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.
Frontstretch Staff · Wednesday February 19, 2014
New playoff system. New qualifying procedure. New attitude. As NASCAR heads towards Daytona in 2014, all around the sport are focused on the positive, looking for the perfect season to recapture a nation currently preoccupied with other sports, along with the Olympics in Sochi.
Can they do it? As Speedweeks dawn, both NASCAR’s Sprint Unlimited and the 56th Daytona 500 usher in a long list of questions along with them, the answers to which could define the sport for not just this year but the next NASCAR television contract. That means it’s time to get the blood pumping and start 2014 analysis, bringing Frontstretch back to your list of daily internet favorites. This week, we’ll get you thinking each day on one of five big questions facing stock car racing; as we try and find the answers, staff members you know and love will come at you with our usual blend of facts, opinion, and a little sense of humor.
Today’s Season Preview Topic: The NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series have both seen lower than desired attendance and television ratings in recent years. Are there changes NASCAR could make to bring those series back to relevance with fans or are they simply seeing the same interest that other minor-league sports have in relation to the top league?
S.D. Grady, Senior Writer: Who watches AA ball? What do local promoters offer in order to get the stands full at your local minor league ballpark? Bobblehead dolls, two-for-one deals and hokey-pokey halftime shows. The games are broadcast on regional sports networks and a handful of fantasy league/baseball fans tune in religiously. Why should NASCAR be any different? The same fans that pack the stands at the Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway are the ones that buy tickets for the Camping World Truck race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Expecting the NNS and Truck series to draw the same crowd as Sprint Cup is unrealistic. However, when was the last time you saw 20 thousand fans at a minor league ballgame? Attendance may not be what NASCAR would want at these smaller races, but in all reality, it’s not that bad.
Summer Bedgood, Senior Editor: Considering that the Nationwide Series still runs ratings numbers higher than or equal to many of the IndyCar Series races, I would say that their following is actually more impressive than other similarly lower-tier leagues or series in other sports. The Truck Series could probably do better in the ratings area, but there are still many diehard fans who claim it as their favorite series.
In terms of what NASCAR can do, it is always possible that they could implement many of the same changes they have made in the Sprint Cup Series. Either that, or they could embrace the same gimmicks and rules that short tracks use in order to play to a more “grassroots” audience. Honestly, though, I’m not sure they should do a whole lot. You are not going to get casual fans to watch these series. These are races that are usually built on and played to the diehard race fans who watch any kind of racing that is on television. I know many want the Sprint Cup Series drivers gone from both Nationwide and Trucks, but how much does it help short tracks when Kyle Busch shows up to race on a given weekend? You can’t tell these drivers not to race and then complain when their fans follow them out the door. NASCAR needs to make sure the racing is competitive in both series and the diehards will continue to pay attention.
Mike Neff, Senior Writer/Short Track Coordinator: The answer is simple: Get the Trucks and Nationwide away from the Sprint Cup series and tracks. Have them run at more local tracks in conjunction with each other rather than supporting the Cup Series. If the “minor league” teams can put on a show at the local level they’ll cultivate a new fan base that can follow the drivers up to the Cup series and ultimately build the fan totals for the entire sport. The sanctioning body also needs to pump more money into the series via purses so that teams are more well compensated for their support of the organization. As long as they run in companion with the Cup series for most of their schedules, both series will flounder.
Beth Lunkenheimer, Managing Editor: Simply put, expecting the Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series to draw the same kind of attendance numbers and ratings as the Sprint Cup Series is just crazy. Do minor-league baseball games draw the same crowds as their major league counterparts? For the Nationwide Series, especially, fans are likely choosing to save their money for the Cup races since they’ll see many of the same stars dominate both events.
But with the Truck Series, the crowds have certainly looked healthier in recent years—did you see the crowd at Eldora last year? Plus, every time I turn around, I’m reading something about how ratings for this Truck race or that Truck race are up over the previous year. While those numbers may be lower than “desired,” they’re certainly heading in the right direction.
Amy Henderson, Managing Editor: In a word, yes, but NASCAR doesn’t want to hear the solution. Fans who were once diehard followers of these series, Nationwide in particular, have tuned out because of the dominance of a couple of Sprint Cup drivers and teams. When the race winner is all but predetermined each week, there’s not much incentive for fans to tune in. Sure, the names might attract the casual fan who can’t be bothered to learn drivers from more than one series, but for every fan who watches to see the Cup stars, there’s one who tunes out because they’re tired of them running roughshod over the field.
