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
Monday March 3, 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.
Amy Henderson · Monday January 20, 2014
Welcome to the Frontstretch Five, a brand-new column you just might be seeing more of in 2014! Each week, Amy Henderson takes a look at the racing, the drivers, and the storylines that drive NASCAR and puts together a list of five people, places, things, and ideas surrounding a piece of the sport. In the debut column, Amy takes a look at some rumored changes to the championship format for 2014. Those include a 16-driver Chase field, made up exclusively of race winners plus a bracket-style elimination during the Chase which would culminate in a winner-take-all, two-driver shootout for the Cup title in the Homestead season finale.
Here are five reasons why she says these changes would hurt, not help, the sport.
1. Fans want fewer gimmicks, not more.
When NASCAR unveiled the original Chase system for the 2004 season, many race fans were not enamored. And when that first Chase concluded, a good number were even less enamored after Kurt Busch, who would have finished a fairly distant fourth under the previous format, won the title. The Chase, many fans agreed, was a gimmick. Some said it was to boost late-season ratings and compete with the NFL for viewers on Sundays. Others said it was an attempt to make racing more exciting, created in a era where the cars had become so aerodynamically dependent that passing was at a premium. Still others said it was in response to Matt Kenseth’s dominance in 2003, where he led the series points by 354 with ten races to go (though he eventually won by a much smaller margin of only 90).
Whatever the reason, though, many fans were unhappy with the Chase… and the majority still haven’t warmed up to it. When NASCAR’s official website ran a fan poll a year or so ago, asking fans their opinion on the system, almost 80% said they don’t like the Chase system and wanted NASCAR to scrap it. That’s a pretty clear-cut majority, even for a non-scientific poll.
Observers need look no further than the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series to see for themselves that a season-long championship battle can be a thriller. The NNS title was decided in the closing laps of the final race of the year; that happened with no eliminations, no Chase, no gimmicks at all. The CWTS title was won in a landslide, by comparison but there was also little complaining about that from fans. Most largely acknowledged that Matt Crafton deserved to win in a landslide after his stellar season. Fans weren’t lamenting the lack of a points reset to close up the field in those series, nor were they calling for a Chase-style format. In general, when a Chase is suggested for those series, fans balk, because they simply don’t want it.
So, if most of NASCAR Nation would like to get rid of the Chase, getting back to a season-long championship, it makes little sense to try and increase their interest by rearranging the whole thing to add more fixes and false excitement. A winner-take all at Homestead might sound exciting, but is it really a sound decision when the champion crowned could potentially be a driver who would have finished outside the top ten, or even the top 15 in points even under the current Chase system? The answer to that is probably obvious to most race fans.
2. It cheapens the championship.
As noted above, the proposed new system could set up a scenario in which a driver far down in actual points earned could potentially win the title. Had the 2013 Chase used the qualifications for the Chase being mulled over (the top 16 race winners), David Ragan would have made the Chase. Ragan finished 28th in Cup points in 2013, not even the best among his small-team brethren. And with a head-to-head format in the Chase rather than accumulated points, it’s possible a driver like Ragan could get lucky and win the title. Sure, fans love an underdog, and Ragan’s win was one of the best feel-good stories of 2013. But should a driver outside the top 20 in points really have a chance to win the season championship?
Many fans were upset in 2004, when Busch won what many perceived to be Jeff Gordon’s rightful title after Gordon accumulated the most points overall. The same thing happened in 2007 (Jimmie Johnson won the Chase title while Gordon would have won under the previous format), 2008 (Johnson – Chase, Carl Edwards – old format), 2010 (Johnson – Chase, Kevin Harvick – old format), and 2011 (Tony Stewart – Chase, Edwards – old format). And each time that happens, there was fan outcry that the “real” champion didn’t win. There is also a feeling amongst many fans that should Jimmie Johnson win seven titles, they won’t mean as much as those of Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt, who didn’t have the Chase format for any of their seven championships.
So how would it go over with fans if the champion would have finished 20th in points, even under the current Chase system? Probably not well. Even if you take into account that everyone probably would have raced differently if the Chase were not in place, many fans feel the title is already cheapened. Opening it up further to the possibility of a team that’s truly not championship-caliber is only going to make the perception that the title is meaningless more pronounced.
