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.
Prior to the start of the 2008 NASCAR season, Brian France held his annual "state of the sport" press conference. In his announcements, to the surprise of some accustomed to the sport's general arrogance about criticism, he admitted that some hardcore fans had been driven away from the sport. He also stated that NASCAR had experienced all the change it could stand for a while and was going to reach out to fans that had been alienated.
This was followed by two commercials that have been airing regularly during each race this season. One proclaims the sport to be "Your NASCARâ€”My NASCARâ€”Our NASCAR"; another shows classic moments from the 1960s through today with Matchbox 20's "How Far We've Come" playing in the background, an obvious attempt to show one long uninterrupted string of excitement through the years.
The commercials deliberately focus on the sport's tradition and history. They remind us that in every era of NASCAR, there have been great finishes, great victory celebrations, and great rivalries.
When I say "nice try", it isn't meant to be sarcastic or critical. It is actually meant as a compliment. NASCAR had at least finally noticed that their unwelcome innovations in recent years have been Chasing (pun intended) traditional fans away from the sport. For recognizing that, they truly do deserve credit. That is a step in the right direction for an institution that appeared to be forgetting everything that had made it great.
But ultimately, a full force marketing campaign and any number of speeches isn't going to undo the damage done to NASCAR's old school fan base during the Brian France era.
In 2003, there were six races in the Carolinas each year. That number was cut in half in just two years. Classic tracks in classic NASCAR country have been forsaken in favor of humdrum, uninteresting speedways elsewhere that bear little to no character or distinction. Most egregiously, the Labor Day race in Darlington, a tradition for more than half a century, was moved unceremoniously to Auto Club Speedway, to the great chagrin of fans everywhere but in southern California.
Even an all-out ad blitz can't have a conciliatory gesture type of effect that moving the Labor Day race back to Darlington could. And it would hardly be a bad business decision. No offense intended to the hardy crowd that attended and stayed for the debacle at Auto Club Speedway this February, but Fontana has performed badly on every level, and Darlington has been repaved and lights have been added. Yet this is not even close to being under consideration by people who clearly put sizable emphasis on the bottom line. Why not? They can keep two California races if they must. Just try giving Labor Day back to the Lady in Black.
In 2004, NASCAR fans had a playoff system that rewards mediocrity and punishes achievement shoved down their throats despite their strong objections. Despite the fact that most people were perfectly fine with how Matt Kenseth won the title in 2003, NASCAR now simply hands out free points (or takes earned points away, however you look at it) after 26 races and then resumes the racing. Other than 10 measly points for a win (the equivalent of 2-3 spots on the racetrack), there is zero reward for performance during the first 26 races. In fact, the worse a Top 12 team has performed, the more they benefit.
The Chase was so well thought out that it only took three years to see the need to tweak it, and last year NASCAR admitted that they may need to fix it again when Jeff Gordon had a 300+ points lead completely wiped out. Who could have predicted that would happen?
In addition to being a contrived method of ensuring that more fans' favorite drivers will have a shot at the title, no matter how deserving they may be, the Chase has brought about more of the "points racing" that Dale Earnhardt's fans in particular would despise. This has been especially apparent at the Bristol night race the last three seasons. Drivers take no chances and do no fighting for positions in a venue once revered for its carnage. It is quite an achievement to turn a Bristol night race into a bore.
In 2007, the current car was ushered in, touted as safer, less expensive, more competitive; you name it, the new car was going to be better than the old one in every way. But so far it has failed to live up to its promise in any way. The drivers' opinions may not matter compared to what fans think of the racing, but it is obvious that the current car is extremely difficult to drive in the best of conditions. It is hard to imagine how safety features of a car's design can constantly be praised, when even the best ones on a particular day seem about to crash every other lap.
With the new car's universal template, the differences between manufacturers are essentially nonexistent. Joe Gibbs Racing runs just as well in Toyotas as they did in Chevrolets. Roush Fenway Racing has a clear advantage on intermediate tracks with Fords, a manufacturer with whom no other team seems to run very well.
