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.
In four years of the worst playoff system in recent history to be forced down sports fans’ throats, I still haven’t seen or heard anything resembling a viable argument in favor of the Chase, even from professionals who write about NASCAR for a living.
Last week, Terry Blount of ESPN and our own Vito Pugliese took opposite tacks discussing the Chase and the effect it will have on Kyle Busch’s substantial points advantage. Pugliese decried the idea that Busch would lose what is currently a 700-plus point lead over barely qualifying teammate Denny Hamlin, while Blount cheered the prospect that other drivers will now have a chance to overtake Busch once NASCAR wipes out his points lead.
Now, race fans, which of these two writers works for an independent website, and which one works for the network that is televising the last ten races? In other words, which one is genuinely a fan at heart?
If you are a devoted sports fan, if you think the best man or woman should win, if you believe that the integrity of the outcome in any sport should be respected and preserved, if you think Bart Giamatti was right to expel Pete Rose from baseball, if at the very least you recognize that professional wrestling really isn’t a sport, then you cannot reasonably defend the Chase for the Sprint Cup on competition grounds. Your sports fan’s conscience shouldn’t allow it. It’s like a lifelong baseball fan welcoming the preponderance of steroids.
Because when you get right down to it, the Chase does one thing and one thing only: it takes points away from drivers. Points that were earned the only way points should ever be earned in motorsports: on the racetrack.
I picked out the three best arguments that are generally made by other motorsports writers and casual fans, all of which are equally weak.
Most common and most annoying of Chase defenses is an argument that is made by an awful lot of people who cover this sport: it’s a good thing that NASCAR made the last few races more interesting.
It takes a long time to type a response to that with one hand while holding one’s nose at the idea that racing…and sports in general…is more about the show and the hype than about the excellence and hard work. Firstly, if a motorsports writer thinks racing is boring and needs a contrived playoff format, then maybe he should be questioning his choice of vocation. Secondly, has the Chase made the championship battle more interesting? The ratings certainly don’t show it, and we haven’t yet had a classic finish that we’ll be talking about for years.
Take the last four season finales. Having five drivers who could win it in 2004 might have been interesting, but let’s not forget that that season would have still been decided at Homestead between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon anyway, and it wouldn’t have been because they were running roughshod over the rest of the field like they did last year. In 2005, Tony Stewart needed only a mediocre finish at Miami to take the Cup, as did Jimmie Johnson in both of the last two years. The Homestead race was supposed to be the big payoff, not the race where you only tuned in to see if the points leader might DNF.
Chase supporters touting more excitement don’t often mention what has happened to the Bristol night race. That event used to be one of the highlights of the NASCAR season (remember?) filled with high-intensity pushing and shoving that participants and spectators would often remember for a long time. It has since become a televised sleeping pill, less watchable with each succeeding year. What was the most memorable moment from the last three Bristol night races? The only thing that comes to this columnist’s mind is Michael Waltrip holding up leader Kasey Kahne while two laps down. There’s a classic Bristol moment…right there with Gordon’s bump and run on Rusty!
It is actually ironic that the Bristol night race was infinitely better when it had less importance and wasn’t just before the playoffs. Now drivers are either protecting their spot in or near the Chase, or avoiding risking a wreck with another driver protecting their spot. Is this a formula for great short track racing?
Then there’s the notion that adding a playoff simply makes NASCAR “like other sports”. Besides that there is a playoff now, how is that the case?
In what other sport do non-playoff teams participate in the playoff events? What sport divides their season, cuts off the last third, resets the won-lost records of the better teams to 0-0 and then resumes the action? There is zero similarity between NASCAR’s playoff format and that of any other sport. At least in football and hockey, the better teams get a reward—home advantage. How about letting the points leader pick two or three of the venues where the last ten races will be?
And the last argument more or less admits that the playoff system is flawed: “The best teams step up when it counts!”
The best teams should have to prove that they’re the best over a period of 36 races, not 10. Taking that concept to its logical conclusion, the golfer who breaks par over 18 holes is not as good as the golfer who shoots 10 over for the course but wins the last five holes, “stepping up when it counts”. Absurd as that may sound, it is exactly the logic of the Chase.
