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.
Jay Pennell · Thursday October 7, 2010
Three races into the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup, and this year’s battle for the top spot is closer than it’s ever been – yet that does not seem to be the focus by neither the media nor the fans. Instead, one of the most dominant and constant issues being raised revolves around the television coverage NASCAR has been receiving throughout the season, especially by ESPN.
At the moment, it’s for good reason. To say this week has not been a good one for the folks at the Worldwide Leader, as well as the fans reliant on their coverage, would be an understatement.
Last Saturday, the Clemson-Miami college football game caused the pre-race show and beginning of the Nationwide Series race to be pushed to ESPN Classic. Sunday was not much better. The pre-race show had major audio issues on ESPN2, giving fans of SD TV nothing but static for the majority of the program. Once the race got underway, the fans went to town on how poor the coverage was. Then, on Tuesday, news broke that senior ESPN motorsports producer Neil Goldberg was arrested for being a peeping tom, among other things we will leave unmentioned.
Among the string of complaints, the majority seem to stem from the number of commercials during the race broadcast, especially in the opening laps of each event. Like many fans out there, I too have offered my share of criticism as of late when the opening laps are interrupted abruptly by what seems like endless commercials. Nearly every week, social media web sites such as Facebook and Twitter, along with blogs – including our own website – explode with comments about how awful the coverage is and how commercials are seemingly ruining the sport.
The complaining seems to lead many fans to turn the channel to another program, and the ratings are starting to reflect that. According to the Nielsen reports, Sunday’s 400-mile race from Kansas Speedway – the third race of NASCAR’s “playoff” – recorded a 2.3 rating, equating to 3.7 million viewers. That number is down drastically when compared to last year’s 3.2 rating when shown on ABC.
To put those numbers in perspective, the television blog The Daly Planet reports Sunday Night Football drew 15.9 million viewers, and that despicable Jersey Shore had 6.7 million just last week.
This shocking downturn led me to wonder what has changed over the years to draw fans away from their television sets on Sunday afternoons.
For years, before I covered this sport in the press I was glued to the television set as a fan, eagerly anticipating each weekend’s race. Yet, on Sunday I could barely watch – and I have to write about the race and therefore must watch. I’m just as guilty as anyone to flip back and forth from the race to the football game, and would do so more often if the Philadelphia Eagles were shown more often in Charlotte. There had to be less commercials back in the day, more racing action, wider camera shots, something had to be different.
So, I dusted off my crates of old VHS tapes and decided to find out how much different today’s broadcasts are to some back in the day. Going through my collection, I opted for the season finale of the 2000 season at Atlanta and the 1998 race at California Speedway. I chose these two events because the 2000 Atlanta race was the final for ESPN before renewing their contract a few years back, and the 1998 race in California because this weekend’s race is at the same track. Both were covered by ESPN, and I was surprised by what I saw.
Watching these older broadcasts, I found the commercial breaks came just as early as they do today. On Sunday, ESPN went to break just nine laps into the race, much to the dismay of those watching at home. Yet, when I popped in the 1998 race at California, the first commercial came on Lap 6. During the Atlanta broadcast from 2000, it was Lap 10. So much for this problem being a recent trend.
Another one of the biggest complaints today is there is too much action missed during commercial breaks. This weekend, the first pass for the lead occurred during commercial. So did the first caution. It’s something else I have been an outspoken critic about (see comments in this week’s edition of Tweet ‘N’ Greet in the Newsletter). However, as I was again shown by my own VHS tapes, this issue is nothing new.
During the 2000 Atlanta race, the first caution of the day came when the coverage was away at break. In the 1998 California broadcast, a debris caution (the debris was never shown) brought together a field that had become stretched out. The booth showcased the top 5 and then went to commercial, missing all 28 lead lap cars hitting pit road.
Somehow, in both instances – just as with the early commercials – I was less annoyed with old coverage than I was on Sunday. Perhaps it was the fact I was watching an old race or that I had the confidence in Bob Jenkins, Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett to catch me up with all the action I missed with poise and incredible knowledge. Perhaps it was the fact going to commercial, there was racing shown all the way to the break with no song and dance pieces or flashy video montages. Maybe it was because the commercials were about NASCAR and about the fans.
That brings me to an interesting point I found while watching these two races — there seemed to be more commercials geared towards the fans and their importance to the sport. The most striking was during the 1998 broadcast that showed NASCAR and fans through the years, ending with Dale Earnhardt, Sr. signing an autograph for a young kid while a voiceover said, “This is NASCAR, and this is the way we’ve done things for 50 years.”
It caught me a bit off guard and I’m not sure why. I am sure I had seen this same commercial throughout the entire 1998 season – NASCAR’s 50th – and it was similar to some that are still shown today, but there was something different being relayed in the message. It was not, “You and me both, Junior.” It was much more than that.
