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
Tuesday March 4, 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 · Monday April 12, 2010
“NASCAR is boring.” Or so say many race fans and media, frustrated with the changes in the sport in recent years. We heap the blame on the sanctioning body for everything from A to Z; and let’s face it, we enjoy it. NASCAR is such an easy target for everyone’s frustrations, especially considering the facts; over the last decade, to say they’ve screwed up a lot is putting it mildly.
But not all the time. That’s right: despite what you might think, the sport’s recent decline is not all NASCAR’s fault.
Here’s where I’m sure some readers will accuse me of being in NASCAR’s pocket, or some such nonsense. Look, I’ve never been slow to blame the sanctioning body for a lot of things – most of them deserved. But I’m not going to blame the organization for every problem when some of the issues clearly aren’t of their making.
So with NASCAR off the hook for some of these issues, that begs a simple question: who is to blame for them instead?
The answer is fairly complex. Turns out lots of people, from race tracks to race fans, had a hand in a decline that’s been a long time in the making. Here’s a look at some of them, and what they should rightfully share responsibility for:
Tracks While it’s hard to separate the venues from the sanctioning body (and that’s doubly true for those owned by International Speedway Corporation, which, like NASCAR, is majority owned by the France family), but each racetrack is an independently operated and contracted facility. Most tracks are owned either by ISC or by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., under Bruton Smith, though Indianapolis, Dover and Pocono are independently controlled, as are some Nationwide and Truck Series tracks. Consequently, NASCAR itself cannot control such things as ticket prices, carry-in policies, or maintenance at these facilities.
When there was an issue with the track surface at Daytona during the sport’s biggest race, many fans were quick to point the finger at NASCAR for the subsequent red flag periods where they failed to repair the surface. But in that instance, NASCAR did nothing wrong, and in fact, handled everything right. The race was stopped when there was an apparent safety issue, as it should have been. In the end, the responsibility for failing to maintain the track over the long-term could be pointed at ISC, not NASCAR, who quickly joined in the process of studying the structural soundness of the racing surface. The same goes for things like ticket prices (which many tracks have addressed, though there are holdouts), concessions, or seat size (of the permanent variety, not the fan variety). Should NASCAR have standards for the tracks it grants races to? Yes, absolutely. But the tracks play a huge role in their own fate.
Sponsors The “boys can be boys” all they want in NASCAR’s eyes, but in the end, it’s not NASCAR paying for their expensive equipment; the sponsors are, and that gives them the final word on how their drivers act when the cameras are rolling. That means that more drivers than we’d like toe the company line. It might even mean that they drive less aggressively than some of their competition, or at least apologize more profusely afterward. But if you don’t think that every driver should thank their sponsor and God – in that order – after a race, think again. That’s a part of the deal. Or at least the sponsor part is.
The poster child for boring drivers is four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is unfailingly polite, making sure he thanks the right people and says the right thing. And you can be sure that he will continue to do so until the day he retires, unless Lowe’s suddenly decides they don’t want to hear all that. Until then, Johnson is stuck, as are the rest of his peers. If the champ sounds more polished than most, bear in mind that he had no money to race on as a youngster, and that meant playing nice to the sponsors to get to the track. No money means no chance, a lesson that Johnson knows all too well; in those days, he spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder worrying a ride would be lost if he did anything untoward. Those survival instincts have followed him up the ladder, and the same goes for everyone else who regurgitates the same lines week in and week out. They don’t do it because they want to or because they think it’s compelling; they do it because it’s their job, and they’re well paid to do it. So while NASCAR may say “have at it,” the sponsors may well be saying, “not so fast.”
Media We’re not perfect, and we’re not blameless, though we are between a rock and a hard place sometimes. The media report on the stories that, like it or not, are news. If Carl Edwards intentionally spins Brad Keselowski and flips him in the process, well, you’re going to hear about it. Probably a lot. Why? Simply put, media outlets compete – the more people that watch or read, the more advertising dollars are generated – so if there is a story, everyone is going to talk about it, and hope that the fans are paying attention. Of course, in the process of going for big names to make the big bucks (think: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Danica Patrick), that means some storylines get overlooked. Unfortunately, this works both ways… sometimes a story that’s not big news gets overlooked by viewers, and that means next time, that reporter will have some pressure to write about the big story instead.