A car with little adjustment capabilityâ€”combined with severe penalties usually associated with endangering a crew member for any team that dares step minutely out of the mandated tolerancesâ€”is a far cry from the run-what-ya-brung stock cars of old. Fans don't want NASCAR to go back to those days necessarily, but there is a reason that more people watch NASCAR than watched IROC races.
Also in 2007, fans witnessed a poorly written exclusivity agreement with their title sponsor resulting in an ugly and expensive lawsuit involving a sponsor of one of the most popular drivers in the sport. One can hardly manage something worse than NASCAR managed the Sprint/AT&T issueâ€¦and one can only manage it so poorly by being out of touch with typical fans.
It's not that NASCAR has never had legal problems, but more than anything, the Sprint/AT&T debacle demonstrated the high expectations that go with lots of zeroes on contracts. Instead of keeping the matter out of court and compromising—and recognizing for the future that this sort of thing is always going to be a problem with exclusivity agreements—NASCAR made Sprint look like dictators and AT&T look like victims. Sprint and NASCAR both could have been spared a great deal of trouble and bad PR had they just let AT&T sponsor the #31 for the remainder of the "grandfathered" agreement.
Instead NASCAR severely underestimated the order of race fan loyaltyâ€”to the driver first, the driver's sponsor second, the driver's team third, and the series title sponsor and NASCAR itself a very distant last. That order is not new. You can bet that many Jeff Burton fansâ€”or maybe even just fans in general disgusted by the whole messâ€”switched their cell service to AT&T had they been using Sprint. Sprint's stock dropped 60 percent in 2007. Their sales have plummeted to the point where AT&T could say without reservation that they just might be sticking around. They could have just asked a few fans what they thought.
NASCAR's television broadcasts remain lacking. There are still too many commercials, too many meaningless asides needlessly taking the viewer away from the action, and too many production toys like the gopher cam and the draft track. Fans watched in big numbers before Digger came along and before ESPN explained the draft to them every week. Their only desire has always been to just see racing. To be sure, Fox's coverage has improved this seasonâ€¦but ESPN/ABC's coverage last season could have made any network look masterful at it.
The list doesn't quite end there. There has also been a growing inconsistency in recent years with the timing of yellow flags, from throwing it for a piece of foam rubber on the track to not throwing it while a dozen cars are wrecking. The new green-white-checkered overtime, instituted to ensure a green flag finish, often results in overzealous drivers wrecking and dangerously lingering in harm's way as officials try to finish under green. A new rule giving a driver his lap back for being the first car a lap down enabled a driver to make up five laps in a single race, without having to actually race for any of them.
Even with all of this, racing has still had great moments in the last few years. Kevin Harvick edging Mark Martin by inches to win at Daytona, while a car crossed the finish line upside down and on fire. Jeff Gordon paying tribute to Dale Earnhardt at Phoenix. Kurt Busch pushing teammate Ryan Newman to a win at this year's 500. Jeff Burton sliding into an improbable win at Bristol. Jimmie Johnson overtaking Matt Kenseth at Texas. Carl Edwards' victory backflip anywhere.
But since the rise of the cookie-cutter tracks, the Chase, the Car of Tomorrow, the rule of money in sponsorship, some truly atrocious broadcasts, inconsistent yellow flags, and many other things, the NASCAR fans who cheered for Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and ol' DW are still reeling watching the current product on their televisions today. The sport will change and evolve enough without it being forced by leadership trying to legislate more excitement, and the perception that the sport was consistently disregarding the loyal, hardcore fans in favor of the casual, fair-weather ones is what the Winston crowd resented the most.
NASCAR and Brian France have a long way to go. The ratings were up for the first five races of 2008, but attendance continues to plummet, at least from any fan's view of the stands that they are allowed to see. Martinsville and Texas actually covered the seats on whole sections to hide that no one was sitting there. It may be that the old school fans aren't willing to part with their money anymore for an institution that for many years seemed to show them little to no respect. A struggling economy is not an excuse. NASCAR had been recession-proof in the past, at least before tickets were priced at the "milk it" level.
