NASCAR Cup Series

Kurt Busch offered ride at SHR

By Summer Bedgood – Kurt Busch has received a formal offer from Stewart-Haas Racing to drive for the team full-time in 2014, as first reported by FOX Sports and later by ESPN. Funding would be expected to come from Haas/CNC and Busch would be joining fellow drivers Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, and Danica Patrick.

Team owner Stewart said earlier this year that the team didn’t have the resources or funding for a fourth car, and cited that as a reason that Ryan Newman would be leaving the team at the end of the season. According to FOX Sports, this deal came together quickly and was penned before Stewart’s season ending injury on August fifth.

Neither Busch nor SHR have confirmed or denied the announcement, and in a statement to Motor Racing Network’s Dustin Long SHR said, “”Stewart-Haas Racing constantly strives to improve itself, and expansion is something that is often discussed. If the right opportunity presents itself, it’s something the team will certainly consider.”

Busch hasn’t had a solid, full-time ride since he was let go from Penske Racing at the end of the 2011 season. With a number of public meltdowns shattering his public image, Busch has been attempting to build his reputation and become more attractive to potential sponsors.

It must have worked. Not only does Busch have an offer with Stewart Haas Racing, but his name has also been in the mix with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing as a potential replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya at season’s end.

Busch has been driving for single-car operation Furniture Row Racing this season. He has six top fives, 11 top 10s, and is currently ninth in points.






NASCAR Cup Series

Stewart out for the Season

By Summer Bedgood – Tony Stewart will sit out the rest of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Stewart Haas Racing announced on Monday afternoon. Stewart is recovering from a broken right tibia and fibula sustained in a sprint car crash on August 5th at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Mark Martin will drive the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet in Stewart’s absence this weekend in Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, along with every other race through the end of the year except for the Oct. 20th event at Talladega Superspeedway. Austin Dillon, who drove for the team last weekend in Michigan, will compete in that race.

Martin, who was driving the No. 55 on a part-time basis for Michael Waltrip Racing for the past two seasons, was released from his driving duties in order to drive for SHR. Brian Vickers, who was already slated to drive the No. 55 full-time in 2014, will drive for the remainder of the season except for Talladega. Michael Waltrip will pilot the No. 55 during the Talladega Chase race.

Stewart is expected to return to the seat of the No. 14 during preseason testing in Jaunary 2014.

NASCAR Cup Series

Fighting for a Chase Spot, Busch Calls Furniture Row a ‘Big Time Player’

By Kelly Crandall – Kurt Busch made much more of his opportunity Sunday at Michigan International Speedway than he had here in June.

Spinning himself out and taking away a shot at victory then, Busch took another strong No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet to the front. He led early laps, 20, and kept the team in contention for their first victory in the Pure Michigan 400 as the day progressed. In the end a solid third place finish was just as nice for Busch, who jumped back inside the top 10 in points.

“It was a good day for us, we battled hard and persevered and came through some of the sequences where we were putting on four tires and some of the other guys were putting on two, even saw some fuel only out there today,” Busch said on another season best finish.

“We stuck with our game plan and at one point we were buried deep, 14th on one of the restarts and I was a little frustrated at that point knowing we had a much better car but our weaknesses were restarts today and trying to maneuver in traffic.

“Low and behold, I get fired up, sometimes I get lucky, and an opening opened up on the outside and I think I came from 14th to sixth. It was a game changer, that one moment was our race. But to be in position and run well, just got to thank the guys. Furniture Row team is acting like a big time player right now, we have a little bit of weaknesses here and there but overall we keep posting good results and it’s very satisfying.”

There have been many lost opportunities for the single car team throughout the season but the solid and steady approach the last few weeks have them sniffing at the Chase. He’s now ninth with three races remaining, including Bristol this coming Saturday night where he’s won five times.

But for those looking for Busch to be chomping at the bit, and don’t believe he isn’t, there’s a calmness about the Las Vegas native. He’s been in this position before, having sat ninth in points earlier this year before falling back on the outside. Sunday there was mellowness about him, keeping the team updated on his stability, which he was very comfortable with all day, to simply relaying information about the car.

