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.
“Not every race is a barnburner. If you are a good fan, and you didn’t get what you wanted, it’s OK to be disappointed and we can be disappointed right along with you. We’re here to put on the best races we can, and we do a damn good job of it most of the time.” – Robin Pemberton, during the Indianapolis race
“I can’t say enough how sorry we are. It’s our responsibility being NASCAR that we don’t go through this situation again…I don’t feel real good about it right now. I think if you had talked to anybody that’s been around me the last 48 hours, they’ll probably back me up on that. It’s difficult, it’s hard. We do beat ourselves up.” – Robin Pemberton, after 48 hours of severe fan backlash from the Indianapolis race
These are two statements from the same person about the same event that are decidedly different in tone. It’s easy to think that finally, after two days of fans and writers voicing their disgust, NASCAR has awakened to the reality that this wasn’t a good time to be arrogant about their effort.
But this columnist is going to take Pemberton at his word. The apology is accepted from this end, but The Official Columnist is not going to speak for those who trucked to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and paid for last Sunday’s disaster. NASCAR will have to talk to them.
And that’s really the problem, isn’t it? I don’t remember hearing contrition even remotely resembling this after the Charlotte tire debacle in 2005, a race that I did spend money and travel several hundred miles to attend. It never occurred to me to ask for a refund, but if someone suggested it, I certainly wouldn’t have argued. I was pretty darned angry. And back then would have been a good time for NASCAR to say “this won’t happen again”. But it did.
There are two reasons that the Indianapolis backlash was so ravenous in the couple of days after the race, aside from the actual race itself. The first reason was NASCAR’s initial reaction—that good fans will shut up and keep buying tickets. And the second reason is that this has happened before—Charlotte or Atlanta, take your pick—so there really isn’t much explanation for the problem to have grown this big. Goodyear may bear some responsibility, at the very least since they should be aware that their name is attached to this. But ultimately, NASCAR is culpable for their product being in a decline that is growing steeper with the unacceptable piling up of preventable displays like we saw in Indianapolis. A local short track charging a tenth of what NASCAR collects for seats would have been embarrassed by it. Indy 2008 is going to be historic, and for awful reasons.
The CEO needs to take responsibility for that.
With his statement Tuesday, Pemberton has at least done something to dispel the image of NASCAR ignoring their audience and acting like nothing was wrong. The image that still remains, though, is Brian France counting the money from the gate.
This isn’t a push for a refund. Any sporting event is caveat emptor. Like everything else in the entertainment industry, seeing a race live is overpriced, especially when parking, hotels if necessary, and concessions are figured in. To anyone who shells out that kind of cash (myself included, by the way), if you don’t get your money’s worth, don’t go back.
And evidently people aren’t. A Fox Sports poll revealed that 40% of the people who watched the Brickyard train wreck—two out of five—said that they are done and will never watch a NASCAR race again. That’s 40% of over 70,000 votes or 28,000 customers that NASCAR may have lost permanently in a day. (The poll has since been removed from Fox Sports’ website.) Exaggeration, angry poll votes in the heat of the moment, people voting more than once, you say? Probably all of that is true. But there never used to be this many empty seats at Indy. It’s not like NASCAR wasn’t headed in that direction. If a 10th of those votes were sincere, it’s still too many.
Where is Brian France in all of this?
Forget that NASCAR is a sport for a moment. Brian France is the CEO of a large entity, and, in his tenure, has done more damage to its image than most stockholders would tolerate. Indianapolis ought to be the last straw. Imagine thousands of Windows customers buying a new operating system that slows their computer to a trickle. Can you even conceive of one of Microsoft’s top spokesmen immediately saying “not every OS is a barn-burner” or blaming IBM? Can you fathom Bill Gates being completely AWOL while his company’s customers are swearing off his products by the thousands?
NASCAR’s CEO hasn’t done anything publicly to address yet another black eye in a sport that doesn’t have a lot of unblackened eyes left. And it continues an ongoing reign in which few positives can be found.
France’s rule has been marked by his apparently subscribing to “megavitamin theory”. If you’ve ever met someone who chokes down those huge vitamin C or vitamin B pills, their thinking is that if a little is good, then a lot is great, which isn’t true. Passing is good for racing. That doesn’t mean cars should all be designed the same so that passing is happening all the time. An exciting finish to the season is good for the sport. That doesn’t mean a good finish should be forced by taking leading drivers’ points away. Moving some NASCAR races outside of the Southeast is good, because there are race fans everywhere. That doesn’t mean moving a longstanding tradition for half a century out of the Southeast is a great idea. There is a reason the XFL didn’t last. More is not always better.
