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 · Monday September 6, 2010
Drivers love it. It sits just south of the biggest city in the southeastern United States and 7th or 8th biggest in the whole country. It has wonderful facilities, a fan-friendly atmosphere. It has been home to some of the most spectacular finishes and impactful races in NASCAR history. But Atlanta Motor Speedway has a problem – the crowds just will not turn the gates. Sunday night’s crowd was well-short of expectation, to the surprise of many. Despite vast improvements and additions on the track’s grounds, despite lowering the ticket prices more than Mel Gibson’s appearance fees, fans in the Atlanta area just aren’t sinking their teeth into AMS races. But why? After all of the hubbub, the lost March race, the arrival of NASCAR on Labor Day weekend, how could they not? The list of problems may be longer than NASCAR and AMS officials can fix.
Some, particularly the casual fan (you know, the one that NASCAR broke its back to please these last few years), would argue that the racing at Atlanta is boring. A point can be made. I, myself, have fallen asleep at the track before, even in the grandstands. While drivers are pressing their cars’ handling abilities to the limits and pining for the thread-wide sweet spot that would give their cars speed. Of course, while they are busy dirt-tracking their various lines across AMS’ famously abrasive surface, one driver has figured out the riddle and checked out. The strung out field leads to long green flag runs, which yields to even more daylight (or moonlight as it be) between each position. While the endings are often fun, along with restarts, the meat of the sandwich sometimes takes too long to chew. And in the age of attentions spans shorter than Heidi Montag’s singing career. That means trouble.
The boredom, though, doesn’t always translate to the grandstands (despite my cat nap in the bleachers several years back), like it does on television. The sheer spectacle of stock car racing can overcome a lackluster race. Loud cars, the smell of fuel and tires, and the electricity of the light bouncing off the paint schemes can’t help but conjure up excitement. Add in the fact that the night race is brand new in Atlanta (and on Labor Day Eve – so people do not have to worry about work the next day) and this would at least prompt a few more fans to try AMS for the first time or return to a race after years of cold weather in March and October races. Last season, that was the case. The Labor Day race, while short of a sellout, was an exciting smash. This year, the Labor Day night race at AMS experienced a sophomore attendance slump.
Maybe the problem is deeper, then, than the problems unique to Atlanta. Fans used to pack the stands at AMS and see the same strung out racing, deal with the same questionable weather, and sit in the same traffic jams going to and from the races. Maybe the problem is the same one that plagues the whole sport. Both AMS and Auto Club Speedway in California lost one of their two annual dates on the 2011 Sprint Cup schedule. California’s attendance problems, though, pervaded most of its existence, as the cosmopolitan crew on the West Coast that did drive their BMW s from Hollywood to see a race there, rarely did so more than once or twice. But AMS had a healthy fan base simply erode away. Did bad weather wash it away? The weather for this Labor Day was forecast (and ended up being) as perfect. The fans showed up in droves – to other places.
The first problem for AMS is the same apathy that plagues all of NASCAR right now. Fans just simply aren’t in love with today’s drivers and the racing mentality most take to the track. The sport is covered apathetically by a bored media, who realizes they can draw a paycheck by following the same storylines, scanning Jayski for material instead of prodding for new information, and speaking in the same platitudes each week (and when that fails, they resort to bashing it). And apathy in Metro Atlanta on all occasions exists – especially in sports. The already non-NASCAR populace of Atlanta knows nothing of the sport and does not show up to watch the sports it does know about. As a native and avid Braves fan, I still cannot fathom the sub-20,000 crowds that attended the games at Turner Field this past week – and the Braves are in their first good pennant race since 2005. The Hawks’ first-round playoff-clinching win had more empty seats than a Limp Bizkit concert. Imagine how this translates to a venue 40 miles south of the city, for a sport that many Atlantans (who aren’t natives and have no concept of NASCAR) do not understand or like.
Say they did, though. Even if people in the Atlanta area were at least halfway passionate about the sport, they do not have much money. Sure, there are many affluent business people that live in posh areas close to town, the majority of Atlanta’s population with expendable income live well north of the city, adding over a half hour to a trip down to Hampton, Georgia. And expendable income is at a premium for those people and even more so for the blue collar demographic of fans that are NASCAR’s bread and butter, especially in this sagging economy. Georgia’s jobless rate is among the worst in the country. And in better economic times, when fans flocked to NASCAR during the late 1990s and early 2000s, ticket prices rose to astronomical levels and priced some fans out before hard times hit.
