Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? … The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Did You Notice? … Two races into 2014, Kevin Harvick is the only Stewart-Haas Racing car with either a top-5 or top-10 finish? SHR’s struggle has been notable as Tony Stewart was off the pace at Atlanta, uncompetitive long before getting caught up in a mid-race accident. Regan Smith has run admirably, keeping the No. 41 team afloat in Kurt Busch’s absence, but he’s been little more than a midpack driver. Danica Patrick has run reasonable, posting an average finish of 18.5 but that’s far less impressive considering the two tracks we’ve been to. Daytona is one of her best, a restrictor plate opportunity to run up front and Atlanta’s a place where she’s run top 10 in the recent past.

SHR’s sluggish push out of the gate sits in sharp comparison to Hendrick Motorsports, posting three drivers inside the top 7 in points. Jeff Gordon, while stuck in 35th, has been highly competitive in both races before getting caught up in accidents not of his making. Overall, HMS has led over 250 laps in this very young season to lead any organization on the circuit; SHR, if not for its No. 4 car would have led none. Stewart, in fact sits 36th in points and is already 35 points out of a Chase spot.

How is the Hendrick knowledge not filtering on down? At this point, it appears Harvick’s team is working on an island while the other portions of the organization simply tread water. While Rodney Childers is an exceptional crew chief, the difference in performance shouldn’t be that noticeable. Early on, it looks like the HMS knowledge of the new rules package has them slightly ahead, with Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing nipping at their heels. But it’s still early.

Did You Notice? … On the other end of the spectrum, Roush Fenway Racing appears to have hit a new low. Running on an intermediate track Sunday, Trevor Bayne ran a respectable 19th but was out of the top 20 most of the race. In fact, RFR’s three-car tandem of Bayne, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was so far off, they spent time running behind underfundeds like Front Row Motorsports’ Cole Whitt. How are the chassis for these guys so far off while their engines are spurring teams like Penske to new heights?

Once the cornerstone for Ford, RFR now feels like it’s an in-house engine program with the actual cars competing there as an afterthought. Carl Edwards, while not off to a rip-roaring start with new employer Joe Gibbs Racing also sits higher in points (13th) than either of these three drivers. Las Vegas will truly tell the tale, but it seems like offseason engineering changes have done little to close the gap internally between RFR and other Ford programs.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off

  • Found it interesting Michael Waltrip Racing felt compelled to issue a statement about the impressive performance of Brett Moffitt. Certainly, to earn a top-10 finish in the No. 55 car is an impressive achievement; I’m not trying to minimize it. You just don’t see press releases from middle-tier organizations trumpeting a top-10 result they typically take for granted. Maybe they’re trying to market Moffitt to sponsors early and hope someone bites? I’ll tell you this much: Brian Vickers’ leash at MWR suddenly got a little shorter beyond 2015 (good luck to him as he returns to the cockpit this week after heart surgery).
  • So far, Chip Ganassi Racing is 4-for-4 in their start/wreck ratio this season. Not exactly what the doctor ordered after all their late-season momentum gave Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray high expectations for 2015.
  • In just the second Truck race of the season, eyebrows were raised as the field couldn’t get filled to 32. Several of the trucks who started were far down on horsepower and were lapped several times within the course of a 200-mile race. Perhaps the turnaround after Daytona was too quick for some teams whose trucks got wrecked? It’s not a promising sign for a series which is known as the most competitive… when enough Trucks show up to compete, of course.
  • NASCAR says implementing the SAFER Barrier everywhere is its highest priority. What would be better is a statement that multiple tracks, places where the series won’t compete until midsummer, have decided to implement them all over their inside walls. Actions speak louder than words, you know.
  • Keeping the reinstatement process of Kurt Busch secret seems just as bizarre as the whole domestic violence incident itself that got him into this mess. Is the sport just doing private polling and, when it seems like enough fans have gotten over it, will put the guy back in the driver’s seat? Every NFL drug addict has a specific reimbursement program spelled out for them. Shouldn’t NASCAR have the same for domestic violence instead of “indefinite” reinstatement processes?

Did You Notice? … I’ve been gone for a week? Thanks to my dedicated staff of editors and writers who held down the fort while I had to take some unexpected personal time. They’re the best out there!

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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Tom, it appears that you are one of the few people who are fooled into believing that Stewart’s teams are actually another four-team operation. The reality is that “Stewart-Haas” is another four-car Hendrick team. All too often, Tony, the bimbo, and Kevin have often called Jeff, Jimmie, Junior, and Kasey teammates. This is Hendrick blatantly thumbing his nose at the NASCAR four-car rule, and spitting in the faces of fans who know better. Three cars in the top-7? Try again! Hendrick has four cars in the top seven.

If another organization had that, NASCAR would quickly step in and go after that organization. Look what happened to Jack Roush when he got five cars into the chase in 2005. Half the field were Roush cars, and the four-car rule was created. Too, with Roush, when he began to work with the then Robert Yates Racing, NASCAR was following them around to make sure they weren’t so co-operative. But then again, as far as that Felon Hendrick is concerned, NASCAR won’t do anything to him. He is, after all, Brian’s best friend. That’s why I was surprized when JimmieChad were hit with a pit road penalty at Daytona, and four Hendrick cars didn’t get through tech on Friday at Atlanta.

If a lowly 50+year fan can see this, why can’t the media? Oh wait, I know why. Because NASCAR tells them to turn a blind eye. By the way, do you think Hendrick would autograph my copy of “Arrogance And Accords”?

