NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Now that the field has been determined for the 2011 edition of the Chase for the Championship, we can set our sights on more important matters – namely, how will NASCAR, in 2012, try to draw more fans to more events so these attendees might spend more money? The overall outlook in NASCAR right now is pretty grim from a financial perspective, what with teams shutting down, selling off their assets, and laying off employees. Race teams are cutting back on the number of events they enter, and the presence of “start-and-park” entries has been filling out fields all season.
One thing not filled out as of late has been grandstands at NASCAR events. With race attendance down around 20 percent over the last five years, and with television ratings posting similar numbers, the France family’s “boom” seems to be leaning ever closer toward “bust”. With spectator attendance in 2011 being better, but not great, and television ratings for the year being better, but not stellar, serious and/or thoughtful attention has to be given to the prospects for NASCAR in 2012. Simply put: will some dramatic changes be needed in order to create a better product once we get to Daytona next February?
A step has already been made in what seems to be a positive direction. With the announcement that NASCAR/Turner Sports/ESPN will offer live online broadcasts of this year’s Chase races (except for Charlotte on October 15th; that event will be shown only on ABC), could we be looking at an innovative method for spreading the gospel of NASCAR? If stock car racing hopes to capture the always-elusive 19-24 year old male demographic, posting events online in “real time” just may be the way to go.
I work closely with this age group, and I can assure you that computer/smart phone technology is the method-of-choice for gathering and distributing information. It’s unrealistic to expect these viewers to be viewers in the “old school” sense of taking time on a Sunday afternoon (or Saturday evening) to hunker down in front of the TV to watch a race strewn with seemingly-endless commercials. Putting the Chase online is a genius move because NASCAR/Turner Sports/ESPN is taking the coverage to its hoped-for audience; if I’m a twenty-year old male who watches movies and TV shows via my laptop, why should I be required (or expected) to sit down for three-plus hours to see a Sprint Cup race? This development could mean big things for NASCAR by bringing in a new audience and changing the way the fans consume events.
We’re already learning of an assortment of changes for next year, even though we’re just now gearing up for the 2011 “postseason.” As the Chase for the Cup gets underway at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, we’ve been introduced to the addition of marquee drivers, the addition of new technology that should improve competition, and the addition of new (yet old) facilities. At the same time, we’re facing the loss (at least for the near future) of established teams, recognized venues, and race formats. It’s true that change comes in the form of both gains and losses, and it’s true that some kind of change is inevitable, but it’s also true that change isn’t always suited to the better.
First off, we need to consider that the 2011 season (thus far) has been the best we’ve seen in recent memory. Regardless of driver loyalties, fan favorites, and other such subjective criteria, NASCAR 2011 has presented us with exciting competition (most of the time), heroic performances, five first-time winners (so far), and what’s looking like the most hotly-contested chase for the Cup title ever. Give or take two or three drivers in the Dynamic Dozen, and it’s shaping up to be a you-pick-‘em–style finish to the year.
Might Jimmie Johnson win his sixth consecutive championship? I don’t know. Might Jeff Gordon resurrect his title-winning-ways with solid runs over these final ten events? It’s possible. Could Brad Keselowski sneak up in a cloud of tire smoke from Victory Lane to steal the biggest trophy of all? Anything might happen, I guess. Is this Kevin Harvick’s year? It could be. Will Kyle Busch add a Cup championship to the family’s trophy shelf? This might just be the season. Will Dale Earnhardt, Jr. take advantage of his return to the Chase after a three-year absence to earn the title he’s been trying to claim? One can only wait and see. Tony Stewart has said that his team would be “irrelevant” if they made it into the Chase, but has this not been a year of surprises? Who would have said that a 20-year old driver in only his second Sprint Cup start would win the Daytona 500? Is anything not possible during this season of uncertainty?
Unfortunately, all of this excitement and suspense – the kind of stuff that has gone on to build NASCAR over the past six decades – has faded over recent months. It might be because team budgets are stretched to the breaking point, or it might be because human emotions are taxed by the excessive demands of racing for survival each week. Whatever the case, we’re seeing unpopular decisions being made with unhappy consequences.
Kevin Harvick Inc. shuts down its Truck Series operation and cuts loyal employees loose. Harvick’s Nationwide operation moves back into the Richard Childress Racing fold, and now there’s redundancies to consider. A harsh reality in today’s economy is that redundancies are met with layoffs. Once again, loyal employees are left looking for their next opportunity in a culture where crew personnel and drivers far outnumber available opportunities. The same is true for recent developments at Germain Racing, where personnel have been cut loose in an effort to restructure what seems to be a sinking ship. Sponsors might come and go, but not as quickly as drivers and crew members….
So what are we to make of an historic season that encompasses both great successes and socio-economic failures? What might 2012 hold in store that can turn things around? I believe there are several positives that are capable of reversing the afore-mentioned negatives.