Kyle Busch will probably cruise into the playoffs with a hefty lead, every point of which was earned on the racetrack by the sweat of his team and pit crew, and through his own spectacular…and exciting…performance. That lead will be instantaneously wiped out as if he and his team didn’t even show up in two of the races. If he then gets caught in a big wreck at Talladega because Michael McDowell got loose, it could cost him the title. That would be a sports travesty, the blame for which would fall at the feet of NASCAR…and continue to be one of the causes of the sport going from nearly eclipsing the NFL in popularity to increasingly becoming a sports laughingstock in just five short years.
Most of NASCAR’s hardcore fans aren’t buying the Chase. A lot of them are Southerners and have spent time on farms. They recognize the smell of bulls**t.
The Chase was started so that Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, and other popular drivers would be in the hunt for a title in more races. After the three most popular drivers in the sport all unexpectedly came up short of the playoffs in different seasons, it was expanded to 12 drivers. Could it be more blatant that NASCAR was trying to ensure a playoff show featuring Junior, Gordon and Tony Stewart? With Junior’s failure to make the Chase last year, it backfired severely. You know the possible expansion of the Chase to 15 drivers crossed their minds after the dismal ratings performance towards the end of 2007.
With this kind of governance, why does NASCAR get so uptight when they’re compared to the WWE? They’ve deliberately designed a playoff format to keep the more popular drivers in the show. If NASCAR doesn’t respect the virtue of the competition, dedication and excellence in the sport, for better or for worse, why should fans?
Some folks assert that like it or not, the Chase is here to stay. I’m not sure about that. We’re not talking about a sport that respects any kind of tradition, no matter how little it’s been sanctified. It took NASCAR exactly one year to ditch the idea of impound races. Does anyone doubt that if it were Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who was arguably denied two championships from the Chase format that it would still be in place? We’ll never know—it’s fairly certain that it wouldn’t happen twice.
And because even Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s fans know that, the Chase—and the mentality of a sport that implements a contrived playoff without considering the effects—has cost NASCAR a ton of respect as a sport with fans.
No matter how much some reporters try to suggest otherwise.
Special Edition of Kurt’s “Short” – Bet On Chevrolet!
I run a NASCAR fantasy league for some family members and buddies, and the one thing that has made me a winner for the last couple of seasons is picking Chevrolets for my team. After NASCAR’s latest foray into IROCisizing the Nationwide Series, I now realize why.
Remember when Bill Elliott was told by Bill France, Jr. that his Ford wasn’t going to stink up the show? Chevrolet driver Jeff Gordon was given no such admonishment…and if anyone stunk up the show it was Jeff Gordon.
When Jack Roush placed five Fords in the Chase in 2005 (thanks partly to NASCAR’s “money-saving” rule changes), NASCAR instituted a maximum number of cars rule, which only affected the one remaining successful Ford team owner. After Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevrolets won half of the races in 2007, NASCAR of course stepped up to the plate, doing absolutely nothing to slow down the team for whom the most popular driver would be running in 2008.
And now a Joe Gibbs Toyota has been wiping up the floor with the other cars in the Nationwide Series, and NASCAR actually had to point out the unfair advantage of a car that hasn’t won all season for an excuse to slow the No. 20 down! And it’s been proven once again, other manufacturers are welcome to participate and spend their money, just not to win.
And all this time I thought Dale Earnhardt was just a great driver.
Hey Mr. Stewart, I know it gets you into trouble, but I can’t get fined for it and it won’t bother me if I’m no longer allowed at NASCAR events. So I’ll say it for ya:
NASCAR IS LIKE THE WWE!
Nyuk nyuk nyuk!
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Thank you for writing what so many fans have been saying since this obnoxious ‘crapshoot for the champeenship’ was started! It always grinds me when I hear that inane “Now Nascar is like other sports” rationalization. No, it’s not. And that’s exactly why so many people loved to watch it! And how can you justify allowing teams that are 500 points or more behind the leader after 26 races as being ‘legitimate contenders’. It has sucked the life out of the races for many of the ‘top 12’, encouraging points racing safety even more than before. Frankly, if someone has run so well as to be way ahead, they deserve to win the title. I used to feel that who won the title was secondary to the excitement of each individual race. By putting so much emphasis on the crapshoot, it has diminished the overall quality of racing. I’ve attended the night race at Bristol for the past 8 years. After watching the boring parade that resurfacing the track and the crapshoot has caused at Bristol, I am seriously considering giving up my seats. The past 2 years, you could feel the excitement draining out of the crowd as lap after lap of playing it safe made bristol just another race. Inever thought that could happen. But it has.
