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.
All the recent bickering over the ins-and-outs and thereabouts of the NASCAR Sprint Cup rulebook has led to some very interesting discussions amongst racing fans. The discourse, as you might expect has revolved around the confirmed innocence / implied guilt of Chad Knaus and his teammates / minions at Hendrick Motorsports. Much of this situation revolves around questions of ethics and the consequences of choice; did Knaus and company shape the C-pillars according to procedure “as usual” on their Lowe’s Chevrolet for Daytona? If not, and rules were broken, was the violation worth the cost if the team was busted by NASCAR inspectors? Was bending / breaking the rules necessary for Jimmie Johnson’s success at Daytona? When does creativity become cheating?
When does “what we always did” give way to “what we can’t do?” How do we learn such lessons?
Our actions always result in consequences. While this isn’t exactly breaking news, it’s quite often overlooked amidst the chaos of our daily lives. The obvious is usually taken for granted and treated as insignificant. Maybe it’s because this action-consequence continuum is deeply engraved within human nature; it’s easy to ignore the lessons taught through cause and effect. While we associate learning such lessons with formal education, we must also recognize that much of what we know comes from informal sources. “Book learning” is always supplemented by our enrollment in “the school of hard knocks” – the correlation between learning lessons and living them.
I consider myself lucky to have spent my entire life (so far) in-and-around the sport of automobile racing. While I’ve dealt with all types of motorsports – from the local and amateur to the professional and global – the vast majority of my time has been consumed by stock car racing. I’ve always been fascinated, in particular, by the people, the procedures, the influences, the events, the business, and the history of NASCAR. As such, many of the essential lessons I’ve learned about life have come directly from my connection with NASCAR Nation. It started in childhood, became a constant as I grew up, and eventually blossomed into a major part of my career. I may earn my salary as an English professor, but my area of specialization is motorsports history.
Teaching writing and literature at a small college is a big part of my job, but racing is a big part of my life.
One piece of popular literature that topped best-seller lists years ago was Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things.” Fulghum is a “jack-of-all-trades,” having spent time as everything from a Unitarian Universalist minister to an artist, a musician, a teacher, and a bartender. His 1988 book on the importance of seeing life from the perspective of a child swept the nation as a manifesto for simplicity, blending the homespun observations of Mark Twain or Garrison Keillor with the philosophical musings of Buddha and Henry David Thoreau. Since its publication, over 16 million copies of Fulghum’s book have appeared in 103 countries.
The basic premise of “All I Really Need to Know…” is that uncomplicated and/or simple thinking trumps “high-content information” every time – that “Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School.” While the idea seems obvious, it’s rarely considered when it comes to the business of our everyday life. Especially in our instantaneous, technology-driven, information-centered society, the universally “common” gives way to the unnecessarily “complicated.” In the words of Robert Fulghum: “The examined life is no picnic.”
In thinking about Fulghum’s work since its publication, and in contemplating my years around the sport of stock car racing, I’ve come to the conclusion that most (if not all) of the essential lessons I’ve learned about life have come from speedways and race shops. Much of the credit goes to my parents, who gave me the chance to experience racing firsthand from my earliest days.
One of my first, truly clear memories from childhood is of sitting in the third-turn grandstands at Pocono Raceway in 1971 to watch qualifying for the “Pennsylvania 500” USAC stock car race. My father pointed out famous drivers like Lee Roy Yarbrough, Jim Paschal, and A.J. Foyt, among others hoping to make the field that afternoon. He also suggested that I watch how “Super Tex” took his ‘71 Plymouth through the flat turn before us; you could hear the Plymouth’s chassis creak under the strain of its struggle against centrifugal force. I remember looking up at my father; he was smiling happily and the words he semi-shouted to me that day still ring true: “Hear how he hardly lifted? He hardly lifted and look how fast he was! That’s what you do – stay on the throttle and trust your car….”
My father’s comment regarding A.J. Foyt’s desire to sit on the pole at Pocono wasn’t one of those lessons that make a child a better, more capable, or more respected person; it was a comment about racing, but the point being made applied to other aspects of living a clear and purposeful life. Even today, being in a line of work that’s as far-removed from driving a stock car as one can get, the basic theory is a useful one – don’t give up, even when a situation seems intimidating, and trust the resources at your disposal.
Situations within NASCAR Nation can offer up valuable life lessons that address more than just the moving-and-shaking of a competitive environment. Learning through watching is possible, but learning through doing is even more relevant. Say what you will about formal education’s over-emphasis on “learning styles”, but a hands-on approach to anything is more beneficial than going with a less-engaged method.
What I’ve learned regarding the power of teamwork has been developed not from years in Little League or from playing high school football (I did neither), but from spending time with NASCAR race teams as both an observer and a participant. I was fortunate enough to spend three seasons (from 2001 through 2003) following Brett Bodine Racing for a book I was writing about the Bodine family for Syracuse University Press. To have access for interviews, photographs, and observational research, Brett made me part of his race team. I paid for my own NASCAR crew credentials each year and for all of my travel, but my license gave me full access to NASCAR through BBR’s then-Winston Cup operation. How could such a project connect to lessons learned regarding teamwork?
