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 22, 2013
The 2013 season is just four races old, and already we’ve seen some things to think about as the year rolls forward. From who’s at the top of the standings to who’s closer to the bottom, what the Gen-6 can—and can’t—do, and attendance falling as TV ratings rise, the last month has been full of surprises. While it’s definitely too early to accurately answer a lot of the questions that this season has already posed, we do know some things…and are still completely in the dark on others.
So, while we don’t know which teams are going to get ahead with the Gen-6 cars and therefore be the biggest title threats, how that car will perform say, 20 weeks from now, or whether the ratings will continue after the early-season hype wears off, there are some truths that you can just about take to the bank as the season progresses.
1. We’re past the point where a new car can save the sport. While the Gen-6 has its good points and some that still need to be hammered out, many people had started 2013 hoping it would be the one thing that could turn the sport around, bring back fans, and make every race a barn-burner. Let’s face it: that was never a realistic expectation.
There might have been a time when revamping the cars could make a major difference in the sport, but that time is simply past. There are too many factors in NASCAR that the car doesn’t necessarily play a starring role in. For one thing, there are too many teams that have little to no advantage in the areas of money, equipment, or innovation. Part of that is by NASCAR’s own design—there are very few areas where teams can work on the race cars any more, and the inspection process gets tighter every year. Not to say teams should be allowed to blatantly flaunt the rules, but if they can’t be creative anywhere, eventually all of them arrive at the same conclusions in the areas they have a say in, and then you have so many cars that are so equal that it plays a role in the racing. As much as we hate to see a few teams with a big advantage, seeing them all so equal that nobody can gain any edge isn’t the answer either.
Also, the Chase has radically changed the game in the last nine years. It was supposed to make the competition for the championship closer, but what it has actually done is make a lot of fans eye the validity of the championship with suspicion and doubt. It has also changed the way teams approach the season. Before the Chase system and the points reset in September, it is true that teams raced for points; that system rewarded consistency even more than a lot of wins, too. But now it’s even worse. While the teams who are realistic Chase contenders do seek to win a couple of races to improve their seeding in the final ten races, the focus is more on getting into the Chase field and on experimenting with setups and packages that will give them an advantage in those ten races, so that it diminishes the importance of the first 26 races of the season. No car is going to change that. The current points system would provide a close enough title battle without having to manipulate the points; the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series should prove that. Using the current system over the course of the full season, but with a larger points bonus for winning would go further to improving the on-track product than any car ever could.
The time is simply past when the race car that teams race can make a huge impact without other rules changes and changes to the way wins are rewarded.
2. It’s time for NASCAR to have a frank discussion with Goodyear about tires. If the new car was perfect in every way, it still needs four tires to run on. And the tires we’re seeing now don’t have the right balance of durability and wear necessary to make tire strategy part of the race most weeks. The current tire is extremely durable, for the most part. From a safety aspect, that’s good. However, the tide has shifted entirely too far in that direction. Right now, we’re seeing a tire that can last at least a full fuel run, and sometimes much longer, and that makes for a couple of things: fuel mileage races and sudden tire failures, like we saw at Phoenix. Those tires weren’t wearing out at the treads; they were overheating and the bead was melting.
What Goodyear needs to create is a tire compound that is durable enough not to blow out after 25 laps but that wear so significantly in the first half of a fuel run that the car’s handling goes away drastically, forcing teams to make the decision to pit early for new rubber and lose time on pit road or to stay out for the fuel run and lose time as their lap times fall off. Think back to the days when the surfaces at Darlington and Rockingham were so rough that it eroded tires to the point where drivers were crying to their crew chiefs after about 25 laps on a good day. Reintroducing tire strategy would put the racing more in the hands of teams and eliminate at least some of the long green-flag runs where little change takes place in the running order.
3. Brad Keselowski will be a title threat for years to come. While it’s way too early to pick a 2013 favorite, with some teams not hitting their stride and others having one or two strange issues playing a bigger role in their points standing than they will over time, Keselowski is going to be a threat this year and every year because of something he does better than any other driver on the circuit right now: defying expectations. Keselowski showed last year that his past performance at any track was not an indicator of how he’ll do the next time around. He can have a terrible record at a track and come in and contend for the win (think Texas last November).
The other thing that Kesleowski does exceptionally well is a hallmark of other recent champion Jimmie Johnson, and is why the two of them race so exceptionally well against each other: they race others the way they are raced. Rarely will you see Keselowski start something (though he will most certainly finish it if he deems necessary), but never will you see him give an inch. And that dogged pursuit of every single position is why Keselowski and Johnson are so successful. The difference is that Keselowski shows the same fire off the track as he does on it, and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. That might not win him a second title and it might turn some fans off, but it’s good for the sport as a whole. The mental aspect is also one place where Keselowski stands out—you can’t beat him outside the car by playing head games or with bad luck.