Great article. In my opinion, all the Chase does is to make luck a bigger factor in the formula that determines the champ. Give me back the old system it produced a more legitimate champion.
WWE! WWE! WWE!
And right on.
If people keep comparing NA$CAR to the WWE the folks at WWE are going to get upset…..they do have some level of respect for themselves. They know when they have screwed up… and do something about it…. that can’t be said of NA$CAR now can it?
Good article…. says it all.
WELL STATED! (and yes, I am shouting)!!
oh, and the caption on the picture: “Last year, the drivers involved in The Chase celebrated their involvement, but real race fans still reject it.”
Of course the drivers “support” the chase, NA$CAR dictates that they do so! Also, if you take the 12 drivers involved, at a salary average of some $15 million each, then you have some $180 million “supporting” THE CHASE!
Heck! why not? Money talks! Racing walks!
And the poor fan is left out in the cold!
I have been criticized for being “negative” about NA$CAR and it’s current state of affairs! But with the CoT, and the CHASE! What is there to like?
The “racing” is ruined, from start to finish!
The chase was one of many of those hallucinations that a coked-up intoxicated Brian France has in the dark of night. (or middle of the day)
It seemed like a good idea at the time….
Great article! Absolutely spot on. Nascar began this insipid “chase” to improve their fan base. They probably did; in the short run. Eventually most of those new fans found or will find, something else to amuse themselves. In the long run they annoyed a lot of us who now dont really pay that much attention any more to Cup races except for maybe the last 15 minutes..and most of those farces end up with the fabled “green, white, checker”.
I have been saying the same thing about Chevy for 15 -20 years. Just ask my Dad or uncle. NASCAR and CHevy have been in bed together forever. Hell Fords were winning 40% of the races in the late 90’s yet a Chevy won the Championship almost every year. Look at Gordon’s Champ seasons Fords actually won most of the races he did not. 7 out of the top ten in the standings were Blue Ovals but it was so spread out that no one driver won more than a few races. Hence, Gordon won the championship as Chevy screwed every other driver other than Gordon and Earnhardt to win the whole shabang.
I’ve alway thought if we must have a “Chase” why doesn’t Nascar split the races? If there is a 400 lap race scheduled run 200 with only the Chase contenders and 200 with the remaining drivers? I think that format could produce quite a show. 12 drivers fighting each other on a fair field instead of the top 12 hiding playing safe until it’s time to make a move. Heck why not even AFTER the race have a lap number drawn and the leader at that lap would get extra points so the drivers will try to fight for the lead the entire race instead of playing follow the leader? (just kidding or am I?)
No other sport has the teams that did not make the playoffs or finals compete against the teams who did not.
As it is a teammate who did not make the chase can go oops and take out a chase contender.
<- Not a “real fan”. I have not rejected the chase because I feel it is superior to what came before. Not to say that the chase is great. Just better than what was there before.
I would have preferred a points system overhaul that mostly eliminates points racing, rewards winning, and doesn’t reward:
Apparently, it was determined somewhere along the line that the points system itself was more important than the racing. That is not good.
As an editorial and not a “news item”, obviously one can write whatever one wishes…but I think this would have been a more interesting article if written from a forward looking perspective instead of a “preaching to the choir” sort of rehash of an old, tired issue.
What would you do to make the championship more compelling? Prior to the chase, the championship was a foregone conclusion weeks before season end the majority of the time. Now, it is (on average) closer, but some feel it is closer because of the “contrived” playoff format.
I’m trying not to ramble on. I do believe that there was a problem with the old points system, as it doesn’t reward trying to win, it rewards trying to finish consistently top-15. The same problem exists with the Chase, because they didn’t fix the problem, they tried to slap a band-aid on top of it, and with somewhat mixed/dubious results.
NASCAR under Brainless Brian Fraqnce has done NOTHING but go backwards! If NASCAR were a public company, his a$$ would have been throw out years ago!
Chris, since you asked, here is what I would have done to improve the points system: nothing. Why? Because it wasn’t a problem to any fan that I knew, certainly not relative to bigger problems that the sport had at the time (and still has), like oversaturation of commercials in broadcasts. In fact, when NASCAR introduced the Chase, 75% of NASCAR fans polled said it was a bad idea. (NASCAR’s response was to stop polling the fans about it.)
