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.
Doug Turnbull · Tuesday October 21, 2008
The television coverage of Chase Race Number Six at Martinsville achieved approximately the same quality level as the other five Chase races. Unfortunately, the network team in front of and behind the camera has not made much progress in correcting ongoing mistakes and heeding to repeated suggestions. At the same time, the things throughout NASCAR on ABC/ESPN broadcasts that are done well continue to show impressively to viewers, giving the production some building blocks upon which to grow. However, the negatives always seem to be remembered more boldly than the positives as the season winds down.
The weakest link during this latest NASCAR on ABC installment easily was the pit road reporting team. Covering the pits at short tracks is a challenge, especially under green flag conditions, because the noise level can easily drown out a reporter’s voice and make it hard to interview crew chiefs or other people of note during the race. To their credit, noise did not prove to be a damning factor for these reporters during Sunday’s event; but in the end, that advancement was canceled out due to other blunders. Shannon Spake continues to struggle during pit sequences, often stumbling over her words and leaving out important details during the fast-paced stops. Mike Massaro, who has done well on pit road during most ESPN races this year, also found himself tongue-tied in a few instances. There also were several pit stops that occurred on camera without the aid of any reporter. Dave Burns began one Kyle Busch stop three quarters of the way through it, which meant that there was an awkward transition from the booth to the pits when the stop began.
Sunday’s racing action did not lend itself to very much unpredictable strategy toward the end of the race, so the pit road reporters did not spend much time yelling in the ears of crew chiefs and trying to learn their strategies. Instead, interviews of interest took place after the event. Drivers took the checkered flag just prior to 5:30, meaning that (gasp) ABC actually had to remain on the air for over thirty minutes to do post-race coverage. This expanded time slot should have allowed for every driver in the Top 10 plus the remaining Chase drivers sprinkled through the field to be interviewed; but ABC disappointed.
Of course, Jimmie Johnson got some camera time in Victory Lane, as did Rick Hendrick, who lost his son and others in a plane crash near the track four years ago during the same weekend. ESPN went further and interviewed Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus to put a final stamp on the story. However, this all took place before they conducted interviews of Carl Edwards or anyone else in the Top 5 or 10. It was notable that Scott Speed, who had just concluded his Sprint Cup debut in the No. 84, was interviewed briefly about his day despite a 30th place finish. But Allen Bestwick, Rusty Wallace, and Brad Daugherty each had brief remarks afterwards regarding Speed’s innocuous presence in the race, wasting valuable time.
More driver interviews, instead of analysis and filler, would have been nice instead. ESPN could have tracked down Reed Sorenson and seen why his car could not get to pit road after he wrecked during such a good run (the car’s not getting to pit road and trip to the garage took place off camera). ESPN also could have put fellow Georgian David Ragan in front of the camera or his teammate Matt Kenseth to explain what it felt like getting accidentally punted by a teammate (Kenseth did the same to Edwards a year ago, sparking the infamous shove and fake punch after that race). Instead, with the exception of Speed and Jamie McMurray (who dropped out while running in the Top 5), only Chase drivers got interviews on this day.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s post-race interview, though, was particularly intriguing amongst the Chasers. After being asked by Shannon Spake if he was frustrated by the late-race caution flags ruining his chances to catch leader Johnson, Junior said that there was no way that the race could go caution-free for that long at Martinsville, and that NASCAR would throw caution flags intentionally to bunch up the field if it did. Earnhardt, Jr. has not been known to make remarks of that variety very often, so Spake should be praised for garnering a rare Tony Stewart-esque response from Junior. With or without the controversial remark, this was one of Junior’s best post-race interviews of the year, because he seemed fairly alert and talked for more than a few dejected sentences.
But the analysis of that exchange fell short of the mark. ESPN cut to the Pit Studio after the interview, and Daugherty was beside himself that Junior would accuse NASCAR of throwing the race. Though some may disagree with Junior’s remarks, they have been echoed by others in the sport and by fans over the past couple of years. Daugherty’s reaction to them is yet another example of the pro-NASCAR cheerleading that every network partakes in. Almost every week, networks try to angle the camera shots to avoid showing the empty sections of the grandstands (which was hard to do at Martinsville, and it showed). Commentary on the CoT, NASCAR decisions, and other controversial topics almost always fall on the side of NASCAR during network broadcasts. Networks pay hundreds of millions of dollars to show these races and should not be shy to allow their commentators to show alternative points of view – or maybe they should. When Bob Dillner interviewed Earnhardt Jr. for NASCAR Victory Lane on SPEED, Junior appeared to be headed toward the Big Yellow Truck, either for a slap on the wrist or maybe a free invitation to race control for the Truck race in Atlanta next weekend. If Junior was indeed going into the trailer for that reason, that gives the networks even more leeway to continue siding with the sport’s sanctioning body.
The boys in the booth — Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett, and Andy Petree — each performed at their same output levels for this race. Jarrett and Petree offered great in-race analysis (especially on the conditions of the CoT’s brakes and the right front tires blowing as a result) while adequately calling the play-by-play action. Punch, meanwhile, continued to offer very little from his important lead announcer role. He especially struggled during this race, as he has all season ad libbing commentary or play-by-play. During one of the race’s Up To Speed segments, the pit reporters did not report on one of the race cars being featured. So Punch attempted to take the responsibility of updating the racer’s progress himself, but did an atrocious job. He struggled to come up with any relevant information on the car, and made the whole moment awkward and forgettable. As stated often in this column, the pit road team and/or the Pit Road Studio could really use his help, while the booth could use Bestwick’s instead.
