see next week at California.

California will yield better racing than the short tracks. The generation six car performed much better at Las Vegas, so I have a good feeling we will see more passing. It seems as if only a few drivers have really grasped the generation six car early in the season. Look for Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne to be front runners at California. I could be wrong though, as there have been four different winners in four races this season!

View of Auto Club Speedway in California from a jet fighter!

Kenseth Wins A Thriller In Vegas

3/11/2013

By: Billy Tewes

The Silent Assassin was in elite form today as Matt Kenseth held off a mounting charge from the #5 car of Kasey Kahne. Kenseth took home his 3rd Las Vegas trophy after leading 42 laps. The Wisconsin native would win his 25th career race on his 41st birthday; which would also be a first at Joe Gibbs Racing!

Matt Kenseth’s skill as a driver was the main reason he came home the victor. Matt Kenseth started 18th and methodically worked his way through the field to reach the top 5. The final stretch of the race saw Kenseth on much older tires than the rest of the competition. Kenseth held off a strong challenge from Kasey Kahne who led 114 laps prior to giving up the lead to Kenseth. It seemed as if Kahne was going to blow past Kenseth after the final stop, but Kenseth held on just long enough to take home the victory. For nearly 30 laps, Kasey Kahne was no further than a car length away from Kenseth’s back bumper. Talk about tight racing! Strategy would be an integral part in Kenseth’s team putting him in position to win.

On the final pit stop of the day Kenseth took fuel only, while most of the field took at least two tires. The #20 team rolled the dice, knowing that other drivers would have fresher tires. Just like last week, pit crew strategy put a driver in the prime spot to win the race. Fortunately for Kenseth, his car handled better than many other drivers who complained about ill handling race cars throughout the day.

Even though drivers complained about loose handling race cars, the aero push drivers experienced the last two weeks was not as significant. Clint Bowyer started 2nd and dropped to 20th in the running order after telling his crew his car was loose. Loose is a handling condition where a driver accelerates through the turn and instead of going forward, slides the back tires. The car then slides up the track and if the driver doesn’t lift off the gas they might crash. Other drivers such as Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Danica Patrick got loose and slid up into the wall, finishing and 18th and 33rd respectively.

This video explains the two different handling situations drivers encounter throughout a race.

As I noted in my previous blog, Las Vegas would be another test for the new generation six car. Drivers passed with ease and the last 30 laps were absolutely worth watching even for people who do not like Nascar. The generation six car was designed for 1.5 mile tracks to generate better racing and more passing. The race itself was entertaining and we are starting to see the positive side of the freshly designed car.

Bristol Motor Speedway is next up on the Sprint Cup Schedule. The half mile coliseum of Nascar is the most exciting race and hardest ticket to get in all of Nascar. The track is notorious for accidents because of the high banked turns and the fact that drivers complete a lap in under 15 seconds! I’ve been to Bristol and if I chose one race to go to every year it would be Bristol Motor Speedway!

Bristol Motor Speedway in all of its glory!

Showdown in the Desert

Race winner Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing Ford celebrates

Showdown in the Desert: Subway Fresh Fit 500 Race Recap

By: Billy Tewes

3/5/2013

The second stop on the Nascar Sprint Cup Schedule takes us to the Phoenix International Raceway. Carl Edwards and his #99 Subway team would conquer the one mile oval and win a race for the first time in nearly two seasons! After starting 15th, Edwards came out of the gate slow, but by lap 120 cracked the top 5. On the final pit stop, Edwards’ pit crew had the fastest two tire stop and would leape from 4th to 1st. Edwards would then outlast 2013 Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson for the final 78 laps of the race. Edwards’ pit crew put him in position to win and that pit stop would be the difference maker for Edwards.

The big story line heading into Phoenix was how well the newly designed cars would handle at a downforce track (one-two mile ovals). In 2013, Nascar redesigned the car template (dubbed “generation 6 car”) so that the manufacturers could build cars that handled better and created better racing. Much like Daytona, the drivers continued to complain about an aero push when attempting to pass. Aero push is caused by a drastic change in air flow when one car approaches another and this push was key to the limited amount of passing at Phoenix. Drivers just couldn’t pass without sliding up the track and almost wrecking. The #18 car of Kyle Busch was a perfect example as he spun out trying to pass earlier on.

The surprise of the week happened a few days before the actual race. Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron’s Toyota was fastest in qualifying and started from the pole position. The 54 year old Martin is the second oldest driver to start from the pole position (oldest being Harry Gant). Martin couldn’t capitalize on his starting spot as he would end up finishing 21st. Traditional Nascar fans like myself take pride in seeing a 54 year old driver like Martin still succeed years after he once “retired” in 2005. I think Mark could possibly race until he’s 60. Now that would be something else!

As a race fan, I believe the Subway Fresh Fit 500 was worth watching. While there wasn’t a lot of passing, there was still a lot of close quarter racing and a lot to talk about after the race. Strategy clearly played a huge role in determining the outcome of this race as Carl Edwards essentially won the race via a great pit stop. I don’t think we can be too harsh on the newly designed car just yet as it is only the second race of the year. The car itself is a work in progress and will get better once teams begin to figure it out. Next week, the Sprint Cup Series goes to Las Vegas. The generation 6 car will face yet another crucial test as fans hope for more passing and better racing!