The television broadcasts for the races are another animal entirely, and they do shoulder a lot of the blame for the complaints of boring racing. Often, the networks are so focused on either one or two popular drivers or the race leader that they fail to show viewers at home what’s happening throughout the field, and that’s detrimental. For one thing, fans don’t get to see their favorite drivers if they’re not running up front or don’t have a big story to follow. Fans also don’t get to see much of the hard racing that’s going on, leading to unfair criticism of boring races when they’re anything but at the racetrack itself. That misperception hurts the sport as a whole, as casual fans watching on TV may decide against going to races because it’s not exciting. For example, having gone to many event at New Hampshire and not watched at home, I always wondered why people said the races were boring when I was there and they were much more exciting. Then, I saw one on TV and knew the answer. It’s another story for another time, but the broadcasts of the races are a huge part of the problem with the perception of the sport today, shouldering some of their own blame for declining ratings the past five seasons.
Drivers Yes, it’s true that the drivers are sometimes hampered in their public persona by their sponsors, by NASCAR, and by the FCC. But many fans do have the perception that some drivers don’t care about the average fan, and there are some drivers whose lack of public availability contributes to that perception. Again, part of this problem lies with the sponsors – they want their driver in the corporate suite on Sunday morning, and that takes time away from a fan appearance. But it’s hard to buy that every driver couldn’t find time to sign a hundred autographs at the hauler every couple of weeks. Even fans who don’t follow someone in particular seem to have a different perception of those who are out there every week and those that are not.
Casey Mears comes to mind as a great example of a driver whose fan appreciation has never wavered. Even when with a full-time team like Hendrick Motorsports, Mears took time to greet his fans nearly every week, and as a result, few speak ill of him. Even if they didn’t get an autograph, Mears was visible, and that made him more likable. On the flip side, a driver like Johnson or Tony Stewart, who rarely have public appearances at the racetrack, can easily gain the reputation as standoffish; whether that’s true or not, that can carry with a driver throughout their career. It won’t change the mind of a diehard fan, but can make the difference to the casual one who doesn’t yet have an opinion on that driver. So those wheelmen need to keep in mind many fans feel as though, through patronage of the sponsors, they are helping pay a driver’s bills and like to feel as though that is appreciated – so a little would go a long way. That responsibility doesn’t fall on NASCAR, who already allows a huge number of fans on pit road during race weekends; instead, it falls to the role models who, like it or not, are all somebody’s hero.
Fans Yes, fans do have a certain culpability here, on a couple of levels. One, many fans have complained about certain tracks losing race dates; but at the same time, those complaining were not attending the races in their hometowns, which would have kept attendance up and NASCAR profit margins from biting them in the butt. By staying home, fans voted with their pocketbooks – against those very racetracks whose demise they mourn. Yes, I understand that NASCAR needs to put better racing out there for the fans watching on TV; there are far more of them than at the track, and places like Rockingham would make for an afternoon better spent than one watching a race at tracks like Fontana. But the fans in the seats are the ones paying the track’s bills, and they have to provide a large part of the purse for the race. If they can’t fill the seats, NASCAR isn’t going to keep them, whether that’s fair or not, so it’s up to the fans to save the tracks they enjoy the most.
Also, sometimes fans do have expectations that no organization, race, or driver could possibly live up to. Not every event is going to have five drivers racing for the win on the last lap, no driver can possibly sign every item, and no venue can provide everything that every fan wants for half the price that they currently charge. Sometimes it’s just about seeing the best NASCAR has to offer on any given Sunday; but there are times the sanctioning body (and everyone else involved) still does everything they can only for the on-track action to wind up a stinker. So on weeks where all of those involved do the very best they can, it’s time to be satisfied.
Until then (and everyone has some work to do!), fans and the media should complain. Without that, nothing would change. But to blame only NASCAR, when NASCAR simply cannot control it all, is a fruitless pursuit at best, because the sport didn’t break anything alone, and cannot fix anything alone. It’s a multi-way street here; the blame game is on, and everyone is a winner.
And Another Thing:
- While I understand his desire to stick it out, I’m not convinced that Denny Hamlin made the smartest choice by racing almost 400 miles Saturday night. Hamlin had a competent backup available in Casey Mears, and he admitted after the race that he was in a lot of pain. Pain is Mother Nature’s way of saying “Stop here, going further could be detrimental;” ignoring that might be brave, but it’s just not smart.
- Kudos to NASCAR this week for making the right call not once, but three times. First, the penalty handed to Jason Leffler was too lenient, but it was exactly what he should have gotten after Carl Edwards got the same for crossing much further over the line. Second, the two restart calls that Kyle Busch complained about in the Nationwide race were dead-on correct by the rulebook. Too bad for Busch he was on the short end of the stick on both, but… his bad both times.
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Ordinarily I’d disagree about the whole field of drivers not getting as much coverage as it should, because I don’t think the problem is as bad as people say.
