Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

'NASCAR 2011' is finally official...now the question, can Kevin Harvick keep charging to the 2010 title

  Two of the most powerful people in American racing, brother and sister Brian France and Lesa France Kennedy, have spoken and laid out the 2011 game plan NASCAR (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)  

   By Mike Mulhern

   BRISTOL, Tenn.
   NASCAR's new 2011 Sprint Cup tour schedule is now official, with the few changes just as expected.
   So the story line this week here will be about the final three weeks leading to the championship playoffs...though there's not a lot of drama there, except for the Mark Martin-Clint Bowyer battle for the last spot, and the possibility that one of the men seemingly locked into the 12-man chase will falter either here, at Atlanta or at Richmond.
   The biggest chase story line – and Kevin Harvick reaffirmed that with Sunday's win at Michigan, his third of the year, and with Tuesday's announcement of a new three-year sponsorship contract with Budweiser – is Harvick. He's been remarkably consistent during the regular season, while the Rick Hendrick guys have been stumbling. Can Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin keep the momentum going on into the chase?
   Harvick is sitting on the top of the world this August...and just a year ago he felt like the world was sitting on top of him.
     "It's been a crazy year, to be honest with you," Harvick concedes.
   "From where we were last year to where we are now....
    "The end of last year set the tone for how this year was going to start.  Then it was up to us to continue that moving forward. And to see the looks on the guys' faces, and everything that comes with doing good...I think everybody respects it a little more after the year we had."
   Harvick has been the lead dog at Childress' ever since the week Dale Earnhardt was killed at Daytona in 2001. But he's never seemed quite so in command of things as this season.
   This season? "Timing is everything....and the timing we've had this year has been second-to-none on a lot of things," Harvick says.
   "To be running good on the track is really the thing that makes it all go around."

   Elsewhere in the stock car world, things aren't quite as rosy.
   Joie Chitwood has just taken over as boss of the France family's lead track, Daytona International Speedway, with Robin Braig, head since 2002, gone.
   Now another top Daytona executive, chief operating officer Roger VanDerSnick, is gone too.
   The company announced the move as part of "the implementation of broad-based strategic organizational and structural changes that will create a leaner and more responsive organization..."
   VanDerSnick won't be immediately replaced; his job will fall to Daytona veteran John Saunders.
   The parent International Speedway Corp. (ISC) said "the economic recovery expected earlier in 2010 has not materialized," so it wants to cut costs "by $20 million to $30 million," beginning in 2011.
   "ISC remains a profitable and financially sound company," Les France Kennedy, the ISC head, says. "But given the ongoing economic challenges, we need to be proactive."

    On the driver swap front, Marcos Ambrose has signed "a multi-year contract" to take a ride with team owner George Gillett at Richard Petty Motorsports.
   Ambrose decided a few weeks ago to leave his current team, owned in part by ESPN's Brad Daugherty, and seek his fortunes elsewhere, perhaps even just moving back to Australia.
   Ambrose, with that bright smile, has shown remarkable talent on NASCAR's road courses, nearly winning Sonoma and Watkins Glen on the Cup side and making the trip to victory circle at the Glen in Nationwide.
   Ambrose will thus be leaving Toyota and moving to Ford.
   "It's been a wild month, no doubt about it," Ambrose says.  "I had made no secret I felt I needed to make a change to get the most out of myself and get an opportunity at the very top level of NASCAR...to try and change things up and see if I can find that missing link. 
    "It's no secret I can run pretty good on the road courses, but on the ovals I'm not consistent enough to run at the front."
   The overall picture at Richard Petty Motorsports, however, is still somewhat murky. The team, managed by Foster Gillett, son of the owner, has now signed AJ Allmendinger and Ambrose for 2011, but Elliott Sadler appears on the way out, and Kasey Kahne of course has announced he's leaving for a new contract with Rick Hendrick and Jay Frye.
    And Ambrose' crew chief and crew? Like much at RPM, that's TBD. "We're working through that," Ambrose says.
   "Obviously there are a lot of changes at RPM...."
   And a lot of changes ahead for Ambrose....such as can he make it work on the tour's ovals?
   "I'm not sure why we haven't contended better on the intermediate ovals and above," Ambrose says. "We all see what happens on the road courses and Bristol and superspeedways, but we haven't been fast enough and consistent enough on the ovals -- and it's a question that needs to be answered. 
    "I think that's the primary reason I thought I needed to make a change:  Was it me?  Was it the situation?  Was it the one-car team? 
   "I believe I'm as good as anybody out there and can win four championships just like Jimmie Johnson, because I believe in myself.
    "But until you can get to a point where you can prove or disprove what you've got, it's very hard to be sure.  We'll find out in 2011.
     "It's a dog-eat-dog world at this level. I had a difficult decision to make...and some of those decisions -- not that you second-guess yourself -- but you might make the wrong ones.
   "It's a tough sport.  It's tough politically, it's tough on the track.  There's just no place to hide. 
   "You've got to believe in yourself.  You've got to make your own decisions and be brave.
    "I came to America with bravery and stupidity; I was 22." 

