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 March 8, 2013
The complaints are raining down fast and heavy about NASCAR’s new Gen-6 race cars—they can’t pass, they don’t draft well. Even the drivers have been in on the discussion; Denny Hamlin got a fine from NASCAR for his complaints about the car after the race at Phoenix last week. Everyone seems ready to jump on the “Gen Sux” bandwagon after two races this year.
Now hold on a minute. Wasn’t this the car that was supposed to save NASCAR and make all the races full of on-track action?
Well, yes. But there are two things going on here that are fueling the complaints. One, perhaps the expectation that a redesigned car could fix everything was a little unrealistic. Two, it’s still several months too early to make an accurate assessment of what this car can and cannot do. Let’s take a look at the Gen-6, why it’s simply impossible to give it a final grade of any kind, and what fans can—and can’t—expect from it, along with some of the more realistic ways to turn things around in the sport.
Why it’s too early to pass judgment
I’ve said all along that everyone, from drivers to media to fans, needs to wait until the second race at tracks to even begin to say with any kind of understanding whether or not the new cars are up to snuff. The reason is simple: you have to remember that the teams have had limited track time with these cars, and they don’t have a folder full of notes from previous races to compare them to. Plus, every track has some individual quirks and is raced under different conditions, so even applying, say, notes from Fontana to Michigan, will not give an accurate picture the first time or two.
Because teams are still trying to figure out how to make the cars handle, it’s not really fair to accuse them of not trying on track, either. Car inventory is not where it was for most teams with the old car yet, and they’re not going to risk a month’s setback racing for fifth on lap 100. It’s entertainment to fans, but to race teams, it’s their livelihood, and they’re going to do what’s best for them long term. That can be applied to racing in general. To fans in March, it’s frustrating that teams concentrate on the Chase, but the reality is, that’s where the money is, and that’s where they focus (along with the biggest reason that the Chase is bad for the sport, but I digress…).
Once teams are better adjusted to the car, then it will be time for NASCAR to take an objective look at the racing (and I sincerely hope they will do so), and make tweaks as necessary. Expect them to take a look at things like spoiler height and angle and other things that affect handling and downforce. Hand it to NASCAR, they have already made one change to help reduce the huge benefit of clean air by eliminating the camera pods on the car’s roof once it was discovered that they gave the leader a significant advantage (80-90 pounds of downforce, which translates into quite a bit of speed) but not the cars behind him. If they can continue to do that without worrying about what the manufacturers and teams say, the cars can and will improve.
All of that means that it’s just way too early to call the Gen-6 car a success or a failure. Everyone needs to take a deep breath, be patient, and remember that good things come to those who wait for them. Once the teams and NASCAR learn more, it’s likely that fans will see the benefits of making changes the right way—based on knowledge and forward thinking, not a knee-jerk reaction to what happened during one or two weeks.
What fans should be able to expect from the Gen-6 down the road
While a lot of people talked about the Gen-6 car as if it would be the one savior that racing has been looking for, that’s simply not true. Fans can and should expect some things from this car, but perhaps not on the grand scale that they had hoped for.
First, the car goes back to one thing fans have been clamoring for since the Car of Tomorrow made its debut and probably even before that: brand identity. The SS looks like an SS, the Fusion looks like a Fusion, and the Camry looks like a Camry. Hopefully that will bring back a bit of the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” attitude that was a part of the sport for so long before the COT and the later incarnations of its predecessor. That’s good for the sport because it’s good for the industry. Simply put, if Chevy, Ford, and Toyota are making more money because people like what they see in the cars, they can put more money back into improving their racing programs, which produces a better product on the racetrack. While it may seem like a small thing, in the larger picture of the sport, what the cars look like is very important.
The Gen-6 design changes also mean that teams shouldn’t be able to skew them to the right the way that they did with the fourth-generation cars and even, to a smaller extent, to the COT. While that may have helped handling, it looked grotesque and prompted cries of foul among teams. This car can’t be as easily manipulated, so teams won’t gain an advantage by altering the geometry. Plus, the more the cars got skewed in the past, the worse they looked to the observer. While people thought the COT was ugly, the car before that, the fourth-generation, was even worse by the end of its era; if you looked at one from the front, it was apparent just how out-of-shape they really were.