“It’s being focused, I’m excited that we’re running well and we’re able to seal the deal when that had been some of our struggles through the midpoint of the season,” said Busch on his lack of emotion.

“Now I’m just in that Chase mode where we have to get in and you can’t celebrate with a third place finish, you just have to feel confident and to know that you can go back next week and do it again. The biggest thing is just staying out of trouble. Bristol – trouble can happen at any corner, there’s going to be 500 laps that we have to perform there next week where we have to protect our car and finish well.”

Whether it’s Bristol, Atlanta or Richmond, Busch knows there can be a “fender bender” that puts him back outside the Chase. Blinders are on from here on out, excitement at a minimum. Sunday everything came together as the team needed it. Busch earned his sixth top five of the year and made the picture bigger just a little bit brighter. Except it wasn’t as easy as it seemed, Busch was logged back in traffic late in the race after the team had a slow pit stop.

He went from inside the top 10 to sitting 14th. Driving angry though, worked to Busch’s advantage, as did the outside lane when he rocketed back to fifth in two laps. Fuel mileage then entered the picture, but Busch was good until the end and capitalized on his position.

Three races now remain before the 10-week playoffs begin in Chicago. Busch has a victory at each of the three tracks and is six points ahead 11th place in the standings.

“This is tremendous, jumping in with the Furniture Row guys last year running six races together got a lot of the bugs worked out of it,” Busch did say about his current position.

“It allowed us to discover things about ourselves, weaknesses on the team. Each section through this season, every six races we can lump them together and say that we’ve improved every time we’ve gone though a chunk of six races at a time. And now here we are, we’re 23 races in, got three to go to get in the Chase and it’s an amazing feeling to be in position right now and have a group of guys from Denver, CO in the Chase right now and that’s what we got to do. Make sure that when the music stops, we’ve got a place.”

Let’s Talk About This…




NASCAR Cup Series

Logano has Earned his Place in the Sprint Cup Series

By Matt Weaver – In scoring a victory in the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday afternoon, Joey Logano made a statement on a variety of different levels. His talent is undeniable but his preparedness for the Sprint Cup Series, his maturity as a driver and ability to get it done has come into question at times, especially given his high-profile swap from Joe Gibbs Racing to Penske Racing.

Those questions were silenced to a degree on Sunday but more importantly, Logano established a foundation to eliminate them altogether.

My three instant takeaways, from both the race and Logano’s victory can be found below.

Faith Confirmed

When Joey Logano was first brought over to the No. 22 Sprint Cup team, there were some questions about the decision when considering some of the older and more established free agents that were available at the time. By winning on Sunday, Logano confirmed the faith that team owner Roger Penske and sponsor Shell Pennzoil has in him.

It’s even more remarkable when you think that Logano beat championship-winning teammate Brad Keselowski to victory lane this season. Logano hasn’t been too far off Keselowski’s pace this season — and neither Penske driver has been incredibly consistent.

The fact that Logano won first is a sign that he’s capable of carrying the load for a team if he needs to.

Establishing Championship Aspirations

By winning on Sunday, Logano moved into 13th in the championship standings and is in the mix for one of the two wild card slots needed to gain entry into the playoffs. The win also moved him within 17 points of the top-10.

Despite joining the championship-winning team formerly occupied by Tony Stewart in 2009, the younger Logano was unable to establish a lot of momentum and never made the Chase in four full seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

In stick-and-ball sports, you often see that a change of scenery benefit both sides of a trade. That appears to have applied for Logano who has started to gain momentum and continuity with Penske while Gibbs hasn’t lost anything with Matt Kenseth joining the No. 20 team either.

In fact, Logano could possibly make his first Chase this season and become an instant contender based on his summer production. Ignoring back-to-back 40th place finished at Daytona and New Hampshire, Logano has finished no worse than 11th in 12 of the past 14 Sprint Cup races. Maintaining that production deep into the Chase will certainly put him in position.

Logano Has Earned his Sprint Cup Place

The long-established book on Logano is that he wasn’t ready for the Sprint Cup Series when Gibbs brought him up to replace Stewart. It likely wasn’t an ideal option for Gibbs either as the team may have wanted one additional full season at the Nationwide level for Logano. But nevertheless, he made his full-time debut as a Cup driver at 19-years-old.

