Sunday, December 19, 2010

Las Vegas Hilton Super Book First To Release 2011 NASCAR Championship & Daytona 500 Odds

By Micah Roberts

The Las Vegas Hilton is the state leader in offering NASCAR odds 
It’s only been a month since Jimmie Johnson claimed his fifth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship to close out the 2010 season, Christmas isn’t even here yet and the 2011 season opener at Daytona is still nearly two months away. However, the crew over at the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book hasn’t wasted any time and have posted odds on the Daytona 500 and the 2011 Season Championship before anyone else in the world.

Despite coming from behind to win the Championship in the final race last season, Jimmie Johnson is still a considerable 5-to-2 favorite to win his sixth straight title. His machine-like performance year after year in the crunch, with what figures to be the exact same team for 2011, makes him the easy choice.

Unlike years past, Johnson’s odds gap between his closest contenders isn’t as large. Denny Hamlin had the champ on the ropes, but couldn’t close it out in the final round. No one has stood toe to toe with the champ like that in any of the five title runs which is why Hamlin is the 6-to-1 second choice. Coming into the 2010 season, Hamlin was 10-to-1.

Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards figure to chase Jimmie Johnson again 
Also coming in at 6-to-1 is Carl Edwards who closed out 2010 with two straight wins after going 70 races without one. The Roush-Fenway team came on strong in the second half of the season and found the horsepower that had been eluding them on tracks that the team had typically done well at over the years. We saw last season how momentum carried over from the previous season with the Childress teams who came within 39 points of beating Johnson with Kevin Harvick. Edwards and the other Roush teams could be in a similar situation for 2011.

Harvick will have Budweiser on the hood of his No. 29 Chevy and is listed as the fourth favorite to win at 8-to-1 along with Kyle Busch. The only negative affect that could slow Harvick from repeating his 2010 form is that Childress has brought on a fourth team with Paul Menard. Perhaps it’s a mere coincidence, but none of the four Childress cars made the Chase in 2009. When Childress eliminated one team for the 2010 season, all three drivers made the Chase.

Kyle Busch is the driver many point to as the one who could overtake Johnson, but the main component in Johnson’s success is something Busch has yet to figure out, consistency. Busch had three wins in 2010 with 10 top-five finishes, but couldn’t put together strong runs for long stretches at a time like Johnson, Harvick and Hamlin did all season, a story that has seemed to plague Busch for his entire career.

Jeff Gordon has gone 65 races without a win, but his consistency throughout gives him immense respect with the Hilton which is why he is 10-to-1. Last season he was fourth in the series with 11 top-five finishes. Coming into this season Gordon has quite a few changes that could lead to improvements. Not only will Dupont only be the primary sponosr for just 14 races this season, but in the Hendrick Motorsports crew shuffle, Gordon gets Alan Gustafson who worked with Mark Martin and Kyle Busch in the past.

Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr could be nice long shots
An interesting long shot choice is Jamie McMurray at 40-to-1 who had three wins with 9 top-five finishes in 2010. The horsepower is there, as is McMurray’s ability, but much like Busch, couldn’t put together a string of good runs.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is listed at 50-to-1 and gets an early boost with a fresh face overseeing the No. 88 car with Steve Letarte taking over crew chief duties. At no time in Junior’s career has his pre-season championship odds been as high as they are this year. The main positive for the No. 88 team this year is sharing garages with Johnson’s team. Ever since Johnson came into the series, it was Gordon’s team that shared garages with the No. 48. Letarte won’t even have to change his office with the switch and has a great relationship with Chad Knaus. Because of information being shared more due to the close proximity, look for Junior to have his best season while at HMS.

The Las Vegas Hilton Super Book has become the clear leader in Las Vegas for auto racing odds. Not only do they offer a multitude of weekly propositions for each Cup race, but they also carry the weekly Nationwide and Camping World Series odds as well. In addition to NASCAR, the Hilton also offers weekly Indy Racing and Formula-1 odds, a package of odds that no sports book in the state offers.

Odds to win 2011 Sprint Cup Championship
Jimmie Johnson 5/2
Denny Hamlin 6/1
Carl Edwards 6/1
Kevin Harvick 8/1
Kyle Busch 8/1
Jeff Gordon 10/1
Greg Biffle 10/1
Tony Stewart 12/1
Matt Kenseth 12/1
Clint Bowyer 18/1
Kurt Busch 18/1
Mark Martin 20/1
Joey Logano 30/1
Jeff Burton 30/1
Juan Pablo Montoya 30/1
Kasey Kahne 40/1
Jamie McMurray 40/1
Ryan Newman 50/1
Brian Vickers 50/1
David Reutimann 50/1
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 50/1
A.J. Allmendinger 100/1
Martin Truex Jr. 100/1
Paul Menard 100/1
David Ragan 100/1
Brad Keselowski 300/1
Marcos Ambrose 500/1
Field (All Others) 100/1

