Monday, April 30, 2012

The Frontstretch Newsletter: April 30th, 2012

Presented by
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
April 30th, 2012
Volume V, Edition LXXIV

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Sprint Cup Race Recap: Kyle Busch Claims Fourth Straight Spring Richmond Victory
by Jeff Wolfe

Several teams found ways to lose Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.

But as has become a rite of spring at the Virginia track, Kyle Busch found a way to win.  Busch won his fourth straight spring race at the 3/4-mile oval, a 24th career victory that came partly because he and his team didn't make a crucial mistake in the final stages of the 400-lap race.  After a strong pit stop put the No. 18 out front, Busch pulled away on the final restart of the night and easily held off Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Tony Stewart. But Lady Luck helped out, too. Leading just 32 laps, it was a shocking turn of events for the No. 18 team; until a final caution for debris with 12 laps left, Busch was two seconds behind Stewart and seemingly destined for second place.

"Wherever that last caution came from, that was the saving grace, just the luck of the day, and put us in the right position there coming down pit road behind Tony," said Busch, who broke a tie with Richard Petty for the most consecutive spring victories at Richmond.  "The guys did a fast pit stop, got us the lead off pit road, which was a huge advantage, just being able to give me the control of the restart and not have to wait on Tony or cause myself to spin my tires or what have you and get behind.

"So it really helped me out, and once I got out front, I knew I had ten laps.  I could abuse the heck out of that thing and drive it for all it was worth and didn't have to save any tires."

That fifth and final caution with 14 laps remaining was a losing proposition for Stewart.  He had led 72 consecutive laps at that point and had a comfortable lead on Busch when the yellow flag was waved, apparently for what was believed to be a water bottle on the backstretch.

"That's what it looked like to me," Stewart said. "I mean, it was out of the groove.  It had been sitting there for eight laps."

Busch admitted the finish might have been different if not for the final yellow flag.

"No, I was losing half a tenth to a tenth on every lap to what Tony was doing up there," Busch said when asked if he could have closed the gap under green.  "No catching Stewart without that caution."

NASCAR, according to sources claimed there was a piece of sheet metal on the backstretch. But in terms of the race outcome, the caution cannot be taken back; and when it happened, the leaders all came in for tires and Busch's crew was better than Stewart's.  Busch's No. 18 team had a stop of 12.4 seconds while Stewart's team appeared to have a slight delay on the right front, causing a stop of 14.9 seconds.

"We gave it away on pit road," Stewart said.  "We've got some work to do on pit stops.  I don't know what happened on that last one.  I'm a little ticked off about that right now."

Stewart wasn't the only driver to leave in a bit of foul mood.  Carl Edwards appeared to have the dominant car on the night, leading 206 laps and looking to win his first race of the year.  But after a confusing caution on lap 311, coming in the middle of green flag stops Stewart was listed as the leader, while Edwards was in second place... or so everyone thought. A miscommunication somewhere between NASCAR and Edwards' spotter, Jason Hedlesky, left Edwards' No. 99 team thinking it had the lead.

Since Edwards took off on the restart to easily beat Stewart, who appeared to spin his tires, NASCAR penalized Edwards for beating the leader to the line and also for starting before reaching the designated restart box.  Edwards' crew chief, the normally calm Bob Osborne argued vehemently with NASCAR officials about the penalty, but to no avail.

"I was on the outside and thought Tony Stewart was the leader on the inside," Edwards said. "NASCAR told my spotter about three seconds before the restart that the 99 was the leader.  They put us on the scoreboard as the leader and I realized I was at a disadvantaged position on the outside and NASCAR made a little mistake.  I got the best start I could and Tony didn't start or spun his tires and NASCAR black flagged us.  I don't know why they black flagged me.  I don't think it is right and I don't agree with it."

Stewart, however, thought there was no question that his No. 14 car was out front.

"Well, we were the first one to line up and we were the leader on the board," he said.  "So, I don't know how much clearer it could be that we were the leader.  If that was the case, then they should have put the caution out and given him the opportunity to choose the lane that he wanted.  It's a miscommunication between upstairs and the drivers."

For the record, the lap before the restart Edwards crossed the line in front of Stewart, triggering electronic scoring that put the No. 99 on top of the scoring pylon. It's unknown why NASCAR allowed this switch to happen, even under caution if the No. 14 was actually the leader of the race.

Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 was a third contender, but his shot at a first win of the season ended not because of a miscommunication, but because of a missing tire carrier during pit stops on that same caution.  The tire was rolled all the way across the pit box, a violation of NASCAR rules that put Johnson in the back of the pack for the final 100 laps. He did rally for a sixth-place finish, but left Hendrick Motorsports stuck on 199 total victories.

"Stuff happens, it's racing," Johnson said. "The good news is we had a very fast race car. I certainly wish we didn't have that mistake."

After Busch, the top 5 ended up being Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Kasey Kahne. Johnson, Clint Bowyer, polesitter Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Edwards rounded out the top 10. Attendance was listed at 88,000 fans, and there were five caution flags for 31 laps.

While Earnhardt's winless streak is now at 138 races, he is just five points behind leader Greg Biffle, who finished 18th. Earnhardt never really had a chance to win until late, but everyone else's mistakes still couldn't give him just that little extra speed he needed underneath the No. 88 Chevrolet.

"We were running about fifth all night, and just got lucky on that restart to be on the inside and get a couple spots," Earnhardt Jr. said of his runner-up positioning.  "We just kind of got lucky there at the end on a couple things to gain a couple extra spots.  But we ran good.  We were terrible last year at this track and I really like running here, and I just was curious as to why we weren't performing as well.  So it feels good to run all right here."

The front of that pack might have had a different look if not for so many mistakes. Instead, it had quite the familiar look, in the spring anyway, with the No. 18 car in Victory Lane once again and giving Busch another happy birthday week.

"I guess being the last week of April, first week in May, birthday week, it's always kind of fun, too," said Busch, who will turn 27 on Wednesday.  "I won here on my birthday two years ago and coming up on another birthday.  Every time I come to Richmond in the spring its really good, but yet I feel really bad because I'm getting older."

Next for The Sprint Cup series is a return to Talladega Superspeedway for the Aaron's 499.  Coverage starts with a special full hour edition of FOX's Pre-Race Show at Noon EDT (11 AM CDT), with actual race coverage starting at 1 PM.
Jeff Wolfe is a Contributor for  He can be reached via e-mail at

Tracking the Chase: Biffle's Lead Shrinks With Poor Finish
by Jeff Wolfe

Greg Biffle had been the model of consistency in the first eight Sprint Cup races of the season, including a win at Texas two weeks ago, giving him a solid advantage in the overall point standings.  However, Biffle had his first disappointment of the season Saturday night at Richmond with an 18th-place finish. The No. 16 was never in contention, falling a lap behind early and never so much as sniffed the top 10.

That, coupled with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s second-place finish, has put Biffle's lead at five points heading into Sunday's race at Talladega.  Earnhardt Jr. picked up two spots as did third-place Denny Hamlin, who is now just nine points back after a solid top-5 performance at his hometown track. Matt Kenseth sits fourth, while the biggest loser in points on the night was Martin Truex, Jr. He dropped from second to fifth in the standings after a 25th-place result.  However, he is just 22 markers behind Biffle.

Jimmie Johnson now sits sixth in points, followed by Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and Ryan Newman. Richmond winner Kyle Busch, who is now in 11th, 73 points back owns the first "wild card." But one driver trying to reach the top 10 fell back Saturday night.  Joey Logano, who came into the race 12th in the standings, dropped three spots to 15th with a 24th-place performance. It's looking like a victory for the No. 20 will be needed for Chase contention.

The good news, bad news finish of the night went to Jeff Gordon, who ran 23rd. The good news is he picked up a spot in the standings to move up to 17th.  The bad news? He missed a golden opportunity to make a jump with Biffle's poor finish. Plus, with Busch's win Gordon would need to be at least 13th to have a shot at the second "wild card," assuming he can pick up a victory during the rest of the Cup Series season.

Another gainer in the standings was Brad Keselowski, the final "wild card" who is now 13th.  He moved up two spots with a ninth-place finish.

Standings: 1) Greg Biffle 338, 2) Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -5, 3) Denny Hamlin -9, 4) Matt Kenseth -10, 5) Martin Truex, Jr. -22, 6) Jimmie Johnson -24, 7) Kevin Harvick -25, 8) Tony Stewart -31, 9) Carl Edwards -51, 10) Ryan Newman -60.

Wild Cards: Kyle Busch, 1 win, 11th in points; Brad Keselowski 1 win, 13th in points.