From this it can be deduced that if the championship was decided before the last race of the season, then NASCAR fans as a rule did not seem to mind. And in addition to that, if the champion was declared before Homestead…so what? At least the champion earned it through excellence in a long haul. Is it more important that the battle be continued right through the last race, even if it means that NASCAR had to hand hundreds of points to inferior drivers to do it? That seems to be what you’re saying, Chris.
I get that some people don’t think the points system rewards winning enough. It still doesn’t and never will to some. It’s not that I don’t sympathize with that, but in a sport with one winner and 42 losers every week, the prize should go to the guy who puts up the best finishes overall. The No. 17 team was the best at it in NASCAR in 2003. The No. 24 team was the best at it in 2007. Before the Chase, the team that did it best won.
But let’s stipulate: you want winning to be rewarded more. Fine…add 10-20 points for a win. What is wrong with something as simple as that?
The Chase is not an old, tired issue, because it is still here, and it is still wrong: it is the crass disrespect of excellence in favor of attempting to force excitement.
Your usage of quotes for the word “contrived” suggests that you think that the points battles today are not contrived. But they are. “Contrived” means “forced”. Is there a better word to describe a points system that resets the top 12 after 26 races?
I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s right to bump some buddy out of the way to win a race. At our local NASCAR sanctioned track if this happens you have to go back behind the guy you bumped. Why is it different at the top level? I don’t care if its just a nudge or what.
interesting you bring up the ‘punishing’ of the ford teams. the snooze for the chase was implemented after Kenseth won a championship by routinely top fiving the field
I remember when people tried to win during the last 10 races of the season. Now they just try to stay out of the chasers way.
Kurt, I disagree that the old points system “wasn’t a problem to any fan I knew.” The Chase is dispicable, but the old system still rewarded conservative points racing more than it should have. Matt Kenseth in 2003 coasted around avoiding trouble the last 2/3 of the year. Is that really what people want?
Still, good article. I agree that crowning the correct champion is far more important than it being exciting. Not that contrived bull**** is exciting anyway…
thanks for the response, Kurt. :)
I can definitely appreciate the perspective that they could have just left well enough alone.
My personal opinion is that the points system is just about the only thing that F1 gets right. It’s not that the reward for winning isn’t high enough, it’s that under the Nascar points system the punishment for a bad day is too harsh. A points system that dropped off down to about 20, and 20-43 got the same points (with DNQs getting less, obviously), would alleviate alot of the problem I have with the current points system. In the right values this would, in alot of cases, eliminate any need to have a playoff-type system.
(I had contrived in quotes purely because so many of the rules in professional sports are contrived/arbitrary for the express purpose of keeping competition close and building excitement.)
I HATED the old points system.
The chase isn’t bad but has some serious flaws. Personally, I think it kills some late races in the regular season like the night bristol race.
And when the chase starts it seems silly with all the other cars out there just “riding around”. I mean, why are they even there?
EXCELLENT ARTICLE …i AGREE 100% …Thank you for being one of the only folks covering na$car who draws attention to what REAL FANS think ! ratings and attendance been been going downhill since this system came about , but we are supposed to believe its the price of gas , or the tv coverage ! NOT !!
Anyone remember Kuwicki’s championship? Three cars able to win the championship at the last race of the year. No crazy ass chase system was needed for that. The chase basically screws the remaining teams after the top 12 are set. Use to be a team fought like hell to place in the top 20 in order to sit at the big table in New York. Now, even if a team goes on a winning rampage they will not draw the attention that the top 12 gets by the media.
I love how people’s opinions are slammed on this site if you dont agree with the majority. I guess I will take my fake appreciation for the sport and go watch the TV by myself, because I’m not a “real fan.”
10 races is too many. Most of the time its down to 5 drivers by the time the last five races are left, so lets do the Chase but with 5 drivers and 5 races. I like the bonus points for winning races, but I dont like the new ranking by wins. I would make it the old way of ranking with 5 points separating each driver, and then give 10 bonus points for each win. A driver with 5 wins in 10th place should not start the Chase ahead of a driver in 2nd place with 1 win. I also love the idea of changing the point system to similar to F1, so only the top 20 or 25 drivers get the most points.
The only problem with the chase is that it’s on the wrong network! It should be on Fox, so Brian could crown his Faux Champion. Boogity, Boogity, Boogity!