THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER
Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
April 19th, 2011
Volume V, Edition LXVIII
Today's Top News
by Garrett Horton
Reutimann Entered To Drive New, Third RWR Car At Nashville; Aspen Dental to Sponsor Team for Four Races
NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series is getting a much-needed expansion of its entrants. On Monday, Rusty Wallace Racing announced the creation of a new third car, the No. 64 Toyota, that will compete on a part-time basis this season starting at Nashville this weekend. Current Sprint Cup driver David Reutimann will share the ride with David Stremme and development driver Jason Bowles.
Larry Carter, who served as Steve Wallace's crew chief in the team's Sprint Cup debut this season - Wallace ran in February's Daytona 500 - will serve in the same capacity on the No. 64. Carter brings decades of Cup experience to the team, including several years as crew chief for Rusty himself at Penske Racing.
Among the three, only Bowles' slate of races have been set in stone going forward. The 2009 K&N Series West Champion will drive in the three road courses on the schedule (Road America, Watkins Glen International, and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Montreal)) later this season. Stremme and Reutimann's commitment levels are still up in the air, although Reutimann will drive the car in its Nashville debut.
For Stremme, it is a return to Rusty Wallace Racing. During a year away from the Sprint Cup Series, Stremme drove the vast majority of the 2008 Nationwide Series season in the then-No. 64 Chevrolet for the team. With a multitude of sponsors, Stremme racked up five top-5 and 16 top-10 finishes on his way to an 11th-place finish in points. He'll split duties in this car and with the No. 70 of ML Motorsports to form a virtually full-time schedule the rest of 2011.
As for Reutimann, he has 122 starts in his Nationwide career, with one win and 44 top 10’s. His lone victory came at Memphis in 2007, the same year he finished runner-up to Carl Edwards in the championship standings. He also earned his one and only career victory in the now-Camping World Truck Series at Nashville Superspeedway.
Even though the team doesn't have a sponsor for Nashville yet, Rusty Wallace Racing has signed Syracuse, New York-based Aspen Dental as the primary sponsor for four races later this season. Those events will be at Michigan in June, Kentucky in July, then Watkins Glen (with Bowles driving) and Bristol in August. Additional backers will be announced in the coming weeks.
Car owner Rusty Wallace is excited about the new venture, convinced that it will benefit his two full-time Nationwide programs going forward.
"It's no secret that we haven't run as well as we would have hoped in 2011 and having a veteran like David Reutimann giving additional feedback should help speed up our CoT learning curve," Wallace said on Monday. "At the same time, David Stremme did a great job for us in 2008 and I really feel like Jason Bowles has the potential to be fast at the Nationwide level."
Through seven races, Rusty Wallace Racing's two full-time teams are currently 20th (No. 62) and 21st (No. 66) in owners' points. Neither Michael Annett, still dealing with the aftermath of an offseason DUI incident, nor Steve Wallace have scored a top-10 result to date, the drivers combining to lead just eight laps all year. Wallace's best finish has been an 11th at Bristol, while Annett's best run was a 13th at Las Vegas.
The No. 64 entry allows the Nationwide Series to campaign a full field at Nashville this weekend; Reutimann's addition brings the list to 43.
Schrader to Run More Races for FAS Lane Racing
FAS Lane Racing announced this week NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader will run at least three more races with the team. Schrader, 55, will run the next two races on the schedule at Richmond and Darlington, followed by the Coke 600 Memorial Day weekend. The rookie team has qualified for seven out of eight races so far with driving duties split between Schrader, Mike Skinner, and two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte.
The 1985 Cup Series Rookie of the Year hasn’t run this many races since 2008, when he participated in 15 events. So far, in three 2011 starts with FAS Lane his best result is 22nd at Martinsville.
Talladega Overnight Ratings Down Slightly
Despite having the most competitive races in history in 2010 and a wild finish this year, Sunday’s Aaron's 499 saw a decrease in viewership from last season. The race produced a 4.6 rating, down six percent from the race last year which was aired one week earlier than 2010. Of note, the highest-rated portion of the race was from the 4:30-4:45 time frame, when the ratings topped out at 5.9 as fans came trickling back for the fantastic finish. At least part of the ratings slump has been attributed to sharp declines in NASCAR stronghold markets, such as Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham which saw their numbers drop 20 percent or more from last year. Those drops were because of severe weather that blew through the region on Saturday, bringing high winds, tornadoes and power outages to the area.
Even with Talladega's Nielsen decline, FOX still had something to hang its hat on. Sunday was the highest-rated race since Las Vegas drew a 5.3 last month, and season-long viewership continues to show an increase based on strong Daytona 500 numbers. In 2011, NASCAR on FOX has averaged a 4.9 rating per race, up two percent from last year.