Who do we have left? The core of die-hard fans that scraped together their vacation money for the bi-annual trip down or up I-75 to AMS that came over the majority of the track’s 50 years to see the likes of Allison, Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Baker, Roberts, Earnhardt, the Labontes, Rusty, and some red-headed fella named Elliott. They saw the mind-boggling 1992 Hooter’s 500, where Petty retired, Jeff Gordon debuted, Davey Allison was eliminated from title contention, and hometown hero Bill Elliott (the race winner) did all he could do to snag the Winston Cup away from eventual Cup winner Alan Kulwicki. These fans still came in droves to see Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, and others through the 1990s and early 2000s. But then the attitudes of drivers changed. The racing changed. NASCAR openly said that these core fans were not who they wanted to attract and the governing body made changes that many of those fans left didn’t appreciate. Suddenly (or not so much so), those blue collar fans reconsidered the burden of loading the van and trucking themselves to the race. Who did they feel they could root for? Jimmie Johnson? His blue collar roots don’t come across in his interviews and his dominance the past few years has not been very popular. Dale Earnhardt Jr.? I’m told he still races, but I haven’t seen him up front in a while. Kyle Busch? Here’s a quote I heard during driver introductions from the crowd Sunday: “Boooooo.” It isn’t worth it to them. They’d rather take the family to the beach one last time on Labor Day and flip the race on for the last 50 laps.
And here’s the final thing to consider: Atlanta still attracts more fans than some tracks – some that still have two dates. The problem, of course, is that the expansion of NASCAR led to grandstand expansion and, thus, has left empty spots along the front straightaway seating (the expensive seating) in NASCAR’s contraction in the past few years. The AMS attendance drop-off has not gone unnoticed and is harped upon by many. But unlike Auto Club Speedway, where the racing was nearly always boring (with the exception of this past February), AMS’ insufficient gate returns had little to do with anything the track itself could control. The economy tanked. The culture in NASCAR changed. The Atlanta media largely ignored the track, because it largely ignored NASCAR. Now the March date is gone.
I’ve heard that some scratched attending Sunday’s race because the March date got taken away, which is counter-intuitive, but nonetheless again adds angry, broke, apathetic souls to the pile of people who aren’t coming to the track. However you feel, though, whomever you blame, don’t blame the track. Atlanta Motor Speedway is yet another heritage racing venue that fell victim to circumstance and can still fight to get some of its lost share. The crew that runs AMS has done more to accommodate fans (lowering ticket prices, booking concerts, and convincing hotels to lower rates) than many tracks would ever think of. The “Boys Have at It” experiment in NASCAR isn’t over, the Chase for the Cup may change, the economy definitely will rebound, and fans will return to those empty seats. When they do, Labor Day racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be viewed as the tradition it should be – and while the date may never surpass the tradition steeped in the Southern 500 at Darlington – it will carve its place in history as a marquee event.
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 AM 750 and NOW 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB in Atlanta and on wsbradio.com. Doug also hosts podcasts on ChaseElliott.com and BillElliott.com.
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And living in GA why did I attend the race in person? Didn’t want to spend the money. I’m thankful I have a job, but as you mentioned, unemployment here is some of the worst in the country. I also didn’t want to have to even think about dealing with post race traffic in the wee hours of the morning. GA is also having a huge crack down of drunk driving this weekend. Not that I drive, but it makes me anxious and nervous being on roadways with folks that have been indulging all day and night long. There are enough accidents on Atlanta highways, and generally one fatality a week, so it’s a control thing with me. Maybe next year, if economy gets better. Weather was perfect and I was tempted on Sunday to drive down, as I knew tickets were still available, but I chose to hold onto my dollars and watch from the couch. Once Dale Jr went a lap down and the “debris caution” was thrown, that bunched up the field and did make racing a bit more exciting. Again, credibility issue with NA$CAR.
YES. I SAW THE EMPTY SEATS. SORRY I DIDN’T LIVE CLOSE ENOUGH TO BE THERE AND SEE IT FOR REAL.IT WAS A GREAT RACE.DON’T SEE HOW ONE COULD TAKE A NAP DURING THAT ONE. I’M SORRY I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER TO HOW YOU GET PEOPLE OUT.
I agree with everything said here. Like Janice I THOUGHT of going, but I would have had to drive from Rome, GA to Hampton and that (since the track is on US41) a pain. Atlanta traffic works pretty much from the airport going north but going south is a pain in the rear. I love AMS and have gone to the spring race most years since 1969, but the fall race leaves me less than enthused because it comes so soon after Bristol.
Quite frankly, I’d be more likely to attend a daytime race than a night race. I like the night race idea when it’s at a local short track and attendance is small… but I don’t want to start a busy drive home (even if it’s “only” thirty miles) at or after midnight.