The ad campaign really is a good start, but it's not "our" NASCAR as long as "we" have to pay for a ticket. It's indisputably Brian France's NASCAR, and he and his kingdom still have to earn "our" support.
Kurt's Shorts In The Dry Heat Of Phoenix
And that's it for Happy Hour this week. Welcome to the desert.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Nothing more need be said about this great piece of writing!
Well said. The only thing you missed was the top 35 lock in. Go fast or go home. I truly believe that the top 35 lock in is the first step to a 44 car field filled by 11 four car franchise owners.
I’m one old school fan that will ONLY pay to see the Trucks in person.
Great story! However, you could have summed all the problems right where they belong…Baby Brian France! He is the basis for ALL that ails nascrap. But, like the oil companies being responsible for all that ails America, everyone talks about the little things. Is it because Baby Brian, like big oil, everyone is afraid of?
I guarantee you that Sprint/Nextel would love to get out of their contract of sponsorship of Nascar, due to their business woes they have experienced in the last year or so. This is going to continue, in no small part due to the backlash of Nascar fans who are unhappy with the series since they took over from Winston. There will never be continuity of sponsorship of Nascar like when Winston was there, due to many factors, Brian France and the almighty dollar being a couple of them. I also guarantee you that Nascar will have another sponsor even if Sprint/Nextel happens to make it to the end of their contract. In a strange twist of irony, wouldn’t it be fitting that we will be watching AT&T Cup racing in a few years – never say never!
Great article.‘Brain’ France courted the MTV
From the looks of it, the top 35 may not be an issue much longer. If a few more sponsorless cars drop out, NA$CAR will be looking for field fillers to complete the field.
I was NA$CAR when NA$CAR wasn’t cool. On any given Sunday you couldn’t pry me from the TV. I used to attend 8 races a year. That meant several thousand miles of driving, hours of camping in all kinds of weather, and having the time of my life with my racing buddies. Now, 2 maybe 3 races, and they are smash and dash. I watch “at” the TV now while I do laundry, cleaning and the likes. All the things you mentioned are a product of taking a sport and turning it into a big business. I hate to think it, but one day that big business will slip and fall if the current trends don’t stop. You can only run off so many core fans. It’s a shame that it’s taken this long for Brian to see that. But then again desperate men do desperate things. He should try and listen a bit better to the fans and what they want from “their” NA$CAR.
There is no nascar it was gone long before Benny died, when the real NASCAR was running races, there was flair, a smell, a look, not now. I have hundreds of races recored before all the commercials that are live and I can tell you it just better racing, than the banking bunch thinks is racing, OH but here I am wrong they call it a show
>>It may be that the old school fans arenâ€™t willing to part with their money anymore for an institution that for many years seemed to show them little to no respect.<<
Very well said, Kurt.
Not all of NA$CAR’s decisions have been bad. But through it all, the BZF era has been characterised by outright contempt for the people who made his family fabulously wealthy. Even the speech to start this year was a slap in the face. The Brian may have finally acknowledged the elephant on the other end of the coach, but his “no more changes right now” came as a slap in the face. How about changing a few things back?
