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 · Sunday October 13, 2013
Racing just isn’t compelling anymore.
Increasingly, that’s the buzz across America. The races are predictable; the drivers are nothing but corporate shills; the Chase is contrived. There’s nothing left to fuel the passion that once electrified the crowds at the tracks, drawing people toward their television sets. The intangibles which made the sport great are long gone.
I call B.S.
A lack of storylines is not the problem in NASCAR. Neither is a lack of action on the racetrack. What we had, during the sport’s peak years is still there; it’s just well hidden. Our current problem, instead is that nobody’s telling the tales or sharing the action. And that is, at least in part, because nobody’s listening.
There are plenty of stories throughout the NASCAR garage. There’s a champion driver, a future Hall of Famer, whose first Cup race was marred by the death of one of his closest friends. You have two race teams who scrapped and clawed, from the bottom of the sport until someone saw their commitment and realized their value. There’s an owner who pays tribute to his roots every chance he gets. You have a team with just six employees looking for a place — and taking one proudly — amongst the powerhouse teams. These stories and a hundred more are out there, just waiting to be told.
On the track, while the action at the front of the field might be predictable, a hundred other races are playing out. There’s a title contender refusing to give up and driving for every position he can get, dozens of laps behind the field with a wounded car. In the pack, there’s a single-car team, fighting lap after lap to make a pass for 10th place because they take pride in being the best amongst their peers on the track. There’s a David vs. Goliath story, on-track fighting for survival just based on the parts and pieces they have versus everyone else. For Charlotte, they’re outfitting their race car with used brake rotors at a track that’s notoriously hard on brakes, just so they can afford to show up – outrunning a few teams with better resources by sheer skill and determination.
In the glitz-and-glam world that NASCAR has become, is there no longer room for these stories? Increasingly, the mainstream media overlooks the best ones. But it’s not entirely their fault. There are a number of fans who don’t want to hear about them, especially if they’re not top drivers or teams, used to running in the top 5 or 10 every week. Many, it seems would rather see only the best the sport has to offer. And while there are some great people on that side of the garage, who have worked incredibly hard for the success they do have, they are just a small slice of the pie that is NASCAR.
The Sprint Cup garage has two sides at each track. Garage stalls are assigned according to owner points, with the reigning champion always in the first parking spot and garage bay. Usually, about 20 teams can fit on the front side of the garage, the top ones in order, while the rest line up on the other side. At some tracks, the lowliest teams work out of their haulers because there isn’t enough room to fit their equipment.
A walk through the garage area is a study in contrast. On the side where the top teams set up shop, fans lucky enough to procure hot passes are everywhere, sharing real estate with reporters, television crews and sponsor bigwigs. Walking through this side is colorful and exciting. There are some good people here, for sure, if you have the chance to talk with them; they are buried in the masses of people pushing for their time.
And then… there’s the backside. Walk around the corner, and the crowd is gone. A few fans straggle through, and some media lurk about, but it is, for the most part much quieter, more relaxed. Drivers in street clothes frequently go unrecognized. Those fans who do “figure it out,” looking for autographs often get them easily from several drivers. Again, there are many good people, easily accessible who can and will speak freely with those perusing the area. They’ll chat and share stories, past and present about a sport they’ve dedicated their life to. And the stories they tell… are compelling. They make you want to root for them.
Yes, the big teams have star appeal, as fans know their personalities and backgrounds via numerous features and specials. For those on top, their histories have been pounded into fans’ heads so every detail, every moment has already been revealed for years. The smaller teams don’t have that exposure; that means you often have to find out those stories for yourself.
But finding them out is worth every second.
These people are the ones closest to the sport’s roots, the days when anyone with a fast car and a brave driver could — and often did — show up and compete. They bring everything they have to the track, and sometimes they don’t have much but passion to their name. It’s the very same passion some accuse the bigger teams of having lost along the way. They have learned to fight for everything they can get; nobody accuses these guys of having handouts. They remember and pay tribute to their own roots, along with the roots of the sport. They’re humbled and grateful just to be a thread in the NASCAR tapestry.
And the reality is, the big teams haven’t really lost the passion either. It may have been squeezed, homogenized and turned into artificial, vanilla-flavored something, because sometimes that’s what it takes to get the big sponsor dollars. But not one person in the front of the garage doesn’t care or isn’t grateful to be there. Not one hasn’t experienced the giddy highs and the emotion-crushing lows of this sport and not come out of that somehow changed.
At the end of the day, for every one of those drivers who faithfully says what he’s told by his sponsors, every week and smiles when he’d rather cry in a corner, there’s another story.
There’s the decal on the front of Jimmie Johnson’s car, the one that’s been there his entire career, though most people have never given it a second glance. The one that has the initials of a dear friend he lost in a crash, just hours after he qualified for his first Cup race. It’s been revised, tragically through the years to include the tail number of the Hendrick Motorsports plane, one that crashed into a mountainside on the way to a race in Martinsville. That accident killed ten more of Johnson’s friends. It’s on the front of the car so they cross the finish line first… not a sentiment many expect from the five-time champion.