Of course, the other thing going against the track is that despite me living in Atlanta, Talladega isn’t that much farther away and it promises something different… a greater spectacle, a chance at a surprise winner, a race that’s virtually guaranteed to be close, and a Truck race as a companion event. If I can only get to one race weekend this season, it’s going to be ‘Dega.
We need to look at local publicity. The ajc (atl daily newsp.) put the race on page C-16 Sun. The front page Sun. included a long story about the old coach’s wife and her opening game outfit. WSB radio, which has has gone all-out in recent years, went back to their true love, UGA football. I don’t know what AMS has done to tick off the local media – but that’s part of the attendance problem.
Whomever picked the Ernie Haase & Signature Sound group to sing our National Anthem should pat themselves on the back & get a big bonus. Sometimes I wonder if the folks picked to sing it have even been auditioned. Not this time! These guys, in their suits, white shirts & ties, sang it like they BELIEVE it!!! :) Well done guys!
It’s not what has ticked off local media DT… It’s NASCAR has ticked off it’s “CORE” fan and it’s payback time…
We aren’t showing up to races because of the same old thing…$$$$..
Lets face it… NASCAR is about money and putting on a show…. it’s not like the early years when it was about the racing…
Things that need to change…
Intro the top 10 drivers and past Champs without all the hipe (Hornish,Speed, and field fillers..who cares(sorry guys.. I don’t love ya and I already KNOW Ya)), we need to have a moment of silence not a prayer (many of my agnostic and jewish friends are tired of guys like Coach G and some pastors proclaiming JC is the divine savior(very offensive)), do the Athem, G..SYE! sweet and to the point and get the cars rolling… all in 30 minutes…
and lastly… The present Frances family is killing NASCAR along with guys like “Bug-Eye” “I’ll take my toys elsewhere” Burton…
8. Lador Day Race’n belongs at Darlington….PERIOD!
I told BZ this would happen,………But did he listen, NOOOO!!!
i went to the race last night. i live in Doraville which is in north Atlanta. i got back to my car around midnight and i didn’t get home till 2am. they need to go back to the daytime for that race. by the way, Atlanta is the worst sports town i’ve ever lived in and i lived in south florida for 30 years.
I feel hurt by Atlanta not selling seats because they should have gone to a Summer Race sooner and if Darlington can’t shape up, which sadly is just as equally ill shape as a venue, I would prefer Bristol in 2012 because that would be the Saturday Night Labor Day Night Race Week so there can be more to draw from.
Economy, economy, economy that is the main problem!! Also the racing season is too long, drop some of the second races and squeeze the season down to six months. It’s so long now that it has reached the saturation point. Chase, you got to be kidding.
My husband and I went to an Atlanta race 5 years ago in the spring. The race itself was fantastic! One of the best I had ever seen. The employees at the track were another story. We approached the gate one morning to locate Will Call to pick up some tickets. We asked the girl at the gate if she knew where the Will Call was or if it might be open and were promptly told, “How am I supposed to know, I’m not there.” That was the general attitude of virtually every track employee we ran into. The exception to that was the people who ran the track campground we stayed at (they were from Talladega). I wrote a letter to the speedway and didn’t receive so much as an acknowledgement. I can stay home, not travel 1,000 and go to my local grocery store to get attitude and get treated like crap. Not to mention save thousands of dollars.
I have been to the each race at AMS for the last 11 years. Granted, I live close to the track but even if I lived on the north side of town, I would still go! I love the racing at Atlanta, it is a drivers track. I was excited on Sat when it seemed that the Nationwide race had great numbers in the stands then was disappointed on Sun when the numbers looked lower. I think they should take out one of the grandstands then it would fill up better, sounds crazy I know but the crowds are not going to be as big as many years ago because of all the changes at Nascar. AMS did not deserve to lose a race either. I thought last year that Nascar was trying to get back to its core members but then this year that was all taken away. Let each track have only one date, make the season shorter, rotate the tracks for the last 5 races each year so each track will get a season ending race. Or get rid of the chase all together and pls put the stock back into racing. I am a long time Gordon fan but I watched “Dale” this weekend waiting to go up to the track and I believe that Nascar has lost someone who can carry the sport like Dale did and the rivalry between him and Gordon, you don’t see that at all now with the drivers they have, which most never worked on a car in their life so the regular joe cannot relate to these drivers anymore and who wants to spend money which is hard to come by nowadays to watch a bunch of spoiled brats race? I will continue to go each year because racing is in my blood period, I love it and I love AMS Nascar just needs to find a hero again that can relate to all of us.