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.
The Yellow Stripe · Danny Peters · Tuesday March 17, 2009
After a momentary pause for breath this past weekend, NASCAR plows right into some of the best venues listed on their schedule. In the next two months, the Sprint Cup Series visits eight terrific tracks: Bristol, Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix, Talladega, Richmond, Darlington, and Lowe’s Motor Speedway — places that hope to get a fan’s mind off a rather rough start to 2009.
Thinking about some great racing to come, I sent a quick email to the Frontstretch staff last week, asking those who had both the time and inclination to name their five favorite tracks on the circuit. The idea was to use their responses as a straw poll of sorts, proof for a future article on what tracks to watch out for next. But what I didn’t expect was the response and genuine excitement I’d get from almost every writer on the site. And so rather than write what, if I’m honest, might well have been a vague, generic column on good tracks for racing, I’ve decided to write up the results of my impromptu survey instead — Frontstretch’s view of the best tracks out there on the Sprint Cup schedule today. Admittedly, this is an extremely unscientific approach, and I’m sure with a rigorous methodology attached and a couple dozen focus groups, the results might look a little different. But that’s the beauty of sport – it’s all about opinions, isn’t it?
So this is how our little voting session worked. Favorite tracks were ranked in a list by each writer — although not on a strict one through five method. If a track was mentioned on the list, it scored a point, and as you might expect the ones with the most points made the top of our final tally. As I collated everything the first surprise, for me at least, was that so many tracks rated a mention: 16 of the 22 current Sprint Cup venues polled at least one vote. It was also interesting to note how people voted, and that’s reflected (in some cases) in the responses included below. Some picked based on great racing or great fan experience. Others opted for tracks based on first race attended, historical success, or hometown proximity.
When you look at the results overall, it’s probably not too far away from being a fair representation of the typical NASCAR fan’s favorite tracks. But before I speak for everyone, let’s see if you agree with the experts first…
First Place: Darlington (16 votes)
The Lady in Black made her debut on the NASCAR schedule on Labor Day of 1950 – the sport’s second full season – and has remained on the docket ever since. This May’s “Mothers Day” race will be the 106th time Cup cars have started their engines at the egg-shaped 1.33-mile oval, and you can pretty much guarantee we’ll see some fantastic racing that’s as good now as it was way back when.
So why was Darlington the most popular choice (aside from its sheer awesomeness)? Well for a start, there’s the history — in more ways than one. “It’s quirky, it’s a cheese grater, and it’s old school,” says Frontstretch writer Mike Neff. “The first ‘super speedway’ on the circuit, it was built to see cars go as fast as they could — before they could go faster than the track could handle. This track has its own personality, and it will humble the greatest of drivers.” Every race on the Lady In Black leaves even the winner holding on for dear life; it’s a trait that might make fans mad other places, but at this one it only adds to the charm. Just last year, watching Kyle Busch lead 169 laps and still slip slide all over the track to slam the wall more than once just didn’t get boring. The Track Too Tough to Tame? You betcha, people.
And then there’s the unusual story behind the building of this place brought up by our own Vito Pugliese, who refers to the promise Harold Brasington made to farmer Sherman Ramsey when he bought the 70 acres required to create NASCAR’s first true superspeedway. “Old school personified,” he explains. “The Track To Tough To Tame. The Lady In Black. Whatever you want to call it, any track whose design was dictated by a minnow pond, I’m all for. We need more minnow ponds, less cookie cutters in NASCAR.”
For my money, Darlington is a worthy winner of our little survey, and this year, I hope to make the trip to South Carolina to see for myself in person. It’s a truly historic venue for the sport – and still one of the most important race weekends of the year. Now, if only NASCAR would give back the Labor Day date, it would complete the picture and bring the history of this fine facility full circle.
Second Place: Bristol (15 votes)
It’s Bristol, baby! The home of the 16-second lap was pipped at the post by Darlington, but Thunder Valley’s place on the list is testament to years of tremendous racing and a genuinely unique setting. The 160,000 seat amphitheater is a cathedral to our sport — and a pilgrimage every race fan should make. “[Bristol is] stock car’s equivalent to a bare-knuckle bar room brawl,” our Matt McLaughlin points out. “It ain’t going to be pretty… but you can’t look away.”