Have news for Garrett and the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at ashl...@mail.com with a promising lead or tip
Got NASCAR-related questions or comments?
Send them John Potts' way at john....@frontstretch.com
; 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!
~~~~~~~~~~Numbers Game: Aaron's 499
by Brett Poirier
The margin of victory, in seconds, for Jimmie Johnson in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race. It tied for the closest margin in NASCAR history (Darlington, 2003).
The margin of time sixth-place finisher Carl Edwards crossed the line behind winner Jimmie Johnson in Sunday’s Sprint Cup event.
The finishing position of Joe Nemechek on Saturday at the end of the Nationwide Series race. It was Nemechek’s first top-5 in the series since March of 2005.
The number of Hendrick Motorsports cars to finish in the top-eight on Sunday after sweeping the top four spots in qualifying.
The average finish this season in two superspeedway races for David Gilliland (third at Daytona and ninth on Sunday).
The consecutive number of superspeedway races in which Marcos Ambrose has finished 31st or worse.
Jimmie Johnson’s running position on Sunday as he took the white flag. He went on to win the race. On the opposing end, Mark Martin was second when he took the white flag and finished eighth.
The number of times in the last 12 races at Talladega that the leader at the white flag didn’t win the race.
The finishing position of Joey Logano, the highest-placing Toyota driver on Sunday.
The number of lead-lap finishers in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race. It was the most of any race this season (previous high was 14 at Texas).
The average finishing position of Sprint Cup drivers following a win in the previous Sprint Cup race. After winning at Texas, Matt Kenseth was 36th on Sunday at Talladega.
The number of drivers to lead a lap during Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
Dave Blaney’s finishing position in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race after leading with five laps remaining. Blaney’s drafting partner Kurt Busch, who bumped into Blaney and helped cause his disastrous decline finished 18th.
The number of cars to complete 100 laps in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
The number of laps led by Clint Bowyer during the 188-lap Sprint Cup race at Talladega. He led more laps than any other driver.
The record number of lead changes in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race. The previous series record was 36 in April of 2007.
The record number of lead changes in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race. It tied the mark set in April of 2010 at Talladega.
The number of laps completed by Joe Nemechek through eight Sprint Cup Series races. He ran five laps on Sunday to finish 41st.
The number of green-flag passes in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race according to NASCAR statistics.
The amount of money won by Kyle Busch for winning Saturday's Aaron's 312 Nationwide Series race. In the NASCAR Sprint Cup event, Kevin Conway, the 43rd-place finisher, earned $79,181 for completing one lap.
Brett Poirier is a Website Contributor for Frontstretch.com. He can be reached via e-mail at brett....@frontstretch.com
Today's Featured Commentary
Changing Channels: Distracting NASCAR's Drivers
Sitting In The Stands: A Fan's View
by S.D. Grady
“Hey! Can you…can you hold? I got someone on the other line.”
Life is busy. There’s rarely a moment in my day when I’m not multi-tasking. The phone rings and somebody needs my opinion, plus there's paperwork to be filled out, supplies to be ordered, an oil change to be scheduled for the car… it often feels like my life is flying by at 200mph. The phone has a speed-dial, contact list and then there’s the Rolodex — yeah, I still have one of those dinosaurs on my desk. In order to complete the myriad tasks assigned to me at work and at home, there’s this vast array of people with whom I must maintain open communications.
It appears the same applies in NASCAR these days.
This new "Dancing with the Cars" system of racing at the plate tracks seems to demand the most of drivers’ abilities in this arena. No longer do they have a nice dial on the dash with three or four channels to choose from, for when it is decided your spotter isn’t as important to listen to as your teammate. Now the radio has as many channels on it as my cable box. It looks like Jeff Gordon can call the governor from his cockpit, should he manage to tune in on the correct station while he’s tooling around the high banks of Talladega.
I’ve got mixed feelings about this latest use of technology.
On the plus side, the teams are able to take the best traditions of NASCAR and implement them in this new plate package. There have always been stories of small teams blowing up their only engine in practice, and the next morning the big and best stable in the garage provides the financially strapped team with a replacement motor for the race. Maybe somebody’s tire changer broke his ankle Sunday morning; there’s always a helping hand willing to make sure the competitor has a fair shot, and the needed crewman is loaned out.
With the new open policy of call up your neighbor anytime, drivers reach across the chasm of competition to lend a helping hand. They have to! Without the assistance of their newly minted friend’s bumper, there is no hope of keeping the leaders in sight, let alone the checkered flag.
