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.
Sometimes I feel for the Fox Sports people, even if it’s difficult to muster sympathy for them while sitting through infuriatingly bad broadcasts of racing. The artists and animators who created Digger are only trying to entertain, trying to add to the NASCAR broadcast, and some of the backlash has been nothing short of vicious. One of the nicer comments suggested a “Digger as main course” barbecue.
But the sentiment is understandable. The cartoon rodent is one more of the countless distractions that flood a typical NASCAR broadcast these days.
Digger may be amusing to some and annoying to others, but the gopher is more of a symbol of the over-saturization of sports than anything else. Networks never cease to believe that the show always needs more spice, more pizzazz, more dazzle. That racing needs a stimulus package, if you will.
In an article in USA Today, Fox Sports Chairman David Hill was quoted as saying of Digger, “This is a tawdry attempt to develop another revenue stream.” At least he’s honest. And truth be told, it seems to be working. There isn’t anything wrong with that. If Fox wants to sell Digger T-shirts, shot glasses, toilet brushes or other items, that’s fine. Digger is amusing to some of the kids, which is a good thing for NASCAR, even if race start times are clearly NOT geared towards kids. Not the ones who go to school on Mondays, anyway.
Hill also said “I’m trying to walk that line between blatant and subtle.” So far, he’s walking that line about as well as an ardent supporter of Kasey Kahne’s sponsor.
It seems as though Hill and execs at the other networks, much like the people who rule NASCAR, all share a constant need to add more bells and whistles to the show, as if they will not otherwise receive credit for their role in the sport’s success. Heaven knows, we’ve seen enough tinkering from NASCAR in recent years to make us believe they’ve forgotten why people watch. This isn’t anything new, but as graphics and video technology improve over time, the colors and noises become louder and gaudier. And one day it reaches the point, as it certainly did at Daytona, where the actual event itself is a letdown. Fox’s pre-race show for this year’s 500 (with its tawdry Digger segment) was almost as long as the race itself.
We live in a world of gimmickry where actual substance is either dwarfed or sometimes nonexistent. It is one of the flaws we must accept about capitalism—be it Budweiser frogs, Paris Hilton, or the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
But I’m willing to bet that NASCAR’s most devoted fans arrived there through a friend’s or relative’s love of the sport and through seeing some great races, not through the glitter and glitz used by networks to sex up the broadcast.
What do you ultimately remember from the first flag-to-flag broadcast of the 500 in 1979? Do you remember the graphics showing the positions of the first five drivers (which at the time were state-of-the-art, hard as it may be now to believe), or do you remember the fight? You might remember who the announcer was. But if you saw it, you remember who won the race, you remember who was throwing fists, and you remember where the fight took place on the track. Even at the age of 10, it stuck in my mind for weeks. No CBS chalkboard necessary.
NASCAR didn’t become the second biggest sport in America because of boogity, Digger, draft tracks, in-car cams or the Chase. It especially didn’t get there on corporate sponsored extraneous distractions—like the Allstate Good Hands Move, The Ford Cutaway car, or the Aflac trivia question. If it did, a separate show featuring these artifacts would be a ratings grabber on its own. One could argue that NASCAR has succeeded in spite of all of that, which is a testament to the adrenaline that stock cars adorned with the bright colors of American commerce bring out in so many of us. All of the extra tidbits are part of an overall attitude that has done and is still doing damage to NASCAR’s status…the apparent disregard for anything but profit. It reaches the point where one sometimes asks, doesn’t anyone running NASCAR like NASCAR?
NASCAR has gotten to the point where gimmicks often take over the show from the racing. For some nutty reason, networks still believe that racing is boring, the proverbial guys driving in circles. (I’ve often wondered what geometric shape people who absolutely cannot abide circles would prefer. Dodecahedrons? Isosceles trapezoids? Figure-eights?) TV has always felt this way, back to the Wide World of Sports years. Can you even fathom a network today interrupting the Daytona 500 for something like a rodeo or a ski jumping competition? That used to happen, my friends. It was partly because there were far fewer channels on the dial back then, but it’s still difficult to fathom.
