DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danica Patrick's coming out party in Sprint Cup racing's biggest ball of all -- the 54th Daytona 500 -- was pretty much over before it ever really began.
Several Sprint Cup drivers will have a new home in 2012. SI.com keeps you up to date with all the comings and goings.
1. Dan Wheldon is killed in an IndyCar crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There is no shortage of sadness surrounding the death of Wheldon, at age 33, only 11 laps into the final race of the IndyCar season. A wife lost a husband, two small boys a father. A community lost a friend, a series lost one of its most charismatic and talented. But ultimately one of the most mournful aspects of Wheldon's death is it may never spark the type of safety evolution that followed the high-profile racing deaths of the likes of Ayrton Senna and Dale Earnhardt. Certainly, IndyCar has professed a desire to make one of the most dangerous forms of motor sports safer, and drivers have profusely supported the series' good intentions, but respected industry veteran and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Terry Trammell said the series missed an opportunity to make the new IndyCar vehicle as safe as possible.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Although Andy Lally is proud that he was the 2011 Sunoco Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, the award comes with mixed emotions. He claimed the crown because none of the other first-year drivers were able to put full-season efforts together, in effect winning the title by default.
Uneasy lies the head that wears a ... headset.
Denny Hamlin has resolved to take his place in that glum procession of drivers who have seemingly had all of their essence and will consumed with the task of -- unsuccessfully -- defeating Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup championship. Since Johnson won his first of five consecutive titles, each competitor has followed the runner-up season with a subsequent tumble in the standings.
Economists have been saying lately that the United States has entered into a new normal. Frugality and conservation are essential. You have to take what you have and stretch it to the max. That's just the way things are these days, the experts say, and everybody needs to accept it.
Brad Keselowski drove back into the Chase for the Championship at Pocono last week by winning despite a broken left ankle. Not that winning on an oval was easy, but the task of just remaining competent on the road course at Watkins Glen this weekend will be exponentially more difficult, according to veteran road racer Boris Said, who has coached and competed against more than 30 NASCAR drivers.
Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500 fairy tale turned about to be just the beginning. The fresh-faced kid from Knoxville, Tenn., with a part-time ride in the fabled No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford became the youngest, at 20 years and a day, to win NASCAR's greatest race, doing so in his first try and setting off a wave of nostalgia for the legendary, but recently struggling Woods, and euphoria over the emergence of a possible new star.
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Perhaps one day 107,000 fans will claim to have cheered, booed, or gazed down scornfully as Kyle Busch won the first Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. Some of them may have actually heard it from their cars, still trying to creep into the overwhelmed facility through clogged roads on Saturday night, some from I-71 as they angrily returned home, children weeping, dreams smashed, vacation money wasted. They should be allowed the indulgence of blocking out what by all accounts was one of the most inept debuts of a facility as a big league venue in recent memory.
Devils and championships are in the details and Penske Racing has been a master of both in four decades as one of motor sports' elite organizations.
The much publicized "seat swap" between two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart and former Formula 1 victor Lewis Hamilton at Watkins Glen International on Tuesday was more than a well-choreographed and well-received grab for free media from their mutual sponsor. At the heart of it, these types of exchanges, however brief, are keenly interesting because of where they might lead.
It lacked high drama, but at least it was nice and long. The annual Sprint Cup All-Star Race may not have provided many clues as to the tone of next week's Coca-Cola 600, but at least it rid Roush Fenway Racing of one of those pesky fast race cars.
Matt Kenseth wasn't sure he'd ever reach victory lane again. Not winning for two years will do that to the mind of even a former champion. An otherwise mundane race was somewhat spiced with desperate pit strategies -- and Carl Edwards may or may not have obliterated a bird, which he wryly noted is a bad move for a guy so associated with a duck.
The good stuff came at the end of the Sprint Cup race and at the start of the IndyCar race. One defending NASCAR champion was denied while a multi-champion open wheel driver had his way. A possible new star was anointed in NASCAR's season-opening Daytona 500, although Trevor Bayne has been more like a meteorite since. A possible new star, if not a crowd favorite, was minted in the IndyCar opener, and it'll be interesting to see how she handles this trial by fire.
Ten days before the commencement of the 2011 Izod IndyCar Series season at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, storylines are beginning to crystallize that could meander all the way to the much-anticipated season finale in Las Vegas. There's Danica Patrick, of course. There are those Ganassi drivers again. There's Tony George. Huh?
Jimmie Johnson floated it. Carl Edwards didn't want anything to do with it. He'd crumbled under the burden as the next fashionable challenger to Johnson's ever-increasing championship run in 2009. So Edwards asked not to be picked "for a damn thing" when told this winter that the five-time defending series champion considered him his biggest obstacle.