Then I think of the first three Nationwide races this year, where an unproven driver even in her own series got so much coverage that there was clearly no concern about Danica Fatigue.
You make some good points. Not all of them are valid, but still there are some good ones.
Well guess what, Amy. The economy sucks. But even when the economy sucks the sponsors are rich, the track owners are rich, Nascar is filty rich, and the drivers are all stinking filthy rich. A good number of the fans are unemployed or underemployed and we’re oh so sorry we haven’t been to a Nascar race to keep the wealthy and the profit margins warm at night.
That was a very short-sighted article, Amy. Shame on you.
You’ve got a lot of nerve trying to put any blame on fans. It’s not only the economy, but the price gouging regarding the venues and lodging prices. Why support an organization that only looks at the bottom line. There are a lot of factors involved in nas$car’s woes, but even hint at the fans as at fault is stupid and inane. What a crock.
The problem: David Hill and fox. They bring us dumb, that gopher, and dumber, Darrell Waltrip, who would pimp Bin Laden if NASCAR told him to do so; filter the car so not to show the sponsor unless they spend additional dollars with them; changed start times; hype things that don’t need to be hyped.
Do not forget we lost some short tracks, because they could not pay the huge sanctioning fee nascar charges. I know this was many in Busch not Cup.
I think it’s the actual tracks themselves that have caused boring races. It’s too bad that when the tracks were built in the 90s, they were also built for IRL cars. Maybe Fontana, LV, etc could’ve been fun short tracks.
Casey Who?… Did you mean Kasey Kahne signs autographs? Who’s this other Casey fellow?
The Denny Hamlin situation brings up an argument that has been made for years, that recently has gone unmentioned.
With so much emphasis placed on driver safety from the track (SAFER barriers, Catch Fences) and the cars (COT, HANS) shouldn’t a driver health be a consideration.
If a driver is unfit to run the entire race, couldn’t he be considered a threat to his peers on the track? Whether its illness or injury – NASCAR should have a more predominate voice in who’s allowed to drive 150 mph in a racecar under their watch.
Secondly, Amy’s Love for Casey Mears aside, why does Ricky Rudd get massive kudo’s for running Talladega with his eyelids taped open, and everyone is questioning Hamlin’s decision to stay in the car at Phoenix?
Personally, I think NASCAR should allow drivers to take 1 or 2 races off in the regular season – either for a break, or health reasons. Take points from the a drivers top 15 races from the first 26.
Under that points system, imagine being a button on Jeff Hammond’s calculator come Richmond. You’d be banged around worse than Michael Waltrip at Bristol!!!
The poll didn’t include the media, Fox, DW, and Larry Mac. No point in voting.
Well written article Amy. I agree that all these factors contribute to the current state of the sport. Major for me is the tv coverage – or lack thereof. We have been fortunate to attend about 40 races. Astounding difference between being there and watching on tv. Easy to find battles all around the track while there in person. Not subjected to the one or two driver coverage written into the script for that week’s tv show.
It’s Nascar, as the sanctioning body, that needs to address all of these issues. They are the 800 pound gorilla in the room, and could fix ALL of the items you mentioned if they chose to throw their weight around, but they have grown fat and happy on the stupid money Fox threw their way, and they think the fans are pigions to be plucked for their gain.
This would have never happened if Bill France Jr. had not installed his inept son at the helm. It’s time for Amy to put down the Pom Poms and face reality.
I used to watch every race for years.Then something happened,i don’t know just what it was.The Busch clash was great as a short half hour race.then it went big time, now it sucks.Then we had restrictor plates…then it was more glitz and showbiz.Now the same guy wins almost every week,lets go back to one team one car.And thats how i feel.
Amy said: and places like Rockingham would make for an afternoon better spent than one watching a race at tracks like Fontana.
And the weekly anti-Fontana slam rears its ugly head. As Matt proved in his column on Monday, just because its a 1-mile track, does not mean it’ll always be a good race. And like you said about New Hampshire, races are much better in person than what the TV people decide to show us.
I don’t know about the rest of the tracks but Jimmie came out to Infineon last April for a session with the fans prior to the June race and this year he is doing a Q & A with the fans again before the race
What’s wrong with the races?
One thing is very easy to see: debris cautions.
A small piece of rubber appears on the track & out comes a debris caution to clean it up. I understand that.
What I don’t understand is how it takes the length of an entire set of pit stops for everyone who might want one and then a full set of seemingly endless commercials, all for removing what often turns out to be a spring rubber or water bottle.
Removing something such as that should take about 30 seconds once the cars are safely out of the way. Instead, there’s usually time for a sandwich and watching an inning of baseball without missing anything.
That’s one of the big things wrong with the races.
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