Mike Neff reinforces this notion. “Bristol – just look at the place,” he says. “It is a football stadium that has been fertilized beyond the manufacturers’ recommendations. If you stand down next to the track and look up, you are simply overwhelmed by the scale of the place. It is remarkable, and now that they’ve resurfaced it, the racing is back, too.”
As luck would have it, a friend of mine — the future Mrs. Casey Mears — has had an inside view of Bristol on race day. She’s the first of two non-Frontstretch writers I’m quoting: “The night race, standing in the infield 10 yards from cars that look perpendicular to the ground… so loud, so fast… freaking awesome, even after all these years.”
A “must go” track for all NASCAR aficionados, Bristol’s continuing ability to sell out not one but two dates with 320,000 fans combined safeguards their spot on the Sprint Cup schedule. Some even argue for a third race of the year on the high banks; and I, for one, wouldn’t disagree.
Third Place: Richmond (12 votes)
I knew Richmond was a popular track, but I was a little surprised it finished so high in the voting. Perhaps I’m caught up with the fact that the second race is the Chase cutoff, so everything that happens is framed by that context. Don’t get me wrong; I figured RIR would be top five on this list, at least. But I’d have put money on others being more popular, in particular the plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega — which, as you’ve seen, haven’t yet popped up on the docket.
But when it came to Richmond, the place was filled with plenty of staff support. “It’s short track racing with the big track feel,” Kim DeHaven explains, one of many who didn’t hesitate to make their feelings crystal clear for this short track. “I LOVE it! (Actually, this is probably the best track on the circuit, hands down, in my opinion).”
Our colleague Phil Allaway agrees. “The racing here has been very good in the past,” he says. “It seems that it got even better when they made both races night events starting in 1998.”
Once again, though, Mike Neff has perhaps the most thoughtful and interesting take of all. “In my opinion, it’s the perfect track for Cup racing,” he theorizes. “It is a short track, sure, but it has been engineered to allow the cars to flex their muscles. Driver skill and speed all come into play at this place. It’s a shame the cookie cutters were all modeled after Charlotte instead of Richmond.”
But it’s not just the racing, it’s the track itself that’s special — an “old school feel, new school facility” as Matt Taliaferro described it. Last season, Michael Waltrip was talking about RIR on a SPEED broadcast, and he made the point that in the 25 some years he’s been racing at Richmond, it’s just gotten better and better. Judging by the attendance – and the on-track fare – race fans seem to agree.
Fourth Place: (Tie) Talladega, Daytona (9 votes each)
You love it or you hate it, but one way or another, you just can’t take your eyes off the restrictor plate races. So, in that sense it’s appropriate that both Daytona and Talladega tied for fourth on our mini-survey. Yes, it is a somewhat contrived form of racing, but there’s something so utterly mesmeric about watching the closing laps of a plate race — one that’s nearly always decided on the white flag lap, with the “best car” far from a lock to take the checkers at the end.
Sure, you can ride around near the back for the first three quarters of the race, try to stay out of trouble, and then head forward; but we all saw how that worked out for Carl Edwards in the Chase last Fall. But even if you run up front all day, the close quarters and chess-like moves to stay there mean you’re constantly within harm’s reach. For me, still a relative newbie to the sport, there’s such a sense of anticipation attached to plate racing no matter what the winning strategy is. In the weeks leading up to the two dates at ‘Dega and the Daytona night race, I’m genuinely excited all week. And let me put that another way; while I love watching NASCAR, I only feel that way about the plate races, both Bristols, and Darlington.
Of course, whenever one thinks restrictor plates, you can’t avoid thinking about the wrecks — including a crash that usually builds up into what fans have termed “The Big One.” “Rumor has it there is an ancient Indian burial ground where the track was built,” explains Vito Pugliese on Talladega. “Hence it has been cursed with having a history of horrific wrecks. But if that’s the case, all future tracks should be built on burial sites of other ethnicities, because apparently the offshoot of this [curse] is the best racing, anywhere, ever.”
Both these tracks were on my list, and attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 and standing on pit road watching the race will go down as one of my best (sports) days ever. So in honor of going to races with friends, I’m going to hand over to my good buddy Tim Crowley, a true NASCAR fan, for a final thought on NASCAR’s most famous track: “Daytona – so freaking awesome, for ten thousand reasons.”
Well said, sir.
