Tag Archives: Aric Almirola

Greg Biffle – We are Dying a Slow Death

All NASCAR fans know that Roush Fenway Racing did not do very well last year and started out this year more or less the same. Could it be worse than we know? Did Greg Biffle let out some frustration during qualifying at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California? We probably won’t know for sure but it does look that way.

Last year Greg Biffle made the Chase for the Sprint Cup on points and Carl Edwards made it via winning a race but mostly the flagship Roush Fenway Racing drivers were not a threat to win every week and perhaps any week especially at the 1.5 and 2 mile tracks they are known to be good at. The talk all last year is they know they are behind and will catch up. Well this year is another year and it is simply not looking good.

Carl Edwards bolted for seemingly greener pastures. The jury is out on that but it seems to get greener every week. Greg Biffle is left to be the elder statesmen of the Roush team so when he says “We are dying a slow death” it is troubling. To be fair here is the full quote.

It’s been a challenging year and a half for us and it’s no different this weekend than normal. All of our cars, I think our best car is 26th or 27th. So that’s just not acceptable for how good of a team we are and how hard everyone works back at the shop and our engines.” Biffle added, “We just got to figure this out. You Know we’re dying a slow death and we just got to work hard and figure out where the speeds at and get the cars trimmed out. Show up closer than we do for the weekend is the main thing we need to work on. Seems like we’re getting speed in. The very last run was our fast run but just not quite fast enough yet.

Greg’s statement only leads to many thoughts. The first and main thought is what happened to “One Ford”? Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, the Penske Racing team, seem to be making those Fords work. Richard Petty Motorsports driver, Aric Almirola driver of the famous no. 43 is 14th in points Sam Hornish Jr. driver of the No. 9 who is 24th in points get their chassis from RFR. It was hoped that Hornish’s connection to Penseke would provide a benefit.

Let’s let the Elephant into the room. Did Roush Fenway Racing do something to Penske Racing when they switched to Ford such that they will not ever help? Will there never truly be “One Ford?”

The season isn’t lost yet for Roush Fenway Racing but it doesn’t look good. Greg Biffle is 16th in points, Trevor Bayne 26th and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 27th but if they keep this up time will run out.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will lead the Charge for Roush Fenway Racing at Auto Club Speedway starting 27th. Greg Biffle will start behind him 29th and Trevor Bayne will start 36th. All of these starting position are bad. The only hope is that this is a 2 mile speedway with multiple groves and it is a long 400 mile race. They can get to the front if they can find some way to make their cars faster. Unfortunately their recent history suggests that will not happen.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 307241 Jeff Gross/NASCAR via Getty Images

Strategies to Make the Chase for the Sprint Cup

Last year NASCAR changed the rules for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The goal of those changes was simply to make the racing better. Without exception the racing in 2014 was better than it has been making these changes a big success. There was some initial controversy on how teams made the 16 car Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Win and Your In: This is the one part of the rules that caused the most consternation among fans. The thought was that a team might luck into a win then steal the championship without really earning it. In reality last year showed that will probably never happen.

Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger had lack luster regular seasons finishing 22nd and 23rd respectively. They each won a race to put them into the Chase field. Almirola won the July race at Daytona and Allmendinger wining at the Watkins Glen road course. The reality is that those teams did not improve during the regular season so their performance in the chase was only marginally better. Almirola finished the season 16th or last of the Chase drivers. Allmendinger did improve a little but finished 13th.

Kasey Kahne was also not having a good year. He finished the regular season 13th in points and would have missed the Chase had the rules not been changed. He made it with his win one week before the last regular season race at Atlanta. Just like Almirola and Allmendinger Kahne’s team did not improve and took that into the Chase finishing 15th.

Consistency: This is how Championships are won. Consistency, out pointing your competition has been the foundation for Championships in NASCAR forever. With the new rules it looked like Consistency as a Championship strategy was dead. 2014 proved that that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, and Greg Biffle entered the Chase by being the top drivers in points who did not win a race. They finished the regular season 6th, 8th and 10th respectively. Of the three Matt Kenseth with his ten top five finishes looked like he would take Consistency into the Chase and possibly win a Championship. Note all three in spite of not winning would have made the Chase under the old rules.

The reality was that while Matt Kenseth maintained his consistency Ryan Newman’s team steeped it up in the Chase finished second in the race at Homestead behind Champion Kevin Harvick to end up second in the Championship. They showed that one could race old school out pointing the competition and win a championship without winning a race.

Missing a race or more:  Another controversial part of the rules to make the Chase is where a driver can miss a race due to health or other issues, then win a race and with NASCAR’s approval make the Chase. The only requirement is that the driver has to remain in the top 30 in points. Gone are the Iron Man days, where a driver would race hurt to get the points and stay in the Championship.

Denny Hamlin had to miss the fifth race of the season at Auto Club Speedway due to a piece of metal in his eye.  NASCAR approved that he missed a race due to this medical problem and Denny Hamlin finished the regular season 19th in points. More importantly Hamlin won the May race at Talladega Superspeedway putting himself in the Chase.