4. Sometimes finishes aren’t a great indicator of talent. This actually shows up in a couple of areas this year, but look no further than some of the drivers mired between 20th and 25th in points after the first four weeks, chiefly Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Ryan Newman. Between them, they have seven Cup titles, 150 Cup race wins, and three Rookie of the Year titles, among other things. These are three elite drivers here…and their current performance is not indicative of their talent or that of their teams.
On the flip side, we’re getting a glimpse of some talented drivers this year whose performance hints at more talent than their equipment often allows to show. AJ Allmendinger, in particular, has shone in his limited schedule, finishing 11th and 13th in two races in Phoenix Racing’s underfunded No. 51 car. Usually, the equipment will trump the skill of the driver most weeks, but Phoenix Racing, along with Furniture Row Racing and Germain Racing, are showing that when the big teams haven’t yet figured out an advantage with the Gen-6, the talent behind the wheel of the smaller ones can really shine bright. And that’s good for the sport and for the fans.
5. NASCAR desperately needs to revamp the schedule. No matter what NASCAR does, there will be a faction of fans who don’t like it. But one thing that has been true so far this year is that the tracks that have gotten the best reviews from observers are the ones that we don’t see very many of on the circuit—and perhaps that’s where NASCAR needs to take a long, hard look. The so-called cookie-cutter tracks simply don’t produce the product that fans want to see. In any other industry, if something produced an inferior product, it would be replaced with one that performed to expectations. But in NASCAR, the status quo is simply allowed to go on and on without question from the sanctioning body.
And in a day where fans need incentive to tune in, what better reason than to see close-quarters racing? There are tracks that produce great racing that would need work to be on the Cup schedule, but could be, like Rockingham and Iowa. If the CWTS race at Eldora lives up to expectations, why not look at adding a couple of dirt tracks to at least the Nationwide Series docket (after overseeing the installation of SAFER barriers, of course)?
There should be more races on tracks of a mile and shorter, road courses, and unique tracks like Pocono and Phoenix and fewer on the 1.5-2 mile tracks. The races on those types of tracks consistently produce closer racing and the type of finishes fans say they want to see—look at the fender-to-fender racing seen at Bristol and Martinsville or the last lap at Watkins Glen in 2012. That is what race fans want to see and what will make fans tune in each week. If fans tune in, advertisers take notice and that improves things like race and team sponsorship. In other words, it means more money coming into the sport from all angles. And isn’t that the end goal of any company, even if it does mean replacing equipment that just doesn’t do the job anymore?
As 2103 rolls on into summer and autumn, we’re sure to get a clearer picture on some of the questions surrounding the sport right now. But it’s as certain as anything can be these days that these five things will still be true when the autumn wind turns cold and eyes turn to the Chase and then the offseason. For some things, you don’t need very long to know the truth if you look for it.
Connect with Amy!
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Very good article. I hope nascar wakes up before the sport loses more than it already has.
A sport- nascar not! In one game March Madness has bottled up more excitement and athletic ability than a whole season of gen 6 slot cars and their pretty boy and gal drivers. Don’t give me that bull about the writer who tried to define what true sport was and motor racing! He was probably on a drunk when he came up with that.
I think you have a very weak grasp of what truth is. Truth is not your opinion, and that’s exactly what this article is: your opinion on 5 topics and nothing more.
Goodyear is in a catch-22 place with their tires. If they make them wear faster, then teams have a risk of tire failure and crashes into the wall, like at Phoenix. If the tires are too hard, then they either last forever, or act like bricks and make handling very challenging. Getting the balance right every week appears to be impossible, or thats just what Goodyear and NASCAR tell us.
ISC and SMI will never allow the big changes to the schedule you are suggesting, even though I agree with you 100%. They both have too much money invested in those 1.5 mile tracks they built in the 1990s.
good article and very good points made.
NASCAR’s “product” which has become worse & worse every year and the TV coverage have succeeded in making me a casual fan. I don’t expect to spend much time watching the race at cali-boring. As soon as the weather gets nice here in the Phila area, I will be off doing things that are far more fun than spending time watching races.
Great article Amy! The content is current and truthful. Some people may not like that, but that’s okay. The rest of us know you’re right.
Unfortunately, as Upstate says, ISC and NASCAR have too much $$ tied up in mid level tracks that they don’t care if the product isn’t good.
