The playoffs start in a mere 24 races. If they started this weekend, those in would be (those in italic weren’t in the 2012 playoffs), Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola, Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose. Martin, as I’m sure you all know, won’t run all the races so more than likely he won’t make the playoffs.
• Those who were in the playoffs last season but are out of the top 12 today are, Matt Kenseth (18th in points), Tony Stewart (23rd), Kevin Harvick (30th), Kasey Kahne (31st) and Martin Truex Jr., with finishes of 24th and 36th, is 34th in points, 24 points out of 12th. He’s just ahead of the Busch brothers who are 33rd (Kyle) and 32nd (Kurt) in points.
• Why am I talking points and playoffs with only two races into the season, you ask? Simply put, there are only 12 spots in the playoffs and a bunch of drivers are already taking the approach that they’d rather not risk it to finish inside the top 20 and not wreck and finish in the 30s.
• Last season Jeff Gordon was the last guy in with 777 points (20 were bonus points), which is an average finish of around 13th.
Cup Facts and Random Thoughts
This new car is 150 pounds lighter and two-and-a-half-inches shorter than the old car.
•Going into this season, of the last six Daytona 500 winners only two guys have finished in the top 10 in final points.
Matt Kenseth (2012) finished seventh. The 2011 winner Trevor Bayne didn’t have a full-time ride. After winning in 2010, Jamie McMurray finished 14th, as did Kenseth in 2009. Ryan Newman in 2008 ended up 17th and Kevin Harvick was 10th in 2007.
In 2006 Jimmie Johnson won the 500 and went on to win the championship.
• Danica Patrick became the first woman to start on the pole of the Daytona 500 and then the following week qualified in the 40s. She was 40th out of 43 drivers who took time in Phoenix.
• Everyone who took time last weekend was guaranteed to start the race. That’s only the fifth time since May of 2004 that only 43 cars have showed up for a Cup race.
The fastest five and their speeds were: Mark Martin (138.074), Kasey Kahne (137.862), Johnson (137.804), Kyle Busch (137.673) and Jeff Gordon at 137.164. The slowest five, four-plus miles per hour behind, were Scott Riggs (132.920), Patrick (132.890), Joe Nemechek (132.023), Ken Schrader (131.747) and Casey Mears at 131.286.
• 44 drivers are on the entry list for Vegas. There were 44 on the Phoenix list before the 98 Ford of Phil Parsons Racing withdrew.
• How is it Bayne doesn’t have a full-time ride? I’m guessing his pile of money just isn’t high enough.
• 54-year-old Martin became the second oldest driver to win a pole. The oldest is Harry Gant who, back in 1994, sat on the pole at Bristol. He was also 54 but was about five months older than Martin is now.
• If Martin wins again before hanging up his helmet, he’ll break Gant’s record of old guys winning. Gant was 52 years, 7 months, 6 days old back when he won in 1992. Others on that list are Morgan Shepherd (51+), Martin and Bobby Allison (50+), Dale Jarrett and Bill Elliott (48+), Rusty Wallace, Geoff Bodine and Richard Petty, (47+) and Terry Labonte who was 46 back in 2003 when he was the first to drive under the checkers at Darlington.
• This was Martin’s 56th pole in 856 Cup starts.
• I turned on Fox last Sunday long enough to see two Waltrips. Let me just say – Thank You, Motor Racing Network!! MRN is free on your computer. On race day go to http://www.jayski.com/cupnews.htm and near the top of the page click the MRN link.
• The win was Edward’s 20th of his career and came one weekend short of being two years since his last win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, March 6, 2011, 70 races ago.
• Edwards becomes the 37th driver with 20 or more Cup wins. He’s one of only six guys with 20 or more in Cup and the Nationwide Series. He joins Dale Earnhardt, Martin, Busch, Kenseth and Jeff Burton.
• Edwards and his new crew chief Jimmy Fennig were paired up by Jack Roush in the off season. Fennig has now been to victory lane with five different drivers. In 1987, he crew-chiefed for Allison at Stavola Brothers Racing. Allison won two races during their two years together, including the 1988 Daytona 500. Fennig called the shots in 1989 for Dick Trickle, who won the 1989 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. In 1996, he was hired by Roush and worked with Martin. He was on top of the pit box when Kurt Busch won the championship in 2004.
• Phoenix is known for breaking winless streaks. Martin snapped a drought of 97 back in 2009. Kahne ended an 81 winless streak in 2011 and Newman picked up his first win racing for Stewart-Haas which stopped his winless streak at 77. Gordon had gone 0-for-66 before winning in the desert in February of 2011.
