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 Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway was pure Kyle Busch. His pull-away win over Jimmie Johnson following a late-race restart solidified his top-seed chances for the 2011 Sprint Cup title, but – as we’ve seen during the Cup season so far – a strong performance is just that: a strong performance. The junior Busch’s six-car length victory may have looked impressive, but we’ve still got a lot of racing ahead. Despite his flashes of dominance, and a guaranteed place in the Chase, it’s far-too early to simply hand him the championship trophy.
The events surrounding Busch’s win at MIS last weekend were a combination of triumphs and tragedies, all connected to the ideology behind the “Pure Michigan” theme. I’m only stating the obvious when I write that Michigan is one of the most depressed (both emotionally and economically) states in America. The near-death of our automobile industry, and an overall loss of manufacturing jobs, has led to a near-mass exodus of residents. The urban area of Detroit is a mere shell of what it once was, with entire neighborhoods abandoned because of unemployment and the inability to pay mortgages. What used to be called “white flight” has become more like “life flight” in that diverse populations of Detroit residents are packing up and seeking new opportunities elsewhere. You want an example of this? Consider the statistic that Sunday’s race attendance at MIS was around 81,000 – down from last year’s crowd of nearly 105,000. The race was run not too far from Detroit, in what used to be a pretty populous southeastern region of the state, but the recent years of economic woes have led to fewer people with the surplus income to spend on a day at the races.
That said, the Pure Michigan 400 was a good example of how Michigan is hoping that positive publicity can breathe new life into an old condition. The race, despite what race fans may have thought about it, carried NASCAR’s momentum into the Irish Hills near Jackson. “Local” driver Brad Keselowski (a native of Rochester Hills, near Detroit) limped into Michigan on the heels (pardon that awful pun) of his storybook season; his victory at Pocono just days after a horrendous wreck at Road Atlanta captured the attention of even casual race fans all up-and-down “the mitten” that constitutes the great state of Michigan.
NASCAR’s battalion of “five fantastic first-timers” – Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, David Ragan, Paul Menard, and Marcos Ambrose – were all on the entry list at MIS, bringing the nation’s sports pages to life, along with the more traditional “fan favorites” like Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, the brothers Busch and some young guy named Earnhardt. After sharing several drivers with the Nationwide event across-the-border in Montreal, Sunday’s Cup event unfurled as was to be expected, with the usual schizophrenic weather conditions, numerous drivers slapping the wall, and a green-white-checkered finish. The late-race battle between Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson had the potential to be a “Sunday Night Sport Report” highlight clip, but the final restart saw the No. 18 drive away from the No. 48; the photograph in Monday’s newspaper of Kyle Busch’s win was a picture of his No. 18 Toyota as it crossed the finish line of the Pure Michigan 400 – all alone – under the waving checkered flag.
“Pure Michigan” is the name of the national marketing and promotional campaign created by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation that tries to attract visitors to the state. Tourism is critical to the survival of the region in which I live and work (the Northwestern Lower Peninsula along the shores of Lake Michigan); our area is divided between agriculture (mainly cherries) and more tourist-centered attractions involving the lakeshore. When attracting visitors (and their wallets) is your primary industry, you try to do so by any means necessary. Any bright spot means a potential lure for catching additional guests. Just last week, an online poll conducted by ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” selected our area’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as “The Most Beautiful Place” in the United States, beating out other apparently “so-so looking” places like Newport, RI; Cape Cod, Ma.; and Aspen, Co.
Our region has built a pretty solid track record with “Good Morning America’s” online polls; just last year, a local creamery (Moomers Homemade Ice Cream) was voted “the best ice cream store in the country” by “GMA” viewers based on the popularity of its most famous flavor: “Cherries Moobilee” (a tasty combination of their homemade black cherry ice cream mixed with tart red cherries, swirls of fudge, and chunks of homemade brownies). Either this region has truly “best in America” attractions to offer, or we have a lot of residents with 1) free time on their hands and 2) internet access.
