NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday October 11, 2012
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. knew he didn’t feel right. Struggling with headaches in the days following a multicar crash at Talladega, Earnhardt finally had to admit that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t the aches and pains a driver can feel for a few days after a hard hit, and deep down, Earnhardt knew it. “I knew that I didn’t feel (right)—you know your body and you know how your mind works, and I knew something was not quite right,” Earnhardt said on Thursday. The lingering headaches prompted Earnhardt to contact Dr. Jerry Petty, a Charlotte neurosurgeon who has worked with numerous athletes, including other drivers.
Dr. Petty did the normal battery of tests, including an MRI…and the results came back normal. But his patient didn’t feel normal. That’s not uncommon; Earnhardt has what is known in medical terms as a diffuse axonal injury, which does not show on scans. In fact the only test for this type of injury is what the patient is feeling. And in the end, what Earnhardt was feeling made the decision of Petty: he couldn’t clear NASCAR’s most popular driver to race for at least two weeks.
Earnhardt didn’t have to go see Dr. Petty. He finished the race, so he wasn’t required to go to the infield care center, a trip that is mandatory if a driver crashes and cannot continue. NASCAR can make a driver get checked out if the situation warrants, but at the time, it didn’t look like it did; Earnhardt remembered the crash and gave a coherent—if unhappy—interview afterward. Nobody made Earnhardt go. They didn’t make him go after a vicious crash during a tire test at Kansas five weeks ago either, and, sitting near the top of the points, poised to make his first title run in years in which he had a chance of winning, Earnhardt, though he knew he had a concussion then, didn’t go.
This time, though, enough was enough. The impact at Talladega was actually less severe than the one at Kansas, which registered at nearly 40 G’s. This one was just half that, and yet Earnhardt didn’t recover within a couple of days. He’d started the Chase at an admitted 80-90% of his usual self, and had just started feeling 100% again.
That was erased on Sunday.
He’ll be reevaluated once the headaches are gone and stay gone for three to five days. Then he’ll undergo tests to see if they come back when his body is stressed. If they don’t, he’ll test in a racecar. If there are still no signs of the injury, he’ll be cleared to race. So while for now, he’ll sit out two weeks, there are no guarantees that he’ll be back in the No. 88 at Martinsville.
For NASCAR, the timing couldn’t be worse.
The sport has struggled to maintain fan interest; television ratings for the championship Chase are at an all-time low for the format’s nine-year existence. At track attendance is suffering, too. At most tracks, large swaths of empty seats are evident. And while it could be debated whether Earnhardt’s title run was already over before Thursday, it ended for certain with the announcement at Charlotte, the sport’s true home track. For a sport already facing a downturn, Earnhardt’s injury is salt in the wounds. The sport’s most popular driver in both the fan vote for the award and in merchandise sales, Earnhardt brings a legion of diehard fans to the track and the TV set every week. Many said Thursday that they will still attend or watch this weekend’s race and cheer for Earnhardt’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team.
But will they keep watching?
That’s the real question. If Earnhardt is able to race at Martinsville, the damage will probably be minimal. But if he has to sit out longer, maybe even through the end of the year, though, will those fans still watch every week? Will they come to the track on an autumn Sunday if they don’t already have tickets or travel plans? Those are questions the sport could find itself facing. And the answers might not be pretty.
But bad timing aside, Earnhardt made the right decision.
And there are positive side effects of it as well. Recently displaced Regan Smith will have the opportunity to showcase his talents to car owners in top equipment. There’s no question that it’s a major opportunity for Smith, who has one career Sprint Cup win. And because Smith was slated to drive the No. 51 this weekend at Charlotte, that suddenly vacant seat opened up for AJ Allmendinger, a second chance after a much-publicized suspension for a failed drug test earlier this year. So far it’s only a one-race deal, but one look at Allmendinger this weekend reveals the extent of the joy and relief he must be feeling after four long months of wondering what the future holds. While that’s still uncertain, he’s making the most of the opportunity, and just knowing that car owners still have confidence in him has to be a weight off his shoulders.
Smith didn’t even know until this morning that he’d be behind the wheel of one of the most visible cars in the sport. Shortly afterward, Smith was at Hendrick Motorsports, seeing if he could feel comfortable in Earnhardt’s seats. He ended up in one of teammate Jimmie Johnson’s, and climbed into it inside the No. 88 a few hours later at the track. Smith acclimated quickly; he posted a seventh-place time in practice. He qualified 26th. And along the way, Rick Hendrick revealed something else about Smith. When asked why he chose the driver, Hendrick said, “We’ve been talking about running him in the Nationwide car for a championship. He’s a good driver, and again, Dale likes him and we’re familiar with him. We knew he was going to be in James’ car, and that was just—it seemed to fit.”
So it turns out that this could be an audition of sorts for Smith, a chance at a ride that might be a better option than any of the Cup rides that might still be available. But the person benefiting from Earnhardt’s absence is still the one person who wanted it the least: Earnhardt himself.
