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.
Bryan Davis Keith · Thursday February 11, 2010
Earlier in Speedweeks, when asked by Frontstretch about his network’s planned approach for handling Danica-mania as the Nationwide Series prepared to make its season debut, ESPN’s Vice President of Motorsports, Rich Feinberg, remarked that he found “SPEED’s presentation [of last Saturday’s ARCA race at Daytona] was very balanced.”
In short, that means race fans tuning in to see any of the 42 drivers not named Danica Patrick today will be sorely disappointed.
For starters, claiming SPEED’s ARCA coverage was balanced makes you question whether ESPN was watching the race on drugs. After all, there was only one driver who had their wreck analyzed a dozen times from a dozen angles. There was only one driver whose in-car camera was featured nearly every lap. And there was only one driver that got more post-race press coverage than the guy that actually won the race – even though it was his record sixth Daytona trophy (Bobby Gerhart).
As I wrote earlier this week, viewers that tuned into the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 last Saturday “didn’t see an ARCA race. They saw Danica.” And if what we’ve heard and seen this week is any indication, expect to see more of the same from ESPN’s Nationwide Series coverage this Saturday.
Feinberg’s comments came just hours before the first Nationwide Series practice turned into the equivalent of the “Danica Patrick Show.” For more than half of the two-hour broadcast, fans were treated to the driver’s every move on the racetrack, chronicling the smallest of details while she wheeled the No. 7 Chevrolet. The coverage was so overblown, any other driver simply making it on air seemed like an awkward production mistake that didn’t jive with the “Danica drama.” But just don’t take my word for it … ask the NASCAR drivers themselves. Twitter was abuzz with derogatory comments, with Regan Smith even throwing out this zinger: “Maybe ESPN could cover Danica on ESPN2 and the other 50 plus cars on ESPN Classic or something.” That was just the tip of the iceberg, with Scott Speed even joking Danica was being toted as Jesus.
And so it went, 140 characters of potency that punched the network’s philosophy in the face. But things turned serious Friday when drivers stepped away from their laptop and in front of reporters to complain – including none other than the defending series champ.
“The only thing I will say is that TV has been doing a horrible job,” Kyle Busch claimed. “They’ve been covering her way too much. Which isn’t a problem, that’s fine, but if you’re going to have this much attention drawn on the series, let’s put it toward all the people. If you’ve got all these people watching TV that want to hear about Danica, well, take advantage of that and show the less-funded teams, the underprivileged that want to have funding so they can race the rest of the year. Danica is only going to be here for 12 races. It would help the rest of the teams that want to make the full run at it get the coverage they need – and the exposure they deserve to race the full season.”
Kyle’s words sound good in theory, right? But consider ESPN’s longtime knack for beating a story into the ground. Just look at last season’s spring race at Phoenix, where literally the entire event jumped between Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch as the two Sprint Cup regulars battled for the minor league trophy they decided to run for – since challenging Jimmie for a real man’s trophy was too hard. Look at the network’s coverage of the spring Texas race, where the crew in the booth posed the question, “How good is Kyle Busch?” on at least three separate occasions over the course of an afternoon that saw drivers such as Michael Annett, who ran in the top 15, literally not mentioned once on camera.
So if there’s been one common element to ESPN’s coverage of the Nationwide Series, it’s been that they find a flavor of the week and ram it down viewers’ throats ad nauseum. This week, it’s Danica.
Outside of being at Daytona, “The biggest story, and quite frankly [the biggest] opportunity for all of us [at ESPN] is Danica,” notes Feinberg, firmly convinced that she is what needs to be on camera this weekend. “It’s our strong belief there will be people that turn on Saturday’s Nationwide telecast that perhaps don’t watch a lot of Nationwide races or NASCAR at all, because of the interest in her.”
“We want to serve that curiosity.”
But whether you agree or not with catering to a new audience, the fact remains that overwhelming saturation of coverage on the sport’s newest novelty is a completely ineffective mechanism to build a new audience for the Nationwide Series.
Because barring an about face by ESPN from the way they’ve handled coverage to date, this weekend’s telecast should be retitled the Danica 300 – just like last week’s Danica 200, the race Feinberg himself claimed to watch only because of her.