I came across this sport on a b&w tv in Pennsylvania back in 1966 on the Wide World of Sports when they would show a 15 minute recap of a race ran months before and was hooked for almost 40 years. Granted this was before i personally saw Speedy Thompson, Fireball Roberts, Johnny Mantz, Fonty Flock, Buck Baker and Herb Thomas race but that was when Bobby Issac, David Pearson, Elmo Langely, Neil Castles, Henley Gray, Buddy Baker, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Tiny Lund, Ed Negre and the list could go on for ever were the stars. I saw racing when they raced in New York, Islip Speedway on Long Island and Trenton Speedway in NJ. I saw the Coke-bottle shaped Plymouths and Dodges run door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper (they actually had them) against the Chevys and Pontiacs and Fords and Mercurys and you could tell every make apart. I followed this before ‘follow the leader’ racing where everything is so aero sensitive that nobody can run up on nobody. It was real to see a driver come out all greasy and sweaty and lip-lock the trophy girl instead of a driver with frosted hair do a 15 minute sponsor speech. I went to races and hated to see them end. When i recently stopped going to races there were times i wish i brought my checkbook to balance. I long for the days of good tv broadcasters instead of Darrell Waltrip going on about Toyota and Hendrick for 4 hours, i actually miss Jackie Stewart saying ‘motorcar’. I want to throw up when i see all this gimmicky nonsense that is passed off as a broadcast. My NA$CAR was when they were proud and not ashamed of the southern heritage behind the sport. Now i see Toyota here with a “billion” dollar racing budget. Through all the years, the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and all the changes i was a diehard fan. In the past 5 years i have and cannot believe what has happened to this sport. This sudden need to appease generations x,y, z and the rest has been a disgrace. Gone are my NA$CAR hats, shirts, cups, tags and emblems. The only way they can make this my NA$CAR again is get rid of Brian France, he’s a spoiled idiot. Get rid of Mike Helton, he’s a puppet. Get rid of John Darby, he’s a clown. Don’t build anymore cookie cutter tracks and instead have tracks with character. Get rid of Toyota. They spent $94 million to buy there way into this sport and will have cost beyond the planet Mars in a matter of years. Get rid of Larry McReynolds, Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip. Larry, Moe and Curly could do a better job and they would be less biased and more impartial and maybe mention some drivers names instead of – gordon, johnson, stewart, harvick, and the same dozen everytime. And last but not least, Darlington shouldn’t have one race, Darlington shouldn’t have two races, Darlington shuold have three races.
Good afternoon Kurt and to your “fans” as well.
Thought I’d check out your new home. Just like our days at That’s Racin’ you made your statement clear and to the point.
We have agreed more than once that Lame Brain Brian (LB2) is clueless as to what the long-time LOYAL NASCAR fan wants and deserves. And it didnâ€™t get any better this year, commercial or no commercial.
My first race was the ’74 Firecracker. For many years I attended the 500 and the Firecracker. That is until LB2 and “corporate America” took over.
I’m sure all ticket holders for the Daytona 500 have received their renewal forms for 2009 by now. How much did the cost of your ticket increase? My ticket in Depalma, row 27 went up ANOTHER $5/ticket. It is now $185 PER SEAT. It wasn’t that long ago it was well under $100.
Being part of the unemployment status in Tampa Bay, Florida, I have already sold my tickets to the 500 so I can meet the deadline of April 26, 2008. I had to do so if I wanted to continue to purchase decent seats for the 500 and not purchase the 2 or 3-day package to get above row 10.
The race isn’t for 10 months, but ISC and the France family will have $370 of a Clearwater Police Officer’s money in the bank. (At least it’s not mine this time around!) If NASCAR is so concerned about fans and getting them to the track, they might consider keeping the prices so ONE person could afford to attend their races. I truly donâ€™t know how a â€œfamily of 4â€ can afford to even get there, let alone enjoy themselves when they do.
For those of us who stay home, instead of fighting the traffic and financial cost, we have more than enough shows on radio and television to get our fix. Too bad the television networks seem to forget there is a race at the location they happen to be covering. I donâ€™t even know who to blame this on. The networks need to sell commercials, so they can bring in revenue to cover the cost, just to have the right to show a NASCAR event, not to mention what it takes to actually produce the broadcast.
Enough with my issues – what about the independent teams and what is happening to them? Kenny Schrader is the winningest driver at PIR, and he wonâ€™t be there this weekend. I have heard/read numerous reasons as to why BAM Racing was not at Texas and wonâ€™t be at Phoenix. But I believe it all comes down to the Almighty Dollar, and the fact that teams like BAM, Petty Enterprises and the Wood Brothers canâ€™t keep up with LB2â€™s â€œnew NASCAR.â€
Donâ€™t get me started on the fact that the Nationwide teams had to travel to Texas for practice and qualifying on Thursday, with NOTHING to do on Friday, and then race Saturday. Several of those teams are doing all they can to survive, and thatâ€™s the schedule they have to deal with. Oh yeah, they are racing in Phoenix TONIGHT at 9:45 p.m. Whatâ€™s wrong with that picture? (Too late for me to watch and find out.)
