Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
The new car looks and drives like crap. The playoff system is contrived and ridiculous. There isn’t any difference between manufacturers anymore. It’s follow the leader racing every week. Too few teams have a stranglehold on success. The venues are all the same and the classic tracks are disappearing. The drivers are vanilla. The broadcasts are awful.
To read and listen to diatribes from many of us—and yours truly pleads as guilty as anyone—most every disgruntled fan can put a finger on what currently ails NASCAR. Check Jayski every day and you can also usually find someone offering “solutions” to NASCAR’s steadily dropping ratings and attendance numbers. Some suggestions might actually help in practice; some make you wonder where you can get such high-quality ganja.
However, one glaring problem NASCAR has seems to go somewhat unnoticed by the press and blogosphere, even if the problem is often articulated through other means. And there really isn’t much NASCAR can do about it—not that they wouldn’t try.
Bruton Smith makes outrageous statements at times and rarely does he leave the press with nothing to quote when he opens his mouth publicly. Still, the Brute was onto something when he suggested that Jimmie Johnson get out of his car and slap someone, even offering to be the one slapped by him. Which, by the way, is Bruton’s best idea to increase attendance yet.
Smith was not serious, of course, that Johnson should alter his persona and risk sponsor trouble in a reckless and public outburst of emotion. But he was making a point in his inimitable way. For three straight years, the Sprint Cup has been lofted every year by a driver who hasn’t been in a fight in turn 3, doesn’t bow or cuss after a victory, doesn’t have a late father who was a legend in the sport, and hasn’t been married to Miss Sprint.
Few drivers in NASCAR history are as calm and measured when the cameras are on as Jimmie Johnson is. So Lowe’s, of course, couldn’t be happier with him, and you can’t blame them, especially given the headaches their biggest competitor had with their outspoken driver once. But Jimmie’s demeanor may also be part of NASCAR’s ratings problem.
It isn’t that our champion is a robot—far from it. It takes great strength of character to be so even-keeled, especially when one drives a racecar at 180+ MPH at Talladega for a living. It’s that Jimmie’s demeanor makes him appear mechanical. Which, apparently, is fine with him. If you have a problem with how Jimmie Johnson handles himself, he can get on his walkie-talkie and summon crew members to stand next to him holding three Sprint Cups for you. The 48 team has won championships by staying focused in the storm that is the Chase.
Remember Talladega 2006? Jimmie went from second place and ready to challenge for a win to finishing 24th and having his championship hopes severely dented by a teammate with just a little too much lead in his foot. Any driver would have been justified in being angry with Brian Vickers, especially watching him celebrate in victory lane. That had to sting. The most Jimmie would say was to lament being wrecked by a teammate. No denigrating Vickers’s intelligence, no questioning the wisdom of restrictor plates, at least not on television.
That is typical Johnson. His most memorable quote is “this is for all the Johnson haters”. Maybe he could ask Bruton how to get a reaction out of fans.
Jimmie could throw a punch at Kyle Busch today and have a million more fans tomorrow. It might also earn him a group of critics, disdainful of his lapses in judgment of the type one never sees from the likes of Mark Martin or Jeff Burton.
But with no disrespect meant to Mark or Jeff, Jimmie is winning titles. He doesn’t have a long career full of near misses to make him a “sentimental favorite”. Johnson is proof that a driver can race clean, not punch anybody’s lights out and still win championships, when it sometimes seems as though unwillingness to use the bumper to a victory had been part of the problem for Mark Martin. Johnson isn’t an underdog, nor has he ever been since his rookie season. Winning early and often in one’s career has a way of diminishing the hero factor. Ask Jeff Gordon.
And so you hear the complaints from fans about drivers being robotic, sponsor-friendly, too worried about NASCAR’s reaction to haul off and swing at a guy that just wrecked him. Jimmie isn’t always mentioned by name, and others might come to mind, but hell, he’s been the champion for three seasons. Johnson himself once commented that fans complain about drivers being vanilla but then hammer a driver for showing emotion shortly after Carl Edwards went after Matt Kenseth at Martinsville. He expressed concern about what fans really want from drivers, as if a three-time champion should care. (He should, actually, but not that much.)