His first win came at New Hampshire but happened as a result of rain. In the moment, the thought was that it was the first of many to come so it didn’t matter how he captured the trophy. But it would take three more years for Logano to score a more traditional win at Pocono.

While the wins never came at the Cup level, they kept coming in the Nationwide Series (20 in 120 starts), adding to the idea that Logano had the ability to win but may have been better served to spend additional time in that tour just to gain confidence and experience.

Meanwhile, publicized spats with Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin over the years added questions about his maturity but those have largely disappeared as of this summer. Logano has more than held up his end of the deal as a representative for Penske Racing and has been somewhat under-the-radar in his ascent up the standings this season.

Logano has spent the entire season answering every question and is on the verge of finding his role in the Cup Series. That could be a dangerous proposition for everyone else in the garage.  At just 23-years-old, Logano may have finally arrived as the force “Sliced Bread” was always meant to be.



NASCAR Cup Series

Logano Takes a Leap Towards Chase with MIS Win

By Reid Spencer (BROOKLYN, Mich.) — Add another name to the Chase conversation.

Joey Logano started Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from the pole, and after a convoluted mix of strategy and racing incidents, it was Logano who claimed the victory and established himself as a contender for a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The victory was Logano’s first of the season, his first at Michigan, his first for Penske Racing and the third of his career. Kevin Harvick ran second, followed by Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.

The victory moved Logano from 16th to 13th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, 17 points out of 10 place. The youngest winner in MIS history also is in play for a Wild Card, with two spots available to the drivers in positions 11-20 in the standings with the most victories.

Mark Martin took off after a restart on Lap 178, as Kurt Busch, Logano and Harvick battled for the second spot behind him. But Martin was short on field, and after the running order shuffled out with Logano in second and Harvick in third, the pursuers began to close in on the leader.

When Martin slowed in Turn 3 on Lap 197, Logano shot past him into the lead with Harvick in hot pursuit. But it was Logano who took the checkered flag by 1.018 seconds over the No. 29 Chevrolet.

Series leader Jimmie Johnson couldn’t exorcise his Michigan jinx. After wrecking his primary car in Saturday’s practice, Johnson started Sunday’s race from the rear of the field in a backup car. He took the lead on Lap 43 during a cycle of green-flag pit stops, but shortly thereafter Johnson exited the race because of an engine failure.

“The engine broke there,” Johnson said after bringing the car to the garage. “I guess when we came in for a green flag pit stop, something started then and made it a few more laps and didn’t really notice anything off.

“Then it finally dropped a cylinder or two down the backstretch. Definitely an unfortunate thing, but we had plenty of speed in the car and I think we were going to be a factor.”

Johnson could afford that sort of failure, having locked himself into the Chase last week at Watkins Glen. The same couldn’t be said of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who smacked the Turn 2 wall on Lap 135 — after leading 20 circuits earlier in the race — and took his crippled car to the garage for repairs.

Earnhardt finished 36th and dropped from sixth to seventh in the standings, 20 points ahead of 11th-place Kasey Kahne with three races left before the Chase field is set at Richmond.

NASCAR Cup Series


Compiled by Staff – What was the talk of the day in the Michigan International Speedway media center? Two things: The Chase and Silly Season.

Let’s hear from the drivers asked about these topics today.

Jimmie Johnson – “This is about the only track where you’ve been to more than a dozen times and haven’t won. Do you keep that check list of places where you have and haven’t won? What is it about this place that has kept you from winning?”

“Yeah, I do pay attention to the tracks I haven’t won at. It’s more on the front side going to the event and building excitement about racing at the track and wanting to win. When the race starts, it doesn’t go through my mind at that point. It has when opportunity slips by, especially here. We’ve been so close that it certainly enters my mind at that point.

“But we’ve had varying issues here and those only consistent one, I would say, has been fuel mileage. We’ve worked hard to improve the car. And then I’ve worked real hard on my driving style to get better fuel mileage here. It seems like we’ve covered that gap, but we’ve had a mechanical or two. We blew a tire this last Spring when we were here. So, there have been a lot of reasons why. But I really look forward to the day I’m able to pull into Victory Lane over here.”

