Early Trouble in Sprint All-Star Race, “Big Show” in the Sprint Showdown

 

The fate of both Dodge drivers in the annual Sprint All-Star Race was decided early Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski had problems in the first 25 laps of the 100-lap event run in four segments, creating a deficit they could not overcome.

 

Keselowski had to earn his way into the All-Star field and did so by finishing second in the 40-lap Sprint Showdown. Busch was making his 10th consecutive start in the spectacle.

 

Busch started 16th in the 21-car field in his Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger. His car was fast for three or four laps and then started dropping off. By lap 10, Busch had his hands full just keeping his car off the wall. Add in a pit road penalty during the mandatory pit stop on lap 25 which required a drive through penalty and the No. 22 was a lap down.

 

“We just have to get our cars turning better in the corners,” said Busch, winner of the All-Star event and the $1 million payday last year. It was a situation where our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge was a real rocketship for the first three laps of a run, fast and a little on the loose side. Then, we’d be pretty good for three laps. Then the handling would go away; it would just go way too tight.

 

Busch got the free pass at the end of the first session and managed to work his way into the top 10 in both the second and third segment, but by the end of the 20 laps in each, the handling would go away.

 

“We got the lucky dog after going a lap down in the first segment and that helped keep us in the game,” he said. “Steve (Addington, crew chief) and the guys threw everything they could at it. When you have to go five rounds on a wedge adjustment like we did that made very little difference, you know you’re in trouble.

 

“If we could have been up there in fifth or sixth at the start of the last 10-lap segment, we might have been able to pull something out. But starting back as far as we did (12th), it was a case of our car getting too tight too fast and we just had to hang on for all we could get.”

 

Keselowski made contact with the outside wall and had brake problems in the first 30 laps, leaving the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge six laps down. He didn’t give up. Neither did his “Blue Deuce” team. In the next 20 laps of the 50-lap segment, he passed the leader on the track to make up one of the laps. In fact, the No. 2 Dodge was the fastest car on the track. Cautions helped reduce the deficit to one lap heading into the final segment, but the 10-lap shootout was run without a caution.

 

“We had a great race car most of the night,” he said. “We just needed one more break to get us back on the lead lap there at the end. One more yellow and I think we had the car to really do some damage. I’m so proud of the recovery we had, getting five out of six laps back including one on the track. We’ve got something to be proud of. The Miller Lite Dodge was fast. We just got behind early and ran out of time before we could make up the deficit. My guys gave me a good car tonight. If we keep working, we’ll get there.”

 

Sprint Showdown


Keselowski used a bold move to grab the lead on the restart of the second 20-lap segment of the 40-lap Showdown and held on to finish second to advance to the Sprint All-Star Race. His move was to the inside of the two front runners. He went all the way to the grass before finally clearing the pair.

 

Keselowski held the point for 18 laps, but couldn’t hold off pole winner David Ragan who reclaimed the lead with two laps remaining.

 

“I was just trying to pass David (Ragan) on that restart, but David spun his tires and I had the opportunity to capitalize and made a run for it (the lead),” said Keselowski. “That’s what this is all about, doing all you can to transfer. I’m happy that we were able to get our Miller Lite Dodge into the big show.

 

“Our goal was to transfer, but we wanted to win the Showdown too. I didn’t just let him by me; he drove by me. He had the faster car. I’m happy for everybody at Penske Racing. We have both cars in the All-Star Race with Kurt’s (Busch) Shell/Pennzoil Dodge and my Miller Lite Dodge. I’m happy to make it to the big show; this is my third year to be in it.

 

“We’re on the cusp of getting things going really well for everybody at Penske. We’re starting to capitalize on some momentum. We know we need more speed, but we’re executing. We executed tonight with perhaps not the fastest car, but as a team and we got it done.”


  • HEMIhead

    What a surprise! Kurt was so miffed with his car he told his spotter he may as well go and get a drink with an umbrella in it. Why can’t they get the handling fixed on that thing? What the heck is going on? It’s as if they’ve never raced on any of those tracks before? How can it all be so out of whack since last season? Come on Dodge! Get the engineers over there! I’ve never seen the Blue Deuce so dismal in the points before. 24th? Really? And Kurt is dropping in the points like a rock in bucket of water. Penske is stuck on the IRL, so it’s up to Dodge to help these guys out. Come On! Give us fans something to cheer about! (I don’t want to hear Kurt on the radio saying his cars are garbage or complete junk!) As a fan, and a consumer who just purchased a new vehicle from Dodge, that kind of stuff don’t sit well with me! Get it done, or get out!

  • HEMIhead

    BTW, the best part of that race is when Opie Edwards destroyed his car trying to be cool at the end. What a joke! Oh well, there goes that million dollars Jack! Duh!

