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 April 5, 2013
NASCAR has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts in 2013. Ratings are up, and, perhaps of equal importance, people are talking about the sport even during an off week. But we’re just five weeks into what is a very long season. NASCAR will have to compete with other sports; racing will go up against three of four major sports’ playoffs and championships as well as much of the NFL’s regular season. Can the sport hold its momentum all the way until the end?
Well, maybe. Can people, and especially those checking out the sport for the first time on the wave of publicity it’s enjoyed, expect the excitement we’ve seen in 2013 so far every single week? Probably not; the nature of the sport is such that there won’t always be a thrilling finish. The sport’s history tells us that. But that doesn’t mean that NASCAR can’t capitalize on some of the things we’ve seen so far in 2013. What the sanctioning body needs to do going forward is to not rely on any one aspect to keep fans’ interest, because if they do, it almost certainly will fail; we live in a society where people get bored easily.
NASCAR needs to take a multi-pronged approach to the success they’ve enjoyed this year. Where should the sanctioning body focus their marketing efforts?
Cars and racetracks can come and go, but the one thing that NASCAR and its fans always have is the men and women behind the wheel. Most fans have their favorites and are fiercely loyal to them, even when they are in the wrong on a wreck or conflict. Fans stick with their drivers through long winless droughts, and support their sponsors by using their products. At the racetrack on Sunday, almost every active driver can be found on someone’s t-shirt, along with many drivers of the past. In other sports, fans have their favorite team, and players come and go, but in NASCAR, they tend to stick with the driver no matter where he goes.
And while NASCAR does know this, they don’t take advantage of it like they could. If new fans are going to stick around, they most likely will pick a driver to identify with, and NASCAR would be well-served to make sure that fans know the myriad of choices they have. Instead of trotting out features and advertisements with the same limited driver lineup, NASCAR and its mass media partners should recognize the potential for growth that lies with the entire field.
Here’s the thing: the more drivers fans get to “know” via the media, the more diverse the following will be. And that’s good for business. Getting fans to pick up on some of the lesser-known personalities of the sport would be smart business. Sure, a lot of fans are going to jump on the bandwagon of the guys that are winning, or the ones their family or friends follow, but a lot of people love an underdog. That’s why teams like the Chicago Cubs or Boston Red Sox have such a huge fan base-people want someone to pull for besides the ones winning all the time.
So, why not capitalize on that? Market some of the lesser-known drivers. Create a buzz about some of these drivers that potential sponsors can’t ignore…and that’s good for everyone. The better funded all the teams are, the better the racing can be. How many fans, especially those just learning the sport, really know enough about say, David Ragan, Regan Smith, or Aric Almirola to make an informed decision to follow them? That’s an area where NASCAR and the media consistently fall short. And why should sponsors court those guys? They don’t get much coverage and there’s little fan excitement. If that changed, the sport would regain some of the health it had a decade ago when there were sponsors on almost every car, every week.
Also, if NASCAR wants to make its drivers more appealing, it needs to make them more accessible. There was a time when fans could meet a number of drivers at their souvenir haulers each and every week without having to purchase an item or get a ticket. The hardest part of meeting many drivers was sometimes deciding which ones to select, as times often overlapped and the lines got long. Now, it’s rare to see a driver at the hauler and rarer still that fans don’t have to purchase an item before receiving a ticket for the signing.
NASCAR does hold autograph sessions at some tracks for the Nationwide and Truck Series, and they’ve been a success, as has the season preview held in Charlotte that many drivers participate in. But NASCAR could do more when it comes to holding events for fans to meet their heroes. That’s how many fans used to choose their favorites-they often sided with a driver they got to meet and speak to who was nice to them and treated them like more than just another autograph. NASCAR needs to find ways to get back to the accessibility that fans enjoyed ten or fifteen years ago to ensure that new fans have the chance to meet and talk to the sport’s participants.
Finally, it means marketing the regulars in the Nationwide and Truck Series more effectively. They need to be the stars of their own shows. If NASCAR can get fans excited about those drivers, it gives them more options as far as scheduling those series and limiting the participation of the Cup drivers in them. In the long run, NASCAR and the fans benefit because those drivers will be the Cup stars one day, and they will bring fans with them. That helps them come in with sponsor dollars, and when teams have sponsor dollars, the racing will be better. See the theme here?