Kyle Busch – “Are you aiming for wins to earn Chase bonus points?”

“I think that we certainly have a little bit of leeway there that we can play — essentially you play with, I think the biggest thing you’re going to play with is just some gambles on the race track and what you can do and see if you can’t get some wins through some creative pit strategy or something. You also don’t want to get yourself too far off base of what you’ve done so far this year that allows you to run well and finish well. Biggest thing for us is that the wins mean the most right now and trying to get some bonus points. I’ve said that in years past and sometimes we’ve won and other times we haven’t. Again, you’ve just got to essentially keep it real and not venture too far off base.”

Juan Pablo Montoya – “What would you like to do next year?”

“I don’t know. The only thing I said already is I want to be in a winning car. Whatever else I do, don’t know what I’m going to do, but I want to make sure I’m in a winning car. It was a fun seven years with the Target car and Chip (Ganassi) and everything. We worked really hard and we had our up’s our down’s, but at the end of the day I want to win races. He wants to win races and we want to try something different.”

Kurt Busch – “Are you any closer (to 2014 plans)? Have you made progress with what you are going to do next year or have you put all that on the backburner while trying to make the Chase?”

“Well, the focus is making the chase and we have four weeks to go and we’re in great position. It’s been neat to feel the energy from the team. We spent a week in Colorado meeting with Denver media and they’ve adopted us as like a fifth sports entity for that town. It’s been really neat. They talk Broncos. They talk Rockies. And now they’re talking us. So, it’s cool to have talks with Furniture Row about what we can do in 2014 and beyond. The Ganassi thing came up and other phone calls have happened. Nothing’s going to change. We’re just still really focused on the Chase and what we can do in these next four weeks together.”

Carl Edwards – “You started the season off with Jimmy Fenning kind of like a fresh couple just dating. Have you moved beyond that part of the relationship?

“Yeah, we fought over who was going to do the laundry for a little while and stuff like that. I think we have a very good relationship right now. I was actually talking to some folks about that this week that listen to the races on the radios and I am starting to understand Jimmy. It is true, he is as dedicated as he seems to be. He cares more about winning – there is nobody that cares more about winning than him. I have been around Mike Mittler and Jack Roush and Jimmy Fennig and those guys are unmatched. I really respect him. We are starting to communicate better. I think for a little while he didn’t really understand what I was saying. He understood but not to the degree of me being loose or tight. I think we both have more faith in each other than we ever have. It is coming together really well in my eyes.”

Greg Biffle – How do you balance what you will try to do the next four races? A win or two would probably get you in the Chase but you can’t have a bad finish either. How do you balance that?

“Unfortunately we aren’t in a great spot. Indy really killed us. That was the turning point for us. We felt like we were really on some momentum and qualified 27th and finished 24th and never ran better than that all day. That buried us in the points. We go back to Pocono with a lot better finish, 10th, and get caught 20 feet from getting onto pit road at the Glen with the caution coming out. We come out of the pit cycle sixth and get sent to the back of the field with 30 laps to go. You are right. We can’t have things like that happen. We need to finish where we are running and are struggling with that some. The next four weeks are going to be about who is on the plus side of that. If you get caught a lap down or this or that or pit road penalties or something – or are you getting good finishes. We have four races left to do that. We are in the middle of the bees nest and we understand that. All we can do is get the best finishes we can the next four weeks.”

Martin Truex Jr. – “How do you feel the lineup for the Chase is shaping up and about being back in Michigan?”

“I’m not sure on the Chase. We’re kind of in that hornets’ nest there, which we’ve been in for the past month or so. We just need to come here and have a good, solid run. We ran very well here in the spring race, but I think a lot has changed since then. The way the cars are being setup, the things we’re doing to them to make them go fast, especially the bigger tracks like Michigan. It’s going to be a challenging weekend. We had a pretty decent first practice. Hopefully we’ll get a good qualifying position this afternoon. It’s obviously pretty important to start up front here. We’ll see what we have with our NAPA Toyota and looking forward to hopefully having a good weekend. These type of tracks have pretty much been what we’ve been our best on the last few years and hopefully that will be the case again this weekend.”