Fans can also, hopefully, expect to see the racing put more in the drivers’ hands and less in the hands of the engineers. While that might bring complaints from some drivers, it does showcase some of the talent that may have been overlooked with the older car. If you look at the results from Phoenix, for example, there were teams in the top 15 that you might not expect—because they figured it out first. That’s good for the sport (or at least it would be if those teams got the broadcast time they deserved) because it forces drivers to drive, and it puts the emphasis on what the fans see every week, the drivers behind the wheel, rather than on what happens behind closed doors back at the shop. Hopefully, if the car is difficult to drive, this will remain even after the teams with more resources get better at working with it.
What nobody should expect
Simply put, anyone who expects this race car to magically create 500 miles of non-stop action every week is going to be sorely disappointed. That’s just totally unrealistic at most tracks for many reasons. First and foremost, in the 65-year history of the sport, it has never been nonstop passing and vying for the lead on every lap of every race, or even most of them. When part of what the sport is testing is the endurance and flexibility of both driver and equipment as it is at the Cup level, racing every lap like it’s the last just isn’t part of any smart race team’s strategy. Any driver worth his salt will tell you that to finish first, you must first finish, and sometimes that means not taking every available risk. Winning is still what teams want most every week, and they will do what they can to make sure that the driver and car are capable of making the moves when it counts…and that’s just not every lap, and never has been in the longer Cup races.
The emphasis that’s put on the championship, however, has changed teams’ focus, especially in more recent years, and even more especially since the addition of the Chase. There is a ton of money at stake in the year-end point fund, and the top teams know that. They race for points when they can’t race for the win, and some teams do revert to a kind of test mode once they’re comfortable with their Chase status because they know that those ten races are more important in the scheme of things than a win at Pocono in August. That mentality is far more destructive to the on-track product than any race car ever has been or will be.
Simply put, if NASCAR wants teams to race for the win, the emphasis needs to be on winning races throughout the season rather than the championship. Perhaps they should put that year-end point money into the winners’ purses for the 36-race season and give a nice trophy and a trip to the banquet for the champion and that’s all. It would still be an honor to win the title, but it would put the actual races higher on the priority list. Most local short-track teams race for the win every week first and their title second because the title just isn’t that big a deal—and they all race every week like it’s a title battle. Perhaps NASCAR should be taking notes on that.
Also, if people want the race cars to look like the street cars, it’s time to accept that aerodynamic dependence isn’t something NASCAR can get rid of. They can tweak with downforce with spoilers, etc., but the reality is that if people want the cars to look like the street version, they’re going to be aero-dependent because the street version is aero dependent. As drivers, we want cars with better fuel mileage and that are fun and easy to drive. A more aerodynamic car gets better mileage and is, generally, easier and more fun to drive (If you disagree, try driving a box truck instead of your car for a couple of weeks and see if that’s really your definition of fun.). There is a reason that the cars of the 1970’s and 1980’s became obsolete-consumers wanted better gas mileage and more streamlined cars. And so, if a race car is to look like a street car as the word “stock” in stock car racing implies, it’s going to have superior aerodynamics to its predecessors…and be more dependent on that aspect for handling.
So, is there a fix?
There are a few fixes, actually, but making drastic changes to the Gen-6 have little to nothing to do with them. The cars are beautiful, but they aren’t the real answer.
If NASCAR really wants to combat aerodynamic dependence and make it easier for cars to pass, the solution is there, but it’s a little radical to most fans: slow the cars down. Somehow, we’ve been conditioned to think that faster is always better, but that’s not always true. Look at tracks like Martinsville—it’s the slowest track on the circuit in terms of miles per hour, but it consistently produces action. The fastest tracks, the mile-and-a-half and two-mile ovals, have much faster speeds but often far less passing than the shorter, slower tracks do. In a nutshell, racing at 200 miles per hour isn’t necessarily better than racing at 165 miles per hour.
Slower speeds (which could probably be easily achieved by reducing horsepower through EFI programming), in general, mean less turbulent air, or at least less effect of turbulent air on the cars. It’s air turbulence that makes a race car “aero tight,” or “aero loose,” terms we’ve heard drivers use in describing their cars’ handling in close-quarters racing. If turbulence, or its effects, can be reduced by reducing speeds, it should follow that cars would be less likely to be influenced by the air around them, and in turn, it would be easier to pass. It flies in the face of what most people think about racing, but it’s the truth. And while NASCAR doesn’t want to look into that type of solution because it might be confusing to fans, the reality is that if fans saw a better product, they wouldn’t care if the physics behind it were confusing.