The Gen-6 racecar looks more like it’s showroom counterparts than NASCAR race cars have in probably 15 or 20 years, maybe more. The manufacturers recognize this and NASCAR does, too, but more could be done. Race fans enjoy being able to identify with their drivers in one way: the cars they drive. Some kind of partnership with the manufacturers to showcase all of their drivers would surely be mutually beneficial. After all, there is a faction of fans that roots for a manufacturer rather than a driver, and don’t care who is in a Ford, a Chevy, or even a Toyota as long as it’s winning. It may not be a majority of fans, but as long as there are car fans in the sport, they should be remembered-they buy stuff too!
However, NASCAR perhaps overstated their optimism for the newest incarnation of race car early on, and when the racing wasn’t exactly what fans wanted from the first lap of practice at Daytona, people were quick to criticize. Let’s be realistic—no car can make every race what every fan wants it to be. It would be unwise to make it seem otherwise. Talk up the car for what it is—a car that has raced pretty well at most tracks so far and that looks like the cars that you and I can drive away from our local dealerships. Don’t hype it as something it can never be—the one thing that magically makes every race like Bristol or Martinsville.
This one is a bit tougher, because while NASCAR does race at a diverse group of tracks, the majority of the schedule is still made up of the type that races the worst-the 1.5-2-mile ovals. However, there are four short tracks, at least four different mile circuits and a handful of road courses in the three national series. There’s even a dirt track race in the Truck Series.
Where NASCAR is missing out is in advertising the races better. Yes, most of the marketing is up to the tracks, but NASCAR would do well to either partner with tracks or create its own ad campaigns for the races, regardless of whether their sister company ISC, Speedway Motorsports, Inc., or someone else owns the track.
NASCAR ultimately owns most of the historical footage from its races, and just imagine how well it could be used in conjunction with the media to showcase the racetracks where they have raced for many years. And such promotions should start early—airing past highlights on the day of the race is too late, because people have bought their tickets already. Show fans, say Dover, now, in a series of ads and features, and maybe that will motivate them to check it out in person. Like team sponsors, when the tracks flourish, so will NASCAR. But there has to be a concerted effort to change the way they’re presented to fans.
Bottom line, this is what NASCAR has to make work. Right now, it has. The new car and some well-timed action even made Fontana exciting. But NASCAR needs to take a long hard look at the product it produces if it wants to sustain this momentum.
Part of that is carefully considering the schedule and how races are awarded to tracks. And it might mean some hard choices with both ISC and the other track owners as far as being bold enough to remove races from the schedule and add new ones, regardless of who owns the track. That might mean taking a hit in the pocket via ISC in order to make a long term gain. It might mean angering Bruton Smith or another track owner. But NASCAR can’t lose sight of what, ultimately, brings fans to the sport and keeps them there.
If that means that NASCAR has to remove, for example, a Cup race from ISC-owned Michigan and award it to privately-owned Iowa, then NASCAR needs to consider doing that. If it means the Nationwide Series races at South Boston or Myrtle Beach while the Cup Series is at Charlotte and Fontana, they need to make it happen. It can’t be about who owns what track, because in the long run, that hurts everyone involved. It has to be about the racing. NASCAR must remember what the R in its own name stands for and not back down when it comes to making that happen.
That also means dumping the Chase, because it’s hurt the racing for too much of the season. Too many teams are racing too conservatively in order to ensure a Chase berth, and that’s not fair to fans. The Nationwide and Truck Series have the same points distribution but no Chase, and drivers in those series drive more like every point counts than their Cup counterparts do. Plus, the majority of fans have said time and again that they don’t like the Chase system. NASCAR needs to start listening.
And what about sponsorship? NASCAR would be well-served to funnel those “Official Something-or-Other of NASCAR” companies to teams. The more teams that have money to race, the more teams can be competitive. And a few surprises in among the perennial favorites will make people watch. It happened in IndyCar—they had some surprise race winners and even an unexpected champion in 2012, and their ratings went up significantly to kick off 2013.