Bill B

I think your bias is showing with regards to HMS.
Currently there are only 4 teams making engines, RFR, HMS, TRD and RCR. I have to believe that Chevrolet would like nothing better than to have RCR start using HMS engines so that they can put all their funding into one program.
Please explain to me how the Roush, Petty, Penske relationship and the Gibbs, Waltrip relationship differ that much from the Hendrick, Gannassi, Haas relationship. IMO, they are all pretty much using the same business model.


Bill, I realize you are a fan of Hendrick. And I will admit I have strong animosity toward him. His heavy involvement in the Honda scandal, and his sudden development of leukemia to avoid prison makes him look really low, especially since he made such a miraculous recovery. It just doesn’t happen, and I know that only too well. My father was diagnosed with leukemia and he died from it! Hendrick my look like an honest business man, but deep down, he is no better than people like Ken Lay and Jeffery Skilling from ENRON, Dennis “The Menace” Kozlowski from Tyco Industries, and Bernie Ebbers, Scott Sullivan, David Meyers, and Budd Yates from WorldCom. These guys pulled some of the greatest accounting frauds, made tons of money, and even when it all blew up, and companies went bankrupt, they came out of it with little more than a slap on the risk, although Mr. Lay did get taken out by a heart attack. Like these corporate criminals, Hendrick got away with bribery and fraud with nothing more than a slap on his wrist. (From what I hear, Jim Cardiges, the Honda Sales rep who Hendrick paid off is still in prison, vowing to take Hendrick down once he is released.)

As for the so-called co=operation between teams, oh yes, Penske and Roush are really working together. if that were true, Roush’s cars would be running up front with Joey and Brad. And I have never heard Aric Amirola refer to Greg Biffle as a teammate. With Stewart-Hass, that deal was brokered between Chevrolet and Hendrick to get Tony back behind the wheel of a Chevrolet when Gibbs switched over to Toyota. When Haas decided to go to a fourth car for Kurt Busch, maybe it was because he was finally sick of the charade, and that fourth car was to be all his. I hope that explains to you why I loath Hendrick so much. I researched well beyond his NASCAR ties!


You are correct. It’s the manufacturers behind it. Understandably so, it doesn’t benefit GM to have multiple engine suppliers.


If a lowly 50+ year fan thinks he sees something that everyone doesn’t, then I guess you’re just plain wrong.


If Nascar is doing any polling regarding the Kurt Busch situation its not of the fans. Rather it will be of the sponsors, specifically those tied to Nascar/ISC itself. Can’t afford to lose the “official xxx of Nascar”, that costs money.
Once they are all on board, the curtain will drop.


I think you are right. What the fans think is irrelevant to NASCAR, all that matters is money.

Glen H.

I don’t think that the problems at SHR are with the cars or setups. I think that, with the exception of Harvick, the SHR drivers aren’t at the same level as their Hedrick teammates.

Tony isn’t what he once was and may never be again. Princess Sparkle Pony never was and it doesn’t look like she’ll ever be. Smith is a sub that’s just happy to be there but might perform better than Smoke and the Princess.


It does make one wonder if expanding to a 4th team is some of the problem at SHR. We have seen other teams performance fall off when a new team is started.

Don in Connecticut

Ken, I’m no fan of Danica Patrick; matter of fact, I’m not much of a fan of any driver in particular. Having spent more than thirty years racing myself, I simply enjoy good close racing and appreciate watching the skills being shown on the racetrack. For you to call Danica Patrick a “bimbo” tells me that you aren’t a particularly bright guy. There are other words I could use but they would probably dump my comments. A bimbo is defined as “an attractive but stupid, young woman”. Danica is not the stupid one here. I’ll bet if she took you for a ride around Atlanta or Daytona or any track on the circuit, you would wet yourself and be crying like a baby in no time at all.


Well Don, you certainly know how to insult someone. But, I have had a lot worse said to me, by way better people that some arrogant academic. I have a very low opinion of this driver because she is as phoney as they come. When she was in Indy car, she said she would never go race in NASCAR because the races and the season are too long. But wait, all of a sudden, she jumps into NASCAR, and is given quality rides, first with Junior Motorsports. or is it Hendrick? Then she is moved into the cup series and given a ride with Hendrick’s second team. How many millions was she given to decide to come to NASCAR? Talk about selling your soul for money! Then, there are her Go Daddy commercials, which can be legitimately judged as soft porn. Oh yes, really classy! I knew a woman like her, and that “B” word you called me stupid for using is the only word to describe a woman like Danica.

Thanks for the insult, and while you are at it, get off your high horse!

Don in Ct

Well Ken, I guess you have a reading comprehension problem too. Maybe you should take another look at what I originally wrote. You went on and on and on about how unfair life is when it gave Danica all those breaks. Bulletin Ken: life ain’t fair. As I said originally, I’m no fan of hers what I don’t like and still think is a cheap shot is calling the woman a name that has no relation to what she does. I’m not really on a high horse, Ken. It just looks that way to you because you are so down in the gutter. KMA. Have a nice day?:)


Come on. Anyone with even half a brain knows that Hendricks, Stewart, and Haas are one whole organ ization. In fact, aside for a brief Penske interlude, the Hendricks cup championship has been won by who else, but Hendricks, Stewart, and Haas drivers. No bias here. Just common sense.


I’m not surprised that NASCAR couldn’t find 32 trucks to run in the Cup World Toyota Series. I’m surprised that they can find 32 people (excluding moms and girlfriends) willing to buy tickets. The series is dead.

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