Another way to slow the cars down, of course, would be to race at more shorter tracks. You simply can’t go as fast at say, Dover, as you can at Atlanta.
Second of all, as I said above, the emphasis needs to be redirected from winning the championship to winning races. Whether that comes from eliminating the huge point bonuses drivers get for finishing near the top of the standings and making every race worth a huge amount for the win, or by changing the points system or how championships are won, it could have a big impact on what fans see every week. Heck, there used to be bonus money for leading at halfway—that money would still be valuable to many teams, and it might even encourage the mid-tier teams to step up their game to earn it over the big teams each week.
But the bottom line is, NASCAR and its sponsors have put too much emphasis on the season-long title and not enough on the individual races, and that has changed how teams approach each weekend. Racing is their business, and they have to do what they can to make money and please sponsors. If the emphasis was on the weekly product, they would race accordingly.
The third solution, though, has to come from race fans, especially those who have come to the sport more recently, because they seem to be the most vocal. Long-time fans remember races where it wasn’t uncommon to have one car finish on the lead lap because they were just that much better than the competition, and because of this, I think, aren’t as critical of the on-track product, for the most part (or their complaints stem from the championship structure and the resulting shift of focus rather than on the cars). And getting fans to change their expectations isn’t an easy thing.
When NASCAR was the popular thing to be into in the 2000’s, I think a lot of fans were attracted by the highlight reels that showed nonstop action—crashes, battles, and fender-to-fender battles for the win. And perhaps that’s what they expected from every race, every lap. That isn’t how it is, nor has it ever been for the most part. At the Sprint Cup level, it’s always been about speed and driver talent, but it’s also been about endurance and equipment. That means that teams have to strategize how to be in position to make a bid for the win after 400 or 500 miles. And that also means that they conserve their stuff, which, in turn, means they don’t take risks early on. This level of NASCAR isn’t like the local short track, where the feature race is 35 laps and you have to make every one count. It’s a different beast altogether, but that doesn’t make it less exciting.
Perhaps fans need to adjust their ideas a little to really enjoy Cup racing. Instead of looking for a pass a minute, maybe fans should look at teams’ long term strategies—pit stops, fuel mileage, tires—and follow those to see which teams emerge victorious. Watching the different strategies play out as a race unfolds is exciting, but in a different way than expecting the type of non-stop video-game action and a new twist at every turn like in a cartoon or movie. It’s unfair of fans to expect something that has never really been what the sport is at this level.
Is it too early to judge the Gen-6 racecar? Yes, much too early. But nobody should be expecting the race car and the race car alone to be the one thing that magically fixes everything in the sport. Rather, the focus should be on changing expectations—that more speed always means better racing, that a car that’s meant to look like an aerodynamically dependent street car should not be aerodynamically dependent, that a NASCAR race is going to be 500 miles of nothing but passing for the lead among several drivers and lots of beating and banging behind them every last lap. And to do that, everyone, form NASCAR, to race teams, media, and fans, need to look at the sport through a different window than perhaps they have been. One car can’t do it all. But it can be done.
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Amy, if IndyCar and F1 (who does it every year) can create raceable cars from race one, why can’t NASCAR? NASCAR screwed this one up. The car was clearly not ready to race. They would have been better served racing the CoT this year and getting the G6 right. If Vegas goes how most of us think it will go, NASCAR better make some major changes to this thing on the week off. It may be a good idea to spend Easter weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
No offense, but your assertion that new street cars are driving aero dependence is absurd. With regard to aerodynamics, street cars are geared towards lowering drag, not increasing downforce, which is ultimately the goal of the race teams. The reason that Nascar cars make downforce is due to the splitter, rear spoiler, and ride height.
Nascar decided this year to increase the downforce on the non-restrictor plate cars. The jury is out on whether this is the right way to go. From what I have seen, making the cars more dependent on downforce also makes them more subject to aero push and the inability to pass. However, would raising the ride height so the cars didn’t run a 1/4 inch off the ground and chopping the spoiler reduce the aero dependence and create a good race? I don’t know, but Carl Edwards seems to think so.
Amy – the voice of NASCAR to the masses. Sorry, but NASCAR is the one who raised the expectations of the fans with this new car. They bang the drum, bang the drum and when it fails to deliver, once more fans are disappointed. Wrecking cars right and left in practice and whenever at Daytona. Phoenix was a snoozer but then again, it almost always is no matter if it is the COT or the “new car”.