  • SUBLIME

    HEMIhead, I have had to quit watching NASCAR this season.  Dodge should just pull out because this is an embarrassment.  Keselowski should have just stayed in the Nationwide series.  I think he is getting confused driving two types of cars. Hopefully, it will get better.

  • HEMIhead

    Sublime, I’ve definitely cut back on my interest in Nascar, due to Dodge’s “Lay down and play Dead!” attitude. Sucks not to be able to have a team to root for that’s half way consistent. I actually feel Bad for Kes. It’s like Penske pulled the plug on him. How are you going to garner loyalty that way? What a joke!

  • tr4petty

    Guys, I just got back from two weeks at Charlotte and you’re absolutely correct!  There just isn’t enough going on in Nascar for a Dodge fan to get excited about.  I don’t know what is going on with Kurt!?!?!  That team has lost the handle on things.  Brad Keselowski is showing signs of improvement like winning the pole for the  600 but he is still lacking something in the races.  There are just not enough Dodges on the field to keep us Dodge fans interested in the races anymore.  It PAINS me to see Richard Petty fielding Fords!  And although Robby Gordon is at least making an effort (he doesn’t “start and park”), he’s just not a factor in the races, bringing up the rear all the time.  I’m to the point where I’d rather see Dodge just bow out of Nascar than to continue with the embarassing effort that they’ve got going right now.

  • HEMIhead

    @tr4petty, did you hear any rumblings or news about what the heck is happening with
    the penske drivers/teams while you’ve been attending races? It’s as if it’s their first time out on some of those tracks? Are they getting any support from Dodge?
    I know by your posts on RLD that you attend races, and it’s good to be able to get some info from people who can actually attend. I can only dream of actually being at any of those races in the U.S. and the motorsports news is only ever vague.  
    Thanks for letting us know what’s happening at trackside.

  • tr4petty

    All I’ve heard is that Kurt Busch is very unhappy with the way things are going at Penske.  He apparently had major problems with one of the engineers there.  He didn’t like the way that engineer was designing the chassis for the Chargers.  Since Kurt’s ranting about their crappy cars on the radio a few weeks ago,  that engineer has left Penske to “pursue other interests!”  Brad K has only expressed some disappointment that their cars are not contending for the win each race.
    Personally, I don’t think Dodge is very committed to Nascar.  This is obvious when you look at the number of Dodges in the field and their performance on the track.  It’s also evident in the lack of Dodge Motorsports marketing at the races.  There are NO Dodge Motorsports souvenir trailers anymore.  There is no “Team Dodge” hospitality tents or race packages anymore.  I’ve seen a huge decline in the number of Dodge and/or Dodge driver fans.  Since Richard Petty Motorsports switched to Fords and Kasey Kahne left the brand, there really isn’t any drivers out there that are fan favorites.
    Dodge has NO Dodge brand loyal drivers or team owners for us Dodge Nascar fans to get excited about.  Today, I heard that Brad Keselowski’s brother Brian is switching from Dodge to Chevy.  That’s another one of the few loyal Mopar teams that are being left without enough support to stay with the brand.  Brian doesn’t want to switch from Dodge to Chevy but he just can’t get enough support from Dodge to keep flying the banner.  I know Brian (Brad Keselowski’s brother) is only a small, part-time operation but the Keselowski’s have been one of the few Mopar loyal families in racing over the years.  Bob Keselowski (Brad and Brian’s dad) was the ’89 ARCA champ and one of the few guys driving Mopars in ARCA back then.  It’s just a shame that Dodge can’t even give a small operation like K-Automotive enough support to keep them in Dodges, especially since the Keselowski’s have been such great Mopar folks for so many years.  I guess loyalty is not rewarded at Dodge!

  • SUBLIME

    I do not know who is calling the shots, but backing two or three teams in NASCAR is a longshot.  There is strength in numbers.  If you have a good run and could win the championship then one of the Chevys could be sacrificed to knock you out so one of their drivers could win it again and again and again.  It was interesting when JJ blew his motor at the end of the race and crew chief Chad says the f word on tv and nothing happens. At any rate, if Ralph is in charge of Dodge then he needs to get his sh!t together.  He promotes all this Viper Cup stuff and then they stop making Vipers.  What?  Why can’t Dodge make a sporty looking small car?  The Caliber is a boxy minature SUV. Chevy can make a Cobalt that looks sporty, but Dodge offers nothing. The Charger still needs a front end that should look more retro.  Heck, I still do not like the way they have the rear door seams that open up as part of the wheel well section.  It just looks like it is missing something and doesn’t look as sporty.  Even the new 300 has the rear door open before the rear wheel well.  What I am getting at is yeah the sales are up just because they are offering new versions of their product (finally)…but just imagine if they offered really good looking cars in colors that the customer wants.  They couldn’t keep up with demand.  In addition, what if they really supported NASCAR teams and promoted their products at the tracks?  Have you seen that the King is teaming up with HPP and making Challenger Superbirds.  You can have it painted Petty Blue with a 426 HEMI under the hood.  http://www.allpar.com/history/auto-shows/misc/petty-spring-fling.html
    Doesn’t this tell you that Richard still loves Dodge and should be working with them.  This whole thing is screwed up and Dodge needs to work on their PR.  