However, if we put aside the evolution of our sport and the cool new technology at the fingertips of the drivers, there is the consideration of just what are the drivers thinking about when they decide to change the channel?
With two hands on the wheel, the pilot must keep track of 42 other guys pushing their hotrods to the edge of control. Is his car overheating? Does he still have any brakes left, knowing his trusty crew chief has had them shaved down to next to nothing. Is one of the rookies about to overcorrect and drive into his buddy’s door? Meanwhile, the wall flies past his window in a complete blur, as nothing remains in focus at nearly 200mph.
“Hey! Can I talk to you a minute?”
Are you freakin’ kidding me?
“Uh, just one minute. I have to try and avoid running over the lap down traffic…I’ll get back to you.”
Then there’s the whole difficulty of identifying who’s on the other end of the line. “Mike? No? Sorry…wrong number.”
I know I’m one of those few people who turn off all phones when they climb behind the wheel of a car. I shudder each time I pass some idiot who’s weaving in and out of traffic with a square bit of metal that connects their elbow to their ear. I hammer my wheel in frustration as I pass the next highway information sign that reminds us that texting while driving is now illegal, as I’m always watching some kid leaning against their wheel at the light with their thumbs flying in all directions.
And I am well aware that the average person sitting behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup stock car is in no way your average commuter. Still…
When the pre-race show demonstrates all the new and nifty ways my hero can flip back and forth to talk to at least a dozen different people during the race, then I watch the pit crew polish up his bumper with a thick coating of PAM, something happens in the pit of my stomach.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Helton, I didn’t see him coming. I was trying to find the right channel for my spotter.”
There are lots of reasons to love and hate plate racing. While the ability to change channels between many teams has always existed, there was never the impetus applied to get drivers exchanging those frequencies until we discovered the fastest way around the track came in twos. I am enjoying the dancing duos, and the ensuing madness that comes with, however the conservative part of me remains hopeful that the next Big One isn’t a result of the dreaded catch phrase of the 21st century… distracted driving.
by Danny Peters
by Brody Jones
by Phil Allaway
Q: When the Izod IndyCar Series held races at Nashville Superspeedway, the track was not the best for action due to the fact that the groove never really widened out enough to allow drivers to pass, or even to run side-by-side. In addition to lackluster on-track action, it also led to unusual wrecks, like what happened to Airton Dare in 2002. What caused Dare to crash hard?
Check back Wednesday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Q: This week, the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series will be at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tennessee. The complex only has a 1.333-mile concrete tri-oval now, but what else was in the original plans for the complex?
A: Originally, the plans for Nashville Superspeedway's property also contained a half-mile short track. The proposed track would have competed directly against the now-Nashville Fairgrounds Raceway, and conceivably could have shut it down long before the current battle to keep the place open would have erupted. At the time of the track's construction, there was an uproar against the new track, and it was never built.
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 tri...@frontstretch.com and we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... FREE!
~~~~~~~~~~Hey, Frontstretch Readers!
We know you love the roar of raw horsepower under the hood that powers 43 of the best drivers in the world every weekend, but did you ever wonder how the sponsor on top of that hood also contributes to keeping the sport moving? What about the contributions of official NASCAR companies? If you think they are simply writing checks, think again. Check out our newest feature - Sunday Money
. This weekly Frontstretch exclusive provides you with a behind the scenes look at how NASCAR, its affiliates and team sponsors approach the daunting task of keeping fans interested and excited about the sport for 38 weeks of the year.
~~~~~~~~~~Coming tomorrow in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News from Summer Dreyer
-- Full Throttle by Mike Neff
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!
~~~~~~~~~~Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice?... by Tom Bowles
We've got another batch of talking points coming your way. Among them: The Talladega phenomenon of underdog success, a rookie of the year problem that's not just limited to Cup and quick hits.
Mirror Driving by the Frontstretch Staff
The Mirror crew is at it again with more talking points to debate. Topics include the infamous two-car drafts at Talladega, whether NASCAR needs to be more transparent with their rules, and more.
Frontstretch Top Ten by Jeff Meyer
Our weekly list based on the latest NASCAR controversy will start your morning off with a laugh -- guaranteed. Top 15 Power Rankings by the Frontstretch Staff
Which driver came out of Talladega on top of our 2011 Power Rankings chart? Jimmie Johnson? Carl Edwards? Kevin Harvick? Someone else? Find out who our select Frontstretch experts have labeled as this week's favorite heading into the Easter break.
Other Columns TBA
------------------------------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 edi...@frontstretch.com
. We'll take the best comments and publish them here!