DAYTONA BEACH – Home Depot and Lowe’s have taken their competition to sell the most nails and buckets of paint to the race track, and that may have triggered Matt Kenseth’s unexpected departure from Roush Fenway Racing.
Home Depot won two championships at Joe Gibbs Racing with driver Tony Stewart, but the car’s success has dropped off to just two victories since 2009 with Joey Logano behind the wheel.
Lowe’s, however, has four championships and 56 wins with Jimmie Johnson.
Many believe Kenseth will move into the No. 20 Toyota next year to help Home Depot close the gap with its corporate rival.
“There are two elements. One, we have the sponsor element to the team. Everybody has expectations but some sponsors and their involvement in the sport, is solely focused on winning,” Johnson said. “With others, it’s more about being out there and having a presence and maybe a hospitality component where maybe they entertain folks at the track. Every sponsor is a little different.”
Johnson said Lowe’s was clear from the start winning races was as important as increased sales.
“They wanted victories,” Johnson said. “I would assume (Home) Depot; I know how competitive those two are in the work space, and I have to assume they would be very competitive on track. At the same time, Gibbs is a company very focused on winning as well; and it’s vital for them to win based on it’s the only business the family is in. So winning is a priority, long story short. But a lot of it depends on different factors.”
Smith wants more cautions
Track owner Bruton Smith said one way to spice up the action on the track is to throw more cautions. In fact, he said NASCAR should consider establishing mandatory cautions to make it more difficult for one driver to dominate.
“Call it what you want, but you’ve got to have caution flags,” Smith said before the start of last Saturday’s race at the Kentucky Speedway. “That creates excitement. You can’t just sit there with nothing happening. It ruins the event. It’s damaging to our sport.”
Smith wouldn’t mind seeing breaks during the race so teams can make changes on the car during intermission – and fans can take a break without missing anything.
NASCAR doesn’t appear to be ready for such a revolutionary idea. NASCAR has used mandatory cautions in the past, but only if weather interrupted practice or there have been issues with tires.
Obama declines New Hampshire offer
President Barack Obama turned down an offer to appear at next week’s race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, track officials said.
“Obviously we’re disappointed Mr. Obama won’t be able to join us for the largest sporting event in New England, but certainly understand his hectic schedule,” said speedway vice president Jerry Gappens. “We were giving him a sincere opportunity to get in the ‘fast lane’ of his presidential campaign here in the political savvy state of New Hampshire. Maybe he’ll return the gesture and allow me to check out Air Force One!”
The speedway put the president’s four tickets up for auction, with the proceeds benefiting Speedway Children’s Charities.