Race Winners: Matt Kenseth (Daytona), Denny Hamlin (Phoenix, Kansas), Tony Stewart (Las Vegas, Fontana), Brad Keselowski (Bristol), Ryan Newman (Martinsville), Greg Biffle (Texas), Kyle Busch (Richmond).

Tracking The Top 35: Don't Look Now, But No. 10 On The Bubble Again

It was a few weeks ago at Martinsville that David Reutimann, driving the No. 10 car, was at the center of controversy; he stayed on the track with an ailing car to try and keep Tommy Baldwin Racing inside the top 35 in owner points, which guarantees it a spot in the next race.  Well, after Saturday night's showdown in Richmond, the No. 10 car fell back one spot in the point standings and is now 35th again.  The good news for Reutimann and team owner Tommy Baldwin is that there is a 21-point lead over the No. 33 vehicle owned by Joe Falk, making it fairly certain they'll have a "locked in" position after next week's race at Talladega. Why is that important? Danica Patrick returns to Cup racing the following week, attempting to qualify that No. 10 car at Darlington Raceway.

The No. 38 driven by David Gilliland had mechanical problems Saturday night; time behind the wall left him dropping two spots in the standings to 31st after finishing 36th. However, he still has a 35-point lead on the 36th-place vehicle; Falk's car has struggled since being bought from Richard Childress Racing. Stephen Leicht drove it to 35th on Saturday night, the last car running that did not spend any in-race time inside the garage.

The No. 83 car driven by Landon Cassill moved up to the 34th spot after a 20th-place finish Saturday. The run was Cassill's best of the season for the young BK Racing outfit.

Here's your owner point standings around the all-important cutoff:

29) BK Racing (No. 93 - Travis Kvapil), 38 points ahead of 36th.
30) Front Row Motorsports (No. 34 - David Ragan), 37 points ahead of 36th.
31) Front Row Motorsports (No. 38 - David Gilliland), 35 points ahead of 36th.
32) FAS Lane Racing (No. 32 - Reed Sorenson), 31 points ahead of 36th.
33) Tommy Baldwin Racing / Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 36 - Dave Blaney), 27 points ahead of 36th.
34) BK Racing (No. 83 - Landon Cassill), 11 points ahead of 36th.
35) Tommy Baldwin Racing / Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 10 - David Reutimann), 21 points ahead of 36th.
36) Richard Childress Racing / LJ Racing (No. 33 – Stephen Leicht), 21 points behind 35th.
37) Inception Motorsports (No. 30 - David Stremme), 44 points behind 35th.
38) Robinson-Blakeney Racing (No. 49 - J.J. Yeley), 47 points behind 35th.
39) Front Row Motorsports (No. 26 - Josh Wise), 58 points behind 35th.
40) Wood Brothers Racing (No. 21 - Trevor Bayne), 60 points behind 35th.

Jeff Wolfe is a Contributor for  He can be reached via e-mail at


Got NASCAR-related questions or comments?
Send them John Potts' way at; and if you're lucky, you'll get your name in print when he does his weekly column answering back to you – the fans that keep Frontstretch afloat. Potts' Shots will run on Thursdays with a whole new set of Fan Questions and Answers!

Secret Star Of The Race: The Best Run You Never Saw

The last time we talked about Paul Menard at Richmond, it was for all the wrong reasons. Last Fall, his late-race spinout in the grass, after falling many laps behind for an earlier wreck was suspicious at best, intentional at worst in a move that could have decided the Chase. That caution, allowing teammate Kevin Harvick to close the gap on Jeff Gordon and make a late-race pass for the win swung three crucial bonus points.

This time, it was Menard's No. 27 crew stealing the spotlight, jawing with Jimmie Johnson's team and then helping point out a penalty that doomed the No. 48 car's chances to win. But in the midst of As The Pit Road Turns, Menard's actual on-track performance was completely lost in the shuffle. Finishing 13th, on the lead lap this driver conquered his biggest weakness: only two of his 19 career top-10s have come on short tracks, including a giant goose egg at the ¾-mile oval. It's a run made all the more impressive considering Menard's primary car was demolished in a crash during Friday's practice; instead of folding, the team focused hard and put together a setup and strategy that worked.

"Everything that could go wrong went wrong," said the driver about the events leading into Saturday night's race. "We had a really fast car and wrecked it.  We didn't have much time with the backup car and qualified really terrible.  Grant (Hutchins, team engineer), Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) all the guys got together last night and came up with some changes to do to the car overnight and this morning and it worked.  This is the second best car I've ever had here.  The first we wrecked on Friday.  Thirteenth isn't something to write home about, but after the weekend that we had, it is a good finish."  

Menard should be a tad more optimistic. Nine races into 2012, with nearly all his worst tracks in the rear-view mirror he sits 14th in points, 29 behind Ryan Newman in 10th and with welcoming Talladega on the horizon. Could last year's upset winner at Indianapolis eke out another surprise, this time down in Alabama? Score one there, at Michigan in June or even at the Brickyard again this July and this consistently underrated driver is very much in the thick of Chase contention.  – Tom Bowles

STAT OF THE WEEK: 80%. That's the number of Sprint Cup cautions that were competition-based or caused by "debris" in the last three races (eight of ten). What were the lone exceptions? One-car spins by Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch at Kansas and Richmond, respectively in which both cars kept going without a problem. Even Jeff Burton's bout with the wall Saturday night initially didn't cause a yellow flag; it took a few laps before officials felt there was enough debris on the track to put out the safety car. It's a percentage that takes clean racing to a whole new level; but with Talladega on the horizon, it's also one that should change in a big way this coming Sunday.Tom Bowles


  The 1987 Winston 500 is best known for the high speeds and Bobby Allison's scary crash into the catchfence on Lap 21.  However, Darrell Waltrip's day was effectively ruined despite not even being involved in the crash.  What happened?

Check back Tuesday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Friday's Answer:
  In September, 1997, the late Kenny Irwin, Jr. made his Winston Cup debut at Richmond from the front row and earned a top-10 finish.  For whom did he make his debut, and where did the equipment likely come from?

A:  Irwin's No. 27 Tonka Ford was fielded by David Blair Racing, a team that was purchased from Junior Johnson during the 1995 season.  By 1997, the team had been struggling without a full-time sponsor in the series for 18 months and was running a part-time schedule.  Irwin had already procured a contract to drive the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford full-time for 1998 and needed to get some Cup experience prior to the start of his rookie season, so Robert Yates Racing sought out David Blair's operation to put Irwin in the seat.  Sponsorship for these races came from Action Performance and a number of different toy brands (Tonka, Nerf, GI Joe, etc.).  These cars were all later released by Winner's Circle, Action's budget-priced brand.
Frontstretch Trivia Guarantee: If we mess up, you get the shirt off our backs!  If we've provided an incorrect answer to the Frontstretch Trivia question, be the first to email the corrected trivia answer to and we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... FREE! 
Coming Tomorrow in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News from Kevin Rutherford
Sitting In the Stands: A Fan's View by S.D. Grady
-- This Week's Topic: Travis Wants To Beat The Girls?
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!

Coming Tomorrow On The Frontstretch:

5 Points To Ponder by Bryan Keith
Bryan's back with plenty of storylines that will have you thinking hard about racing this Tuesday.
Who's Hot / Who's Not in Sprint Cup Presented by StarCoach Race Tours: Richmond-Talladega Edition by Brett Poirier
With nine races in the books, Brett looks at what trends are developing in NASCAR's two top series and which drivers are doing great, and who simply aren't.

The Yellow Stripe by Danny Peters
Danny returns with another thoughtful commentary looking ahead to Talladega.

Couch Potato Tuesday by Phil Allaway
This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series each competed at Richmond International Raceway.  Meanwhile, the Izod IndyCar Series took their third trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Were the race telecasts for these events up to snuff? Find out in this week's edition of the TV Critique.

Tech Talk by Mike Neff
We'll have a special guest stop by on a weekly basis to discuss the technical aspects of our sport.
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Friday, April 27, 2012

The Frontstretch Newsletter: April 27th, 2012

Presented by
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
April 27th, 2012
Volume VI, Edition LXXII


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Top News
by Jeff Wolfe

Stenhouse, Roush Beef Up Nationwide Sponsorship

Fans of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. won't have to look hard when they ask, "where's the beef?'' They'll just have to check out Stenhouse's No. 6 car in the Nationwide Series. Roush-Fenway Racing announced Thursday ( that it has a signed a 15-race sponsorship deal with Cargill Beef. The sponsorship will begin with tonight's race at Richmond and nine other races that coincide with the grilling season. Cargill will also be on Stenhouse's car for select races in September and October, helping fund the defending Nationwide champion as he seeks back-to-back titles in the series.

