Tag Archives: Brian Vickers

Brian Vickers will Miss the Beginning of the Season, Who should be in?

It was announced by Michael Waltrip Racing that Brian Vickers had surgery to replace a patch in his heart and will miss the beginning of the 2015 NASCAR season. It is not known how many races or how deep into the season he will be out. It also has not been announced who will temporarily replace him.

It only makes sense that the boss, Michael Waltrip, drive the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine in the Daytona 500 and race at Talladega but what about after that?  Why not take a very sad story and make it into a happy one? How about rotating some new talented drivers and stars of the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series. This would help those drivers and the sport in general by providing some additional exposure.

The first race after Daytona is Atlanta Motor Speedway. The reigning Camping World Truck Series Champion, Matt Crafton would be a great addition to run with the Sprint Cup regulars at the fast, tire eating, 1.5 mile speedway.

The next three races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California would be a great place to show off Daniel Suarez, a young development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing who is driving his first full season in the Xfinity Series.

The short Paper Clip track, Martinsville Speedway shares the next weekend with the Truck Series. Erik Jones driving his first full season in the Truck Series would be a great story. He has three top ten finishes in three starts in the Xfinity Series but more impressive he has four wins in 22 starts in the Truck Series. It would be great to see what he could do with those Cup guys.

That takes the team deep into the Sprint Cup Season. Other drivers to consider if Brian Vickers misses more races would be Jeb Burton who currently doesn’t have a full time ride. If he misses races into June then John Hunter Nemechek, winner of the recently run Snowball Derby, can run after his 18th birthday.

We can’t wait to have Brian Vickers back. No one wants to see a drive have to miss out racing due to injury or health issues but it would be great to see it as an opportunity to showcase up and coming talent and veterans of the other Series.

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

Feature Photo Credit: 302427 Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images

Shame on the NASCAR Teams for Gaming Qualifying

Qualifying for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was always going to be different. NASCAR announced well over a month ago that during the first round of qualifying the cars would be split into two separate groups with 12 cars moving on from each to the second round. Some teams overthought their strategy such that two higher level full time teams did not qualify and will therefore miss the race.

In the first group of the first round of qualifying, the drivers waited most of the round to go out and make their laps. The thought was that the first cars out did not have a chance of posting a fast lap as the cars behind would get the benefit of the draft and post a much faster time. As they say, it looks good on paper.

Denny Hamlin didn’t buy into it and went out by himself. He posted a slow lap but eventually got some benefit of the draft in order to improve but still paid the price for going it alone and was the slowest of that group.

In the second group of the first round of qualifying, Tony Stewart and Reed Sorensen did exactly what Denny Hamlin did in the first group. They went out alone and also paid the price by posting the slowest laps of the cars that were up to speed. The rest of the drivers did exactly the same as the first group, except they waited too long. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did not make it to the line in time to take the flag on their up to speed lap. The official time for those drivers was that taken during a warm up lap.

So what exactly happened? There are six spots in the field reserved for those cars highest in owners points that have not qualified for the race on their speed (time). The 43rd and final spot is reserved for the most current champion that has not qualified for the race on their speed (time).  With so many great cars not posting a competitive time and so many cars that needed to make the race actually posting a time there was in a sense “No room at the Inn”. Justin Allgaier, 29th in points; and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 27th in points, were out.

Jeff Gordon will start last as he was the slowest of the drivers who are in the race by owner points. Although it would look like he used his past champion provisional, he did not need it since it was his spot if he didn’t use it.

In the end Reed Sorenson was the last to make it into the field on time since Joe Nemecheck was disqualified due to unapproved openings around the oil tank. Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick—the drivers who were the slowest of those who actually took full speed laps—took the first three provisionals. Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Jeff Gordon took the last four provisionals.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, and Joe Nemecheck will miss the race.