NASCAR has some great racing. If they were to make the best racing the focus of everything they do, above all else, the sport’s popularity has the potential to soar. The surge they’ve seen this year has been fantastic, but NASCAR needs to do some things in order to sustain it. And they can sustain it if the sport is formatted, scheduled, and marketed right. And that means simply putting the focus on good racing. They have that now…they just need to figure out how to use the media and their sponsor and track partners to make it be that good all the time. They need to find ways to make every driver popular and every race count. If they could do that, the sport would be great…and on solid ground for generations to come.
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My guess is that if Brian France owned Frontstretch, he’d fine you $25K and place you on probation, Amy.
I agree with just about every point you made, especially this one: “If they were to make the best racing the focus of everything they do, above all else, the sport’s popularity has the potential to soar.” I never understood how Nascar thought they could grow the sport in places like Kansas and Chicago by building race tracks there that cure insomnia. Ill-conceived moves like this, along with the chase, have taken a drastic toll on the quality of the racing and as a result, the popularity of the sport. These are Brian France’s failures; he owns them. I don’t think Nascar will ever recover while he’s in charge.
It sure won’t help if Jimmie Johnson wins the championship again. People are eager for new, more exciting drivers. Brad K. was fantastic last year.
It won’t help if Nascar continues the phantom debris cautions either. People aren’t stupid….well, most aren’t.
I wish Nascar could liven up the summer schedule. It’s usually a bore with the tracks they go to.
Unfortunately, Nascar can’t do anything about the economy, which still sucks and it’s not getting better. Taxes will be going up again and gas isn’t going down.
Drivers: The long complaint about the networks is that they only cover a few drivers. I’d love to have a recurring segment featuring a driver from one of the smaller teams — even the start-and-park drivers and get to know guys like Josh Wise (who I know nothing about). But the networks won’t do this. If networks did fans would get to know a Josh Wise (for example) better and even possible future sponsors might see something they really like in him that says “I want him representing us”. But we’re stuck in the morass of only getting to know a few drivers. Even established drivers like Greg Biffle I’ve pretty much heard nothing about this season and that shouldn’t be if networks were serious about partnering with Nascar in growing ratings and the sport as a whole.
Several of the points you make can be addressed by asking a simple question. What is the goal of Nascar/ISC? Is it to promote and perpetuate major league stock car racing? Or is it simply to make money by promoting big time stock car racing? The future of stock car racing is in the answer.
Right on Amy, especially the parts about the tracks and the racing.
Sorry, Amy, there is no way I’ll agree with you, or anyone else for that matter, that Michigan should lose a date. I know you don’t care, but that race is attended by a very significant number of “Foreign” fans. The number of Ontario plates in the parking lot and the number of people standing at attention and singing “O Canada” is significant. Michigan even has an Ontario ticket outlet. Michigan is the closest track to me, and is one where I can get to, and leave right after the race and make it home in a good enough time, even with crossing the border, and still make it to work the next day and not feel wiped out. There has been all kinds of talk about a 1-mile oval being built in Fort Erie, but so far, it has been all talk. Even if the track is built, I doubt we’ll ever see a Cup race on this side of the border. It is for that very reason that Michigan MUST retain both dates.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, LEAVE MICHIGAN ALONE!
As Fontana proved, every track can have exciting racing as long as the drivers race. For the last few years it was turning more and more into fuel mileage races that were boring boring boring. If the races go back to fuel mileage races I am sure you’ll see ratings drop like a stone.
Ken the Canadian, grow up. I’m Canadian as well and every garbage racetrack has its fans that will produce a lot of self-centered justification for their local track. But you didn’t manage to make a single useful point, only emotional pleas.
I think Michigan should have a single date. I also think the season should end on labour day at the Southern 500. The season is too long, its like a creaky carnival dragging its rusty rides along to each week’s grassy patch of land. Its cheap. Its boring. I wont hold a candle to the NFL for the next 30 years as their machine is now too entrenched and too polished. Too healthy with its incredible luck of having every major university gut themselves just to be its developmental league.
If fans want to see to races a year, make them travel far for that second race.
But the fool running Nascar wont retreat from his northern and western mistakes until a few years after the NHL gives up on their southern folly. Nobody seems to want to be the first one to admit they made a mess of their sports league.
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