Much of the uprooting of the sport in the past four years has been in the name of capturing the “casual fan”. You know who that means—the guy that turns up his nose and parrots “bunch of hillbillies going around in circles” at the mere mention of NASCAR. One wonders what the “casual fan” who tuned in to Indianapolis thought. Most likely it was: “What in Sam Hill is this? Where’s my remote?”
One way to attract the otherwise indifferent observer is to ensure that they see a good product when they do watch, particularly the events with the biggest likely amount of “casual” viewers. A race at the most storied venue in motorsports would probably fit into that category.
Some out there have said that the Indianapolis Cluster Fart 400 couldn’t have come at a worse time, with attendance dwindling and the economy keeping more fans at home. (Is it really the economy? Baseball’s attendance looks just fine to me, and ballgames sure aren’t cheap.) But in a smaller microcosm of history, the Indy C.F. 400 actually came at a fairly good time for NASCAR—if such a disaster had to take place—taking over the headlines one week after an inexplicable ruling in the Nationwide Series that was clearly meant to slow down only one manufacturer.
How does a major sport not anticipate backlash from fans at the idea of slowing down a manufacturer’s engines in a lesser series—especially when no similar measures were taken to slow another manufacturer who spent last season utterly stomping on the competition in the main series? If a piddling two-bit columnist can see that without blinking twice, how does NASCAR miss it?
Toyota has rightly expressed concern that this ruling could render them much less competitive and could drive their sponsors away, since sponsors want to win and Toyota (actually Joe Gibbs Racing) had been dutifully making them happy. Toyota should ask Richard Childress how concerned NASCAR is about the difficulties of acquiring sponsorships. Geico and Verizon can’t help them there.
This sort of mismanagement has been typical of the Brian France era. NASCAR consistently looks bumbling and unable to police the sport properly or fairly. An unpopular playoff system has created a second half full of careful points racing. They have foisted a new car design that is increasingly seen as a disaster by everyone from crew chiefs to fans, especially after Indianapolis. It seems as though no one making decisions at NASCAR anticipates the consequences of those decisions.
And while paying customers are backlashing like sons of you-know-whats—on the message boards, on the blogs, with their remotes and with their leisure cash—the CEO refuses to take his head out of the sand, instead making excuses…gas prices, tough economy, fans complain too much, popular driver didn’t win.
It’s not as though NASCAR had no problems to address when Brian took over. The broadcasts were abominable even then, local hotels were ripping fans off blind on NASCAR weekends, and drivers were involved in terrifying wrecks at Daytona and Talladega every year. Those flaws are not only still glaring, but a whole new host of fan-turnoff issues have joined them—courtesy of the marketing-savvy efforts of NASCAR’s current CEO. Fixing what wasn’t broken and not fixing what was basically led NASCAR to where it is today. NASCAR could have made the experience much better for fans without more cowbell, and the sport would have kept booming. Instead, they may be one more Indianapolis away from irrelevance.
It’s easy to sit here and criticize, and it probably isn’t fun to have people clamoring for your head all the time. But that is the nature of a CEO’s position. When a sports team has an increasingly worse record every year for five straight years, the coach is going to go. Business is no different.
Even Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR icon and commentator, is puzzled at how NASCAR can rule that Toyota must slow down and how the sport got to the point it did at the Brickyard. And D.W. is no NASCAR basher—he often graciously repeats that “they’re doing the best they can.”
Maybe they are. But if what we saw at Indianapolis is NASCAR’s best, then their best isn’t good enough. And maybe it’s time for the guy who is sitting where the buck stops to hand over the reins to someone else.
Nothing personal. I don’t hate the guy. It’s just business.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
You’re absolutely right…the one voice that has been noticably absent after Indy is that of the ‘head honcho’, Brian France. As the one ultimately responsible for making the decisions, his ‘track record’ isn’t exactly stellar. There must not have been enough Hollywood ‘D’ listers at Indy to have him make an appearance. When you contrast his ‘style’ with that of his father and grandfather, both Big Bill and Bill Jr. could be seen every week at the track, down in the garage, keeping their finger on the pulse of the sport to make sure it was healthy. Instead, Brian France has taken the Teresa Earnhardt path of absentee ownership.
Brian France would not be the CEO if he was not the son of Bill France JR. Face it, What other credentials does he have that makes him the right guy for the job? None. None of this is a surprise to me. NASCAR needs to get refocused real fast if they expect to keep their present fan base.
