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 January 26, 2012
When NASCAR delivered the organization’s annual “State Of The Sport” update to the media this week, the theme of the day was an emphasis on the positives from 2011. The sanctioning body praised 18 different Cup winners, including five first-timers, the closest championship battle the sport has ever seen, increased ratings and race attendance – then transitioned into the sanctioning body’s desire to carry that momentum into 2012. The biggest change in pursuing strategy was simple: keep the “status quo,” with little if any adjustments to the series to open the year. Electronic fuel injection is coming, but it isn’t likely to have a large impact on what race fans see on the racetrack. The 2013 race car will begin on-track testing next week, and, while a fantastic-looking vehicle remains a year away from competition. The “Boys Have At It” philosophy with on-track retaliation, popular with fans and drivers remains in place.
But the one change that NASCAR did make over the offseason, designed on the surface to “please fans” is the one people should actually be worried about.
Whether you love or hate the tandem drafting at Daytona and Talladega, NASCAR’s response – trying everything they can to eliminate it, short of an outright ban – should be alarming to race fans. It’s the beginning of what could turn into a snowball effect, and it also goes against much of what NASCAR has stood for in the last decade from a safety standpoint.
It’s important to look at the bigger picture here. While many fans dislike the tandem drafting for a variety of reasons, it’s the natural product of the sport’s evolution. The practice has come about because of a combination of newer surfaces at Daytona and Talladega, the effect of the restrictor plate on the cars, the current aerodynamic package, and the fact that it’s the fastest way around a plate track right now. Those are all natural things as the sport and the race cars change.
Making rules that manipulate the way drivers are allowed to race the racetrack is not a natural part of the evolution of racing when they are not made for the safety of the drivers. The restrictor plates, though they do drastically affect the competition, are necessary to reduce the risk of catastrophic injury. It’s likely that without them, speeds would approach 240-250 miles per hour, dangerous territory even if drivers aren’t racing in close quarters. But eliminating the tandem drafting is not a safety issue; it’s simply an aesthetic one.
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton says that fans’ (not the drivers’, though many don’t like it either) general dislike of the current drafting style was the reason to pursue elimination of the two-car draft. Pemberton also justified the move from an entertainment standpoint. “When you get to such a small percentage of fans that enjoy the tandem-type racing – and we’ve watched the trend – it hasn’t been just the last four races,” Pemberton said on Thursday. “It started at Talladega a number of years ago when you saw a couple of the drivers that learned how to do it and it just grew and grew. Yeah, it’s a slippery slope, but trying to go back to a larger pack-type racing is not new for us. There are some great races that have happened over time in the history of the high banks at Daytona and Talladega. We have to take control of some of those situations where it’s not good for the sport to [keep from putting] on a race that the vast majority doesn’t like.”
Slippery slope is right. Could this move open the door for NASCAR to manipulate the racing in other situations? Fans have expressed dislike for fuel mileage finishes; does this “control” mean there is the possibility of inserting a competition caution within the last fuel window (whether the reason is phantom debris or simply the truth, that it is a competition yellow) if the race would otherwise come down to mileage through a green-flag ending? That’s dangerous territory as it could very well have implications on the actual outcome of the event, taking the win from a team who played the strategy for the race conditions or taking the need for strategy among teams away completely because they all know a caution is coming.
And what about other issues fans voice displeasure about? If NASCAR is willing to manipulate the racing itself in the interest of “entertainment,” would the sanctioning body be willing to stack the deck further “in the name of the fans?” After all, lots of them don’t like it when Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch wins… or when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. doesn’t. Could a well-timed caution, a minor rules tweak in the name of parity, a small penalty for something not previously focused on be used to manipulate the actual race results on the racetrack? Some people already wonder if this practice happens. If the tweaks continue, it becomes increasingly hard to deny.
