Brad Keselowski was smiling but you could sense the resolve in the 28-year-old after he finished second to Jimmie Johnson in last weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race.
“I think we’re a really young team that’s growing and getting better every week, every day and every hour,” Keselowski said moments after climbing from this car. “We got beat by a five-time champ. I think we’re doing pretty good, but I want that one more spot.”
Considering where Keselowski was a year ago, he and his team have made tremendous gains.
A year ago, Keselowski was 24th in the NASCAR championship point standings heading into the Coca-Cola 600 with zero wins, one top-five and one top-10 finish — and that came in the Southern 500 when he didn’t pit late, using the same strategy as race winner Regan Smith, and finished third.
This season, Keselowski is 12th in points with two victories, three top-five and five top-10 finishes.
Go back to last year’s Coca-Cola 600 and only one driver has more wins than Keselowski in that time. Tony Stewart has seven victories to Keselowski’s five. Just as impressive is that Keselowski and his team have won two races since the abrupt departure of Kurt Busch after last season. The team brought in AJ Allmendinger to replace him, making Keselowski the de facto No. 1 driver at Penske Racing. He has accepted and handled those responsibilities well.
Certainly, the team’s performance could have been better this season had both Keselowski and Allmendinger not been saddled with problems with the fuel pickup system. Both teams seemed to have solved those issues and the All-Star Race showed how strong both can be with Allmendinger going from last to second in the preliminary race to make the All-Star event and Keselowski winning the third segment before finishing second in the final 10-lap shootout.
Both teams seem to be headed in the right direction as summer approaches with Keselowski virtually locked into the Chase courtesy of his wins at Bristol and Talladega. Both Keselowski and Allmendinger will be worth watching the coming months.
Photo by ASP, Inc.
ON A ROLL Kasey Kahne heads into this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 having scored five consecutive top-10 finishes — six if you count the All-Star Race. It’s quite a turnaround after he opened the season by finishing 29th or worse in four of the first six races and was as low as 32nd in the points at one time.
Kahne is 16th in the points this week. He’s gained spots in each of the last five points races.
What’s impressive is his top-10 streak has come at a variety of tracks from 1.5-mile speedways (Texas, Kanas) to a short track (Richmond), a restrictor-plate track (Talladega) and a driver’s track (Darlington).
This is the Kahne many expected to see at the start of the season — his first with Hendrick Motorsports — and one who has shed his bad luck early this season. The question will be if he can continue the run and climb into the top 10 in points.
HALL OF FAME More than 50 voters, including myself, will gather Wednesday to determine the next five-member class to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The class will be announced at 6:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday.
There are 25 nominees. Among those who received votes but didn’t make it last year (but are again on the ballot) are former modified champion Jerry Cook, driver/car owner Cotton Owens, car owner Raymond Parks and two-time champion driver Herb Thomas.
The five new nominees are: Ray Fox (engine builder/car owner), Anne B. France (administrator/wife of Bill France Sr.), Wendell Scott (first African-American driver to compete full-time in NASCAR’s top series), Ralph Seagraves (R.J. Reynolds official), and Rusty Wallace (1989 series champion).
There have been three previous classes inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson were in the inaugural class. David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore were in the second class. Last year’s class had Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Dale Inman, Richie Evans and Glen Wood.
PIT STOPS Joey Coulter will make his Nationwide Series debut this weekend at Charlotte for Richard Childress Racing. He’ll be in the No. 21 car. ... All-Star Race winner Jimmie Johnson is looking to win that race and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same year a second time. He performed the feat in 2003. The only other drivers to win both events in the last decade are Kasey Kahne (2008) and Kurt Busch (2010).
Weighing in on Hall of Fame Nominees and Racing at The Rock
Thunder Road at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (ASP, Inc.)
Hall of Fame Nominees, Grading Texas and a Return to "The Rock"
With NASCAR’s recent announcement of the 25 nominees for its next Hall of Fame class, members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council selected the five people they think should be inducted next and why. They didn’t stop there, though, adding suggestions on who deserves to be nominated but hasn’t yet so far.