There are a lot of issues facing the sport of NASCAR right now, and television coverage is certainly one of those that needs to be atop the list of priorities. Ratings continue to slide each week, and overall they’re down 12 percent for the entire year. Some blame the start times coinciding with the early NFL games, some blame the Chase, others blame commercials, while others simply pass the blame off on ESPN. There are a lot of complaints given, yet few solutions offered.
Comparing the broadcasts 10 and 12 years ago to those of today, technology has allowed for more information during the race, but perhaps it is too much information. We live in a world full of instant gratification, Twitter, live blogs and non-stop data being fed to us on the television, our phones and our computers. Our culture is one that struggles with Attention Deficit Disorder, and it seems NASCAR is not immune from this growing trend, either.
As I watched those old broadcasts, I could not help but notice the screen was nearly empty, showing nothing but the action on the track. The lap counter was a small box in the top left corner of the screen, but apart from that there were very few distractions.
The commentators – Jenkins, Parsons and Jarrett – were not following storylines or reading what seemed to be scripted conversations. Instead, they were doing what they had done for years, calling the action as they saw it on the track. The racing spoke for itself and the viewer – at least in my case – had a better sense of how the event was actually unfolding. There was no reason for the guys in the booth to sell the race to keep my interest; they simply let it sell itself.
Despite the criticism as of late, ESPN had a great rebound at the end of Sunday’s race. The final 23 minutes of the event were shown commercial free and fans seemed to notice. This last ditch effort by the network, that has been dubbed “Every Sport Preempts NASCAR” by the fans, was enough to subdue the criticism for a moment, but unless changes are made and issues are addressed, fans will continue to turn the channel.
While it was nice to go back and look through the old VHS tapes, it might be something ESPN and NASCAR should be thinking about in addressing the issues facing the sport right now. Fans were drawn in by the racing on the track and not necessarily what the personalities in the booth were discussing. The action spoke for itself and by showing what was happening at the track, they drew fans into the stands.
Right now, it seems that is exactly what NASCAR needs. The action on the track is much more competitive than it was in either of the races I watched – Bobby Labonte had the series title wrapped up the week before the season finale in 2000 – yet fewer people are showing up and tuning in. If ESPN were to show more racing, be more off the cuff in terms of their commentating, utilize the entire screen and let the competition speak for itself, fans may return.
NASCAR was popular because “this is the way we’ve done it for 50 years,” yet somehow over the last 12 years something has changed. It is up to the sport and its broadcast partners to find what that something is and fix it – not the fans.
©2000 - 2008 Jay Pennell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The endless parade of commercials is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying. I think what happened is that when NASCAR’s fan base grew by leaps and bounds, a whole new group of people got annoyed by it.
Yes, NASCAR badly needs to address this more than anything else, but they won’t. It’s easier to add two more green-white-checkered attempts, a 15-car Chase and more Danica. Nothing sells auto racing like a cartoon gopher.
“yet somehow over the last 12 years something has changed.”
cough brian france, cough
It is interesting how you mention the difference in on-air racing personalities between then and now.
Jay, the more toys the TV truck has the less focus there is on the racing. I tune in to watch the race, not hear a commentator blabbing about nonsense or having 12 people telling the same thing with a slightly different take. Use the cameras to show the race and let the booth announcer — Allen Bestwick would be my pick and Mike Joy for Fox – call the action. All the rest is extraneous and annoying.
It also wouldn’t hurt if there was actual racing on the track. I’ve been to enough races in person to notice there is less side by side action – a product of both the ugly car and the chase.
I agree with you. And I’m glad to hear someone went back and compared to see what the differences are, because I feel alot like you. Why did I sit glued to the TV before and now I schedule my nap for the middle of the race time?
It’s good to know that it wasn’t the commercials (although those are always annoying), but the coverage of the actual racing.
And I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t need the ESPN crawler at the bottom of the page. I don’t ever read it and it’s just another distraction.
Why bother tuning in when all we will see is Jimmie Johnson running away with the Cup Again…The chase has ruined it for most. It is too contrived and they need to go back to the old way of deciding the Championship
I think I’ll pull out my tapes of the 1989 Firecracker and other races from the early nineties and take another look.
