Tag Archives: Coca-Cola 600

Kurt Busch the New Ambassador for Racing

Kurt Busch wore out his welcome with several NASCAR teams. He wore out his welcome with the media. He wore out his welcome with fans. He realized this and took the steps necessary to change. Now he is an Ambassador for Racing—yes you read that right—an Ambassador.

The last two seasons Kurt Busch worked his way back to a high quality NASCAR team. Along the way he learned a lot. We do not need to talk about what got Busch here anymore. His actions the last couple of years have taken care of that. What happened before, happened before, there is a new driver in town. He earned our respect back.

Kurt Busch caught the eye of Gene Haas at the end of last year. Haas put his money on Busch and started another NASCAR Sprint Cup team from scratch just for him. This team hasn’t done well, as most new teams do, but Busch did win a race and presumably is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is currently 28th in points. He needs to stay within the top 30 in points in order to use the power of that win and stay in the Chase. That isn’t the story though.

Kurt Busch set out to do what no NASCAR driver has done before. He looked for and got a great Indy Car team to provide him with a ride in the Indianapolis 500. Sure other NASCAR drivers have done “The Double” as it is called, racing in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 all on the same day; 1100 miles of racing. John Andretti, Robby Gordon, and Tony Stewart were all Indy Car drivers before becoming NASCAR drivers. That isn’t the story though.

There is no doubt that Busch put himself and his reputation on the line racing in his first race: the Indianapolis 500. As for his racing, well after a vicious crash in his Indy Car in practice, one might expect him to be too hesitant. Certain failure would come to mind. He didn’t. He raced smart and brought home a sixth place finish. The only blemish on his day is that his engine blew in the Coca-Cola 600 relegating him to a 40th place finish, one that he did not need as noted above.

To put his Indy Car race into perspective, Busch was the fastest qualifying rookie and highest finishing rookie of the race. He won the prestigious Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award. He joins his other teammates, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, who have also won the award.

The demands on a high profile driver like Busch, especially one doing a great feat, are unfathomable. Through it all Kurt Busch was the most relaxed he has ever looked. He was the most gracious to his teams, on camera and in print, than he has ever been.

Today is a memory I’ll have forever. It was a challenge I put forth for myself. I enjoyed it. I soaked it all in up North. I loved racing up in Indy in front of all the Indiana natives and the Hoosiers. They love their speedway up there. That speedway loves them. That’s what I really saw out of that track today.” Busch added, “There was a grand stage to stand on and represent NASCAR. We brought her home in sixth place. I didn’t think I had anything for those top five guys. They were racing hard. And those were the top five in that series. They’re strong. They’re tough.

Make no mistake about it; Kurt Busch engaged NASCAR fans with Indy Car Racing. He also engaged Indy Car fans with NASCAR Racing. That is just what Ambassadors do. In this case Kurt Busch represented both forms of racing in the best way possible. It would be great to see him do it again.

Busch said, “I’d love to do it again. And at the same time, you’ve got to do it with quality teams. The teams really can make the big difference in all of this. And I have to thank Andretti and I have to thank Stewart-Haas.

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

Feature Photo Credit: 298576 Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Kasey Kahne has the Formula for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Kasey Kahne was on track fighting for the million dollars in the NASCAR All-Star race only to see it slip away on some speedy dry. This week NASCAR and Kasey Kahne get back to business at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the faster of the 1.5 mile speedways. The speed comes from the 24 degrees of banking in the corners. This race is one of the most prestigious of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule. It is also the longest race of the season at 600 miles or 400 laps. If the length of the race isn’t enough the race also is a test of crew chief because it starts during the day and finishes at night. The driver and team who can keep up with the changes in the track while still staying at the front will win this race.

The driver ratings for this track shouldn’t be a surprise to any NASCAR fan. Jimmie Johnson has a commanding rating of 111.1 and has won six times. This of course used to be the house of Johnson but he hasn’t won here since 2009 and his record streak ended in 2005.

Kyle Busch is next in the driver ratings at 107.5. Great stats but Busch hasn’t been able to make those stats work for him for a whole race and win at Charlotte.

The next driver by driver ratings is Kasey Kahne at 102.6. His rating, though not as high as Johnson’s, are still pretty good. He has four wins, the most recent coming in this race in 2012.

Kasey Kahne and his crew chief Kenny Francis have not been getting it done this season. This hasn’t been lost on them. They have been working diligently at fixing it. They think they figured out something during the Kansas race.

Well we had to really sit down and talk about things together and get back on the same page.  There were a lot of things we were thinking differently on the first six to seven weeks of the year.” Kahne added, “We have spent a lot more time the last month and a half together and figuring this out than what we had early in the year when we were maybe thinking different directions and things with the car, adjustments and set-up’s for each track.  I feel like our relationship is still really good and because we have that we have been able to figure it out and do enough testing and things to get back on track.

It is apparent that something is working. A third place finish at Kansas plus wining two of the four segments in the All-Star race they have definitely improved. They are going to need better communication for this race more than any other.

Kahne said, “Patience. I think you have to have patience. Last year, I enjoyed leading when it was sunny out and leading at night so just being able to find that balance, work with it, work with your car, communicate well and work with the team throughout the whole race is key. And then you need the team to step up, too.  We need to have great pit stops, and we need a great car when we start the race. If we have all that, we’ll have a shot to win our fourth 600.

Here are some other stories in the race to watch. Kurt Busch will be running in the Indianapolis 500 before the Coca-Cola 600. He is the first driver to race in all 1100 miles of racing, the double as it’s called since John Andretti in 2007.

Look for special car paint schemes in honor of our veterans for Memorial Day.

Kasey Kahne is currently 16th in points but just out of the Chase. He wants to become the 10th new winner and race his way into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is off to a great start by qualifying for the third spot.

If you cannot get to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 it will be broadcast live on FOX on Sunday May 25th starting at 5:30 PM.

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

Feature Photo Credit HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Charlotte
Jimmie Johnson                                111.1
Kyle Busch                          107.5
Kasey Kahne                      102.6
Matt Kenseth                    96.0
Denny Hamlin                    93.4
Greg Biffle                          91.4
Carl Edwards                      89.8
Jeff Gordon                        88.8
Joey Logano                       87.3
Kurt Busch                          84.7
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Charlotte Motor Speedway.