Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
I fear for the future of NASCAR. Say what you will about the Chase format, the new points system, the loss of sponsorships, and the shutting down of teams – my greatest fear is that the sport will see a loss in fan interest across a very viable and very important demographic: the 18-to-25-year old “college” audience. Today’s college-aged, academically-involved population is hard to please. Grabbing their attention is tough, and keeping it for more than fifteen minutes is even tougher. The overall 18-to-25-year old demographic is a fickle bunch – regardless of gender – and a demanding sort of self-centered consumer. The general attitude of “What’s in it for me?” has been fostered through achievement-based education and self-centric advances in technology. This is the tweeting-and-blogging generation: an audience of diverse young people with diverse interests, limited resources, and a presence on Facebook. This is the population that will assume control of essential professions as the next decade drifts into view; a student slumped lazily over their desk in the classroom today could well become the lawyer or the engineer or the accountant or the teacher or the computer programmer or the surgeon of tomorrow.
As a professor who works everyday with such an audience, I find them to be both challenging and promising. Inspiring them to pursue difficult tasks is a challenge because this is a generation used to pointing-and-clicking their way through a project. Seeing their focus and energy once they identify the area of interest that will become the basis of their future career allows me to sleep better at night; once a student finds their calling, the path they need to follow becomes clear. Having a goal makes all the effort more relevant for a college student. As a historian who works in-and-around NASCAR, however, this college-aged demographic makes me fearful for the future of our sport.
For every student who openly likes NASCAR, there’s far more who are ambivalent about stock car racing. We can try to understand this difference of interest if we “crunch” some population statistics. I’m far from being a statistician, but some “grocery store” arithmetic allowed me to compute the following: the population of the United States (as of mid-2011) was 311,800,000 people, and the number of “domestic” NASCAR fans (according to NASCAR) has been cited as 75,000,000 Americans. Given these statistics, and a calculator, we discover that about 24% of all people living in the United States consider themselves to be part of NASCAR Nation. Such a number seems pretty impressive; not much within popular culture achieves an almost one-quarter acceptance rate. This sounds rather good for the future of our sport, does it not?
Well, I’m afraid something tells me that it does not. Yesterday, we were about to study the 1973 movie “The Last American Hero” as an example of biographical cinema in my advanced “Film as Literature” course. The movie is based on the life of Junior Johnson as depicted in a 1965 article for “Esquire” magazine by Tom Wolfe. I asked the students at the start of class a simple question that was related to the topic: did they know anything about or did they follow NASCAR? When only one of the 16 students present raised his hand, my stomach did a gentle, yet sickening barrel roll. In this particular class – a course populated by students with a general interest in popular culture – a whopping 6.3% considered themselves NASCAR fans. I’m no mathematician, but that seems a whole lot lower than the 24% national average. In that classroom, on that afternoon, “NASCAR Nation” was more like “NASCAR pup tent”.
Not to bank on what might have been a statistical anomaly, I later approached two advanced composition classes taught by colleagues and made a simple query of the students assembled: “Are you a NASCAR fan?” The responses I collected served to demonstrate more of the same. In one room, one of the 18 students present said “yes”; in the other room, none of the 22 students there answered in the affirmative. The gender balance was pretty much equal, and the age range covered the 18-to-25 spread. By calculating my overall findings for the three classes “surveyed”, there were two NASCAR fans in a sample “population” of 56 students – only about four percent of the college students aged 18-to-25 considered themselves NASCAR fans. Is this the future fan base (or lack thereof) that lies ahead for NASCAR?
So what is NASCAR doing incorrectly? Why can’t the sport snag a larger portion of this audience? It’s not as though NASCAR events have suddenly morphed into dances at the local senior center. Last weekend’s race at Martinsville was totally “old school” compared to other Cup events we’ve seen so far in 2011. All of the beating-and-banging at the historic short track was accentuated by an assortment of fussing-and-fighting in the garage area; in other words, it was just another Sunday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway. The Tums Fast Relief 500 provided the kind of physical racing for which NASCAR used to be known. More than one-fifth of Sunday’s event (108 laps of the 500 total) was run under caution; this was quite a departure from the Cup races to which we’ve grown accustomed of late. If you wanted to see bent sheet metal, frazzled nerves, and short tempers, all you needed to do was watch about twenty minutes of Sunday’s Cup event.