I can complain and wish for the good old days all I want, and so can everyone else. But letâ€™s not forget that when weâ€™re sitting home watching the Subway Fresh Fit 500 on our antique 25â€ RCA or high dollar HDTV, Kenny and Kyle will be as well, along Awesome Bill if it wasnâ€™t for his championship provisional.
Well done Kurt! Now…..letâ€™s go racinâ€™ boys!!!
ANOTHER good one Kurt …Hit the nail right on the head again …Just a shame the king never listens to the court ! only thing the man will understand is MONEY … thats why i wont give them a dime anymore …wont even watch a race live …DVR them and watch next day in ffwd …hurt their ratings – hurt their wallets ! i invite all the other FRANCE haters to join me !
Shirley, I understand your frustration at not being able to afford the Daytona 500 tickets, but that price is not out of line at all compared to other local sports in the Tampa Bay area. In fact, it’s a bargain.
I’m certain that if you go to 1/2 of the Bucs home games, you’d be hard pressed to find seats as good as the DePalma seats that you have for $185. In fact, if you split a season ticket for the cheapest nose bleed RayJay tickets, you’d be at $250 for four games. And that’s only if the seat license had already been paid.
And the Rays? Their cheapest 1/2 season plan is $296 for Upper Deck ticket. Not a horrible view, and sure, since it’s the Rays, you’ll be able to make your way down to the field easily by mid-season, but still not less than the race. Add in the $10 parking fee each game and you’re up to Petty Tower tickets.
The Lightning? You’ll have to pay $330 + 7% tax if you can find someone to split them with, but that doesn’t include the oxygen that you’ll want to carry up to those top 5 rows so that you don’t get too short of breath.
Next item is directed at the author: Commercials. No more per hour than any other sporting event or prime time show. Yes, something could happen while the cameras are away at commercial paying for your “seat” at the track, but the alternative would be like in football. Stop the action for a TV time out. That would go over real well. Everyone stops their car every time there is a commercial due to be run, no matter where they are on the track. That would go over great!
Finally, to several of the commenters, “ESPN (CBS, ABC, Road & Track) did it better back in the day!” No, they didn’t. The difference is that the people who hate everything, had to actually pay for a stamp to send a letter to the editor at Winston Cup Scene if they wanted to complain. And then it would probably not be run if it was the same guy over and over again. With the Internet available to everyone, and sites like the Frontstretch that will allow readers to comment virtually uncensored, it’s easy for the ill informed to complain after every single story making it look like every fan is up in arms, when in fact, very few of the fans really care about the CoT, Goodyear, the price of tickets or what Brian France does.
Kevin …are ya sure yer last name aint FRANCE? Dont get me wrong ..im SURE not all the fans are so upset ..in fact it seems like its only the ones who been watching for 20 or more years …all the bandwagon fans who decided na$car was cool now DONT KNOW any different – They just know they feel left out on monday if they dont know who did what on what lap !! Find yerself an episode of BACK IN THE DAY on speed and watch a race from back when you were too cool to waste yer sunday.
No need. I was there back in the day. I just have a less selective memory of what was actually going on in those races.
And you’re right about the bandwagon fans. Those that came around for NASCAR as a reality series don’t really care about the racing at all. It’s about the soap opera that is running behind the scenes that they are here for. We could have run lawnmowers last season, and it wouldn’t have mattered. All the reality series fans cared about was the DEI story.
I talk to NASCAR viewers all the time in my job and believe me, when it gets right down to it, most don’t care one way or the other what shape car is driven or how they determine the champion. They don’t care that Toyota is in the sport unless they own a Toyota and they don’t care that a certain sponsor left one team for another. They are just casual fans that like watching the cars go round and hearing what the guys in the booth have to say about what’s going on.
They don’t write about what they like or dislike about racing every day on the Internet though, so you’ll never get that point of view unless you look for it.
The rebanking of the Bristol night race this last year, DID NOT result in a BORING race.
To the contrary! I’ve been doing the night race for 8 yrs now. Too ACTUALLY SEE THEM RACING 3 WIDE ALL THE WAY AROUND is truly “racing the way it oughta be”.