• The race at Phoenix saw only six green flag passes for the lead. In 2011 there were 26 and 23 back in 2010. There were 1,213 green flag passes for position, 782 less than the 1,995 there last season. Quickly in my head, passing was down nearly 40 percent.
Smith Adds an Extra Million Bucks to All-Star Race Purse
The Cup All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, May 18, just got a little more interesting. The winner has received a million bucks in the past and this year track owner Bruton Smith has put up another million bucks if a driver wins all five segments.
Last season for the first time (and thankfully the last time) the winners of the first four segments were allowed to start in the first four positions of the last 10-lap shoot-out. Jimmie Johnson won the first segment and then proceeded to ride around in the next three segments. And why wouldn’t he, had nothing to gain and everything to lose at that point.
Before this extra cash was offered, the rules were changed so the last segment is going to be lined up by the driver’s average finish in those first segments. I believe they’ll realign them before opening the pits for a mandatory four-tire stop.
I’ll go over who’s in and isn’t when the race gets closer. I will tell you, to get an invite a driver has to have won a race last season or one leading up to this year’s race. It’s the driver and not the team, so if a driver leaves a team he gets to run his new car while the team he got into the race with doesn’t get to run.
Is it just me or does that not seem fair? My driver won a race or two last season with my car and my sponsors but because he left I’m in the garage area while his new team and their sponsor get to race and I don’t.
Helliwell Jr. and Bernhardt Also Running Serie Castrol in 2013
Defending American Canadian Tour champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. and team owner Bruce Bernhardt have officially filed their entry blank to run north of the border in 2013.
The Pelham, N.H.-based team is about race ready. Both of the chasses from last season have been refreshed. “The cars have been ready for a few weeks,” said Helliwell. “Just a few odds-n-ends to finish, scale and we’re ready,” says team owner Bernhardt.
The team is excited to defend their series championship in 2013 and looks to start the new season how last year ended, with a win. The tour kicks their 14-race schedule off at a familiar venue on April 14, Lee USA Speedway. Helliwell is an eight-time champion there. “There is always added pressure when we go to Lee,” said Helliwell. “The pressure comes from ourselves more than anyone else. Everyone expects to run good there, but no more than we do. The tour races have really been up and down for us there. We’ve been unable to really put a complete race together.”
Throughout Helliwell’s career the Lee, N.H. oval has been somewhat of a roller coaster when ACT comes to town. He seems to always run up front only to have issues late in the race. “We rebounded nicely last year. We have to put the whole race together to take home a win.”
Bernhardt also filed an entry to compete in the Canadian Castrol Series as well. Increased overall purses for the Canadian series have peaked the team’s interest. “We will test the waters in the first few events and see where we stand with it. See if we want to pursue both titles, ” said Helliwell.
Helliwell who is no stranger to competing two–three times a week started a career high 34 late model races and a combined 50 events in 2012, looks at it as business as usual. “It’s a normal deal for us really. We handled it well last year with the super, Canaan and the tour. I see no difference with this.”
Helliwell will once again face conflicting events with his Friday night 350 open wheel super modified and the Castrol series. The team faced a similar decision last year when battling for the ACT and Canaan Fair Speedway championships. “We made it work last year, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” said Helliwell.
This week’s driver unbuckled (www.acttour.com) talks to Brian Hoar. He says he and car owner Rick Paya plan on running the first four Tour races. After that they’ll pick and chose six or seven other Tour and big-money non-point-races including the International 500 and the Milk Bowl.
• ACT officials announced the Inaugural ACT International 500 to be held at Airborne Speedway on July 20-21 will have a purse of $140,000-plus, making it the richest event in ACT’s 28-year history.
The entry form says, “The top five will receive the guaranteed minimums of 1) $25,000, 2) $8,000, 3) $5,000, 4) $4,000 and 5) $3,500, after all purses and bonuses are determined. Tenth pays $2,200, 20th $1,350, 30th $1,165 and last (40th) pays a grand.
The reserve feature (for guys who don’t transfer to the main event) pays the winner $3,000, second is worth $1,500 and third banks $1,200. Last, or 30th, pays $400.
• Lap leaders earn $50 a lap with laps 50, 150 and 250 being worth $1,000. The 300-lapper will be run in three 100-lap segments. The starting line-up for the first segment will be set from qualifying procedures announced at the drivers’ meeting. The top 33 finishers of each segment will be inverted for the next segment.
• Scoring will be Milk Bowl-style – one point for a win, two for second, three for third, and so on. Low score wins with the tie breaker being best finish in segment three.
• Everyone who files an entry by April 16 will be entered into a drawing for eight Goodyear tires.
Until Next Week
Every day find someone or something that makes you laugh.