Hamlin’s team would have been 17th or perhaps as high as 14th in points had he not missed that race. They proved that this rule works enabling teams to salvage a season. More importantly they proved that an ever improving team that did not have early consistency can also win a Championship by peaking at the right time during the Chase. Denny Hamlin finished the season third in the Standings.

Wrap up: What was learned last year in the regular season is that racing for maximum points is still a winning strategy. The new rules for making the Chase only provides additional options. The option to salvage a season if you happen to miss a race. The option to make the Chase while vastly improving your team throughout the regular season. Make no mistake about it your team must be at the top of its game regardless of how it made the NASCAR Chase when the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit 301215 Richmond International Raceway

 

Richard Petty and Eckrich Support Operation Homefront at Chicagoland

Aric Almirola made his first NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup but before he took to the track at the Chicagoland Speedway his team honored a Retired Army Veteran.

A replica of the No. 43 Eckrich Ford drove up and greeted Veteran Army Specialist Raymond Goss and his family in front of a local Jewel-Osco store. Inside the car were VIP tickets to join the No. 43 race team this weekend complete with authentic crew uniforms and hats. Not only cool, but a NASCAR race fan’s dream.

The Goss family was also presented with a year’s supply of groceries from Jewel-Osco. While celebrating their win none other than Richard Petty himself drove around the store in a new Ford Fusion. He pulled up to the family and gave the car to them.

I am just overwhelmed, I just can’t believe that Eckrich and Richard Petty gave my family a new car.  Who can say that? I don’t think too many people and it’s something that I’ll never forget.” Goss added, “It means a lot when a company like Eckrich remembers veterans like myself and do something special.  We’re just really grateful for Eckrich, Jewel-Osco and Richard Petty. We’re now fans for life.

Friday’s event is part of the continued Eckrich “Operation Inspiration” campaign, which supports and honors military families.  Eckrich is in its third year of partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Eckrich has already raised more than $750,000 in donations for the charity.

The No. 43 Eckrich Ford driven by Aric Almirola at Chicagoland Speedway will have the names of 120 military families on the hood and sides of the car this weekend at Chicagoland as part of Operation Homefront.

If you cannot get to the Chicagoland Speedway for the MyAFibStory.com 400 it will be broadcast on ESPN on Sunday September 14th starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: Brad Schloss Photography

NASCAR Race to the Chase Report Card

On January 30th 2014, prior to the start of this season, NASCAR introduced the new format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It is one of the biggest changes to the Chase since NASCAR implemented the Chase in 2004. It was billed as a format that put the emphasis on winning races over consistency- “Points Racing”.

We have arrived at a format that makes every race matter even more, diminishes points racing, puts a premium on winning races and concludes with a best-of-the-best, first-to-the-finish line showdown race – all of which is exactly what fans want,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO.

The 2014 Race to the Chase is over, the Contenders for the Chase for the Sprint Cup are known; but how did it work out? Was winning really enhanced? Did we have more race winners than we typically do in the 26 weeks leading up to the Chase?

When it comes to having more winners and/or a premium on winning it doesn’t really look like it changed much, if at all. During the first 26 weeks there were 13 different winners, seven of which were multiple winners. The average for the last eleven years was 12.55 different winners and 6.09 multiple winners. See the chart below:

Year Winners Multiple Winners
2014 13 7
2013 13 6
2012 14 7
2011 15 5
2010 11 6
2009 13 7
2008 10 4
2007 14 5
2006 11 7
2005 12 6
2004 12 7
Average 12.55 6.09

 

Was there a premium on winning? This can be looked at two different ways. The first, were there any drivers that would have made the Chase via points that missed the Chase because they didn’t win. The answer is no. The three drivers who made the Chase via points; Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle finished the regular season 6th, 8th and 10th in the standings. They would have been in the Chase anyway.

The other way to look at the winning premium is who made the Chase via winning that would not have otherwise made the Chase. Kasey Kahne (13th in points) and Kyle Busch (17th in points) would have made the Chase via the Wild Card. Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger would not have made the Chase but they each won one race. They essentially took up the four additional spots provided in the Chase via this new format.

When I started the research for this report card I really thought I would find something different. Throughout the season there were times when winning seemed important. Who can argue that Kasey Kahne and his team didn’t work hard at Atlanta in order to make the Chase? How about AJ Allmendinger at Watkins Glen?

In the end though one just needs to look at the top of the points standings; all of the multiple winners are right there. They didn’t win and then ride around waiting for the Chase. They kept at it so that they can be in Championship form for the Chase. The top five in points—Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Jimmie Johnson—all have at least three wins and are poised to enter the Chase in a dominant way. These guys are real Championship Contenders.

Sure it’s conceivable that one of the others who got into the Chase might win the Championship, but watching those other drivers above there is no way each and every one will fail.