Talk to Cup drivers and crew chiefs, and many of them will tell you that Michigan International Speedway itself qualifies for its own “best in America” honor. The track is popular for its length, its competitive nature (a wide, decently banked, non-restrictor plate facility), its proximity to the administrative epicenter of the automobile industry, and its demand for flat-out, all-day speed. Given all this, it compounds the sadness felt when grandstands at MIS go empty with decreasing attendance numbers. This has been an all-too-common sight at Cup events across the country for the last few seasons, but in a state such as Michigan – where the residents are such devout, vocal, and loyal sports fans – seeing smaller crowds at such a big track simply adds to the general feeling of recession-driven depression affecting so much of the state.
It has been a rough summer for Michigan public/tourist-driven attractions. About a month ago, two sailors from the state died while competing in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinaw sailboat race after a severe thunderstorm capsized their vessel late at night. The two racers died in Lake Michigan near the town of Charlevoix, close to sixty miles or so north of where I live. And on the same afternoon that Kyle Busch moved one step closer to his first Sprint Cup championship, a 48-year old stuntman from Ann Arbor died after he fell while trying to wing-walk from a biplane to the landing strut of a helicopter flying nearby. The second-generation wing-walker, Todd Green, died during an air show at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County; he fell 200 feet to his death before a crowd of 75,000 spectators. Such events might be regarded as part of “Pure Michigan”, but they’re also part of what might be considered “pure fate”. There’s a little bit of destiny out there for all of us, and even though our actions can speed up or slow down the process, fate is there to keep things real.
Maybe the crowds at MIS were smaller-than-usual because there were simply too many events competing for spectator dollars. In addition to the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday, there was a Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park that ended in a bottom-of-the-ninth, once-in-a-lifetime double play that gave the Tigers a much-needed win against the Cleveland Indians. There were also plenty of art weekends, car shows and county fairs to keep people occupied. Maybe visitors seeking fun were more apt to find it by hiking along the lakeshore, swimming at a beach, or touring a nearby winery. Maybe we need to accept the fact that NASCAR has perhaps run its course as a nationally-beloved event worthy of packed grandstands and stuffed cash registers at hotels and restaurants. With football season close-at-hand, there’s going to be even more competition for spectator attention – not just in Michigan, but in communities all across the country.
While Kyle Busch’s victory on Sunday was something to behold as part of the “Pure Michigan” marketing blitz fighting for tourism dollars, it became little more than a small blip on our regional news radar. A double-play throw from centerfield to home plate, and the public death of an air show performer made sure of that. For all the attention that usually goes along with a Kyle Busch win in the Cup Series, his recent success at MIS was more of an afterthought. Maybe it’s a good thing, since Busch will be the center of attention this weekend at Bristol, where he’s five-for-five in NASCAR races and looking to sweep his way to an eight-for-eight run of consecutive wins. Kyle Busch is typically good for headlines, and this weekend will be no different.
It was rather odd, then, to see photographs of Busch during his court appearance in Statesville, NC, the other day. While he pleaded guilty to driving 128 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone, which was the proper thing to do (to plead guilty, that is – not to drive that fast in the first place), and received kudos for his many benevolent works on behalf of his community, it was Busch’s off-track appearance that caught my attention. Seeing him standing before microphones and cameras in a dark suit and tie made me think, at a very quickly mistaken first glance, that Busch was one of the lawyers who argued the speeding case. It’s always strange to see drivers “out of uniform”, so to speak, which (when they wear business-type suits) makes them look like junior partners at a law firm or insurance salesmen. At least justice was served to the Cup Series’ points leader before NASCAR gets busy in Tennessee. T-minus three races and counting until the Chase…
From Pure Michigan to Traditional Bristol, this weekend should Totally Rock. If the weather is good, the racing should be, too. Even if the crowds aren’t large, the pressure on teams most certainly will be. From the Great Lakes to great stakes, the remaining eleven spots in the “post-season” are coming into focus yet still up-for-grabs. His win at Michigan may have earned Kyle Busch a guaranteed spot (and a top seed?) in the Chase, but it’s still an awfully long haul to November.
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Are you kidding about all of the reasons why the grandstands at MIS are so empty? The one and only reason is that the track was poorly designed and every race is boring. Only the Indy Cars make it exciting. NASCAR sucks at MIS.
When the stands were “empty” in Fontana for too long the track lost a race. What’s taking so long for MIS to loose a race? There are plenty of other tracks out there that can put on a better show.