Odds to Win 2011 Daytona 500
Jimmie Johnson 10/1
Denny Hamlin 15/1
Carl Edwards 15/1
Kyle Busch 8/1
Jeff Gordon 12/1
Greg Biffle 30/1
Kevin Harvick 6/1
Tony Stewart 8/1
Matt Kenseth 30/1
Clint Bowyer 12/1
Kurt Busch 15/1
Mark Martin 20/1
Joey Logano 20/1
Jeff Burton 25/1
Juan Pablo Montoya 20/1
Kasey Kahne 30/1
Jamie McMurray 10/1
Ryan Newman 30/1
Brian Vickers 30/1
David Reutimann 30/1
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12/1
A.J. Allmendinger 40/1
Martin Truex Jr. 30/1
Paul Menard 30/1
David Ragan 30/1
Brad Keselowski 50/1
Marcos Ambrose 601
Regan Smith 100/1
Bobby Labonte 100/1
Field (All Others) 25/1

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Test Session Confirms Goodyear Tire Compound for 2011 Daytona 500

Trevor Bayne, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Burton Test Tires at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 16, 2010) – As sunshine warmed Daytona International Speedway’s new racing surface on Thursday, so did the expectations and excitement levels for the 53rd Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.

Thursday marked the second day of a two-day Goodyear tire test in preparation both for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ traditional season-opening event and the track’s new asphalt.

The repaving project – only the second in track history and first since 1978 – began immediately after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event on July 3 and ended last week. With this week’s test open to all series teams, a number took advantage, filling the frontstretch side of the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage with their haulers.

“I think it has gone really well,” said Jeff Burton (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet). “Everybody is happy with the surface. The tire combination seems to be really good.”

“It's just a new attitude,” said Kurt Busch (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge). “This is what 2011 will bring to start off our Sprint Cup season. Big, exciting time. I'm proud to be able to say I got a chance to race on the surface when it was redone.”

Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch answer media questions
Busch and Burton, along with reigning Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) and Bobby Labonte (No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota) all visited the infield media center during Thursday’s lunch break. NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton, Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III and Goodyear Director of Racing Greg Stucker also participated in the midday press conference.

“Good communication all along between the folks here at Daytona, Joie, Goodyear, the race teams, the series directors, everybody that had input,” Pemberton said. “It's nice to know you can show up at one of these things, have so many different things that we faced and challenges over the last year to get ready for this. Looks like the plan came together nicely.”

Burton was heartened that Daytona’s repave – while cutting-edge – respected the venue. He cited the 2007 repave at another historic NASCAR venue, Darlington Raceway, as a positive example.

“It's much smoother, has a tremendous amount more grip, but it's still Daytona,” Burton said. “They didn't try to change the banking from the bottom to the top, do all that stuff. They just kept Daytona and put pavement on it. I'm glad that's what they did.”

Although the focus remains on the racing surface, McMurray noted details like a wider pit road.

“They did a really good job, not only on the racetrack, but widening pit road,” he said. “It's really nice to get that little bit of extra room on pit road. Pit road speeds are really fast when you come to [restrictor] plate tracks. Typically we have the smallest brakes on the car that we run all year long, so pit road is also trouble. So the fact they widened that 10 or 12 feet is really nice.”

Media and fan interest also is accelerated. A portion of Daytona’s grandstands was open for public viewing both Wednesday and Thursday and television cameras weren’t the only ones being wielded.

“It's real important,” Labonte said of public and media fanfare. “They have a section open for the fans. They can come down here and see us drafting. I'm sure they've got their cameras out showing video to their buddies now on who-knows-where it's all at. It's the first time we've been to the new facility. That's exciting.”

It’s worth noting that this week’s test was confirmation, not a search process. Stucker said a tight calendar meant Goodyear officials did the bulk of their compound research testing at Daytona’s sister track, Talladega Superspeedway, also the only other restrictor-plate track on NASCAR’s three national series’ calendars.
Drivers, teams and track and NASCAR officials all draw natural comparisons off Talladega, which was repaved prior to its fall 2006 event. The completion of a test asphalt strip at Daytona allowed Goodyear officials to gather additional data, which Stucker said was compared to August’s test results at Talladega.

“We're well into production for the 500,” Stucker said. “In fact, we're just about done. We've come down here and really confirmed that all those decisions we made were the right ones. Very glad to hear that all the guys are comfortable with our setup and really everything we've seen so far has been very good from our perspective, very consistent, a lot of good comments from the drivers.”

Chitwood said the repaving project only enhances the allure of the Daytona 500.

I think when we market Daytona, we market the fact that this is the biggest event we have on the calendar,” he said. “This is how you make NASCAR stars – you win the Daytona 500. It's going to be a great surface out there for all of them to put on a great show.”