In the short-term, there’s no doubt it’ll have his network smiling all the way to the bank; after all, ARCA ratings were up 56% with Danica’s presence alone. But guess what? A three-hour Danica Patrick infomercial is NOT a Nationwide Series race. Focusing on one driver in a field of 43 is not an accurate representation of a Nationwide Series event. What ESPN viewers are likely to see on Saturday will not be a Nationwide Series race.
So how, exactly, is the series supposed to gain an audience when viewers aren’t going to see it? Yes, a novelty product (or in this case, driver) can and, as ARCA’s record ratings last week demonstrated, will bring a plethora of new viewers to a broadcast. But a novelty is just that… it’s not something that builds a long-lasting following of the sport. In the case of the Nationwide Series, the racing has to be the product that gets fans coming back. And even if you focus on the drivers… it’s the ones that are actually going to be on TV every weekend that have to get the fans revved up for every race. Well, there’s absolutely no way that a network which already does a pitiful job giving Nationwide Series regulars so much as a mention over the course of three-to-four hour broadcasts are going to somehow pull off getting a 43-car field covered if their own VP of Motorsports wants to see his network serve as nothing more than as a vessel for curious onlookers – a pile of gawkers peeking to see an overhyped open-wheeler whose greatest “talents” are going to be obscured by a firesuit and helmet.
What’s more, just as there’s no conceivable way that the boost in ratings the Danica 300 will provide to ESPN and the Nationwide Series will last beyond Danica’s first few races, there’s also no conceivable way to make the case other Nationwide Series sponsors are actually going to benefit from this extra attention. Face it, if GoDaddy.com is on the TV screen for well over half the broadcast (such was the case on Saturday), how are 42 other sponsors really supposed to get their money’s worth out of being on a race car?
“That’s why half of us don’t have sponsorship,” says Robert Richardson of R3 Motorsports, attempting to run a full schedule with a small sponsor (Mahindra Tractors) and an even smaller budget. “The media only portrays the Cup teams that run the Nationwide Series and only focus typically on the top 5, top 10 cars during the race, and don’t do a full field scan during the race to let everyone know who’s running where.”
Said another, “[Her debut] is good for no one but Danica.”
That reality has not been lost on some of her fellow woman competitors, either, fighting for years to claim the same television space she took up in the course of a few days. Take Alli Owens, for one, who despite outrunning Danica for most of Saturday’s ARCA event was all but unmentioned by the SPEED booth. From her Facebook page:
“I noticed I had an anger being built up toward Danica and was totally frustrated about her being there. I felt like I was racing in the DANICA 200 instead of the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. We have struggled for 3 years to run a full season in ARCA, and finally are with a good team, was a threat all week long – and never once got good recognition for it.”
“For the media and everyone else, please realize that she is the same as the rest of us out there under a helmet and strapped into a car. I think her off-track brand and image is speaking louder than her on-track performance…”
There’s also that whole issue of catering to a certain group of fans. Isn’t that exactly why the sanctioning body is now having to roll back, with changes to competition rules and start times, after countless numbers of core race fans had enough and kissed NASCAR goodbye? Isn’t catering to short-term casual fans exactly what started a long-term mass exodus from their sport?
Well apparently, the powers that be have yet to learn the consequences of their actions. But they better start soon, because if anyone’s learned anything from Tiger Woods, it’s that growing a series around one person puts all of your eggs in one basket – leaving disastrous consequences if they break.
Still, no matter how loud the criticism, Danica-Mania is primed to march on unfettered. All attention towards the Series is now focused on a part-timer, a driver who’s here to experiment, not to make a home. All attention is now focused on one sponsor, one team.
Problem is, there’s still 42 other spots in the field.
ESPN would do well to remember that this weekend.
Jay Pennell contributed to this report.
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I agree completely with all you have said. She is a good, not great driver who walks around half naked in overrated commercials and gets played up as being as good as Andretti, Foyt, Earnhardt, Petty, etc. Getting a quote from Alli Owens is solid, because I have never seen her face. If they would promote her or Chrissy Wallace or someone who actually cares about stock car racing, then female drivers in NASCAR may actually stand a chance. Danica is not much more than a side show meant to bring in a handful of fans who would not know Kevin Harvick from Kevin Connelly. ESPN’s coverage of Nationwide is horrible but that is how Nationwide has been shown since the new package came in 2001.