NASCAR Cup Series

Edwards & Fennig Combo Working Well

By Matt Weaver – There is nothing fancy about how he’s doing it but birthday boy Carl Edwards, who just turned 34 on Thursday, is quietly contending for the Sprint Cup championship.

It would be easy to dismiss his one-win season through 22 races as a disappointment especially after what happened last season when Edwards and team battled a variety of misfortunes, failed to make the Chase and ultimately finished 15th — without a win.

But this is a different Carl Edwards and it’s a different 99 team too.

Edwards has been re-energized by crew chief Jimmy Fennig and they’ve played a factor together every weekend since their pairing and currently sits third in the championship standings.

“I think we have a very good relationship right now,” Edwards said of Fennig on Friday at Michigan. “I was actually talking to some folks about that this week — that listen to the races on the radios — and I am starting to understand Jimmy.

“It’s true that he is as dedicated as he seems to be. He cares more about winning — there is nobody that cares more about winning than him.”

While it’s nowhere close to his breakout nine-win season of 2008, Edwards has returned to his 2010-2011 form where he won a combined three races and nearly captured the crown in 2011.

Remember that Edwards actually ended that season in a deadlock with Tony Stewart in season points but lost the title based on wins, with Stewart’s five edging Edwards’ one.

It’s early but Edwards looks as though he could be gearing up for another run at the championship. His team has flown under-the-radar this season and would likely admit to wanting some more wins and flash but he’s close. He’s also had extremely good luck this season, finishing on the lad lap in all but two races and has been running at the finish of all of them.

Motorsports analytics expert David Smith has a series of formulas to designed to calculate performance in NASCAR and they show that Edwards is closer to his 2010 season than 2011. His PEER rating, which measures production that takes equipment strength into account shows a 2.568 PEER this season, similar to his 2.389 in 2010.

What was his 2011 rating? A Sprint Cup best 3.444.

So technical stuff aside, Edwards will need to win a few more times or improve from a consistent top-10 to a steady top-5 to become a real championship threat. There are also reasons to believe that this could happen as early as this weekend.

Edwards has two wins, nine top-5s and 14-top-10s in his previous 18 starts at the two-mile oval. He owns an average finish of 8.2 at the track, and has only finished outside the top 10 four times in the last 18 races there. His teammate Greg Biffle won there in the spring and Edwards is due.

It’s also his birthday and a trip to victory lane would make one heck of a way to celebrate.

Let’s Talk About This…




NASCAR Cup Series

Secrets of the Hendrick Motorsports Digital Dashboard Social Media Command Center

When it comes to on-track performance, it’s commonplace hear about Hendrick Motorsports being ahead of the curve. But an article by USA Today’s Nate Ryan on their new Digital Dashboard command center suggests they’re well ahead of the curve in the realm of social media as well. What sort of features are included in the digital marketing marvel?

– One computer dedicated solely to typo-laden hate tweets sent to Jimmie Johnson after he wins. Algorithm set to search for keywords “cheeting”, ” I’m gonna stop watchin'” “Jimmy Johnson” and “vunilla”…

– One employee whose sole job is to maintain Dale Jr.’s Twitter account. Responsibilities include tweeting absolutely nothing, and occasionally telling Jr. “You’re over 200,000 followers now – wanna post something? No? I-ight. Later.”

– 24-hour monitoring of important FourSquare check-ins. For instance, “Kasey Kahne has become the Mayor of the Joe Gibbs Racing Race Shop parking lot on FourSquare!”

– Control center of the Hendrick Motorsports YouTube channel, which features driver interviews, at-track features, and Dale Jr. twerking videos.

– Control of top-secret online storage account on which teams post all their setup secrets posted where no one will see them – Google Plus.

– Data reports on Jimmie Johnson’s popular hat giveaways. For instance, as you read this, someone hoping to be the 48th RT just hit the “retweet” button for the hat Jimmie wore at last year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.

– Real time tracking of Kasey Kahne’s Twitter followers, and their interactions with him. Followers are divided into three groups – “Casual followers,” “Dedicated fans,” and “File a restraining order before this one chains herself to a tree in Kasey’s front yard.”

