Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday November 19, 2009
I thought it was the racing. There’s always something when the love affair is going south. So, I thought it was the racing. After all, that’s what everyone is saying, isn’t it? That the quality of racing just isn’t as good as it used to be. Whether it’s the cars, or the tracks, it’s just not as fun anymore, right? It had to be the racing.
Except, it’s not the racing.
Or at least not exactly. If you take drivers, numbers, and the car style away, you’re left with just racing-and it’s really not that much worse than I remember it being a decade ago. But the new car, you say-the new car has ruined racing, because nobody can pass and the leader just drives away. But wait, I say. The old car had a terrible aero push at some tracks-drivers might catch a guy, but passing was difficult at best at some venues, and I remember a lot of races with margins of victory well over five seconds in that car. I remember races with three or four lead changes. I remember wishing they would just fix these cars so these guys could pass. And whether the diehard CoT haters want to acknowledge it or not, there have been some very good races with this car-at tracks that produce that type of racing. Cookie cutters race like cookie cutters raced ten years ago. There were races in the not-too-distant past where fewer than five drivers finished on the lead lap, and that wasn’t a rare occurrence, either.
So, it’s the Chase, you say-the Chase has changed the way teams race-stroke to get in, race for points but without taking risks, and cruise at Homestead to protect a lead. But wait, I say. Points racing isn’t new either. Under the “old” modern era points system, championships were won on points racing-racing for consistency over wins was certainly going on-winning involves risk, and points racing involves less risk. Guys won titles before on settling for top fives and tens. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s not new, either. Back in the day, racers could cherry-pick their best tracks and win a championship that way-not good at Talladega? Race Wednesday at a short track instead. Again, they worked within the system they had. The Chase is an ill-conceived gimmick, but it’s not the reason it’s not as much fun either.
Well, then, it must be the drivers. Jimmie Johnson is boring, Kyle Busch is a whiney brat, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a no-talent SOB (just ask Tony Stewart). And I say-now you’re onto something. It is the drivers, but not because of their personalities or their commercial images. It’s not because one is boring, one whines, and another drives like your grandmother. It’s because, in a day when the sport supposedly has more parity than ever, there’s no place for the underdog in this game anymore.
On paper, wins this season have been meted out over fourteen different drivers. That’s a good number. A decade ago, the 1999 season saw just twelve different winners-yet when I look at the races in the late nineties, I don’t remember ever feeling like many fans today seem to feel-like a driver not with one of the top teams could never win a race. Back then, there was at least the illusion that there was a chance.
Here’s what I mean. Of the fourteen winners in 2009, three (Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon) drive for Hendrick Motorsports. Three others drive for Joe Gibbs (Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano). Two more (Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray) enjoy the benefits of driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Kurt Busch races for Penske racing-a second tier team; hardly an underdog. Both Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart race for teams who were heavily supplied by Hendrick. Kasey Kahne also runs for a second-tier team-Richard Petty Motorsports, but that team is hardly underfunded and Kahne should be expected to win a couple. That leaves Brian Vickers and David Reutimann as the only two winners not driving for teams you expect to see in Victory Lane. Throw in that Vickers’ Team Red Bull cars are heavily factory backed from Toyota’s deep pockets and that Reutimann’s win came due more to luck than anything-a rainstorm sealed his victory, and there aren’t many compelling stories to be had.
1999, on the other hand, did have a couple of surprises, and a couple of near-misses. In a season where there were several races with little excitement in the racing itself, there were races that were compelling for other reasons. Robert Yates Racing was the powerhouse team in 1999, winning the championship with driver Dale Jarrett. And among the race winners were some stories-real, compelling stories that made you want to watch next week, just to see what would happen. John Andretti won for Petty Enterprises, a team in the twilight of a storied history as long as NASCAR’s own. It would be the team’s last time basking in the glow of victory.
And then there came a pair of first wins as summer turned to fall-promising rookie Tony Stewart got his first win in Richmond-but it should, by rights, have come sooner.Strewart had had nearly a full lap lead at Loudon but was a few laps short on fuel. They probably had time to pit for a splash of gas and keep the lead, but opted for the gamble-and ran dry. Next in line was Andretti, but he ran out as well. That opened the door for Jeff Burton to win his third straight summer race at Loudon, but it was almost perpetual underdog Kenny Wallace taking the checkers, finishing short of Burton as Burton finished on fumes. Sure, in the end, the powerhouse team prevailed-but for a while you thought it would be, could be the rookie, the King’s man, the younger brother of the champion who never really had a chance to prove himself. It could have been.
