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May 31st, 2011
Volume V, Edition CII
Today's Top News
by Tom Bowles
FAS Lane Switches Driver For Kansas
The revolving door at Frank Stoddard's No. 32 Ford continues this week in the Cup Series. After two races with Mike Bliss, FAS Lane is switching once again, going with Canadian Patrick Carpentier who will make his first Cup start of the season at Kansas Speedway.
Carpentier, a 39-year-old who's currently living in Las Vegas, has made a dozen spot starts in the series since running full-time for 2008 Rookie of the Year. The open-wheel and stock car veteran will be locked into the field for the first time in his short career; the No. 32 car is well inside the top 35 in owner points.
Bliss, who chose his full-time Nationwide Series commitment - that division races up in Chicagoland this weekend - is expected to be back in the car later this season. So far in 2011, the No. 32 has used a merry-go-round of drivers: Terry Labonte, Mike Skinner, Ken Schrader, and Bliss behind the wheel as well as Boris Said in the All-Star Race. Labonte has scored the team's best finish - a 15th in this year's Daytona 500 - but is expected to race only the four restrictor plate events in the car this season.
Richard Petty Grand Marshal Of STP 400
What better way to welcome back one of the sport's longtime sponsors than to partner with the man who made them a national name? NASCAR's "King," Richard Petty was announced this week as the grand marshal for Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. The Cup Series recordholder, with 200 career victories to his credit had the fuel and oil additive on the side of his car for two decades: from 1972 until his 1992 retirement. The company also continued to back Petty's team, the No. 43 for years thereafter until scaling back their support in mid-2000.
The track itself, Kansas Speedway, is ecstatic to play a role in partnering the two longtime icons once again.
"As our partnership with STP developed, we became excited at the many opportunities it presented," explained track president Pat Warren. "STP's return to the sport and longtime relationship with Richard lends an element of our sport's history to Kansas Speedway."
STP will also be a primary sponsor on Petty's No. 43 for the race; the car on Sunday will be a replica of the colors The King drove during the first year of their partnership in '72. Petty will also be available for the fans from 9 - 9:30 AM Saturday: he will conduct a question and answer session in the Sprint Fan Walk located between the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series garages. Fans can participate by purchasing Sprint Fan Walk tickets online or by calling 1-866-460-RACE.
Silly Season Update
- Reports continue to swirl that Danica Patrick will officially make the move to NASCAR. It was a decision reported by Terry Blount last week, initially denied over the weekend but one that gained steam Monday with a report from GoDaddy.com CEO Bob Parsons that he expects to back Patrick in a full-time Nationwide Series deal next season. Parsons is also working on a deal to continue with Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, when the GoDaddy-backed No. 5 car switches from Martin to Kasey Kahne. Expect an official announcement on her future - and GoDaddy's - to be made by early summer.
- In a sign the lines of ownership at NASCAR's top level are increasingly blurred, Roger Penske and Rick Hendrick may be entering into some sort of open-wheel partnership next season. Hendrick decals were spotted on two Penske cars at Indianapolis, a sign that with Chevrolet becoming involved in open-wheel next season their most successful stock car owner is testing the waters. Meanwhile, the iconic car owner of Penske Racing, 74, has fought off rumors of financial concerns and manufacturer changes for much of the past year; his Dodge Chargers on the Cup side have struggled, although primary driver Kurt Busch remains in position to make the Chase after Charlotte.
- Kimi Raikkonen's NASCAR future post-Charlotte remains increasingly unclear. The Finnish driver, a former Formula One champion is heading back to rally racing and has paid for his stock car excursion - one Truck and one Nationwide Series drive, respectively with Kyle Busch's car - in full. A future schedule of events has not been announced, and it's clear money and Raikkonen's own hesitations about increasing his racing commitments will make the difference going forward. The Finn did test Robby Gordon's car on a road course, leading to speculation he'll show up at Infineon Raceway later this month but the No. 7 currently needs money just to go the distance each week. How much will Raikkonen pay out of his own pocket, or will a manufacturer and/or a sponsor pony up the cash? It's one of many questions going forward as this drama plays out.
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Numbers Game: Coca-Cola 600 Weekend
The number of drivers in the top-30 in the Sprint Cup Driver Standings who have not recorded a top-10 finish this season. Jeff Burton is the only driver.
The number of points separating the top three drivers in the Nationwide Driver Standings after Saturday's race at Charlotte. Elliott Sadler leads Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. by one point and Reed Sorenson by two points.