You ALMOST figured it out when you went back to the old broadcasts. Fans used to be far more invested in the sport because the sport was invested in them! Today’s fan is talked TO and told what to think and how to feel. The typical fan wants to see the sport presented on TV the way they see it and NASCAR simply doesn’t want it that way. They want to show the sport the way they want the money guys to see it. Fans have figured out they’re not part of the equasion anymore. Just their wallets. They’ll put up with lots of commercials if they feel the sport reflects them. They’re very traditional and want to see that tradition respected. I don’t even think the COT is the problem, but rather a symbol that the sport has changed and left it’s roots behind. For many NASCAR isn’t so much a sport as it is a LIFESTYLE. Not so long ago fans were rabidly loyal to brands that supported the sport. What happened to that? And as you pointed out, even the old school drivers like Jeff Burton are out of touch with the fan. (Like his lectures on how fans shouldn’t get so excited about crashes. Nice way to talk down to us pal.) Until this season I wasn’t really buying the panic talk that NASCAR is dying or in big trouble. But it’s becoming clearer every week that it is.
What’s changed in the last 10-12 years? Lets see, BF who runs the sport like a drunken 12 year old, the COT which is safer but you can’t tell one make from the other. And is it just me, but are decals for headlights, taillights and the grill just plain stupid??
Also the graphics package the networks use during the broadcast has changed. We used to have an uncluttered screen. Now we come back from commercial with some big graphic for what ever product blocking our view while the PxP guy reads from some promo. Then there are two scrolls, one top and one bottom. And my big complaint, the split screen. I have a smaller 26” HD tv and when they do the split screen the smaller window is so tiny I can’t see anything. There is a ton of wasted space on the screen when they do the split screen. Why? What purpose do the floating backgrounds on the split screen shots serve? I read a quote that some mucky-muck at Fox it think it was, who though it looked “cool”.
Yes all the commercials are a pain, but what is worse is that they keep showing the some ones over and over again. How many of us do not know by this time that Dale Jr. has Nationwide insurance?
Then there is the obviously scripted coverage. Let the race tell the story. Throw the scripts out. Get rid of the Tech Garage. I don’t need to be told for the 100th time what a spring rubber is/does and what a valve spring is/does. Quit treating the viewer like an idiot.
Finally, Brian France, just go. Just plain go and let someone that has a clue run Nascar. Go back to your happy hour and palm tree pinball.
I’m headed back to my tape archive. Good idea and an interesting perspective to explore. I enjoyed the racing commentary before the era of racertainment took over. Thanks Brian France. Canned story lines, telling us what to think, constant shilling and making the story more about the on-air personalities than the race itself. Just to name a few reasons why I hardly make it through a race w/o changing the channel. And let’s not forget that tv reinforces the fact that the fan is no longer part of the equation.
It used to be all about the race, the tracks used to all be a unique challenge for the drivers, the cars could pass each other, and the announcers talked to you like you knew about the sport without having to dumb it down.
Obviously that’s all changed all due to the almighty dollar. Nascar got too big for their britches and now they are paying the price.
The question should be “Who decided that showing everyone’s pit stops should be more important than following the racing action?” I tune in to watch racing, not watch pit stops! Show the commercials during the caution laps, when everyone is making their pit stops, and KEEP the racing action uninterrupted on TV! Then you might get more of the RACING fans back.
NASCAR coverage: Where to start.
Clyde, another thing I noticed while watching the older races was in the 1998 race they showed nothing but the green flag pit stops. They were not worried about who was leading as the stops cycled through, instead they focused on the stops and caught everyone up afterward.
I’ll leave the analysis of the TV Coverage to ‘The Daly Planet’. What needs to be said here is that the media has gotten away from racing in their coverage of NASCAR. print,blog, and TV. Most articles and features are about the rules; the empty seats; the TV coverage; anything BUT the racing.
Those broadcasts were done better then with wide shots to show the racing, and the booth calling the race instead of telling us what we’re seeing.
You are right that the races in the ‘Good Old Days’ were covered better but, with the advertising model of today, even that would have had the life sucked out of it.
Why do we have to watch the pit road? The race doesn’t have a break in it, commercials have to be placed somewhere… when I go to a race, I take a break between heats (THAT’s why they’re called ‘pitstops’), the same should be done with station breaks. They can tell us of any troubles when we get back, and maybe show us when the action slows down.
The racing is fine, the chase is fine, the drama is fine, the ads aren’t.
Do yourself a favor: DVR the TV broadcast and listen to the race live on the radio. Those guys are GREAT – it’s waaaay more exciting and a neat flashback to the “good ol’ days.”
The thing that is killing NASCAR for me (an avid die hard fan since 1993)is the Jimmie Johnson Cup Series.
It’s really interesting watching old races. On Speed today is the 2005 fall California race. Amazingly the grandstands actually look full. The ESPN coverage has just been bad. I wish there was a way Fox could take the whole season over. I think the problem is that 10 years of NASCAR alienating traditional fans have comeback to haunt them.
