Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday September 27, 2013
It really should be simple. What’s coming from most race fans these days is that what they want is simple: good racing. And that’s followed by many saying that’s not what they’re getting on a weekly basis.
But when you take a closer look at the sport, it’s suddenly not so simple. It’s not just one person or one group responsible, though everyone loves to point fingers. There’s no one cause, no tidy solution. The responsibility for changes that have come to the sport in the last 15 or so years is shared, and it’s shared by a lot of people. And that’s both part of the problem with NASCAR’s backslide and part of the solution.
Looking closer, what’s detracting from the pure racing that fans would like to see (and is often seen in smaller series and at local tracks around the country)? What roles do the sanctioning body, the media bringing you the races, and even the race teams play in breaking—and fixing—the sport?
NASCAR takes a lot of criticism for a lot of things, including some that’s overblown. Their biggest mistake in recent years is in putting too much emphasis on the championship and not enough on each individual week of the season. Sure, the championship is a great accomplishment for a race team, and certainly every fan wants to see his or her favorite hold that distinction each year, but it shouldn’t overshadow the weekly show.
No race fan buys a ticket to see a championship, but they do buy one to see a race.
That’s where the Chase has really hurt the sport. The fans want to see a race each week where NASCAR has made it into a contest of who will get in and then a ten-race determination of a winner. Think of a 500-mile race. A lot of the time, there isn’t a lot of action early as teams figure out what they’ll do to be there when it counts and then make a run at it. In essence, with their emphasis on the championship, they’ve made much of the season a strategy session for getting into the Chase and then making a title run that teams see little value in racing hard for the win every weekend.
NASCAR doesn’t need playoffs the way stick-and-ball sports do for one simple reason: it isn’t a stick-and-ball sport. It’s not just two teams going at it at a time, it’s 43. What works for that kind of game doesn’t work for this one, and it never will. The championship battles in NASCAR’s other national series are close and compelling without a Chase. And even in those stick-and-ball sports, there are regular-season games that have little to no impact on the postseason which are memorable simply because they were great contests. NASCAR needs to get back to that.
The other mistake that NASCAR has made was to tighten up the rules to the point where no team is allowed to do anything to build a better car than its competitors. To a degree, a level playing field is needed, and nobody would argue that, but as long as a few teams have five times and more the resources of others, it’s not going to be leveled by tightening the rules more and more. All that does is make it so that nobody can think outside a very small box.
Nobody’s saying that NASCAR should not crack down on blatant cheating, but what the current atmosphere does is give a false sense of suspicion about every little thing. And NASCAR adds to that suspicion by not handling the same things in the same way. If one team has a minor issue with a part of the car that they have worked on and is told to fix it and come back through inspection, and another is given a points deduction, that’s giving the wrong message to teams and fans. It tells teams that if they try anything they think might be legal and it isn’t, they’ll be able to fix it, when sometimes they will and sometimes they’ll be slapped with a big penalty. And it’s giving fans the impression that some teams are treated differently than others. If one of the teams’ issue was bigger than the others and that was the reason for the discrepancy, that’s another story, but if NASCAR doesn’t explain exactly what the violations were and how they differed, how is a fan to know?
Plus, if a couple of teams can come up with something to make their cars racy, others will counteract with something else and it lends an element of interest to the show—what will they come up with next? How can this guy beat that one? That was once a big part of the sport…but not anymore.
NASCAR needs to put the sport more in the hands of the race teams and make each race count more. I’ve written in the past that all the champion should receive is a nice trophy and a trip to Vegas for the team, and I stand by that. If the point fund money was all reallocated to race purses, and the championship was a nice perk, the racing would improve.
To be fair, NASCAR is reportedly working on a package to change the way air flows around and under the cars in an attempt to reduce aerodynamic dependency that’s made passing much harder than it used to be. The sanctioning body is trying to improve the racing, or at least one aspect of it, and they aren’t the only ones responsible for overhyping the championship, either.
The people behind the weekly NASCAR broadcasts are also part of the problem. The voices in the booth and the producers telling them what to talk about need to gain a little perspective. The Chase talk starts in February and only intensifies. Sometimes the voices are so busy talking about the Chase—who’s in, who’s out, what might this do to someone Chase chances—that the on-track action is barely a side show.
That’s a problem.