The other reason fans should worry about this manipulation of the racing isn’t about conspiracy theories or snowballing rules. It’s much more basic than that. It’s about driver safety. Wrecks in pack drafting often involve more than a dozen cars – it’s not uncommon to see 20 or more caught up. Compare that to the tandems, where crashes have generally involved just a handful of cars, usually fewer than five. The math and the physics are simple: the fewer vehicles involved in a wreck, the less chance there is for someone to get hurt. Is NASCAR becoming complacent about the safety of its race cars and tracks eleven seasons after its last on-track fatality?
When asked about whether the rules were justified from a safety standpoint, Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby responded. “At the end of the day, there are 43 drivers driving race cars in excess of 200 miles an hour,” he said. “Whether they’re in a pack or if they’re single. When you look at the safety aspect of racing anywhere, there is always an inherent danger, but the bottom line is… there’s 43 guys out there exceeding a 200 mile an hour speed limit, so there’s going to be a little bit of that there. That’s why Mike [Helton] and his group at the R & D Center works nonstop to make sure that the level of our safety in our cars is there.”
There is no denying that the current car is safer than ever before, especially paired with the SAFER barrier that lines at least the corners of every oval on the circuit and the HANS devices that hold the drivers’ heads still during an impact. It’s true that there hasn’t been a fatality since the crash that claimed Dale Earnhardt in 2001. NASCAR has made huge safety gains in the years since Earnhardt’s tragic wreck. But have they made so many that they have become complacent in a sport where complacency could still mean a fatality?
Sure, there is inherent risk in racing. It can’t and shouldn’t be eliminated. But if there is a way to reduce that risk, it should happen. The tandem draft has so far shown to be safer in that it reduces the number of cars involved in each incident. It’s hard to reconcile not wanting racing to be safer… unless you’re watching for the wrecks. That aspect probably figures heavily in many fans’ dislike of the tandems, truth be told. If fans are not watching for the wrecks, then they should not be in favor of NASCAR’s move to eliminate the tandems artificially, because it undercuts the purpose of the sport and the integrity of the sanctioning body.
While the idea of returning to pack racing at the restrictor plate tracks does have some fan appeal, when it works right and it’s encouraging on one level to hear that NASCAR is doing that, the move seems artificial, hollow. In a poll on NASCAR’s own website last year, over 75% of fans said they didn’t like the Chase format, but NASCAR has made no move to change that. Fans have lobbied for years to return the Southern 500 to Labor Day Weekend, but those requests have fallen on deaf ears as well. So it’s hard to believe that this adjustment is done for only their benefit. But if it’s because some drivers have complained, why not just say that? Listening to teams is equally important to listening to fans for the sanctioning body.
Eliminating the tandem draft may make four races a year more desirable to some fans, it’s true. And it’s also true that NASCAR has made an attempt to listen to them. But this particular rule change has the potential to undermine the whole sport. Is it a one-time thing, or will manipulating the way teams race on the track spread to other tracks, other situations as fans clamor for more? Like the tandems or not, the big picture is that that’s not a pretty picture for the future of the sport, and neither is a fatality caused by a driver getting caught in a multi-car crash that he might have avoided in a two-car drafting situation. It’s just not a good direction for NASCAR to be heading. It’s not about eliminating one aspect of racing that fans dislike; it’s about opening the door for manipulating the outcome of races significantly, and for someone to get hurt along the way.
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
NASCAR has been manipulating the racing since it began with constant rules changes, favoring one manufacturer over another, etc.. NASCAR is all about the show, always has been. People complain now about a few rules changes during speedweeks, and they used to change the rules every day just about back when I was a kid in the 1980’s(during speedweeks). The older guys tell me it was even worse before that! NASCAR does everything it can for ‘parity’ which means : no one runs off and leaves everyone else, every single week. See: Bill Elliot the year he won the championship, lapping the field. They banned that engine the next year. Nothing about NASCAR is ‘natural’. It’s all about the show.