Just a GREAT piece of writing, and a very well put together description of the ills of NA$CRAP!
And I do not think Pemberton says anything that is not “approved” by the monkey named Brian! I think the entire NA$CRAP organization is run by a bunch of “yes” men, as in “yes Sir, Brian”, No sir, Brian”, what do you want me to say “Brian”?
“Yes Brian, the CoT is really a good car”!!
Don’t the on track results indicate that this is true?
MONEY TALKS, RACING WALKS!
Now, we head to Pocono for the latest episode of:
THE “CoT DEVELOPMENTAL SERIES”!
Oh, and my letters have gone out to GOODYEAR, and also ALLSTATE for backing this idiot called Brian and further lining his pockets with what turns out to be “OUR” money!
It is time, and way past due, to hurt the sponsors that support these ridiculous Sunday afternoons!
If NA$CRAP will not listen to us, then maybe pressure on the sponsors will get his attention!
“It seems as though no one making decisions at NASCAR anticipates the consequences of those decisions. “
Great story, but only if it could be true! Brian will be around until nascrap is just a shell of itself and everyone is watching the IRL. He has probably already done tremendous damage that will never be overcome!
…..you really didn’t mean (want) to say “sand” did you…..?
Mark, I absolutely knew someone would respond to that sentence.
Sorry Kurt, I just couldn’t resist… good article and great reporting. Keep up the fine work.
Great article and I mostly agree with your observations except one.
The split will benefit both Newman and Penske, because racing is so competitive that successful results demand a “100% passionate commitment” on everyones part!
Kurt,One thing puzzles me about the NA$CAR apology,why was it Robin Pemberton?If a NFL team loses the Super Bowl the coach is the one who speaks,not the equiptment manager….Where is Brian or Mike now…still counting money I’ll bet.
Sorry, but you are absolutely wrong on the Toyota issues. Toyota had a advantage that anyone who wasn’t blind could see and dyno results proved it. Toyota has won like 15 out of 22 races in just their second year in the sport so it was clear they have an advantage. My problem is, they should have tested the cars at the beginning of the season and made changes to keep the cars equal then instead of giving them over half the season. Remember, nascar has said for years that they wanted to leave it up the drivers and crews to determine the winner and not a horsepower or car advantage. Making changes to engines has been done before and nascar has even changed spoiler heights and air dams to try to equal downforce. Again, these changes have been made before. Surely, Darrell Waldrip knows this as do many other long time “core” fans. Don’t reckon his statement had anything to do with his relationship with Toyota and also his brother’s too? As far as chevy winning all those races last year, don’t think it was horsepower that won them as the dyno results show they are about the lowest one on the totem pole with horsepower and nascar won’t let them run their RO7 engines even though toyota was kicking their butt in Nationwide Series. Chevys wins last year were because of the number of quality teams, drivers, they had. Remember, Nascar didn’t “penlalize” Toyota, it simply tried to bring them in line with the other teams as Darrell full well knows has been done several times in Nascar’s History. Again, Chevy’s wins last year in cup and busch series was mostly due to number of cars, quality teams-Hendrick, Gibbs, Childress, and great drivers-Johnson, Gordon, Steward and others. As far as Brian France, I agree with you. He should have been one of the first Nascar Officials to make a statement but has been strangely silent. And, I’ve said all along that Nascar should give fans some kind of refund and not count the race as a “points” race. Wouldn’t it be something if this race cost someone a chance in the chase or even winning the championship? Wonder how Nascar would spin it then?
Robert, that’s a perspective that I hadn’t thought of, and not knowing the inner workings at Penske I can’t claim to have full knowledge of what happened. You could be right, and I could appreciate the intolerance of disloyalty…NASCAR practices it quite a bit. But knowing what I do know, that Newman was unhappy with the way things were going and said so publicly, it isn’t hard to believe that he would decide to pack his bags and that there wasn’t much more to it than that.
Rusty coming out and telling a completely different story from what was almost accepted wisdom was very strange, so who knows. That Rusty and Ryan feuded while teammates suggests that Rusty might still be sore at him, but I can’t imagine someone going to such great lengths to make a former teammate look bad. I can’t make a character assessment on that.
I expect if what you’re saying is the truth, we may know by the end of the year when Roger doesn’t care about the distraction so much. We’ll see. Thanks for your comment.
Larry, I won’t argue that D.W.’s relationship with Toyota may have played a part in what he said. And we agree on the rule change happening in the middle of the season, when it should have been done either before or after the season if it was necessary as you say.