Are these 18-to-25 year olds too busy to follow NASCAR? This could be a reason given the intellectual demands of college courses. Is this population too busy with part-time jobs to watch NASCAR races? This could be a reason, too. Does it cost too much to attend a NASCAR event? Even though ticket prices around the nation have been reduced to ease the financial burden of going to races, lodging and fuel costs are still high enough to keep fans at home. Is it that NASCAR has little to no presence in today’s internet-based culture? That is certainly NOT the case! Given that I can receive tweets from my favorite Sprint Cup driver, or that I can watch the races live online, or that I can participate in fantasy racing competition, I’d say the answer there is a most definite “no”. So, the question remains the same: what does the apparent apathy of this 18-to-25 demographic mean for NASCAR’s future?
Maybe part of the problem is an inability for this demographic to identify with the sponsors funding the teams who want their loyal support. Consider the primary sponsors of cars finishing in the top-ten at Martinsville this past Sunday: Office Depot/Mobil 1, Lowes, AARP, Budweiser, Federal Express, Caterpillar, Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard, NAPA, Scotts Winterguard Fertilizer, and Haas Automation. Of this listing, only two stand out as being obviously relevant to an 18-to-25-year old college audience. Go deeper into the field, and we find more sponsors that fall short of a “collegiate” audience – AdvoCare, GEICO, Furniture Row, 3M Filtrete, American Ethanol, U.S. Chrome, and Menards. A few sponsors seem relevant to the 18-to-25-year old demographic – brands like Miller Lite, Shell/Pennzoil, Long John Silver’s, Golden Corral, Target, and Interstate Batteries – but even then their connection to a collegiate audience seems rather limited. It’s difficult to gauge consumer motivation (if my car’s fuel gauge reads “empty” and my only option is a Shell station, my freedom of choice is no choice), but might a more youth-oriented change in sponsor involvement lead to growth of this all-important future fan base?
The prevalent socio-economic ideology within NASCAR may also have something to do with the absence of the traditional, college-age demographic. Colleges seem to be – by-and-large – more openly “liberal” environments where the attitudes of a capitalist/free-market system are questioned, debated, and argued (both “for” and “against”) through discussion, research, and writing. One criticism I’ve heard over the years from students (on the occasions when we do discuss NASCAR for some reason in a class) is that the sport promotes a jingoistic and politically conservative agenda. Students mention the military flyovers that today seem almost mandatory in any pre-race festivity, and they speak of Confederate flags hanging from RVs in the infield. This kind of behavior is proof, they say (often angrily), that NASCAR celebrates a one-sided, socio-political mindset that is in opposition to prevailing attitudes held by the larger population. How then, they argue, can anyone be okay with blind loyalty to such a racist and militaristic enterprise? Don’t people know that stereotyping others according to their race, religion, and ethnicity is wrong?
Well, in that case, it certainly is. But the inherent problem beneath the surface here is that the often-hyper-critical student is operating on like assumptions regarding NASCAR; aren’t those images being consumed also a means by which to create a stereotype? Not all fans enjoy the military flyovers (for many, they’re simply too loud and kind of shocking – especially if they catch you off-guard), nor do all fans fly Confederate flags atop their campers. In this case, the critical “finger pointing” goes both ways. Call it youthful naiveté or simply jumping to conclusions, but this lack of understanding based on NASCAR’s implied public image might be seen as part of the greater “where’s our future audience?” question.
Another point of separation might be the fact that in today’s “green” society, any endeavor that celebrates a willing use and exploitation of limited natural resources should be deemed unworthy of our time and attention – unless that attention means protesting against the consumption of resources in the name of popular sport. Did NASCAR’s switch to an ethanol blend this year help ease the controversy? Maybe it helped a little, but probably not very much. Will the introduction of electronic fuel injection bring added interest from younger drivers who’ve never known a time when “street” cars used regular carburetion? In some circles, such a question would lead to little more than blank stares. In a brave new era of hybrid vehicles, low-rolling resistance tires, recycled engine oil, and automobile dashboards that can double as personal computers, is a NASCAR stock car able to attract a young person’s attention? Aftermarket “aerodynamic” kits can make anyone’s ride look racy, so how easy is it for the Car of Right Now to compete for audience share?
Maybe part of the problem comes from the fact that NASCAR utilizes a “spec” type design that struggles to connect itself to the “real life” version of the car in question. It’s all a matter of stickers, so how does that pseudo-authenticity rate with an already judgmental audience that seems to crave “reality”? It strikes me as odd that many of the college students who demand things to “be real”, or who want people to “get real”, are the students most easily blinded by the myth of “reality” television. Simply put: if a program involves two cameras, reality gives way to choice. Is this part of the reason why the 18-to-25-year old demographic fails to accept NASCAR – because the cars these students drive everyday are nothing at all like the cars used in competition? It’s an old issue, but how many rear-wheel drive cars have been built over the last decade? Why is it that EFI is only now (as in 2012) making the jump to NASCAR? Will alignment with a more “typical” sense of automobiles help NASCAR Nation to grow? Brian France can only hope so.
