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.
Danica Patrick is a brand. So is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. What about Greg Biffle or Marcos Ambrose or Kyle Busch? Do they qualify as “brands?” Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse is a brand, and so is Jimmie Johnson. The No. 48 Chevrolet is a brand, as well. The No. 24 DuPont Chevy has been considered a brand, but can the No. 24 AARP “Drive to End Hunger” Chevy be considered one, too? During last Friday’s press conference at Kansas – when it was announced that Clint Bowyer had been named to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012 – it seemed as though everything in-and-around the deal was deemed to be “a brand.” Bowyer was called a brand, and so was MWR. 5-Hour Energy, the company backing from 20 to as many as 24 races for Bowyer and his No. 15 Toyota, was referred to as a brand, as was Toyota itself. By the time Clint Bowyer’s press conference ended, reporters had heard the word “brand” more than they did the word “NASCAR.” Come to think if it… NASCAR is a brand, too. So what gives? What’s the big deal regarding this notion of what (or who?) is a brand?
“Branding” – and all of its various forms (as in to “brand” and/or to become “branded”) – seems to be finding its way into the lexicon of NASCAR. Maybe it stems from the fact that today, more so than ever before, competing in the sport requires funding so extensive and so diverse that the lines between sponsor and driver and car and team have become blurred to the point of non-existence. The formal definition of “a brand” is simple to cite: according to the American Marketing Association, a brand is any “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service from those of other sellers.” How’s that for broad? Even though a brand could technically be construed as anything relating to a product’s identity, the overall notion rests in the realm of turning an “anything” into a memorable, recognizable, and profitable “something.”
Part of branding involves the fact that many businesses (and file “NASCAR teams” under this category) are composed of intangibles – elements within the company that are difficult (if not impossible) to assess according to their presumed value. How do you appraise the “worth” of driving talent, or courage, or a work ethic, or the consistency and efficiency of a pit crew or shop personnel? All of these elements are vital to a team’s success, but they vary and are not-so-easy to objectively evaluate.
That’s not to say we haven’t seen drivers, cars, and teams function pretty well as brands in the past; Richard Petty and his tenure with STP comes to mind, and so does the career of Dale Earnhardt, his ties to Richard Childress Racing, the number “3,” his legendary “Flying Aces” pit crew, and his relationships with recognized “brand name” sponsors like Wrangler jeans and GM Goodwrench parts and service. Bill Elliott might also have been considered a “brand” at one time, but mainly during his affiliation with both the Ford Motor Company and Coors Beer. Might any driver who’s enjoyed a lengthy relationship with a particular sponsor fit the criteria for being a brand? Such an emotional and professional connection is often how we identify or recognize the competitor. This idea of an athlete being regarded as a “brand” is far from unique, but it has – during recent years – become a central variable within the driver/team/sponsor/fan equation.
It’s naïve to think that only NASCAR is susceptible to this kind of branding identification. Consider the “brand power” of household-name athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, the level of branding that can be reached whenever an individual athlete exceeds a level of recognition enjoyed by the sport in which they compete. The PGA Tour is a known entity, but Tiger Woods was (before all of his personal and marital problems) even bigger in name and image than the entire tour on which he played. Michael Jordan’s reputation and “legend” far exceeded that of the NBA during his playing days, a recognition that was enhanced greatly by the popularity of the famous shoe bearing his famous nickname – a shoe so recognized that I don’t even have to mention the actual “brand” responsible for making and marketing the product! A little fame and a lot of marketing can go a long way.
And therein resides the move toward regarding drivers, teams, and even race cars as individual brands: the driver/sponsor/team/car can become a commercial “product” in its own right and build an image that not only attracts corporate and fan dollars, but also guarantees some level of income for all those associated in some way with the driver/sponsor/team/car. It can generate a “win-win-win-win” through the creation, cultivation, and commercialization of a recognizable and/or memorable persona. The cultivation of such relationships is essential during these days of a recessed economy that’s unable to supply needed funding for the drivers and teams who compete for not only wins, but also valuable monetary resources.
According to Graeme Turner, a professor of cultural studies at the University of Queensland in Australia, it’s important for a celebrity (as in a recognized and/or “famous” athlete) to “develop their public persona as a commercial asset and their career choices, in principle, should be devoted to that objective.” (“The Economy of Celebrity,” in “Stardom and Celebrity: a Reader” (2005) by Sage Publications) The key here is to create “profiling” or “branding” for a particular product through the incorporation of a recognizable personality. If the name is familiar, audiences will be more inclined to remember the associated connections – as in being able to link a driver with their team and their sponsor. Each of these separate “pieces” is important to the overall “package,” but it’s because of that that the entire operation succeeds in making a memorable impression on a fan/consumer.