“It’s going to be pretty odd not being in the car.” Earnhardt admitted Thursday. “I’m anxious, real, real anxious just to get back in the car…I think you learn not to take things for granted.” He will not be at the speedway Saturday night, and will not travel to Kansas. He needs to rest to heal, and he doesn’t want to be any more of a distraction for his team than the situation has already become. But as much as Earnhardt knows he needs to take the time off, knows that no matter how well he feels otherwise, that the headaches mean that his brain has not healed.
Anyone who has ever participated in a competitive sport knows how hard this must really be for Earnhardt. After all, it’s been more than 30 years since there has been a Cup race without an Earnhardt in it, and that kind of thing means something to this driver. He understands the history of the sport because he’s lived it since childhood in many ways. He also feels the pressure of doing right by his fans. But above all, Earnhardt is a competitor, and it’s painfully hard for a competitor to give up completion for a failing of the body. Just how much it weighs on Earnhardt was evident in his voice as he faced the media on Thursday. He sounded defeated, betrayed. And he has been, by the worst of traitors: his own body.
But in the end, something just wasn’t right, and this time, Earnhardt couldn’t ignore it. He did something his own teammate, Jeff Gordon, admits he wouldn’t—he told the truth about his injury, even though the championship was still a possibility. He chose to put not only his health and safety, but the health and safety of his competitors ahead of his selfish desire to race. He hadn’t done that in the past (Earnhardt said he’s suffered concussions before.), and that he did now speaks volumes about the extent of the injury this time, but also about Earnhardt’s character. He wants to race for a long time, live a long life…and he wants the same for his rivals. Concussions are cumulative in nature-each time the brain is injured, it becomes vulnerable to another injury, one that could be much more serious, if it isn’t given time to heal. And at this point in the season, Earnhardt has time. If he misses the end of the year, in the long run, it’s a low point of his career, but not a career-ender…like another injury could be.
And so, Earnhardt will take the time he needs to heal, and his competitors will respect him even more than they already did, because he made a decision they can only hope they never have to. Because deep down, they don’t know if they could make the same decision.
But there was one other thing that was bothering Earnhardt on Thursday, something that, perhaps, says as much about the person he is as anything else amid the buzz. “I just hate that this has caused such a fuss,” Earnhardt said.
Connect with Amy!
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
This is a tough one. I’m a long-time fan who knows that Nascar isn’t about one driver. To me, there’s not one driver whose absence would make me not want to watch a race. I’m a big Brad Keselowski fan, but should he miss a race, I’d still watch it. There are plenty of other drivers to pull for.
That’s me. I admittedly don’t understand how the newer race fan feels about watching a race without their favorite driver. Maybe this is a bigger blow to Nascar than I realize. Maybe the ratings will surprise me, though it will be hard to tell if a drop in viewership is due to the absence of Earnhardt or just the continuation of the current trend. Personally, my feeling is that if Nascar is relying on Junior Nation to keep the ratings up, there’s a bigger problem with the sport than Earnhardt missing a few races.
Actually, NASCAR would get a lot more of my attention if Jr. weren’t in it at all.
I’m with Carl…I can take or leave Junior…no disrespect..he’s just not on my list of drivers. I too am baffled that there is worry without Junior NASCAR is in trouble. What that tells me is alot of fans don’t care that much about the racing..they are more interested in obsessing over drivers with the last name Earnhardt…and I find that very odd. Maybe, as Carl says, NASCAR is in bigger trouble then I thought … They obviously have stacked all their cards on the Earnhardt deck…and it has come out bust. Hopefully it will all work out…fans will realize there are 42 other drivers on the track…or Junior will heal quickly and be back on track. All and all…NASCAR needs to take a serious look at the sport!
Earnhardt’s absence will definitely hurt attendance and ratings. If Johnson starts to pull away from the other drivers in the chase that will be a double whammy.
The higher level issues in this situation are;
1) How many drivers have had concussions before and not said anything? I am sure it has happened many, many times. I am pretty sure Earnhardt Sr was driving with a concussion in 1999 or 2000 (remember him feeling “woozy”).
2)Knowing that you will be forced to sit out if you speak up, how will this affect other drivers from saying something if they have a similar issue? Afterall, Jr is pretty much secure in his position, most drivers aren’t and they never want to give up their seat for fear that they won’t get it back.
3) How is NASCAR going to react? You’ve seen that many other sports have gotten serious about sitting players out if they have indications of head injuries. Will drivers now be more thoroughly checked out after an accident and forcing drivers to sit out more often?
And one last thought. If NASCAR does get more apt to sit guys out if there is any doubt of head trauma, will they change the rule on relief drivers being allowed. One of the main reasons guys drive hurt is because a missed week puts you out of contention. No race, no points. People have often talked about mulligans during the chase or even the regular season, if there were drivers might be more honest about being less than 100%.
I think this is the start of Junior’s departure from racing. (Who will get all the hatred then – yikes.)
It is the racing that has diminished my interest in Nascar – although I still catch most races.
I pay attention to Junior, but will still watch the race with or without him.