3. This is not the NFL.
Elimination-style playoff formats work in other sports because there are two teams playing at a time. But in NASCAR, there are 43 teams for every race who, even if not a championship factor, influence their outcome.
That means a title could be completely out of a team’s hands. While it’s possible under any format to get caught in someone else’s problems, finishing poorly as a result, in a winner-take-all elimination, a team could lose an otherwise deserved title because of someone else’s mistake. That’s not what sports should be about. If a football team makes too many mistakes, they’ll lose a game, and the same is true in racing. But imagine if a team lost the Super Bowl because their quarterback got taken out of the game by a player from a team that wasn’t even playing for the title, because there were two games going on on the same field at the same time. There would be complete outrage from football fans, and rightfully so.
As absurd as that scenario sounds, it makes using a playoff format that works in other sports equally absurd in NASCAR, where there are 43 teams on the track each week, all running their own race toward their own goals. The reason that a season-long championship worked in NASCAR for more than 50 years is because of the unpredictability factor. The best teams will, over an entire season, overcome the obstacles and contend for a title despite the risks. The rest simply won’t, and that’s not a bad thing.
If NASCAR wants to have long-term success among the other major sports in America, the sanctioning body needs to recognize that racing is not comparable to a stick-and-ball sport, and that’s why many fans choose it to begin with. Trying to contend for viewers with the NFL by trying to be more like the NFL isn’t going to win anyone over. Why would fans of other sports stop watching those in favor of a sport that has tried to make itself the same? Answer: they won’t. They’ll choose the sport that most appeals to them on its own merits. And a contrived, overhyped championship season that puts forth an almost satirical imitation of another sport entirely isn’t going to have merit with current fans or the ones NASCAR is trying to lure from other sports.
4. It’s not going to improve the racing from week to week.
Sure, it might make a few races more interesting here and there, but by and large, teams aren’t going to change their approach to an entire 500-mile event. They know that in order to win, they must first make it to the end of the race, and they aren’t going to take chances that might risk that halfway through.
The real problem with individual races is twofold, and it has little to do with the championship format at all. First, it’s the race cars themselves—they’re too fast and too aerodynamically dependent as a result that they don’t handle well when they’re actually racing side-by-side. If a driver has the choice between fighting his racecar for a position 150 miles into a 500-mile event, possibly crashing in the process, or riding it out for a while, well… sometimes he’s going to choose to ride it out. Even at the end of a race, with points on the line, a driver isn’t going to risk crashing and finishing in the bottom 10 when he can finish with a top 5, but not a win. A new format won’t change that.
The other problem is some fans’ perception that in order to be an exciting race, there has to be door-to-door racing for the lead on every lap and a margin of victory of less than a car length. While it would great to have a battle like Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch waged in the 2003 Southern 500, every week it’s not a realistic expectation. Sometimes, a driver just has a dominant day. Sometimes, it’s a fuel mileage race. Sometimes, a driver’s car just isn’t good enough to make that late-race run. And that’s all OK. It’s been part of the game since racing began, and casual observers need to understand how this sport works. If it can be improved without manipulating the actual process, such as by making cars easier to pass with or by giving a few more points to race winners, that’s great. What’s not a good idea is trying to manipulate the fundamental basis of the sport; that’s what unfolds naturally on the racetrack through strategy and skill.
A new title format also can’t magically transform what happens on the racetrack every week because there are too many nuances to the sport, too many variables, too much at stake for teams. Trying to manipulate races comes across as gimmickry; that isn’t what race fans want to see.
5. It’s not going to boost ratings long-term, either.
Sure, more people might tune in to an elimination race for the season finale, but overall, ratings are probably a pretty accurate reflection of what the sport’s fan base is right now. They’re down from the early 2000s because the fad ended. The people who tuned in when the sport was the big trend at the water cooler have, for the most part, left and moved on to the next trend. Some new, true fans were created during the boom, but others were lost as the sport began to change and cater to a newer breed of race fan – the video game generation of a thrill a minute. With the coolness worn off, what’s left is a fan base whose loyalty is still a bit tenuous. Many diehards, who would plan weekends around races have become, by their own admission, casual fans who might tune in if there’s nothing better on.