I applaud you for the forthright assessment of the shortsightedness of the television coverage (and print media not addressed here). Finally someone is eloquently stating just how frustrating and offputting the coverage during this first week of racing has been. So many quality young people, both female and male, have stories and dreams to explore. I want to be introduced to them so I can determine who I want to follow as they progress through the ranks. These are the drivers who should have the spotlight because they are the future of the sport, not a part-time dallier.
ESPN always scripts the race and covers only that predetermined storyline to the detriment of the race coverage. This year the story is exclusively Danica Patrick. Watching a race on ESPN (Nationwide or Cup) always infuriates me. This year I’m not going to bother. The drooling and pandering by the Fox/SPEED commentators defies professionalism.
The obnoxious overexposure of Danica Patrick is alienating many fans – the fans who actually attend races and spend their dollars for tickets and merchandise. One-time drive-by ogling will not sustain the sport. NASCAR, and by extension ESPN and Fox/SPEED, are again chasing that elusive new fan while rejecting the established fan.
Finding a pre determined storyline and sticking to it no matter what has been the downfall of most of ESPN’s race coverage. It seldom involves a Nationwide ‘regular’, and inevitably focuses on the Cup drivers. No wonder sponsors and fans have become frustrated with the series. However, blaming Danica for the short-sightedness of the network is silly. So far, she has gone out and done her job. She has no control over how the media chooses to react. Shame on them.
You are kidding right? ARCA was up 59 per cent and that was because Bobby Gerhart was up front? TV is there to cover the story, she is the story. I understand a lot of folks don’t like that, but it is what it is. And stories sell stuff. TV is not about presenting an event, it is about selling stuff while presenting the event. You elitist racing purists give me a pain. The racing product sucks and yoiu want to shoot the only engaging story line.
Although I’m still not convinced either way on what her future in stock cars will be, she has brought a much needed boost. I’ve been tired for years now of the attention Dale Jr. gets simply because of his name. If you base it on accomplishments, he would get about 1/4 of what he gets now. But,he’s popular,so he gets the press. Does he deserve it? Probably not.If any golfer but Tiger had done what he did, you wouldn’t even known about it. It got beat into the ground because of who he is. It’s the same with Danica. She IS popular.She’s pretty,smart,very well spoken,and she is TV ratings gold.Guess what,thats why networks are in business.If she had not been in the ARCA race, would the other female drivers have boosted the ratings 59%? Not even Jr. could do that. The TV ratings for all stock cars has been on a steady slide downhill,anything to fix that is what the networks are looking for. They can’t control the racing. Or the way NASCAR has butchered up what was once a very entertaining sport. Is covering one driver so much fair? Probably not.Does she deserve it,maybe not.Do I understand why? Yep.
The execs at the IRL, ABC and Versus must be giddy. What a wonderful present ESPN and FOX have given them – hours and hours of free publicity for their series marquee driver. All the Danica coverage is indeed building a viewer base, but not for NASCAR.
I have met the real Danica. She is rudest and most self centered person anyone could ever meet. She is an average driver at best. She wrote a column that mentioned her interest in NASCAR was directly related to providing more exposure for her brand, not her racing abilities. And to think that she and her PR organization are not behind the exposure is sadly mistaken. She is all about being a celebrity, not a real race driver.
Oh joy, Here we go again! Another non-race about another overrated driver. Somehow Dani-can’t-Passit gets all this TV coverage because the hype machine follows her around like some kind of rash. Sure she won one race in Japan on fuel mileage and “almost” won at the Indy 500 because the other drivers knew their cars needed gas to go a few more laps. It seems that ESPN’s coverage will be worse than usual. I’m sure Darrel Waltrip was about to mess himself when the driver he has been talking about for the last thirty minutes actually does something. We may get to see ESPN do their split screen coverage. One side will only show Danica, the other side will only show Junior! We can all watch a big fat happy hype machine at its fullest capacity if the two actually get close to each other and can be picked up by the same camera. Who knows, somehow if you take both drivers that haven’t done anything in years other than win a race on fuel mileage and put them at the end of the race, NASCAR may call it a draw and Jr. & DP can be co-winners and all will be right with the world. Yay!
There is not much I can add to your article. I agree completely and wrote Danica’s star struck Rich Feinberg to tell him how bad the coverage was on the ARCA race. If the Nationwide is a Danica 300, off goes my TV or a change of stations. I had to mute the Danica 200. Disgusting.