Shame on these teams “gaming” the system in order to get an edge in qualifying. We as fans wanted to see cars running around the track nose to tail trying to get a fast speed to make the race. Instead we saw cars sitting on pit road waiting for the last two minutes then going on the track. It was stupid and looked even more so.

The silly part is if it takes about two minutes to get up to speed and make a fast lap why wait for the last two minutes? If all the drivers had gone right at the beginning and run nose to tail only the truly slow cars would have gone home.

Oh and by the way, Brian Vickers won the Coors Light Pole Award—not that qualifying at a superspeedway is important; unless of course you don’t.

If you cannot get to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 it will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday, October 19th 2014 starting at 1 PM ET.

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

Feature Photo Credit: 302428 Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Pos Car Driver Team Speed
1 55 Brian Vickers Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota 196.129
2 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s Chevrolet 195.732
3 47 AJ Allmendinger Scott Products Chevrolet 195.496
4 12 Ryan Blaney(i) SKF Ford 194.015
5 2 Brad Keselowski Redd’s Wicked Apple Ale Ford 194.007
6 95 Michael McDowell Jordan Truck Sales Ford 193.693
7 33 Travis Kvapil Little Joe’s Autos Chevrolet 193.603
8 5 Kasey Kahne Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet 193.498
9 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 193.431
10 7 Michael Annett # Golden Corral Chevrolet 193.162
11 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 191.302
12 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet 190.981
13 20 Matt Kenseth Home Depot Toyota 193.415
14 23 Alex Bowman # Dustless Blasting Toyota 193.376
15 99 Carl Edwards Subway Ford 193.291
16 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 192.401
17 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 192.278
18 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 192.096
19 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 191.908
20 27 Paul Menard Moen/Menards Chevrolet 191.773
21 38 David Gilliland Long John Silver’s Ford 190.985
22 26 Cole Whitt # Bad Boy Mowers Toyota 190.97
23 49 Mike Wallace(i) Royal Teak Collection Toyota 184.729
24 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford 191.577
25 34 David Ragan Dockside Logistics Ford 191.42
26 9 Marcos Ambrose Black & Decker Ford 191.214
27 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet 191.149
28 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet 191.134
29 40 Landon Cassill(i) Carsforsale.com Chevrolet 191.13
30 3 Austin Dillon # Dow Chevrolet 191.027
31 1 Jamie McMurray Cessna Chevrolet 190.818
32 83 JJ Yeley(i) Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota 190.689
33 15 Clint Bowyer PinkLemonade5HrEnergybnftLBBC Toyota 190.681
34 66 Michael Waltrip MyAFibStory.com Toyota 190.586
35 98 Josh Wise Dogecoin/Reddit.com Ford 190.507
36 36 Reed Sorenson Zing Zang Chevrolet 189.305
37 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
38 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx One Rate/Deliverminator Toyota
39 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
40 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford
41 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Halloween Toyota
42 42 Kyle Larson # Energizer Chevrolet
43 24 Jeff Gordon Axalta Chevrolet
DNQ 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
DNQ 51 Justin Allgaier #
DNQ 29 Joe Nemechek(i).

 

2014 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Bubble Watch

It’s the NASCARAll-Star break, a perfect time to size up the standings for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. As I wrote back in March at the rate we’re going we just might have 16 race winners or more. So where do we stand right now?
Current Chase for the Sprint Cup Seeding
Driver Points Wins
Joey Logano

346

2

Kevin Harvick

302

2

Jeff Gordon

394

1

Kyle Busch

373

1

Carl Edwards

367

1

Brad Keselowski

326

1

Denny Hamlin

318

1

Kurt Busch

211

1

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

368

1

Matt Kenseth

379

0

Jimmie Johnson

340

0

Ryan Newman

332

0

Greg Biffle

328

0

Brian Vickers

327

0

Kyle Larson

318

0

Austin Dillon

306

0

There are seven drivers who are in the Chase right now based on points, but every new driver that wins a race takes one of those positions away and bumps the driver on the bubble out. That is unless one who is already in on points wins. In this case Austin Dillon is on the bubble.