Joe Nemechek also won his first Cup race in 1999 racing for owner Felix Sabates-Sabates’ last win as a full owner, as it turns out. Another compelling almost-win came in Darlington, at the Southern 500, where Jeff Burton beat older brother Ward to the line, but not without protest on Ward’s part in the form of racing his brother as hard as a man can race and still stay clean. Ward drove for second-tier Bill Davis Racing, Jeff for top-rated Roush.
Years ago, you could believe in miracles. There was, if not a concrete reality, the illusion that this week, anything could happen. A driver could win a first race, and a veteran could win his last. It could happen, you could see it, feel it. Today…that feeling is gone. It stirs every once in a while-during Vickers’ win, or hard-luck Elliott Sadler losing the Daytona 500 by 30 seconds of dry weather, but mostly, sleeping underdogs just lie-dormant, perhaps dreaming of better times, days when there was at least the illusion of impending glory-smoke and mirrors, perhaps, but it at least felt real.
Races today are too predictable-not because of the new car , or even the racing itself-that’s pretty much the same-some good ones, some terrible ones, a few point strokers, and some plain mediocrity. But there’s no real hope anymore-no illusion that this week’s winner might just be John Andretti, or Kenny Wallace, or Ken Schrader. It might have been owner-driver Ricky Rudd or underfunded Ricky Craven.
No, those days are past. Now, if the winner doesn’t come from one of the Big Three, he’ll come from close by, or from a heavily funded factory team. He won’t come from the independent ranks, or those of the underfunded. The underdog is gone in NASCAR. And at least from where I sit, that may be the biggest loss of the 21st Century era-and NASCAR’s biggest problem. I don’t want the love affair to end. I want to think it can be good again. I miss the illusion.
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I absolutely agree. The racing this year has been just as good or better than it ever has. Think about it, drivers used to regularly win by 10 seconds or even lead every single lap in a race. The problem is that the possibility of a single car or low budget team winning is zero now. The demise of Petty Enterprises and Bill Davis Racing have signaled that the future will be just a few major teams. It really is sad seeing capable drivers like Dave Blaney and Mike Bliss being relegated to start and park roles.
My husband and I had a conversation last night..I told him I almost felt sorry for Johnson…here he is on the verge of his fourth in a row..and over 50% of the fans really don’t care. I am not a fan of JJ’s..and I realize it’s a big deal for JJ…but I still can’t wait for Sunday to be over so maybe I can quiet the accolades of the 48 ringing in my ears and stifle the visions of the 48 crossing the checkers first. My husband then pointed out this is normal for fans..in NASCAR..and in ALL sports. He went on to say..“do you think the non fans of the Cowboys or the Yankees or even Tiger Woods enjoy seeing the super forces winning over and over and over? “ It’s not good for ANY sport…from a fans point of view. The problem magnifies itself in NASCAR because we have ALL 43 teams on the track at once..and the media has chose to magnify the coverage on the 48…ignore the other 42 teams..(unless they are running around the 48 or crash)..thus frustrating the fans who are waiting to see or hear how their favorite driver is doing..whether in 1st or 43rd. With the exception of golf a fan is going to see and hear about his team all during the event. Maybe NASCAR and the media could take a few notes from this and try and cover the season alittle more evenly..so by the end of the season the fans won’t be “over” whoever the champs turns out to be before he receives the trophy. But in the meantime JJ..sorry…but I have heard your name and seen your car more in this past season then I have my own children..so while you’re off celebrating your four in a row I think I will go out and see if I still remember what my own children look like!
The underdogs still have a chance of winning at the restrictor plate races. After all they are crap-shoots. Of course if you look at the field, the underdogs are basically the start and parker cars. It’s hard to win when your not on the track.
Well, trying to make lemonade out of a lemons is not going to work when discussing NA$CRAP!
You make it sound like the “poor racing” is all in our collective minds!
Well, the facts are, THE STANDS ARE EMPTY!
THE TV RATINGS SUCK!
Cased closed! As far as I am concerned!
Make sure you put lots of sugar in your lemonade, cause nothing will disguise the bad taste NA$CRAP leaves in one’s mouth!
Once again Amy you show that not only do you know nothing about racing, it is obvious you don’t watch the races either.