Sixth Place: (Tie) Martinsville, Charlotte, Atlanta, Dover (6 votes each)
Four tracks tied for sixth on our survey, and all are richly steeped in Cup history. Dover has held 78 Cup races to date, while Atlanta and Charlotte are right on the century mark. Leading the way with quite the record, though, is the little old paper clip that could — Martinsville — who in two weeks’ time will host its 121st NASCAR Cup event. And that’s where we’ll start in this quick review of all four unique ovals. Take it away, Kim DeHaven: “[Martinsville has a] small, hometown feel; beating and banging, side-by-side stuff all day long [on the track]. And as a fan, you don’t feel like just another customer here. Everyone, from the staff to other attendees, treat you like they have known you for a lifetime.”
Lowe’s Motor Speedway is another fine facility, and it’s appropriate the “hometown” track for most Cup faithful finishes with high marks. As Matt Taliaferro puts it: “It’s just the Mecca. You’ve got to go and drink it in.” And while Vito Pugliese might not like every change, he still gives the mile-and-a-half circuit an overall thumbs up. “Lowe’s – I still refuse to call it Lowe’s,” he explains. “This was the perfect racetrack until they blew it up with that stupid levigating in 2005, and again with the repave.”
“But it’s still the best track on the circuit, mainly because there’s something to do besides just going to the race. It’s a first class facility, people, fans, atmosphere, and racing. Mark Martin said it’s as easy to run fast here as it is at your local 1/4-mile dirt track.”
Atlanta is a speedway under more pressure than ever before, despite the many and varied rantings to the contrary from Bruton Smith. Flagging attendance has put its status as a two-date track on life support; in fact, saving one of those visits might already be too late for 2010. But regardless of the problems, this track is known for close competition, and as Matt McLaughlin points out, “great finishes.”
Doug Turnbull is more effusive while endorsing Atlanta as his favorite. “It is my home track and always has good racing,” he says. “Plus, SMI tracks always treat fans and media well.”
Last but not least is Dover — or the Monster Mile, if you prefer — home to the greatest victory trophy in NASCAR (the Martinsville Grandfather Clock notwithstanding). This concrete, mile-long circuit hosts two races a year, including race two of the Chase, and can house up to 140,000 fans. Capital improvement projects have bumped up the facilities and the fan friendliness quotient that goes with it — but it’s the on track action that always seems to catch your eye. “It’s close to home for me,” says Tom Bowles, “But I love it for so much more than that. It offers up great racing — even with the CoT — and I love how the Monster Mile can reach up and bite you at any moment.”
“It’s a larger Bristol, when you really look at it,” adds Phil Allaway. “But, unlike even the revamped Bristol [for Sprint Cup], you can pass fairly easily here.”
Tenth Place: Watkins Glen (5 votes)
The Best of The Rest
And then, there’s the six tracks receiving no love from the staff: Chicago, Fontana, Kansas, Las Vegas, Homestead-Miami, and Michigan. I can’t say I’m hugely surprised by this list of ovals missing out, but I did reckon Las Vegas might snare a vote or two based on the racing in recent years. I also figured Homestead might get a vote based on the championship, but that wasn’t to be — not exactly a ringing endorsement for a place where the Cup, Nationwide, and Truck Series all wind up holding their season finales now, is it?
So, that’s our very unscientific list of favorite tracks. Again, don’t be afraid to tell us yours (and why) either in our poll or in the comments section below.
©2000 - 2008 Danny Peters and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
#1 Bristol: Hey I admittedly like the wrecks. Nothing better than watching Rusty Wallace get bumped & run on the high banks. I supported the re-doing of the concrete. It’s made better racing and still have a good bump and run.
#2 Darlington: The history the shape the speed and one of the best finishes in my NASCAR history Craven and Busch hitting everything going to the checkers.
#3 Watkins Glen: Growing up outside of Boston this was the only oppertunity to see NASCAR. Way before Loudon
#4 Daytona: No other race has ever brought me to tears than the 2001 Pepsi 400.
#5 Dover concrete and racing “uphill” oh and plenty of good wrecks there too.
#6 Pocono Three turns from three different tracks. The only track that challenges the crew chief as much as the driver.
#7 Indy: Can still hear the call Gordon and Irvan going down the backstretch and the tire comes apart and Jeff Gordon takes home the inaugral Brickyard 400.