The rumored changes aren’t going to lure NFL diehards from their games any more than an NFL game is going to lure a hardcore race fan away from a race. But casual fans are not the same as the fanatics, and they’re going to choose based on what’s in front of them on a given day. Are they going to choose the sport that has exciting, unforced action, or the one that’s been shaped and trimmed and squeezed in an attempt to make it fit a mold it was never meant to fit? They might tune in to see the circus at first, but if there’s no substance, they aren’t going to stay. And it’s substance that this proposed format is lacking. It feels contrived because it is contrived, even more so than the original Chase… and in the end, people will see through that, making it a hard sell to both devoted and casual fans.
Connect with Amy!
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
If there was no chase, there wouldn’t have to be any “tweaks” needed. The fact that Brian’s brilliant (to him and his toadies) idea is being changed every year says volumes about its’ necessity. But Brian’s ego, like Bud Lite in baseball and Gary Bettman in the NHL, will never allow him to get rid of it. The NFL is the only league that will change the rules and cancel the changes if they don’t work out. You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig.
Absolutely agree with the article. Nascar has gotten itself in trouble by trying to draw in the casual, fair weather fans. These same fans dont go to races, and usually just watch the last 50 laps. The chase format has been in place for almost 10 years, I say just leave it alone. Nascar seems to forget its root every few years. Remember when Digger cartoons were part of pre-race? Geez Louise!!!
Pretty sure this will not be a popular response (conceding that there is no intrinsic value in a response on the internet, regardless of content)
I actually like the idea, better than the current sort of “halfway” implementation. The current chase definitely feels like they want to have a March Madness type tournament, but they’ve got one foot in, one foot out. Elimination during “rounds” is a critical piece in that. The one caveat that I have is: There needs to be a suitable reward for “winning” the regular season. In the NHL, there’s a trophy (President’s Trophy) for the regular season points champion. This seems to be a good plan for Nascar. Keep in mind, that in the NHL, more often than not, the President’s Trophy winner doesn’t get the Stanley Cup.
But, I personally think the whole “reward consistency” thing is way overdone in Nascar. Other racing series reward winning with a higher percentage of the points, and a bigger gap to second. Nascar’s system still punishes a bad day more than it rewards a good day. A points system shouldn’t reward mediocrity. I doubt too many drivers in competitive equipment show up with a goal of something other than winning.
They might get a bump in the ratings for the first shoot-out championship but if the winner of the championship happens to finish 10th in the race it will seem ridiculous to the first time viewer and I doubt they will be back for the second.
The casual viewer would expect the winner of the race to be the champion.
If you want to experiment to see if something might be better, you don’t do it with your marquee product. Ask Coca-Cola about that.
If NASCAR wants to tamper with the chase, implement the proposed changes in the K&N series or trucks. If it works, great! If it doesn’t, you haven’t blown up the company.
Good article, Amy. it’s a shame that Brian France rules and what the fans want is not a big deal for him. As long as NASCAR & the France family get their $ from TV, sponsors & the tracks (although how long that will keep up considering the lack of people in the seats), he will just continue to tweak it.
Never mind that there may be fewer & fewer people watching.
AndyD has it right, Coca Cola tried it, found out it didn’t work and were SMART enough to backtrack in a hurry. Brainless isn’t that smart, he’ll just keep going in the direction he chooses, no matter how bad the results.
While your five points are all valid and well thought out, I’m going to “sort of” agree with Chris and say this will be an improvement over the current format simply because it puts a much bigger premium on winning races (too much, maybe?), but I still say no chase is better than any of the convoluted systems we’ve had under Brian’s regime.
I also agree with Andy D.. if Nascar wanted to experiment with a new championship format, why didn’t they try it with the lower-tier series first and not with cup? Rhetorical question, I know, but it sure seems that common sense ain’t so common at One Daytona Blvd.
This is what I was afraid of when Jimmie won again. They floated this idea in 2010, but didn’t go through with it. I’ve grown to accept the Chase, but this change would be a disaster. I really hate the idea that a team could be dominant all year long/win a bunch of races, but get bit by the racing gods at Homestead and robbed of a title.