Should NASCAR ban these drivers completely? No, but they need to either severely limit both the number of races they can participate in and the number of Cup drivers who can participate in each race or provide no incentive whatsoever for them to race by paying a Cup driver who races for a Cup organization last place money regardless of finish, and by not awarding owner points to car owners whose drivers also race full time in Sprint Cup, eliminating the over-hyped owner’s title from the picture. It was truly sad to see the battle between Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing’s Cup stars for the owner title overshadow the driver’s championship in the media to the degree that it did, and that’s doing the series no favors.
This is, however, a little like minor league baseball. If everyone expected those games to have the same level of attendance and ratings as major league games, they’re going to be disappointed. If they hold them up to their own standard, or against other sports at the same level, then the picture might not look so bleak. Comparing NNS or CWTS numbers to Cup is just not feasible. The series should be looked at as their own entity, and held to their own standards, not held against the elite series. When they are, they will inevitably fall short. If looked at against other high-level minor-league sports, the perception might well change.
Brett Poirier, Senior Writer: Race at smaller tracks. The move the Nationwide Series made from ORP to the Brickyard was heartbreaking because that was one of the best Nationwide Series races left. No one wants to watch Nationwide cars and trucks race around 2-mile tracks. These lower series’ should be about showcasing up-and-coming drivers, but it often showcases Cup drivers and the teams with the most resources to run fast at big tracks. If the Nationwide Series races at more short tracks, it evens the playing field a little bit between Gibbs, RCR and everyone else, and gives other drivers more of a chance to showcase their driving ability.
Vito Pugliese, Senior Editor: Yes; don’t race on Friday nights when your core demographic is out partying. Second, start racing at smaller tracks around the country so the stands look full to over-flowing. If that means that you have to help fund the installation of some SAFER Barriers, so be it. Maybe that would help lure Ford back into the CWTS fray in a more substantial manner if people were showing up and creating excitement and enthusiasm for the product.
Secondly, and this is a no-brainer, run the Truck Series races on Sunday morning or early afternoon before the Cup race at the larger tracks for companion races. Mix in a few road courses too. If Mosport was any indication last year of how great that can be, they should be turning right about once a month. As I’ve long said, if NASCAR is going to shy away from short tracks, then replace them with road courses, as they have become the new short track for the series as far as beating, banging, great finishes, and creating some rivalries within the sport. Plus if the wives and girlfriends are taking swings at the drivers afterwards, it’s a win for everybody.
Mike Mehedin, Senior Writer/Marketing Assistant: There has always been an issue with minor league teams not always performing as well as the major league teams. The Nationwide Series has an issue with dominance from very few teams. You can turn on any Nationwide race and expect to see a Joe Gibbs Racing car leading the race. Regretfully NASCAR can’t magically create more competitive cars. And they have tried reducing the cost for teams to come to the track. Truth is, it’s an expensive sport and a lot of the speed comes from the shop and wind tunnel, and teams that can’t utilize those things are already at a disadvantage. Speed continues to be an issue, so if they slow down the cars and take away the aero issues, I feel the racing would be a lot better on the high-speed tracks.
The Camping World Truck Series, I believe, is better than the Nationwide Series when it comes to competitive racing and the rules package. I’m surprised that attendance is so low in this series. I would easily place the Truck Series second behind the Cup series and before the Nationwide series. I don’t think NASCAR should play with the rules package. They should just do a better job of marketing the series.
Mark Howell, Senior Writer: The novelty has worn off for the Camping World Truck Series, a form of racing that was sort of unique back in the mid-1990’s (even though NASCAR had floated an idea for racing pickup trucks years earlier). As with other “minor league” divisions, the NCWTS quickly became a high-speed elevator for those at the start/near the end of their racing careers.
Kudos to the Nationwide Series for trying to build waning fan interest in recent years by allowing popular models like Mustangs, Camaros, Camrys, and Challengers to compete; unfortunately, the NNS continues to be plagued by Sprint Cup drivers who take both wins and prize money away from teams trying to leverage themselves in hopes of making the NSCS “show”. Such is the plight of a “minor league” franchise in today’s high-profile/big name culture of professional sports: the competition might be good, but it’s still considered second-best.