There are 15 races left. If we have eight or more new winners then there will be no drivers left on the bubble. So the question is which drivers, who have not won yet, will most certainly win?

Jimmie Johnson – It is impossible to imagine Jimmie Johnson not winning a race in the next 15. His longest streak without winning a race is 21 (’11) so it isn’t out of the question that he will win.  In 2011 his streak outside of the Chase was 15 races, since his win came in the Chase. Semantics aside, Jimmie Johnson will win at least one race before the Chase.

Matt Kenseth – He has been on a roll if not on a mission since moving from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing, winning a Matt Kenseth record of seven races last year. Considering his teammates have each won a race this year and he has eight top ten races in 2011, Matt Kenseth has got this. He will also win a race before the Chase.

Tony Stewart – Tony Stewart has not been getting it done since he got back into the car from injury. Then again, Stewart doesn’t normally get it done until the weather gets warm and the tracks get hot and slippery. He will win a race during the heat of the summer and add his name to the Chase.

Those are the three drivers I think you can count on to win at least one race and put themselves solidly in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Who is left that certainly has the capability to pull off a win? In order of Driver points these are the drivers that are plenty capable of winning a race in the next 15. We can expect this to happen.

Greg Biffle – The Biff, as he is called, has been hot and cold this year. When he has been hot he has been there contending for the win. That is exactly the type of driving this format for the Chase was designed to promote. Kurt Busch, who is currently 28th in points, resembles that remark. Greg Biffle will do the same.

Kyle Larson – NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson is racing his heart out. He is a rookie but racing like a veteran. He has nothing to prove and nothing to hold him back. Just like Biffle above he is going to connect on one of these and win a race.

Kasey Kahne – Kahne has been expected to improve after being getting paired up with Kenny Francis; his crew chief when he was having his best years. It hasn’t happened. Four top ten finishes and only one top five isn’t going to get it done. There is hope; he had two eleventh place finishes and his teammates seem to be getting it done. Expect Kahne to pull one off to get in the Chase.

Marcos Ambrose – NASCAR hasn’t visited the road courses yet. All of Ambrose’s Sprint Cup Series wins has come on road courses. With two fifth place finishes at short tracks, Marcos Ambrose can get it done. He has two chances to win at a road course to put his name in the Chase. NASCAR also goes back to Bristol where he finished fifth this season.

Here are some drivers who, for whatever reason, are not getting it done but are capable of improving and/or pulling off a single win this season to take themselves into the Chase. In order of current point standings, we have:

Ryan Newman – Like most drivers who moved to a totally new team, Ryan Newman is struggling. He maybe eighth in the points currently but with only four top ten finishes he is hardly lighting the series on fire. But like all new drivers this veteran will eventually improve. He just might get a win before the Chase begins.

Brian Vickers – Statistically Vickers is tenth in points and behind Newman, but with two top five finishes he just might have a better chance than Newman to pull off a single win.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer has two DNF’s this season but he has as many top ten finishes as Newman including a top five. If he can keep it together he will pull off a win and make it into the Chase.

There are currently seven spaces open for a new winner. The list above consists of ten drivers who are plenty capable of winning. There are 15 races left to get those seven new winners. The odds look pretty good that we will have sixteen different winners and we will quite possibly be bumping drivers out of the Chase during the last race at Richmond International Raceway.

NASCAR hit a home run with this new Chase for the Sprint Cup Format. The next 15 races are going to be exciting as ever watching drivers race hard for the win and bumping other drivers who have not won out of the Chase.

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

Feature Photo Credit: David Banks/ NASCAR via Getty Images

 

Denny Hamlin Wants to Make Up For Lost Time at Richmond

This week NASCAR is back from the Easter break for some short track Saturday night racing at Richmond International Raceway. Denny Hamlin has an outstanding record at Richmond. Hamlin missed this race last year due to an injury but is ready to get back to victory lane.