I would LOVE to see more short tracks like Bristol & Martinsville & even Phoenix in the schedule, but unless there is more of a separation between the track owners and the governing body – I don’t see it happening – ever.
Keep up the great writing!
NASCAR used to have more short tracks. They canned them in favor of shiny new 1.5’s they could fit an extra 40k fans into. Those extra 40k fans and their money were great for the first few years. Now those 40k convinced another 40k that they’re wasting their time. Lots of empty seats at the cookie cutters.
Bringing back Rockingham into an ideal date, adding Iowa, and bringing back IRP, Memphis, Myrtle Beach, and Mansfield to the Nationwide (Busch) Series would go a long way towards fixing the current lack of interest in the on track “product”.
The most egregious move the Frances pulled was to take IRP’s Nationwide race and give it to the big track. It was the epitome of just how far out of touch Brian and his sister are with the fans.
Amen! So true. IRP was awesome and the best race of that weekend. It still blows my mind that that race was taken away.
Sometimes it looks like they are actually TRYING to kill the truck and Nationwide series. Especially the truck series. When the trucks first came on the scene it was awesome.
Brian France is truly an idiot. Out of touch indeed. It will be interesting to see if nascar survives his, uh, “leadership”. Nascar has already lost so much during his time.
NASCAR desperately needs to revamp the schedule, you ask. All right. How will THIS schedule work:
MY 2014 NASCAR CUP SERIES SCHEDULE
Daytona Beach Invitational – Streets of Daytona Beach, FL – Feb 9 – 12:00 PM – CBS
Duel 1 – Daytona Intl. Speedway – Feb 13 – 12:00 PM – CBS
Duel 2 – Daytona Intl. Speedway – Feb 13 – 4:00 PM – CBS
1 Daytona 500 – Daytona Intl. Speedway – Feb 16 – 12:00 PM – CBS
2 International Trucks 250 – Circuit Of The Americas – Feb 23 – 1:00PM – CBS
3 Bodog 400 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Mar 1 – 8:00PM – CBS
4 Armor All 500 – Phoenix International Raceway – Mar 8 – 8:00PM – CBS
5 California Pizza Kitchen 500 – Irwindale Speedway – Mar 15 – 8:00PM – CBS
6 Corona Extra 250 – Sonoma Raceway – Mar 23 – 3:00PM – CBS
7 Old Milwaukee Northern 500 – The Milwaukee Mile – Mar 30 – 12:00PM – CBS
8 Richard Petty/Dale Earnhardt 343 – Rockingham Speedway – Apr 6 – 12:00PM – CBS
9 Dodge 500 – Martinsville Speedway – Apr 13 – 12:00PM – CBS
10 Bud Light 500 – Talladega Superspeedway – Apr 20 – 12:00PM – CBS
11 Rita’s 400 – Kentucky Speedway – Apr 26 – 7:00PM – CBS
12 A&W 400 – Gateway International Raceway – May 3 – 7:00PM – CBS
13 Uno Chicago Grill 400 – Iowa Speedway – May 10 – 7:00PM – CBS
14 Johnny Rockets 400 – Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway – May 17 – 7:00PM – CBS
All-Star Race – Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 22 – 7:00PM – NBC
15 World 600 – Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 25 – 5:00PM – NBC
16 Valvoline 400 – Pocono Raceway – Jun 8 – 12:00PM – NBC
17 Wendy’s 250 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – Jun 15 – 12:00PM – NBC
18 Samuel Adams 300 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Jun 22 – 12:00PM – NBC
19 Castrol 400 – Dover International Speedway – Jun 29 – 12:00PM – NBC
20 Firecracker 400 – Homestead-Miami Speedway – Jul 5 – 7:00PM – NBC
21 Red Lobster 250 – Lime Rock Park – Jul 13 – 12:00PM – NBC
22 Coors Light 500 – Pikes Peak International Raceway – Jul 20 – 2:00PM – NBC
23 NAPA 500 – Evergreen Speedway – Jul 27 – 3:00PM – NBC
24 Brickyard 400 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Aug 3 – 1:00PM – NBC
25 Cracker Barrel 500 – Atlanta Motor Speedway – Aug 9 – 7:00PM – NBC
26 Buffalo Wild Wings 400 – Richmond Intl. Raceway – Aug 16 – 7:00PM – NBC
27 Mack Trucks 500 – Bristol Motor Speedway – Aug 23 – 7:00PM – NBC
28 Southern 500 – Darlington Raceway – Aug 31 – 5:00PM – NBC
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.