Cargill is using the sponsorship to teach consumers about the production and nutritional value of beef. But they also understand that Stenhouse teaching other drivers a thing or two on the racetrack will certainly help boost sales of their products.

"Grilling burgers is as American as NASCAR racing, and Ricky does a wonderful job as an ambassador for both," said Tammy Shaw, Cargill Beef Vice President of Sales and Marketing. "We'll leave the driving and car setup and race day maintenance to the team, and we'll do our part to keep them well fueled with Cargill burgers and steaks."

Stenhouse has two victories this year and is in second place in the standings, two points behind leader Elliott Sadler. Stenhouse also has partial sponsorship from Kellogg's this season, but remains without primary funding for several races. His teammate, Trevor Bayne, remains on the sidelines with the No. 60 as Roush's young drivers continue to fight for financing in this difficult NASCAR economy.

A case of Bumper Gate Invades Nationwide Series at Richmond

Six drivers on two Nationwide teams, including series points leader Elliott Sadler, had their front bumper covers confiscated from their cars after NASCAR inspection Thursday night at Richmond International Raceway in preparation for practice, qualifying and the race tonight. All three Richard Childress teams and all three Turner Motorsports teams had that piece of equipment confiscated by NASCAR. Along with Sadler, the other RCR drivers affected were Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick while James Buescher, Justin Allgaier, and Kasey Kahne were on the hook for Turner. Sadler, the points leader, has won two races this season and Buescher has one victory.

It's unknown how severe the consequences will be or the specifics of what raised NASCAR's "red flag" during the inspection process. However, no crew members were ejected from the track, meaning no additional penalties will come to fruition until next week.

Dover to Have Auction Package to Benefit Former PR Director

Dover International Speedway has created a special auction package for the June 3 Sprint Cup race to benefit former Public Relations director Al Robinson. The package includes two passes to a luxury suite, two pit passes, an overnight stay at the track's hotel and casino, a complimentary breakfast at the hotel on June 4 and a Monster Racing four-lap ride on June 4.

To bid in the online auction visit The auction ends on May 14, 2012. Robinson has been involved in racing for more than 40 years in various capacities and served as public relations director at Dover International Speedway for more than a decade. On May 11, 2011, he suffered a  stroke which has left him in need of 24-hour care. Robinson is confined to Elderwood Care Facility in Waverly, N.Y., and has been undergoing physical therapy to regain his strength.

Due to mounting medical costs, Robinson is now facing a significant financial hardship. A group of Robinson's friends have come together to create a family-oriented event on May 11-12, 2012 at Shangri-La II Motorspeedway in Tioga Center, N.Y. All proceeds from the event will go to Robinson.

Have news for The Frontstretch?  Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.


Got NASCAR-related questions or comments?
Send them John Potts' way at; and if you're lucky, you'll get your name in print when he does his weekly column answering back to you – the fans that keep Frontstretch afloat. Potts' Shots will run on Thursdays with a whole new set of Fan Questions and Answers!


In Case You Missed It
by Nick Schwartz

Johnson named most influential athlete by

In's annual list of most influential athletes, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson topped the charts for the second year in a row. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. joined Johnson in the top 10, placing seventh. Much of the top 10 is dominated by NFL players, who comprise six of the 10. Johnson is followed by New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, boxer Manny Pacquiao, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Earnhardt, Jr., New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.

"It's just a huge honor. Not only is it very good for me in my career and for what I do in my race car, but I think it's very good for NASCAR as well," Johnson said. "Of all the athletes in America, to be ranked most influential, I'm very proud of the award and happy to receive it."

Greg Biffle to run special "Give Kids A Smile" paint scheme at Richmond

Greg Biffle, who has long been associated with initiatives promoting dental health among the nation's youth, will race at Richmond International Raceway this weekend with a special paint scheme in conjunction with the American Dental Association's "Give Kids A Smile" program. In addition to the paint scheme, local children will be able to participate in a free dental health screening at the track.

"It's fun to see the kids, share some t-shirts, die-cast cars and promote the message to children to brush their teeth often, floss daily and visit the dentist regularly," Biffle said. "Any way you can teach them this very important message successfully is great, even if it takes a racecar to get the message across, as I think it can sometimes be easier for me to connect with kids, rather than say a parent or teacher."



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Keepin' It Short: Bristol Fans Have Spoken, Now They Must Back It Up
by Mike Neff

Ten years ago a ticket to Bristol Motor Speedway Cup races was the stuff of legend, and season tickets at Bristol were responsible for heated battles during divorce proceedings. They were even passed on in wills from generation to generation. And if you didn't already have tickets, the waiting list was longer than the list for Denver Broncos season tickets. Now you can find Bristol Cup tickets online the weekend of the races for a song and a bowl of soup.

In an effort to find out why the fans were staying away from the famed half-mile track in Western Tennessee, track owner Bruton Smith asked for feedback from the fans. The overwhelming response was that the place wasn't the same since the addition of the progressive banking during the repave in 2007. Fans want the single file parade where drivers have to forcibly move competitors out of the way in order to advance their position. Smith has listened and the banking will be removed, turning the corners back into a single rate of banking from top to bottom. Now it is up to the fans to return to the track to reward Speedway Motorsports, Incorporated's moves to appease their demands.

Whether purists and drivers will be pleased or not doesn't matter when profits are on the line. SMI had to make the changes to the track because there were as many empty seats at Bristol this Spring as there were occupied seats. When the facility has 165,000 seats, it costs money to have them sit empty on race weekends. While it will remain to be seen if the racing will return to the old style crash and burn or if the cars will still be able to run side-by-side, but SMI is doing whatever they can to attempt to make it happen for the fans.

Fans often claim that they do not attend races to see wrecks, but there is no doubt that, at least in the case of Bristol, fans want to see cars tangled together and sheet metal destroyed. The allure of the night race at Bristol has always been the flying sparks and heightened tempers that lead to on and off track altercations. If that style of racing returns then it is up to the fans to return as well.

The tire compound that is ultimately provided by Goodyear will most certainly have an impact on the racing as well, and if they make a tire that can allow the cars to run around above the preferred bottom groove, then this entire exercise will be for naught. The fans have spoken and the management of the track has listened. Now it will be a test to determine if a glorified demolition derby is really what the fans of NASCAR want to see.