– Programs that record the number of pins any new posts receive on Chad Knaus’ “Exploring the Gluten-Free Grey Area” recipe board on Pinterest.

– Analytics to record number of impressions for hashtags, or in Jeff Gordon’s case, the occasional stachetag and crashtag.

– Instant notifications whenever Steve LeTarte, Alan Gustafson, Chad Knaus and Kenny Francis have a slumber party and post a deluge of duck-face selfless to Instagram.



FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @nascarcasm

NASCAR Cup Series

SILLY SEASON: Change is Gonna Come

By Amanda Ebersole: “Silly season” technically started very early this year when the news leaked that Kevin Harvick would not return to Richard Childress Racing next season. Instead, Harvick is joining Stewart-Haas Racing and Ryan Newman is departing. Just keeping up with that is enough to make your head spin.

Now the next “shoe” has dropped with the announcement that Juan Pablo Montoya will not return to the 42 team, opening another key seat for free agents. Add to that news, Mark Martin’s questionable future with MWR and the seat swapping gets overwhelming.

Cue the musical chair music and let’s take a look at some names that are in the game as we play, “Musical Seats: 2014 Edition!”

AJ Allmendinger – All signs point to “Dinger” in the No. 47 with JTG Daugherty.

Marcos Ambrose – Ambrose and sponsor Stanley Black and Decker both have expiring contracts at the conclusion of the season.

Kurt Busch – Making huge gains for the Furniture Row Racing team in 2013, Kurt Busch seems destine for a large multi-car team once again.

Austin Dillon – “Pop Pop” Richard Childress has said that he wants to bring Austin up in due time and that he is not opposed to bringing back the No.3 but will it be in 2014? My two cents, no, but what does two cents get you now days!

Mark Martin – At 54 years young, Martin is not ready to hang up his HANS device just yet. Where should he go if he does not return to MWR in some capacity? A team like BK Racing desperately needs a veteran driver to get them on track and get some solid finishes.

Jamie McMurray – While his current contract runs through 2013, McMurray appears comfortable with EGR. I don’t suspect a move but he could pull a Matt Kenseth and stun us all.

Juan Pablo Montoya – Ganassi has confirmed that Montoya will not return to the Target No. 42 in 2014. Where will he go with a less than stellar resume? Perhaps the company that employs jet dryer drivers is hiring!

Ryan Newman – Wining the Brickyard 400 hasn’t stepped up the job search for Ryan Newman. At Pocono Raceway he said, “The win helps, but it’s not a light switch. It doesn’t turn everything on bright. It helps and gives you a vision, but there is more to it than that. The $20 million sponsor just doesn’t jump right after you. I wish it did, but it doesn’t.”

Perhaps being the lone Stewart-Haas Racing car with Chase hopes will improve the job search.

The No. 51 team – This team is still a huge mystery. James Finch has said the sale of the team is complete but has not disclosed anything since. Rumors persist that it is Harry Scott from Turner Scott Motorsports and the driver will be Justin Allgaier but until a formal announcement is made, it’s all rumors and the 51 seat remains vacant.

Let’s Talk About This…



FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @AmandaEbersole

NASCAR Cup Series

Montoya Out at Seasons End

Juan Pablo Montoya will not be returning to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, according to team co-owner Felix Sabates.

The Associated Press, which first reported the news, says that several team members were made aware of Montoya’s departure on Tuesday afternoon.

Montoya left Formula 1 back in 2006, and has been racing full time in Sprint Cup Series competition since 2007. Over that time, he has accumulated a total of two wins, 23 top fives, and 56 top 10s over a total of 239 starts. He is currently 22nd in the standings after 22 races this season.

Team co-owner spoke to Dave Moody and Angie Skinner on SiriusXM Speedway and confirmed the report, though he did say that the team hopes to work out a deal with Montoya. Ganassi has teams both in the Rolex Sports Car Series and IZOD IndyCar Series, and Montoya has experience in both forms of racing.

Montoya is expected to finish out the rest of the season with the team. Montoya and the rest of the Sprint Cup Series head to Michigan International Speedway for the Pure Michigan 400 this Sunday.