Truex to the 78, officially

Long rumored, finally confirmed. Expect an actual announcement on Tuesday the 22nd. No word on NAPA at all.

MWR down to 2 full time cars in 2014

From sbnation

The fallout from the biggest cheating scandal in NASCAR history continues, as Michael Waltrip Racing will downsize from three full-time teams to two for the 2014 Sprint Cup season.

Martin Truex Jr. and his crew chief have been told they are free to look for employment elsewhere officially.

Unofficially, they’ve been looking ever since the Richmond scandal.

Bad news for about 15% of the MWR staff who will not have a job in a month or two.

NAPA dropping sponsorship of MWR

Wow – big news. NAPA had agreed to a 3 year sponsorship extension of Martin Truex Jr. last year, but today they are announcing that they are ending their sponsorship this year.

‘NAPA believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR,’ NAPA said in a statement. ‘We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports.’

Once again, the guy who was not a part of the shenanigans gets penalized the most.

NASCAR really blew the call here. I think it’s becoming more clear that the call should have been to DQ Bowyer from the Chase, and figure out who should be in after that.

I think (but can’t be sure, because finding the points standings after Richmond, but before the points were reset is difficult), that Newman and Truex would have been in, and Gordon would still be looking in from the outside.

Then, if NASCAR was serious about the “quid pro quo” penalties on the 22 team, they could have also DQ’d Logano and put the next qualifying driver in, which would be Gordon. If they were serious about it.

Instead, NASCAR has created an unholy mess of things, and helped cost a top tier team their sponsorship. Does anyone think that NAPA would end their ties to MWR if the 55 team was in the chase and not tied into the cheating scandal, and instead the punishment was only handed out to the 15 and 55 teams?

Montoya to Penske… in Indy Car in 2014

Montoya to drive the #2 Team Penske Indy car next year, with teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves.

I guess AJ Allmendinger’s two lap one crashes at Detriot this year eliminated him from the ride.

Montoya should be really good over there, assuming he can get along with Helio and Will.

EDIT: choice quote from nbcsports.com

“Stunned shock” is probably the best way to describe the news Monday morning that Juan Pablo Montoya would move back to open-wheel racing in 2014, shifting from NASCAR to IndyCar and driving for Roger Penske.

Is there such a think as “un-stunned shock”? How about “stunned, but lacking in shock”?

Either way, the move back to open wheel is not news. The news is that he’s going to Ganassi rival Penske, and that he called off the Andretti deal. But still, not shocking or stunning, as far as I’m concerned.

Driver Swap

Last week, JTG Daugherty racing announced that they hired AJ Allmendinger to replace Bobby Labonte in the #47 Toyota for 4 or so races.

“We’ve kind of gone backward the last three years,” co-owner Brad Daugherty said. “We can’t exactly put a finger on it without being able to benchmark it against a second team. It’s really hard. He’s available, so we thought we’d stick him in there to see if he has a different perspective on what we’re doing and what we’re not doing.”

I don’t really see how Allmendinger, with his limited stock car experience, is going to provide better feedback than Labonte. Maybe “different” is all they were looking for. Unless they just got tired of mowing the grass.

Anyway, this week Labonte announced that he will now drive the #51 Chevy that Allmendinger recently vacated. So at least he’ll keep his streak of 703 consecutive starts alive.

It’ll be interesting to see who runs better during the races, and who actually manages to put together some decent finishes.

Jason Leffler

Quotes from the frontstretch.com

Who knows why, but all of a sudden we’re starting to see drivers passing away again. Dan Wheldon is killed in the IndyCar season finale in 2011. Tyler Morr dies after a crash at Auburndale in May 2012. Jeff Osborn lost his life in May 2012 as well. Tyler Wolf passes away at Calistoga in October 2012.

Jason Leffler was a racer. He’d race a Cup car or a motorized scooter. Like any driver, he had an ego, but he was also one of the nicest guys you could meet in the garage. He wore his hair the same way for years because his sponsor Great Clips wanted him to. He had some good rides and he had some crappy rides. He took what he could get because he loved to race. He only had three wins in the national touring series of NASCAR but he always ran like a sprint car driver, wide open and on the edge.

Jason Leffler is a sad reminder that racing will always be dangerous despite our best efforts. See the fans that were injured this year at Daytona and Charlotte.

Leffler can also serve as a reminder to be the best person you can be right now, because you don’t always get to chose your legacy.

Could have used a different picture

So Jeb Burton got his first truck win. But they could have picked a picture that didn’t highlight the empty stands.

