Last year Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series under his new crew chief Steve Letarte. The previous year he had finished the season in 21st place in the points standings under his old crew chief Lance McGrew.
Although he still hasn’t won a race since 2008, Dale Jr. and Steve Letarte made huge strides and really improved over the 2011 season. He could have easily shot Kevin Harvick up the hill at Martinsville to reclaim the lead and put an end to his winless streak, but Dale said he wanted to race him clean, and I’m sure Junior Nation can respect that.
Then there was the Coca-Cola 600 when Jimmie Johnson blew up, Dale Junior was coming to the checkers and ran out of gas! Kevin Harvick ultimately once again claimed a victory during that race.
Dale also hung out at the back of the pack under Chad Kanaus’s request in an effort to stay out of trouble for the race which ultimately worked against junior to the point where, when he got out of the car he said he was done sand bagging at these tracks.
I think in the 2012 season Dale will finally end his dry spell and claim the checkers more than once.
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Danica Patrick has announced that instead of racing in the Indianapolis 500, that she would run NASCAR’s longest race of the year in the Sprint Cup Series,which is the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In 2005 Danica Patrick finished 4th in the Indy 500, claiming the highest finish by any female driver.
Danica will be racing in the Nationwide Series for Jr. Motorsports during the 2012 season, and has 10 races that she plans to run in the Sprint Cup Series on a limited schedule for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Danica said that she would love to run in the Indy 500 again one day possibly pulling a double between the two different series, and could possibly add the Brickyard 400 onto her schedule as her 10th race to be run in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
When Darian Grubb left Stewart-Haas Racing as the top dog, he wasn’t exactly sure where he would end up.There he sat as a champion crew chief for the 2011 season, and also without a job, as he was told that he would be let go at the end of the season by Tony Stewart.
Rumors had it that he might even stay at Stewart-Haas Racing but in a different role. Then there was an offer from Rick Hendrick at Hendrick Motorsports, who said that he would be more than happy to create a position for Darian.
After all of this, Darin Grubb has landed himself a position over at Joe Gibbs Racing as the crew chief for Denny Hamlin who drives the # 11 FedEX machine.
Denny Hamlin lost the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship in 2010 by only a few points to Mr. “Five Time” Jimmie Johnson. He wasn’t a factor for the chase in 2011, so Joe Gibbs decided it was time to change things around a bit, and plucked Darian from the unemployment pool, then decided to put him to work as Denny’s crew chief for the 2012 season.
Darin made some great calls during the Chase Race, and netted Tony Stewart 5 wins with 12 races to go in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season. This enabled Tony Stewart to inch out Carl Edwards, who ultimately tied with Stewart for the championship, however the crown went to Stewart for his 5 wins of the season to Carl Edward’s 1 win.
I think that this pairing with Darian Grubb and Denny Hamlin will really turn the 11 team around for the 2012 season. It’s going to be pretty interesting to see how all of this pans out.
Kasey Kahne drove the Red Bull machine to a victory last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway; Kyle Busch is at bay and on probation for his truck racing incident, and if you’re not on Brian Vickers bad side, and your name is Tony Stewart or Carl Edwards, you might just win the Nascar Sprint Cup Chase this weekend at Homestead.
Just three points… yes that’s right THREE!, separate first and second place Chase contenders Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.
Last weekend at Phoenix, both contenders traded positions back-and-forth, like two heavy weight titans battling for every inch of real estate to get that extra point.
Edwards has been great all season, and Stewart has really started to pour it on at the end of the year, to make it not so easy for Edwards. Both guys went back and forth all race long last week, and still three points are all that remain for Stewart to over take Edwards.
This has to be the closest battles in Sprint Cup history. The race this weekend should be a great one to watch.
The Bank Of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, didn’t seem to have much going for it until the last 40 laps or so when guys started to get itchy and impatient. Midway through the field there was plenty of pushing and shoving going on.
Jimmie Johnson rolled into Charlotte third in the Nascar Chase, but his incident with Ryan Newman changed all of that. Johnson was running low and Ryan Newman was going around on the high side, when the air off of Newman’s car seemed to upset the 48 of Johnson. Johnson’s Lowes Chevrolet began to spin sideways, when that happened Jimmie floored the gas to keep the car from backing into the wall, all of a sudden the 48 hooked sideways and went full tilt tight into the safer barrier.
Johnson’s car hit the wall so hard it moved the safer barrier back about a foot, stoved the whole front end of the Lowes machine in, and when he hit the safer barrier, the rear of the car lifted about 3-4 feet off of the ground from the impact.
Jimmie was taken to the infield medical center where he was immediately checked and released, and ended up being okay. If this accident were about 10 years ago the outcome more than likely would have been grim.
Nascar has done a great job in the past 10 years in evolving these cars to the point where the drivers can walk away from accidents like this. Jimmie Johnson now sits 8th in the Chase.
When you are accelerating down the straightaway at 120 mph in your track-only EVO, the last thing you want to lose is your brakes. Luckily for this driver, the driver of the silver STI on his right checked his mirrors, saw what was about to happen, and didn’t turn in to the corner. If he had, both drivers would have been in much worse shape. Hold on to your hats, it’s one hell of a ride.
That obviously looked pretty bad, but imagine if you could see it from the STI’s perspective. Oh wait, you can, because he had an in-car camera as well.
When all was said and done, the driver of the EVO was a bit sore, and his car needed a few new body panels. Overall, not bad. It did drive itself onto the trailer though, which indicated the drivetrain being “mostly” ok. So what happened to the brakes? Well, he believes that they were severely overheated just before the straightaway, which boiled the brake fluid, and caused the low pedal. Needless to say, the brakes will be getting an upgrade of some sort.
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This weekend the Nascar circuit will be racing at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Nationwide race will be run on Friday night and the Sprint cup race will be run on Saturday night. To make things even more exciting, this one’s under the stars baby!
Bristol used to be the race of the season to watch. Before they paved the track there was only one groove to run on; to pass a guy you had to lay on the chrome horn and do the “Bump and Run”. Since they reconfigured Bristol and changed its banking, it has opened up a second groove which allows the drivers to be able to run a second line and pass more easily. This is great for the drivers but bad for the fans.
Many of the fans would love to bring back the old days of Bristol, the days of Dale Earnhardt Sr. vs Terry Labonte. The two of those guys always seemed to find one another on the track. At the end of the race not one car on the track would have a straight panel on it (back in the day). Tempers would flair, sparks would fly and the term “That’s just Bristol!” was born. Maybe Bruton Smith could change it back to the way it was.
Even with the new configuration, the atmosphere at Bristol alone is pure awesome. It’s like watching a stock car race in a football stadium. Bristol is completely surrounded by bleachers making it the loudest track on the circuit. So if you plan on sitting in the grandstand at Bristol, you’d better bring some ear plugs.
The noise is so loud at Bristol that, crew chiefs sometimes relay messages by writing notes on a piece of paper and passing them along, because the noise is just too great to communicate.
So if your trapped inside, turn on the tube and catch a great race. Bristol Motor Speedway is always exciting and different from any other track on the circuit.