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.
Professor Of Speed · Mark Howell · Thursday February 23, 2012
The afterglow of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has shined on what we’ve seen for 2012 thus far. Last November’s tie-breaking battle for the title gave way to this year’s exciting Budweiser Shootout, the introduction of the 2013 entry from the Ford Motor Company, the advent of electronic fuel injection, and Danica Patrick’s arrival to the Cup Series. It all adds up to a hopeful promise of what should be another successful year for NASCAR. Consider that television ratings for last weekend’s running of the Budweiser Shootout were up over those for last year’s broadcast; the appeal of NASCAR remains strong thanks to exciting competition and compelling storylines. At the moment, the sport of stock car racing – and the Sprint Cup Series, in particular – is riding on the coattails of 2011’s “once-in-a-lifetime” calendar of achievements.
Saturday, Kyle Busch emerged as the star-of-the-Shootout, his actions earning him the hipster-like moniker of “Wild Thing” based on his driving skill and Sprint Cup-caliber reflexes behind the wheel. Kyle’s gelled, nearly “faux-hawk” hairstyle was coupled with an all-too-expected, aggressive/evasive Shootout performance that involved not only avoiding mayhem in showers of sparks, but that also saw him capitalize on a two-car, tandem run to the finish where he snuck past Tony Stewart to take the win in a thrilling manner. So as the 2012 NASCAR season begins to unfold, it appears as though we’re in store for more of what we saw in 2011: close finishes, near-misses, and bent sheet metal that made last year one for the history books. If there was ever a time for NASCAR to grow, attracting a larger, more loyal audience, it’s now.
FOX seems to be wrestling with its idea of just who NASCAR fans really are. We all understand that the coveted 18-to-34-year old male demographic is the “holy grail” of sports marketing and media coverage, but how – exactly – you should approach this much-needed audience seems to be a point of confusion. As an example of such a conundrum, look no farther than FOX’s pre-race coverage of Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout.
FOX’s use of musical montages is a nod to classic motorsports television from the “golden era” of ESPN, but the extreme close-ups came off as more annoying than alluring. If I want to see a driver coming at me in a hurry, let it be from the perspective of an in-car camera under race conditions. Such is the inherent danger, however, of trying to track-and-trap an assumed audience – everybody knows how much 18-to-34-year-old guys like quirky music videos, especially ones featuring attractive women in form-fitting attire, even if it is in the form of a firesuit (an ever-present Danica motif, by the way). Look at Danica mugging in front of the camera. Look at Danica striding confidently in sunglasses along pit road (did I mention she’s wearing a form-fitting firesuit?) Look at Danica playing pool in a roadhouse/tavern/bar somewhere (in a black tee-shirt – no firesuit this time, that’d be unrealistic). If this is how FOX Sports sees NASCAR, Version 2012, then it appears that the sport is sliding ever-so-precariously toward the always-awkward “Days of Thunderization” condition. This approach might work nicely for the unindoctrinated, but for those of us who’ve spent our lives addressing/dealing with the often unkind stereotypes surrounding the sport, it’s a jarring sight.
The same is true for FOX’s use of the “pool hall/roadhouse” theme in regard to showcasing its announcing team. Seeing supposedly-candid footage of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, et al standing around a pool table, leaning on their cue sticks and shootin’ the breeze (I’ll bet they’re swapping racing stories!) comes across as off-the-mark regarding an implied audience. Sure, I have students every semester who fit the “18-to-34 male” demographic, ones who enjoy shooting pool with friends at local pubs, but therein lies the rub – these guys are actually 18 to 34 years old! Having the FOX broadcasters shooting pool/hanging out at the TV tavern (the same one Danica frequents, apparently) makes the footage more closely resemble a Dockers advertisement. The intent may have been to connect the FOX announcers with fans of a certain demographic, but the end result looks more like a “Fish Fry Friday” at the local Elks’ Club…
This approach to attracting NASCAR’s most-coveted audience relates back to the “Days of Thunderization” concept mentioned earlier. Missing the mark regarding today’s approach to stock car racing means falling back on the tried-and-tragic stereotypes of “old school” NASCAR. In the 1990 movie “Days of Thunder,” audiences got to watch as a then-Winston Cup stock car capable of winning races (if not for its pesky, egotistical driver from out west) was crafted by two men in a rundown tobacco barn (complete with holes in the siding for added realism). Never mind that the film’s two main characters – driver Cole Trickle and crew chief Harry Hogge – were “borrowed” directly from NASCAR’s history (the successful pairing of the late Tim Richmond with the legendary Harry Hyde). Looking deeper, the primary problem with this motion picture was its dependency on stereotypes that made the sport of stock car racing look exactly as the majority of Americans back in those days assumed. The “redneckery” depicted in “Days of Thunder” was a difficult pill for NASCAR Nation to swallow, but something tells me that, if Saturday night on FOX was any indication, we’re dangerously close to heading in a similar direction as a “marketing tool.”