I originally thought at the beginning of the season that the Race to the Chase didn’t change by much. There was, though, a sense of excitement from a fan perspective that if my driver wins, they are in. That was unmistakable from the first race when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won until Atlanta when Kasey Kahne won.

I give the Race to the Chase a B+ but the year is not over.  It’s about to get ramped up when the Chase for the Sprint Cup starts. Win and you move on to the next round with the final race deciding the Champion right there on the track. The driver who is in front wins the Championship. No points racing there.

The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway, Sunday September 14th for the MyAfibStory.com 400. If you cannot get to Chicagoland it will be broadcast on ESPN starting at 2 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 301215 Richmond International Raceway

Ford Celebrates the 50th. Anniversary of the Mustang

On Thursday, April 15th, 2014 Ford will celebrate 50 years of the Mustang. In honor of the occasion Edsel B. Ford II and NASCAR drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, and David Ragan reflected on how a Ford Mustang came into their lives.

The story wouldn’t surprise anyone. What would the son of a Ford get for Christmas when he was 16? What else, a 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback.

My favorite Mustang memory, certainly like many others, is the day I got my first Mustang.“, said Ford.

Like the rest of us car buffs, Edsel’s dad Henry Ford II didn’t give him just any Mustang. His was customized. It had a special paint scheme in a pearlescent white finish with slim blue racing stripes over the top and the rocker panels.

It also had a functional hood scoop, chrome trip on the three grilles in the head lamp buckets, and fender-mounted rearview mirrors similar to the Mustangs sold in Europe. His father added one last special change, the rear fuel filler cap which normally had the pony logo on it had his initials “EBFII”.

The coolest part about Edsel’s special Mustang is that he drove it. It didn’t sit in a show room.

That car was special for sure.” Edsel added, “I drove it through high school and then one summer afternoon on Long Island I let a friend borrow it.  He was driving the car home, lost control and rolled it in a potato field near our house.  My beautiful Mustang was destroyed.  Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the car was totaled.

It is not surprising that some of the current Ford Racing NASCAR drivers have a Mustang or Mustang memory.

Greg Biffle bought a 2007 Mustang GT 500. Just like the rest of us he couldn’t just leave it the way he received it.

I bought it because I really wanted one bad.” Biffle added, “I started doing modifications to it. I changed the blower pulleys and did all sorts of stuff. I have had a ton of fun with it.

Ford Mustang’s run in Carl Edwards blood. He got his when he was 19. It was a 1985 Mustang GT with T-tops.

Edwards said, “We put a clutch in it. My dad and a guy named Bobby Williams and I worked on it and painted it and my buddy Ray Owen helped me work on it and he was a big Mustang guy.

The Ford Mustang has made quite a splash when it returned to racing in 2010 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It isn’t surprising that some of the other drivers memories surround their success with the Mustang in that series.

Brad Keselowski said, “My favorite Mustang story is when the Nationwide Series went to the Mustang and we went to Michigan and the Mustangs were there and they were the first cars to have the decals on the side that made it look like the production car. That was really cool.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6 Cargill/Sam's Club Ford Mustang, pits during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2012 Photo Credit: 274466 Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6 Cargill/Sam’s Club Ford Mustang, pits during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2012 Photo Credit: 274466 Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

The 2011 and 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion was won by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. driving a Ford Mustang.

When I was growing up though, my Dad, he builds engines for a living and a friend of his had a Mustang Mach 1.” Stenhouse Jr. added, “I was young, about seven or eight, so I don’t remember the exact year of the car. I believe it was a 1969 though. He took me for a ride in it one day and we got sideways. We were staring right at the back of a big truck and right at the last second he turned it and we spun around the other way and kept going. That was so much fun. I loved it. That was probably when I fell in love with Mustang.

Joey Logano got his first win for Roger Penske in a Ford Mustang but he doesn’t have one of his own yet.

Logano said, “I need to get a Mustang to add to my stable of cars for sure. I love the old Mustang Mach 1 series. Those cars are just iconic.

Somehow a Ford Mustang just draws a teenage boy. Aric Almirola is no exception.

Almirola said, “A memory that sticks out to me about Mustang is that I had a friend in high school that had a Cobra Mustang. I was driving a race car at the time in high school and he said he wanted to see what his car would do with a race car driver driving it. So my buddy in high school let me drive his Cobra and we put black marks around the street of our high school everywhere. I mean everywhere. That was a lot of fun.

David Ragan happens to be a lifelong Ford fan. It isn’t surprising that there were many Ford Mustangs in his life. Even those that weren’t as sexy or fast.

I grew up with my dad or uncle having some project Mustang cars around.” Ragan added, “We never really had new, fast Mustangs. They were always the mid-60’s. They really liked the mid-year cars.

In the last 50 years the Ford Mustang has touched just about everyone. What is your Mustang Memory? Please take a few minutes and tell us about it in the comment section.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit Ford Media