March 26 in NASCAR History: Matt Kenseth turns Jeff Gordon, Gordon shoves back

Leave a comment

Bristol Motor Speedway is used to fireworks, and the Food City 500 on March 26, 2006, was no exception.

It began with five laps to go with Matt Kenseth leading Kurt Busch, winner of four of the last eight Bristol races.

Busch, in Team Penske’s No. 2 Ford, got into Kenseth’s rear bumper, causing Kenseth to get wicked sideways and letting Busch rocket by as Kenseth fell to third in front of Jeff Gordon.

With two laps to go, Gordon got Kenseth loose exiting Turn 4 and passed him.

As they raced through Turns 1 and 2 on the last lap, Kenseth returned the favor and sent Gordon into a spin.

Meanwhile, Busch outran Kevin Harvick to the take the checkered flag.

During the cool-down lap, Kenseth showed his own displeasure by quickly driving up to Busch and veering toward him, but not making contact.

Then, as Busch performed snow angels on the frontstretch (it had snowed in the area that weekend), Gordon exited his car with his helmet still on, made a beeline for Kenseth and gave him a hard shove.

“Kenseth got shuffled out and you know, he’s holding guys up,” Gordon told Fox. “I got to him a couple times and showed my nose and he shut the door on me. The next time I got the opportunity I definitely moved him, but I didn’t wreck him. We went down into (Turn) 1 afterwards and he just wrecked me. I’m sure he didn’t mean to do it and all that stuff, but I wasn’t happy about it and I showed it to him after the race. … That stuff rarely ever happens with him. I’m going to give back to him what he gives to me.”

Also on this date:

1955: Fonty Flock, driving a No. 14 car owned by Frank Christian, won a premier series race at Columbia Speedway in Cayce, South Carolina. Flock became the first driver to win a race for Chevrolet in NASCAR’s top series.

1961: Bob Burdick only made 15 Cup Series starts in his career, but he left an impression. At Atlanta this year, Burdick led 44 of 334 laps to score an upset win. According to “NASCAR: The Complete History,” he did so in an unsponsored Pontiac car on used tires and with an inexperienced crew in the pits. He beat Rex White and Ralph Earnhardt.

1972: After making up seven seconds in the last 30 laps, Bobby Allison beat A.J. Foyt by about five car lengths to win at Atlanta. Allison earned Chevrolet’s first win on a speedway since 1963. Allison raced for Junior Johnson, who won that 1963 race at Charlotte.

1995:  After 314 career Cup Series starts, Sterling Marlin earned his first win on a non-restrictor plate track with a victory at Darlington. His first two Cup wins were back-to-back in the Daytona 500 in 1994-95.

2000: Rusty Wallace claimed his eighth career win at Bristol, which also marked his 50th Cup Series win.

Clint Bowyer wants to provide ‘bang’ for fan’s ‘buck’ when racing returns

Clint Bowyer
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As it stands, the NASCAR Cup Series won’t be seen in action in real life for 45 days.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the postponement of seven NASCAR race weekends, the next scheduled Cup race is May 9 at Martinsville Speedway.

If that race is able to be held as scheduled, it would mean race teams and fans would be in for a fast and furious remainder of the season, as NASCAR intends to hold all 36 of its Cup points races and the All-Star Race.

But what would that look like and what do drivers think of the possible layout of the rest of the season?

Stewart-Haas Racing asked its four Cup drivers how they’re preparing for a potential resumption of the season and what they’d like to see in a condensed schedule with doubleheaders and mid-week races likely in the mix.

“If you’ve followed me, you know I’ve been pretty vocal about changing things up when it comes to the schedule,” Kevin Harvick said in a media release from SHR. “When it comes to the 2021 schedule, NASCAR was already looking outside the box of things we can do differently. Out of necessity, how we configure race weekends and when we race will have to be figured out for when we get back to racing this year.”

Harvick observed that “change is different, but it can be good.”

“We’ll have to think differently and be open-minded to what the rest of this year’s schedule ends up looking like,” said Harvick.

Aric Almirola believes the introduction of mid-week races for NASCAR’s premier series would “resonate really well.”

“Fans who worked all day can come home, eat dinner and then relax on the couch while we put on a show,” Almirola said in the media release.