NOTE: The next on-track activity for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be January’s three-day test at Daytona. The session, known as NASCAR Preseason Thunder, is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20 through Saturday, Jan. 22. Sunday, Jan. 23 is the rain date.

Kurt Busch and Casey Mears during the test session
The 2011 edition of NASCAR Preseason Thunder will help teams further acclimate to the new pavement, plus speed their preparation for the 53rd Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.

All NASCAR Preseason Thunder sessions begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., weather permitting. Each includes a lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.

Attending media will have daily interview opportunities in the media center.

Fans seeking to rev up their new year can do so at the NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest at Daytona – the companion event to the January test. Along with watching NASCAR Preseason Thunder track activity, fans can enjoy three Fan Fest sessions in Dayton’s Sprint FANZONE – from 5-7 p.m., and 7-9 p.m., on Friday, Jan. 21 and from 5-7 p.m., on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Driver question-and-answer and autograph sessions are planned. Fans also can watch each day’s testing at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.

- NASCAR Press Release

Friday, December 17, 2010

2011 Daytona 500 and Sprint Cup Championship Odds From Las Vegas Posted This Weekend

We'll have a full layout of next years NASCAR odds this weekend from the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book who have become the clear leader in auto racing odds around town. Guess who will be favored to win the title? A much more difficult task will be guessing who is the favorite to win at Daytona.

Looking forward to hearing people's thoughts on who will win it all after witnessing such a great Chase for the Championship in 2010. Will Denny Hamlin be ready to take over, or is the sour defeat a lasting downer? Will Kyle Busch's Cup potential ever come to fruition, or will he continue to show up for only half the races? How about Carl Edwards; can he keep the late Chase momentum going and contend like he did in 2008?

All the clues to the answers won't be known until at least a quarter of the season has passed, but it's always fun to put your money where your mouth, or heart, is early to prove you knew it along.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NASCAR Champions Week in Las Vegas: Drivers Play Family Feud

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 1, 2010) – Survey says: Kyle Busch.
Kyle Busch says…Kyle Busch.
Day 2 of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week featured a day-long fan-friendly event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway dubbed “Chasers for Charity.” The highlight was a NASCAR version of the popular TV game show “The Family Feud.”
And hometown boy Kyle Busch stole the show early, correctly guessing ‘himself’ as the answer to this question: “What driver would you least like to have racing your driver for the win on the final lap?”
Hosted by comedian Kevin Burke, the top-12 drivers in the final series points standings, split into two teams, battled for survey supremacy. Through the track’s website and social media outlets, fans answered a number of questions, with the top-five answers to each put ‘on the board.’
Totaling a combined 13 series championships, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick made up one team. The other squad featured Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and Jeff Burton.
Go figure – Team Hamlin, the roster with zero NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, easily bagged the Family Feud title, 400-99.
A sampling of the questions, all of which were NASCAR-themed:
-        “Name a famous finish in NASCAR history.” (No. 1 answer: Darlington, 2003 – closest finish in history, between Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven)
-        “Which driver do most media people enjoy interviewing?” (No. 1 answer: Jeff Burton)
-        “Which NASCAR driver would be most suitable to appear on The Bachelor?” (No. 1 answer: Kasey Kahne)
-        “Name the non-Chase driver who has the best chance of making the Chase next year.” (No. 1 answer: Jamie McMurray)
-        “Which driver from the past would you most like to drive one of your cars today?” (No. 1 answer: Dale Earnhardt)
The game show capped off a number of festivities held throughout the day.
Earlier, the track held a celebrity go-kart race featuring Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kevin Conway, comedians Carrot Top and Kevin Burke and San Francisco Giants centerfielder Aaron Rowand. Predictably, Conway – the ringer of the group – won.
Some of the other activities held in the track’s famed Neon Garage: live music, autograph sessions and a question and answer session with SPEED personalities Krista Voda and Larry McReynolds.
Additionally, the Richard Petty Experience offered rides around the track and charity memorabilia auctions were held throughout the day, with proceeds going to Speedway Children’s Charities.
For the second-consecutive year, Las Vegas hosts the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week, culminating with Friday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony at Wynn Las Vegas.
SPEED, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio will broadcast the event, live at 9 p.m. ET.
Following is a complete rundown of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week activities.
Thursday, Dec. 2
·   NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon: This annual industry/media event begins at 11 a.m., in the Bellagio Ballroom at the Bellagio and includes presentations to the Champion Crew Chief, Champion Sponsor, Raybestos Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver. Fans have the opportunity to attend for the first time. It is co-hosted by NASCAR and the National Motor Sports Press Association.
·   Victory Lap: Set for 3:30 p.m., the top-12 drivers will motor down the famed Las Vegas Strip in their respective race cars. Expect an authentic pit stop along the route and two burn-out sections for drivers. Victory Lap begins in front of Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino and ends at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Prior to Victory Lap at 3 p.m., Johnson will receive the Key to the City of Las Vegas from Mayor Oscar Goodmanand Commissioner Tom Collins. Commissioner Collins also will present a Proclamation recognizing Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 as Jimmie Johnson Day.
·   “NASCAR After The Lap, Made Possible By Coca-Cola and Ford”: This free fan event starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and features a question-and-answer session with drivers and an interactive Coca-Cola Fan Zone experience. Select fans will win NASCAR-themed prizes, including a 2011 Ford Taurus SHO. The Coca-Cola Fan Zone opens at noon, with doors to NASCAR After The Lap opening at 3 p.m. General admission seats are free, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Register for tickets at
Friday, Dec. 3
2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony: The big show starts at 6 p.m. (9 p.m. ET), crowning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion driver and owner and honoring the other drivers who finished in the top 10 in the final series standings. The star-studded entertainment lineup for the ceremony includes country rockers Rascal Flatts,comedic host Frank Caliendo, country singer Martina McBride, singer Colbie Caillat and a performance from the Las Vegas show “Viva ELVIS by Cirque du Soleil.” A Sam Bass custom designed Gibson Les Paul guitar being played by Rascal Flatts and signed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and the band will be auctioned to support the NASCAR Foundation beginning Friday, Dec. 3 at