Fan Council members also discussed Rockingham’s return to the NASCAR schedule and what’s next there and dissected the racing at Texas. There’s much to debate this week, so here’s what the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had to say:
WHO WOULD YOU ELECT TO THE HALL OF FAME?
Fan Council members were asked to select five of the 25 nominees for their ballot. Here’s the five people they would vote into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the percentage of votes each received:
Fireball Roberts ... 52.4 percent Leonard Wood ... 50.0 percent Benny Parsons ... 44.3 percent Wendell Scott ... 41.9 percent Red Byron ... 39.9 percent
AND THE REST OF THE FIELD ...
Buck Baker ... 37.5 percent Raymond Parks ... 31.8 percent Rick Hendrick ... 18.2 percent H. Clay Earles … 17.9 percent Rusty Wallace ... 17.2 percent Curtis Turner ... 16.2 percent Richard Childress ... 15.9 percent Tim Flock ... 14.5 percent Fred Lorenzen ... 13.2 percent T. Wayne Robertson ... 13.2 percent Anne B. France ... 12.6 percent Ray Fox ... 12.5 percent Cotton Owens ... 10.1 percent Herb Thomas ... 9.8 percent Jack Ingram ... 9.1 percent Joe Weatherly ... 6.1 percent Ralph Seagraves ... 5.4 percent Jerry Cook ... 4.7 percent Les Richter ... 1.7 percent Bobby Isaac ... 1.0 percent
What Fan Council members said:
• I think this is the year to recognize the very early days of NASCAR. The one thing really lacking at the Hall of Fame is an appreciation of the stars of the 50s and early 60s. Curtis Turner was really the first superstar of stock car racing, and should be recognized. His accomplishments in stock car racing were great, plus you need to consider the great record he had in NASCAR's convertible series, as well as in road racing. He was also the man who had the vision to build the Charlotte Motor Speedway, an icon in this sport.
• Wow that's tough to only pick 5 from that list ... so many are deserving. I think Childress and Hendrick are no-brainers as far as the current. Turner and Fireball should be the two recognized from the past because of what they accomplished in their time, and having the pleasure to work with him, I think Benny is just as deserving as a driver as he is for his broadcasting work.
• Without Ralph Seagraves and Winston, we may not even be talking about a Hall of Fame. Flock, Baker and Fireball's records speak for themselves and Cotton Owens is my pick for his success with Pearson and Buddy Baker.
• My choices were Leonard Wood, Raymond Parks, H. Clay Earles, Red Byron, and Buck Baker. Reasons being Wood deserves to be in the HOF for all they have done for this sport everything from fielding winning cars for anyone and everyone that has ever been a factor in this sport, they also changed the way pit stops were completed. Byron was the very first series champion and that stands for itself; Earles because he founded a wonderful facility that helped BUILD this sport; Parks for being the first championship car owner. Baker was one of the best drivers in his era and like everyone else on my list he helped BUILD this sport. If you take anything from my votes these people helped BUILD this sport.
• Wendell Scott ABSOLUTELY must make it to the Hall this year. First and ONLY African American to win a Cup series-level race at the time when he was running? This really needs to happen — now rather than later.
• I'm not buying Wendell Scott deserves a spot over people who helped build the sport to what it is today. H. Clay Earles founded a track that is still here today. Raymond Parks, first champion car owner and helped behind the scenes. Both deserve a spot first. I understand the need to show that he broke a barrier but would he have broke that barrier without others in this nominee class stepping up?
• Wendell Scott should be inducted since it must have been an incredibly difficult thing to compete the stock car racing as an African American in the time period that he did it. He did it on a shoestring and won. IMO, that achievement should be recognized.
• The shoe-ins were covered by the first 3 classes. Now it's time to catch up on the founding fathers
• You cannot tell the meteoric rise of NASCAR without T. Wayne. Shame they skipped over Leonard Wood last year.