The prospect of same-day doubleheaders between Cup and NASCAR’s other national series was a real prospect at Atlanta two weeks ago before the race weekend was postponed just hours before cars took to the track for practice. An initial plan had Cup and Xfinity both competing on Saturday.

“I think as soon as everyone got to Atlanta and saw the schedule change, it raised an eyebrow,” Clint Bowyer said in the release. “We said, ‘Hey, we can do these races in a day.’ I was fine with it. You know we need to do whatever we can do to put on a show for all these fans across the country. If all we have time for is a one-day show, then so be it. I think we can provide enough bang for their buck.”

A one-day show could also mean little or no practice for teams. But that sits well for Almirola.

“Teams have a lot of data simulation to predict how their car is going to drive and handle at a particular track, but it’s not always perfect,” Almirola said. “Practice is always helpful, even if it’s just a little bit. It would present a challenge to not practice, but it would at least be the same for everybody.”

However, a lack of practice would take away some valuable track time for a driver like Cole Custer, who had his rookie campaign paused after just four races.

“It would be a little harder just getting one or two qualifying laps in and then going racing,” Custer said in the media release. “Any time on the racetrack as a rookie is huge – the more, the better. If all we did was qualify, like we were set to do at Atlanta, it would put a lot of emphasis on our preparation going into the weekend. For me, practice is just really important so we can work on the car and get used to the track.”

In the meantime, with a little under two months to the next potential Cup race, Almirola is doing his best to prepare himself for the physical toll of what could be awaiting him and other drivers if and when the season resumes.

“During the offseason, I’m very relaxed, but this is so different,” Almirola said. “My mind is still so focused on racing. I’m continuing to work out and I go through the week with a schedule and stay in shape because, quite honestly, I think it’s going to be even more important to be in tip-top shape when we’re ready to go and the season does start back up because we’re going to be racing a lot.

“We’re talking about running races on the weekend, then midweek, then another the following weekend. If we do that, running three races in a week is going to be a lot. Recovering after the race and getting your body and mind prepped for the next race in a short period of time will be important. I’m focused on eating right, getting plenty of protein, and staying in shape to be as ready as possible for whatever this season has in store for us.”

Kyle Busch Motorsports ‘half business as usual’ during racing pause

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a pause on the entire NASCAR community and Kyle Busch Motorsports is no different.

Without any Gander RV & Outdoors Series races scheduled until May 15 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, life for the team is “half business as usual” according to Busch in an appearance on Kevin Harvick‘s SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show “Happy Hours.”

The status of his Truck Series team was one of the subjects Busch discussed during his appearance on Wednesday’s show.

Busch said everyone that works at the team’s shop is being kept on payroll for the time being, but that work shifts have been split in two.

“What we did is we took our shop guys, our fab shop, body shop, assembly area and all that sort of stuff, there’s probably about 45 people in that, but they’re all spread out through the 77,000-square foot building and we cut them in half,” Busch said. “There’s a 4 a.m. to noon sector, then there’s a noon to 8 p.m. sector of guys that are working. We kind of just split them. We’ve definitely got stuff we can do, there’s cleaning to do, there’s straightening up to do, there’s also building to do and getting ahead.”

They have to get ahead on a schedule that they don’t know will look like when racing returns.

‘We know as soon as we get back going again, they’re going to want to get all the races in and that’s pretty much going to mean 13 straight weeks if we did the calendar right,” Busch said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We have no idea, we just guessed (at the format). That’s 13 straight weeks for our truck guys. I don’t know how the other teams are going do it with people and equipment and that sort of stuff.

“We’re planning ahead in the regard, so we’re keeping everybody on payroll. Nothing’s happening in that regard yet. Hopefully, we get through with the CDC’s recommendation on a May time frame of getting back to business here, so I think we’ll be fine if that’s the case and we can get back racing in May.”

His Truck Series team isn’t the only business that Busch has on his mind.

Earlier this year the two-time Cup champion launched his own energy drink brand, Rowdy Energy.

That comes after Busch’s long relationship with Monster Energy and NOS Energy.

“I had my own energy drink with previous companies I’ve worked with and … they took my name off the can because they said it wasn’t selling, the flavor wasn’t selling,” Busch said. “So they took my name off the can, but yet they still sell the same flavor. So I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, ok, you guys just didn’t want to pay me my royalties. I get it, whatever.'”

Busch said this “sparked” his interest to make a healthier energy drink that gives “an option for people to be able to go out there and buy something that is a better option for you to put in your body.”