Matt Stallknecht, Assistant Editor: I am of the opinion that NASCAR does not need a third national-level series. Two is more than enough. The Truck Series, while exciting to watch, is not financially profitable for the team’s that compete in the series. The payouts in that league do not justify the costs it takes to run a Truck team. Nationwide is a bit better in this regard, but even there, the cost-benefit of that series just does not make sense. NASCAR would be better served by consolidating the two series into one series and redesigning the cost structure so that the new series would have Truck-level costs coupled with Nationwide-level payouts. The loss of the third series could be made up by giving a facelift to the K&N Pro Regional Series to make each a bit more glamorous, visible, and nationally recognized, while still maintaining the cost-effectiveness of those series. Ultimately, I think such measures would serve to boost all of NASCAR’s minor leagues while simultaneously lowering the cost of entrance into the sport of NASCAR.
Phil Allaway, Senior Editor:
Sadly, the Nationwide Series has had these identity problems for what seems like forever. NASCAR believes that having Nationwide races to support Sprint Cup is very important. Sprint Cup does need series to support them at their race weekends, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be the Nationwide Series. Separating the Nationwide Series more often from Cup will definitely help them foster a bigger identity. 5 of 33 races just isn’t enough. However, different engine rules should be instituted as well. Potentially a return to 274 cubic inch V6’s. Prior to 1992, the series was primarily a short track series with something like 13 support races to Cup a year. Even then, the Cup drivers were dominating the support races. However, there was enough separation that the series had an identity.
The Camping World Truck Series continues to suffer from NASCAR’s insistence that the season begin and end with Sprint Cup and Nationwide in Daytona and Homestead. With a 22-race season, a 40-week schedule is far from ideal. The early part of the year is so spread out that no one can get anything going. People who aren’t necessarily diehards are going to forget about the series. That’s just not going to work.
To an extent, the TV ratings for both series are more or less indicative of lower division series. They’re not horrible, although there has been a decrease in Nationwide ratings on ESPN over the past two years. The changeover to FOX Sports 1 has put the Camping World Truck Series in more homes. In addition, the Fred’s 250 at Talladega in October will be televised on FOX, the series’ first race on network television since 2009. That should help the series’ visibility a little.
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The Trucks are already the best racing series in North America, and maybe just maybe we’re leaning even more that way.
- We only occasionally see Cup drivers showing up to ruin things, whereas it still happens constantly in Nationwide.
- They race on the road course here in Canada, at Mosport, which is epic.
- They race on dirt at Eldora because that’s bad-ass. I just hope the track’s better this season!
- Lots of young talent mixed with the old guys. Way more new names to cheer for than Cup.
- They added Gateway back on the schedule, which is a fun track.
Hopefully coverage will continue to be as good as it has been. And like Summer said, the best thing would be to go back to even MORE small short tracks, where they can pack the stands and sell out 5000 seats, instead of going to yet another boring 1.5 mile oval with the stands empty.
As for Nationwide… Until the Cup drivers go away, I would rather watch lawnmower racing. When will NASCAR finally take the hint on that?
And, by the way, look no further than the K&N Pro series or the Whelen Modifieds for proof of this! Sure they don’t sell out EVERY track they go to, but more often than not, these guys pack the stands at tons of little short tracks all over the country, without any Cup drivers that NASCAR thinks “need” to be there to sell tickets! Does Bowman-Gray Stadium need Kyle Busch to show up to sell out the stands at a Modified race? Come on.
They need to try and get both series more non-Cup companion events. It really hurt over the last few years having the smaller tracks owned by Dover fall off. Tracks like Nashville, Memphis, Gateway all came off the schedule. Though Gateway will be back with trucks this year. They need to find a way to go back to IRP. More non-companion events will lessen the chance of Cup drivers dominating and provide more variety.
On Cup drivers, there has to be a happy medium they can come up with that allows the Cup guys to run, but cuts down on the domination we have seen in the Nationwide series. Brad K. has suggested limiting the races they can run in Nationwide for Cup teams. That would be a positive start.
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