NASCAR is run by Brainless France in name only. The biggest influence and the one who has control is Rick Hendrick. It is all about MONEY.
Fewer cars involved at a time in wrecks don’t make for safer math or physics. Fewer cars total in wrecks are obviously a good thing, but the tandems tend to wreck far more often… so by the end of the race, whether there have been ten small wrecks or just one big one, it works out about the same.
I have a feeling that the small wrecks inherent in tandem racing are at the very least no less dangerous than the pack racing crashes. For one thing, half of the drivers in a tandem race can’t see anything out the windshield, making it significantly more difficult to avoid a wreck. For another, if I’m in an out-of-control car at 190 mph, hitting another car in the 150-190 range going the same direction as I am will not be as hard of a hit as hitting a wall which is traveling at 0. I realize anecdotal evidence isn’t data, but the nastiest crash I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching in front of me was Regan Smith’s at Talladega last fall.
Wanting to see what drivers do for speed is an excellent argument for not messing with the tandems. Safety is not.
How long has the author followed NASCAR? It seems to be an pretty uninformed opinion. NASCAR has allows had there hand in the pot to keep the show interesting. Rules changes mid season, mid speedweeks, or heck mid race in a sense with mystery debris cautions. It’s nothing new.
i HATE PLATE RACING!!
I don’t like plate racing either… and the real reason I don’t like the tandem racing is the whole concept of needing another car just to be competitive. I want them all racing each other for the win, not working together!
Amy, I agree with you that NASCAR should stop trying to mess with the pair drafts. They tried, multiple times, and they failed. I hate the lovebug racing, but nobody wants a dozen blown engines in the Daytona 500 or other unintended consequences from excessive changes.
I disagree that this move is the fringe of a dark cloud of manipulation heading towards the sport. The late 90’s and early 00’s featured constant mid season rule changes as one car make complained about the other’s unfair advantages. NASCAR had been manipulating the timing of caution flags for a couple of years until some drivers spoke out and the fans caught on.
Uh Amy, you’re a little late to the dance. NA$CAR has manipulated the “racing” for a long time. They also already manipulate the finishes. Sad thing is, in the France family/I$C/NA$CAR’s (one in the same) greedy-filled attempt to sell more tickets, they’ve built a bunch of garbage tracks that necessitate the manipulation because the “racing” is pathetic. You can fit about 20-50k more a$$es into the stands at the 1.5 mile snoozers, but you can’t make the racing exciting. Gone are the days of 6-8 tracks less than 1 mile in length that provided this.
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. NASCAR could get rid of the restrictor plates if they cut down the cubic inches of the engines. And don’t give me that “it would drive up costs” nonsense. Plate race engines are NOTHING like the engines used at the other tracks. To get rid of the 2 car drafts, get rid of the deep chin spoilers/front valances all of the cars have. That will also slow the cars down.
The fact for NASCAR is that this 2-car trend is affecting the most watched races they show. That’s not true of the Chase, nor the fuel mileage races. That’s why this is getting the attention while the other things aren’t.
And I didn’t hear as much complaining about the Chase last year, when it produced the closest competition for the Championship in a very long time (Jayski does a “old school” comparison that shows it wouldn’t have been close using pre-Chase points). I think the fans have mostly accepted it, or have left. And within the Chase they have tinkered quite a bit, so that’s nothing new.
As for fuel mileage races, they’ve been around forever, and they’ll be around forever, and there will always be those who don’t like them. Nothing new there. I personally find it pretty intense waiting to see whether a crew chief’s gamble on tires or fuel mileage pays off.
I’m with the poster who says it’s not less safe for fewer cars crashing than the big bunches.
Plate racing isn’t racing….but then, nascar isn’t racing either.
But a lot of folks sure like WWE too.
The ban on driver-driver communication and the 1 spotter / 2 drivers scenario will not eliminate tandem racing, it will just make it more dangerous to all.
That’s the surefire proof that Nascar has lost its safety focus…
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