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 September 21, 2012
NASCAR needs a villain. Those are words that have echoed around the sport over the last few years. Really, we’ve heard them since the death of Dale Earnhardt, but it seems like they’ve gotten louder in recent years. NASCAR needs a bad boy, one who will be unabashedly aggressive on the track and proud of it off the track. One who knows how to use the ol’ chrome horn once in a while, one who will knock you into next week and then blame you for it. Yes, people say, that is just what we need. Except it isn’t.
What NASCAR really needs, even more than a villain to play the spoiler, is a real, honest-to-goodness blue-collar hero.
When the racing world lost Dale Earnhardt, nobody could have truly predicted the fallout more than a decade later, but at that point in time, NASCAR was rocking on its axis and changing from a popular sport to an elite one. And somewhere along the way, the elite sport became elitist.
Even at the height of his empire, Dale Earnhardt represented everyman and did it well. A high school dropout who was destined for the then-thriving factory career if the racin’ thing didn’t work out, Earnhardt was representative of what everyone secretly hoped for—living proof that if you wanted something so badly it hurt and you were willing to start at the bottom, do anything to be a part of it and prove yourself worthy, well then, you could be anything.
Dale Earnhardt was the American Dream personified.
And when that high school dropout rose to the pinnacle of the sport, to be one of the best there had ever been, millions of blue-collar Americans identified with him. When he snagged the pretty girl and built the multi-million-dollar business, they cheered him on. After all, he was one of them, and he’d done it. He’d beaten the odds and made the American Dream a reality. He was who so many fans secretly wished they could be in one way or another. (Earnhardt wasn’t the only one. There were plenty of self-made heroes, once upon a time: Cale Yarborough; the Allisons; and Darrell Waltrip come to mind along with a host of others. But it’s the loss of Earnhardt that makes the lack of such personalities stand out more than anything else.)
Part of the Earnhardt mystique was his ability to remain, despite his huge and growing fortune, an average Joe. He worked his farm on his days off, slinging bales of hay and riding a horse among the cattle. Of course he was a hero; he was a racecar driver and a cowboy, something just about every American kid, male or female, wanted to be at some point.
And that type of everyday hero is absent from today’s NASCAR. There are drivers who have come from hardscrabble, middle-class backgrounds to ride to the top of the sport. Both Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson did that and did it well, using every opportunity they got to build a better one. But somehow, they have drifted away from that all-American kid image. Maybe it’s the money, maybe it’s the lifestyle. It’s certainly a stretch to imagine either one of these champions waking up at the crack of dawn Monday after a 500-miler on a sweltering Sunday afternoon and saddling up a good horse to check the fence line and make sure the cattle were okay.
Sure, Earnhardt and others of his era and ilk married the pretty girls, but those pretty girls were often still the girl next door, girls whose families were in the racing business or who grew up in the same small towns the men did. They were part of the American Dream, too, and easier to identify with than a New York model, beautiful as she may be.
In contrast to the drivers of an earlier era, drivers today sometimes seem aloof, a little spoiled, not really like you and me. Many don’t seem the type to sit down and have a beer with, though many of them probably are. They have too much to be the average Joe: too much money, too much prestige, too much time, too much above the working man. They don’t give the impression that they know where fans come from, certainly not the impression that they were ever there, even if they were.
That’s not entirely by their fault or design. As the cost of sponsorship rises, sponsors want more for their buck. They want the time on Saturday or Sunday morning that once could have been spent signing autographs and exchanging a few words with fans. Even the autograph sessions that drivers do hold anymore often seem rushed, more like an automated assembly line than a personal event, often because the driver in question is trying to accommodate as many people as possible in the short time he has been scheduled into by someone else.
But, it’s partly on the drivers too. One reason that Richard Petty became the sport’s greatest ambassador is that he understood the fans and often put them first. He would often sign autographs after a race until each fan was satisfied. Today’s drivers participate in a second race after the main event, a race to the airport in an attempt to get out of town first. It’s understandable on one level, disappointing on another. Sometimes giving an hour here or there, unannounced, would go a long way. Some drivers do that, but many too often don’t.
Whatever the reason, it’s hard to look at today’s Sprint Cup drivers and see them as just an average guy who worked his ass off, got a little lucky along the way, and made his dream come true. They don’t look like they love their job. Many are just…hard to identify with. Even the drivers for the smaller teams have fancy motor coaches, beautiful wives, and expensive clothes. They don’t seem like you and me, somehow. You’d be hard-pressed to say exactly why this is, but it is. NASCAR drivers are no longer everyday heroes; they’re too commercialized, too different from the average fan, whereas drivers like Earnhardt seemed like they were one of the people.