We’ve seen much of this movie before. More than a century ago, Barney Oldfield – America’s first “professional” race car driver – put Graeme Turner’s “celebrity-commodity” theory into practice. Automobile racing was in its infancy, and the sport was just as expensive then (in relation to the economy of the time) as it is today. Oldfield discovered the power of his public persona early in his career by cultivating ties to companies that 1) could afford to sponsor his racing activities and 2) could benefit from a promotional boost via his on-track accomplishments. He pre-dated Jeff Gordon as a “celebrity spokesman” for Pepsi-Cola by nearly a century, touting the “bracing” beverage’s benefits in magazine advertisements as early as 1902. During his career, Barney Oldfield built relationships with such companies as Socony Oil, Firestone Tires (“my only life insurance”), and what would eventually become Mercedes-Benz. Oldfield also leveraged his persona through appearances in movies, on radio shows, and through columns he wrote for various newspapers. America’s “Speed King” recognized the inherent give-and-take nature of motorsports, and he was more than willing to “give” as much as he “took.”
Today we look at press agents or sponsor representatives as little more than an extension of a race car driver’s arm. This notion also dates back to the days of Barney Oldfield, who employed a “manager” named Will Pickens to oversee his contacts (and appearances) in the media. Press releases would be sent in advance of races or exhibition events, with newspaper and magazine interviews “suggested” as a means of drumming up business. Oldfield’s many accomplishments in race cars (first man to drive a-mile-a-minute, won 18-of-20 races in the Peerless “Green Dragon” during 1904, established a world’s land speed record of 131.724 mph in 1910) had already earned him “household-name” recognition, but it was through his affiliation with Pickens that Oldfield-the-racer was transformed into Oldfield-the-folk hero/legend.
One way that Barney Oldfield would play to the crowd at a time trial exhibition or a match race would be to feign a mechanical problem just as competitors received the call to start their engines. Prior to the pre-exhibition event, one of Oldfield’s crew would quietly loosen or remove a spark plug wire; when Barney fired up the Ford/Peerless/Fiat/Benz/Stutz/whatever he was driving that day, the motor would misfire sickly as the other cars took to the track. While nearly-panicked spectators (and Oldfield fans) watched intently, Oldfield would circle his racer, chew on his cigar, tip his head so as to better “diagnose” the problem, then calmly reach under the hood to “fix” his sputtering mount (and how he ever replaced a spark plug wire on a running engine without jolting himself silly remains a mystery to me). The car would suddenly roar back to healthy life, and Oldfield would jump behind the wheel to try and set a new record (often through a slip of the stopwatch) or settle an old score. What looked like mechanical genius on the part of Barney Oldfield was little more than a parlor trick – a ruse designed to create tension and curiosity in the exploits of the driver from Wauseon, Ohio.
Oldfield was also not above creating “competition yellows” to enhance his own heroic/mythic persona. We talk endlessly about drivers who supposedly receive team orders to take a spin (literally) or to tag the wall in an attempt to bring out a much-needed caution flag for fuel, or tires, or both. Toss in a “lucky dog” wave-around, and all of a sudden you’ve got a better race (hooray for my driver, boo for yours). Did Paul Menard engage in such behavior earlier this season, much to the chagrin and publicized anger of Jeff Gordon? While NASCAR’s books have been closed on that particular case (they say nay), such behavior was far-from-unusual back during Barney Oldfield’s career.
History has it that Oldfield would sometimes assess his performance during a race, then decide if it was in his (and his supporters’) best interests to finish way back in the field. If the chances for victory seemed poor, Barney might simply spin his car and slide it gingerly against the fence. This usually brought out more than just the caution flag; such a move also tended to bring out the sympathies of fans who now wondered if Oldfield would be able to make the next event. Would his car be too damaged to compete the next week? Would the fan favorite return to competition after shaking off this recent mishap? Deceitfulness aside, Barney Oldfield would often turn such a bash into cash as interest would be generated for the next race on the schedule. By the time teams met for their next event, the word would be out (thanks to Barney’s press agent) that Oldfield was back and ready to race, and the fans would show up by the wagon load to watch what might happen once the green flag flew.
It’s safe to say that racing has come a long way since those early years of rough-and-tumble competition (or has it?). Despite over a century of cars and stars, the emphasis on attracting sponsorship and cultivating consumer/fan loyalty remains a constant. Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that we stand back and watch as drivers are being transformed into/promoted as “brands” with financially viable personas. All this “meshing together” is a natural part of NASCAR Nation circa 2011, but as the crystal ball grows even cloudier for the 2012 season, will we not see more “branding” done for more drivers who are in search of more sponsorship? Is the creation of “brands” the new way to snag dwindling dollars? Can just anyone become a brand?