That it’s happening under NASCAR’s watch is surprising; at times, the powers-that-be can be vigilant about fending off possible misconceptions regarding the sport. When PGA golfer Bubba Watson offered to make parade laps around Phoenix International Raceway next month in “General Lee” – the iconic car from the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard” and purchased earlier this year by Watson at auction – NASCAR politely refused his request. It was not because of the car itself, but rather because the car’s roof is emblazoned with the Confederate flag, a stereotypical symbol too-often tied to the sport of stock car racing by the population-at-large. Regardless of the fact that NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough made cameo appearances on the CBS program a couple of times, it was an overall fear that the Confederate flag might be misconstrued as being indicative of today’s NASCAR that prompted the sanctioning body to say thanks, but no thanks. It’s dangerous to mess with success.
Yes, race attendance increased slightly last year. Yes, television ratings increased as well during 2011. The excitement of last season attracted some new fans, while drawing back some old ones who had become disillusioned with NASCAR during the first decade of the 21st century (the period I refer to as “NASCAR A.D.” as in “After Dale”). So why, then, do we see FOX’s reliance on generalizations about the sport that have more to do with popular assumptions than with racing reality? Why the need to hearken back to days-gone-by when the NASCAR of 2012 looks pretty darn good on its own accord?
Maybe the fault lies with more than FOX Sports and its effort to bring NASCAR to a younger, more hip audience. Perhaps accusatory fingers can be pointed in the direction of the sanctioning body itself. Take last week’s “media day” at Daytona, for example. In addition to all the interviews, sound bites, press kits, and overall “buzz” regarding Speedweeks 2012, there were also photo shoots involving many of the drivers who will be competing in various NASCAR divisions this season. Now, there’s nothing wrong with drivers posing for publicity photographs; these have been regarded as a necessity in motorsports for 100 years. Where the new PR photographs took an uncomfortable turn was when a closer look was taken at the choice of background in use. Think back to the custom of proms and homecoming dances when couples would (and still do) pose in front in a standardized setting that matched the evening’s theme; no doubt there are hundreds of thousands of such photographs squirreled away in steamer trunks, scrapbooks, and dresser drawers, pictures of smiling couples in an “Island Paradise” or enjoying a “Night to Remember.”
So what was the backdrop for drivers preparing to market/promote NASCAR’s upcoming 2012 season? Drivers from all three national touring series were posed in front of a garage-like setting that propelled our sport into the 1950s, complete with a dirty box-type fan emblazoned with a NASCAR decal, assorted hand tools scattered about, and a Goodyear baseball cap hanging from the diamond-plate wall above a cluttered workbench before which the drivers stood. Most of the drivers looked stone-faced and/or serious, which is appropriate if you want to show that NASCAR is a dangerous business practiced by no-nonsense competitors. You had the whole “I built my race car in my brother-in-law’s garage” theme at work here; however, that sends an anachronistic message about today’s NASCAR.
Never mind that engineers with laptop computers are a primary part of modern-day Sprint Cup racing, especially with the introduction of electronic fuel injection that renders traditional carburetion to the pages of history. No matter that NASCAR race teams use technological advances gleaned from NASA. Instead, the implicit message within these pictures is that today’s NASCAR is yesterday’s version – only needing more money to finance bigger-name competitors with more specialized equipment. The image being projected by these promotional photographs ties stock car racing to its generalized roots… even if they’re no longer there. How odd it was, then, to see an up-and-coming driver like Travis Pastrana – who’s coming to NASCAR from the Gen-Y/”hipster” world of extreme sports – posed before a messy workbench that resembled something out of an old issue of “Popular Mechanics.” The backdrop used for these media day photo shoots at Daytona looked like something created if you gave Martha Stewart a twelve-pack of Miller Lite and a Home Depot gift card. I’m not saying the idea here was wrong; I’m just raising some questions about implications of identity and audience. How does NASCAR want to be treated by its obviously growing fan base? With what image do they more closely identify?