This Weekend's Racing Schedule

Fri 4/27 - Firebird Int Raceway (main) ; Chandler : AZ - ASA / Truck Series
Fri 4/27 - Phillips County Raceway ; Holyoke : CO - BST Modifieds
Fri 4/27 - Bubba Raceway Park ; Ocala : FL - United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series
Fri 4/27 - Jacksonville Speedway ; Jacksonville : IL - POWRI Midgets
Fri 4/27 - Jacksonville Speedway ; Jacksonville : IL - POWRI Micro-Sprints
Fri 4/27 - Great American Dirt Track ; Jetmore : KS - MARS DIRTcar Series
Fri 4/27 - Great American Dirt Track ; Jetmore : KS - Championship Late Model Association
Fri 4/27 - Humboldt Speedway ; Humboldt : KS - Midwest Lightning Sprints
Fri 4/27 - Salina Speedway ; Salina : KS - Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series
Fri 4/27 - Eagle Raceway ; Eagle : NE - WoO Sprint Cars
Fri 4/27 - River Cities Speedway ; Grand Forks : ND - Northern Outlaw Sprint Association
Fri 4/27 - Attica Raceway Park ; Attica : OH - American Late Model Series
Fri 4/27 - Dog Hollow Speedway ; Strongstown : PA- Fastrak Late Model Series
Fri 4/27 - Lindas Speedway ; Jonestown : PA- Keystone Legend Car Tour
Fri 4/27 - Path Valley Speedway ; Spring Run : PA- Sidewinder Sprints
Fri 4/27 - Williams Grove Speedway ; Mechanicsburg : PA- All Star Sprint Cars
Fri 4/27 - Williams Grove Speedway ; Mechanicsburg : PA- ARDC Midgets
Fri 4/27 - El Paso Speedway Park ; El Paso : TX - Renegade Sprint Car Series
Fri 4/27 - Mississippi Thunder Speedway ; Fountain City : WI - USMTS Modifieds
Sat 4/28 - Castrol Raceway ; Edmonton : Alberta - Northern Provincial Pipeline Late Models
Sat 4/28 - Riverside Speedway ; West Memphis : AR - Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series
Sat 4/28 - Perris Auto Speedway ; Perris : CA - California Lightning Sprints
Sat 4/28 - Perris Auto Speedway ; Perris : CA - USAC/CRA 410
Sat 4/28 - Petaluma Speedway ; Petaluma : CA - California Sprint Car Civil War Series
Sat 4/28 - Placerville Speedway ; Placerville : CA - King Of The West
Sat 4/28 - Waterford Speedbowl ; Waterford : CT - New England Truck Series
Sat 4/28 - Delaware Int Speedway ; Delmar : DE - United Racing Company
Sat 4/28 - Bubba Raceway Park ; Ocala : FL - Florida Mini-Sprint Association
Sat 4/28 - Bubba Raceway Park ; Ocala : FL - United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series
Sat 4/28 - Lincoln Park Speedway ; Putnamville : IL - USAC National Sprint Cars
Sat 4/28 - Macomb Speedway ; Macomb : IL - IMRA TQ Series
Sat 4/28 - Macon Speedway ; Macon : IL - POWRI Midgets
Sat 4/28 - Macon Speedway ; Macon : IL - POWRI Micro-Sprints
Sat 4/28 - Brownstown Speedway ; Brownstown : IN - Midwest Mini-Sprint Association
Sat 4/28 - Knoxville Raceway ; Knoxville : IA - WoO Sprint Cars
Sat 4/28 - Great American Dirt Track ; Jetmore : KS - MARS DIRTcar Series
Sat 4/28 - Great American Dirt Track ; Jetmore : KS - Championship Late Model Association
Sat 4/28 - Boothill Speedway ; Shreveport : LA - Ark-La-Tex Winged Modifieds
Sat 4/28 - Deer Creek Speedway ; Spring Valley : MN - USMTS Modifieds
Sat 4/28 - Lucas Oil Speedway ; Wheatland : MO - United Late Model Association
Sat 4/28 - 311 Motor Speedway ; Madison : NC - Ultimate Super Late Model Series
Sat 4/28 - Big Diamond Raceway ; Minersville : PA- ARDC Midgets
Sat 4/28 - Port Royal Speedway ; Port Royal : PA- Sidewinder Sprints
Sat 4/28 - Port Royal Speedway ; Port Royal : PA- All Star Sprint Cars
Sat 4/28 - Williams Grove Speedway ; Mechanicsburg : PA- Super Sportsmen
Sat 4/28 - Tazewell Speedway ; Tazewell : TN - WoO Late Model Series
Sat 4/28 - Texas World Speedway ; Bryan : TX - National Auto Sport Association
Sat 4/28 - Beaver Dam Raceway ; Beaver Dam : WI - Midwest Sprintcar Association
Sat 4/28 - Beaver Dam Raceway ; Beaver Dam : WI - Interstate Racing Association
Sun 4/29 - I-76 Speedway ; Fort Morgan : CO - Rocky Mountain Lightning Sprints
Sun 4/29 - Stafford Motor Speedway ; Stafford Springs : CT - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
Sun 4/29 - Salem Speedway ; Salem : IN - ARCA Late Models
Sun 4/29 - Rockingham Raceway Park – 1/2 mile ; Rockingham : NC - Allison Legacy Race Series
Sun 4/29 - Toledo Speedway ; Toledo : OH - CRA Super Series
Sun 4/29 - Beaver County Raceway ; Beaver : OK - Championship Late Model Association
Sun 4/29 - Beaver County Raceway ; Beaver : OK - MARS DIRTcar Series
Sun 4/29 - Clinton County Raceway ; Lock Haven : PA- PA Sprint Series
Sun 4/29 - Clinton County Raceway ; Lock Haven : PA- All Star Sprint Cars
Sun 4/29 - Grandview Speedway ; Bechtelsville : PA- North East Enduro Tour Series
Sun 4/29 - Mountain Speedway ; Saint Johns : PA- ATQMRA TQ Midgets
Sun 4/29 - Texas World Speedway ; Bryan : TX - National Auto Sport Association
Sun 4/29 - Thunder Road Int Speedbowl ; Barrie : VT - ACT US Tour
Sun 4/29 - Manitowoc Expo Raceway ; Manitowoc : WI - Midwest Sprintcar Association

Mike Neff is a Senior Writer for He can be reached via email at


Fantasy Friday: Capital City 400 presented by Virginia is For Lovers
by Jeff Wolfe

Editor's Note: Welcome to the newest feature in the Frontstretch Newsletter where Jeff Wolfe takes a look at your best bets when it comes to picking your fantasy racing teams. Each week, Jeff will have your top 5 best bets along with a bonus pick just in time to finalize your lineup and settle in for a weekend full of action.

The Sprint Cup drivers head into Richmond the first of two Saturday night showdowns at Richmond International Raceway. It's the first visit to Richmond this year and as most of you know the second visit will likely have the feel of much more significance. The September race at Richmond International Raceway is the final regular-season event before the Chase for the Championship and in all probability there will be two or three drivers looking to crack the top 10 to make the Chase and probably two or three in the top 20 in points looking for a win to earn one of the two wild-card spots to make the Chase.

But here's the thing: the points gained or lost and the win Saturday night will count exactly the same as the race in September. Of course, you say, any third-grade math student (or maybe even first or second grade math student) can figure that out. But the good teams will put just as much importance on this race as the fall race. Yes, the situation and potential finality of it all will add more pressure in the fall, but when the season's over and it's time to sit back and simply look at the facts, yes, both Richmond races count the same. So, that's the theme you will see in this week's picks.

Top 5 Picks

Denny Hamlin: He won last week at Kansas and he's got two wins at this track. This also is his home track and teams seem to step up a little more in those situations.
Kyle Busch: He's had a disappointing start by his standards, being 13th in the points after eight races and not a serious contender to win most of the time. If things are going to change for him, then it could be at Richmond where he's got three wins and an average running position of 7.6.

Jeff Gordon: OK, yes he's in the way-back machine (at least for him) in the points standings at 18th, but that's really not a reflection of the kind of cars he's had at the track. He's been fast in most of the races this year, but has had a string of bad luck in the pits and on the track. He's got two wins and 15 tops 5 in his career at Richmond, so why not race win number three?

Kevin Harvick: Happy has been consistent this season, but he's looking for a win now. He's got two of them at Richmond and an average finish of 7.4, so he could be a lot happier after Saturday night.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: OK, I'll admit it, I didn't really want to pick him here. But he says he's the best driver at Hendrick, so it's time to back it up. Often times if an athlete in any sport says that, it means he or she is feeling confident. He does have three wins at Richmond, so hey, it's as good a time as any for him to break that 137-race winless streak.

Should, woulda coulda: I did want to pick Tony Stewart here. He does have three wins at Richmond and it's a special place to him because it's also the site of his first win. But he's looked a little unimpressive the last two weeks, so not pulling the trigger this time.

Here's a look at how last week's picks fared at Kansas.

Greg Biffle - 5th. The points leader admitted that it wasn't his best day, but the rally for a fifth-place finish on a day like that is the kind of thing championship contenders do.

Jeff Gordon - 21st. A disappointing day as he finished three laps off the lead.

Jimmie Johnson - 3rd. The No. 48 had another nice run, but wasn't in serious contention for the win at the end.

Tony Stewart - 13th. He was not in contention to lead all day, but to hang around and get a 13th is certainly not a disaster, especially on a day where he had a mid-20s car at best.

Mark Martin - 33rd. His day was derailed by engine failure after 255 laps.

Season Stats
40 Picks
2 wins
12 top 5s
14 top 10s

Grade for the week: C. Biffle and Johnson were solid, but the showings of Stewart and particularly Gordon hurt.

One Last Thing: Speaking of Gordon, here's one stat that tells you about the bad luck he's been having. Even though he sits 18th in the points standings, he leads the Sprint Cup Series with 73.8 percent of his passes coming while running in the top 15. If his car stays fast, eventually the luck will have to change.

Jeff Wolfe is a Contributor for He can be reached via email at


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Frontstretch Folio: Capital City 400 presented by Virginia is For Lovers
by Nick Schwartz

After two consecutive races at intermediate-length tracks, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gets back to fast, short-track racing at Richmond International Raceway this weekend for the Capital City 400 presented by Virginia is for Lovers. The first of two races this year at Richmond is the ninth race of the 2012 season. The race will be broadcast live Saturday, April 28, on FOX at 7:00 PM EST and MRN Radio at 6:30 PM ET. The Capital City 400 is scheduled to run for 400 laps, a total of 300 miles.

Records and Facts

Kyle Busch is the three-time defending champion of the Spring race at Richmond International Raceway, having won in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Though Busch has dominated the Spring race in the past, he has never won at Richmond in the Fall. His consistency at Richmond is remarkable, however. In 14 career starts at the track, Busch sports an average finish of fifth, with 11 top 5s and 12 top 10s. In the past six races at Richmond, Busch has never finished worse than sixth. His average finish is the best among all drivers who have made more than 10 starts at Richmond.