Kyle Busch very nearly won the weekend, collecting trophies in the Nationwide and truck series races at Phoenix International Raceway. He only managed a runner-up finish in the Sunday show, however, though he did collect a major ego boost when Jeff Gordon, upon breaking a 66-race winless streak, put his victory in perspective by marveling, "We beat Kyle Busch!"
He races for his grandfather's ultra successful team. After eschewing racing for a budding amateur baseball career, he was presented with quality equipment after changing his mind.
Hope big and compromise with what you can accept. With that bit of wisdom in mind, here are 11 somewhat fervent, somewhat frivolous hopes for motorsports in 2011.
1. An American will win the Indianapolis 500. Funny, isn't it, how the oldest 500-mile race in America hasn't been won much by Americans -- just twice in the last dozen years, with Buddy Rice ('04) and Sam Hornish Jr. ('06). Expect that to change in 2011. Hornish, struggling to keep sponsorship afloat in stock cars, could re-enter the race with Penske Racing and join well-funded American drivers Graham Rahal (Ganassi), Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport) and Marco Andretti (Andretti) as immediate threats. Then, of course, there's the always-unpredictable Danica Patrick. There are enough options that someone, somewhere will break through to Victory Lane and end the drought.
1. Jimmie Johnson wins fifth consecutive Sprint Cup championship. The careers of most of the Sprint Cup drivers younger than 35 will eventually be considered in context of the Jimmie Johnson era. Like baseball's Dead Ball Era, Johnson's dominance will influence the consideration of every achievement within it. And there's no telling when this epic NASCAR epoch will end. Not in 2010. Johnson withstood a challenge from Denny Hamlin, overtaking him for the title in the final race of the season in what might be both Johnson's and crew chief Chad Knaus' most masterful effort.
Close your eyes and play along with me.
Bruton Smith has put an actuary to work figuring out the probability that one driver could win the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in 2011 in order to purchase an insurance policy that would pay a $20 million bonus.
Bruton Smith has put an actuary to work to figure out the probability that one driver could win the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in 2011 in order to purchase an insurance policy that would pay a $20 million bonus.
Looks like Mother Nature will finally cut NASCAR a break this weekend. With warm weather and no rain expected from Friday through Sunday, drivers will be racing in picture-perfect conditions on what is usually a cold, wet race date in Atlanta.
MOORESVILLE, North Carolina -- Both NASCAR Sprint Cup and the Izod IndyCar Series could be getting their wings clipped.
It was only a few short weeks ago that Jimmie Johnson celebrated his record fourth-straight Sprint Cup championship, and yet the start of SpeedWeeks at Daytona is a little more than 30 days away. So, with another offseason about to fly by like cars in qualifying laps for the Daytona 500, it's time to look ahead and make 10 observations and predictions for the upcoming season.
Tantalizing pseudofacts and unsourced assertions continue to drive the Danica Patrick-to-NASCAR storyline, and until a deal is completed with some stock car team -- reportedly JR Motorsports -- the Izod IndyCar Series' most recognizable driver and media dynamo seems content with incrementally working though her to-do list.
Brad Parrott stood amid the threadbare amenities of the small garage and beamed. The banks of laptop computers and data acquisition technology underscored the disparity between the squadron of Ganassi Racing engineers and the handful of part-time/hard-time wannabes massed at Iowa Speedway for this test session in the grass roots ARCA stock series in late September 2006.
Somewhere down below the decidedly undemonstrative façade, Kasey Kahne could be thinking about the possibility of sweeping the road course segment of the Sprint Cup schedule. There would be significance in a second win this season and perhaps further validation that Richard Petty Motorsports is indeed going to be OK after a season of tumult.
With midsummer already upon us, there's a lot of talk about what's going to happen to drivers, teams, and owners for 2010 and beyond. But in a sport in which news and rumors are now a 24/7 business, we often forget to stop and think about how the changes made during last Silly Season panned out.
It's that time again! The Bowlesy Awards have made it to a fourth year, recognizing the good, the bad and the ugly that has been the 2009 Sprint Cup season to date. This semi-annual checkup happens each July and December, and recognizes a select number of stock car drivers on their accomplishments -- or lack thereof.
We're halfway to the Chase for the Championship. There should be a nickname, a logo, a T-shirt, something. Until then, we have a prospective playoff field with 13 races left until that 12-driver playoff unit is finalized at Richmond on Sept. 12.