Burton win empty stands

Keselowski’s team fined points and $, just like we thought

Kesleowski’s #2 Ford was found to be too low in post-race inspection, reportedly from a part that broke. Penske had already said that he would not appeal the penalty.

From jayski.com:

As a result of this violation, crew chief Paul Wolfe has been fined $25,000 and will remain on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. The team has also been docked six championship driver (Brad Keselowski) and six championship car owner (Roger Penske) points.

And as noted in our previously-recorded-but-not-yet-editied podcast, this was the exact same penalty applied to Martin Truex Jr.’s team earlier this year for the same violation.

Score one for NASCAR consistency. The scoreboard is something like 15 to 83643 (consistency vs. rule-of-the-moment), but at least it is something.

Server issues

Over the last couple of weeks, the web hosting company that I use for trackschmak has been migrating all accounts to new server hardware.

I’d already had issues with the RSS feed used by iTunes to get the podcasts published, but this server move broke it entirely. I’m working on an alternate solution (if only it were as simple as installing pod press and migrating the feed url).

So apologies for the interrupted podcast service. You can still get the podcast here, and I should have something figured out in the next couple of days.

Pit Road map for the Coke 600

Looking at the pit road map for the Coke 600 tomorrow, I noticed a little bit of an unusual pattern in pit selection.

Below is a modified pit road selection chart:

Coke600Pit 2013

The first 4 qualifiers are marked with a red number signifying their qualifying position. No real surprise there – the pole sitter Denny Hamlin took the #1 pit stall. 2nd place took the first pit stall that had an opening in front (for better pit exit), and so did the 3rd place qualifier, and the 4th place.

Then, 5th – 7th picked pit stalls that had an opening behind (for better pit entry).

But what surprised me a little was the fact that the 9-13th place drivers all picked pits near the back of pit road. Not until you get to 14th, 15th, and 16th picks do you see cars in the front of pit road.

Finally – used to be that the top 20 cars generally occupied stalls at the front of the pit road, and the slower (expected to be a lap down) cars took the back. However, in this map, it seems like there are “slower” cars almost every other pit stall from front to back of pit road (32 car in 6th position, 35 in 8th, 13 in 10th, etc…).

Interesting…

Top-5 Follow up

As suggested in a comment on the last story, it might be useful to look at top-5s in the context of races run, and have a look at the percentage of races that these drivers were able to convert into top-5s.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to look at the four drivers mentioned in the last post.

In order of top-5 percentage:

1) David Pearson – 574 races, 301 top 5s (52%), 105 wins (18%)

2) Richard Petty – 1185 races run, 555 top 5s (47%), 200 wins (17%)

3) Bobby Allison – 717 races, 336 top 5s (46%), 85 wins (12%)

4) Jeff Gordon – 700 races run, 300 top 5s (43%), 87 wins (12%)

UPDATE – decided to add Jimmie Johnson to this list:

5) Jimmie Johnson – 410 races run, 172 top 5s (42%), 62 wins (15%)

Jeff Gordon’s top-5s

On this last podcast, we covered the fact that Jeff Gordon recorded his 300th top 5 of his career at Darlington.

Most reporting did not really give us a sense of the magnitude of his achievement.

On the podcast, I mentioned that Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, and David Pearson were the only other NASCAR drivers to earn more top 5s.

But the question remained – how many more does Gordon have to get before he moves higher up the list? I couldn’t find this information while we were recording, but according to an article on nascar.com, he doesn’t have far to go.

“[Gordon] now ranks behind only NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (555), Bobby Allison (336) and David Pearson (301) in career top-fives.”

So two more top-5s, and he’ll move ahead of David Pearson. 37 more, and he’ll move ahead of Bobby Allison. If he is able to earn a top-5 in about 30% of his remaining races (approximately his top-5 percentage from last year), it will take him 6 or 7 more races to pass David Pearson, and another 3.5 seasons to pass Bobby Allison, and another 24 seasons to pass Richard Petty.

If he maintained his current top-5 percentage of 43%, he’ll only have to go 17 years to eclipse Richard Petty. Either way, he will not be driving in the sport that long.

But he has a shot at the other two.

No Backup for Denny

Just heard that Denny Hamlin does not have a backup plan, and is planning to be in the car for the entire race at Darlington.

Time to update my ESPN fantasy picks – Denny is great at this track, and 13th in the first practice.

Penalties Part IV

So, it looks like NASCAR is going the Carl Long route with Kenseth’s penalties – 50 points, $200,000, and suspension of the owner’s license and crew chief for the 20 car for the next 6 weeks.