Busch's accomplishments at Richmond International Raceway pale in comparison to Richard Petty, who recorded a record 13 wins at the three-quarter mile short track. During one stretch between 1970 and 1973, Petty reeled off an incredible seven consecutive victories at the track. In his 63 career starts at Richmond, Petty would record 34 top-5 finishes and 41 top 10s.

Track Facts

Track/Race Length: 0.75 mile oval, 400 laps (300 miles)
Pit Road Speed: 45 mph
Degree of Banking: 14 degrees in the turns
Frontstretch: 1,290 ft., banked 8 degrees
Backstretch: 860 ft., banked 2 degrees
Grandstand Seating: 97,912

Pre-race Schedule

Practice: Friday, April 27, 12:00 – 2:00 PM EST on SPEED
Happy Hour: Friday, April 27, 2:30 – 3:30 PM EST on SPEED
Qualifying: Friday, April 27, 5:30 PM EST on SPEED 

Race Day Forecast

Saturday: Scattered thunderstorms, chance of precipitation 30%
High: 62
Low: 46

They Said It

"Richmond has been a hit or miss track for us, it's kind of been like Martinsville, but not as bad.  We look forward to having a good run at Richmond this weekend.  Richmond is definitely a driver's track.  It allows for really good racing and the night race this weekend will be exciting for the fans no matter what.  We have a better brake package, lighter cars and I think we'll have a good run." -Greg Biffle

"Richmond is one of my favorite racetracks. It's one of those racetracks that we've always run well at – I've won in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series and it's a track that I always look forward to going to. I love night races, but I don't like the night schedules because there is nothing to do all day. I want to race and hate the waiting." -Clint Bowyer

"Richmond is a fun race track. We ran in the top five in both races there last year so I feel like we've got a really good shot at going there and competing for a victory. Last time we had the fastest car and we have made great gains in our short-track program over the last few years. We led 113 laps at Richmond last fall and finished second, so our plan is to improve on that this weekend." -Carl Edwards

Nick Schwartz is a Contributor for He can be reached via email at



No Matter What Bruton Does, Bristol Can't Turn Back Time
by Amy Henderson

Four Burning Questions: Revving Into Richmond With Crashes, Sponsorship, and Drivers On The Mend
by Summer Dreyer

Voices From the Cheap Seats: Is NASCAR Slapping Your (Pale) Face?
by Jeff Meyer

Michael Annett Driver Diary: A Miraculously Decent Finish
as told to Toni Montgomery

Four Nationwide Regulars Aiming To End Cup Dominance At Richmond
by Bryan Davis Keith

IndyCar Preview: Sao Paolo Indy 300
by Matt Stallknecht


This Weekend on the Frontstretch:

Nationwide Breakdown: Virginia 529 College Savings 250 by Bryan Davis Keith
Bryan has all of the post race analysis you need following Friday night's Nationwide Series race from Richmond.

In September, 1997, the late Kenny Irwin, Jr. made his Winston Cup debut from the front row and earned a top-10 finish.  For whom did he make his debut, and where did the equipment likely come from?

Check back Monday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Thursday's Answer:
Q: The 1998 Pontiac Excitement 400 is best known for an incident involving Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace. What happened here?

A: Gordon and Wallace were battling hammer and tong for the lead for less than 30 laps to go when it appeared that Wallace got loose underneath Gordon entering Turn 1.  This caused Wallace's No. 2 Miller Lite Ford to move up the track and into Gordon's left rear corner.  Gordon spun, throwing up a plume of yellowish-beige smoke (this was due to new sealer being put down on the track) and hit the wall head-on. At the time, Gordon was what amounted to "Public Enemy No. 1" in NASCAR, so there were loud cheers.

Gordon was none too pleased, naturally.  He was convinced that Wallace turned him intentionally and basically told Bill Weber that. The incident, and the interview can be seen in this clip.

Frontstretch Trivia Guarantee: Take the shirt off our backs! If we've provided an incorrect answer to the Frontstretch Trivia question, be the first to email the corrected trivia answer to and we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... FREE!


Coming Monday in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Capital City 400 presented by Virginia is For Lovers Race Recap by Jeff Wolfe
-- Secret Star and Stat of the Race
by Tom Bowles
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!
Monday on the Frontstretch:

Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Capital City 400 presented by Virginia is For Lovers by Matt McLaughlin
Matt will be here with his overall thoughts about the action from Saturday evening's action from Richmond.

Monday Morning Teardown by Ron Lemasters
Ron returns for a website look at one of the big stories from Sunday's race from Richmond.

Bowles-Eye View by Tom Bowles
Tom brings back his weekly post-race commentary with all of the insight you need from a weekend of racing at Richmond.

Big Six: Capital City 400 presented by Virginia is For Lovers by Amy Henderson
Looking for all you need to know leaving Saturday's event at Richmond? Amy has your who, what, when, where, why and how from a weekend of racing.

Pace Laps: Richmond Weekend by the Frontstretch Staff
In our newest column this season, we'll take a look at the biggest stories to keep an eye on in each series after a weekend at Richmond.

Talk back to the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Got something to say about an article you've seen in the newsletter? It's as easy as replying directly to this message or sending an email to We'll take the best comments and publish them here!

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Frontstretch Newsletter: April 26th, 2012

Presented by
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
April 26th, 2012
Volume VI, Edition LXXI


Editor's Note: Frontstretch has a brand new, redesigned Facebook page. Click Here to "Like" Us and get a direct connect to all your Frontstretch favorites along with polls, interaction with fans and so much more.

Editor's Note: Due to at-track coverage, the Newsletter came out a bit later than usual today. We apologize for the inconvenience; expect overnight delivery to resume with Friday's edition.

What to Watch: Thursday

- Thursday night is race night at Richmond International Raceway.  The action starts with coverage of the Blue Ox 100 for the K&N Pro Series East at 7 PM, followed by the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, back for a second year at RIR at 8:30 PM.  Both races will be televised live on SPEED.  However, rain is in the forecast and could put a significant damper on the evening.

Top News
by Phil Allaway and Tom Bowles

Thumbs-Up From Drivers At Pocono Test

Speed and smiles dominated the Goodyear Tire Test this week at Pocono Raceway, site of a recent repaving as the track prepares to start its June NASCAR schedule with fresh asphalt. It's a rare thumbs up from the driving corps after a series of "modifications" to tracks that have gone awry; instead, many of those testing think the racing at the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle will improve immediately.

"This was the track that was most overdue to be repaved," claimed Jamie McMurray, one of over a half-dozen drivers selected by Goodyear to try out new compounds. "I think most guys will like this a lot more. Being a driver, just a lot more grip. Gosh, I mean certainly everyone will ask me about the tire test when we get to Richmond this weekend and I'll have nothing but really good things to say about it."

"It's smoother," added Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne when asked about the track. "It still has the same transitions, the same rolling hills in spots that Pocono has always been known for. To me, it's really good."

Kahne, who holds the Pocono Cup qualifying record was reported to be running up to seven-tenths faster per lap during the test; all drivers agreed speeds would continue to increase significantly leading up to the June event.

"The trucks right now, last time I was out, I ran pretty much every lap, including the tunnel turn wide open," claimed ThorSport's Matt Crafton. "It was intense, very intense."

The main concern voiced by drivers was whether there would be multiple grooves "broken in;" however, all remained optimistic the repaving job was so strong working in a second and perhaps even a third groove at points around the track would not be a problem.

"I think the most important thing," added McMurray, "When we come back here for the race is, if we can get them to do something like they did at Phoenix, where they drug some tires to try to widen the groove out a little bit. There's a fairly narrow groove right now. I haven't really ventured out because you're going so fast, there's not really any room for error if you get into the grey where there hasn't been rubber laid down yet, but the track has a lot of grab."

Bristol Begins Turn Modifications

Ever since the Food City 500 back on March 18th, stories have been flying around about potential modifications to Bristol Motor Speedway's high-banked turns in the wake of decreasing attendance and fan apathy.  The track itself even put a survey on their website asking race fans whether they were satisfied with the track and what changes (if any) should be made.

Bristol most definitely listened to their fans.

On Wednesday, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Chairman and CEO O. Bruton Smith announced the long-awaited plans for modifications to Bristol Motor Speedway in preparation for the track's August race weekend.  According to screenshots posted on Bristol's website, the current plan is to grind down the outside lanes in the corners so that the banking will be equal from the top to the bottom. 