I used to love watching the old Busch series races to see up and coming drivers nix it up with Earnhardt Sr,Mark Martin and others. Then I quit watching about 8-9 years ago because of the boredom of a Carl Edwards or Kevin Harvick just blowing everyone away all season long. So now for the first time in years I am tuning in to watch Danica (the same reason I even watched IRL in 05-07). So love her or not,she is injecting much needed ratings/enthusiasm into a quickly dying series. For that I think people need to just endure because your regular drivers did not do a damn thing to make me watch in recent memory.Again,I make the Jr. comparison in cup—we get inundated with Jr when he’s running maybe 25th all day. Bottom line is the Nationwide series has no stars other than the cup guy racing there. Embrace Danica as she can only help.
Boy, talk about lack-of- penis envy!
Since the first days of speculation 2 years ago about her driving in “taxi cabs” up to now, this has been little more than one very slick, well-orchestrated over-hyped PR nightmare.
It takes about 6 months to get the merchandise ready to go, so she was already committed and signed before the actual announcement came. If she lives up to the hype, then NA$CAR may have a marketing boom and fans coming back to the track. If she flops, well, she’ll probably take over as the new top T-shirt seller.
If they go with the All Danica All the Time coverage, which seems to be the indication, ESPN had better be prepared for even lower ratings than last season once the “new” wears off.
I cantseem to voice what im trying to say except that ..NASCAR (ie Brian France) has done more to ruin a sport that I used to love than any other human being ever has.
Fox, and now ESPN seem to be folowing suit in further alienating the real old time fans still left.
Fox first with the grinning idiot savant DW and his endless HMS brown nosing at every given opportunity, and now ESPN with this Danicamania BS.
At least i understand the ESPN thing, shes the flavor of the month.Wonder what flavor is in DW’s mouth?
Wouldnt it be nice to just really actually see a race (not just seea few of the favorite drivers), and hear a race actually ..you know…announced due to the action on the track (not turned at the whims of a brown nosing has been with an inferiority, or Rick… excuse me..“Mr. Hendricks” is God envy) with a thru the field showing occasionally be REALLY refreshing to see and hear??
WHAT a concept!
It seems so simple…
Did, & Do, you expect anything else?? WELL, DID YOU??
Maybe we’ll all get lucky and she’ll get a “welcome to stock cars” boot right into the wall. I’m sure there is more than one driver out there who would be willing to do anything to get their sponsor on TV. But then we may not see any race coverage since it would shift to every moment of loading the car, breaking down the pits, and following the hauler down the highway. ESPN wouldn’t know what else to do with all the unscripted time on their hands.
Just finished watching Nationwide race.Unfortunate that Patrick got taken out by being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but at least I was able to enjoy the rest of the race without a Danica update almost every lap.
I’m sick of Danica already. Who would have thought NASCAR and ESPN would milk her for all she was worth?
Thanks for the wisdom. Between last weeks ‘ARCA’ race and today’s ‘Nationwide’, the coverage on her is too much. As you note, very little coverage of the other gals in the ARCA race, much less any of the other cars. Hopefully will be a flash in the pan. But the whole CA$HCAN family of sports is a mere pittance of its former self. Fans must be heading for the exits in droves. I rarely watch an entire race any longer. Kinda sad.
I didn’t expect any less from ESPN. I missed the ARCA race but did watch the Nationwide. Danica looked as she was doing good for someone who had so few miles in a stock car until she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A few things not mentioned was where was Kelly Bires? He was hired to run Nationwide. If they wanted Danica to run then why didn’t he drive Jr’s car? He would probably would have done better than Jr.since Jr totaled his car. To give Bires car to Danica was a slap in the face. Guess Jr got what he had comming. Look back at when Jr was planning to leave DEI, he knew where he was going but all the lies that were told until the offical anouncement. Same with Danica more lies told and even most reporters knew the story but JR Motorsports denied it all until offical announcement.
Haven’t you noticed? Mikey W. has had his daughter at his side constantly and doing commercials begging to drive the race car? Heaven help us…. one more thing…sure hope DW decides to leave that bottled red hair at home this year….fakest looking hair ever…Wish all the sports casters didn’t think they had to look 20 yrs. old with wrinkles at that!!!