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.
People like to use clichés – those timeless adages that correspond to attitudes or beliefs deemed necessary for shared understanding and stability. Clichés like “Every cloud has a silver lining” or “Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life” sound like they should be stitched onto a wall-hanging, and quite often they are (in my childhood home, there was one handed down from my grandparents that read “Work out your own salvation.” It still hangs there for all to consider). Such clichéd comments are a recognized part of sport culture, an environment where adages are often seen (or heard) and regarded as useful motivators. For every “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’” or “Winners never quit; quitters never win” hanging in a locker room, there’s a team, a coach, or an individual athlete who reads the words, commits them to memory, then deposits them in their mental “bank” to conjure up when navigating the stormy seas of competition. Win, lose, or draw, these pithy statements try to explain the inner workings of the athlete, their audience, and their overall place within a culture.
The inherent problem with such clichés is that they are precisely that: clichés. In the various writing courses I teach, we learn that clichés are little more than weak or constipated thinking; writers rely on clichés or recognized adages because they have nothing truly new or revelatory to add to their take on a given topic. As a writer, if I’m having trouble coming up with a unique perspective on my subject, it’s easy to rummage through my mental “bank” of recognized and/or pithy adages and select one that fits the topic, yet brings nothing new to the discussion. As my colleagues and I instruct our student writers – using a cliché because you believe that the audience will “know what you mean” is flawed thinking. What it really shows is that you have nothing of substance to add to the exploration of your subject. An adage or cliché is little more than a “cop out” of sorts; when a writer is at a loss for words, they opt for empty ones that look meaningful, yet communicate little (if anything) of value.
One adage that seems to be receiving its fair share of attention during the 2011 Sprint Cup “Chase for the Championship” is “The only sure thing is that there’s no sure thing.” This cliché has been bandied about almost weekly (or is that weakly?) since the tour made its first “postseason” stop at Chicagoland Speedway. When a heretofore winless Tony Stewart conserved his way across the finish line to snare a much-needed victory, the cry went up that Smoke’s win was proof positive that the “sure thing” in question – namely, “Will the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet ever win a race in 2011?” – was, in fact, a certainty. The fact that Stewart won after many fans thought he might not (and in a Chase race, no less) turned the “sure thing” adage into gospel truth. If NASCAR Nation believed that Smoke wouldn’t win a Cup race in 2011, his late-season success at Chicagoland proved them wrong; in Stewart’s case, his victory was evidence to show that “there’s no such thing as a sure thing.” The problem, however, with this kind of logic is that the “proof”, more often than not, morphs into self-fulfilling prophecy; if the only certainty is that there IS no certainty, then the falsity of the prediction becomes, oddly enough, an accurate declaration. Isn’t that as clear as mud?
Consider the misfortunes of Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team at Charlotte this past weekend. Strong runs in three of the first four races in the Chase – including a 10th at Chicagoland, a 2nd at Dover, and a win at Kansas – had “Five Time” poised to stake a claim for his sixth-consecutive Sprint Cup title. When the No. 48 Chevrolet nosed into the 2nd-turn wall on lap 317 of the Bank of America 500, it appeared as though the only “sure thing” was that there’s no “sure thing”; Johnson’s misfortune led to the assumption that 1) his chances for a sixth championship had dwindled to near impossibility (especially given the new “point-per-position” points system in effect) and 2) those who responded to Johnson’s wreck on the basis of the clichéd reasoning behind the “no sure thing” mantra could now justify their opinions – the adage, albeit little more than empty rhetoric, suddenly rang true thanks to the intervention of fate. The “sure thing” corresponded to Johnson’s strength heading into the final five events of the 2011 season; the “no sure thing” became the accident that earned the No. 48 team their 34th-place finish on Saturday night – a result that dropped Johnson from third to eighth in the championship standings.
The attraction to clichéd thinking through the use of the “sure thing” rhetorical approach is that the speaker always comes across – after the fickle finger of fate intervenes – as being “correct” or “accurate” in their prediction. This “I told you so” school of thought is appealing to speakers/writers/pundits/wonks/et al. because they are able to operate in the relative safety of afterthought. Regardless of what occurs in the situation under assessment (like a particular race team’s performance, or lack thereof), the speaker/writer can rely on the “no sure thing” defense, based on the uncertainties of life itself, to prove their “correctness” to the doubters surrounding them. Such a rhetorical approach, while based on little more than self-preservation, seems to abound as we get closer to the end of the 2011 NASCAR schedule.