I disagree. Its the car to a large degree. What we now have is a spec car and rules that allow very little latitude in how the car is set up. That scenario favors the large , well funded teams at the expense of the smaller teams because it stifles innovation and creativity and rewards microscopic and relentless attention to detail.Loosen up the rules a bit so that there can be some variation in how different teams approach different race tracks and it might be fun again to watch. For example, make the rear spoiler adjustable so that team A can choose more downforce to help handling and team B can go for less angle thereby increasing speed but making the car more difficult to handle. That might showcase drivers who are really good at dealing with variations in handling during a race. I could go on and on but as we get closer and closer to the cars all being completely interchangable its all going to get worse.
Go to the Bristol Speedway website and see tix available. 10 years ago you could not find tix at a fair price now you can’t give them away. Enough said.
NASCAR engineered the small teams right out of NASCAR. The Chase Stinks, the cars are nothing more than stickers and we have to listen to the shills of broadcasting like Larry McReynolds, Darryl Whinebag (oops, I mean Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and the rest who are NASCARs premier Spin Doctors who try to tell us everything is just fine. The cars are UGLY! PERIOD AND END OF STORY! Does your head even give a second look at a Camry or an Impala, or do you notice every Challenger and or Mustang? If you say the Camry or Impala, please check for testicular fortitude. I drool over the look of the old racecars (up to the late 80’s. NASCAR and the Titanic have one thing in common, they both thought the end would never come!
Amy, I hope that during the off season, brian farce finds another job for you. The nascrap propaganda coming from you is getting old on FS!! Just plain don’t care about your company line anymore!!
Fabulous article and I agree entirely. It’s not so much the vanilla drivers or the car was it is the BIG POWERHOUSE owners. Anyone think Paul Menard will contend for a race? I think not.
@wcfan – I once heard the hardest tickets to get for ANY venue was The Masters. The second hardest was Bristol. Now look our current climate. Yes sir, enough said!
People saying that the racing is better because more cars are finishing on the lead lap don’t understand. The field is bunched up constantly by caution flags. I beleive someone on this site wrote an article about the number of caution flags being up this year.
If we never had phony cautions for debris or the like, you can bet these races would end with the leader at least 1 lap ahead of the field in some cases.
Its the phony cautions that are making it look like the racing is better. If the racing is better why do we need nascar to throw phony cautions with 20 laps to go every week the race gets boring towards the end?
I was originally going to spend a lot of time ranting but instead:
Two reasons why there are no more underdogs:
1) # of owners: In late 90’s (even up to around 2002), most teams were 2 cars. So 43 / 2 = + 20 owners. Much easier to be a small AND THRIVING team if no one controls more than 5% of the pie.
2) Costs: I knew the small teams were over the first time I heard the phrase “5 post shaker” (and then had to read a 10 paragraph story so that it could be explained to a non-Engineer).
So basically asking why there are no more “underdogs” is like asking why I only see Wal-Marts, Macy’s, and Target when I go shopping.
Huh. I started reading before seeing who wrote the article then I said, “I bet Amy wrote this”. And I was right.
“So basically asking why there are no more “underdogs” is like asking why I only see Wal-Marts, Macy’s, and Target when I go shopping.”
And if I had to put a dollar in the bank every time Amy mentioned her hatred for Kyle, I could pay off my truck.
I’m sorry, but the racing, or lack thereof, speaks very loudly for itself. Other then good safety features (thank God) this car is a piece of crapola. As far as the tracks go how can you compare 1 1/2 mile cooker cutter tracks (Kansas, Chicago, Texas, etc.) with some of the older tracks nas$crap got ride of (The Rock, North Wilkesboro). Most of the drivers have the personality of a fencepost. Or at least that’s what they’re allowed to show. As for underdogs, not allowed. Just ask Carl Long. Look how the list of start and parkers has spread to the other two series’. In the mean time the rich get richer in Hendricks Cup. Deny that one. I think the fans have spoken very loudly with the empty grandstands and lousy tv ratings.. You and other nas$crap apologists need to come out of the bubble you’re living in and look at the real state of the game. If I offend you and other shills so be it. I’ve been a fan for 25+ years and have watched the downward spiral from the eyes of a fan. Get real.
