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.
Despite what we tell ourselves, sports are entertainment.
While the competitions we watch are often instilled with virtues like honor, sacrifice, and courage under pressure, the underlying factor is that these events are little more than diversionary exercises. Escapism is what we need given the demands of our day-to-day lives, and sports serve to allow such an escape in the guise of athletic endeavor. We may be cheering for our favorite team (no matter what the sport), but we are – in fact – cheering for the diversion the event provides.
I can’t jump to my feet and roar out with a primal scream while in my office, but I sure can when in the grandstands at a football game; the thrill of the sport provides me with an emotional release that feeds my animal nature and refreshes my soul. The same can be said for a piece of music, a movie, or a good book; the same goes for NASCAR racing.
As I (among others) have written, NASCAR provides an all-encompassing sensory experience to those in attendance. While watching a race on television is sometimes exciting (like the eight-car photo finish at Talladega’s Cup race last spring) or emotional (like Trevor Bayne’s Cinderella win in the 2011 Daytona 500), there’s nothing that can compare to seeing a race in person. Much of the difference stems from the fact that going at the track means living the event: being able to smell the rubber and the exhaust, feeling the ground shake as 43 cars take the green flag, hearing the roar of engines and the squeal of air guns – no home theater system of plasma screens and multiple speakers can replicate this kind of sensory overload.
We go to the racetrack so we can “be” in the moment with our friends, our neighbors, and our heroes. The experience is a significant component of the fun, as any walk through an infield camping area will attest. As such, race fans expect to see a good race, and we’re often disappointed when the outcome of the day falls short of our expectations. Even if our favorite driver fails to win (or even finish), we want lasting memories of the exciting competition we saw; much of the diversion’s relevance comes from the memories created by the event. If I’m able to remember a breathtaking race, I’m more likely to forget my lousy job, the pile of bills on my desk, and the general feeling of stagnation in my everyday life.
Given this idea, the recent events surrounding complaints over the quality of racing at Bristol Motor Speedway strike me as antithetical to the nature of what NASCAR Nation expects from the sport it loves. Regardless of where a race takes place, one of the factors making stock car competition unique is the way that cars can run in close proximity to one another, going door-to-door at speed without fear of making contact. Contact is, however, a quality of NASCAR racing that tends to put fans in the stands – the bumping, beating, and banging that separates these types of cars from their open-wheeled brethren. The law of averages dictates that vehicles racing at high speed, in close proximity to each other for consecutive laps will inevitably touch one another, so the two factors combine to create much of what makes NASCAR so popular.
The problem with all this theory is that to experience one condition, you often have to encourage the other. To complicate matters even more, we have to consider the role of the track itself.
Following the running of the Food City 500 two weeks ago, the blogosphere of social media erupted with criticism of the “new” Bristol Motor Speedway and how the kinder-and-gentler race track had turned NASCAR into NICECAR. Going into the particulars of adding graduated banking and creating a second racing groove in 2007 would be overkill here, since NASCAR Nation knows what happened and how the competition at Bristol has changed. What’s more important to consider is how nostalgia for the “old” configuration has manifested itself in the form of fan-induced pressure on Speedway Motorsports Incorporated CEO Bruton Smith. In the aftermath of the Food City 500, the rapid dissemination of fan criticism led to an even-more-rapid decision to change the configuration of the track.
File this under “Power to the People.”
Smith, one of the most proficient showmen in professional sports, not only heard the grumbling of fans, he actually encouraged public feedback through comments posted on Bristol’s website. And what was the result? Comments from NASCAR fans showed that 75% of those willing to share their opinions/input wanted a return to the Bristol Motor Speedway of pre-2007. Side-by-side, multiple lane racing wasn’t aggressive enough to their liking; the majority of fans who shared their comments wanted nose-to-tail competition punctuated by pushing, shoving, wrecking, and the emotional outbursts that so often followed.