    NASCAR 2011 Sprint Cup tour
         (official, August 18-2010)

Feb. 12                         Daytona Bud Shootout (Saturday night)
Feb. 13                         Daytona 500 pole runs
Feb. 20                         Daytona 500
Feb. 27                         Phoenix
March 6                        Las Vegas
March 13                      Off
March 20                      Bristol
March 27                      California
April 3                          Martinsville
April 9                          Texas (Saturday night)
April 17                        Talladega
April 24                        Easter
April 30                        Richmond (Saturday night)
May 7                           Darlington (Saturday night)
May 15                         Dover
May 21                         All-Star Charlotte (Saturday night)
May 29                         Charlotte 600
June 5                          Kansas
June 12                        Pocono
June 19                        Michigan
June 26                        Sonoma/Infineon
July 2                           Daytona (Saturday night)
July 9                           Kentucky (Saturday night)
July 17                         New Hampshire
July 24                         Off
July 31                         Indianapolis
Aug. 7                          Pocono
Aug. 14                        Watkins Glen
Aug. 21                        Michigan
Aug. 27                        Bristol (Saturday night)
Sept. 4                         Atlanta
Sept. 10                        Richmond (Saturday night)
Sept. 18                        Chicagoland
Sept. 25                        New Hampshire
Oct. 2                           Dover
Oct. 9                           Kansas
Oct. 15                         Charlotte (Saturday night)
Oct. 23                         Talladega
Oct. 30                         Martinsville
Nov. 6                          Texas
Nov. 13                         Phoenix
Nov. 20                         Homestead-Miami


   And the changes behind NASCAR 2011:

    Feb. 20      Daytona 500   
    Feb. 27      Phoenix (replacing California, which moves to March)
    March 6     Las Vegas 
    March 13   off (Atlanta cut; race going to Kentucky in July)
    March 20   Bristol
    March 27   California (moved; replacing Martinsville, now a week later)
    April 3       Martinsville (NCAA Final Four weekend)
    April 9       Texas (Saturday night, Masters weekend; replacing Phoenix, which moves to February)
    April 17     Talladega (a week earlier because of Easter)
    April 24     Easter
    April 30     Richmond  (Saturday night)
    May 7        Darlington (Saturday night, Mother's Day weekend)
    May 15      Dover
    May 21      Charlotte All-star (Saturday night)
    May 29      Charlotte 600
    June 5        Kansas (new race; date coming from California)
    June 12      Pocono (a week later, to make room for Kansas)
    June 19      Michigan (a week later)
    June 26      Sonoma (a week later)
    July 2         Daytona (Saturday night)
    July 9         Kentucky (new race; Saturday night; instead of Chicago, which moved to September)
    July 17       New Hampshire (moved from late June)
    July 24       Off
    July 31       Indianapolis (a week later)
    August 7    Pocono (a week later)
    August 14  Watkins Glen (a week later)
    August 21  Michigan (a week later)
    August 27   Bristol (Saturday night, a week later)
    Sept  4       Atlanta (Labor Day weekend)
    Sept 10     Richmond (Saturday night)
    Sept 18     Chicago (replacing New Hampshire, which moves a week later)
    Sept 25     New Hampshire (replacing Dover, which moves a week later)
    Oct 2         Dover (replacing Kansas, which moves a week later)
    Oct 9         Kansas (a week later, replacing California, dropped)
    Oct 15       Charlotte (Saturday night)
    Oct 24       Talladega (a week earlier)
    Oct 30       Martinsville (a week later)
    Nov 6        Texas
    Nov 13      Phoenix
    Nov 20      Homestead-Miami


      [Note: You can use Twitter as an easy headline service for mikemulhern.net stories, with our instant Tweets to your mobile as soon as our newest NASCAR story is filed. And mikemulhern.net is mobile-friendly for viewing. You can also use the orange RSS feed button as a quickie headline service on your laptop or home computer for mikemulhern.net stories, by creating a Live Bookmark RSS feed on your web browser's toolbar. Or you can create a Google Alert for mikemulhernnet.]