Note – suspension of owner’s license means that the 20 car will not receive owner’s points for the next 6 points races.

This seems to be confirmation of a new era of consistency for NASCAR as far as penalties go.

Mechanical issue causing post race inspection fail? 6 points, $25,000 fine.

Attempt to cheat or use illegal parts (engine excluded)? 25 points, $100,000 fine.

Something wrong with the engine? 50 points, $200,000 fine.

So even though I’m not a fan of the Penske “not in the spirit of the rules” infraction, I do applaud NASCAR for trying to set a consistent precedent for fines and penalties.

Now it’s up to the crew chiefs and car owners to determine if the penalties outweigh the possible benefits of “gray area” performance gains.

Kenseth’s Engine Fails Post-Race Inspection

On the heels of the Penske rear end penalties (heh), Matt Kenseth’s #20 TRD engine failed post race inspection due to one of the connecting rods that was too light. Since there are eight of them, and only one was under weight, it almost seems like a quality control issue, and would not offer any sort of competitive advantage.

So the question is – will NASCAR pull a Carl Long type penalty ($200,000, 50 points, suspension from competition), a Penkse type penalty, or a Truex penalty (6 points, $25,000, probation)?

New Qualifying format for road courses!

As the exclamation mark in the title probably indicates, I’m very excited for the new qualifying format for the road courses.

Previously, road course qualifying was done just like all the other tracks – one car at a time, best lap wins the pole. The only difference is that the road courses typically time just one lap due to the amount of time it takes to get around the track.

The new format now specifies that cars will go out in groups for a set period of time, and the best lap by each car will be their qualifying lap of record.

They’ve used this in the Nationwide qualifying at road courses before, and I loved it.

This is yet another reason why road courses are awesome, and should be a bigger part of the sport.

Hear hear to another piece of good news!

Penalties Schmenalties

On Wednesday (delayed from their normal Tuesday announcement due to Keselowski’s White House appearance), NASCAR announced penalties for team Penske involving 25 points, $100,000, and 6 week suspensions for crew and car chiefs for both the #2 and #22 Penske Fords.

That’s a pretty harsh penalty any way you look at it, made even harsher because NASCAR has not yet actually stated that anything that they confiscated was “illegal”.

Just that certain parts “weren’t in the spirit of the rules”.

Heck of a penalty for not having NASCAR spirit.

Pit crew challenge cancelled due to lack of sponsorship

This one may have flown under the radar, but apparently, one of the coolest off-track things in NASCAR has been cancelled this year because of lack of sponsorship.

Jayski reports:

NASCAR will not conduct its All-Star Pit Crew Challenge this year as it was unable to land sponsorship for the event. The event, a staple of NASCAR’s all-star week since 2005, featured pit crews competing in an arena setting where they would jack cars, change tires and push cars across the arena floor.

Craftsman and then Sprint had sponsored the pit crew challenge throughout the years, but Sprint reallocated its money to sponsor the season-opening exhibition Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona International Speedway.

I can’t help but speculate that sponsors didn’t want to pony up $$ because this wasn’t shown on TV in a timely manner. Results were announced almost immediately, while the TV airing happened weeks later. I mean, I’ve never watched one of these because I never knew when it was on, and it was already old news.

And you know that Sprint got a LOT more coverage and viewer eyeballs for the Sprint Unlimited crap. A LOT more. Wise move for Sprint, sucks for NASCAR.

Cup on Saturday, Trucks at The Rock

Just a reminder, check your schedules, as the NASCAR Cup race is at Texas on Saturday at 4:30 pm PST.

Also, the Trucks are back at Rockingham on SUNDAY at 11:00 AM PST

Woo, Rockingham!

Odds at Martinsville change now that Hamlin is out

This comes as no surprise to anyone, but now that Hamlin is out of Martinsville, the Vegas odds on Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have gotten better.

Because of Hamlin’s absence, Johnson’s opening odds at the LVH SuperBook shrunk from what was expected to be about 5-to-1 down to 7-to-2. Instead of Gordon being 6-to-1, he’s been posted at 5-to-1.

Source: sportingnews.com.

Seems obvious, so the question is, what about a surprise driver? Say, Kurt Busch, who’s been on a pretty big tear in the 78 car?

At 100 to 1, he could be a big money maker. Assuming he doesn’t have another meltdown, equipment failure, a Tony Stewart style block, Logano vs. Stewart aftermath, or the like.

On second thoughts, save your money.