Three years after the floodgates opened on an open-wheel NASCAR invasion, it appears the bleeding has finally stopped for the IRL. As the curtain rises on this year's Indy 500, Dario Franchitti finds himself running open-wheel after just one failed season attempting to transition into Sprint Cup. He joins Jacques Villeneuve, Sarah Fisher and Patrick Carpentier as recent examples of how success in one form of motorsports doesn't always translate somewhere else -- failures that make others wary of attempting to make the jump (Danica, are you listening?).
Innovation comes less often from Eureka! moments than from borrowing a bit here, and a bit there. The Vikings were actually quite helpful, once all the pillaging stopped. Rock n' Roll didn't just steal itself from the blues. Someone had to do it for Elvis. Anyway, sports leagues can learn from each other, too. So here are five things racing could learn from the other major sports, and vice versa.
There is a perception that Sam Hornish Jr. was coerced at Roger Penske's saber-point into a new career in NASCAR. And in fairness, Hornish did little to dispel the notion when the three-time Indy Racing League champion conceded that he'd always been inclined to do what his ultra-successful team owners wanted, because Penske is most-often correct.
When Danica Patrick talks about Helio Castroneves, you can imagine her sitting on the floor of her Phoenix home amid hundreds of files, contracts and tax documents. It would be the middle of the night, Patrick with a flashlight in one hand, magnifying glass in the other, mumbling gibberish as she speed-reads the forms.
It's been a rather odd week in February for NASCAR. If your name isn't "Matt Kenseth," "Digger," or "Auto Club Speedway," you've struggled to make the news in a season that started with a little more than a snooze.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- They should just rename the "Budweiser Shootout" the "Bailout Shootout" because the emphasis has been taken away from the drivers and put on the car manufacturers of the ailing automotive industry.
The holidays are a giving time of year, one in which everyone has their eyes on a gift of their dreams. So, it's time to have a little fun and present my NASCAR Wish List for your favorite drivers this offseason. These may not be on their list for Santa ... but they should be ...
INDIANAPOLIS -- Now that 2000 NASCAR Cup champion Bobby Labonte has been released from his contract at Petty Enterprises, don't be surprised to see him as the driver of the No. 41 entry at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
This is the week when drivers, mechanics, marketing executives and even the traveling slobs known as the "motorsports media" put on fancy clothes and tuxedos for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Banquet.
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- One of the greatest combinations in NASCAR Sprint Cup history will come to an end this weekend when Tony Stewart competes in his final race for Joe Gibbs Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Matt Kenseth won the 2003 Sprint Cup championship by reaching victory lane just once but amassing 25 top-10s in 36 races. It was a feat of consistency that was lambasted as boring, thus the system used to determine NASCAR's top-series champion was changed the next season.
The three combatants toddled into the media center of Richmond International Raceway on Friday, plopped behind a smallish table and instinctively checked to see if their microphones were live.
Ferrous and non-ferrous metals recycling. That's Billy Martino's future now. There will always be rusty old things in need of conversion into shiny new things. There's a certain order to it. Maybe that's why this past weekend just didn't make much sense.
Downshift, brake, hit the mark, turn, up shift, accelerate, turn, brake. Five seconds -- maybe -- in the work day of a race car driver on a road course. And that's the easy part of racing. That doesn't even factor the metallic herd traversing the winding course, some among it predators capable of manipulating any mistake to create a precious passing opportunity.
The promiscuous business of wooing and retaining drivers for the 2009 season and beyond will underpin much of the current Sprint Cup season, even with 16 weeks remaining. This so-called "Silly Season" process, a summer rite that has bloomed in spring the past two years, needs little embellishment, but here are a few plausible scenarios that could make things pretty interesting in the near- and far-terms.
SI.com has learned that for the first time in history, a major presidential candidate may sponsor a race car in NASCAR's premier series. According to sources, Barack Obama's campaign is in talks to become the primary sponsor of BAM Racing's No. 49 Sprint Cup car for the Pocono race on August 3. Details of the agreement are expected to be worked out over the coming days.
With the half of the season complete, it's time for a little midseason review of each driver on the Sprint Cup circuit. Here's a look at how each of the full-time competitors has fared this season -- note that to be included on this list, a driver had to have started at least eight of eighteen races on the year:
The phone rings in Larry Kemp's office at Eldora Speedway on a busy Friday night. Just a few hours remain before the sprint car race in this rural part of Ohio, but the boss is a thousand miles away at some hulking concrete and steel superspeedway. That doesn't mean, though, the boss isn't present, not when he fills the hours after practice and qualifying in his motor home twiddling like a security guard at the controls of the high-definition cameras that peer down upon the track back in Ohio, upon the money rooms and the concession stands.
What is to be said for those NASCAR fans whose guilty souls are cracked open by Deputy Travis Junior?