And here’s the oddest rub of all…Brian France comes from a background in entertainment, so shouldn’t he be well-suited to “know” what a young audience wants from of its popular entertainment? Not that NASCAR needs to add a slate of explosions, “hip hop” music, zombies, and scantily-clad women (but then again, Danica Patrick IS headed our way full-time next season), but shouldn’t a guy who spends a lot of time in Los Angeles have a sense of what resonates with the 18-to-25-year old crowd?
Maybe we expect too much from him. Under Brian’s watch, the “traditional” way of calculating points has been revised to create more exciting racing, the schedule has been tweaked to include new markets, and the annual Cup banquet has moved from the glamour of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City to the clutter of Wynn (as in the resort) Las Vegas. When an opportunity arose to merge NASCAR with other forms of mass/popular culture, the result was the 2006 film “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” starring Will Ferrell. This latter example is the way that the majority of students recognize NASCAR. I gave a presentation about NASCAR’s cultural history to an audience of students at James Madison University in Virginia that year, and when I referred to Ferrell’s film (and showed a photograph of “Ricky Bobby” in his Wonder Bread driving suit), the audience of 18-to-25 year olds erupted into laughter. Maybe my choice to include “Talladega Nights” in the presentation was poor judgment on my part, but it was an element of NASCAR that resonated with the audience. References to Junior Johnson and Richard Petty only went so far (with the exception that most in the auditorium recognized Petty from his “appearance” as a 1970 Plymouth Superbird in the Pixar film “Cars” (also released in 2006).
Could it be that NASCAR fails to present its drivers as “young” enough or “hip” enough or “cool” enough to snag the 18-to-25-year old audience? For every Kasey Kahne or Joey Logano there’s a Greg Biffle and a Mark Martin – even perennial fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a tad long-in-the-tooth for this age group. Former “dreamboat” Jeff Gordon is forty, married, and the father of two…. and his car is sponsored (in part) by AARP! Sure, Trevor Bayne got 2011 off to a big start when he won the Daytona 500, but Bayne (despite being 20-years old) is also a devout Christian from Tennessee – a little too “traditional NASCAR” for a college-aged audience, perhaps? When an “extreme” athlete like Travis Pastrana lines up a ride in NASCAR, or when a motocross superstar like James “Bubba” Stewart signs a deal with Joe Gibbs Racing (as part of JGRMX – the team’s “motocross division”), is this not an attempt to “connect” NASCAR more closely to today’s “X Games” culture?
So how does NASCAR address the potential for a diminished fan base come the next decade or so, once the college students of today become the professionals of tomorrow – the ones with the income necessary to keep NASCAR Nation running smoothly? Pundits write at-length about NASCAR’s need to capture the always-elusive 18-to-34-year old male audience, but I see the problem as being deeper than simply attracting that particular demographic. NASCAR needs to draw in more women within that age range, and it needs to focus on giving collegiate audiences what they want to see. Good racing seems to finish second to added transparency and more diverse relationships. Are there “high-tech” industries willing to up the ante and enter NASCAR as active and enthusiastic (meaning “deep pockets full of cash”) sponsors? The future seems murky, at best.
Or should we skip the apathy of the 18-to-25-year olds and shoot for the generation behind them – the children currently in middle and/or elementary school? Such is easy to accomplish if you’re a NASCAR fan with a young child – my soon-to-be-four year old can easily identify Cup drivers like Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Trevor Bayne, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick (although sometimes he thinks Harvick plays baseball). When a child is surrounded by an event or an activity, they can’t help but become familiar with it. Given my work, my son often hears about drivers, teams, races, and sponsors, and he gets to spend time in North Carolina from time-to-time where he gets to see (and touch) the cars he sees on television, in the newspaper, or online. When he gets older, I’ll take him to the races with me, like MY father did with ME when I was a child. Such is the nature of what we call acculturation – the way that an individual adopts the traits of another. This is often the easiest way to insure that traditions, attitudes, and other essential behaviors pass from generation to generation, and it may be the easiest way for NASCAR to develop (and secure) a future audience of loyal fans. The 18-to-24-year old college audience just may be a lost cause. I certainly hope not.