BTW, if the magic answer to this question is because the big 3’s corporate HQ’s are there in Michigan, then somebody needs to figure out how to squash the oval-t’s at in their own back yard.
Jim, if I may answer you! I know everyone hates Michigan with a passion. And I was at Sunday’s race, and I hated it too, but only because the three biggest jerks in NASCAR finished 1-2-3! However, I think the reason that NASCAR still allows Michigan to keep both dates is due largely to the number of “foreigners” who attend their races. By that, I mean people from Ontario, Canada. It seemed at both weekends this year, more that half the crowd was from there! At both the June race and Sunday’s race, you could tell the Canadians. They nearly drowned out the band playing the Canadian National Anthem as they sang “Oh Canada”! And I hate to say this, but it was considerably quieter as the American anthem played. And in the parking lot we parked in (number 11), there were more cars with Ontario plates than Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and all other states put together! This included a certain Ford Focus that came from Ontario and is driven by yours truly! The Michigan races are as close as Ontario will ever get to a Cup race. And unfortunately, even though everyone hates that track, that’s the reason I hope Michigan keeps both dates forever! It’s close enough to make the race and get home on the same day, even with the back-ups at the boarder.
Hey Ken, Thanks for the feedback. That actually makes a lot of sense. It also explains why they do the Canadian National Anthem there, which I hadn’t really given too much thought too. I’ve watched racing at MIS for a long time and I don’t remember TV making any references to the fans from Canada making the trip. But after all these years my memory isn’t so sharp. Then again with the lousy coverage we get anymore, I wouldn’t expect them to do you guys any justice, cuz they don’t know how. They can’t do themselves any justice with their own broadcasts.
But to be perfectly honest, I don’t think the general nascar populous hates MIS like they hate Auto Club here in California. I don’t know what Roger Penske was smoking when he thought another near identical nascar track as opposed to something new was a good idea, but I wish they would blow it up and start over.
Could be worse I guess, we could be in Kentucky!
Also Jim, with regard to the Canadian Anthem, after it was played, there was a long “intermission”, with the announcement that the opening ceremony (Presenting of the U.S. Nation’s colours, the prayer, and the American anthem) would start “once the national TV network came on”. They (ESPN, and in June, FOX) just don’t show it! Oh well, we Canadians who attend Michigan know it’s played, and I guess that’s all that matters. And by the way, our tradition for our National Anthem is to stand at attention. However, we are slowly adopting the American tradition of the hand-over-the-heart for Oh Canada. See, Canadians and Americans really are a lot alike!
No slam to Ken, Jim or Dick… The economy in Michigan does SUCK BigTime. I have attended every race at MIS since 1998 (except 1=hospital). The racing there is exceptional if you don’t just watch the front. Hell they were almost 5 wide at one point. I do agree about the top finisher though.
Well Ken, you won’t read any more calls to close MIS from me. If it means more racing for you and every other Canadian Fan that can make it, I’m all for it. Thanks for the insight.
Now you understand why I go to Montreal and enjoy it so much. Also, pretty much the same thing happens at Loudon because its only about four hours from Montreal and less than three hours to the border.
Don, you must live in Eastern Ontario. I’ve been to Loudon (via Bennington, Vermont! Love that Hemmings Garage!). It’s approximately 10-hours from where I live. Michigan is 4-1/2-hours. Unfortunately, with me, it’s the time restriction. I can’t get any long-term time off in June, July or August, so Michigan is perfect for me to go to. I left the race and made it to the Bob Evans in Romulus for dinner at 6:30, was over the boarder by 9:15, and home at 11:45.
I don’t quite get why Michigan gets such a bad rap! Granted, i’m biased since i live an hour from the joint and saw my first race there (sadly, the day Ernie Irvan was first injured there). It’s a wide high-bank that cars go 5 wide on, draft, 210mph into the corners. The curved front stretch means you are looking at the on-track action, not the race fan sitting next to you (though it’s doubtful that’s a problem these days). I’m sure it gets lumped in with the cookie cutters, especially it’s ‘sister’ track in fontana, so it’s easy to forget it was a unique circuit for a long time. I got no problem with it being on the schedule twice. Bummer to see the poor attendance, i worked late saturday so didn’t go this time. And the indy 500-miler needs to come back, best racing those cars do!