Racing Beat

Kurt Busch takes a victory lap around Homestead-Miami Speedway after clinching the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship by eight points over Jimmie Johnson.

Booze and Boos
When the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup season gets under way at Daytona, two controversial elements will merge.

Kurt Busch, the defending champion, is controversial in his own right. His brash style – and winning ways – has rubbed some fans the wrong way.

But in the past liquor companies rubbed NASCAR the wrong way. In fact, last season when Jeff Burton was courted by a liquor company as a sponsor, NASCAR nixed the deal.

Upon further review the governing body of the sport decided to lift the ban, and now one of NASCAR’s most controversial drivers will be underwritten by one of its
most controversial sponsors – Crown Royal.

Last November it was announced that the Crown Royal Brand would sponsor Busch for select races in 2005.

The Crown Royal sponsorship will be built around parent company Diageo’s existing relationship with Jack Roush Racing, which started in 2003 with a primary sponsorship of Matt Kenseth (Smirnoff Ice Malt Liquor). That sponsorship continued for part of 2004 before switching to Busch late in the season.

Obviously, both the spirits company and Busch are upbeat about the new deal.

“We’re excited that Crown Royal will be entering NASCAR so prominently with a sponsorship of the sport’s newest champion,” says Mark Waller, executive vice president of consumer strategy and marketing for Diageo. A multi-million dollar marketing budget supporting this sponsorship will include dedicated social responsibility messaging.”

Busch’s title run in 2004 marked the second consecutive season a Rousch driver claimed the series title. Kenseth accomplished the feat in 2004, the last year Winston sponsored NASCAR’s premiere circuit.

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to continue the partnership with Crown Royal as they further commit to our sport,” Busch says.

Of course, the deal was sealed thanks to Busch’s No.1 finish in the inaugural “Chase for the Championship” in 2004.

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Although he struggled in the season-ending race at Homestead, Fla., he finished fifth, which was enough to give him eight more points than second-place finisher Jimmie Johnson.

It marked the first time in NASCAR history that points were adjusted for the final 10 races of the season in order to complete a “playoff” atmosphere.

Heading into the event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch led Johnson by 18 points. But on lap 92 while trying to enter the pits off of turn four, Busch’s front right tire came completely off the car.

At one point following the tire problem, Busch was in 26th place, but he battled back to win the first-ever Nextel Cup Championship.

Kenseth’s reign as NASCAR Champion came to an end at Homestead with a 19th-place finish.

Head of the Class
Three-time NASCAR champion Darrell Waltrip, who still dabbles in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events, was the leading vote getter when the International Motorsports Hall of Fame Class of 2005 was announced recently.

Also set for induction are drag racing icons Joe Amato and Bob Glidden, powerboat champion Chip Hanauer, and Formula 1 and CART champion Nigel Mansell.

“This is a powerful class, one in which each member had a significant impact on the history of his particular form of racing,” says Hall of Fame Executive Director Jim Freeman. “All five of them have won multiple championships. It is quite a group.”

Here are bios of the newest members of the IMHOF:

JOE AMATO: Joe Amato quit school at age 16 to take over the family auto parts business from his ailing father and launched his racing career at about the same time. As his racing career grew, so did his business, which specialized in speed accessories.

He wound up as NHRA’s all-time winner in Top Fuel with 52 national event victories. Amato also won a record five national Top Fuel titles, including three in a row in 1990-91-92. Consistency was a strong point for Amato, as he finished in the Top 10 in all 19 seasons of his career. Amato was the first driver to top the 260 and 280 mph marks, and won the Bud Shootout All-Star race a record six times. He was listed as No. 9 on the NHRA’s list of Top 10 drivers of all time.

Amato retired at the end of the 2000 season because of a detached retina and now runs his own team with Morgan Lucas as the driver.

BOB GLIDDEN: When Bob Glidden retired in 1997, he was the winningest driver in NHRA history, in any class, with 85 Pro Stock national event victories. He won 10 NHRA Pro Stock world championships, including five in a row from 1985 thru 1989, and added an IHRA championship and several event wins for good measure.

In 1979, he won nine straight national events, then enjoyed another incredible streak in 1987, in which he was the No. 1 qualifier in all 14 events and won the last five in a row. In 1988 he extended his string of fastest qualifier to 23, and stretched his consecutive streak of rounds won to 50. In 1989, Glidden enjoyed his most dominant season ever, winning seven of the first 11 races and leading the points all season.

Glidden has been ranked No. 4 on the list of NHRA’s Greatest Drivers. He is now working at Schumacher Racing in Indianapolis.

CHIP HANAUER: For at least a dozen years, Chip Hanauer was unquestionably the greatest Unlimited Hydroplane racer in the world. He got his first win in 1979, but it was 1982 before his career really took off. He won the prestigious Gold Cup race plus four others and claimed his first Unlimited national and world championships. He repeated in 1983 and finished his career with seven national titles, the last in 1993. He won the Gold Cup race a record 11 times, including seven in a row, with the last one coming in his final season of 1999.

His win total of 61 ranks second only to legendary Bill Muncey, who was inducted last year. His career win percentage is an incredible 40 percent.

Hanauer’s toughness was part of his success. He once cracked three vertebrae in a crash but came back three weeks later and won three in a row. He is now retired and living in Seattle.

NIGEL MANSELL: Nigel Mansell was one of the most determined and aggressive drivers ever to sit behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, and it was because he and his wife had sold their house to get his career started in 1979. He ultimately caught the attention of Lotus boss Colin Chapman, and his career took off.

Driving for Williams, Mansell first won at Brands Hatch in 1985, plus another one that year, then won 11 times in the next two years and finished second in points both times. His first championship came in 1992, when he won nine races and 14 poles.

Shocking much of the racing world, Mansell moved to the CART series the next year and became the only driver to ever win back-to-back titles in these two series. For that, he was named Driver of the Year in 1993. He had three wins and seven poles in ’93 but slipped to eighth in points, with no wins, the next year.

He returned to Formula 1 in 1995 but retired after two races.

DARRELL WALTRIP: Darrell Waltrip enjoyed a career that places him among the best ever in Winston Cup history. His career 84 victories tie him for third place with Bobby Allison on the all-time win list, and his three Winston Cup championships are surpassed by only three others.

In addition to his 84 wins, Waltrip captured 59 poles, good for fourth on the all-time list. He was named Driver of the Year three times (1979, 1981 and 1982) and won the 1989 Daytona 500. He was twice voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver (1989 and 1990) and was also selected as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. He was the first driver to win $10 million and finished his career with $20 million in winnings.

Waltrip is now the owner of a Craftsman Truck Series team, the national spokesperson for Toyota trucks, and the lead color analyst for Fox Sports on race telecasts.