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.
Doug Turnbull · Tuesday August 10, 2010
While Phil Allaway takes the week off, it is my pleasure to be filling in on this column, as I had the honor of writing it through the 2008 season. Back then, ESPN was in the second year of its return to NASCAR, and the network still had many kinks to work out — not the least of which was the continued struggling of lead booth announcer Dr. Jerry Punch. When I met with ESPN officials and asked about some of their problems, they attributed them to the growing pains attached to recently rejoining the sport. Have they finally shaken off the cobwebs?
For me, the answer is clear: a resounding yes. Nearly two years removed from that conversation, Sunday’s coverage at Watkins Glen is proof that ESPN, the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” has made significant strides.
The most noticeable change ESPN has made since 2008 is the addition of Marty Reid as lead booth announcer and the moving of Dr. Jerry Punch to pit road. Punch replaced Mike Massaro, while Vince Welch was brought on to replace Shannon Spake. Punch and Welch joined the existing pit road team of Jamie Little and Dave Burns, who have proven themselves as solid pit road beat reporters since 2007. Yet despite plenty of outcry for Punch’s demotion from the booth during the 2008 season, ESPN chose to keep him up top through 2009, making the move to Reid this January.
Six months into the role, it’s clear Reid is a definite upgrade. While he appears nowhere near the race enthusiast that the lead announcers of FOX (Mike Joy) and TNT (Adam Alexander) are, and sometimes struggles to remember who drives what car, he has mixed in very well with the rest of the booth crew. Former owner and crew chief Andy Petree and 1999 Cup Champ Dale Jarrett continue to provide smooth, thorough analysis, minus some of the fluff and NASCAR cheerleading that Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds on FOX have brought to the table time and again.
Jarrett and Petree’s expertise was very noticeable this weekend at The Glen. Remember, in comparison to Waltrip, Jarrett took his last race car reps in 2008, so the tracks have changed a lot less in two or three years than when Waltrip last drove on them in 2000. Jarrett’s knowledge was so precise that he even took to pointing out the exact shift points during the laps at Watkins Glen. A Petree highlight came in his analysis of how the track changes would affect crew chief’s strategies of when they would pit their cars. In earlier Glen races, according to Petree, crew chiefs would consider pitting early to try to gain track position and bet on more cautions late in the race. But with the subtraction of the sand traps and the addition of more paved runoff areas, drivers had fewer chances to mess up and get stuck and more space to spin out of the way or correct any spins, meaning less caution flags were likely to fly. Petree, who led Dale Earnhardt to Cup championships in 1993 and 1994 as crew chief, correctly predicted what other head wrenches would do, as they pitted their drivers about 10 laps later on their first stop than they had in previous years. Petree’s prediction of green-flag racing was also correct – the final 16 laps came and went without a caution.
ESPN has a knack for putting competent crew chiefs on its airwaves, either in the booth, in the studio, or even for special features. Tim Brewer has matured from a bumbling homeboy in 2008 to explaining a useful piece in the Tech Center he broadcasts from every week. I was convinced two years ago that Brewer needed to be benched, but he since has felt the heat and stepped up to provide great hands-on demonstrations of different issues with race cars. Brewer is quick to pull the pieces away from the cutaway car in the Tech Center as situations are unfolding and then provides quick, simple explanations as to what is going on. Brewer did this perfectly before the race even began Sunday, when he showed the weight problem with Kyle Busch and, later on, the throttle spring problem on the No. 18 Toyota that occurred during the race.
But he’s not the only one who stands out. While absent from the telecast Sunday, Ray Evernham’s anecdotes from being one of the greatest crew chiefs of all-time with Jeff Gordon, then a successful owner after that have translated into a bevy of relatable info from either the ESPN Pit Studio, or from the broadcast booth in Nationwide races. If Andy Petree gets sick one week, this network has a great backup.
Speaking of the Pit Studio, it was under-utilized on Sunday. With few cautions, there were fewer breaks in the action to cut away to the trio that has Allen Bestwick paired with 1989 Cup champ Rusty Wallace and NASCAR owner Brad Daugherty. In one rare on-air moment, Wallace spotted a spin in midst of a diatribe and incorrectly deemed the incident a caution. Pair moments like this with his calling Kyle Busch an ignorant donkey a couple of weeks ago on-air because he didn’t know his mic was up, and Wallace has affirmed ESPN’s decision to replace him in the booth with Jarrett after the ’07 season. Despite his knowledge of the sport, Wallace seems to have become the Joe Biden of NASCAR broadcasting – lots of worthy experience, but with a huge disconnect between the brain and his big mouth. Brad Daugherty also seems to add little more than cheerleading to the Pit Studio, while Allen Bestwick still often shines, with his smooth delivery and years of NASCAR experience. Bestwick did butcher one ESPN baseball promo, calling All-Star Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto, “Joey Vow-tow…” I’m sure not many NASCAR fans caught that, though.
Bad luck did strike ESPN in the ankle. Both ESPN and TNT have caught flack from writers and fans in the Twitter Universe for missing rare lead changes or other action during commercial breaks. The most exciting racing Sunday at Watkins Glen occurred for a ten-lap stretch from about lap 30-40, when the day’s predominant favorites, Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya, engaged in a tense, close, exciting battle for the lead that carried the intensity of a last-lap battle for the gold. Ambrose, whose hunger for a Cup win is ravenous at road courses, made several skilled, but desperate moves to try and pass the leader Montoya. Yet with the battle seemingly in short-term check, ESPN cut to a commercial break; and, as luck would have it, that not only was the moment the Aussie Ambrose passed Montoya for the lead, but two other cars would spin on the track at the same time, bringing out a caution.
