Some Drivers Look to Shake Off Slow Start
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on March 5, 2014 | 8:00 A.M. EST
Truex is currently 35th in the Sprint Cup Series standings. (Photo: Getty Images)
There are a number of drivers who need to shake off slow starts with a good run in this weekend’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Although there are only two races in the books on the 2014 schedule and hardly time for panic, stumbles at both Daytona and Phoenix have already put some in a disappointing hole:
Martin Truex Jr.
The promise of grabbing the outside front row starting spot in the Daytona 500 quickly faded away for the Furniture Row Racing driver. After getting caught in a Budweiser Duel accident and forced to start at the rear of the "500" field, Truex exited the race with an engine issue. Things didn’t get much better last week in Phoenix. He qualified 27th and could only muster a 22nd-place finish. “Nothing worked for us today – I mean nothing,” said Truex, who dropped to 35th in the Sprint Cup Series standings. “We made a number of chassis adjustments to our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet but never could find the grip that was needed. The guys worked hard to find a combination for this track but it just didn’t materialize.”
Unfortunately for Patrick her sophomore Sprint Cup Series season isn’t looking much better than last year’s freshman campaign. Patrick has been knocked out of the year’s first two races by crashes and has dropped all the way to 39th in the standings heading to Las Vegas. She was running 25th last Sunday in Phoenix when she was caught up in an incident with Justin Allgaier and Travis Kvapil, a situation that went from bad to worse when she returned to the track only to cut a tire and spin 15 laps later. "All we have for luck is bad," Patrick said over her team radio.
Lost in this week’s news that Busch would attempt the Memorial Day weekend double and run both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 is the fact his Stewart-Haas Racing career is off to a frustrating start. Busch spun late in the Daytona 500 and was credited with a 21st place finish. Last week in Phoenix he was running relatively well until an engine problem knocked him from the race only 16 laps from the checkered flag. Busch ended up 39th and is 30th in the standings. “I'm disappointed for my guys to have an engine go down. The car was pretty good and was top 10 worthy," Busch said via Twitter after the race.
The highly touted rookie has struggled in his first two outings for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014. He was involved in a pair of skirmishes at Daytona but kicked off his Phoenix weekend with an impressive eighth place qualifying effort. However, Larson fell a lap down early and battled handling issues all day finally ending up 20th. “My guys did a great job on pit road, but we got caught a lap down early in the race on one of the long green flag runs,” explained Larson, who sits 28th in the Sprint Cup standings. “We battled to get position back on the lead lap, but couldn’t seem to catch the caution when we needed it. Finally, with just a handful of laps to go we got the lucky dog, but just didn’t have enough time to make more of a run to the front. I wish there were more laps left, as we had a really good car.”
The Michael Waltrip Racing driver has had a tough time putting last season’s controversy behind. Bowyer’s year started when he was involved in a spectacular last lap Budweiser Duel crash that sent his No. 15 Toyota upside down before it ended. He didn’t fare much better in the "500" after a mechanical issue ended his day. Phoenix wasn’t terrible for Bowyer, who started 14th and was pretty much a non-factor all afternoon on his way to a 13th-place finish. “I just didn't have enough grip there on those restarts with all the cautions late in the race,” Bowyer said after the race. He sits 23rd in the standings heading into race number three of the season.