- NASCAR Press Release

Monday, November 29, 2010

NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions Week in Las Vegas

  • Frank Caliendo, Rascal Flatts Headline Awards Ceremony At Wynn Las Vegas
  • Popular Victory Lap On Famous Vegas Strip Again Planned
  • NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon To Be Showcased At Bellagio

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 29, 2010) – The champion is crowned, the celebration awaits.

What a party it promises to be.

The 2010 edition of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week in Las Vegas will fete Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson, who earned an unprecedented fifth consecutive series title following the Nov. 21 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Just a few days away, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week is full of fan-friendly activities that showcase the nation’s No. 1 form of motorsports while honoring its top driver and its loyal fan base.

After a 28-year run in New York, the annual postseason celebration made its Las Vegas debut last year, capped, as always, by the champion’s Friday-night coronation. This year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony returns to one of the city’s premier resorts, Wynn Las Vegas, on Friday, Dec. 3.
SPEED will once again broadcast the event, live at 9 p.m. ET.

Comedian Frank Caliendo and country rockers Rascal Flatts will entertain during the awards ceremony. Joining them will be “Viva ELVIS by Cirque du Soleil,” a special performance of dance, acrobatics and music celebrating the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley.

The ceremony culminates several days of whirlwind activity involving not only the series champion, but also the other 11 drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – NASCAR’s “playoffs”. Those drivers, together with Johnson, comprise the top 12 in the series’ final standings.

“It’s just been an amazing experience, amazing for myself and the team,” Johnson said of his five-title run. “I think it’s been great for our sport to see the comparisons drawn to other sports that have been able to link together multiple championships. It’s been awesome, a ton of fun.”

For the second consecutive year, some of the thousands of fans who flock to catch a glimpse of stock car racing’s biggest stars will join drivers, team owners and industry leaders in celebrating Johnson at the awards ceremony. Approximately 300 tickets are available to fans, which are being distributed by tracks, NASCAR partners and teams through various promotions. Fan tickets offer the following experiences:

· NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon seats
· Access to “NASCAR After The Lap, Made Possible By Coca-Cola and Ford”
· Fan reception & Red Carpet walk prior to the awards ceremony
· Awards ceremony seats

Following is a complete rundown of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week activities.

Wednesday, Dec. 1
· NASCAR Street Tour: Two tricked-out NASCAR interactive Ford vehicles are scheduled to appear all week throughout Las Vegas with dynamic street teams, interactive video games and free giveaways. (Detailed schedule TBD.)

· NASCAR Pit Stop Tour:The Pit Stop Tour program will run from Dec. 1-3, consisting of Official Partner show cars placed in iconic locations throughout the Las Vegas Strip. Brand ambassadors at each location (locations TBD) will be on site from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. for all three days, engaging the fans.

· Chasers for Charity Event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: Gates open at 10 a.m. The Richard Petty Driving Experience will offer rides with a percentage of the proceeds being donated to charity. The speedway will offer tours of the facility. There will be interactive displays throughout the track’s “Neon Garage” and live music on the main stage from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. In addition, all 12 Chase drivers will participate in a Family Feud-style game show hosted by comedian Kevin Burke between 2-3:30 p.m. Admission to the Fanfest is free, and mass transportation will be available from the strip and downtown.

Thursday, Dec. 2

· NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon: This annual industry/media event begins at 11 a.m., in the Bellagio Ballroom at the Bellagio and includes presentations to the Champion Crew Chief, Champion Sponsor, Raybestos Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver. Fans have the opportunity to attend for the first time. It is co-hosted by NASCAR and the National Motor Sports Press Association.