• In my mind the early members of the Hall of Fame should have changed the sport. Anne B. France — Big Bill couldn't have, wouldn't have, done it without her. All of the previous members have stressed how much their families sacrificed for the sport. Anne B. France is the first representative of that group.
• Why is Anne B France on this list? I guess anyone that worked in the office in the beginning of NASCAR deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?! How about the first ticket collector?
• I believe Raymond Parks should have been in the Hall of Fame in the first or second class due to his contributions to keeping the sport alive in its infancy. Fred Lorenzen is one of the greats of the sport and health has deteriorated, which means this might be his last chance to enjoy the spoils of making the Hall. Since Glen Wood made the Hall of Fame last year, his brother Leonard coming in the following year makes perfect sense. Just like the Petty family over the first three years, the Wood brothers have a chance to take their place in the Hall. Buck Baker is the first repeat champion in Cup racing and having Buddy Baker up there would be a great representation for the building and for NASCAR. I chose Jack Ingram because they should incorporate the other series greats as well and The Ironman was a legend in Nationwide.
WHO BELONGS AMONG THE 25 NOMINEES FOR THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME?
I provided a list — not a complete list certainly — of people to be considered for the NASCAR Hall and Fame. Here’s how the Backseat Drivers Fan Council voted:
THE FIVE THEY WOULD ADD AS NOMINEES NEXT YEAR
Ken Squier .. 46.6 percent Barney Hall ... 45.6 percent Smokey Yunick ... 43.9 percent Alan Kulwicki ... 37.8 percent Davey Allison ... 35.4 percent
AND THE REST OF THE FIELD ...
Humpy Wheeler ... 34.0 percent Chris Economaki ... 32.0 percent Sam Ard ... 29.6 percent Bruton Smith ... 28.2 percent Tim Richmond ... 21.1 percent Janet Guthrie ... 19.7 percent Ray Evernham ... 18.7 percent Hershel McGriff ... 17.0 percent Jake Elder ... 16.7 percent Ralph Moody ... 11.9 percent Rex White ... 11.2 percent Harold Brasington ... 5.4 percent Paul Sawyer ... 3.7 percent
What Fan Council members said:
• Maurice Petty seems to always be forgotten, yet, accomplished more than most listed above
• Moody & Yunick because of their work on car development. Hall, Squier & Economaki because without their voices, the sport would not be the same ...
• Humpy Wheeler was one of the first promoters in this sport to truly understand the concept of what fans wanted from a racetrack besides just the race.
• To me, Barney Hall is the voice of NASCAR. I am 59 years old and went to my first NASCAR race when I was 12. Barney Hall was there and has been there ever since. Along with Chris Economaki and Ken Squier. These three men helped build the fan following of NASCAR and without the fans we wouldn't have NASCAR!!!!!!!!!
• Barney Hall has always been the voice of NASCAR for me. There will never be a better NASCAR announcer period. You can't have that Hall without him being in it. Squier, too. Davey, Ard and Richmond had their careers cut by tragedy. Who knows what kind of numbers they would have put up.
• Harold Brasington is also not given the credit he deserves. People don't stop and think how risky and pioneering it was to build a superspeedway for stock cars at the time; and out in the middle of nowhere to boot.
• Many of the early stories I can recall reading about in regards to NASCAR involved stories of “Suitcase” Jake Elder. He was a man who had influence in many drivers’ careers, and is usually mentioned in connection with those drivers as opposed to getting his own mention. It’s time to tell his story. It is amazing what Janet Guthrie was able to accomplish in what was considered a man's sport. Her story is an inspiration and deserves recognition.
• I want to add Harry Hyde to this list also!
• Red Vogt, one of the founding fathers of NASCAR, the man who coined the term NASCAR, and championship winning crew chief deserves to be in the HOF.
GRADING SATURDAY NIGHT’S CUP RACE AT TEXAS
41.0 percent called it Fair 33.2 percent called it Good 20.0 percent called it Poor 5.8 percent called it Great
What Fan Council members said:
• It was boring. Too many green flag laps — we needed some phantom yellow flags to bring the field back together. Nice race for Biff but not much excitement for the rest of us.