To the above who commented. I guess you just don’t get it. To a loyal Dale Jr fan, NASCAR is Dale Jr. Without him on the track NASCAR just becomes a loud bunch of cars going around in circles. I’ve been a Dale Jr fan since he was about 6 yrs old going to the track with his dad. I followed him when he began racing at Myrtle Beach and continued when he started the Busch series. The loyalty I feel toward him is maternal. There are many like me who have loved this child for many years, and our hearts are wounded at the present time. Not for NASCAR though. We have lived with him through many tragedies and many triumps. He is family. Younger fans may have a different view, but he is the only reason I either sit in the stands or in front of the TV keenly watching this sport.
Now for those who don’t understand this loyalty, I can’t explain it. But I assure you it is as real as the sun coming up each morning. Amy knows us very well or she couldn’t have written this story. Yes, NASCAR will suffer a monetary setback if our driver cannot drive for two weeks, even more if that time is extended to the end of the year. But that is a small price to pay for his long-term welfare.
I’ve been thinking back to when his dad died at Tona. No other driver’s death could have caused NASCAR to push full-speed ahead on the list of safety equipment and walls at the track. It’s just possible that this incident with Dale Jr may be the starting point of better procedures for examining drivers after a wreck. It may require drivers to visit a neurologist within the next week for clearance to race. This would be a new frontier for this sport to explore. After all, a driver exhibiting signs of a concussion shouldn’t be racing not only for their sake but the sake of the other drivers as well.
There are many JrNation fans who are praying for a speedy and full recovery for Dale Jr. If and when that happens, NASCAR will be fine.
If Junior wasn’t in 11th place I doubt he would have reported the concussion. Just as he ignored the eefects from Kansas at the start of the chase (possibly ensuring that he would sink in the points). The story isn’t that Talladega aggravated the previous injury, it’s that he ignored it earlier.
And I see today that NASCAR doesn’t check for concussions in the infield car center and doesn’t plan too. That attitude is what gor the NFL in hot water. These are competitors with their paycheck on the line. Very few will willfully sit out an injury.
I think that the love of the driver over the sport is partially why NASCAR has declined in the last decade. But that’s an article for another day.
You go Pepper – maternal is the exact right word – in my case paternal – but in many ways he is like our own – and just like our own sometimes we want more from him, but he is still our own.
Pepper – thank you.
Hmmmm…I guess understand the comments about maternal and paternal…but I will admit I still find it slightly strange! Ok I admit..I find it really strange. I’ll just have to leave it at that because I have no intention of starting a war with Junior Nation…I just have to shake my head and keep watching NASCAR the sport not NASCAR the Earnhardt show.
I became a fan in the mid-90’s and Jeff Gordon was the driver that got me interested. Until Brian France came along and changed so much so quickly (for the worse in my opinion) I considered myself a NASCAR fan first and a Gordon fan second. I fell in love with the sport the way it was in the pre-BF era. Now I feel like the sport has changed and it isn’t the same girl I fell in love with. I still watch every lap of every race but my motivation is my loyalty to Jeff Gordon and I feel sold out by NASCAR. When Gordon retires I am not saying that I will stop watching or caring about NASCAR but my involvement, the time I spend, etc. will be re-evaluated. I may still watch the races but not watch practices, qualifying, etc. Or maybe I will become a DVR fan, watching the whole event in a couple of hours. The point is, I can understand where they are coming from even though my motivation is more rebellion or payback toward someone screwing up something that I loved than maternal/parternal instincts.
Not being a Jr. fan, all I can say is I wish him a speedy recovery.
Did Jimmie Johnson go to the care center after getting a ride from JR. ?
Bill I get being a fan, having a driver, and being kind of protective towards that driver..what i don’t understand is being so obsessed or involved in a strangers life to the point his life is not his own… To the point that stranger is a big focus in one’s life! A great portion of Junior nation know more things about his family then they do their own..and maybe more then Junior does! I find that odd.
I had never really thought about how I felt about NASCAR as opposed to how I felt about the drivers that I like, but now that it’s mentioned, I have noticed a shift in the Brian F era.
I remember 10 years ago, going to a race and buying a ticket holder that just had “NASCAR” on it because I really didn’t want to choose a particular driver, I just liked the sport. I was already a Jeff Gordon fan, but I liked many others, Jr, Bobby Labonte, etc, but with all the changes to the sport, I too find that I’m more concerned with my drivers than with the sport in general.
Sadly, enough that when the drivers I like retire, I may not spend the hours to watch all the racing content that I watch now. Practice, qualifying, pre-race and post-race. When I think about that, I suspect that NASCAR may be in for much worse times ahead, because other than Keselowski, I haven’t really connected with many of the younger drivers and if that is the same with many of the current fans, the decline might just be going much farther than BF suspects.
I am glad that Jr is taking the time to care for himself. I hope the “fuss” doesn’t bother him too much because I think he’s made the right decision and I wish him well! His main focus SHOULD be health, not worry about the sport. He is, after all, only human and his health is important.
So we have a new car coming in 2013…..
How long before the Chase is NO MORE?
Nascar only listens when they lose money. And I hope they lose BIG TIME.
We want our Nascar back.
This story has barely moved the needle on sports talk radio.
The Chase is not doing what it was supposed to do.
Sponsors and fans are slowly moving away.
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.