While the drink has been rolled out at NASCAR tracks early this season and online, Busch said it’s been a “nightmare” placing it in physical stores.

“Everybody kind of forewarned me about that early on,” Busch told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s certainly coming true. Let’s just say there’s 200,000 convenience stores across the country, well we hope to be in about 2,000 stores by the year’s end and then hopefully by eight or 10,000 stores by next year.

“That’s only chipping the ice, that isn’t even breaking the ice … we’ve got a long way to go.”

How Jordan Anderson discovered his race hauler is a ‘time capsule’

Jordan Anderson
Jordan Anderson Twitter
Leave a comment

If not for the COVID-19 pandemic that’s brought NASCAR and much of the country to a stop, it might have taken Jordan Anderson a while to discover his race team’s hauler was a “time capsule.”

When you’re not expecting to race until at least May, there’s not too much you can do around your race shop.

What you can do is clean your hauler, which would be a “bottom of the totem pole” chore for his Truck Series team in more normal times.

That’s what Anderson was doing today when he learned that the hauler his team has used since 2019 once pulled into the Cup Series garage … 18 years ago.

“Underneath the seat cushions it had ‘Hooters Racing / No. 11’ on it. …. handwritten in sharpie,” Anderson told NBC Sports.

The No. 11 and Hooters were a combo associated with Cup Series driver Brett Bodine from 2002-03 when Bodine owned his own team.

As for the inscribed cushion?

“Somebody pointed this out on Twitter that’s a common thing that Featherlite did when they manufactured these haulers,” Anderson said. “All the seats were made in a common area and the way they marked what hauler they were going in was somebody would just take a sharpie on the bottom board of the cushions and write what hauler it was going in.”

There were more relics from the early 2000s found underneath the hauler’s drawers.

“We found a couple of … setup sheets and stuff like that that had Brett Bodine, the 11 logo on it,” Anderson said. “Then we found one note that I think had practice times from like Phoenix in 2002 in there.”

Anderson, who finished second in the season-opening race at Daytona for his first career top five, purchased the hauler from Premium Motorsports at the end of the 2018 season. Before Premium, it was owned by Stewart Friesen when he began competing in the Truck Series in 2017. Before that, it hauled Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 Cup car driven by Alex Bowman in 2015.

Using equipment that’s survived through multiple racing generations is not a new experience for Anderson’s self-owned team.

“Honestly, it’s been my entire career,” said Jordan, who currently owns chassis once used by GMS Racing. “With us being a smaller team, we don’t actually manufacturer the chassis. We may do body work, things like that. Most chassis and parts that we buy come from smaller teams and there’s a lot of people that are here in Mooresville that sell used parts.”

Jordan said he has brake calipers that are engraved with “KHI,” the initials for Kevin Harvick Inc., the Truck and Xfinity Series team Harvick operated that closed in 2011.

“It’s pretty crazy to go back and find some of the parts and pieces that we got that have been recycled from bigger teams,” Anderson said. “The fact that stuff gets recycled and reused is how teams like myself stay alive. Because for us to go out and buy all brand new stuff, you’d run out of money pretty quickly.”

As for his hauler, Anderson views its journey through the auto racing community as having come “full circle.”

“That hauler started its life with Brett Bodine, but he owned his team back then and now (it’s) with me owning our team in the Truck Series,” Anderson said. “Most stuff in racing has got a pretty long story. You don’t often get too fortunate to find stuff like what we found today to be able to trace it all the way back.”

Kevin Harvick’s ‘Happy Hours’ to return this week

Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for SiriusXM
Leave a comment

SiriusXM NASCAR Radio announced that Kevin Harvick‘s weekly “Happy Hours” show will return Wednesday (March 25) and continue to the resumption of the racing season.

The show will air from 1-3 p.m. ET. Matt Yocum is back as co-host.

“Matt and I figured it would be good to get back on SiriusXM to talk to the fans and try to entertain folks during this downtime,” Harvick said in a statement. “Even though we are not racing, there’s still plenty to talk about, both the things involving our sport as we look ahead to the season, and also what’s happening in our daily lives away from the track. I hope we can take your mind off other things and maybe make you laugh a little bit along the way.”

SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Happy Hours” aired from 2017-19. Harvick put the show on hold before this season to focus more on racing and his family.