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Yes, the Martinsville race was the kind that drew fans into the sport. However, that kind of racing today has become just as small a percentage of the sport overall as the percentage of NASCAR fans in the classes you surveyed. NASCAR needs to bite the bullet and realize that these intermediate cookie cutter or whatever you want to call them tracks like Texas, Fontana, etc. that they cultivated in droves during the past decade are a problem that is eating away at the roots of the sport. People sleep through 90% of them and just watch the finish. They have to return to more traditional tracks like South Boston, North Wilkesboro, etc. that provided the kind of racing fans flocked to NASCAR in the first place.
When I was 18-25, I didn’t watch a lot of Nascar then either. I was more concerned with going out and girls. I had been a fan as a kid, and didn’t rediscover it until after I married. I essentially missed all the great racing of the 90’s, and I regret it. Oh, I caught the odd race or two, but I wasn’t up on it religiously.
I also wouldn’t put too much stock in how many students raise their hands. If you had asked that question about football, only a couple of people would have raised their hands, and they would have said it was only for the “social” aspects of it. Liking football or racing at the time would have been “common”. I’ll bet a few others would have raised hands, too but it wouldn’t have seemed cool. They were thinking, “They’ll laugh at me like they laugh at Ricky Bobby, or call me a redneck.” I remember college being a time when we would sit around deconstructing and criticizing everything. Eventually, you realize that it’s a silly way to live and you return to truly enjoying whatever it is that you enjoy. For all of the talk about being independent and different, at that time you are still worried about what other people think.
I always thought that NASCAR’S assertion that there are “75 million” NASCAR fans in the U.S. was overblown. If that figure was true why are TV ratings so poor? 4 million viewers out of “75 million” fans says a lot; what it says i’m not so sure. I would love to know how NASCAR arrived at the “75 million” figure.
One other thing: I was a design/architecture major, and we had to do a large land planning project on a piece of real property (i.e. a real topo, and design accordingly.) I chose to design a race track and surrounding properties. It caused a big row among the professors, some of whom didn’t want to approve it. (this was before the project even started as it was a semester long, senior level project.) “Automobile racing was crass and vulgar, it was harmful to the environment and wasteful of natural resources, it had no redeeming social value whatsoever.”
One professor did defend me though, by asking questions: Is this an activity that human beings do and participate in? Yes, Well then, does one not think this aspect of our society should benefit from our area of expertise, regardless of whatever social value one may think it has?
Well it got approved and I proceeded to design a parabolic 1.5 mile oval. (shakes head) This was 1993 before the start of the speedway building boom, but yes I did the stereotypical cookie-cutter track, that was my big idea. Oh well.
I think attention span is a big deal. I won’t lie—in the 90s and early early 00s I watched every damn lap of all three major NASCAR series. I gobbled it up.
Now… a Combination of being a busy adult, AND Cup races being absurdly long and boring in the “middle” as insured I barely pay attention. Martinsville, Richmond and the two road courses are the only races I watched start to finish. Because people actually seemed to be racing every lap.
If Cup would reduce the majority of their races to 200 or 300-mile affairs, I have no doubt it would appeal more to the current “instant gratification” generation. It’s one of two reasons I watch every race in the Truck Series, for every lap (short, interesting races, and drivers racing their asses off the whole time.)
As far as Nationwide, the most common answer I get from non-racing and racing friends alike is “why are Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick in this series? Isn’t that like NFL players playing college football?” The idea is absolutely bizarre to stick-and-ball sports fans. It’s also why I don’t watch Nationwide, except the road courses.
Also: agreed completely on stereotypical assumptions about NASCAR and NASCAR fans. I race short track oval myself. I’m college educated, speak perfect English, have a normal haircut, dress like a normal guy, and I hate country music. I don’t ascribe to any political party, but I suppose I lean left, if anything. And I love ALL motorsport, not just stockcar racing.
Other than the fact that I AM a car guy and a racer, I don’t follow the stereotype at all. Yet the stereotype follows. Hell there aren’t even many rednecks left IN NASCAR! Most of the drivers are well-spoken modern well-educated people… In some ways that’s a BAD thing, there aren’t any badass old guys like Cale Yarborough or Junior Johnson kicking ass anymore.
It’s funny though… As much as the people I know make fun of big-time NASCAR and “going around in circles,” they have nothing but praise and interest for my own racing endeavours, because it’s “real, gritty grassroots racing.” I guess driving in circles with rednecks at the LOCAL level is okay…
How many of today’s college kids can weld? Replace a head gasket? Install a new bath fixture? Put on a shingle roof? As our job economy gets more and more specialized, less and less people can identify themselves with the underlying success of the team model of motorsports in general. Its not just the driver the wins a race as we all know. That connection to the guys in the trenches is what is missing in today’s college youth that spends the majority of their time creating lulz for Facebook instead of something real (not “reality”). I found that at my alma-mater it was the MechE and Robotics students that had the greatest potential to be Nascar (or F1 or IRL) fans.