People have become so accustomed to only ONE line at Bristol, they truly have lost site of what that track used to be!.
It became a ‘wreck/carnage fest’ because there was no way to pass but to punt the guy in front of you.
Now they can truly RACE. (Don’t make me start calling you ‘Kurt Poole’! ;-) )
Thanks all for reading and commenting and for the compliments. I appreciate the input from all of you. I don’t like to focus on a sore spot too often, but it’s clear that this is something many of us feel passionately about. I can’t respond to everyone individually, but I will address a few points:
Regarding the top 35 rule J Furjanic, it honestly did not cross my mind. Amazing. In fact I will address that rule in a future column, and I will warn here that I’m going to look at it in an impartial way as possible. My gut agrees that it should be the top 43 cars no matter how famous the losers are, but we’ll see.
Max, it is a good point to wonder if Sprint wants out. They’ve probably not gotten their money’s worth, certainly their numbers over the last half of 2007 show that, and maybe a lot of the backlash against NASCAR of late is associated with Nextel’s taking over. Which wouldn’t be fair to them actually, as Johnboy60 pointed out. Busch has bailed, Craftsman is on their way out, and NASCAR took a third of what they were asking for from Nationwide. If that doesn’t raise eyebrows, I don’t know what will.
Copperpossum, it’s like someone becoming a celebrity and leaving his wife of 20 years for the trophy model. Regarding the people that were there long before even I was, especially Mark, I keep thinking about what it must be like for people that have been fans for 30 or even 40 years. My father tells me that the biggest debate baseball fans used to have was whether outfielders should be allowed to leave their gloves on the field when they batted. The suggestion of a DH back then would have been utter heresy. Hating to see a race end…you don’t see many fans saying that these days.
Kevin and Shirley, regarding the ticket prices, I didn’t mean that to come across as being something exclusive to NASCAR. Ticket prices for all sports, and all entertainment events for that matter, have risen drastically beyond the level of inflation. The entertainment industry is the only industry I can think of (except perhaps footwear) where businesses are actually encouraged to rip off their customers. Only in entertainment will the seller find a way to charge the maximum rather than the minimum.
As far as the commercials, even if it is the same amount as, say, a sitcom (the actual number is ever-slightly larger), there is also the 30 seconds when they come back and tell us whose commercials we just saw, as well as the Quaker State desk where guys sit and talk about the race we’re not seeing, the Ford cutaway car, the Visa race break, etc. Those, in my opinion, should all count as commercials too.
I understand where you’re coming from Kevin and I’m not disputing what you’re saying. But a viewer who does not care how a champion is determined is just that…a viewer. An actual fan who lives and breathes the sport might have a different opinion.
Finally, Jeff, re Bristol, I don’t have a problem with the repaving. What bothers me about the night race in particular is the points racing and position protection. There are 20 drivers who have a shot at making the playoffs and aren’t going to risk wrecking, and the other 23 certainly aren’t going to wreck a potential playoff driver. In a sense, Bristol made for a better race when it was just 1/36 of the season and a driver could make up for anything that happened.
Thanks again to everyone else especially those I missed addressing here.
I’d like to add one more thing. Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Darrel Waltrip, Terry LaBonte, the late great Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, and several others, never won a dadgum Sprint Cup championship. Some of the older ones won Grand National Championships, the rest won Winston Cups. We’ve only had 2 Sprint Cup champions. I wish people would call it like it is, and quit trying to rewrite history for the sake of the sponsors.
“Classic tracks in classic NASCAR country have been forsaken in favor of humdrum, uninteresting speedways elsewhere that bear little to no character or distinction. Most egregiously, the Labor Day race in Darlington, a tradition for more than half a century, was moved unceremoniously to Auto Club Speedway, to the great chagrin of fans everywhere but in southern California.”
AMEN, and AMEN!!!!!
“NASCAR had been recession-proof in the past, at least before tickets were priced at the â€œmilk itâ€ level.”
Marc, I demand a recount. We have NO Sprint Cup champions yet, and THREE Nextel Cup Champions (Busch, Stewart, and Johnson).