But it’s the part of him that’s raw and real.
There’s Furniture Row Racing, a team that started with little other than dreams and did whatever they could, including running a partial schedule, to be part of the show. They won one of the sport’s most prestigious races with a relatively unknown driver, Regan Smith, and eventually made a deal to put former champ Kurt Busch in the seat. It’s a career-resurrecting move which earned them respect, a nod from Richard Childress Racing to bring a full technical alliance that has led to a Chase bid. And because RCR saw the value in that alliance, they extended the same offer to Germain Racing, a team that was parking in several races a year as recently as 2012. That team has grown and improved, with a driver that RCR once had in one of their own cars. It’s a wheelman they didn’t really want to let go, because they truly believed in his talent.
On that “other side” of the garage sits Tommy Baldwin, whose roots in NASCAR’s Modifieds run so deep that he takes every chance he can get to pay tribute to them. He’s run a Cup car decked out like Hall of Fame Modified driver Richie Evans’ machine paired with Steve Park, a one-time Modified talent himself, behind the wheel. He switched one of his Cup cars to the number 7 as soon as the number became available to pay tribute to his father, Tommy Senior, who terrorized the competition in New England in his day. Ask Baldwin anything and he’ll give an honest answer. Ask Baldwin about the Modifieds, and a light switches on inside of him.
There’s Circle Sport, one of the smallest of the small teams, whose six employees put every bit of attention to detail and every bit of pride that the big teams do into their cars. They scrounge for used parts so they can afford the new ones; it costs thousands in this sport just for the lug nuts, and so they’re doing everything they can to build a team. Landon Cassill’s three lead-lap finishes this year have been hard fought, important to this team as something to build from. They’re just a few points from gaining a spot in the standings, and the prospect is a big deal to them… though to many, it’s just 41st place.
The bottom line, in this day and age is that everybody in NASCAR still has a story to tell. The sport is built on such tales of perseverance, potential, and eventual success. But somewhere along the line, people stopped telling them. Why? Well, it’s the media’s job to bring fans what they want, and what the latest generation of fans have shown is they attach to the glitter of celebrity, not the backbone of a sport. They want to see battles on track, but then add that they don’t care about a battle for 15th, or 20th, or 28th place. They want a battle for first… or else. So the television broadcasts don’t show the backmarkers, even when they’re all the action there is to offer. Off the track, people say they want the drivers to be approachable and human, but then they say they don’t want the “fluff.” So what they get is a pre-programmed athlete, PR-polished for professionalism even though sometimes it’s that something extra that makes them human.
Want more of what has made this sport since 1948? Want a reason to root for the drivers on-track? Think racing for every position counts? Seek and listen to the new stories you find. If people start looking for what else is out there, on a diverse 43-car grid it gives the media a reason to cover each team. Without that diversity, revealed through their experiences the sport becomes bland and generic.
We must look for the real people, the ones whose lives are still untold and we’ll discover the sport is as rich as it ever was.
Connect with Amy!
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
What a great article, thank you Amy.
And the same stories can be found in every racing series in the world. For that matter every walk of life in the world. Does that make them less valuable? of course not. Does that make them unique? Of course not. To use the current terminology “it is what it is”.
This is the best article I’ve read about the sport in a long time. It should be made mandatory reading for the NASCAR press corps and broadcast partners.
What are the Wood Brothers? They’re a small team and have tons of history, which I can’t appreciate too good, since I’m so little older than their driver. Where does a small, old team with a great history fall on the spectrum?
Well put- great job, Amy.
Are you sure the media covers only the top teams because that is what the fans want, or because it’s what the media THINKS the fans want to hear about? It’s like them covering only the ‘chasers’ during the final 10 races of the season. They assume that’s what fans want to see. And we all know what happens when you ass-u-me.
As much a fan of NASCAR as I have always been, if you really want to interact with teams and drivers go to an NHRA race. Every ticket is a pit pass. You can watch a round of races and be in their pits before the drivers are. All the drivers will sign autographs and stop for pictures if you’d like. The racing is great and the tickets will cost half as much as the last NASCAR race you went to. I still attend at least two NASCAR races each year (Dover and Richmond) but I find the access at an NHRA race exceptional.
I agree about the NHRA. A lot of bang for the buck. And in the NHRA they have Women drivers who can actually drive. No Danica crap.
Want to give the back stall guys more exposure and reinvigorate the fan base? Tear down most of the 1.5’s and build some buildings. Take the wind tunnel out of the equation and put it back in the hands of mechanical grip and the driver? Ever wonder why the little guys seem to run better at the short tracks and plate tracks?
As dull as some NASCAR races are, it is still miles better than what is going on in F-1. I watched the Japan race and it’s the same story, Vettel wins by a country mile, almost no passing through the field, and only pit strategy seems it make a difference. I haven’t seen a good F-1 race since the US Grand Prix last year. Shows that some times as NASCAR fans we need to keep it in perspective.
Hey upstate, keep F1 out of this. Apples/oranges, F1 is a sport and NASCAR is a show.
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