There is such a thing as overdoing it with the bells and whistles, and if Mr. Hill is interested, that line he is trying to walk is easy to define by remembering one Simple Truth: that in the end, people are tuning in to watch an auto race.
Stick to that, and fans will be happy. Or at least less unhappy.
Whenever any network deviates from the Simple Truth, the broadcast suffers. They forget when we see the Hollywood Hotel that viewers did not tune in to watch commentators talk. They forget when they go to the cutaway car that viewers either already know what causes an engine to expire or they don’t care, but they are currently missing the race for an explanation anyway. Fox forgets that fans do not want to miss 20 seconds of racing for a silly short film of the current leader with bursting flames surrounding him, as he reminds us that “you’re watching NASCAR on Fox” (as if you’re ever allowed to forget) before a break.
None of the spectacular and probably expensive effects in a broadcast, not even a cartoon gopher, will hold a fan’s interest better than Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon battling for the lead ever will. Not even for the kids. If Fox pushes Digger beyond the point where it could ever be called subtle, it will be yet another part of what is wrong with NASCAR broadcasts. Digger bits aren’t at that level yet, but never underestimate Fox’s ability to make it happen.
Now, dear reader, can you name one sideshow item any network has employed in the last 30 years that has increased your devotion to the sport? Even palatable gadgets like in-car cameras, the running leaderboard, improved screen graphics? Was any of that what turned you into a lifelong fan?
Anyone who has attended a race and has witnessed the spectacle without the distraction knows what I’m talking about. Nothing in the entertainment universe compares to the deafening volume of the engines starting…or the unparalleled excitement of 43 racecars roaring by after the green flag drops. Even on TV it’s pretty cool.
Digger isn’t going to sink NASCAR. But excessive gimmicks aren’t going to help either if fans aren’t enjoying the racing. And one way people can enjoy racing is to be able to simply watch it without near-constant distractions.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The track camera is rather neat at times, when used sparingly.
“Digger,” the imaginary gopher, groundhog, mole, or some such is just plain stupid and detracts from the seriousness of the racing. At least those idiotic mascots at football, baseball, etc. games are basically used only at halftime, between innings, etc.
Maybe “Larry, Daryl, & Daryl” could hang out with the rodent during red flags to fill time.
In-car cameras and the scrolling leaderboard add to the racing experience, but they dont make me want to tune in more. I, like most everyone, tune in to watch the race.
juvenile…just another attempt to dumb down what was once a mature sport
You hit it perfectly “Doesn’t anyone running Nascar like Nascar?” I’ve contended since he took over that Brian France sees racing with the same contempt that most media does. Other than the ability to put money in his pocket, he feels that gimmicks (the ‘chase’, the ‘Lucky Dog’, etc.) are necessary to keep fans attention.
Awesome article, Kurt! I couldn’t have said it better! The bells and whistles Fox have used since 2001 simply detract from the reason real race fans watch.
As annoying as Digger, is(& Digger, & DW together is way beyond annoying.)TNT’s use of the broadcast, as a promo delivery system gets me going the most. I can mute the sound, & listen to MRN, but there’s nothing I can do about those constant damn promos. Enough already. I get it that you have a TV show called Saving Grace, & It stars Holly Hunter. (see repetition works) but you don’t need to keep clubbing me over the head with it. Sometimes I think NA$CAR allows, even encourages these bad broadcasts. Just to soften us up for Pay Per View.
NASCAR, Fox and ESPN need to stop worrying about dumbing down the broadcast to attract casual fans and start worrying more about keeping the fans they have. Digger is even more insulting than draft-track.
“It reaches the point where one sometimes asks, doesn’t anyone running NASCAR like NASCAR?” NO, NO, NO!!! They don’t like it…they like MONEY!!!
Kurt, you hit the proveriable nail on the head. All good points and well put.