Maybe the issue lies within us: the longtime members of NASCAR Nation who want all of today’s technological advances alongside the cherished memories of an antiquated yesterday. Last weekend’s running of the Budweiser Shootout was a good example of this nostalgia in that people by-and-large enjoyed the race because it offered the pack racing that was missing in last year’s superspeedway events. Pack drafting is for the show, while tandem drafting is for the dough, as we observed at Daytona on Saturday night. The close competition, the aggressive runs to the front by various drivers, the exciting saves, and the horrifying accidents… all this competition was a throwback to the more romanticized notion of what NASCAR racing used to be. It wasn’t until the final lap, when Tony (“Smoke”) Stewart and Kyle (“Wild Thing”) Busch broke away from Marcos (“The Tasmanian Devil”) Ambrose and the rest of the field that the more-contemporary strategy of the tandem draft was used to set up a dramatic last lap scramble. The result was an at-the-checkered-flag pass by Busch to win the race and cap his already nearly-mythic evening. In the end, Saturday night’s Shootout provided the thrills of yesterday (complete with cool nicknames right out of NASCAR’s early days) with the competitive demands of today’s sport (complete, ironically enough, with new rules designed to reduce tandem drafting).
It is dangerous, however, to resolve ourselves to the idea that the NASCAR of now is trying to be more like the NASCAR of then. Recent developments by the sport, and its partners in both industry and the media, seem to focus more squarely on the audience so badly needed to insure stock car racing’s future. Streaming NASCAR events online, for example, is an obvious attempt to attract the web-savvy, techno-audience of the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic. The successful streaming of last year’s Chase races live over the internet proved that such a gamble had distinct advantages. With networks like MRN now streaming all of their race broadcasts live over the web, perhaps we’re seeing a paradigm shift that acknowledges the relevance of this new audience. Certainly, if NASCAR hopes to keep growing their “Gen Y” fan base, such distribution of events will be a necessity. Once this need becomes readily accepted by all parties involved within the sport (the sanctioning body, the media, and corporate sponsors, too) we’ll see NASCAR’s audience evolve and grow in a much more natural – and much less stereotyped – manner.
And, as Martha Stewart says, “…that’s a good thing.”
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Agree with your article. I’m new to NASCAR since ’05, I have a college degree and I’m sick of getting “that look” from friends just because I enjoy NASCAR. I like the tobacco free NASCAR. I like the new smarter, well spoken drivers and crews who give the sport a higher level of respect. ( Jr. is the only “old school” driver left who has poor English and can’t express himself well in an interview, but obviously with 4 zero win seasons in the last 5 years, he’s only still driving because of his name). NASCAR has come a long way from when my parent’s watched it and I hope they continue in this modern, classy, direction and not return to Hicksville. Flaunt the technology flaunt the classyness of the operations now. Most people don’t realize how much NASCAR has changed for the better since dropping Winston as a sponsor. More need to know NASCAR is not just for Trailer Parks anymore, it’s just as high end as F1. Much more exciting than an F1 race.
It all comes down to what’s happening on the track. If you have exciting side-by-side racing and close finishes, people will tune in. If you provide a boring “product” as they like to call it, people will run away. I don’t care about the pre-race videos or how well-spoken a driver is, just give us a good race on a consistent basis and all will be right with the NASCAR world.
Welcome back, Professor. Great piece to start the season off with.
I think Fox is completely out of touch with men of a certain age, like myself. Adding Michael Waltrip and his inherent silliness into the fold this year, and continuing the use of “Digger” are just two examples of their reluctance or unwillingness to regain any seriousness in their race coverage. When I refer to Fox, I am also referring to their television partner Speed. I think they will be using Michael more in their Speed broadcasts, if I remember reading correctly.
The addition of Michael Waltrip to the booth is partly what drove me to re-up my XM Radio subscription recently. I will be able to listen to alternative race broadcasting in lieu of dueling Waltrips. I’ll listen to some of the broadcasts so I can join in on the Frontstretch and Daly Planet critic, but not every race all the time.
Want to improve the broadcasts? Its this simple:
1. No Michael Waltrip. Period. The man is an idiot.
2. Hire the MRN guys to do the live TV coverage; they’re worlds better than the mental midgets Fox trots out. For what its worth, Dale Jarrett is the best former driver turned commentator in the business. Jabber Jaws (Dduhbya) is as bad as his brother, which is to say, he’s a moron. McReynolds is right there with them.
3. Get rid of cartoon characters
4. Shorten the pre-race, lengthen the post race to include interviews from more drivers.
5. Use the old speeds at the line graphic that ESPN first made popular.
6. Show all of the cars finishing the race.
7. Want the mystery cautions to disappear? Show the debris on-track. If a yellow is thrown, and no debris is visible, let this be known.
8. Use side by side coverage during commercials.
9. Show actual racing going on, even if its for 12th place. Panning the 1st place guy all by his lonesome is a recipe for changing the channel.
10. Tell Mike Joy his nickname designations (e.g. Wild Thing) make him sound like a tool, even less witty than Chris Berman.
He!!, take any four of the ten above and the broadcasts would be worlds better