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.
You don’t often read an article from a motorsports writer or a comment from a fan suggesting that the one event per season left at the Lady in Black needs to go away. Fans may argue on whether Talladega, Pocono, or even Martinsville should remain on the schedule. But no one will disparage the Track Too Tough To Tame.
This isn’t a place with a casino or a shopping mall, which might give it a better chance at drawing the non-racing fan or the NASCAR widow who may get bored. To listen to NASCAR, you would think that this is death to the effort spent chasing the “casual” fan.
Any upgrades that have been done to the speedway haven’t had a great deal to do with fan comfort. It isn’t horrible, but as a facility it doesn’t rank with the nicer, newer places, some of which even have actual seats. There is still that uncomfortable metal bench seating at most of the track, and for 500 miles that can be rough on a behind.
Creature comforts and amenities aside, does Darlington even produce the best racing? Drivers spend most of the races at Darlington in a single-file parade, every so often slapping the wall either because the car setup isn’t quite right or because the track gobbles tires like I gobble pizzas— quickly and remorselessly.
At no other venue are track inequities so celebrated. When drivers slide around at Atlanta or when cars scrape the wall by the dozens at Charlotte, Goodyear is immediately put on the hot seat for at least two weeks. At Darlington, it’s a badge of honor for a driver to earn his “Darlington Stripe.”
Is the difficulty of navigating a racetrack something to praise about it? Pocono’s tunnel turn is one of the trickiest in the sport, but certainly many race fans wouldn’t mind seeing Pocono lose an event. Teams are still trying to figure out Atlanta with the current top-heavy racecar, which makes for either a parade or a wreckfest, but not many would call it great racing. Charlotte has been rough on drivers since the 2005 resurfacing, but the “Beast of the Southeast” nickname didn’t exactly sell that particular feature. Road course racing isn’t for the unskilled among NASCAR ranks, but many fans and writers hold their nose at the mere idea of stock cars turning right.
This isn’t to say that Darlington hasn’t produced some fantastic memories, like Burton and Gordon or Craven and Busch. Or that the racing isn’t any good; that is hardly questionable. It’s always fun to watch drivers fight with a track. They are paid enough to earn their keep occasionally.
However, it’s not as though no other track does any of these things. Individual things about Darlington Raceway don’t quite make it unique. Single file racing happens at many tracks, especially the speedways. Atlanta does an efficient job of chattering away at rubber these days. Pocono creates plenty of headaches for crew chiefs.
Nor is a strange layout anything unique. Although it might be nice to see more asymmetry in the sport, Pocono, Phoenix and Indianapolis all are shaped differently than the usual D-oval that most events take place on these days.
Darlington Raceway isn’t near any other major attractions besides Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is a nice vacation spot, but no one who lives near the Outer Banks, the Jersey Shore or the fine beaches in Delaware or Maryland needs to make a trek to enjoy the sound of ocean waves during the day and loud music at night. Certainly, people in Florida have plenty of nearby places to mix in a race with a beach vacation.
So why the dedication to the old girl?
Part of it is the snubbing of tradition by NASCAR, best illustrated by the disappearance of Darlington’s long celebrated Labor Day race, once one of the most prestigious a driver could hope to win—and to a largely unreceptive southern California market, no less. It may have been the biggest sin committed against the sport’s devotees by the France family.
NASCAR may have had to take a date from Darlington simply because it wasn’t drawing fans in a depressed economic area. That is tough to swallow but not quite unreasonable. But the one thing you knew about the Lady in Black was that people that attended races there didn’t need a casino or seats with armrests or a nearby city full of attractions to do it. Hardcore, longtime fans of any sport—the kind that show up at Darlington or Martinsville—want its leaders to respect the sport’s history, especially a half a century of racing at Darlington on Labor Day weekend, which could still easily have been done.
As we all know, disregard for history and tradition has done plenty of damage to this sport, mostly because people can’t keep following an endeavor where the marketing, rules, and venues are constantly changing, first to appeal to indifferent folks, and then to appeal to folks who became indifferent when they were made to feel insignificant.
In the midst of all of this, Darlington Raceway, like Fenway Park, sits like a rock and insistently remains what it is, as the rest of the world looks for modernization and discards special mementos the second something shinier comes along. As new and expensive facilities for every sport turn up everywhere, featuring all sorts of distractions (from a sport supposedly so beloved that hundreds of millions of dollars to build a home for it were absolutely necessary), some of the old standbys stick around. It’s no easy thing for a sports venue these days to reach the level of not needing replacing.
Very few racetracks are so one of a kind that it would be sacrilege to design anything close to it. Darlington most certainly is one. Like Fenway, anyone you have to explain this joint to isn’t going to get it.
Other tracks may have quirks of their own, but Darlington had all of its character long before Atlanta created difficulty for a top heavy car, before Bruton responded to Charlotte eating up tires by calling it the “Beast of the Southeast”, before NASCAR discovered that cars racing in big packs at Talladega created big wrecks and highlight reels. Whatever the track’s deficiencies, the Track Too Tough To Tame separates the men from the boys behind the wheel, and always has, and everyone there knows it. The Lady in Black is where cocky hot-shot attitudes go to die.