Another possible reason for the yawns at the mention of the champion’s name is the matter of some doubt that Jimmie Johnson truly is a multiple championship driver, doubts attributed to both the top-notch equipment he drives and to the quick-thinking genius on his pit box. Johnson’s gang of car builders and crew members often overshadow his own skills, literally making him underrated as a driver, even with three Sprint Cups to his name. This doesn’t explain Casey Mears’ or Brian Vickers’ lack of success with capable crew chiefs in Hendrick cars. Or Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s, for that matter—who in the racing world predicted correctly that Junior would have one win in his first year at Hendrick?
The accolades for the builders of equipment and crew chief are unquestionably deserved, but to suggest that anyone could have driven the 48 car to three straight titles is patently absurd. Johnson held off a very pushy Jeff Gordon at Martinsville. Johnson patiently set up Matt Kenseth for a perfect pass at Texas. Johnson kept his car under control and in one piece to win tire-blowing debacles at both Indianapolis and Charlotte…an achievement that names like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart couldn’t manage. Johnson managed to squeeze out every drop of fuel at Phoenix.
Jimmie Johnson has won at Daytona, Darlington, Martinsville, Dover, Richmond, Pocono, and just about every speedway you could name. He hasn’t won at a road course yet, but he certainly has been in contention to. Mediocre drivers don’t win at nearly every type of track. Some drivers excel at plate tracks. Some guys are hired solely for road courses. Most drivers get their first win on a speedway. The best ones can get it done anywhere.
Finally, the paint scheme on the 48 doesn’t help—a dull, unexciting blue with a familiar but unmoving logo from a home improvement store. Only the bright yellow 48 on the side livens it up a bit. Compare it to the flamed black 24, or the bright yellow 18, or the piercing orange 20. Dazzling…the 48 paint scheme is not.
When you add up the dearth of memorable moments outside of the car, the relative ease in winning championships over the last three years (that’s “relative”, as compared to, say, Kurt Busch’s 2004 championship—winning Cup titles is never done with “ease”), the dull blue paint scheme, and the idea that he isn’t any better than anyone else would be in the 48 car, and the sum is that Jimmie Johnson doesn’t help ratings.
There is plenty to dislike about what has happened to NASCAR. There is certainly merit to most of the complaints, most of all about simply the racing itself and where it takes place. I’ve rehashed it plenty in this space and am not going back to that well, at least not today. Give me a few weeks.
But before we attribute the current state of NASCAR entirely to Brian France’s ill-conceived decisions that have rendered NASCAR unrecognizable to those who loved it the most, and the apparent incompetence that brought us some disastrous races, consider where NASCAR would be now should Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have won three championships in a row, especially considering that his recent performances haven’t even put him in serious running for one.
Does anyone doubt that the ratings and attendance would tell a different story if, instead of the 48 team cruising to three titles, that whatever car Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was driving was doing the winning? NASCAR experienced its first ratings increase in several years in 2008 when Junior started driving the 88 for Hendrick Motorsports and people knew he would run better than he had been for “TEI”. After about halfway through the season, when the 88 car had managed only one win and a fuel mileage win at that, ratings trailed off. France wasn’t entirely wrong when he essentially said that as goes Junior, so goes NASCAR. Take it from someone whose website hits triple for Junior articles.
Even without Little E being in the race, a cocky kid named Kyle Busch was certainly doing his part last year for NASCAR’s ratings. Lots of people disliked Kyle and probably still do, but no one disputes that he can drive…or that he is a colorful character. People may boo him, but they’re there and they’re watching—as Dale Earnhardt once advised Jeff Gordon, “as long as they’re making noise”. Ratings began to sink shortly after the Chase started in 2008 as well, when Kyle Busch fell off the edge of the earth in two races.
I won’t say Kyle Busch or Dale Jr. with his new team were wholly responsible for the ratings increase and decrease in 2008, but they sure as all heck generate a lot of traffic on the Internet, so we know that they get a reaction.
How often do Jimmie Johnson moments generate thousands of Youtube hits?
Kurt’s Shorts – What Will Daytona Bring?
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The pundits and motorsports writers would be very surprised to learn how few fans really care at all about Jimmie Johnsons popularity , or lack thereof . Forcing Johnson , Gordon , and all things Hendrick onto the fans just isn’t working . The only Hendrick driver who doesn’t need the shilling of the media to be popular is Earnhardt Jr.
If so few fans care about them, why would Johnson and Gordon be second and third, respectively, in souvenir sales? While some fans might not care, the overwhelming evidence is that many more fans do-and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. In this day and age, sales of merchandise speak volumes about a driver’s popularity.