As a resident of the great state of Michigan (our motto: “Things can’t get much worse”), I can tell you that this kind of reasoning has been atop our collective rhetorical “hit parade” over the past week. Watching the Detroit Tigers cap their stellar season with a 15-5 shellacking by the Texas Rangers – who scored nine runs in one inning when 14 batters pummeled four pitchers – in the American League Championship Series on Saturday night was a sour tonic for our overall attitude of major league superiority. The Tigers were a “sure thing” for a World Series berth, right? Nope. Oh, well; “there’s no such thing as a sure thing,” as they say.
Move ahead to Sunday afternoon and the NFL contest between the undefeated Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers. The once-hapless Lions were looking good like a “sure thing” should until a late-in-the-4th-quarter touchdown shifted the victory westward to the 49ers. One twist-of-fate led to one late-game score, and suddenly “there’s no such thing as a sure thing.” See, I told you so. In all matters of hindsight, I’m right.
The benefit of broad generalizations resulting in such reasoning is that a sports fan can simply insert the name of any team into any “sure thing” scenario taking shape in any event. Jeff Gordon looks poised to claim his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship? Not so fast. A blown engine with three laps to go at Kansas demonstrated that there’s no such thing as a sure thing. The No. 88 team looks good to break their three-year-plus losing streak after a competitive run of early-season races? A nice try, but no. The brilliant bloom of spring races like Phoenix (10th), Las Vegas (8th), Martinsville (2nd), and Talladega (4th) faded in the scorching heat of summer as Junior watched race-after-race (and their potential for much-needed victories) slip from his grasp. It wasn’t fun to watch, but you know what they say…
And the same goes for yet-untold stories surrounding other teams in and around the Chase. Will Kyle Busch and his No. 18 Toyota win at Talladega this weekend, given their “sure thing” record of consecutive wins at the track? Success for the No. 18 team seems pretty certain, but therein lies the dilemma – until fate (and human agency – always a pesky variable) intervenes, the only real certainty is that there is no real certainty. If Busch wins on Sunday, only then will the surety of the “sure thing” be realized. If Busch fails to win at Talladega, then the logic of the overall adage proves valid. All those who held glimmers of possible doubt will be vindicated by the accuracy of their predictions (that whole “I told you so” notion mentioned above). Banking on the validity of the cliché means being “right” nearly every time.
Predictions – no matter if they’re accurate or not – make up much of the discourse in-and-around contests. Regardless of whether you’re guessing the number of jelly beans in a Mason jar at the county fair, or trying to determine the eventual winner of the Sprint Cup championship, it’s all about making predictions and seeing them through. Being accurate with predictions after-the-fact isn’t something of which to be proud, but it is a way for all of us to enter the general conversation regarding a topic of interest. As an interested fan or an observer of a sport, people should feel good about speaking up and taking a stand for what they think might, or could, or should happen. Our perspective on a “sure thing” should not be regarded as a careless interpretation, a biased declaration, or a blind guess; it’s often easy to follow-the-herd and fall victim to group consensus, but that doesn’t mean your perspective should be lumped into a generic “pile” as the end result of what might be called groupthink. Sometimes the only “sure thing” is the conclusion that arises from difficult decisions and painful consequences. Sunday afternoon’s tragedy at Las Vegas is a good example of this.
In the aftermath of Dan Wheldon’s death on lap 12 of the Las Vegas 300 IndyCar race, the airwaves and blogosphere almost immediately overflowed with references to “sure thing” reasoning regarding the “real” cause of the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion’s fatal accident. The only “sure thing”, we were told, was that too many cars were driven by too many inexperienced drivers on too fast of a race track; those were the reasons why the 33-year old husband and father of two young sons was dead and the racing world was heartbroken. Turning the final race of the IndyCar season into a spectacle right out of Ancient Rome was not the way for a professional sport suffering from assorted marketing and competition issues (some of which, like the need for substantial sponsorship to help several teams in dire financial straits, we’ve seen in NASCAR) to showcase its own “chase” to a season championship. The IndyCar title wasn’t going to be as hotly contested as those in stock car racing this year, but it was still vital to the overall tenor of the series. So was the five-million dollar “challenge” up for grabs if Dan Wheldon could go from last-to-first in an underpowered (according to him) late entry and win the race on Sunday.