The truth is, we have villains in NASCAR. We have the aggressive drivers. It’s how they are perceived that has changed. They’re often seen as arrogant, entitled, and sometimes not entirely without reason. But there are aggressive drivers (though the emphasis on points and the Chase has diminished the lengths to which any of them will take that aggression) and there are those who, like Dale Earnhardt, who often take things to far.
What has changed is that none of these drivers resonate like Earnhardt, or other drivers of times long gone, did. Even Dale Earnhardt, Jr. isn’t the true blue-collar hero that his daddy was. If he ever had that image, he shed it when he joined Hendrick Motorsports, the clean-cut, big money team that is as white-collar as they come in NASCAR. The last of the blue-collar era of NASCAR are in the deep twilight of their careers and no longer a threat on the racetrack.
No, NASCAR doesn’t need a villain. NASCAR needs an everyday hero, a guy who seems no different than anyone you might meet on the street in your own neighborhood. That is the driver that is missing in the garage today; someone who people can identify with because, but for the grace of God, he could be working in the factory or on the farm next to them instead of driving that fast racecar. NASCAR needs the American Dream.
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©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Between the sponsors, the media, and political correctness, I don’t see another driver becoming what you write about.
How many stories like Trevor Bayne’s have there been?
And Kyle Busch was honest but got blasted by the media and dropped by Hendrick.
I question whether Dale Sr. could have made it in today’s world of racing. Remember, he had a very rough start and made a lot of enemies and mistakes. But in his day there was no 24 hour internet social media to pounce on every slip of the tongue. And it didn’t take a $20 million sponsor to have the best ride.
Thank you so much for a very truthful article…The France family will never get it, nor will the sponsers or HMS…I miss the old days…I cannot really blame alot of the racers, money does seem to ruin alot, doesn’t it?
Really enjoyed your article, you enumerated all the reasons I loved Dale. He may have ultimately been at ease with Fortune 500 companies etc but he never forgot his roots. It is very hard to identify with today’s drivers, and as you say, it is not entirely their fault.
Reader Kelly hit it right on!!
Dale Earnhard would not have made it in today’s world. American society has regressed to the point that there will never be another hero as you speak of.
the difference between dale and the other older drivers you mentioned, are dale was killed and the others are still alive. they all were like dale, but dale was superman. but unfortunately superman was killed on 2/18/01.
i honestly think dale sr still would not have difficulty attracting sponsorship dollars. cause in the end it’s all about selling the product and putting butts in the seats. but nascar, itself, has killed that by having an iroc series for it’s top tier series, chastised any “bad boys” that are in the sport by the secret fines for speaking out. i think that’s way fans gravitate towards brad k….he still isn’t afraid to speak his mind while wearing the penske white button down shirt. rusty did the same thing while he was with penske.
i think people don’t get behind stewart cause he’s part of the hendrick fold. kyle bush tries, but he was so brash in the beginning that it left a bad taste in folks mouths. years ago, when kyle was a rookie, when they were racing at ams, i was on pit road during friday practice and qualifying and a child walked up to him for an autograph. he told the child “i don’t do autographs”, and for over 10 yrs that sticks in my memory as one of the first impressions of him. i remember yelling at him that the fans will make him, and he shouldn’t have such an attitude for being a rookie driver.
until nascar replaces brian france and figures out that iroc style racing isn’t want we want, it will not pull out of it’s downward fall. i know what will happen at new hampshire sunday….leader will take off and everyone else will be in line not able to pass, and only passing will be done on pit road. a few cautions might be thrown, and maybe even a mystery debris caution to tighten the field up or of hms team members are lapped too early in the race.
What made Earnhardt so special was that he was hero and villian all in one. He was real. nas$car doesn’t want villians because the sterile sponsors don’t want villians. Kyle Bush was the bad boy that that fans loved to hate, but he’s been affectively neutered due to the sterile sponsors. nas$car has little or no control over it’s own sport. RIP Dale Sr. We really miss you.
Yeah I dunno… I’d argue Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick are from the same mold (they’re millionaires now, but they came from humble beginnings and got where they were on talent)… But their sponsors and NASCAR have choked the humanity out of them, now they’re robots like everyone else, just slightly better trash-talking robots.
The same certainly goes for Formula 1, and F1 fans complain about it too, just not as loudly. It’s virtually impossible to make your way up through the open wheel ladder to F1 “on talent only.” F1’s been that way a lot longer than NASCAR though, because their budgets are even more massive, so they realized the driver would have to start bringing money to the table.