Does it sound like ISC is

Does it sound like ISC is running scared? Mass layoffs? Are they too top heavy and cutting big wheels as opposed to "worker bees" ?

and i hear more ISC cuts are

and i hear more ISC cuts are coming in the next few days....just hope they dont cut the worker bees....

Do any France family members

Do any France family members get any money from owners/operators of the Kansas track casino? I hope not, otherwise these folks are even greedier than I thought,

i dont know any of the

i dont know any of the financials, of course, but i presume they have an interest in all of the properties next to the track...and that property wouldnt be worth all that much without that track. when people build a track, it's not just the 800 acres or so the track sits on, it's also about the surrounding property. for one thing, track owners have a vested interest in making sure people dont start building homes -- home owners dont like all that noise. maybe 800 acres isnt enough of a buffer.....

The massive change to the

The massive change to the schedule is a response to dropping TV ratings and sharply declining attendance at the tracks. Give credit to the France family for finally trying to shake things up as NASCAR seemingly is moving towards a marketing meltdown. Compare things to just five years ago. Then, NASCAR had network TV; now, ABC has pulled the plug on network coverage for this season and relegated it to cable. Then, NASCAR played to full houses; now, NASCAR's announced attendance of about 100,000 at Pocono was challenged by the Pocono Record paper which arranged for a plane to fly over the track to find out the actual headcount and it was determined to be about half of the 'official' figure. NASCAR is lucky that they didn't do that at Indy and California!Bottom line here: NASCAR has to do much more than tweak the schedule!

It is good, I agree, that

It is good, I agree, that NASCAR wants to try to shake some things up. I just wish it had gone further and done more. like moving the Brickyard to a better weather day, for example, instead the brutal heat of july.
And raising the banking at California Speedway to something like 20 degrees....

I was disappointed to see

I was disappointed to see Bristol and Martinsville spring races split up. It was a pairing enjoyed by many snowbirds making their way north and makes me wonder if ISC and Nascar are looking for a reason to take a race away from Martinsville, as I am sure attendance at the spring race will be affected by the split. If they wanted to split up the races why not move them a month or more apart? making them 2 week apart can only be detrimental. They will lose the carryover from Bristols 150,000+ crowd and yet Martinsville is still too close to Bristols date to avoid direct competition with one of Nascars most popular tracks

I really find that curious

I really find that curious too. Why an 'open' weekend at the start of the season. Fox' David Hill, a few years ago, said he didn't like breaks like that, because it costs the sport -- and it's TV partners -- momentum.
On top of that, i have long been amazed that NASCAR executives who make the schedule sometime have apparently no clue when the High Point Furniture Market is....because when those buyers hit the Triad, hotel rooms go sky-high, if you can even get one.
Note: the 2011 sprint HPFM is April 2-7, which conflicts directly with the April 3rd Martinsville race; the 2011 fall market is Oct. 22-27, the week prior, fortunately.

Sorry to burst your bubble -

Sorry to burst your bubble - Kevin Harvick is as yet only charging towards the chase. Granted he has momentum on his side, but the reality of the current points situation is that the only 2 drivers that matter at present is Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer.

yep, got to admit there's not

yep, got to admit there's not much drama left in the race to the chase. in fact i can almost sense that MM and RH are ready to yield that spot to CB...but i do find these tidbits interesting:
In 2007 Jimmie Johnson, going into the August Bristol race, was 512 points down, and came back to win the title by 77 points. (Yes, I realize the points are reset; this is just about 'momentum.')
In 2008 Jimmie, at Bristol, was 302 points down, and came back to win the title.
In 2009 Jimmie, at Bristol, was 303 points down, and came back to win a 4th straight title.
On the other side: in '07 Jeff Gordon was 512 up on JJ at Bristol and yet lost the title; in '08 Kyle Busch was 302 up on JJ at Bristol and wound up 10th in the chase, 498 behind; in '09 Tony Stewart was 303 up on JJ, but Tony slumped to sixth by Homestead, 343 points down.
Momentum in august...and apparent lack of momentum....doesnt seem to mean that much.

my guess hundreds of bees.

my guess hundreds of bees. lesa and james need to retire and let their employee salaries go...they can still play on the board. worthless as well you know....on a bull. the company needs to worry about revenues not cut more costs. if attendance and tv ratings do not turn around in the next two years, you can kiss the tv revenue goodbye. then what? they need new leadership...the decendents of bill are boring, clueless and have no vision except how to spend their leisure time...which is most of the time. they cut a leader to save their figure head status.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com