· Victory Lap: Set for 3:30 p.m., the top-12 drivers will motor down the famed Las Vegas Strip in their respective race cars. Expect an authentic pit stop along the route and two burn-out sections for drivers. Victory Lap begins in front of Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino and ends at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Prior to Victory Lap at 3 p.m., Johnson will receive the Key to the City of Las Vegas from Mayor Oscar Goodman and Commissioner Tom Collins. Commissioner Collins also will present a Proclamation recognizing

Thurs., Dec. 2 as Jimmie Johnson Day.
· NASCAR After The Lap: This free fan event starts at 4:30 p.m., at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and features a question-and-answer session with drivers and an interactive Coca-Cola Fan Zone experience. Select fans will win NASCAR-themed prizes, including a 2011 Ford Taurus SHO. The Coca-Cola Fan Zone opens at noon, with doors to NASCAR After The Lap opening at 3 p.m. General admission seats are free, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Register for tickets at

Friday, Dec. 3
· 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony: The big show starts at 6 p.m., crowning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion driver and owner and honoring the other drivers who finished in the top 10 in the final series standings.

- NASCAR, Press Release

NASCAR Champions Week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

It’s NASCAR Champion’s Week in Las Vegas and the festivities will get under way Wednesday with the Chasers for Charity Fanfest at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Gates will open to the speedway’s Neon Garage at 10 a.m. and the event will culminate with a Family Feud-style game show played by the 12 Chase drivers at approximately 2:30 p.m.
The drivers will arrive at the speedway at approximately 2 p.m. and will walk a red carpet through the fans before beginning the game show. The show will be hosted by comedian Kevin Burke, who stars in Defending the Caveman at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino.
Prior to the drivers’ arrival, race fans will be entertained with free track tours, live music by classic rock band The Wedge Brothers, an autograph sessions by Miss Sprint Cup, continuous entertainment in the Sprint experience and a celebrity go-kart race including comedian Carrot Top, San Francisco Giants centerfielder Aaron Rowand and NASCAR rookie of the year Kevin Conway. SPEED personalities Krista Voda and Larry McReynolds also will be on hand to take part in a question and answer session with fans just prior to the drivers’ arrival. The Richard Petty Driving Experience will be offering rides for a fee with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Speedway Children’s Charities.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hendrick Shuffles Crew Chiefs for the 24, 5 & 88; Cites Complacency

By David Caraviello

Rick Hendrick knew the world would be watching when he brought Dale Earnhardt Jr. into his race organization and, before he retires, the championship car owner wants to give NASCAR's most popular driver every tool he can to try to win races and contend for a championship. This week brings another step in that process, as Earnhardt assumes the crew chief and the team that once supported Jeff Gordon.

As part of a massive personnel swap intended to bolster his entire organization, Earnhardt will now work with Steve Letarte, whose crew chiefed Gordon for the past five seasons and never missed a Chase. Gordon will be paired with Alan Gustafson, who was previously Mark Martin's crew chief, while Martin will work with Lance McGrew, who for most of the past two years was teamed with Earnhardt.

Only Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, who together have won the past five championships in NASCAR's premier division, will remain together. It's more of a driver change than a crew chief change -- Hendrick said the people at the shops will all remain the same, the only differences being the driver, car number, and sponsor. Which means that Earnhardt, 25th and 21st in points the past two years, will be inserted into the group that had been working around Gordon.

"When your confidence is shaken and you just get to the point where you need something to give you that feeling you can do it, and you've got faith in the guy you're working with, sometimes the frustration sets in and it just can't work," Hendrick said Wednesday. "That doesn't mean Dale wasn't a good driver, or Lance wasn't a good crew chief. It just got to the point where it wasn't working, and we needed to do something different. I've seen this many, many times, you make a switch and you get a new lease on life and everybody gets excited."

But Hendrick was quick to point out that these moves weren't made for Earnhardt's sake, rather to bolster an organization that had grown somewhat stagnant despite winning its fifth consecutive title. He began thinking about making changes following the recent Sprint Cup race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, after which he called crew chiefs and engineers together for a meeting that lasted three hours. In it, Hendrick quoted Winston Churchill: "It's not enough to do what's best. Sometimes you have to do what's required."

And what was required were changes. Hendrick admits his team fell behind after NASCAR moved from the rear wing to the spoiler. The organization's cars simply weren't as good as they had been in 2009, when Johnson led Martin and Gordon in a Hendrick sweep of the top three points positions. The result was a reshaping at Hendrick, which will now have the Nos. 48 and 88 teams working out of one building, and the Nos. 24 and 5 out of another. The Johnson and Gordon teams had been joined at the hip since the No. 48 team's founding.

"I think, in a nutshell, our whole organization after last year winning the championship and finishing 1-2-3 in the points ... we just got complacent, and other teams were stronger, and we were not where we needed to be," said Hendrick, who officially announced the changes Tuesday afternoon.