Today, the track has progressive banking that ranges from 24 degrees at the bottom of the track to 30 degrees up near the wall in the turns.  The modifications appear to set a universal banking in the turns of 24 degrees.  This is quite a bit lower than both what the "Old Bristol" advertised (36 degrees) and what it actually was (somewhere in the 27-30 degree range).

Smith was honest in his decision making rationale.

"I said when this process began last month that I would listen to what the fans said they wanted," Smith said.  "The fan feedback over the past month, along with input over the last few years, was the impetus for alterations to the track."

"The majority of the fans we heard from said they wanted adjustments made and the bulk of those said the progressive banking was what they didn't like," Smith continued.  "So, that's the focus of our efforts.  And that is what we're working to change."

Work is already underway on the track modifications.  Reporters who made the trip up to Bristol for Wednesday's press conference saw a track that had already had the SAFER Barriers removed and work that had already begun.  The press release issued by the track did not quote a completion date for the project; however, it is not likely to take more than a few weeks.  Also of note, according to Smith on Wednesday's edition of NASCAR Now, the straightaways will not be altered.

Goodyear to Hold Tire Test at Bristol

In response to Bristol Motor Speedway's track modification announcement, Goodyear announced on Wednesday that they will be holding a special, two-day tire test at Bristol Motor Speedway from June 12th to 13th.  This test will be used to determine whether the current Bristol tire can continue to be used after the modifications or if a new one is required.

Goodyear officials are confident that they will find the proper compound for the more traditional Bristol setup.

"We're happy with our current tire setup at Bristol, but we always have to keep up with track changes, so we plan to run a test to determine what will best suit the specific modifications made," said Stu Grant, Goodyear's General Manager of Worldwide Racing.  "We will start our test with the existing Bristol tire setup in order to determine if the changes to the track surface require any changes to our tread compound formulation.  We'll then evaluate if the track surface has changed and if we'll need to bring back something different for the race in August."

One of the main issues with tires recently is that the tires don't rubber in well on concrete surfaces.  This has been an issue more or less since the COT was introduced in 2007.  Rubber more or less sits on top of the track under green flag conditions, then is picked back up by the cars under caution.  It is unclear whether these issues will be addressed with the tire test.  Also, no teams that will be participating in the test were announced.  That will happen in a few weeks.

Entry List Update:
Note: These entries are accurate as of Wednesday night.  However, they are still subject to change.

Sprint Cup Series Capital City 400 Presented by Virginia Is For Lovers: 46 cars entered

Drivers Ineligible to Earn Points:
No. 19 -
Mike Bliss for Humphrey-Smith Racing
No. 32 -
Reed Sorenson for FAS Lane Racing
No. 87 -
Joe Nemechek for NEMCO Motorsports

Driver Changes:
No. 33 -
Stephen Leicht is in the seat, replacing Jeff Green. Leicht last made a Cup start at Richmond last Fall.
No. 52 - An unknown driver will be in the seat, replacing Scott Speed. This attempt is the first for Hamilton Means Racing since Martinsville.
No. 74 - Stacy Compton returns to the seat, replacing Tony Raines. Turn One Racing is expected to start and park if they make the field.

Drivers who must qualify on speed:
No. 19 -
Mike Bliss for Humphrey-Smith Racing*
No. 23 -
Scott Riggs for R3 Motorsports*
No. 26 -
Josh Wise for Front Row Motorsports*
No. 30 -
David Stremme for Inception Motorsports*
No. 33 -
Stephen Leicht for LJ Racing
No. 49 -
J.J. Yeley for Robinson-Blakeney Racing
No. 52 -
Unknown driver for Hamilton-Means Racing
No. 74 -
Stacy Compton for Turn One Racing*
No. 87 -
Joe Nemechek for NEMCO Motorsports*
No. 95 -
Scott Speed for Leavine Family Racing
No. 98 -
Michael McDowell for Phil Parsons Racing*

Nationwide Series Virginia 529 College Savings 250: 44 cars entered

Number Change:
RAB Racing switches from No. 09 to 99 as a result of a partnership with Michael Waltrip Racing

Drivers Ineligible to Earn Points:
No. 17 -
J.J. Yeley for Berryhill Racing
No. 18 -
Denny Hamlin for Joe Gibbs Racing
No. 20 -
Joey Logano for Joe Gibbs Racing
No. 22 -
Brad Keselowski for Penske Racing
No. 30 -
James Buescher for Turner Motorsports
No. 33 -
Kevin Harvick for Richard Childress Racing
No. 38 -
Kasey Kahne for Turner Motorsports
No. 42 -
Josh Wise for Key Motorsports
No. 47 -
Scott Speed for Key Motorsports
No. 54 -
Kurt Busch for Kyle Busch Motorsports
No. 75 -
Scott Riggs for Rick Ware Racing

Driver Changes:
No. 08-
Casey Roderick returns to the seat, replacing Kyle Fowler. Roderick is running a limited schedule for Randy Hill when sponsorship allows.
No. 4 -
Steve Wallace is in the seat, replacing Danny Efland.  Rusty Wallace Racing is running the number this week for JD Motorsports, guaranteeing that Wallace will not have to qualify on speed.
No. 24 -
Tanner Berryhill is in the seat, replacing Benny Gordon.  Since Berryhill is already locked in, this will mark Berryhill's Nationwide Series debut.
No. 30 -
James Buescher returns to the seat, replacing Steve Arpin. The Daytona winner is running a limited schedule in this series while running full-time in Trucks.
No. 33 - Kevin Harvick returns to the seat, replacing Paul Menard.
No. 39 -
Matt Frahm returns to the seat, replacing Kelly Bires.
No. 52 -
Kevin Lepage returns to the seat, replacing Tim Schendel.
No. 74 -
An unknown driver will be in the seat, replacing Kevin Lepage. This car is a start-and-park entry.
No. 99 - Travis Pastrana is in the seat, replacing Ryan Truex.  Provided that he avoids spectacular injury between now and Friday night, Pastrana will be making his Nationwide Series debut.

Drivers who must qualify on speed:
No. 10 -
Jeff Green for TriStar Motorsports (Guaranteed to start via the Past Champions' Provisional)*
No. 15 -
Blake Koch for Rick Ware Racing
No. 17 -
J.J. Yeley for Berryhill Racing
No. 20 -
Joey Logano for Joe Gibbs Racing
No. 36 -
Ryan Blaney for Tommy Baldwin Racing
No. 39 -
Matt Frahm for Go Green Racing
No. 42 -
Josh Wise for Key Motorsports*
No. 46 -
Chase Miller for Key Motorsports*
No. 47 -
Scott Speed for Key Motorsports*
No. 50 -
T.J. Bell for MAKE Motorsports
No. 52 -
Kevin Lepage for Means Motorsports
No. 74 -
Unknown driver for Mike Harmon Racing*
No. 75 -
Scott Riggs for Rick Ware Racing*
No. 89 -
Morgan Shepherd for Shepherd Racing Ventures
*- Expected to Start-and-Park

Izod IndyCar Series Sao Paulo Indy 300: 26 cars entered

Driver Changes: None

No. 2 -
Ryan Briscoe for Team Penske
No. 3 -
Helio Castroneves for Team Penske
No. 4 -
J.R. Hildebrand for Panther Racing
No. 5 -
E.J. Viso for KV Racing Technologies
No. 6 -
Katherine Legge for Lotus-Dragon Racing
No. 7 -
Sebastien Bourdais for Lotus-Dragon Racing
No. 8 -
Rubens Barrichello for KV Racing Technologies
No. 9 -
Scott Dixon for Chip Ganassi Racing
No. 10 -
Dario Franchitti for Chip Ganassi Racing
No. 11 -
Tony Kanaan for KV Racing Technologies with SH Racing
No. 12 -
Will Power for Team Penske
No. 14 -
Mike Conway for A.J. Foyt Enterprises
No. 15 -
Takuma Sato for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
No. 18 -
Justin Wilson for Dale Coyne Racing
No. 19 -
James Jakes for Dale Coyne Racing
No. 20 -
Ed Carpenter for Ed Carpenter Racing
No. 22 -
Oriol Servia for Lotus-DRR
No. 25 -
Ana Beatriz for Andretti Autosport
No. 26 -
Marco Andretti for Andretti Autosport
No. 27 -
James Hinchcliffe for Andretti Autosport
No. 28 -
Ryan Hunter-Reay for Andretti Autosport
No. 38 -
Graham Rahal for Chip Ganassi Racing
No. 67 -
Josef Newgarden for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
No. 77 -
Simon Pagenaud for Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports
No. 78 -
Simona de Silvestro for Lotus-HVM Racing
No. 83 -
Charlie Kimball for Chip Ganassi Racing

Not Entered:
No. 98 -
Alex Tagliani for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian

Have news for Phil, Tom and the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.