  • HEMIhead

    Thanks TR4Petty for the info. I agree Dodge has some other agenda, and I am not sure what it’s about. I really don’t think they have anyone looking after the motorsports effort anymore. Gilles has way too much on his plate to be handling that also. I know Mike Acavetti is long gone, but he actually used to respond here on RLD, to our comments and questions. Now we don’t hear a thing. I feel bad for the Keselowskis’ and don’t understand the logic behind not backing “The King” Richard Petty. I think if this is Dodge’s committment to their Nascar effort, then it’s time to once again leave. I believe they are too caught up in making every vehicle they sell “Luxury”. I’ve been waiting 9 weeks now for a Grand Caravan with the power window group. No sign of it yet. Good help you guys who want a Challenger with your color and options.
    I don’t understand their idea of putting all their apples in one basket with respect to Nascar and Penske. The less cars you have on the track, the less chance you have of winning. And no info sharing. It’s not rocket science. I’d say they are done.

  • tr4petty

    Yeh, Hemihead, Dodge/Chrysler corporate is slowly getting their act together and beginning to show a profit.  That’s great, but Dodge Motorsports is still in the tank.  Everybody knows (or SHOULD know) that Nascar is the place to be if you want to promote your auto brand.  I go to several races each year and it’s really sad to see what’s happening with the Dodge brand in Nascar.  In 2001, when Dodge got back into Nascar, there were very few fans with Dodge gear on.  But over the next several years of attending races, I was thrilled to see more and more fans wearing Dodge Motorsports shirts/jackets and Dodge driver gear.  Then, a few years ago, everything started going in the opposite direction.  Every race we attend, there are noticably fewer sightings of Dodge fans, gear, flags, etc.  We were camped near the track at Charlotte for the All-Star and 600 races where we’ve camped before.  We used to see quite a few campers flying Dodge Motorsports flags and sporting Dodge driver gear.  This year, it was almost non-existent.  In our campground of about 400 campers, I saw only two others campers flying Dodge flags.  That’s really sad.  And Toyota has things going their way now.  When they first entered Nascar, I saw lots of t-shirts saying things like, “Toyota in Nascar? Well, there goes tradition.”  Or even _ _ ck Toyota shirts were very common.  Now, they’ve taken FULL advantage of being in Nascar and there are many more Toyota Racing Development flags, shirts, Toyota driver gear, etc. than there are Dodge stuff.  It literally makes me sick to see this complete turn of events!  I think Dodge needs to either jump back into Nascar in a BIG way as they did in 2001 OR they need to just bow out and save us Dodge fans the embarassment of seeing them continually humiliated on the tracks.

  • HEMIhead

    I agree TR4petty. Couple of years ago I attended a Nationwide race and everybody there had Budweiser/Kasey Kahne Dodge jackets on everywhere. And he was not even in the race! I had trouble even finding one to buy for myself. Finally, I found one to buy and proudly wore it the whole weekend. Everybody was giving everyone else a “Thumbs Up”
    as they passed by one another. Then when I got home from the race weekend I found out Kahne/Petty had moved to Ford. What a kick in the pants for the fans! I never wore that jacket again! And I threw all my t-shirts in the garbage. Dodge don’t have any loyalty in Nascar, and it’s nobody’s fault but their own. Lame duck racing.

  • tr4petty

    I just got through watching the race in Kansas.  Congrats to Brad on the win.  It’s about time!  It took some fuel mileage strategy to do it but a win is a win.  Kurt had probably the best car today but was short on gas due to a pit stop that didn’t get all the gas in the car before leaving.  If not for that one little hiccup, Kurt probably would have won the race.  So, Congrats to both Brad and Kurt today, and let’s keep our fingers crossed that they can get a winning streak going!!!

  • HEMIhead

    Thank You Brad and Kurt! Brad really needed this win and I think it will give him
    some momentum. Kurt ran excellent all day, It was a gamble on the fuel milage, but had he gotten a caution and refueled, he would have collected the win. Kurt was just blowing the doors off the competition at Kansas! I hope the “Dodge Boys” turn on the heat for the rest of the season. Great race guys!