Brian France lives in this little bubble where he thinks he needs a “game 7” moment every year. I’m sorry but the sports that have playoff series don’t always get a “game 7”. This plan is like Baseball saying, “well the World Series hasn’t gone beyond game 5 the last couple of years, so we are going to reset the Series score after game 3 to make it more exciting”. I think most sports fans can see through gimmicks and manipulation. This will blow up in their faces especially if there is an absurd result or Jr. gets screwed.
If they want to incentivize winning more lets try something simple, like awarding more points to the race winner, restructuring the points to make point leads less safe? I’ve even ok with the idea of using wins as the primary way to qualify for the Chase, but not this nonsense of hitting the reset button 3 more times in the last 10 races. Why don’t they just have a demolition derby at Homestead, that would be entertaining too.
Followed Nascar for the past 50 years on and off, mostly on, so not new to it. I say dump the Chase, forget points, and let them race for the win every week. Want a champion at seasons end? The driver with the most wins gets it. This way there is no points racing. Petty was my guy back in the days and we all know who has the most wins ever. Yeah you might say if a driver is way out front in wins near season’s end people will lose interest. I watch races to see who can win, not who can gain the most points.
Good article all true, what worries me is some “journalists” actually seem to embrace the idea, I say they aren’t real race fans. The overwhelming majority of people all over the internet have voiced serious displeasure with this latest round of absurdity from King Brian, will he listen? Of course not, he is counting his money at his castle in Daytona. This is a scary man.
What happens when we don’t get an exciting final race? Reset the points during the race and have a G-W-C to determine the champion? Brian France is a moron and he, and the dumb changes he has implemented,is the reason I no longer watch. I used to be one of those who plannedmy entire weekend around watching or going to a race. No more. France keeps saying “we are listening to the fan”; what a crock. If he was listening the chase would be gone and so would he.
Bill Jr. would kick Brian’s rearend. Nascar built it’s following on good hard racing and car owners and drivers had to race every week if they where chasing a championship. The wood Brothers with Pearson ran selected races to win, not for championships.Under Brian’s brain storm, the only thing that is consistant is he keeps changing things to compete with the NFL and other sports. Nascar did not rise to it’s popularity by chasing NFL. Since Brian has become KING, the sport continues to die because of his tampering. It will continue downward till someone will admit they have tampered to much. Under the New proposed system, you don’t have to compete every week. Just race for the wins at tracks where you have at least 75% chance to win. The first class teams like the Hendrick and Gibbs like could adapt to consider winning only. If either had a problem in a race and had to loose a few laps, there would be no incentive to get back in the race. Bottom line is if Nascar wants to grow like it was in the 90’s, Scrap the chase and let them race. Run more short tracks, paved and dirt and those chasing championships will race at all venues. And give the locals a chance to compete. That will stir more positive reaction from the fans and teams. Only then, Nascar will climb back to the top.
It’s obvious that NASCAR’s leadership does not care what fans think. Oh they provide lip service stating that they do but every decision they make proves the opposite. I was really looking forward to this season. I’m not sure why but more than I’ve been looking forward for several years. Now with this news it just makes me dread dealing with the whole mess.
After reading some of the articles, I had tweeted Moody that I didn’t like the idea. As expected, I got a snarky response, but then again, that kind of commentary and response is why I cancelled my sirius radio subscription. I decided not to continue to waste my $ when I got angry listening to the responses from both the morning drive team and then whatever Moody’s evening show is. Sorry, I realize this is off topic except that it goes to show the way that many of the paid NASCAR media will embrace anything NASCAR says and the fans will just have to either accept it or stop following the sport.
BillB, I agree, NASCAR doesn’t care a whit about the fans at least not since BZF took over.
It’s all about money and getting them Hendrick cars (all of them) in the show. And if it looks like one might not make it, why nascar can go fishing again for some light connecting rods.
Listen, just go ahead and give Jimmie two more championships, then dump the chase. Sell JJ as the greatest ever then let’s get back to real racing without gimmicks.
Does anybody other than Brian France miss IROC?
Yeah .. didn’t think so.
in your point taken in number 2.
yep,there it is. proving that Johnson would only have half the titles he’s credited for if the chase had never been implemented.
oh well, it is what it is. However, I am glad you pointed that out for all to see! :)
There’s nothing so bad that they can’t make it worse.
Recent articles from Amy Henderson:
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.