Richmond International Raceway is one of the neatest short tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. It is 3/4 of a mile in length but looks similar to the 1.5 mile D shaped ovals. Make no mistake about it though this high speed short track is just that. Some of the most exciting racing in NASCAR happens here. There is 14 degrees of banking in all four corners, 8 degrees on the front stretch and a relatively flat 2 degrees on the back stretch.

Looking at the Driver Ratings for Richmond, Denny Hamlin has the field covered with a 114.8 in spite of his last two races here finishing 21 and 18th. Hamlin does have to watch out for his teammate Kyle Busch (111.9) and Kevin Harvick (110.0), each of which has won the last two spring races. In fact since 2009 eight of the last ten races has been won by one of those three drivers. Busch won 4, Hamlin 2 and Harvick 2.

Last year Denny Hamlin missed the race due to his back injury and Brian Vickers drove the FedEx Toyota to a disappointing 35th place finish. This year Hamlin wants to make up for that by winning the race and reserving his place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Since this is a short track the Toyota Owners 400 is 400 laps or 300 miles.

If you cannot get to Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400 it will be broadcast on FOX on Saturday, April 26th starting at 6:30 PM.

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

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Richmond
Denny Hamlin………………………. 114.8
Kyle Busch…………………………. 111.9
Kevin Harvick………………………. 110.0
Clint Bowyer………………………… 100.7
Tony Stewart…………………………. 96.5
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 96.0
Kurt Busch……………………………. 92.2
Ryan Newman……………………….. 91.6
Carl Edwards………………………… 90.1
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 88.5
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Richmond International Raceway

Feature Photo Credit: 285334 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

NASCAR Sprint Cup – Win You’re In, Don’t Race until the Chase?

On Friday the Charlotte Observer reported that NASCAR is considering changes to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Sweeping changes that would make winning a race more important than it already is. They have been floating this idea around those who have influence on the sport.

The proposal floating around is they would have the first 16 drivers who have won a race make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. If for some reason 16 different drivers don’t win a race, then those highest in points who have not won a race will be in. There would also be eliminations during the Chase.

I waited until Sunday to write about this simply because I can’t get excited for it or against it and here is why.

First of all, since they added the two Wild Card spots—reserved for winners who are not already in the top ten—we already have a “Win” component to the Chase.

Just looking at last season, one can see the opportunities that this would bring. David Ragan and Brian Vickers would have made the Chase. There would have been 13 winners making the Chase. Tony Stewart would have also made the Chase, but he was injured, leaving four spots for those higher in points. Essentially the Chase for the Sprint Cup would include the same drivers except Ragan and Vickers.

There would have been just about no reason for Michael Waltrip Racing to manipulate the points in the last regular season race as all their teams would have been in.

Some people have been saying that once you win and are in you don’t need to race until the Chase. This couldn’t be more inaccurate. Again looking just at last year those teams who entered the Chase at the bottom didn’t suddenly get better. They essentially raced more of the same. Only Tony Stewart who won the Chase in 2011 got incredibly better once the Chase was underway.

What could this change actually do? Imagine this. You are deep in a race and you are five points from twelfth place. You are in the front of the field, one lap to the good on fuel to the end of the race. The driver you are racing for twelfth place is at the end of the lead lap but good on fuel. Ordinarily you just can’t give up that many points so you save fuel finishing five spots ahead of the twelfth place driver. In this new format you had already won a race. You are in. There is no need to care about points so you go for it and win. That is what this proposed change is all about.

Think about the past when Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500. He would have put the famed #21 Wood Brothers Ford into the Chase. He probably wouldn’t have won the Chase but perhaps this new opportunity would help them get funding to run a whole season.

It also is an opportunity for a driver who won to make the Chase even though he or she had to sit out a race or two due to injury.

To use the worn out phrase “The Devil is in the Details” I can see where this potential change to the Chase essentially doesn’t change the Chase itself but does change the racing in the regular season on the way to the Chase.

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, or on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google.