Oh, there are upgrades here and there, repaving that did have to be done and lights being installed. Even some seats have been upgraded. Fenway didn’t always have a Green Monster. But both places have, as a whole, endured through years of radical changes in sports and in society, with their quirky and unique on field products that emerged from necessity changing very little.
Since many NASCAR fans were young wide-eyed children, they could attend a race at Darlington Raceway and know that they were going to see great racing. Not a casino. Not a shopping mall. Probably not a multiple car wreck. Just the best drivers and crews that motorsport has to offer battling both a track and each other. Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, and Tony Stewart all try to charm the Lady in Black today, just like Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and David Pearson many years ago.
Maybe it’s just all been clever marketing, but even if it is, the Darlington people thought of it first.
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Nothing like Darlington back in the day when they ran bias plies and the smoke would be rolling off the tires as they came out of the turns.
Actually, a race at Darlington that was televised on the old “Wide World Of Sports” two weeks after it was run was what started my love affair with NASCAR, an affair that has been a struggle for the last couple of years. It was, of all things, a convertible race ran on May 6th, 1961. Fred Lorenzen and Curtis Turner in Ford Galaxies and Fireball Roberts in a Pontiac Catalina beating and banging on each other! Roberts dropped out and left it between Lorenzen and Turner to duke it out! Lorenzen won and became my first hero! I was 6-years-old! It was so magical back then! Too, I was at the last Labour Day Weekend running of the true Southern 500 in 2003! My only regret from that weekend was not being able to get one of the tee shirts that said “California Sucks! Darlington Is THE Labor Day Tradition!” I guess I’m very old school! Which, according to DansMom, and Brian France, is the type of fan that should just go away! And slowly, we are! NASCAR has changed a lot since those days of dirt tracks, 50-race schedules, stock cars that looked like street cars, cars sponsored by some local car dealership, The Rock, Trenton with it’s dog-leg backstretch, I could go on and on! Yes, she’s (DansMom), is right, we the old school fans are dinosaurs, and Brian France is driving us away! But, at least we were there when the sport was worth watching, and have the memories! Not like the Spec-car garbage the new occasional fans are stuck with today!
The problem with us “old school” fans is that when we go away, the ones who replace us will last a few years bfore moving on to the next “in Thing” in motorsports. Molten Lava Motocross maybe??
Darlington is where the crossover came into being in turn three . I remember a great display by Earnhardt being passed on the backstretch by Irvan , and then diving back under him going into three . That went on for a number of laps .
NASCAR figures the average fan last about 6 years. Us old fans, and I do mean old, have been following the sport for 30-50 years, depending on when we first came on board. In my case, 1963. We’ve outlived the “life expectancy” 5 times or more over. We’ve seen it go from actual stock cars, to stock looking cars, to template racers, to the generic car we have today. We’ve seen drivers go from rough and tumble guys like Turner and Weatherly to the prim and proper Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. We’ve also seen some of the greatest racing there ever was. Rockingham with Cale going over the wall, North Wilkesboro with Junior Johnson going through the wooden fence and re-entering the track, the Pearson-Petty battles, and races on tracks that no longer exist. Drivers racing 2-4 times a week all over the place. Drivers who actually worked on their own cars. Drivers actually helping each other out with money, parts, and even rides for no other reason than to help them win a championship or just to see them on the track competing against them and I do mean competing. They can’t take these memories away from us and even though the “In Crowd” and the Short Attention Span crowd have come and gone several times, they’ll never know the joys, thrills, headaches, and heartaches us older fans have experienced.
Notice the time stamp of the post:
3/4ths of Saturday’s race will be a single file parade. A few cars scraping the wall, a few solo car wrecks.
Then the last 50 laps will be an all out wreckfest, cars trying to go3 and 4 wide in teh turns…
Sounds pretty awful to me.
Only thing i noticed about the time stamp is the fact that you must be the only person left in the nascar marketing dept., for that matter in the whole nascar office building . It’s Friday afternoon , nobody comes back from lunch in that building on Fridays .
By haters unite , were you refering to haters of DansMom ?
I’ve attended races at Daytona, Michigan, Kentucky, Bristol, Indy, Charlotte, and Darlington and to me none of those were as enjoyable as Darlington. The drivers still have to drive the cars at the track and they have to setup their passes because with that little loss in momentum from a failed pass could mean instead of gaining one spot you lose two. Guys drive down hard into turn one or turn three and slide up and allow crossover moves. It’s truly an exciting race to attend. I wish I would have waited and attended Darlington again this year instead of going to the Daytona 500. The only race I have attended that was even close to being as exciting was the night race at Bristol but I still prefer Darlington. It to me is really one of the last tracks left that separates the men from the boys. Think about it how many drivers have got their first win at Darlington? When you read through the list of winners it’s a list of who’s who in the sport. Pearson, Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon, Elliott have all had a lot of success at this place. If this is a track that you’ve never been to I recommend you definitely trying to make one trip there in your lifetime, you really feel the history of the place as soon as you walk out and see the track the first time.