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 · Friday August 24, 2012
NASCAR fans head to Bristol this week for the first time since the track made major modifications earlier this summer in an attempt to narrow out the racing groove and bring back the type of racing that the track was known for: beating and banging, and using the chrome horn to make a pass. Since the track was reconfigured in 2007 with progressive banking, the wide groove made two- and three-wide racing the norm, rather than the bump-and-run, which was often good for taking out several cars in one move. In short, fans are asking Bristol to turn back time.
The problem with that is that it’s simply not possible. No reconfiguration of a racetrack can bring back the “good old days.” There are simply too many factors that have changed; the track is just one factor in the evolution of racing at Bristol (and elsewhere). The change is more complicated than the track reconfiguration—the sport itself has undergone many changes in the last decade that at least partially contribute to the feeling of racing’s inadequacy among fans:
The racecar It’s as easy, perhaps even easier, to paste the blame on the racecars themselves, because they came about at an inopportune moment, and when first released, they…well, they looked funny. And the racecar once known as the Car of Tomorrow does have its faults, chiefly an anonymity that left fans wondering why teams bothered to pretend they raced different makes of car. Is it any worse of a racecar than the one it replaced? No, not really. It’s disappointing in that it was touted as being better, but the reality is, the “old car” at the end of its incarnation was just as terrible on the racetrack as far as aerodynamic dependence and its need for clean air.
Early in its evolution, that car was better than the current one, but by the end there is little difference in the way they race. The new car does have one advantage in its superior safety, and that’s no small thing, but on the track, there’s little difference in the racing except for the fact that a frustrated driver can no longer shove his front bumper under another’s rear end and lift the back wheels off the ground. Still, in the last decade or so, regardless of the car, aero dependence and, especially in the newer cars, lack of areas for teams to work on to gain an advantage has watered down the racing. But there’s another component of the cars that teams have no control over.
The tires Here’s where it gets trickier to define what’s best. The current tire compounds are made for durability. As speeds approach and exceed 200 miles per hour more and more often, that’s good from a safety standpoint; blown tires have caused some very serious injuries over the years, and obviously, reducing that type of incident is very important. However, the more durable tire has taken away a strategy that was an important part of the sport in the not-too-distant past. Surely with the technology of today, Goodyear could produce a tire that is durable enough not to blow out on a regular basis but that the surface tread wears away on more quickly, forcing teams to decide between making tires last a fuel run by running conservatively or risk having them fade too soon.
Tires that last for an entire fuel run contribute to an increase of fuel mileage races, something many fans loathe. Concrete tracks, like Bristol, used to be hell on tires. Now, not even Darlington, with its notoriously rough asphalt, causes teams to have to make difficult decisions. And it was those kind of in-race decisions that separated the best of the best from everyone else on the track; it was more a game of race day strategy and less one of finding some tiny mechanical advantage back at the shop. The Cup tires are reportedly softer than those being run in the Nationwide Series and the ones we saw on the Camping World Trucks on Wednesday night. But whether they, coupled with the track changes, will be enough to truly make a difference in race strategy remains to be seen.
The Chase It’s impossible to deny the impact of the Chase on the way teams race during the season. In the first 26 races, many teams race conservatively, looking for consistency to simply make the Chase rather than the brilliance it takes to win races but is also a larger risk of failure or accident. Even with the wild card, wins are no guarantee of success without consistency.
While that was true under the old system to a point, the Chase, which was supposed to reward winning has made it even more important to race conservatively at times because making the cut, not winning individual events, has become of greater importance to teams. This year’s wild card race could spice things up; with several drivers, including Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, and Marcos Ambrose, all of whom need a win and all of whom are excellent at Bristol, making them more likely to have a checkers or wreckers mentality. On the other hand, they will be mindful that in order to win, they must first get themselves in position to be there at the end…and that could have the opposite result in the end.