For one thing, there is plenty going on in most races that doesn’t have Chase implications but is still impactful and exciting. It’s at it’s very worst now, during the Chase, when a driver not in the title hunt practically has to do backflips with his car to get more than a passing mention, even if he’s going door to door with the Chasers. Eventually, sponsors are going to realize that they’re not getting much for their money in the final ten races if their driver missed the Chase. Someday, one of them is going to have and exercise a clause in the contract that allows them to pull their money for the final ten races if the team misses the show…and then others will follow suit.
Besides, the voices aren’t giving fans much credit. Fans understand that the whole race is important, every position is important, and they don’t all choose to follow the same few drivers that the networks focus on week after week. Fans are smarter than that, more loyal than that. It makes the TV networks look uninformed and worse, biased, when they focus on a select few drivers all race, every race and ignore the action that’s going on.
Plus, one reason that fans complain about boring racing is that the networks don’t show the actual racing if it’s not in the top few spots or involving one of the drivers they wish to overpublicize. Racers race just as hard for fifteenth place as fifth, and if the battle for fifteenth is a great one, the broadcast is doing a great disservice in not showing it, especially if they are showing the leader running alone.
Simply put TV isn’t bringing fans at home complete race coverage. They’re bringing them overblown Chase coverage almost from the drop of the green in Daytona. They’re missing the point. And it’s a huge problem for the sport that NASCAR doesn’t seem interested in correcting.
It’s hard to heap too much blame on the teams because they are playing the game under the rules they’ve been given. But it’s also hard to swallow when some of them are so worried about a Chase spot that they settle for a “good points day” rather than take a risk that could get them a win…but could also end their day in the wall.
Teams used to take those risks to win, because winning races in itself was their focus. Even before the Chase, teams were thinking points over wins, and that hurts the quality of the individual races. Drivers ride around at the back at Daytona and Talladega because they’re afraid to get caught in a crash and finish 41st because of the points hit. That’s not why the people in the stands bought a ticket.
The solution is simple, though actually making it come to fruition would be complex because of the sheer number of minds that would have to be changed before it could happen. But what needs to happen here is that everyone—NASCAR, the media, and the race teams—need to come to the track each and every weekend believing that this is the biggest, most important race of the year and winning it is the most important thing that anyone can do. TV needs to do their part and show the battles in the pack, because they’re racing just as hard and against the odds for the win. Every race needs to be its own entity, and winning it should be everyone’s top priority.
Fans don’t buy tickets to see one step toward the Chase or the championship. They don’t watch broadcasts to see a few drivers ride around avoiding risks. They don’t follow a driver and root for a good points day. This is what everyone in the sport needs to remember. It needs to be about the race. This race, right here, right now. And everything else will sort itself out.
Connect with Amy!
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Ah, another Chase critic with the ‘simple’ cure of getting rid of the Chase and all will be well in NASCAR.
Well, if you misdiagnose the problem, you’re going to screw up the cure.
People do come (and watch) racing to watch racing… and crashing. Unfortunately, from the perspective of trying to get these people to pay attention, there isn’t enough racing and crashing. Contrary to what you write, the whole race is NOT important, every position is NOT important. There is way too much of every race where there is little if any real racing (defined as side by side or one car trying to get side by side). Except for the two or sometimes three drivers with a chance to win, there’s no real hard racing back in the field, the drivers simply don’t have enough incentive to risk their car to turn a 22nd place car into a 21st place car. Too many drivers pace themselves through 90 percent of the laps ‘saving’ themselves for the end. Do you think fans like watching the likes of Mark Martin pulling over to let ‘faster’ cars drive by? I think they’d rather see him fight to hold his position. There is very little ‘excitement’, in terms of ‘oooh, look at that, I don’t think he’s going to make it’. The exciting finish at the Glen last year was less than a minute out of a three hour race. Talledega ‘excitement’ takes up less than three or four minutes of a four hour race. Jeez, that’s worse than soccer in terms of having nothing happen worth watching.
If you want fans in the seats, you’ve got to give them what they want to see. Give them a race that has people fighting for every position on every lap. Give them cars that aren’t built so good that 90% of them make it to the end of every race (not counting the start and parks). Build some suspense into the event.
Or you can keep moaning about the Chase.
Tom, I don’t think the chase is the only problem, but it is most certainly the biggest and the thing that can be fixed the quickest. Ditching the chase is still #1 on most fans’ list of demands for a good reason.
The most recent change to the points systems was a good step forward, but there is room for improvement. I see no reason to award points for 30th on back. This would weed out backmarkers and cars patched together just to eek out 1 more finishing position and becoming a rolling chicane.