Political correctness and herd mentality is why NASCAR and this country is in trouble. The kids have been led to believe this country is nothing special and to ignore the Constitution when it suits them. Thankfully my step granddaughters can think for themselves and not be swayed by the media or a USA hating professor or university.
Mark, I’m a business professor in a state college in Connecticut. Ive been teaching 38 years ( I reached Dick Trickles milestone today)and during that entire time I have been involved with motorsports in one way or another. I raced motorcycles when I was much younger but I still race a 240z in vintage sports car races. The crux of the problem, if I might call it that, is that very few young people today have much interest in cars. There simply aren’t that many gearheads out there anymore. Twenty five years ago, the majority of my students were curious about my racing and motorsports in general. Now its a very small number. This semester I honestly believe I only have two gearheads in my classes. If there is no general interest in cars and racing in general, it follows that there will be even less in a very sanitized sport running essentially spec racing cars.
Don Mei,you’re right. Kids these days show little interest in knowing how to work on cars and don’t know a spark plug from a muffler. Back in the late sixties I spent a lot of time working on my own car so I could get to school and work. People these days check the air in their tires once a year if that. The good old days of Moon landings and working on my own car-I’ve almost forgotten how much fun it was back then.
I taught in college for a long time—at a state school—and I had a good number of racing fans.
I also had a good number of students who filled their weekdays w/ studies and their weekends drunk—no time for racing.
Racing, especially NASCAR and with the exception of F-1, seems always to have been for the average guy. These students have not yet realized that they, too, will become pretty average with age.
I wouldn’t worry too much about them; they’ll come around in due time.
As a member of the 18-25 “college” crowd, I’ll try and shed some light on the subject… I may be biased, though, since I am a fan. Disclosure: I am an engineer, I have engineer friends (including one who used to change his own oil in the undergrad parking deck), and my school’s mascot is a 1930 Model A.
I think the problem is that NASCAR is not “cool.”
I remember watching a race in the freshman dorm, and as Tony Stewart won and climbed out of his car, a kid walking by looked at the TV, said “that’s the fattest racecar driver I’ve ever seen” and walked away. Part of the problem is the drivers. When I became a fan in the late 90’s, the drivers were relatively old compared to today’s… but Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Ricky Rudd… those guys were cool. I could sense they had no fear. One (was it Rudd?) said if there were no NASCAR, he’d have joined the Air Force to fly fighter jets. They drove with broken bones, taped their eyes open, and acted like little kids on Christmas if they got to Victory Lane.
Now, let’s compare: Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano… those guys don’t strike me as particularly cool or fearless. Heck, Johnson broke his finger playing golf! Dale Jr. would be about the only driver who seems sincere and not too rehearsed and too corporate… but he drives for Diet Mountain Dew.
And then there’s the cars. I am cooler than Kyle Busch. We’re both about the same age, both married, (he makes more money than I do, but I don’t get booed for doing my job, so I’d say that’s a tie) but I drive a silver Avenger, and he drives a rainbow Camry. If my car is a base-model mid-size sedan and it’s cooler than the cars on the track, we have a problem.
Quite frankly, I doubt I’d be watching NASCAR if I just discovered it today.
Other disadvantages that are easy to fix: TV. My wife loves going to Talladega. She also can’t sit and watch races on TV because they’re boring. At the track, the cars are going pretty fast, and they’re loud and colorful, and we can listen to Bowyer (or whoever) all race. On TV, we can watch Jimmie Johnson lead. And with no other cars in the shot and no sense of perspective on the track, it looks like he’s going about 35 miles an hour. Lame.
And finally, for people my age, video games are apparently pretty popular. There aren’t many NASCAR video games, but I’ve played some pretty good street racing or go-kart games. There was one semester (or four) in undergrad when my roommates and I spent lots of time playing Need for Speed and MarioKart. If there had been a cool video game about NASCAR, maybe we would have played that as well.
I’ve found that people who go to races get hooked, so here’s my final suggestion: student discounts to races and transportation to and from the track. Load up buses full of students to hit up the track and sell them cheap tickets. If we live on college, we don’t all have cars. Plus, we like to drink beer, and not having to take turns DD’ing just makes a good day at the races that much better.
It’s not a lost cause for my generation. NASCAR just needs to make an effort to prove to us that there’s plenty for us to like in the sport.