Got NASCAR-related questions or comments?
Send them John Potts' way at; and, if you're lucky, you'll get your name in print when he does his weekly column answering back to you – the fans that keep Frontstretch afloat. Potts' Shots will run on Thursday with a whole new set of Fan Questions and Answers!

Today's Featured Commentary
Action and Inaction Both Breeding Dissatisfaction
What's Vexing Vito
by Vito Pugliese

There Will Be Weeping There, and Gnashing of Teeth – and Track

On Wednesday, it was confirmed that one of the worst ideas ever was coming to fruition.  No, not the specter of taxpayers being on the hook for another $1 trillion, this time covering student loan debts (but take heart, that's just around the corner); instead, it's Bruton Smith moving forward with ruining yet another perfectly good race track in the hopes of – wait for it – improving racing.

Good God, where have we heard this before?  Oh I know, right after the race at Kansas on Sunday.

Despite the pleas from drivers such as Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards - who declared he would lay down in front of the bulldozers - the Kansas track is going to be resurfaced. While there are some large gaps in the track that need to be sealed, as well as a chunk of pavement that came up in Turn 1 on Saturday, it was not as if the track was in need of a complete overhaul.  Repaving a track does not make for improved racing; if anything, it delays the time required for the pavement to settle, racing grooves to be established, and ultimately, for the track to develop its own character and idiosyncrasies.

There's a reason why the biggest story the last few weeks was the return to racing at Rockingham - and that was just the Truck Series.  As much as everybody is pumped for a rare short track race at Richmond this weekend followed by the following week's first trip to Talladega, many more still are waiting for The Southern 500 ran over Mother's Day weekend.  Darlington is shaped like an egg and gets repaved once every 20 years because its surface gets naturally sandblasted and destroys anything that comes in contact with it, short of an M1 Abrams tank tread.  Besides, how many track layouts these days are determined by minnow ponds?

In 2005, Charlotte Motor Speedway attempted a resurfacing of the track, which more less ruined the character and uniqueness of what ironically was the track that served as the inspiration for all of the "cookie-cutter" surfaces constructed during the mid-1990's and early 2000's.  What resulted was the best track in the world reduced to a shadow of its former self.  Kind of like that blond chick in the movie Sucker Punch who receives an unsolicited lobotomy, and goes from a vibrant, dynamic heroine, into a vapid, empty shell.  A few days of grinding left what had been the ultimate showplace in the heart of NASCAR country without bumps and without character.

As Mark Martin put it at the time, "They took the greatest race track in the world and ruined it."

Sadly, it appears that same thing is now going to happen at Bristol Motor Speedway, simply because there isn't any wrecking, which allegedly is keeping fans away.  Never mind the obscenely high price of a race weekend with unemployment tickling ten percent and gas nudging north of $4.00 a gallon – sometimes food and paying the electric bill take precedence over "Racin' The Way it Oughta Be" -- or at least used to be.

As the changes were explained during the press conference, a grinding machine was fired up and hard at work tearing up the top groove of the track.  The goal is to remove the progressive banking and make running three-wide less attainable - while making contact inevitable.  The days of running multiple lines and door to door have been short-lived; instead, Bristol is now going to be a one and a half groove track where to get around somebody, you have to pop them in the back in the middle of a corner, in hopes of bringing back the dumbest thing to enter the sports lexicon since the term "Young Gun" was shoved down our throats ten years ago: The Bump and Run.

Oh wow, what skill that takes.  There's a reason that Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, and Fernando Alonso are considered among the best drivers on the planet.  They don't have to run into each other to execute a pass.

Yeah, I know F1-bashers… they have to do it on the start or in the pits.  Sorry, but I just don't get too excited over celebrating the accomplishments of a guy not slowing down in the middle of a corner to hit another car in order to pass them.  I could spend $10 to see that at Berlin Raceway – except there they race cleaner there and with more respect.

Here's an easier solution to Bristol's alleged woes: have Goodyear show up with a tire that wears out after 30 laps.  As I've said before, these aren't Assureatreds with a 70,000-mile warranty.  Want some cautions?  Erect a gigantic fan to blow trash all over the track, which apparently they have in Fontana for Auto Club Speedway.  I thought that place was built on a foundry, not a landfill.  Every time there's a race there, I have to check The Drudge Report to make sure there isn't a tickertape parade we're holding for returning heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We didn't want to create a train wreck here in what we're doing," Smith said.  "We're modifying what we have.  We think it will be a lot better than it was.  It will be exciting."

If watching 100 laps under caution at $109 a seat the last week of summer is "exciting," then maybe things will turn out OK, and my Mayan doomsday scenario will be avoided.

"We think we'll win all these race fans over to our side on this," claimed Smith.  "They're going to love it. Chances are we'll have a complete sellout in August."

True.  But there's also a chance it will be a colossal disaster.  Then again, there's also a chance that it won't matter.  If a tree falls in the woods and nobody's there to see it… does it pay to have it cut down in the first place?

(North) American Innovation

With NASCAR's continued popularity issue and lack of sponsorship, there is another side effect at hand here that is affecting fans on a weekly basis: a dearth of new commercials.

Unless you're really into 5 Hour Energy, NAPA parts, or shopping at Lowe's, you've pretty much seen every ad that in the rotation by the time the F/A-18's fly over.  One recent addition, however, that caught my attention is the spot for the Dodge Charger touting "American Innovation."

Uh, really?

The Dodge Charger, whose basic structure has been with us since 2005, is built on the leftovers of a ten-year-old Mercedes E and S-Class platform, using a transmission of similar vintage, mated to an updated version of a decade-old pushrod truck engine that's made in Mexico – with everything later assembled in Canada.  Big shocker why it's Half Time in America and we're down points; the auto industry is based in Detroit, yet the powertrain is driven right past the Motor City and put together in Ontario.

Anyways, if you opt for the Challenger, a Charger in a coupe costume, you get the same basic package, unless you opt for the manual transmission in the R/T and SRT8 models - which is ultimately a derivative of a 20-year-old transmission. Don't get me wrong, this is perfectly fine and preferred in a musclecar, using bullet-proof, sorted out, proven components – except for one small detail.

You can't do anything with them.

Chrysler has seen fit to not assist the performance community with its iconic pair of Mopar muscle twins, which rely heavily on their lore and successes from 40 years ago to market their mainstream NASCAR-approved boulevard bruisers.  Starting in 2011, the two feature an engine control computer with a rolling encryption code, much like a garage door opener, making it impossible to improve performance – unless Chrysler offers their assistance, which to date they have declined.

This sort of basic modern day hot rodding is key to the billion dollar Ford aftermarket business for the Mustang, as well as cursory Camaro tinkering, both the key to the continued survival and relevancy of these storied marquees. Ford has a technology transfer program with a number of vendors, tuners, and performance shops, as well as General Motors, who markets Nurburgring-approved Cadillacs and will put a supercharger or turbo on anything these days.

Chrysler, however, seems content to talk a good game – yet contradict itself in the process.

That means the natives are growing restless.  Peruse any of the enthusiast forums for the Dodge Charger and Challenger and there is a near mutiny afoot, with threats of defecting from Dodge to Ford or even worse – the dark side for the Pentastar proud – Chevrolet.  It would be wise for Chrysler to heed the warning signs, otherwise they may find the general public pulling a Penske, and exploring options from both the Blue Oval and Bowtie brigades to better, ahem, "benchmark" their machines.

If they refuse and turn a deaf ear to those pleading their case, there may be one less commercial - and brand - to watch during a race weekend.

Vito Pugliese is a Senior Writer for  He can be reached via e-mail at



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The Critic's Annex: Tequila Patron Grand Prix of Long Beach
by Phil Allaway

Hello, race fans, welcome back to the Critic's Annex, where we take an additional look at the motorsports telecasts made available to us, the general public.  I originally stated that I was going to take a look at SPEED's Trackside Live for today's edition of the Annex.  However, due to last week's third edition of our Paulie Harraka Driver Diary, I never got a chance to run my look at the ALMS telecast from Long Beach back on April 14.  I'm going to do that today.  The critique of Trackside will occur at a later date, sometime in May (but not next week).

However, before we start, we've got some TV news.  On Wednesday, SPEED announced a new deal that will bring the World Rally Championship (WRC) back to SPEED after a multiple-year absence.  The rallies will be covered on a same-day delay basis on Sunday nights, typically at 11 PM.  This is similar to how the races were covered around 2005 or 2006.  Since the series is already four rallies into the season, SPEED2 will be offering 30-minute recaps of the first four rallies (Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico and Portugal).