I understand bells, whistles, gimmicks etc. More importantly capitalism. We live in a country founded on just that, if you can make buck go for it. The thing about just that is the market will dictate the demand. I forsee little demand for this Digger nonsense. Anyone following the reader response on the issue wonders why isnt dead yet.
I find it has little positive effect on the business and lots of negative. If 99% of people dont want to buy your widget why continue to shove it down the consumers throat?
Thanks for the great column Kurt! Having watched NASCAR since its early days on TV, perhaps Brian F. should watch those tapes and see just what made NASCAR work and succeed – no gimmicks, pure and simple and accurate coverage by the very adept announcers, astute camera work which picked up virtually all the nuances of racing, etc. The sad thing is that Brian could change it if he wanted to – turn it back to what it was – exciting, nail-biting, don’t want to move far from the TV-racing – get rid of the COTs, the owner points, the top 35 teams, bloody Digger, the way too-long pre-racecast and just give us the racing – thats all we want to see – get rid of the Chris Myers of the NASCAR world who serve no purpose other than promoting the dumbing down of racing – lets just have it as we would were we at the track in person – nothing else is necessary. Thanks!
FOX has decided that these NASCAR broadcasts are really all about them , not the races . They actually think that fans tune in each week to hear Larry Mac and Hammond relive their history as crew chiefs , not very good ones mind you , and DW rewriting history to suit whatever pointless observation hes trying to make . The Digger idea is just an extension of that idea . FOX is convinced that without the Hollywood Hotel , the cartoon character , the two hundred or so pit reporters , and the folksy banter between analysts , that no one would watch the race broadcasts . The powers at FOX think stock car racing is boring , so they assume that the broadcasts have to be spiced up to hold our attention . They are correct in assuming the racing is boring in many instances , but FOXs’ antics aren’t the answer . True race fans and fans of good tv broadcasting simply rely on the mute button so they can concentrate on the real reason they tune in . THE STOCK CAR RACING !
Great article! Digger is so annoying.
MI Mike said: I find it has little positive effect on the business and lots of negative. If 99% of people dont want to buy your widget why continue to shove it down the consumers throat?
Actually, according to FOX, Digger merchandise is selling like crazy online and at the tracks. (shrug)
Kurt, great article. I hated Digger when they started promoting him. Now that he has an entire family, I can’t stand it. I now turn on the tv about 5 minutes before the green. Fox loves to destroy their coverage (I.E. Football Robot). The next Revenue booster will be a sponsor on Digger’s chest…you wait.
Chris is probably the worst pre-race host I’ve ever seen. His humor is terrible and why poke fun at Dick? If Fox wants more viewers, here’s the secret recipe:
More Racing, fewer commercials, less clutter = Happy Fans.
I’m in sales, and I understand creating revenue, but this is terrible. I wish I could attend every race. That way I could enjoy the race, watch & hear my driver, & not have to deal with tv coverage! No one watches a race and then talks about that excellent coverage of Fox & all their blab. Let us enjoy the damn sport!
I wish someone would run over the stupid Gopher, and what ever idiot came up with him, looks to me like just another way to sell junk to the kids
Just give me details on the track during racing, catch all the exciting moments, if you need to go to commercial, please put it to a “split screen” so I can see and hear all the things happened on the tract and not depending on MRN.
I don’t want to see the yellow after TV came back from commercial and wondering why.
Again, we just want to watch racing, NOT DIGGER OR GOPHER. TAKE IT AWAY NOW. If you can do that, I maybe able to stop listening to MRN and mute the TV before, during and after the race.Thank you.
Chris Myers “I kid because I care” is the most irritating thing on Fox. He’s WORSE than Digger!
I’ve had it with the network broadcasts. I’m starting to turn off the sound and turn on the MRN broadcast instead. I’m tired of losing continuity with the race every time these networks go off on a tangent.