Geeezzz Amy , all the way back to the beginning of NASCAR, 1999 . Or at least thats the begining of NASCAR where the Frontstretch writers are concerned . It would be pointless to mention the names Moore , Marcus , or Donlevy because they raced back before the Y2K .
Sorry – I have to sneak in (opinion) #3:
C) No sponsors. I truly will forever wonder how many small teams could have been saved if sponsors were forced to sponsor teams instead of being the official XXXX of NASCAR. (No, I am not stupid – I know you gets the money in this case – another reason why NASCAR needs someone to watch over it that doesn’t have a financial vested interest)
To me this is a 2-problem problem:
1) Obviouslly a small team driving around in a white car will not last as long as a small team with a sponsor.
2) I think fans really don’t associate with the official XXX of NASCAR as compared to “hey that company support my driver therefore I will buy their stuff”. Which means sponsor X sees little bang for the buck and decides to return is not worth the investment and then pulls out.
I guess the media will not give up on writing the racing wasn’t any better in the old days (and the “old days” started way before 1999)…who cares? Things are not the same in “these days”…heck..I thought we were supposed to be way ahead in technology…and maybe we are..but besides the great improvements in safety..there is not much else to report good with the COT. I don’t know why the media and NASCAR insists on putting up such a struggle against the fans when it comes to their satisfaction with the racing. WE pay their bills..yeah I know they have sponsors..but WHO do they think pay the sponsors bills? THE FANS! I would think NASCAR and the media would welcome our input..what we like and dislike..sure it will be all over the place..but it can be condensed into some organized good information. No we aren’t engineers…but we do know what we like..what holds our interest…and right now it’s not working for us. AND guess what..if it’s not working for us fans..eventually it won’t be working for NASCAR. And the drivers should have more input..hey they drive the darn things..I bet alot of them have some really good input as to what would help with the cars, the races, the season, the tracks, the rules, and their jobs in general. I don’t think we are fighting against NASCAR..I think it’s more the opposite…the fans have always been there for the sport..but has the sport always been there for us..the people who in reality sign their checks?
There are many reasons Nascar is in serious decline. There is no way to pin it on a peticular issue, because there are so many issues.
Here are my issues.
1) Small teams have no chance.
2) The COT. Yea, it’s safer, but it does not look like a Ford, Chevy,or Dodge.
3) Toyota, this is an American sport. Need I say more.
4) Cookie cutter tracks
5) Drivers that are pretty boy coporate sponsors 24/7. Michael Waltrip. What a joke he is
5) Digger on Fox. How annoying.
6)The absolutly HORRIBLE coverage of ESPN.
7) Broadcasters talking about themselves all the time instead of the race. See above.
8) The economy.
9) Boring races on tv. Been to many in person. There is a lot more the tv could cover.
10) The 48 car. Not the driver, not the crew chief. But the absolute obsession from the media about the Jimmy syndron. Yea, it’s a disease entrenched in the media.
11) The Chase. Fans don’t like it. Simple as that.
12) Nascar banned/restricted testing. Only to replace it with 26 weeks of testing on live tv on Sunday afternoons so we get to watch a blowout every year of the Chase.
I’ll clear point 12 up a little. Why do fans want to pay and go see 26 weeks of testing? Or watch that testing on the tv. That is all the Chase has accomplished.
Oh, did I mention the TV coverage? Yea, I think I did. But at the end of the day, Nascar hired them.
It’s not one issue. Nascar has done SO MUCH wrong, the seats are now empty, and the ratings are way down. The overnight ratings for Phoenix were down 17.6% Thats huge. Nascar gets results from the decisions they make. They have not made very many good ones lately.
Hey all-I never said this was the only thing wrong with racing-I simply said it’s what I miss the most. And yes, I’m aware that racing started long before 1999-I love watching the old races when they’re on. I compared those two years because I’m too young to remember the racing in the 1960’s and 1970’s-I can’t really compare to races I wasn’t around for! I remember the late 1990’s well, and fondly.
I see a lot of the same issues with the actual racing as I did then-there were a LOT of times when one car dominated, cars could not pass, and the margin of victory was over five seconds. If you’re a regular reader, you know I’m very vocal about the lack of tracks like Rockingham and Darlington. The COT? It needs work, but the old car has serious problems too-lots of times you couldn’t pass because of aero issues. The cars have been a problem for 15 or 20 years-they just traded one set of problems for another, IMO.
I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan-I guess I’ve always loved rooting for the underdog. And I miss the days when I thought one had a chance.