Critics are quick to jump ESPN for missing these critical moments, and their dissents are fair. But, if posed with a choice, what would we rather see? Commercial breaks earlier in the telecast, when passes for the lead do not necessarily decide the end of the race, or commercial breaks with 10 laps to go, when the racing gets much more dicey and consequential? ESPN has to pay the bills and show the commercials; this time, they made a choice that they surely regret. A simple solution to this problem, I say, would be to hold out from a commercial break as long as possible during the edge-of-the-seat battle for the lead. 20/20 hindsight says there were plenty of dull moments afterwards to play extra commercial breaks – but hindsight always sees that well.
The main plus for ESPN on Sunday was the race’s length. A 1:20 PM (or so) green flag and a checkered flag waving before 4 PM meant a less-than-three hour race, something very few objected to. This meant there were fewer lulls in the action than normal that ESPN had to fill, resulting in a more attentive and in-tune audience at race’s end – an audience much more likely to stay tuned to the expanded SportsCenter to watch the studio anchors attempt to voice the NASCAR highlight reel. The race length leaves the viewership with a much better taste in its mouth, meaning they may feel more prone to watch next week’s Michigan race — which will certainly take up a much larger chunk of Sunday afternoons.
ESPN, overall, gets an A-minus this week, having made the proper tweaks to its telecast in the last couple of years. If ESPN indeed decides to renew its commitment to NASCAR at the end of the current broadcasting deal, it has a deep on and off-air team not only for its first-string Cup telecasts, but for its developed bench of talent for its Nationwide Series non-companion races as well.
Here are just a few remaining knick-knacks from the broadcasting week in racing:
- Just how long will the quacks back at the ESPN network studios take to learn a thing about NASCAR?
Sunday’s race highlight reels showed a couple of spins, Ambrose’s Sonoma misfortune, and Montoya’s taking the checkers — but nothing of the great duel Montoya and Ambrose waged just before the race’s midpoint. At least the network surprisingly didn’t bother with popular Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s race that day, which was a non-arrival and 26th-place Glen finish.
- Two years ago at Sonoma, TNT numbered the turns on TV at the tricky track, a welcome feature on zoomed in shots at a place with so many bends. Numbering the turns at Watkins Glen would sure be nice; in fact, numbering the turns at any track would be a great idea, as many corners look the same on TV. No network has really tackled this concept, but I feel that it would go over well.
- SPEED did a terrific job covering the Truck race at Nashville Saturday night, making the broadcast exciting despite winner Todd Bodine’s dominance of the race. A highlight of the event was the duel between Red Horse Racing’s Justin Lofton and Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Brian Ickler. The two trucks made contact multiple times, with Ickler winning the battle by trapping Lofton behind a lapped truck. After the race, Ickler pulled alongside Lofton and gave him the finger (which SPEED inadvertently did not edit on a replay), causing Lofton to nudge into Ickler’s rear bed on the cool-down lap. After the race, pit reporter Adam Alexander wasted no time getting a reaction from both drivers. In a situation where the network easily could have copped out the easier assignment of chasing down only the top finishers, Alexander instead ran to the haulers in the garage to get the real post-race scoop from the race’s most exciting moment. Kudos, SPEED.
Phil Allaway returns to the “Talking NASCAR TV” driver’s seat next week to cover the coverage from Michigan. Tune here after all the festivities and see what Frontstretch’s media expert has to say then.
Weekend NASCAR TV Schedule
Saturday, August 14
Sunday, August 15
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. And if you would like to contact ESPN or the SPEED Channel personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage from last weekend, please click on the following links:
As always, if you choose to contact the network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.
Listen to Doug weekly on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury Speedshop racing show with host Captain Herb Emory each Saturday, from 12-1 p.m., on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and on wsbradio.com. Doug also hosts podcasts on ChaseElliott.com and BillElliott.com.
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Doug, although I agree with you on Dr. Jerry Punch, I have to say my opinion of Marty Reid is much different from yours. He came off as a bumbling “I gotta fill every moment with my voice” kind of guy in the booth. Even MORE annoying than Punch. I don’t understand why Alan B. isn’t back in the booth! His talent compared to everyone else on that team is phenominal! Others tend to yell into the microphone, while AB keeps cool and collected and even injects a little humor along the way, not to mention his knowledge of the sport and the people involved. He does great in pre-race no matter who is in the booth with him (I reference your input on Wallace & Dougherty). I just don’t get why they try to put someone else in the booth… Scratching my head and wondering…
Sherri, I guess you have a short memory. Alan was in the booth a few years ago and got crucified on the blogs, especially by Dopey Daly.I don’t know what you are looking for, I really enjoyed the Glen broadcast. You must like the childish, beverly hillbilly, WWE style of DW, Larry Mac and Hammond who to me are terrible. Mike Joy is very good but he is saddled with a team who ruins racing for me. The truck race was once again unwatchable because of M. Waltrip and his mouthy, dopey style in the booth. Give me the sharp, articulate and informative ESPN coverage any day over the buffoonery and schilling of a WAltrip!
The only real knock I have on ESPN’s broadcast is the luck they have with action versus commercials. It’s always “while we were away”. But I guess any network could have that problem when they have to saturate commercials to pay for the worthless NA$CAR contracts they got themselves into.