There are also a handful of drivers who will likely clinch their Chase spots this week who can afford to go all out for the win. But there are also several in the middle of the mix who will want to protect their points positions. And if respect breeds respect on the track, you won’t see some of the top drivers make moves that could come back to bite them. With the Chase just weeks away, there isn’t time to make up a terrible finish. Under the old system, drivers could go all-out every lap at races like Bristol because there was time to regain any lost ground. Now, every point is simply too important for some teams to risk.
Lack of prestige There used to be a few races on the schedule that every team owner, driver and crewman wanted to have on their resumes. After the Daytona 500, there was the Southern 500, the Coca-Cola 600, the summer race at Talladega, and the night race at Bristol. The more difficult the track, the more a driver wanted to win there. Now, that has changed. Schedule changes added the race at Indianapolis, which was immediately hyped as the biggest thing since asphalt, and teams wanted to win there. That race, coupled with the ever-growing number of intermediate tracks on the schedule, caused teams to work in a different direction in order to accommodate the increasing necessity to finish well on those tracks.
Short tracks and unique tracks were no longer the lion’s share of the schedule, and therefore had to take a back seat to the ones that led to championships. The Southern 500 is gone, replaced by a race that is alike in name and location only, but the prestige of winning under the punishing Labor Day sun as the Lady in Black destroyed tires long before a fuel run was over is gone. The summer race at Talladega is also a memory, with the powers that be claiming the brutal heat as a deciding factor for both.
NASCAR also dropped its incentive programs when the title sponsor changed from Winston to Nextel/Sprint. The Winston Million, while Bristol wasn’t included, gave drivers a reason to gun for a win, and the No Bull 5, which often did include the Tennessee bullring did so even more. Sprint attempted a similar program last year, but it led directly up to the Chase, and therefore didn’t produce the hoped-for result. Putting the prestige back into certain races, while increasing the money paid to individual race winners while reducing drastically the amount paid through the end-of-year point fund would make an impact on the racing almost everywhere. Programs like the No Bull 5, which gave a group of select drivers an incentive to go for a million-dollar prize for themselves and a fan would at least put those drivers on a different agenda from the normal good points day that we see so often today.
Lack of emotion Before you blame drivers for being vanilla (because the vast majority truly aren’t if you get to know them), take a look at the multi-million-dollar corporate sponsors, who, through various PR reps and handlers, stifle their drivers into acting a certain way…and that often bleeds over onto the track. It seems like nobody wants to sponsor the bad boy these days. While it’s understandable to expect a certain level of behavior from drivers, it’s sometimes obvious in their actions that they are being stifled. Bristol once meant hot tempers and sponsors-be-damned driving. Now…perhaps some drivers are being held back from doing something that could label them as dirty or as jerks.
Consider Jimmie Johnson. As a rookie, Johnson got dumped by Robby Gordon at Bristol and his reaction was purely emotional: a double-fisted flipping of the one-finger salute to Gordon as he passed by under caution…and Johnson wasn’t telling Gordon he was number one. Fast forward ten years and you can’t even imagine that kind of behavior from Johnson. And perhaps it’s not Johnson who has changed, but the expectations of him…to the point where he walked away last week rather than to risk saying what he actually felt.
No, that wasn’t a very sportsmanlike move, either, but if a driver is going to behave in a less-than-stellar manner, which would you rather see: the one that tells the other guy exactly how he feels through gesture or a well-thrown helmet or gloves, or the one who walks away because he’s afraid of getting in trouble? It seems like more and more often, fans want drivers to show emotion on and off the track and the sponsors are allowing it only when the driver is in victory lane. And while Johnson’s joyful one-man food fight celebrating his one Bristol win was great to see…so was his long-ago reaction to Gordon. There’s a difference between showing negative emotion and being a jerk, but many sponsors and handlers don’t seem to know that…and it ends up negatively impacting the way they race as well as the fans’ impressions of the drivers.