In addition to the rally recaps, SPEED2 will be airing 30-minute, same-day recaps of each day of the rally.  This is the same coverage that formerly aired on Velocity.  Unfortunately, as I've mentioned in past critiques, SPEED2 has very limited availability (subscribers to Dish Network, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, Cox Cable and Bright House Networks).  As a result, this move could actually be seen as a downgrade in coverage for the WRC, but the move puts the WRC on a network in more homes (75 million as compared to an estimated 40 million for Velocity).

Now, to the critique.

ESPN2 brought viewers a live telecast from Long Beach, the first of such on television for the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series since they were still on SPEED in 2010, and the first on ESPN since 2000 or so.  Arguably, this is the easiest race for ESPN to televise live due to the fact that it is the shortest race on the calendar (just two hours in length), plus the start time (7:30 PM EDT) was definitely in their favor.

The race weekend in Long Beach was pretty difficult, to say the least.  Qualifying, which was aired live on ESPN3, was stopped after the GTC class put in their laps.  Why?  ALMS had declared the session to be a dry session and just as the GT class drivers went on track, it started raining hard.  In order to prevent an Australian pursuit setup for the actual race, the session was wiped away and everyone started on points.  In addition, all the practice sessions were run in the rain and most drivers got very little track time leading up to the race.

For the headlining (sort of, due to the lack of machinery) P1 class, the name of the game was Mazda vs. Honda (or Dyson Racing vs. Muscle Milk Pickett Racing).  Part of pre-race was spent covering that duel (with Jamie Howe).  Kelli Stavast covered the GT battle between Chevrolet, BMW and Porsche.  Johnny O'Connell took care of the track description by going on onto the track and pointing out three hot spots on the track (Turn 1, Turn 9 and the Queen's Hairpin).  Interesting way of showing the course off.

Also, there was some discussion of new machinery that is coming into the series, starting with the Lotus Evora that made its debut at Long Beach with Alex Job Racing.  The car is new to the United States, but ran last year with the JetAlliance team in Europe, including two spots in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  Also, Chrysler Group, LLC is getting back into the series towards the end of the year with the new for 2013 SRT Viper.  An artist's rendering of a No. 91 Viper was shown to viewers.  That number might not mean anything offhand, but when Dodge was supporting the ORECA team's efforts in ALMS, their primary car was the No. 91.  The car also won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2000 (the inaugural race for Grand-Am), defeating the Corvette team in the process.

The start of the race was nothing short of a mess.  There were a number of spins, not all of them caught by ESPN's cameras.  Tim Pappas, driving his No. 54 Black Swan Racing prototype, got involved in a crash just after getting released from the pit lane.  Apparently, the aforementioned Lotus Evora had spun out and no local yellow was shown.   At the time, we weren't shown any replays of this incident.  We only saw a brief clip of Pappas trying to drive back to the pits with the front end clouted.  A replay was shown roughly 10-15 minutes later, one that showed Evora tried to turn around in front of the Aquarium entrance, then spun the car around in a blind spot.  Pappas had nowhere to go.  Not too good.

Early in the race (right after a commercial break, mind you), ESPN cut away from the race to bring viewers a piece about how to negotiate traffic in the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series.  O'Connell talked about traffic while driving on the infamous Interstate 405 (the "405 Freeway").  I guess what O'Connell said was pertinent, but I don't think that ESPN should have cut away from race action to show it.

Race coverage (when they weren't cutting away for pieces like the one mentioned above) was mainly by class.  ESPN would focus on one individual class for a certain amount of time (for example, the GT class), then switch to another. 

Post-race coverage was typical for ESPN's ALMS broadcasts.  They would show the unofficial results in each class, then interview one driver from the winning team in each class.  On the 14th, they talked with Klaus Graf (P1), Oliver Gavin (GT), Ryan Dalziel (LMPC), Damien Faulkner (GTC) and Scott Tucker (P2).  There was also a check of the Michelin Green X Challenge results (which is probably one of the most insane scored competitions in racing because of the confusing way it's calculated).  Finally, Till and O'Connell wrapped up the telecast before ESPN left.

This was a disjointed broadcast to watch.  The direction was simply not the best.  The Alex Job-Black Swan crash on the first lap was handled terribly.  Usually, you either see something live, or see a replay of said incident before talking to the driver and seeing what put them out.  We got the reverse of that here.  It was ridiculous.  Yes, I'm sure Pappas was bummed out that he couldn't display his one-race sponsorship deal from Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, but the handling of that situation made the entire production look low rent.

In addition, the coverage does currently seem to be stilted toward the P1 and GT classes.  They get roughly 80 percent of the coverage in the broadcasts.  Yes, the GT class has the lion's share of the entrants and is the strongest class as far as competition is involved (its considered to be stronger than the GT class in both the European Le Mans Series and the World Endurance Championship), but they're not the only show out there.  As for P1, the count there has been miserable for years.  I think the ACO ditched the ALMS' single prototype class idea from 2010, so they have to run with classes that might only have a couple of cars in it.  Still, all the classes should get a decent amount of coverage.

Finally, the LMPC (Le Mans Prototype Challenge) class seems to be getting the shaft from ESPN.  The racing in the class is actually pretty good, but all we hear about is the lack of experience in the class and how either the drivers or the cars themselves cause problems for everyone else.  It's really kinda sad.  The guys that drive in that class are experienced racers like everyone else out there.  The cars themselves probably don't put heat into their tires fast enough, but they're a pretty quick package when you sit down and think about it.

I thank you for reading this critique of ESPN2's coverage of the Tequila Patron Grand Prix of Long Beach.  Check out next week's edition of the Annex, when I'll take a look at Top Gear's NASCAR adventure, set to premiere Monday night on BBC America.  Until then, enjoy the racing this weekend from Richmond, Sao Paulo and Homestead.

Phil Allaway is a Senior Writer and the Newsletter Manager for Frontstretch.  He can be reached via e-mail at


Frontstretch Line of the Week

Beyond the Cockpit: Timothy Peters On Whoopin' Cup Butt... And Burger Heaven

"You just want to beat them. From my point of view, I don't care nothing about it. I want them to come and race for my selfish reasons I just want to whoop 'em every week. " - Timothy Peters, on Sprint Cup drivers 'whacking Camping World Truck Series races


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NASCAR Role Reversal: Pocono's Promise Versus Bristol's... What, Exactly?
by Tom Bowles

MPM2Nite: Critical Mass - Is It Too Late To Save NASCAR?

by Matt McLaughlin

Dollars And Sense: NASCAR's FanVision Controller Is Worth The Investment

by Jesse Medford

Professor Of Speed: Racing Into The Future
by Mark Howell

Truckin' Thursdays: International Flair Extends Beyond Paludo and Piquet
by Beth Lunkenheimer



Q:  The 1998 Pontiac Excitement 400 is best known for an incident involving Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace.  What happened here?

Check back Friday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Wednesday's Answer:

Q:  The 1988 Pontiac Excitement 400, held on another chilly February afternoon, is most notable for being the final race run on the original 0.538-mile Fairgrounds Raceway. However, the race ended in controversy. Why?

A: The race was considered to be controversial due to an apparent scoring error.  Second-place finisher Ricky Rudd and his car owner, Kenny Bernstein, protested the results afterwards, claiming that race winner Neil Bonnett was actually at the tail end of the lead lap instead of the actual race winner.  However, his protest was denied.

Frontstretch Trivia Guarantee:  If we mess up, you get the shirt off our backs!  If we've provided an incorrect answer to the Frontstretch Trivia question, be the first to email the corrected trivia answer to and we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... FREE! 


Coming tomorrow in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News from Jeff Wolfe
-- In Case You Missed It by Nick Schwartz
-- Keepin' It Short by Mike Neff
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, trivia, and more!


Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:

Four Burning Questions: Richmond Edition by Summer Dreyer
Summer is back with a four-part look at some interesting stories as we look forward to Saturday night's race at Richmond International Raceway.

Holding A Pretty Wheel
by Amy Henderson
Amy's back with another interesting commentary.
Friday Fast Forward Into NASCAR's Future by Bryan Davis Keith
Bryan returns with another interesting commentary piece on the Nationwide Series ahead of their race in Richmond.

Voices From the Heartland by Jeff Meyer
Our Tennessee transplant returns with another interesting take on recent events.

Driver Diary: Michael Annett as told to Toni Montgomery
The driver of the No. 43 Pilot Travel Centers Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports returns to talk about the past few weeks on and off the track.

Izod IndyCar Series Preview: Sao Paulo Indy 300 by Toni Montgomery
We'll have a preview of this Sunday's race on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil.  It's currently forecast to have some rain during the race (again).
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