Branding is easy when you consider what a driver like Danica Patrick brings to the negotiating table. Her physical appearance (and the fact that’s she’s open to using said appearance to attract media attention) is part of the image “cultivation” idea. Regardless of whether she’s promoting a line of luxury timepieces, representing a business like Go Daddy, posing for a “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit photograph, or making an appearance at the MTV Music Awards, Patrick’s image is leveraged across multiple markets, in part, because of her beauty.
Danica Patrick’s brand is also enhanced by her candor when sitting for interviews about all kinds of subjects. She can answer questions about driving at Daytona just as easily as she can about fashion styles, gourmet cooking, or fine wines. Being a well-rounded person helps further cultivate Danica Patrick’s “brand.” Her Sprint Cup sponsorships might seem a little sluggish at this point in 2011, but rest assured that significant corporate money will come to her through effective marketing of her individual (and overall team) brand.
One thing about branding is that sometimes the brand exceeds the business being done – the product assumes an identity of its own through widespread recognition. This phenomenon is what happened to Kleenex, which has become synonymous with tissues of any brand. The same is true for Xerox (can I make “Xerox copies” on the Kyocera copier in my office? Not really, but the terminology applies). Something similar happened with the NBA accomplishments of Michael Jordan and the creation of his aforementioned Nike basketball shoes; Jordan’s persona overshadowed the NBA and how the sport became recognizable in the eyes of the general population. Even if you weren’t a basketball fan, well, you could still recognize Jordan’s name and his occupation anyway. And by being able to recognize that kind of information, it greatly improved the chances that you could then identify the team for which he played. Suddenly, the athlete, his team, and a product affiliated with him hit the “branding” win-win-win trifecta. A whole lot of “connecting the dots” equated into a whole lot of bucks.
So it sounds as though this is what Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota, and 5-Hour Energy are all hoping to accomplish in 2012. Clint Bowyer will bring the power of his persona as part of his “brand”. Bowyer’s brand will then be matched to the marketing machine already in existence at MWR, which includes recognition of the Toyota brand as it has been cultivated through numerous seasons of NASCAR competition. 5-Hour Energy is hitching its brand to Bowyer’s wagon for 20 to 24 races, with space for the remaining 12-or-so events open for another interested and/or financially-capable brand.
Is there another product (or two, or three) out there that might be the right fit into the Bowyer/MWR equation? Such is the NASCAR way circa 2011, where accumulating financial backers is just as vital as accumulating championship points. But it’s been that way for over a century, when increasing competition for increasing purses forced teams to attract and maintain increasing sponsorship so they might keep up the pace and earn the living they so rightly deserve.
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I have read Turner. I like his theories and find no real fault in them.
That being said, you mentioned in your lead Marcos Ambrose. In my mind he is the most underexploited driver out there. A seeemgly happy guy with great facial expressions and that Aussie accent Americans go goo goo for.
Why he has not been picked up a la Paul Hogan is a curiosity to me.
This Oldfield guy sounds like a badass, I can’t believe I haven’t heard of him. Can you suggest some further reading? Are there any books about him?
I would like to say Thank you to the entire Frontstreach crew for their Thursday articles. All the articles seem to have real indepth thought and research and I really enjoy them. No bashing or bitching, just real good solid articles. Thanks. David
I get the point of your article. But the truth be known, it’s only an example of what the American culture as evolved into.
To answer your very first quesiton, of course, Kyle Busch is a brand! He gets more TV mentions, including TV time for his sponsor that ANY other driver. His merchandise sales are near the top. He is near the top of MPD voting. And the boos and bows are are part of the “brand,” even if might be tiring of playing the bad guy.
In demographic research, he ranks highest among women (of all ages) and men in the coveted 25-44 age range.
Don’t put Kyle in the category of a Biffle or Ambrose, who might be nice guys, but are not memorable and don’t inspire the kind of emotion that connotes branding. Kyle is reaching the point where is simultaneously the most hated driver in NASCAR and the second-most popular. A championship, whether it comes this year or later, will put him over the top. Cringe on, FS writers….
The most important “brand identity” should be the quality of racing out on the track.Most of the races are boring. Brain France and the COT have set NASCAR back at least 5 years, if not more. The writing has been on the wall. Evidently, a college dropout isn’t capable of comprehending what the majority of NASCAR fans expect out on the track. Marketing: The biggest scam (scum) on earth.
Enjoyed your article. Soooooo much the part about Barney Oldfield. When I was first learning to drive my dad was always say “‘are you trying to be Barney Oldfield?” I knew he was a race car driver but that was all. By the way I am 85 yrs old. I also would be enterested in finding more info on Oldfield..