An era ends as Stewart races his last race for JGR, more notes
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- One of the greatest combinations in NASCAR Sprint Cup history will come to an end this weekend when
After the checkered flag falls, Stewart will move on to become owner/driver at Stewart Haas Racing, where he will field a two-car effort that also includes
"It's something new, and a group of guys that don't normally work together on a Cup car," Stewart said. "That's a team that Gibbs has had to put together to try to get Joey [Logano] some seat time for next year. I'm glad they've done that. They haven't seen the results that they want, but we all know that Joey is better than that, and once he gets in the 20 car, that will remedy itself."
While JGR will move on without Stewart, the driver is in the process of building his team for next season. He believes that recent cutbacks and layoffs on other teams have allowed him to hire some qualified people.
"You hire people off their work ethic and passion," Stewart said. "It's not so much on how they work with me, but rather how they work with each other. They only have to deal with me for a few hours a day; they are the ones that are together from 6 in the morning until 6 in the evening.
"The reason we have so many people applying for positions with our new team is because they understand our passion and desire to be successful. Nobody has blinders in the garage area. Everything that has happened they have seen."
Many in the garage think it's going to be unusual to see someone other than Stewart behind the wheel of the No. 20. "Yeah, there are going to be changes like that over the years,"
Despite struggling this season in Sprint Cup, three-time IndyCar Series champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner
One day, Hornish's perseverance may pay off, but it's amazing how far his star has fallen. At one time, he was the best American IndyCar driver since
Hey Sam, it's not too late to consider a return to IndyCars, where you were "The Natural." In NASCAR, it's all looked so forced.
It's hard for
The IndyCar driver lives in nearby Scottsdale and is friends with such NASCAR stars as Stewart and
Patrick will be in the final year of her contract with Andretti Green Racing in the IndyCar Series next season. Ironically, she used the threat of jumping to NASCAR as leverage in 2006 when she was in the final year of her contract at Rahal Letterman Racing. That earned her a lucrative deal with AGR.
I spoke with Patrick on pit lane as she was heading over to Stewart's motorhome to watch the rest of the race, and she told me, with a wink of the eye, "You can write whatever you want."
Sources within the IndyCar Series said Patrick will go wherever she can get the biggest check and they would not be surprised if she tried to line up a NASCAR deal. But after watching former Indy Car drivers Hornish Jr. struggle and
She remains a big name in the IndyCar Series despite winning only one time, but once the novelty wore off in NASCAR, Patrick would get lost in the crowd.
And in tough economic times, NASCAR teams are probably going to think twice before attempting to lure any driver without stock car racing experience to their team.
Just because he can't win the Sprint Cup title doesn't mean
"Any time you are competing, you want to finish as high as possible," Burton said. "There is a tremendous amount of money involved, as well as pride. Second is better than fifth and fifth is better than 10th, so definitely, the better you finish is important."
Burton was mathematically eliminated on Sunday because he is now fourth in points, 269 points out.
A nine-car pile-up on lap 275 brought out the red flag for 17 minutes, 52 seconds so safety crews could get
Gilliland's car landed on top of Speed's car with the rear wheels on the windshield creating an unusual scene on a 1-mile oval.
"It was wild," Gilliland said. "Everybody started checking up there and unfortunately our Ford got involved in it and ended our day. It was one of those chain reaction deals. It looked like somebody got in the back of somebody out there and the rest was just hang on. I got into the back of the 77 [Sam Hornish Jr.] and then Scott Speed got in the back of me pretty hard and his car ended up underneath me."
Speed called it a "Days of Thunder" moment.
"There was a lot of smoke," Speed said. "My spotter said there's no one out there, and I throttled down in the gas. We saw a spin and we all started stopping and that's where it ended. I tried to slow down, closed my eyes, screamed a little bit and it was all over. Honestly, I didn't see much. I got out as quick as possible because
While Jimmie Johnson is going to win the Sprint Cup title in a landslide, barring a huge meltdown, there are still two races in NASCAR that are too close to call.
Hornaday went on to finish 25th and Benson 26th.
"I'm glad they both pulled a bonehead on the same night,"
That left both Benson and Hornaday shaking their heads in dismay.
"I'd rather be more points ahead and I'm sure Ronny feels the same way," Benson said. "It was a weird day, a bad day, for both of us. I don't know what the deal is."
Edwards won Saturday's Hefty Odor Block 200, which enabled him to chop 35 points off Bowyer's lead after the points leader finished fourth. Bowyer takes a 56-point lead into Saturday night's season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"Anything can happen," Edwards said of the impending showdown. "I like Miami. It's a fun race track and our cars run well there. You never know. If we run like we've been running and we perform as well as we have, we can close 56 points without Clint having any trouble."
Bowyer overcame a mid-race collision that left the hood on his Chevrolet at a downward angle. His Richard Childress Racing crew had to repair the damage with duct tape, but even with a car badly in need of a nose job, it was still competitive.
By getting a top-five finish out of a car involved in a crash, Bowyer was buoyant afterwards. "I'm happy," he said. "If someone had come to me and said that at Daytona you would have a 56-point lead going in to the final race of the season, what would you think about that? I would say I'm pumped. I am excited about it and looking forward to the challenge."
"To be able to have an honorary deputy badge from
Busch has other reasons to like Phoenix after he started third and finished second in Sunday's race.
"I still enjoy coming here; it's like a second home," said Busch, who grew up in Las Vegas. "I grew up watching races here - watching
"I just hope that we can, I don't know. I don't know what the answer to that is. Make something up."
Finally, after another long season that seems to get longer every year, it's the final race of the season. While everybody thinks ending the season in South Florida is filled with sunny days by the pool, it's anything but that. The track is surrounded by palm tree plantations, an Air Force Base and a drainage ditch. The track's original owner,
But, Homestead means the end of the season, and that is what many of us are looking forward to most of all.