Read More Here....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harvick Calls Busch "A Clown" and Admits to "Parking" Him

by Jeff Gluck

On television, on the radio and in the media center, Kevin Harvick repeated himself all three times he was asked about his incident with Kyle Busch.

Busch, he said, "raced me like a clown all day."

Harvick, unapologetic, said that on several occasions during the Homestead race, Busch "cut me off and ran up in front of me."

"The last time, I just didn't lift," Harvick said.

"Three-wide, on the back bumper, running into me – I just had enough," Harvick repeated.

Busch's teammate Denny Hamlin, sitting next to Harvick in the media center, couldn't help but interject after hearing Harvick's words (Harvick's actions resulted in Hamlin being trapped one lap down, effectively ending his championship hopes).

"Sounds like how your teammates raced me all day," Hamlin told Harvick.

Responded Harvick: "I just parked yours."

Busch was obviously unhappy with the incident and said despite an attempt to clear the air with Harvick before the race began, he ended up wrecked.

"It's very unfortunate," Busch said. "It's just a guy that doesn't have his head on straight apparently today. I thought everything was good.

"I talked to him in the pre-race, in the driver's meeting and all of that, but he's such a two-faced guy it just doesn't matter."

Edwards Win Ford 400, Johnson Wins Fifth Straight Championship

Sporting News Wire Service

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- NASCAR has a rock star -- and perhaps after a fifth consecutive championship for unsinkable Jimmie Johnson, the sport will realize it.

Johnson ran second to Carl Edwards in Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to secure the first come-from-behind title in his skein of five championships.

Edwards' victory was perfection. He led 190 of 267 laps in winning his second consecutive Cup Series race and the 18th of his career.

"Why didn't you set the cars up like this before, Bob?" Edwards joked with crew chief Bob Osborne after the race. "That was the best performance down the straightaway I've had in a long time."

The race for the championship was anything but perfection. And it wasn't the high drama fans had anticipated from the closest Chase since the introduction of NASCAR's playoff format in 2004.

An early spin on the part of Denny Hamlin, the Chase leader by 15 points entering the final race, ultimately proved decisive. A pit-road speeding penalty knocked Kevin Harvick (third in points) to the rear of the field just when he appeared ready to contend for the victory. Hamlin finished 14th; Harvick rallied to finish third.

Sloppy work in the pits on the part of Johnson's substitute crew -- borrowed from Jeff Gordon's No. 24 team in the middle of the eighth Chase race (at Texas) and bound to Johnson thereafter -- repeatedly cost the champion track position.

To call the final race a comedy of errors on the part of the title contenders may be harsh, but championship team owner Rick Hendrick did precisely that.

"It was like, 'Who's going to screw up the most?' " Hendrick said after claiming his 10th Cup title (five with Johnson, four with Gordon and one with Terry Labonte).

In the afterglow of a fifth consecutive title, however, the flaws in the process didn't matter.

"Jimmie, you are a rock star, my friend," Chad Knaus radioed after Johnson crossed the finished line 1.608 seconds behind Edwards. "You have proven it time and time again. And you damn did it [Sunday], my friend."

Johnson finished 39 points ahead of Hamlin and 41 ahead of Harvick.

Before the race was 25 laps old, Hamlin made a tough job much more difficult. His No. 11 Toyota, which had started the race 37th but had gained 18 positions in the first 23 laps, touched the No. 16 Ford of Greg Biffle as the cars sped through Turn 2 on Lap 24. Hamlin spun through the infield grass, damaging the front splitter and knocking the toe angle of the tires out of position.

Though his crew worked feverishly to repair the damage, the incident affected the handling just enough to keep Hamlin from making an aggressive run to the front. His troubles were compounded when he was trapped a lap down during a cycle of pit stops and had to take a wave-around to the tail end of the lead lap. At that point Hamlin was fighting Harvick for second in the final standings, not battling Johnson for the championship.

"I felt like, as soon as we dropped the green, I thought we could win the race," Hamlin said. "Our car was really fast at the beginning -- I mean, just unbelievably fast at the beginning -- and I knew we had a car that could contend for a win, and obviously when we got in that incident on the back straightaway, it tore up the front and knocked the toe out, and obviously the car did not drive as well for the rest of the day.

"We just tried to patch it and work on it the best we could, but it just wasn't the car that it was at the beginning. It's just part of racing."

Johnson restarted second on Lap 251 after Harvick dumped Kyle Busch, Hamlin's teammate, into the inside frontstretch wall to cause the 10th and final caution on Lap 244. Johnson couldn't catch Edwards over the final 17 laps, but he pulled away from Harvick to secure the title.

"I'm just beside myself," Johnson said in Victory Lane. "Four was amazing. Now I have to figure out what the hell to say about winning five of these things, because everybody is going to want to know what it means. I don't know. It is pretty damn awesome -- I can tell you that."