#8 Phoenix: My first race and that turn two which narrows up pretty quick and can get many a driver into trouble.
#9 Martinsville: Plenty of action all over the “paperclip”.
#10 Loudon a flat slippery track that has never disappointed.
Wow no cookie cutters. While I like racing at any venue the 1.5 milers just “blend in” If I had to rank the 1.5’ers
Tracks which I wish would go away Fontana and Michigan.
Ranking Darlington, Bristol & Richmond as the top 3 seems to me a no-brainer. The best racing in Nascar. I like Martinsville just because watching 43 cars sliding thru those flat turns is as close as it gets to dirt track racing.
Although the races have been hit-and-miss recently, there have been some great races at Charlotte. However, I sat there until the wee hours of the morning the year they they red flagged the race repeatedly until Jimmy Johnson’s Lowes car took the lead and then they called the race. I guess I can’t blame that on the track, but it sure left me bitter.
One other interesting thing about Charlotte… It seems like the chances are better than average that a driver will get his first win there. I personally have seen first-time wins by Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Matt Kenseth, and Jamie McMurray at Charlotte. I know that’s not a tip of the hat to the actual racing per se, but it’s always great to see a driver get his first win.
Darlington #1? C’mon! I think with this article, Darlington just became over-rated. Why? Because most of us hard core-ers are still PO’d that Cali took the coveted Labor day event away. So maybe there’s a sense of nostalgia and loyalty that we “have” to choose the one that burns us the most. But #1? Partially because of history? No offense to those who live in the past 24/7, but, who cares about history on a Sunday afternoon in 2009! Better than Bristol? No bleeping way. Bristol is the Indiana Jones of racing – there’s action every minute for hours on end.
And Martinsville is on par with Charlotte? Egads!
All IMHO, of course.
Vito said: “But if that’s the case, all future tracks should be built on burial sites of other ethnicities, because apparently the offshoot of this [curse] is the best racing, anywhere, ever.”
Careful what you ask for Vito, I read somewhere on here that Fontana was also built on an ancient burial ground, and it became cursed in a different way.
To HankZ: California DID NOT take the Labor Day date. NASCAR gave it to them after an alledged drug-induced fog of counting their money and sniffing their own farts.
I’m glad to see Richmond getting the attention it did. I’ve seen every kind of race car run that track and it lends itself to great racing.
The configuration allows for apexing early or late into corners so passing is highly possible, always!
About the ‘Dega “big one”. despite the rumor of Indian burial ground, ‘Dega wasn’t a wreckfest until plate racing came along. I’ve never been fond of plate racing; it’s far too artificial for my likes.
Now that Bristol has calmed down and the 20+ caution periods are in the past, I can appreciate it again. Crashes rarely are the result of talented driving… so don’t expect me to appreciate any crash for any reason.I note the references to Darlington for its historical significance but I always will know it as the “track too tough to tame”. Winning there has always been a victory respected by other drivers and I understand why. Any track that demands complete dominance by the entire team always gets my attention.
There’re other tracks mentioned that I have enjoyed some incredible races from… they go thru cycles as new pavement is seasoned, tires match the surface, and rules change.
In summary, a demanding track that has fewer cuations and wrecks appeals to me.
We’ve been to both Darlington and Bristol.
what about Nashville? my gosh. robbed.
#1 Bristol #2 Richmond #3-10-Any traditional track south of the Mason Dixon line.
My favorite track will always be Charlotte. And having said that, it will always be Charlotte to me.
Talladega – further proof that Americans love violence. To quote George C. Scott from “Patton” – “God how I love it so….I love it more than my own life…”
I’m guessing the list is for Cup racing only, bam bam, otherwise I would definitely be putting Mansfield, Milwaulkee, and Montreal on the list.
Interesting how so few 1.5 Mile Crapovals are showing up everyones’ lists…
Ken said: “#3-10-Any traditional track south of the Mason Dixon line.“
And that right there is why I defend California so much. Half the reason for the California-hate is the traditionalists and isolationists that dont want NASCAR anywhere but the Southeast. They’re selfish and refuse to share their sport with the rest of the world. Nevermind that the racing might be single-file and spread out (like most other 1.5 mile speedways), but just because its California, its automatically crap.
1.Bristol(fond memories of Harvick jumping on Rudds hood)