Chevy did have an advantage in quality teams last season, without question, but that is also the reason Toyota is doing so well. Most of the races being won by Toyota have been won by the No. 20 car, owned by Joe Gibbs, a quality team no matter whose name is on the motor. It’s the same thing in Cup, Toyotas are winning because Joe Gibbs runs them and Kyle Busch drives one. NASCAR actually cited the engine for the No. 99 as having the unfair advantage, a car that hasn’t won all year, to make this change.
Bringing teams in line with the competition, or rather, attempts to equalize the competition for better racing, has been done before, yes. That doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to do. I thought it was wrong for NASCAR to implement a car limit that only affected one team as well. Roush was running better and they were punished for it. Maybe it isn’t as simple as I say, but let the other teams catch up, like the teams did with Hendrick this season.
That nothing was done to slow down Hendrick last year makes the cynic in me think it’s because NASCAR knew their most popular driver would be on that team this season. That thinking jibes with what is happening now…NASCAR is slowing down the team with the most UNpopular driver on it. Not saying that is what is going on, but that is interesting.
Thanks for your take on it.
THANKS KURT for telling it like it IS!!
Has Jimmy Spencer completely lost his mind? Why would he say bad things about his hometown and his closest track?
NASCAR has always managed their competition, and if they didn’t we’d have F1. The difference between Toyota and Chevy is that Toyota had a clear, undeniable hp advantage that showed up repeatedly over several dyno tests – not just one.
Before Toyota came in, back when Jack Roush was warning about how they would dominate the sport we were repeatedly reassured that NASCAR would never allow Toyota to run rough-shot over the competition, so I’m surprised that anyone is surprised when NASCAR clips their wings.
I agree with a lot of what you’ve written regarding Brian France, but when it comes to the ruling they made for Toyota it’s a decision that actually resembles the NASCAR of old. Anyone who was caught off-guard by the new rule hasn’t been paying much attention to the history of this sport.
Who in his right mind thinks that Brian France cares for one minute what his opinion is?
It’s a good thing that Brian was able to step into the family buisness. Because if that option wasn’t avalable to him. Say he’d been born into a regular family. This chubby little frat boy would have trouble holding down a 35K a year job.
Dang it, I had a sand comment too. Great article Kurt.
Brilliant and spot-on commentary. The leadership of NASCAR has become a “kingship” whereby the crown is passed from father to son and it’s a joke. Brian France Jr, is well on his way to ruining this fine sport and the Toyota decision and last week’s race at Indianapolis were only two of the latest examples. Nothing made me happier than seeing Kyle Busch win the Nationwide race last weekend in a Toyota. And I’m not even a Kyle Busch fan – far from it. France is a fool and an idiot and anyone who loves this sport should be appropriately indignant at what’s happening.
“Brian France is the CEO of a large entity, and, in his tenure, has done more damage to its image than most stockholders would tolerate.”
I’ve been a fan since ’78 but until last year I left nascar for about 6 yrs out of boredom and frustration. And really, the ONLY thing keeping me interested now is Toyota and Kyle Bush (and Sirius Radio).
So now nascar has punished Toyota for kicking tail while doing nothing last year to Chevy/Hendrick. (yes I know it’s two different series)
We now have the COT that clearly was not ready for prime time. Just HOW LONG has this car been in development anyway? And why are there still so many unknowns about it?
We now have the Chase. Still don’t know what to think of it. What I DO know is that I HATE espn.
I still never watch Cali, Indy, or Pocono. I could care less if we lose Indy. Even Jr. thinks Pocono is too long. And who came up with the stupid idea of going to California after the Daytona 500? What a momentum killer!
“This sort of mismanagement has been typical of the Brian France era. NASCAR consistently looks bumbling and unable to police the sport properly or fairly.”
Nascar is now run by committee instead of one BIG BOSS who knows whats good for the sport.
Oh well, at least the NFL is about to start up.
Well conspiracy theorists must be everywhere. I guess I fall into that camp too, because I don’t see one person who disagrees with you. But maybe you are willing to post a dissenting opinion. First of all I am a NASCAR fan. While I don’t think that the Indy race was the best I’ve seen. However, I think that NASCAR the best with the “ugly baby” they had. All of the other posters I have seen respond to this sound what I imagine every New England fan must have sounded like after the Super Bowl. “The fix was in!” Let’s face it, NASCAR didn’t construct the tires. NASCAR didn’t build the track. Mistakes happen. It’s part of life. So everyone who wants to label NASCAR as “Nascrap” and claim ‘it sucks’ or other things, maybe they should go watch IRL or some other sport, I for one won’t be losing interest any time soon.