One such positive will be the addition of Danica Patrick as the full-time driver for JR Motorsports. Like her or not, Patrick will bring media attention to NASCAR and the Nationwide Series every time she shows up at the track. Ticket inquiries at New Hampshire Motor Speedway jumped (supposedly) by almost 30 percent in 2010 when it was announced that Danica would be competing in the New England 200. Much has been written – and speculated – about the arrival of Danica Patrick in NASCAR, but a given is that her “brand” will be a huge benefit to the business of stock car racing. And now that she’s moving into Sprint Cup competition during 2012 with a team most-likely operated by Stewart-Haas Racing, we can expect to hear more about NASCAR in more diverse and “non-traditional” outlets. Whether or not you think it’s a good thing, combining the most-recognized name (and face) in motorsports with the most-recognized racing series in America will be a “win-win” for all parties involved.
Another overall positive development in NASCAR will be the incorporation of electronic fuel injection into Sprint Cup competition, beginning with the 2012 running of the Daytona 500. The use of EFI will signal an end to restrictor plate racing on superspeedways, even though the “electronic” nature of EFI could mean an entirely new means by which to restrict and/or control engine performance. We saw the advent of two-car/tandem drafting on the big tracks in 2011, but one can only guess what running EFI will do when it comes to making speed on the high-banks. Might 2012 signal a return to those long, freight-train-like rows of cars we used to see in “The Great American Race?: Looks like we’ll have to tune in and find out.
The announcement last week that Rockingham was returning to the NASCAR schedule in 2012 was wonderful news. “The Rock” has been – since 1965 – one of those “love it or hate it” kinds of tracks. Sand and grit were always rough on tires, and its position on the Cup schedules of old often turned the fall race there into a pressure cooker of sorts. I was at Rockingham in the autumn of 1994 with Travis Carter Racing, and that was the year Dale Earnhardt won both the race and the then-Winston Cup championship on the same afternoon. To see the historic facility dropped from the Cup schedule back in 2004 was a blow that signaled NASCAR’s apparent need to “rise above its raisins,” to borrow a phrase from Richard Petty. Andy Hillenburg, whose picture you see when you look up the word “racer” in your Funk & Wagnall’s, bought Rockingham Speedway in 2007 and began (in 2008) petitioning NASCAR for another race date. Three short years later, the announcement came down from high that a CWTS event (the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200) would be run there in April of 2012…a victory for the tracks that had faded in the bright lights of growth and grandeur.
But the return of Rockingham has also raised questions about other more “famous” tracks that have been pushed aside in NASCAR’s quest for new markets. What, as some fans have asked, about North Wilkesboro? If we’re excited about bringing a legendary NASCAR facility back into the sport’s present-day relevance, might we see yet another press conference heralding the addition of another Camping World Truck Series event – this time at the race track made famous by NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson and located just down the road from the home of Lowe’s home improvement stores? There have been several attempts over the years to get North Wilkesboro back on its feet, but the financial demands have been too daunting. If the right people step in with the right amount of money, might NASCAR again be approached to add the legendary facility to one of its schedules? It worked out fine for “The Rock”, so might similar efforts at North Wilkesboro achieve a similar result?
But just as Rockingham announced its return to NASCAR, it was also announced that Darlington was going to drop its CWTS event for 2012. Recent date shifting within NASCAR has already affected the track’s recognized position as a historic facility, what with the Southern 500 being pushed up to May from its traditional Labor Day slot on the calendar. Historic significance aside, there will be one less NASCAR event at “The Lady in Black” come 2012. The new race at Rockingham supposedly had nothing to do with the change, nor is the dropping of the Darlington truck race permanent, but it is a change, nevertheless. Will developments like all of these help NASCAR next year? NASCAR certainly hopes so.
And the hits just keep on coming. Both Cup races at Pocono will be reduced to 400-milers in 2012, a change that was welcomed by both race teams and race fans alike (but not by yours truly, for the record). With fewer available seats in fewer available race cars by fewer available teams thanks to fewer available sponsors, we can expect more of the nail-biting negotiating we experienced this year with Carl Edwards (and are seeing with the plight of Clint Bowyer). On the plus side of the NASCAR ledger, there’s been the announcement of a new CWTS team for 2012 with former champion Johnny Benson, Jr. behind the wheel of a Chevrolet backed by the “Pure Michigan” campaign. Is this new team taking a huge gamble? It sure is, especially in this economy, but perhaps now is the time for drivers, car owners, and sponsors to take risks. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as the old saying goes.
Will 2011 go down as the most thrilling season in NASCAR history? Maybe. Will this year’s Chase be the best ever in terms of competition, human interest stories, and sheer excitement? Only the next ten weeks will tell. Does 2012 have the makings of yet another big year for NASCAR Nation? If I were the gambling sort, I’d have to put my money on “It sure seems that way,”
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
2 BRING BACK LOTS OF FANS GET RID OF THAT STUPID CHASE. ITS SO SILLY. THEY ARE 43 DRIVERS. LET THEM ALL RACE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP. AND I WANT 2 SEE 43 CARS NOT JUST 12 THE REST OF RACE SEASON.