NASCAR was very much a US sports fad in the late 1990s/early 2000s. NASCAR in that time went out of its way to cater to these fair weather racing fans. Many of these changes alienated traditional fans: leaving Rockingham, moving the Southern 500 to CA, the Chase, more 1.5 mile tracks outside the South.
What happened? Those causal fans fell out of love with NASCAR. The economy tanked, the COT racing was bad, they went back to traditional sports. It looks even worse now because the original NASCAR fans had already left. We only now notice they are gone. NASCAR needs to reconnect with its roots, or the ratings and attendance won’t get better.
I doubt that I’m the only one that gets highly irritated when the first commercial break is only about 10 laps into the race. Waiting longer for the first break would only make subsequent breaks slightly longer but they would eliminate immediate frustration.
I have a list of things that can improve the NASCAR TV coverage.
1. The entire season needs to be aired on CBS. CBS was the only network that ever did NASCAR races right.
2. The main announcers should be Ken Squier and Dale Earnhardt. I can’t help but ponder the idea of Dale Earnhardt in the broadcast booth. If Ken Squier is unavailable, you can choose from Bob Jenkins, John Roberts, Steve Byrnes, or Eli Gold.
3. Commercials are prohibited from airing during NASCAR races. The payments and funds will come out of the France family’s coffers.
4. Jimmie Johnson will be banned for life from NASCAR. Watch how fast the sport will improve will him out of it.
5. Safety will be thrown into the garbage.
6. There will be cameras all around the race track. In fact, there will be a new gadget called the FanCam. One lucky race fan will wear a helmet with a camera attached to it. This will give the casual TV viewer a feel of being a fan in the stands.
This is a short list of things to improve the NASCAR TV coverage, but I think these will make a big impact. There are still many things to be done to improve NASCAR, but this is a big start.
With a FanCam maybe we would actually see something worth viewing, like where the racing was.
we are tired of having danica and dale jr crammed down our throats.they are the most over rated drivers going.showing danicas pitstop when she is 4 laps down or take time showing dale jr running 24th and a lap down.brian france is a jackwipe.the brains of the family skipped a generation.this rant from someone who went to 2 races a year and watched every lap of the other 34 races.can’t wait to see the crowd or lack of crowd this weekend.
“…making the story more about the on-air personalities than the race itself.”
You nailed that, 29racefan. But still, Try this: turn off the sound and watch a current race and then an old one.You’ll quickly see the biggest reason why people no longer watch. Maybe there really is racing going on and we just never see it on TV. Or maybe it’s the COT/Chasepointsracing or whatever …
It’s not so much the amount of commercials – it’s the same commercials over & over & over again. If I see one more JR/Nationwide commercial I’ll scream.I wouldn’t buy Nationwide insurance just because I’m tired of having it jammed down my throat. I still don’t understand why they can’t split screen the race & commercials like the IRL does. I find I watch more commercail with the race on. Don’t they understand that 99% of the viewers don’t watch the commercials anyway – they go to the kitchen – go to the bathroom – flip channels-anything but watch commercials…..
No matter what article you read the comments from readers are all similar…and are a great insight into what’s wrong with NASCAR. I don’t understand why the networks and Brian France don’t read them and react to what fans are telling them. Just plain stupid. And now with viewership and attendance dropping off even more sharply, it’s like they’re trying to commit suicide. And the sport we all knew and loved will be dead.
It isn’t just Every Sport Pre-empts Na$car. Its all the networks. The coverage is crappy, the commentating is crappy. Also it seems like the coverage is geared for those with very short attention spans. Very few shots last for more than a few seconds, no matter how furiously the drivers are competing for a spot, IF (big if) the network even shows it they show just a few seconds. The networks insist on showing every single pit stop yet only about half are show to completion. Too much clutter on the screen. I’m sick of the Chase hype that starts before Daytona, I’m sick of the Danica hype that started before Daytona, I’m sick of the ESPN specials that try to convince us that Johnson or Kryle (who obviously can dish it out but can’t take it) are just your loveable average Joe. Ever notice the ESPN’s screencrawler on the bottom of the screen never shows any updates, results or news of any other motorsport during a NA$CAR race? And why not show the race in a split screen during commercials like they do with Indycar? Oh yeah, I forgot, because Bozo Brian says fans don’t want that. Hey Bozo Brian…thanks for doing my thinking for me! Sure would be nice if we could vote Bozo Brian out of office!
The 2000 NAPA 500, which is the fall atlanta race (sounds like ESPN is naming the races again), was run on a monday. The commercial times and race coverage might be a bit off since the monday sponsor dollars aren’t as much as sunday. Do you know where the NASCAR commercials promoting the 50th anniversary came from? NASCAR itself. They paid for those spots so they can air them where they see fit… or to fill in the blanks from unsold commercial time.