Some people seem to be reading more into this than is there. I find it sad that because I still love racing, that I’m “toeing the comany line.” Again, if you read my columns, I am perfectly willing to criticize NASCAR or anyone else who deserves it. In my eyes, it’s not all doom and gloom-there are still reasons I watch. It seems like a whole lot is being read into a column that is really just a simple lament for days that I remember well but are gone-the days of a true underdog having some kind of a shot-or the illusion of that, even though it didn’t happen very often. I really miss that.
Finally-I haven’t forgotten the struggling independents, and that was the point of this column. Heck, I work with the driver of one of those small teams in the Nationwide Series on his FS diary, and one of our new diaries for 2010 will also feature an independent. Once upon a time, those teams had a real shot at a decent finish-but now it’s a great race when Morgan finishes 13th. Fifteen years ago, he might have had a shot at better. Now, we’re happy with 13th because there was never any hope, real or imagined, that he might get a top five. THAT is what this column meant to say. Nothing more, nothing less.
I don’t think the racing is just as good as it used to be, but I agree with you about the underdog factor.
I remember the first year after Alan Kulwicki lost the Zerex sponsorship, he raced a few races with no sponsor. He ended up winning a race (Pocono? I forget) with no sponsor on the hood. It wasn’t long after that Hooters decided to sponsor Kulwicki, and the rest, as they say, is history.
That would never ver happen today. With no sponsor, you can’t even buy yourself the opportunity to start and park.
Johnson on the pole, you can be assured I won’t watch a single lap.
Aahh Brent..there is a very small bit of hope..JJ has Scott Speed beside him..but alas…Mark Martin is behind them..so Scott will probably take HIM out!!!!
Amy…I don’t think we were ignoring what you were actually writing about..but if you haven’t guessed…the fans are just generally rapidly getting “over” NASCAR..and really don’t want to..so we try any outlet to be heard..if you had written about the ministry services at the racetrack you probably would have gotten the same responses as above! No disrespect to you..but the media is one of our outlets and a way to try and let NASCAR know how we feel. So far it doesn’t seem not going to races and not watching the races on TV has helped…NASCAR just keeps insisting its the economy..well yes it is..but trust me..if I was as happy with the racing as I was 6-20 years ago..I would still try my hardest and spend my hard to come by money to go to a couple of races a year. AND TV ratings…hey most everyone has a television..fans are not watching the races because of the racing..not the economy or football. It is frustrating..and only NASCAR can fix it. So..as long as there are columnists and the Internet..us fans will continue to write our opinions about a sport we love..and don’t want to lose.
Hey John P, right on about us fans being asked to buy tickets to Sunday afternoon development sessions for the POS!
I stated this last year, the POS is still under development, why pay to watch in essence, what turns out to be a practice session!
Cause it sure ain’t racin!
And you can tell this writer is running out of things to say, this article is really reaching!
The fourth race of that season, Atlanta, Alan won the pole. Hooter’s driver Mark Stahl failed to qualify for the race so Hooters put their decals on Alan’s car. Again Quickie finished eighth. After the race Hooters decided to hitch their wagon to Alan’s 7 team, and the rest as they say is history.
As a footnote Alan was never really comfortable runnning the Hooters sponsorship. A devout Catholic he was uncomfortable doing promo gigs with Hooters Girls all but falling out of thier uniforms. But it paid the bills. A lot of neat stuff happened in this sport prior to 1999.
I’ve learned over the last year or two of reading this website, that if you dont write an article saying the Chase sucks, the drivers are bland, the car sucks, Brian France sucks, the tracks suck, or some combination of the above, the fans and readers of your column will take you to task and call you a NASCAR apologist and accuse you of drinking the kool-aid. Aint this fun?
Thanks for the correction. It’s been so many years and so many races, and unfortunately, my memory ain’t what it used to be.
You’re right, it was a pole, not a win, that got Alan some notice and the sponsorship from Hooters. I got an opportunity to meet Alan in 1992 at the Hooters in Columbia. It wasn’t much, just a hello, an autograph and a photo op, but I still have ‘em both and would never part with either of them.
nascar has to even out the playing field. one way might be you have to actually race to make the “ race”. in other words no “automatics” to make the race. while lower teams are setting up for qualifying, other teams are “ working” on race set ups. also give points for qualifying positions so if you want to be in the race, you actually have to race to get there
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