The original Digger, who came out of the speedway,once in awhile, & pretended to scream, was funny. This gimmick is no longer funny, & absolutely not “subtle.” The Fox CEO crossed that thin line as their broadcasting began this year. I have to use my “Mute” button way too much these days.
Kurt, its interesting that you bring up the 79’ Daytona 500. I was having a discussion about NASCAR this week with someone and our annoyance with all the BS that goes along with the race, (or what NASCAR calls “Product”..odd, never hear another sport call what it does a “product”). I mentioned the 79’ Daytona as an example of how exciting racing is without any of the add-on junk that we have now. In 79’ you had guys running for_alot_less money that weren’t even thinking of the money when they were banging doors at 190mph. Then you had many guys running on_local sponsorship with limited crews and funds..these guys did it for the love of racing..that is what you still see at alot of your local short tracks and where NASCAR came from…if only they remembered what brought fans to begin with. I’m not saying that NASCAR drivers don’t love racing but I am saying like many sports that the money has become way bigger and way more important.
Racing coverage was at it’s best on ESPN in the late ’80s. The broadcast would start at noon with Ned and Benny on the roof of the broadcast booth overlooking the track. We would get a 5 minute rundown from those two, then cue the invocation and National Anthem, and the cars would be fired up and leaving pit road before 12:15 for the pace laps.
It was never about Ned and Benny, or Dr. Punch on pit road, but rather the action on the track. ESPN would show any and all action no matter what position would be changing, not just the top 5 all day. We were also never treated to a constant barrage of ads and graphics to get in the way of the on track action.
I’ve been a fan for 40 years, or should say was a fan for 40 years. Fox has taken it all away, and I have not watched a race yet this year. I get my fix from Matt’s rundown on Monday and thats better for me now than wading through a crap filled afternoon on Fox. I used to go to a couple of races a year, but that’s over now also, thanks to Fox (especially Dee Double You) and Brain Z. Frances childish meddling.
Fox Sports needs to get rid of Digger, John Roberts and Chris “the idiot” Myers. The broadcast would be MUCH better.
Great article! You hit it right for me when you say that they’ve forgotten that the fans have tuned in to watch the RACE, not all the other garbage! Thanks, it’s a shame that you are preaching to the choir.
I hope the suits at FOX have enough intelligence to realize that America thinks Digger sucks and they should allow him to become road kill. That’s a “Digger Moment” I would stay and watch.
When it comes to the broadcasters, DW truly has great knowledge and insight of the sport and its’ history. The Hollywood hotel sucks and should be condemned. Jeff Hammond could be better utilized and you coulf get rid of that “put me to sleep” boring dialogue of Chris Myers. You can also get rid of John Roberts as he has no history or relevence to our sport.
If you want to send the ratings through the roof, tie Brian France to a chair with his “brains” pointed skyward. Allow any real NA$CAR fan the opportunity to to pay $20 to swat his “brains” in an attempt to put some real knowledge in them.
First of all Digger was meant to bring in a younger audience to NASCAR racing, a much younger audience. The parents who are purchasing the Digger merchandise are going to find themselves selling it two or three years down the road at yard sales for pennies on the dollar. The kids today are a lot more sophisticated these days. To give an example a neighbors 7 year old was asked if he wanted a Digger t-shirt, his answer was I don’t that stupid thing can I have a Carl Edwards shirt instead? His reason was he liked seeing Carl do his back flip when he wins a race. This seems to be the trend with other relatives,friends and neighbors kids also. They are actually more interested in seeing the drivers and racing. To me as far I’m concerned like the boogity,boogity, boogity thing, Digger was cute for let’s say five minutes.
I’ve been screaming about the dumbing down FOX has applied to race coverage since the 2001 season. I’m thrilled to see the same opinion in about half a dozen posts here as well. Shwew! I thought it was just me. And to answer the question: NO Nascar does not need Digger.
Please keeep digger.We LOVE you digger. We need you more than anything.
The best thing that Nascar could do, and I hope quickly, is to turn the “Aarons Lucky Dog” into a pitbull and take out “Digger”