The answer was all the time, adding to my life education consistently along the way. Bodine’s No. 11 Ford Taurus was constantly underfunded. Larger sponsors, like the Ralph’s division of Kroger grocery stores, Wells Fargo Financial, and the Hooters restaurant chain, picked up most of the team’s expenses, but BBR was always searching for more companies to provide more performance through more money. Potential deals collapsed with broken promises, and morale was often low as Brett raced each week against teams with annual budgets that were three or four times larger than his. This adversity felt insurmountable as the “natural selection” of motorsports took over. The teams with more sponsorship ran better, which got them on television more often, which made them more attractive to sponsors, who gave such teams even more of what they already had: financial backing.
Surprisingly enough, this lack of consistent major sponsorship only seemed to make the folks at Brett Bodine Racing work even harder. Complaining about a lack of money meant nothing when compared to what really mattered – a more-cooperative effort by everyone involved focused on achieving better performance. Instead of griping silently to themselves (and some of this happened, to be sure), the folks at BBR concentrated their energies toward running as well as possible despite a lack of sponsorship.
This lesson about the power of teamwork – especially when the odds were against you at most every turn – was a powerful one. Not only did the crew at BBR suck it up and do what they could with what they had, but they pooled energies and ideas to try and accomplish something with nothing. I observed the benefits of open and clear communication when someone suddenly had an idea for finding more speed, and I also saw how a simple miscommunication could affect the delicate balance of a race team where money was tight and tensions were great.
Spending time with BBR taught me other useful “life skills.” I learned the value of such qualities as humility, sincerity, pragmatism, humor, and grace under pressure – all important when balancing scant resources and trying to be competitive one minute, then dealing with fans, potential sponsors, and/or the media the next. As an owner/driver, Brett wore a lot of hats (often all at once), but watching him and listening to how he went about his life in racing taught me volumes about how a person might go about their life in general.
One lesson I’ve learned from NASCAR is that anything is possible once the green flag drops. The inherent nature of competition brings out the best (and worst) in athletes, and race car drivers are no exception. Oddly enough, some of the lessons covered by Fulghum in his book – the important traits we learned in kindergarten – relate directly to the lessons we can (or should) learn from racing. Fulghum’s book advises us to “play fair,” “don’t hit people,” and “say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.” While these lessons reflect ethics and equality, is it not a stretch to assign such lessons to NASCAR Nation? Why do lessons when encouraged change into lessons quickly disregarded once official input is provided?
Consider what we’ve learned over the past few days regarding “pillargate” and the No. 48 team: the fact that decisions concerning “legal” versus “illegal” actions can be readily appealed and summarily overturned with no clear explanation or reasons given. Fans can make generalizations based on past histories between participants and implied favoritism fostered by personal relationships, but what lesson does this teach us about “life” as seen through the lens of NASCAR? Maybe it teaches us that who we know and what we have has direct influence over anything “the rules” try to govern.
Sometimes you have to, in the words of Robert Fulghum, “Clean up your own mess.”
So, what have I learned from years of being around NASCAR? I’ve learned plenty. I learned about perseverance by watching drivers like Darrell Waltrip and the late Dale Earnhardt win the Daytona 500. Everything I know about the elusive nature of fate I learned from watching Derrike Cope in the 1990 Daytona 500, and from seeing Jeff Gordon at the inaugural running of the Brickyard 400 in 1994. NASCAR has also taught me that we should always expect the unexpected, no matter if it’s in a positive context (as in the “shower-of-sparks” driving exhibition of Kyle Busch during this year’s Budweiser Shootout), or in a negative one (as in the death of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona in 2001).
A life around NASCAR has taught me that the positive attribute of creativity can be redefined as negative when matched against the philosophy of an organization with something to prove. Consider Brad Keselowski’s “technique” for outsmarting the timing loops on pit road at Bristol last fall – being “creative” only goes so far when you’ve gained an advantage over the authorities. NASCAR has taught me that innovation often leads to agitation, especially when it comes to an unorthodox interpretation of the rulebook.
But NASCAR has also shown me the merits of such “unorthodox” behavior. One of the best ways to kill time in the garage during a race weekend (and there’s often a lot of time to kill) is listening to crew chiefs, car owners, and drivers swap stories about “the idea that almost was.” I’ve heard many a racer talk about grinding out rear axles, playing with weight distribution, and theorizing about ways to increase fuel loads under the watchful eye of NASCAR.
Think back to Junior Johnson’s “Yellow Banana” – Fred Lorenzen’s 1966 Ford with a chop top roof with arched fenders and hood, or to Smokey Yunick’s race car that was stripped of its fuel cell, yet could be driven back to the garage (with its engine running!) after an especially-thorough technical inspection by NASCAR. There are lessons to learn from stories about lead helmets hung in cars to manipulate weight between inspections and qualifying. Even the kind of paint used to coat the interior of a stock car can make a difference; I’ve been told the type of paint can add as much as thirty pounds to a car’s overall weight, and that’s a lot when you’re challenging the rulebook.
While Robert Fulghum’s book fills a niche in what we call “popular” psychology, it’s safe to say that NASCAR fills an equally important niche in our popular culture. If culture helps us to learn about roles, responsibilities, and reasons for acting like we do, then maybe the sport does us a service by teaching us about essential traits and qualities we need for satisfying lives. Did learning about life through NASCAR teach me to be a better person?
Probably not, but it sure did teach me to be suspicious of authority figures…
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Kindergarten was fun but all I really need to know I learned from the Andy Griffith show.
And I’ve learned that where there’s smoke there’s fire. And there’s been TONS of smoke around that Hendrick team for some time now.
With all the talk about the c-posts, I wonder where NASCAR should have been looking.
CHEATERS, – CHEATERS, – CHEATERS!!!