Race Notes
• This is Carl Edwards' 18th Cup Series victory in his 229th start.
• This is Carl Edwards' second win in 2010. He won last week at Phoenix ending a 70-race winless streak that dated to Homestead (Nov. '08).
• Carl Edwards won back-to-back races for the fifth time in his career.
• This is Carl Edwards' second win at Homestead. He joins Tony Stewart (2) and Greg Biffle (3) as the only multiple race winners at Homestead.
• This is Roush Fenway Racing's 120th Cup Series win, ranking fourth all-time and the team's fourth in 2010 (Greg Biffle -- 2, Carl Edwards -- 2).
• This is Roush Fenway Racing's seventh win at Homestead, including six of the past seven.
• Jimmie Johnson (second) is the 2010 Sprint Cup Series champion. He finished the season with two poles, six wins, 17 top-five finishes and 23 top-10 finishes.
• Kevin Harvick (third) rebounded from a speeding on pit road penalty. He finished the season with three wins, 16 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 finishes.
• Aric Almirola (fourth) scored a career best finish -- his previous best finish was eighth at Bristol in March 2008.
• A.J. Allmendinger (fifth) finished the season with two top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes.
• Kasey Kahne (sixth) finished the season with four poles (tied with Jamie McMurray for the most of all drivers), seven top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes.

Championship Notes
• This is Jimmie Johnson's fifth conseuctive Cup Series championship in his ninth full time season.
• Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to win five consecutive Cup Series championships in the 62 Cup Series seasons.
• Jimmie Johnson becomes the third driver to win five or more championships: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt each have seven.
• Jimmie Johnson finished the season with nine consecutive top-10 finishes.
• Jimmie Johnson won his fifth championship in his ninth full-time season. Richard Petty won his fifth in his 16th season, Dale Earnhardt in his 13th season.
• Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top five in all of his nine Cup seasons (first, five times; second, two times; and fifth, two times).
• Jimmie Johnson won his fifth Cup championship in 327 starts. It took Dale Earnhardt 390 starts and Richard Petty 655.

Ford 400 Results

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

It Took Seven Years, But 2010 Chase Turned Out Just As NASCAR Intended

By Micah Roberts
Las Vegas Review-Journal

When NASCAR implemented the Chase for the Championship format before the 2004 season, the organization's vision was to somehow spruce up the final races to be meaningful because it had been since 1992 that the final race had meant much in regard to crowning the champion. Between the competing football seasons and waning fan interest in the fall months, it was believed that by creating a postseason format like the other sports have it would better captivate the sports-viewing audience.

The move didn’t work as expected. There was a revised standings chart for all to follow, but other than the initial year when Kurt Busch won, the final races were almost as meaningless as the old system because the points leader still didn’t have any pressure in the last race. NASCAR envisioned a media frenzy publicizing their sport like others for their championship games, but no one gets excited for an event when the finale features a 60-point-or-higher favorite who doesn’t have to compete hard to get the crown.

After six seasons of waiting for drama to unfold that never did, the 2010 NASCAR Chase for the Championship has paid back those lost years with enough drama that's sure to satisfy all NASCAR fans and, quite possibly, capture a new audience. There is one race, winner take all. A bonus of not just having two competitors, but three, battling it out, all within 46 points of each other. None of the competitors can coast around Miami-Homestead Speedway like past champions have; they have to go all out and race like … well, race like this is for the championship, something rarely seen in NASCAR.

Sunday’s Ford 400 finally gives the fans something to be excited about for the season finale. Not since 1992 have we seen such a close battle for the final race and most of today’s fans never gave NASCAR a second thought back then. What we're all about to witness Sunday is a drama-filled event with several gripping storylines that most have never seen before involving NASCAR on television.

Now we can finally equate the drama from other sports’ playoffs to NASCAR. Who wouldn’t want to see a defending four-time champion make a run when they’re now the underdog going for their fifth straight title in a one-game format. In the process, we also have a new-generation young gun as the favorite and a long shot who has a small chance at beating both of them.

Jimmie Johnson has become that figure that many fans like to root against just because he wins so much, much like the franchises of the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys or the basketball program of Duke. He doesn’t do much to irritate folks other than win. He's not brash, arrogant or cocky and rarely says a bad thing about anyone. He’s a family man who keeps to himself and goes about his business like a corporate CEO. He comes into this race as an 8-to-5 underdog at the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book to win the championship.

Johnson will be using his third-place car from Fontana, a car that also won at Las Vegas and was runner-up to Denny Hamlin at Texas in April. This will be the first time in five seasons that he will be racing hard for the win at Homestead. He has a good average finish of 12.7 in his nine starts at Homestead, with three top-five finishes and has been the best in NASCAR the last six seasons on 1.5-mile tracks.