The aforementioned Up To Speed segment still does not find its way into ESPN NASCAR broadcasts often enough. The network only made two attempts at it during the entire 500-lap race, never advancing past drivers in the Top 15. Centering the coverage around a small fraction of the 43-car field makes it hard for viewers to keep track of other drivers. Ironically, NASCAR’s current sponsorship void may be lessened if other teams simply got a little more television coverage. It is harder than ever now to sell a $15-30 million dollar sponsorship of a race team in a corporate boardroom, so any bit of exposure helps. ESPN’s star-centered coverage was summed up when Allen Bestwick decided to throw in a quick summary of a couple of drivers not in the Top 15. He began the update by saying he was updating a couple of more “headline drivers;” of course, those two he covered were in the Chase, but out of title contention. Several drivers had impressive days, considering their experience and luck at Martinsville, including Reed Sorenson (before he wrecked in the late laps), David Ragan, Casey Mears, and A.J. Allmendinger… but they received little mention in the broadcast. Now we know the reason why; they are not of headline status.
Another weak spot of the race was the amount of crashes and other activity that took place off camera. There was more than one crash that either occurred off camera or was very late making the air. At a small track like Martinsville, this is not excusable. Besides missing a couple of the crashes, though, the camera crew did a wonderful job.
There were also several strong spots in ESPN’s Martinsville coverage. The network has done a great job at capturing audio from team radios during races. A conversation between Earnhardt, Jr. and crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. about the conditions of the tires was great, simply because of the fact that Andy Petree corrected Eury on air about what the failing tires of other drivers were doing. But the best piece of radio audio during the race showcased Kurt Busch’s frustration with his wounded race car that kept cooking tires. He asked his crew at least twice on the radio if he could park his Dodge, and then asked for Penske Racing part-owner Walt Czarnecki to get on the radio. After asking him if he could park the car, Czaernecki said, “No sir.” This conversation could have meant several things: Kurt Busch was simply frustrated and wanted to go home; he is a wimp and was throwing a fit; or he may be so frustrated with how his team is running that his relationship with personnel, including Czarnecki, could be wearing thin. Thank goodness that ESPN aired this audio and gave the rest of the media something to ask Busch this coming weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Another improving portion of the coverage is the ESPN Dish Tech Center with Tim Brewer. Brewer’s delivery has gotten better through the season, though it still is not great. Nevertheless, the value of the ESPN Cut-Away Car is high, and Brewer knows the ins and outs of the car quite well. As often as Brewer is used during pre-race coverage, practices, NASCAR Now, and other ESPN NASCAR content, he really should have a greater presence during the race itself. His value has more than doubled since ESPN began its Cup coverage at Indy in July.
Here are a few more observations noticed on NASCAR TV this week:
Whether Awesome Bill ends up retiring or not, his announcement should be taken seriously. He is a NASCAR champion and one of the greatest drivers of our time, especially on superspeedways. ESPN, SPEED, and any other outlet covering the sport should give Elliott some airtime, especially to educate some newer, younger fans to the sport. He may not be a “headliner” anymore, but was the sport’s most popular driver for years (winning the Most Popular Driver Award over a dozen times) and is a NASCAR champion. At least he received one or two mentions during the Martinsville broadcast.
For the record, Wallace did use his position on the SPEED shows to posture himself for the All-Star Race fan vote last year, and constantly promoted his Furniture Row race team when he drove for them. It was a small team, however, that needed the exposure, and Wallace never hesitated to cover or talk about other organizations the rest of the time. Kudos to SPEED and its team for keeping its broadcasts fresh, informative, and without bias – at least until D.W. gets on the SPEED stage or in the booth.
The Chase continues next week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where racing lends itself to long green flag runs. Turn here next week to see if ESPN struggles to keep the play-by-play exciting and informative.
Here are links to either emails or websites you can use to give the various networks your feedback. Please be respectful if you choose to use them, so yours and everyone’s comments are taken seriously.
Editor’s Note: You can hear Doug Turnbull talk racing on the Bellamy Strickland 120 on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and on wsbradio.com. The show airs live from Atlanta Motor Speedway this Sunday from 9-10:30 a.m. and from 12-2 p.m. Podcasts of the show are available on captainherb.net. Also, look forward to some inside coverage of the garage this weekend as he works the race for Frontstretch.com!
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Regarding Bill Elliott, he never retired outright. When he handed the 9 over to Kahne he said he would like to race part time over the next several years, which he has. Now he said he will retire after the 2008 season. Where did you come up with stating that Bill has said the ‘R’ before? Prior to Junior, Mr. Elliott won the MPD award 16 times. I looked it up so you don’t have to.
Right on..Great article..
All I want are these two things. A play-by-play announcer who does play-by-play, and keep the camera on racing.
Jerry Punch/Bill Weber never raise their voices much or call on track action “as it happens” as say the MRN guys. I know on the radio you have to “paint” the action with words, but I think it would add excitement even if I could see it anyway.
The other thing, show racing! “Through the field” is awfully tiresome, the recorded interviews shown midrace are always pointless and kinda fruity, and Shannon Spake is always screaming. The close CLOSE shots of the cars don’t show racing either. I hate watching a battle from the side of someone’s rear bumper. You need to see two cars to see racing. The excitement is in the change of position between two or more cars. And the significance of the change of position is based on where they are on what kind of track. Hell, just put three cameras on the spotter’s stand, I’m happy. I just want to see the track and cars. It’s hard sometimes to get a feel for the track when you never get a good look at it during racing.