This additional story line was intended to generate fan interest and help spice up what had become a two-driver race for much of the late season. Such was not to be, as the horrific accident that unfolded on lap 12 was witnessed by tens of thousands live on national television, and by tens of millions more after footage of the tragedy was posted on the internet. As the wreckage was cleared and terror turned into tears, one could sense full well what was going to come next. The death of Dan Wheldon became the absolute “proof” needed to announce the most obvious “sure thing” that came out of the Las Vegas 300: the “sure thing” about automobile racing, as we’ve been reminded time-and-time again, is that it’s a dangerous business, one where the Grim Reaper lies waiting around each turn.
Not to burst any bubbles of clichéd thinking here, but – yes, the pundits are right to declare that automobile racing IS a dangerous business, one that can snatch away a competitor’s life in milliseconds. Part of the sport’s technological magic is the close attention engineers, mechanics, and crew chiefs pay to safety developments intended to minimize the obvious risks. Certainly, automobile racing in any form and at any level can prove fatal, but – if that’s the reasoning at work – what can’t be regarded in a similar manner? Sure, I can die by slamming a retaining wall at 220 mph in an open-wheeled, open-cockpit race car, but I can also die by choking on a sandwich while writing this column, or I can die of heart failure while going to check my office mail, or I can die if a car hits me while I’m crossing the parking lot to go home. Are any of these implied “sure things” truly a sure bet?
Once again we see the inherent lack of logic behind the “no such thing as a sure thing” line of reasoning. There’s no clear-cut “sure thing” except the ability to rationalize the outcome of events after said event occurs. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes me look pretty intelligent after-the-fact. Before the fact, I’m merely banking on what I think (or what I hope) might be a valid prediction based on my own arrogance. I observe what’s happening in any given situation (driver in the Chase, team in the playoffs, crowded race track on Sunday), and I can make an assumption based on what I hope the outcome might be (it’s a certainty, a “sure thing”); when the outcome is not what I predicted or anticipated, I can then fall back on my true line of reasoning – the fact that there’s no such thing as a sure thing. In the end, my prediction winds up being correct, but only on the merits of relying on the most obvious conclusion. Fate plays a major role in this story, but so does my rationalization that there’s no such thing as a sure thing.
It’s foolhardy to say that automobile racing isn’t dangerous or unpredictable, but it’s often just as foolhardy to say that someone (or some team) is certain to run well and achieve success at some such point-in-time. It’s part of human nature to desire accuracy and authority, but it’s also part of human nature to make mistakes and sense the need to own up to our inherent fallibility. Those errors can make the individual involved feel humble (and they most likely should). To say that “there’s no such thing as a sure thing” is to think in clichés, but it’s often what we rely on when we suddenly feel the need for a quick-and-easy way out of an erroneous prediction. With five races yet to go in this year’s “Chase for the Championship,” my guess is that millions of us will employ such rhetoric numerous times before we reach Homestead on November 20th.
I’d say it’s a sure thing.
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
It isn’t over until the fat lady sings.
“Clichés are little more than weak or constipated thinking.” What a great line and it covers most of what ails NASCAR today.
As the esteemed Dr. Gregory House once said, “It wouldn’t get to be a stereotype unless there was some truth to it.” Ditto, cliches. The only really sure thing is death. Now does that make everybody happy?
People talk, people predict, people are often wrong. At least it gives us something to do while waiting for the Grim Reaper.
And for the record, I KNEW the Brewers would lose to the Cardinals – because they always do when it matters.
And since when does Kyle Busch always win at Dega? Last time I looked, Joey Logano was punting him into the infield trying to “tandem-draft.”
Well stated Mark! But then again,“it is what it is”!And I was at Vegas when this tragedy occured. I hope to never witness this type of thing again in my life! There were simply too many cars on this particular track for this event! (just my humble opinion).With that being said,all I will say is RIP Dan,you will not be forgotten!!