But while physical racing often makes for an exciting experience, it also makes for more work. Wrecking a stock car looks wild from the stands (and even from the living room sofa); however, the thrill of aggressive racing soon gives way to late nights at the race shop. Staying ahead with the preparation of the cars needed to run the regular schedule is laborious enough, but adding torn-up cars to a stable of race-ready ones is overkill. The usually-underpaid, often-overworked crew member who already logs long hours stooped over a chassis jig, or working in the fabrication shop, or painting cars in a spray booth can expect more of the same upon a return to the Bristol of old. Nights at home with the family give way to nights spent making up for the carnage of a weekend in Tennessee.
Say what you want to about crew members loving the sport, or the opportunity for a hard-working employee to earn some overtime pay, but adding unnecessary work to an already-necessary “to do” list seems oddly selfish.
So re-creating a form of NASCAR competition that creates more work for race teams is deemed worthy of track changes that will exceed one million dollars in costs? Even if the idea has merit, one has to wonder about whom, eventually, will absorb the expenses for the changes. It might be Speedway Motorsports, Incorporated at first, but won’t these added costs ultimately be passed on to race fans? Is nostalgia for “the good ol’ days” of Bristol Motor Speedway worth the likely-increased price of going to the races? If this expense is what 75% of those who shared input with Smith via the track’s web site wanted, will a reconfigured track guarantee a much-needed increase in attendance? Should we assume that NASCAR fans want the old-style, one-groove, move-or-be-moved form of racing we used to see at Bristol?
This notion reflects the “bread and circuses” aspect of today’s NASCAR: the Ancient Roman philosophy that giving fans what they want to appease their demands is in the best interests of the sport. Such is the way that diversions operate; the satisfaction of the audience is seen as more important than the event or experience itself. But how many other professional sports enterprises allow fans to directly influence basic infrastructure-type decisions? If I’m upset about boring baseball games at Fenway Park, can I post a comment on the ballpark’s web site and demand that the Green Monster in left field be brought in to allow for more home runs? While sounding like an ideal option in this age of Facebook and Twitter, it’s also impossible to fathom.
Do the opinions of general fans carry as much authority as the power wielded by a sanctioning body or track owner?
We saw something akin to changes in infrastructure back when Tiger Woods became a presence on the PGA Tour. It’s not just that Woods (pre-scandal) was a superior player, but that the overall nature of professional golf was changing; improved equipment and player conditioning made longer tee shots more common, and this new style of play rendered older course layouts inadequate. Changing the length of old courses was driven by a need to meet the demands of the modern game.
The same might be said for NASCAR as both cars and drivers have become better in terms of closer and more consistent competition in recent years; the slam-and-bang of “old school” NASCAR has given way to a more polished-and-precise kind of racing that encourages increased strategy at all levels. Contact is still a factor, to be sure, but more of a premium has been placed on precision and position. This is where the “new” Bristol seems to fill a necessary need.
Above all, change is inevitable. Styles of cars, styles of driving, styles of pit stops, and styles of racetracks are all susceptible to innovation and revision. Even the “old” Bristol Motor Speedway, as celebrated as it is by today’s fans was, at one time, a form of “new” Bristol in its own right. The original configuration of the track circa 1961 was changed in 1969 to feature high-banked corners which affected the kind of racing going on there given a new era in stock cars. Thinking in this way, we need to consider if changing a speedway in order to capture the spirit of days-gone-by is realistic.
Racetracks are always changing, and not just in that existential sense of “you never fish the same river twice” – usage, weather conditions, and other variables alter the make-up of a racing surface, as does adjustments brought about through new attitudes toward the sport. There’s a reason why so many tracks widened aprons, modified pit roads, opened up garage areas, and added seating during the heyday of the 1990s. Ironically, those earlier changes are why so many tracks are seeking to adapt more closely to current decreases in-and-around the sport. To quote Merle Haggard: “Are the good times really over for good?”
Empty grandstands at tracks all around the series suggest at least a temporary slowdown, but conditions seem as though they might be improving a bit.