So, as the Sprint Cup Series heads back to the new—old—whatever it is Bristol, it’s important for fans to go in with a clean slate of expectations. Enjoy the three-wide racing and close quarters clean passing for what they are…and remember that at most tracks, that kind of racing would be a welcome change. The days of exacting revenge with a bumper and multi-car chain reactions may well prove to be a thing of the past…but before blaming the racetrack, remember that there are many reasons for the change, and no bulldozer or paver can change them. But before you blame the racetrack or even the drivers…consider the reasons they are no longer the same as they once were. Expecting the racing at Bristol to be exactly the same as it was 20 years ago or more is, for better or for worse, unrealistic, because the entire game has changed so very much.
Connect with Amy!
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Did Amy really write this article? I can’t believe it. I finally agree with something from her. Nice.
Introducing the ‘chase’ really neutered Bristol. Drivers afraid of losing their top 10 position, and those not wanting to affect those drivers turned Bristol’s night race into a polite parade long before the repave. In 2007, after several years of watching ‘old school’ racing, I found myself fighting to stay awake in the stands with over 100 laps to go. I sadly gave up my season tickets 3 years ago, because racing at Bristol was no longer a unique experience. Sad to see a bucket list item become just another run of the mill parade. But then, so much of what used to make Nascar unique has disappeared…apparently along with many of it’s fans.
IMO, of the factors mentioned above there are only two that apply to Bristol, the Chase and the track reconfiguration. (Lack of emotion and lack of prestige are hard to quantify).
I think that now that the track has been changed to closer to what it was prior to the re-pave it will be more interesting racing to watch; however, the Chase had already taken alot away from the night race prior to the re-pave and as my fellow fans above have stated, unless we can get rid of the “2 seasons” thing – it will never be close to the same racing we saw prior to the Chase.
The Chase has taken a lot away from Nascar Racing. The drivers just ride around trying to stay out of trouble until the last few laps of the race to get the best finish they can so they can get in the chase. While the Chase may add a little excitement to the end of the season it sure takes away a lot from the other what twenty six races.
The last Darlington repave did not use the same ashalt type as had always been used.It used what is found at other tracks.What made Darlington great is dead and gone. You can thank Brian.
Great Column Amy
I will agree with the other poster THE CHASE is what has KILLED RACING at Bristol and other tracks.
Along with Wave Around and Lucky Dog, Strategy and Hard work to put drivers down a lap is wiped out by BS debris caution and said driver/drivers is back on leap lap challenging for wins when the should be racing for top 20-25 .
Do not remember any No Bull 5 races at Bristol.
I have some optimism for the new car coming out next year. They are apparently going to take some weight out so they can use softer tire compounds. Hopefully, that will make a difference and make tires matter again.
I’m sure if they went back to the old configuration at Bristol and brought the wrecking back people would still complain, especially if there favorite driver got caught up. Bristol’s biggest issue in my opinion is still the fact that the track is in the middle of nowhere, and there is no affordable logging nearby. Travel and logging is one thing that drastically drives up the cost of NASCAR attendance. When the economy is in the tank, people won’t be happily gouged to attend a race at Bristol anymore.
Bias ply tires would go a long way to putting a little excitement back into racing. nothing like a sideways car smoking the tires coming off the corner to raise the blood pressure.
in 1992 when they slapped on concrete to the Bristol Motor Speedway, the track was still the same ol Bristol. Bump & Run, rivalries, all that good stuff. Then came 2007…adding the progressive banking? That is where Bristol was ruined. I mean shoot, while your at it, might as well add banking to the historic Martinsville Speedway too. Bruton Smith ruined the historic Bristol in 2007. And any fan that likes the “New Bristol with the side by side racing, no wrecking, all nice and friendly…haven’t been around long enough to watch the good old racing at Bristol, or just isn’t that true of a fan.
So a “true fan” only likes racing where most passing has to happen by moving or wrecking someone…wow, I’ve been doing it wrong for almost 20 years.
Well it appeared to come out of nowhere though I doubt there were many who saw this coming.
Recent articles from Amy Henderson:
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.