Maybe NASCAR should have tested it and left the COT (as much as I disliked that car) for another season. Just because they look better doesn’t make them race better.
Bring back the twisted sister – at least the racing was competitive in that style car.
Christian is right, street cars are designed for a lower Cd number, not more downforce. The fact is that the lower part of both the CoT and G6 are trying to emmulate the aero effect of the ols Chapperal J2 (sucker car). And if you took the time to read that one of the main reasons it was banned was the fact that it crreated to much aero disturbance behind it that made it hard for a following car to pass. Geeeeeeee where have I heard that complaint before???
I agree with you Amy, this car is a work in process, as was the Gen 5 COT. Look at all the changes that were made to the COT over the years.
And I also agree that the Gen 4 kidney bean shaped cars were UGLY!
It’s real simple to me: the champion should be the one who wins the most races that year.
As for the “new” car? I just saw another commercial on TV with nascar and the drivers talking up the “new” car.
Totally agree, way to early to be judging this car. We haven’t even raced on a 1.5 mile track yet. I’ll be curious to see what happens at Vegas on Sunday. What I think I will look for in the long term is the ability of Goodyear to bring softer tires to downforce tracks, and make tire management important again. The combination of the COT and many repaves over the last 5 years have killed that at a lot of tracks. I think its a big reason we have seen so many fuel mileage races in the last few years.
This will be a work in progress, but with all the recently repaved tracks out there we need to be more patient. I’ll look to tracks like Vegas, Fontana, Texas, Chicago and Atlanta to get a better picture on this car (downforce tracks with older services).
A agree with an above comment- the way to reduce aero dependence it so get the cars off the ground. If they had a MINIMUM 6” ground clearance at full spring compression, they’d handle like garbage BUT it would put the driving back in the driver’s hands, and with air flowing under the cars aero dependence would be reduced, or possibly even give a following car an advantage (that goes away as soon as they’re in front). It would also possibly eliminate the need for restrictor plates.
NASCAR made halfhearted attempts at that with the COT- the side skirts were raised, but only in the rear, which didn’t help in the least. The change needs to be made at the front. Eliminate the splitter, and all aero devices below the bumper. That’d do it.
Anyone thinking the Gen 6 would solve all of NASCAR’s woes doesn’t realize what the Gen6 really is- it’s COT Mk II. Under that pretty new sheet metal is a COT chassis- a suspension tweak here, a new rollcage bar there, but many teams- Hendrick included- simply reworked 2011-2012 vintage COTs and turned them into G6 cars. They’re the same dang thing.
Great article Amy!
I agree wholeheartedly that the Gen 6 car is going to be a work in progress. No matter what they would have come up with, that would be the case.
I’ve also always liked putting more control in the driver’s hands and I LOVE the strategies. That’s why I hate it when the coverage doesn’t include much about changes made on pit stops, makes it harder to see the overall strategy.
I also wish the coverage of the racing on track was a little broader. Less close/tight shots and more shots (for longer periods) that let you pick out “your” driver and watch what’s going on around them.
It will never be as good as being at the race, but it would be a much better race to watch instead of being force-fed what the network wants to focus on.
Keep up the good work!!
Agree Amy. They need to go to shorter tracks with reduced speeds to get away from aero-push parades. They also need to get rid of the front spoilers to move more towards mechanical grip.
A work in progress? Isn’t that what was sold about the COT?
Nascar forced the COT on the teams and basically had them test it during the “races”. And now, just a few years removed, and the teams are given yet ANOTHER car to deal with.
I really feel for the smaller teams. I can only imagine the financial issues it must cause.
Slowing the cars down would be the easiest and cheapest way to make more ‘action’ on the track. Most of the memories of beatin’ and bangin’ come from the days when Nascar ran mostly short tracks.Easier to do if you’re not going to put someone into the fence when you’re going slower. Short tracks tend to be narrower which also keeps the cars together. Wider isn’t necessarily better…ask Bruton Smith about that. Since we already know that these cars are never going to be allowed to go ‘as fast as they can’, let’s forget setting speed records. As you said if the championship were more of an afterthought than the first 26 races of the season, it might make for closer racing. Things got very polite at Bristol when the ‘chase’ happened, long before the reconfiguration.
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