I continue to look to other racing series for real racers. World of Outlaws, Lucas Oil Late Models, ARCA, ASA, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, British Touring Car, Australian V8 Supercars… Because there ARE plenty of “Dale Earnhardt” types in those series.
Unfortunately, because they aren’t clean cut enough, they’ll likely never attract the big sponsors, and likely never make it beyond those series. That’s just racing reality these days.
Also: that’s not to say a lot of rich/pay drivers AREN’T talented. A lot of them grew up racing their whole lives too—not all of them are Paul Menards or Jon Wes Townleys. You can pay your dues in the racing world, work hard and win races, you just ALSO have to have the talent to look pretty and be politically correct to make money too.
You really can’t blame Nascar for the fact that so many drivers these days have an over-sized ego and think that fame equals respect. It’s not just Nascar, or sports in general, it’s the world we live in today. The old American dream has been replaced by American entitlement. I’m not going to elaborate further; this is a Nascar column and not a political one, but it’s obvious, at least to folks my age who have the benefit of perspective, what has changed things for the worse.
We have a modern-day villain: his name is Rick Hendrick.
Outstanding article Amy.
amen Carl D!!!
I agree 100%. The Chase is a gimmick, period. It needs to go. This acutally is a death sentence for the sport as it hugely reduces exposure of the racers, and somehow stigmatizes the other drivers as “no talents”. Its not a hard concept to figure out, yet people defend this WWF style. Brian’s father I am sure is rolling in his grave.
Stewart isn’t perfect, but he goes out and races 70+ times per year and for about 30 of those races doesn’t even care if anybody knows he’s there. Jimmie Johnson isn’t going to drive even a golf cart unless somebody’s there to take a picture of him doing it and issue a HMS press release.
I think Tony is the modern day working man’s hero as that he races, owns race teams, owns race tracks all at grass roots level. Dale was good in a sense as he was like everybody else so to speak but never returned back to racing like Stewart does. The same mold but different.
With the egos and attitudes these guys have – no – there will not be a Senior again. Don’t forget, even with all his other attributes – Senior really loved the fans and showed it all the time. Most of these guys barely tolerate us.
I too agree with much of what Carl D. says, but I will not to be too cynical. Look at Google, Facebook, others – not Senior that is for sure, but still the American Dream. There are lots of people that have raised themselves up, just not to the heights Senior did.
I understand entitlement is everywhere – but there are people still working like dogs to improve their lives. (Okay off my soap box.)
Well Amy Good article..For years thats the biggest thing about Big E was the person underneath ..Most folks don’t have a clue what charitable he performed & thats how he wanted it..& I’ve always maintained if you look @ the video of him getting in the car at the start of the most tragic race I ever saw he kissed Theresa & the smile on his face just said I’m going to do what he loved to do (contentment) ..Todays current bunch (for the most part) will never understand..Drivers & brian just don’t seem to get that when the fans are gone (& escalating costs) it’s all over (but I’m a guy who believes the whole Nascar system will have to be rebuilt in the next 15-20yrs) Most these drivers today seem to think their above it all (elitist) (had to write a Dale piece to get a compliment eh?) Good article thx Earner
GREAT COLUMN AMY
You nailed it.
Alot of todays drivers are here only for the money and would be in Indy car or someplace else if thats was where the money was.
You want to know what’s missing in Nascar?
Nascar is hardly a blip on the radar of young adults and kids today.
And sports talk radio doesn’t even give it the time of day unless it just HAS to.
Nascar is dying a very slow death.
Amy, February 18, 2001 definitely changed Nascar, I was and still am a Dale Earnhardt fan. He did a lot more for Nascar than a lot of people know and some don’t want to admit. He is missed by more people than want to admit it because he made racing interesting. You either loved him or hated him, but everyone deep down respected him even if you didn’t want to admit it.
Dale was my hero because he tried harder than everyone else. If he didn’t out-muscle you, he would out-think you, or just plain out-drive you.
We like to say he was born to race, but I think he was born to succeed. Dale wanted to be the best at everything he did. Racing got him the most attention, but he also revolutionized the souvineer businees, was on his way to being a powerhouse team owner, an I bet even his chicken farms were the best around.
Dales oldest friends (Rusty, Andy Petree, Jarrett, Chocolate Myers) they will tell you that Dale was about the smartest guy they knew, had more common sense than anyone.
I like to think that if Ralph Earnhardt had a hardware store instead of a race car, we may be shopping at Dale’s instead of Lowes. Had he been mayor, Dale would be president (don’t start people).
I think waiting for another Dale Earnhardt, is like waiting to win the lottery. It’d be awesome if it happened, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Timmy has it right.
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