• I'm glad there was no phony caution at the end just to add excitement.
• I like what Dave Despain said about viewers expecting blow-ups and excitement every lap: long green flag runs “IS RACING!” If there had been caution after caution, fans would have bitched about THAT, too. I enjoyed the race. Was I enthralled every single moment? Well, I had my heart in my throat praying Kasey Kahne would not have another night of bad luck, so I was watching intently, but no, I simply enjoyed it. That's all I ask of a race!
• Very little passing. I'm OK with long green flag runs if lots of guys are passing. This was not the case on Saturday. I felt like it was an Indy follow-the-leader type of race.
• You're going to get a lot of “OMG that was so BORING” comments, but I thought it was fine. Sometimes in sports there are blowouts, but only NASCAR can essentially wipe out a three-touchdown lead with a wave of the flag. It is to NASCAR's credit (and credibility) that they didn't throw a sketchy caution to bunch up the field, because the two cars that deserved to battle for the win did so.
• 224 green flag laps at Texas is just not what I wanted to see...
• YAWN. I had to force myself to stay awake just in case anything happened in the last 10 laps. Racing thus far in 2012 has been boring. I think Goodyear needs to change the tires so they will wear more.
• I hate to say this, but it was the most boring race I have seen in the last three years. At the same time, it’s good to have a clean race, unencumbered by wrecks and long delays. Basically, it just lacked good fender banging competitiveness.
• I guarantee a lot of folks will say poor, but I didn't mind the long, green-flag runs. The race was not boring, as many will say. I can remember watching races back in the day that went caution free for long periods of time. The best drivers with the best teams usually do well in these races. That's what we saw on Saturday night
• It was decent. It was nice to watch Jeff Gordon's drive from deep in the field to fourth. It would have been nice to have a caution with under 10 to go to see if he had anything for the 16 or 48.
Racing at Rockingham Speedway. (ASP, Inc.)
WHAT SHOULD BE NEXT FOR ROCKINGHAM SPEEDWAY?
After a NASCAR-estimated crowd of 27,500 watched the Camping World Truck Series race at Rockingham on Sunday — the first NASCAR race there since the Cup series left after 2004 — Fan Council members were asked what should be next for the track:
86.0 percent said run both the Truck and Nationwide series there next year 13.4 percent said run only the Trucks there next year 0.3 percent said run only the Nationwide series there next year 0.3 percentdo not return to the track next year
What Fan Council members said:
• I was at the Rock, and it was an awesome event. Andy Hillenburg has done a great job, and NASCAR should embrace it with both series next year.
• Great to see The Rock back. Let's build back the base first before we get carried away with bringing other series back there.
• Let the trucks have a “Showcase” event like this from time to time. Cup ran on Saturday and let them be the Sunday event. Loved it.
• It is unrealistic to see NASCAR move a Cup date to the track, but it would be great to see commitment to a track that can produce exciting racing for the fans.
• I was there. Traveled from California to be there. The numbers don’t tell the whole story. The event was great. The racing was great. The crowd on Saturday for practice and qualifying was bigger than some race crowds I’ve seen for truck races at other tracks. The community was so supportive and appreciative of those of us visiting and spending our money in their businesses.
• Seems like people want to see the races there so try it out with two races and see how is goes-people want it, people should show up!
• Although I don't think we'll ever see a Cup race at The Rock again, I think today's attendance proves the track can definitely support another truck race, AND a NW race.
• Too soon to take away a Nationwide race from another track until there is consecutive “almost sell out” crowds at the track. If today's effort is duplicated next year and the year (after) it would make sense.
The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at email@example.com.
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
The 25 nominees for the 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame class were announced Thursday in Charlotte, NC. A mix of pioneers, drivers, owners and promoters pepper the list, and going through the names, virtually all of them are qualified to make it into the Hall on the first ballot. However, only five are eligible to get in each year, so there are 20 who will be going home — kind of like the largest go-or-go-home field made up of all-stars and who's who of NASCAR history.