The number of laps led by Kevin Harvick in Sunday's 400-lap Sprint Cup race. Harvick led fewer laps than any previous Coca-Cola 600 winner. David Reutimann held the old record after leading four laps in his 2009 race win.
The number of races in which Carl Edwards has finished outside the top 10 in the Sprint Cup Series this season. He was 16th in the Coca-Cola 600.
The number of top-10 finishes for Joey Logano in five Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte. He was third on Sunday.
The number of cars who pulled off the track with "mechanical issues" in the first 40 laps of Sunday's 400-lap race.
The number of drivers that started outside the top 20 in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 and finished in the top 10.
The total number of laps led by Kevin Harvick in his three Sprint Cup victories this season (Auto Club, Martinsville, Charlotte). He led only two laps on Sunday.
The number of cars on the lead lap at the end of Saturday's Nationwide race.
The number of cars off the track after 80 laps on Saturday.
David Ragan's starting position on the final restart in the Coca-Cola 600. He finished second. It was the best finish of his career.
The finishing position of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in his Sprint Cup debut on Sunday.
The average finishing position of Sprint Cup drivers following a win in the previous Sprint Cup race in 2011. After winning at Dover, Matt Kenseth was 14th at Charlotte.
Kasey Kahne's finishing position after leading the field to the final restart.
Kimi Raikkonen's finishing position in his first career Nationwide race on Saturday.
The number of lead changes in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. The record was 54 in 1979.
The number of races since Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s last win (Michigan, 2008). He ran out of gas while leading on the final lap on Sunday and finished seventh.
The number of laps completed by Joe Nemechek through 12 Sprint Cup Series races. He ran 28 laps on Sunday and finished 41st.
The number of laps led by Kyle Busch in Sprint Cup competition this season. He led 55 laps on Sunday and has led nine of the 12 races so far this season.
Brett Poirier is a Website Contributor for Frontstretch.com. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today's Featured Commentary
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Kimi Raikkonen's NASCAR Debut
by S.D. Grady
It takes commitment, NASCAR does. It doesn't much matter whether you're talking about racing or watching, it's a long season that has the ability to eat up your entire life, if you're not careful. 36 races, 40-some-odd teams, more than 20 tracks, at least three series…drivers, crew chiefs, owners, engineers, commentators….
If you're in love with stock cars, NASCAR just isn't something that lends itself to dabbling. Unless you hail from the land of pointy cars, so it seems. After a confusing statement this past weekend by Kyle Busch regarding the future of one Kimi Raikkonen, the former F1 champ's US racing manager, Todd Hirshfeld, cleared up the matter of whether we will ever see the blue eyed racing wonder on a NASCAR track again.
"Who knows if we want to do more."
Oh. Okay. Sorry for finding anything interesting about Raikkonen and spending time getting to know the latest invader from the open wheel world. I mean, after the previous press release announcing the partnership of Kyle Busch Motorsports where Raikkonen stated, "Kyle is one of the best in NASCAR, and being able to draw on his knowledge will be a valuable asset as I make my transition to a new form of racing," I assumed that this young star would be putting down some roots and making a new home. I thought maybe he wouldn't be doing the one foot in/one foot out approach that has hampered Danica Patrick's chances at building knowledge and a fan base on more than pretty looks.
I was wrong.
I spent the last two weekends pleasantly surprised with Raikkonen's on-track results in the Truck and Nationwide Series. He appeared able to bang fenders, save a sideways car and generally kept his vehicle under him, as best as a brand spankin' new rookie could. Not bad.
Even the rumblings that he was seeking out a Cup ride didn't really rankle, as I believed he was getting ready to make the jump. I wouldn't mind the invasion, as long as he was serious. Dedicated. All the hoopla about a crossover champ would have the opportunity to be validated.
And then the race was over and so, too, was the love affair, before it even had a chance to blossom. At least Patrick has given her love-struck following the chance to swoon over her presence for half the season. Ah well. There goes another one…
So if I haven't had the time to really get attached to Kimi and his blond locks, what else ticks me off about his here today/gone in a blink approach to NASCAR?
It harkens back to the whole blue-collar image I embrace about our sport. Most of our champs grew up on American tracks, in junior racing series and getting their elbows greasy. Perhaps Mom and Dad funded their trip to the top on those tiny tracks, but the grittiness of a career focused on NASCAR sticks to the up and comers. I watch the boys and girls working their way through the Camping World Truck Series and grin as they stumble over their tongues the first few times a microphone is shoved in their face. It takes time—years—to build a persona that fans want to plaster on t-shirts.