I’d say the Johnson problem is more on the track than off, but I agree with the sentiment. He comes off as a boring driver. Maybe its because he’s so surgical and good, but he’s also fairly conservative.
He doesn’t seem like he takes big risks, doesn’t seem to intimidating, has no wild streak- at least to the casual fan.
When Johnson wins, the races seem boring (unless someone chasing him is giving it all they got, making wild moves to take away the lead.)
He’s a product of NASCAR’s other problems- he plays it well and that’s why he wins.
The problem isn’t just Johnson’s personality. It’s the fact that Hendricks’s complete dominance is turning off a boat load of fans. Gibs is right behind them. And Stewart’s new team is just a wing of Hendricks racing. Eho wants to watch racing in person and on tv when you ‘re about 80% sure that one of these teams is gonna win every week. It takes all the excitement out of the equation. Johnson is a great driver, but people are going to equate that to who he drives for. Put that together with his vanilla personality and you see the results. I’ve been watching na$car for 25+ years and the last few have been so bad that I’m been losing interest. Put that together the idiotic changes brought about by Nero France and again you see the results. He’s made every attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken.
Enough of the Jimmiee Johnson bashing. He’s not the problem, the COT, and the Chase are.
Interesting how everyone hates a WINNER.
If you want trash talk and fueds, watch WWF not NASCAR.
I absolutely love your opening paragraph. You pretty much summed up the total BS package. However, everything after that was a nice vanilla poke at getting readers to reply. Nice try though.
It is really amusing how much effort goes in to diagnosing what is wrong with NASCAR,the answer is simple NOTHING it is evolving like all things do.As it evoles it will be exciting,boring and all the other ings you can think of.The model works and keep bringing most of us back every year we lose some fans and gain some fans Jimmie is boring and like Jeff he too will have a winless year GO Travis GO
Amy ,we don’t know that Johnson and Gordon are second and third in souvenir sales . Neither do you . You’re getting your numbers from other sources .
The numbers are from Street & Smith, a pretty reliable source. Both Jimmie and Jeff’s fan clubs had their own t-shirt deals, so those numbers are pretty insignificant if they impact the total at all. While it true that some fans buy a lot of stuff individually, some don’t collect merchandise at all, so I’m guessing that averages out. The numbers do, in fact, back up that the fans DO care about Gordon and Johnson. If you want personal anecdotes, the last two races I was at where I sat in the grandstands, I was surrounded by fans in 24 and 48 stuff. I’m sure Tony’s sales will be very good this year as well-he’s with a new team and has a lot of fans who will want his new stuff. But to say that nobody cares about two drivers when the evidence clearly points otherwise is misguided. You might not care, but somebody out there obviously does. You don’t have to like a driver, but to say that fans in general don’t care is simply not true.
NASCAR has many problems not the least of which is a host of drivers like Johnson. I don’t think Johnson by himself is the problem, but when you include all of the other no-personality, smooth talking, “good looking” drivers, then you have identified one problem. Sponsors don’t really care if a driver can drive as long as he is “cute,” has no discernable accent, and doesn’t rock the boat. Oh, and he has to be under 30. I watched part of the Twin 125’s yesterday. As the camera scanned the drivers, I couldn’t identify 50% of them.
Numbers from Street and Smith reliable ? . Why would you think that ? But thats another issue entirely . Lets just say i’d have my doubts .
Well Jimmie does sort of look like one of those Team America puppets in the picture with the microphone.
The problem is the way Nascar over marketed themselves and who they targeted. The chase, the 35 point rule, and super teams haven’t helped
Chris, I knew someone was going to take what I was saying the wrong way, and that’s ok because I suppose the title of the column and the photos give the impression that the column is a Johnson bash.
But that wasn’t what I meant at all. I thought I was being pretty complimentary to him actually. You’re right…he is a winner.
I don’t argue with your feelings about the car or the chase either.
This is not the first time I have become incensed by the Jimmie bashing in an article only to realize that underneath it all was an acknowledgement of his accomplishments and other good qualities. Pushing buttons yields results. Incidentally, the Lowe’s blue Chevrolet with the bright yellow number 48 presents a very clean and uncluttered look and is one of the best looking race cars on the track. Maybe that bothers people, too.