Staying ahead of the aging curve is essential for racetracks, as is keeping current with developments in safety. When Watkins Glen changed its configuration after the death of J.D. McDuffie there in 1991, the move was motivated by the need to reduce a driver’s chance of injury. The creation of SAFER barriers has led tracks to rethink their overall structural makeup as better surfaces give way to the need for better retaining walls. NASCAR stalwarts like Michigan International Speedway and Pocono Raceway will see new pavement, while Charlotte Motor Speedway will undergo some improvements as well in 2012.
Sports, inevitably, evolve, and track changes are just part of that process. Will new asphalt, new structures, and new attitudes make for a new approach to competition? The greater hope is that staying current with what fans want will correspond with increased ticket sales and event attendance. So can you go forwards by going backwards?
We’re about to find out. Might a return to the “old” Bristol Motor Speedway mean a return to standing-room only grandstands and rabid demand for the hottest ticket in NASCAR? Bruton Smith can only hedge his bets and hope so. Only one thing is for certain: a return to pre-2007 Bristol will be proof positive that the “bread and circuses” philosophy of Ancient Rome has found new life within NASCAR Nation.
In the end, it’s all about the show…
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Ridiculous reactionism. So what happens this Fall (or even more likely, next Spring) when there’s still empty seats? Oh crap, change it back to graduated?
The racing at the new Bristol was great—as Dale Jr said, a better tire choice would make all the difference, but even then, the race between Kenseth and Keselowski was awesome.
Meanwhile, we have Chicago, Kansas, Las Vegas, Texas, Loudon, Pocono, Fontana, Indy and Michigan putting on awful, awful boring racing, and no one’s tearing those up to reconfigure them!
As a Saturday night racer myself, the idea that anyone in the stands is coming to watch us race HOPING we wreck makes me sick.
I have enjoyed Nascar more the last couple of seasons. Nascar “unplugged” in the way I go. Watch a little Speed Weeks to remind you why you lost interest last year then turn it off for the rest of this year.
John, Michigan is being repaved. So, as much as everyone hates that track (except me, as Michigan is my favorite, for personal reasons), lets see what kind of racing the new surface there produces.
John, may I I recommend some
You state that fans forced the changes upon Bruton with the comments they were invited to make. Fact of the matter is, 80 000 fans spoke of the need for changes to be made at the race track by not attending the race. A track that once had 160 000 people attend twice a year for 25 years. Bruton simply asked those people who had attended in the past why they stopped going. If the Boston Red Sox put together 5 consecutive seasons with losing records, you can bet that Fenway park would start to see a drop in attendance as well. You can also bet that the team owner wouldn’t have to consult the fans as to why they were no longer coming – it would be pretty eveident its because the product on the field sucks – they’d bring in better players and try get a winning record.
A better and certainly cheaper way of making the night race fill up better is to move it up a week and make it part of the BS Chase. As it is now no driver “in” is going to risk anything but a finish. No driver “out” is going to risk screwing those that are “in”. That leaves, maybe, a couple drivers trying to get in who may actually show up and race.
I got a kick out of the poor fab guys. That’s their job. A friend of mine is heading off to Europe for a Summer tour. He’s been rehearsing at least 8 hours a day since New Years. And that includes the past month after having surgery. Sometimes ya got to do some work to succeed. It ain’t handed to you.
Also wanted to mention. Since I attended my first NASCAR race @ Bristol, I have been searching for the words to describe what it is like. Your description is fantastic. In fact, I may borrow it when describing my experience to people in the future. It’s like I was right back there at the track. Thanks for helping me re live that.
The question of who is going to pay for the $1 million reconfiguration is irrelevant. That’s pocket change compared to the roughly $6 million (60,000 missing fans x $100/ticket) ole Bruton missed out on with the most recent race at Bristol.
Mark, nice read. Reminds me of the movie Ben-Hur, if the redo does not bring back the masses and there is a Thumbs Down there’s going to be hell to pay.
Give the people what they want?
How about cheaper ticket prices?
No charge camping and parking?
No extortion for overnight rooms or meals around the speedway?
Could this apply to more tracks?
Should there be a “Wreckaholics Anonymous”?
give the fans what they want spend that million and fix up north wilkesboro