Raikkonen arrived all shiny and perfect from the top of world class racing. With his pockets bulging and a personal image consultant in the wings, it didn't take much to find any team willing to find a ride for him lurking in the depths of their garage. Got Money? Instead of grit, he has moolah, enabling him to make a bang in our world just a little too fast.
In the long run it wouldn't make much difference how he landed a ride if he committed to the path of chasing our Cup and won. NASCAR fans can respect just about anybody able to best our season. But if he's only here to sightsee, I wish he would've just stayed home.
You don't arrive in a Cup Victory Lane solely by having the biggest wallet—although sometimes it does seem that way. There's also a bit of luck, a whole lot of effort and a dream, the desire to be something bigger than you could ever imagine. Dreams aren't made of instant gratification, they are built of many things, but rarely of money and certainly not passing curiosity.
Mr. Raikkonen, if you so chose to return to NASCAR Nation, don't pussyfoot around. Do it or don't. Love us or leave. We require one thing above all else in this racing world built of fenders: your commitment. One year, no less. Otherwise you shall never be seen as nothing more than a tepid interloper, which would be a shame for one with your storied past.
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TODAY ON THE FRONTSTRETCH:
Five Points to Ponder: Going the Distance, Danica's Done Deal, and NASCAR Got It Right?
by Bryan Keith
Fact Or Fiction: Releasing A Racing Veteran At The Right Time
by Tom Bowles
Dale Junior: What a Difference a Year Makes
by Danny Peters
Who's Hot / Who's Not In NASCAR: Charlotte-Kansas Edition
by Summer Dreyer
Talking NASCAR TV: Losing Focus In The Midst Of Making History For FOX And Co.
by Phil Allaway
Get THE ANNUAL, 2011 Racing Preview for your mobile device.
Go to Frontstretch.com and click on "The Annual" link on the right side to order and download this special issue that includes: Track Information, Driver profiles and In-Depth Features.
Q: Heartland Park Topeka hosted five races in the now-Camping World Truck Series from 1995-1999. How many different configurations were used there, and how were those configurations different?
Check back Wednesday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Q: When NASCAR started up the then-NASCAR SuperTruck Series presented by Craftsman in 1995, one of the original 18 venues (two tracks, Phoenix and Mesa Marin, hosted two races) on the schedule was the road course at Heartland Park, Topeka. Kerry Teague had a terrible weekend, qualifying a dismal 26th, then having an incident less than ten laps in. What happened?
A: It appears that Teague lost the brakes on his No. 51 Chevrolet. Replays showed that Teague somewhat inexplicably drove into the grass in between Turns 1 and 2 on the 1.8 mile road course in a futile attempt to stop the truck. The off-road excursion pitched the truck into a spin. The truck ended up hitting an unprotected concrete wall hard on the left rear corner. To top it off, a small fire erupted underneath the car simply because of the near 100 degree heat. The crash can be seen in this clip.
Teague suffered a significant concussion in the crash and was forced to miss the next race. After a brief comeback at the square in Flemington, New Jersey, Teague left the series, never to return.
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Hey, Frontstretch Readers!
We know you love the roar of raw horsepower under the hood that powers 43 of the best drivers in the world every weekend, but did you ever wonder how the sponsor on top of that hood also contributes to keeping the sport moving? What about the contributions of official NASCAR companies? If you think they are simply writing checks, think again. Check out our newest feature - Sunday Money. This weekly Frontstretch exclusive provides you with a behind the scenes look at how NASCAR, its affiliates and team sponsors approach the daunting task of keeping fans interested and excited about the sport for 38 weeks of the year.
Coming tomorrow in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News from TBA
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!
Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice?... by Tom Bowles
Tom returns with a long list of small observations from the NASCAR week that was.
Mirror Driving by the Frontstretch Staff
The Mirror crew is at it again with more talking points to debate.
Frontstretch Top Ten by Jeff Meyer
Our weekly list based on the latest NASCAR controversy will start your morning off with a laugh -- guaranteed.
Top 15 Power Rankings by the Frontstretch Staff
Which driver came out of the Coca-Cola 600 on top of our 2011 Power Rankings chart? Jimmie Johnson? Carl Edwards? Kevin Harvick? Someone else? Find out who our select Frontstretch experts have labeled as this week's favorite heading into the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Kurt's back to leave you laughing with the best photos you didn't see in the papers from Charlotte.
Beyond The Cockpit
Our popular Driver Q & A continues with another one-on-one sitdown that occurred at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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