The favorite to win the title is Hamlin at minus-230, which is equivalent to being a five-point favorite in pro football. Hamlin holds a slim 15-point lead over Johnson and can clinch the title by winning, or finishing second while leading the most laps regardless of what Johnson does. It would certainly seem possible for Hamlin considering he won this race last year and is using the same car that won at Texas two weeks ago, but the deciding factor may be the pressure of the moment.

Yes, Hamlin won this race last year, but Hamlin wasn’t trying to win a series title against an iconic figure. He also has the baggage of trying to live up to his crew chief's comments following the Texas win that could be classified as trash-talking. It wasn’t exactly Floyd Mayweather Jr.-type of trash-talking before a fight, but it was quite unusual for NASCAR making it stand out more. Hamlin's news conferences and body language the last two weeks suggest that he may be feeling the pressure already.

Then we have the lovable long shot that everyone likes to root for in sports with Kevin Harvick at 15-to-1. Harvick led in points most of the season before the Chase started and is now 46 points behind Hamlin. It's a long shot for him to win, but still very possible. Should Harvick win and lead the most laps, Hamlin would have to finish fourth or worse while Johnson finished seventh or worse in order for the long shot to cash in.

Following Saturday’s practice, Hamlin would appear to have the edge on paper. Johnson seemed to regress in each session while Hamlin got better, finishing with the fourth-fastest lap in happy hour. Johnson was only able to manage the 22nd-fastest single lap and wasn’t any better in average speeds.

The driver who looked the worst on the stat sheet was Harvick, but following Saturday's practices he had the look of someone who was very confident. He brought a new car this week, looking to get an edge over anything they have used this season, and it looked like the move would backfire following Friday’s practice and qualifying where he finished 31st and 28th, respectively.

During Saturday’s practice things got a little better, especially during the final half of happy hour. Harvick was so confident with his car on the longer runs — where he didn’t lose any speed lap to lap — that he parked his car with about six minutes remaining, as if to say, “We’re all good!”

The best single-lap time Harvick could get in happy hour was 29th amongst the 43 drivers, but based on the way he’s run at Homestead over his career he should be in good shape. Harvick has an average finish of 2.5 in the two Car of Tomorrow races run at Homestead and is second overall in track history with an 8.4 average finish in nine starts.

Even though the practice times don’t suggest that he looks like a top candidate this week, his sneaky smile getting out of his car before happy hour ended suggests he has something good. Harvick always wear his emotions on his sleeves and is loud on the radio to his crew when things aren’t going well. In this situation, with the season on the line, if the 29th-fastest lap has him happy then we should expect a great finish on Sunday.

Team racing may come into play like seldom seen before in NASCAR. It won’t be as blatant as Formula One racing, but there are seven other drivers involved that have a direct link as teammates to the three Chase drivers. For the Hendrick team, which surprisingly has never won at Homestead, they also get the benefit of fellow Chevy drivers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, whom Hendrick has helped immensely the last two seasons. Team Toyota and Hamlin will get help from Michael Waltrip Racing drivers David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr., who owe their team's success and rise in NASCAR to Joe Gibbs.

No one is going to allow anyone else to win the race, but there will be harder racing going on for position, making the Chase drivers work harder to make passes should they come close to their opponents' teammates. Late in the race, it could get real dicey when the precious positions mean everything to decide the eventual champion. What would normally be a relatively unimportant battle for 11th position, could be the most important one on the track late in the race and it‘s not going to come free unless it‘s one of the Chaser's teammates.

The top-rated driver to win this week comes from Roush-Fenway driver Carl Edwards, the 2008 Homestead winner. A Roush driver has won six of the 11 Homestead races and at one point had won five straight. Edwards was the most impressive in final practices with average speeds and single lap times. He also has a greater thirst for winning after taking Phoenix last week, ending his winless streak that extended all the way back to this race in 2008.

Greg Biffle won three races in a row from 2004-06 and was considered a pre-race favorite because he was bringing his favorite car that won at Pocono and led the most laps at Texas two weeks ago. However, during Friday’s practice, Biffle slapped the wall damaging his car to the point of it being irreparable and forcing the team to go with a backup car. Biffle still maintained good speeds in Saturday’s practice, but not like he would have with the other car.

Two candidates have legitimate shots at ending winless streaks like Edwards did last week. Jeff Gordon hasn’t won since the Texas spring race in 2009 while Jeff Burton last won at Charlotte in the fall of 2008. Each had terrific practices on Saturday in both single-lap times and average speeds. For Gordon, if he were to end his slump this week, he would also end a career slump at Homestead — the only track he has yet to win at on the tour. Incidentally, when Gordon won at Texas, it was his first win on that track after 16 attempts at it.

This will be Burton and Gordon’s 12th Homestead start, making them two of only five drivers to have started every race in track history. Of the five, only Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte can claim a victory.

Read More Here For Top 10 Driver Ratings Following all Practices, Vegas Odds, Stats and More....