The financial incentives should also be removed so as to encourage the start-&-parkers to move back to the soon-to-be-ex-Nationwide series and help resusitate that circuit.
Restoring some tradtional race dates and cutting down on the number of cookie-cutter races will also bring back hardcore fans. It may not be economically viable to revive old racetracks like North Wilkesboro, but it would be nice to see more short tracks on the schedule. Moving a race from Kansas to Iowa would be a nice move.
Prior to the chase I never liked the idea of awarding the championship to the driver with the most wins after 36 races but lately I’ve been thinking that is the fix to points racing.
This would also solve the problem of drivers being hurt and missing a couple of races. They would still be at a disadvantage overall but if they’d have more of a chance than they do now if they miss a couple of races.
A good column. You hinted at opening up some more innovation, and that’s badly needed in the engine and transmission area. If I’m remembering correctly, gearing is set from on high, and teams have little or no say in it. I seem to recall teams ten years ago hitting 10,000 rpm and some would blow up and some would take leads of a straightaway or more. That was fun to watch… teams would push mechanical limits and risk failure. There needs to be more of that.
Unfortunately, this points system is a huge step in the wrong direction. Obviously the Chase is no good (this is not a sport in which a playoff makes sense), but the one-point-per-position is even worse, since it rewards a pass for a top 5 position no more than one for 42nd. The opposite should be the case, where passes for good positions are worth more points. Perhaps if the back half of the field was given nearly the same amount of points, a DNF wouldn’t be so much worse than running mid-pack. IndyCar seems to have a points system that works pretty well.
Of course, if every race is about the championship, it means no race is “must watch” on its own. The tracks realize this, too, or they wouldn’t have all of us in the stands shout “this is more than a race, this is Talladega!” before the start of the race.
Which takes us to predictability. I’m not going to go to a race unless I think it’s going to be exciting and unpredictable. That isn’t going to happen if I know the leader can’t be passed due to aerodynamics, blown engines aren’t going to happen from drivers pushing too hard, and long green flag runs without a lead change will bring out a caution from the tower.
Amy, this is an excellent piece but you left out some things.
One is the tires. Complaints about the tires have been around for years. It seems Goodyear can’t or won’t come up with a compromise tire with a compound good for a fuel run.
Another is the chassis. NASCAR won’t give the teams the ability to adjust the car the way they want. Every team should be able to make the adjustments they need using the parts available to everyone.
Aerodynamically they need to increase the drag on the body. NASCAR might be looking into it but they probably won’t go far enough.
The TV networks need to get producers that know how to show a “race” like F1 does. They show cars racing for position and keep the in-car camera on for more than five seconds. The announcers shouldn’t have to sound like they’re following a script.
And NASCAR has to let the race play out and not throw expected cautions to help any team.
The Chase, the virtually spec series cars, the banning of any innovation, the huge amounts of money, TV commentators whose antics set your teeth on edge, a chief executive with the vision and intelligence of a newt; it goes on and on.
I think this article hit a lot of the issues square on. NASCAR needs to stop trying to be like the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL. I think one of the big reasons for the growth of the sport in the 1990s was that NASCAR was different from what the traditional sports were offering. In NASCAR there are no work stoppages, the drivers are better role models and more fan friendly, the experience at the track is nicer for fans, faith and family are core values for the sport, etc. NASCAR needs to remember that and stop always trying to emulate the NFL.
Wow! An entire column I agree with. I think that’s a first.
Well done & well said.
As a former season ticket holder to Bristol, I can, from personal experience, tell you that racing at Bristol changed dramatically as soon as they invented ‘the chase’. Repaving the track may have been the final straw, but everyone got racing very politely as soon as the chase happened. And no, I’m no longer a season ticket holder there. When I found myself fighting to stay awake for the final 200 laps, I knew it just wasn’t Bristol anymore.
OMG, we agree!! I have been screaming these points for years. So for those who think we are whining about the Chase, it is with good reason and makes me think these are new fans, because it seems like they don’t remember or know racing BC (before Chase), there Nascar surived before it and will after it.
WOW, somebody who really gets it. I can’t tell you how sick I am hearing “we had a good points day” and it’s the 2nd or 3rd race of the year. If I buy tickets and attend a race in April I expect to see a race, not just a high speed parade. Unfortunately racing is no longer an important part of the race. There used to be a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the stands when you attended a race and that is just withering away. My challenge to the powers that be, go sit in the cheap seats(there are plenty available) and tell me if you think that this is a quality product.
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